Expectedly, India has responded to the Uri outrage. Understandably, Pakistan has denied any surgical strike by the Indian army across the LoC. Ever since the September 18 fidayeen attack that claimed the lives of 19 jawans in the Uri army brigade camp, an Indian retaliation was on the cards. While sections of the media here speculated feverishly just how this counter-attack would unfold, Islamabad did its customary pre-emptive sabre rattling while throwing out broad hints about its nuclear option. However, tions cannot hope to pursue their ends publicly mouthing blackmail hyped by the media. In intertiol diplomacy, the words of US president Theodore Roosevelt at the turn of the 20th century still ring true: “Speak softly and carry a big stick — you will go far.” Any country that allows its soil to be used for repeated terror attacks against a neighbor should know that there will be consequences. Just what these consequences could be is the question. On Wednesday midnight, commandos of Indian army’s special units reportedly went 2-3 kms inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir; in the 4-hour long operation, rapid strikes were made across 5-7 points on the LoC to destroy jihadi launching pads. While the Indian army statement merely mentions ‘inflicting significant casualties’, the dead could be 35-40 or more. It has long been known how Pak ISI-trained jihadists gather near military forward posts on the LoC for the last stage of their journey to infiltrate into northern Kashmir. In its statement, the Pakistani army while admitting that two of its soldiers were killed at the LoC, merely said: “This quest by Indian establishment to create media hype by rebranding cross-border fire as surgical strike is fabrication of truth.”
Reading between the lines, defence experts here believe that Islamabad’s denial indicates it wants to defuse the situation now, weigh its options and bide its time to go on the offensive again. But it is clear that with New Delhi taking the option of sub-conventiol warfare, it intends to call Islamabad’s nuclear bluff. But the need of the hour is to avoid any sort of gung-ho bellicosity from the Indian political and military establishment that can send parts of the media on jingoistic overdrive. We need only recall the surgical strike by the Indian army in June last year across the border into Myanmar which took out nearly 40 NSCN(K) cadres in their camps there, hours after the outfit’s deadly ambush in Manipur left 18 jawans dead. Embarrassed by some of our leaders’ thoughtless gloating, the Myanmar government was forced to issue denials and chide New Delhi. This time around, the NDA government has briefed other parties of the LoC operation; Congress president Sonia Gandhi and leaders across the political spectrum have responded with support. This bipartisan support is welcome; dealing with terror actively sponsored by a nuclear-capable neighbor is not a matter to score rrow political points. Statecraft has to be pursued with many instruments to secure a tion’s interests. If India has to move with a thoroughly calculated and calibrated approach vis-à-vis Pakistan, hype and rhetoric are the last things it needs if matters are not to escalate out of hand.
There has been much talk in the last few days about the various screws that can be tightened on Pakistan to make it back off from its policy to bleed India dry through a proxy war. Some are advocating that India should hit back with economic warfare, after reports emerged that Prime Minister rendra Modi is intending to review the ‘Most Favoured tion’ status accorded to Pakistan under the WTO in 1996. Islamabad never responded with similar measure towards India, so fearful has its domestic industry been of Indian imports. Still the balance in Indo-Pak trade (a mere $2.61 billion in 2015-16) is overwhelmingly in India’s favour. Stripping Pakistan of MFN status is therefore likely to achieve little; rather, it may end up hurting Indian exports. There has been more warlike talk about squeezing Pakistan by redrawing, if not revoking, the Indus Waters Treaty Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan signed in 1960. It is being argued that India can legitimately use 20 percent of the waters of Indus, Cheb and Jhelum before they flow westwards to Pakistan — for irrigation, power generation and transport as allowed under the treaty. Since this will only benefit Kashmir, such a move will pay Islamabad back in its coin for perennially beating India with the Kashmir stick! However, using control over water as a pressure tactic against a perceived enemy tion is a sword that cuts both ways. India, after all, is facing water sharing issues with both Chi and Bangladesh and trying to enter into pacts with them, so it needs all the moral legitimacy of a responsible tion that keeps its part of the bargain. As for India’s pulling out of the SAARC summit in Islamabad in protest against ‘cross-border terrorist attacks in the region’, the support of Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan is certain to cause Pakistan some discomfiture. It is likely that India will keep pursuing closer linkages with other SAARC and BIMSTEC tions in sub-regiol groupings while keeping out Pakistan. Overall, not dealing or even talking to Pakistan will strengthen the hands of anti-peace quarters there. But there can be no talks with a belligerent neighbor unless India gives proof of its will to be a hard target — that on its terms, it gives as good as it gets.