As the news of surgical strikes by India against Pakistan was abuzz, the hues of response varied from elation, surprise and suspicion. For all those, who undermined the Indian leadership and military capabilities there was a formidable lump in the throat. Details apart, the surgical strikes carried out by the Northern Command were much needed to infuse confidence, sense of pride and respect for valor. The massive casualties inflicted by terrorists during the Uri attacks had not only exposed chinks in India’s armor but greatly dented morale of the armed personnel. Indian public too felt infuriated as Indian government had in no clear terms called for an instantaneous response. Having borne the brunt of brutal terrorist attacks, Indian public felt cheated when the party which vociferously denounced every act of Pakistan in opposition failed to deliver instantaneous justice. Though the DGMO Lt. Gen. Ranabir Singh asserted that “We will avenge the killings of our soldiers, but we will do so on cold-blooded professionally military assessment, and on a timeline our choosing, not one dictated by political imperatives or the prime-time news cycle” people hardly found any respite.
In the meanwhile, Indian leadership critically evaluated plausible options to inflict damage to Pakistan on a long term. India finally harped on a multi-pronged approach to rein upon the brazen terror attacks. A range of diplomatic, political and economic assaults were considered. On diplomatic front, exercising right to reply India lacerated Sharif’s claims at UN word by word by saying that “the Land of Taxila, one of the greatest centers of ancient learning is now host to Ivy League of terrorism. It attracts aspirants and apprentices from all over the World”. India added that Pakistan had a “long standing policy of sponsoring terrorism, the consequences of which have spread well beyond our region.” The first secretary Eenam Gambhir added that Pakistan “channelizes billions of dollars, much of it is diverted from international aid, to training, financing and supporting terrorist groups as militant proxies against its neighbors”. This coincided with the US Senators Ted Poe and Dana Rohrabacher tabling a bill in Congress designating Pakistan as terror state. Simultaneously Indian Americans launched an online White House petition asking for declaring Pakistan as terrorist state gained tremendous response. The petition which promises action on local, state or international problems if the campaign receives 100,000 signatures. Before its official deadline of Oct 21st the target was reached. Now the White House is forced to respond to it within 60 days. Besides, India openly snubbed Pakistan and decided not to attend the SAARC Summit at Islamabad. Fresh from the humiliating reception extended to Rajnath Singh when he attended the Interior Affairs Ministers Meeting of SAARC, Finance Minister later didn’t participate in SAARC Finance Ministers meet. Continuing the precedent, Prime Minister will abstain from SAARC. With India’s position actively backed by Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan the process of the regional isolation of Pakistan has officially begun. While experts questioned the relevance owing to SAARC’s miniscule clout internationally, India religiously followed the agenda of diplomatic isolation irrespective of the outcomes.
To turn the heat on, India began reviewing the historical Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) brokered by World Bank in 1960. While India initially contemplated on scrapping IWT, it was perceived to be counterproductive. Instead India is considering three ways to use provisions of treaty to its advantage-firstly, suspension of meeting of Permanent Indus Commission so that grievance redressal mechanism is halted and Pakistan would meet a dead end, secondly restarting the Tulbul Project ( Pakistan calls it Wullar Bridge), India suspended the construction across Jhelum river in 1987 following objections from Pakistan, thirdly an inter-ministerial task force would be set up to monitor the water usage from Western Rivers-Ravi, Beas, Sutlej. India is considering on maximizing the use of waters from rivers governed by Pakistan-Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. While the repercussions may not be spontaneous desired effect will be felt within a span of 5-10 years. Finally, India is now seriously reconsidering the Most Favored Nation (MFN) status accorded by it in 1996 under the GATT where country grants a special favor like lower custom duty. But Pakistan hasn’t reciprocated citing non-tariff barriers and huge trade imbalance. Modi government is now critically reviewing all these aspects on a war-footing basis. Since perceptible outcomes are not immediate, Indian public failed to comprehend and appreciate the endeavors of NDA government.
Over the decades, emboldened by India’s meek response to relentless terror attacks Pakistan heavily relied on its low cost warfare to inflict heavy damage on India. Unchecked, unhindered the terror outfits flourished. The surgical strikes by Indian Army are thus timely, sending strong message to war-mongers and sections of Indian public that decried leadership for its inaction. India refrained from a full-blown conventional war, as India is at the cusp to progressive economic resurgence. In the Global Competitiveness Report for 2016-17 released few days back India climbed 16 places to settle at 39 position among 138 countries, while China is ranked 28. Clearly, a conventional war might undo the recent economic gains, India rightly overcame the catch-22 kind of situation by the timely surgical strikes. Meanwhile, National Sensex crashed after the reports of strikes and suffered its worst fall post-Brexit. Despite the negative impact on trade and economy Indian Chamber of Commerce strongly supported surgical strike. Aside, retribution at this point has become inevitable to drive home the point that India is capable of defending itself and if need arises can retaliate reciprocally.
India’s surgical strikes against Pakistan invariably reminded of Indian Army’s “Operation Hot Pursuit” conducted inside the Myanmar territory to avenge the killing of 20 military personnel by the militants of National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) in Chandel District of Manipur. India then warned that “Western disturbances will be equally dealt with. Friendship and tolerance will go hand in hand. This is a beginning. India is Strong. This message should go to everyone” implying that India is not averse to launch such operations on its neighbors that harbor anti-Indian terror groups. However, Pakistan chose to downplay and deliberately hinted that Pakistan is not Myanmar and India shouldn’t think of any such action. These surgical strikes, a first by Indian army across LoC, undoubtedly punctured the bloated ego of Pakistan.
As the details emerge, DGMO announced that these strikes were launched to neutralize the terror pads gearing to push infiltrators across the border and were extremely successful. In the operation that lasted for four hours, Indian paratroopers targeted ventured into 2km of PoK, and destroyed 7 launch pads. 38 terrorists and 2 Pakistan soldiers were killed. Now with Pakistan accusing India of fabrication of truth, Indian attacks might soon evade international attention. Also, since Indian operations are carried out in PoK, a legitimate Indian territory, this operation will be considered as a massive combing operation aimed at extricating militants. Moreover, presence of Pakistan soldiers at the terror dungeons confirms Pakistan’s Army is hand is glove with its illegitimate bed partners-the UN designated terrorists.
But by all means, this retributory action would indeed propel Pakistan to retaliate with more force and India must be prepared for any eventuality. Further, these kind of action can’t force Pakistan to mend its ways. But inflicting significant damage might make enemy wary and threat of punitive retaliation will force enemy to reconsider the veracity of its clandestine activities. For the past seven decades, in various encounters with Pakistan it was proved beyond doubt that Pakistan understand the language of guns. India, by strategically executing the surgical strikes delivered the message in a language Rawalpindi clearly understands. Finally, Modi government deserves a big pat on back for walking the talk and demolishing the rhetoric. But for the exceptional valor and supreme sacrifice of Indian military India and political commitment country would be wallowing the swarm of pusillanimity.