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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 41 New Delhi October 1, 2016

‘Surgical Strikes’ and After

Monday 3 October 2016

POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

The ‘surgical strikes’ by the Indian Army in the wee hours of today at seven places in the PoK where infiltrators had assembled to cross the LoC and infil-trate into India for carrying out terror attacks, was executed with commendable planning and preparation. Pakistan’s initial reaction was to downplay the impact of the strike as Islamabad was taken completely aback by the Indian action which it apparently did not anticipate. Expectedly, there is euphoria in India for what the Army has done. Political parties have congratulated the Army and supported the Modi Government.

But after the initial euphoria is over, a hard look will have to be taken at the developing situation. A retaliatory action by Pakistan is likely. Indian armed forces must have taken that contingency into account and made preparations for meeting the challenge when it arises. Already there are reports of civil population being evacuated from the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.

Surgical strikes are part of India’s overall strategy to end, once and for all, Pakistan’s policy of ‘bleeding India through a thousand cuts’ through a proxy war carried out by—what Pakistan claims—‘non-state actors’. The boycott of the SAARC Summit in Pakistan, scheduled for November, forms part of India’s strategy to isolate Pakistan globally. With Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan also deciding to boycott the summit, India has succeeded in isolating Pakistan at least regionally.

India is further exploring the possibility of using the Indus Water Treaty to put pressure on Pakistan. There is also talk of ending the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status given to Pakistan in 1996 in bilateral trade without, however, Pakistan reciprocating. But the volume of bilateral trade between India and Pakistan is so insignificant that ending the MFN is not likely to hurt Pakistan much.

The bigger question is: what will Pakistan do if it finds itself cornered by India from all sides? And how far will it be able to play the ‘victim card’ to turn international opinion against India? It is here that India’s foreign policy and diplomacy will be tested.

Noted diplomats and strategic experts, not favourably disposed towards the prevailing dispen-sation in South Block, have admitted that today’s operation on the LoC was conducted by the armed forces with exceptional skill, courage and enterprise; nor was it in anyway aimed against a foreign country as it took place in an area that India can legitimately claim to be its own as it was forcibly annexed by Pakistan shortly after this state’s independence. At the same time they are totally opposed to the jingoistic expressions of euphoria after the surgical strikes and the use of such phrases as giving Pakistan a ‘bloody nose’ because such utterances can boomerang and hence are counterproductive.

There is no end to war-mongering by instant strategists and the electronic media. The voices of sanity are being subjected to ridicule. The so-called ‘peaceniks’ have become the targets of attack. They are being branded as anti-national. Those who are whipping up war hysteria will never expose themselves to the slightest risks, safely ensconced as they are in their well-protected studios.

As Clausewitz famously said: “The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes.” India’s political object is to stop Pakistan from sponsoring terrorism against India. It is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his colleagues who will have to take the decision whether risking an all-out war with Pakistan can achieve this objective.

September 29 Analyst