On 18 September 2016, 4 terrorists entered into the army base in Uri and engaged Indian troops in a firefight resulting in the single biggest attack the army has faced in the valley since 2002.In the aftermath of this there has been a lot of clamor in the media about how Pakistan is going to pay dearly for this. PM Narendra Modi, home Minister Rajnath Singh & defense Minister Manohar Parrikar have all stated that this is an attack that will not go “unpunished”. It must be noted that the language used here is vague to say the least. Most angry Indians have erroneously come to the conclusion that this is the final straw and India is going to finally attack Pakistan to teach it a lesson.
There have been some hilarious articles on the Times of India advocating some form of surgical strikes into Pakistan or even retaking Pakistan Administered Kashmir.The Quint even went to the extent of publishing a fake article about how Indian forces have already attacked Pakistan. These are highly improbable scenarios and more of an attempt to get higher readership than actual dissemination of information.The genesis of this idea comes from the cross border strike that India conducted in Myanmar in 2015. Unfortunately, the mainstream media hadn’t mentioned to the public that these kind of strikes have been conducted in the past as well with active support of Myanmar. Carrying the same kind of a strike within Pakistan is a much more riskier proposition with the likelihood of shooting down the aircraft that crosses the Line of Control(LoC) to escalation of the conflict itself.
There are many who have lauded the present government in its approach to vilify Pakistan and turn it into an international pariah.This article would like to make the assertion that this wouldn’t necessarily help in India meeting its objectives. Firstly, North Korea being one of the most diplomatically isolated countries in the world has time and again proved that diplomatic isolation can’t stop a nation from being a menace. Secondly, the Indian government is under the impression that it is trying to win a popularity contest. Diplomatically isolating Pakistan will in no way avenge the deaths of the 18 soldiers who died that day. Neither will it stop Pakistan from carrying out more terror attacks. If 26/11 was a indicator of anything it is the fact that even when it is clear to the entire world that Pakistan is behind terrorist attacks it will not deter them from carrying out further attacks against India.Thirdly, Pakistan has recruited the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) into its propaganda machinery. The OIC has repeatedly entertained meddling in Indian affairs by inviting separatists in the Kashmir valley to talk on behalf of the valley in various forums. Turkey & Azerbaijan are two countries apart from Pakistan that have been vocal on Kashmir. Though Turkey’s support of ISIS is well known the idea of diplomatic isolation falls flat when an organisation with 57 members actively disagrees with the Indian narrative on Kashmir. Any diplomatic isolation can only truly be effective if the OIC can be made to rescind its claim of India as the so called “occupation” in Kashmir.
The most overlooked factor in all the hysteria surrounding the Uri attacks is the reason why it all began in the first place. It was Pakistan’s attempt at fishing in troubled waters that led to the attacks. Unfortunately for Pakistan the plan backfired on them because the world has universally condemned the attack with the United States even going to the extent of initiating a legislation declaring Pakistan a terrorist state.The immediate reason is the fact that there are huge security loopholes which are being exploited by the terrorists. It is an open secret that the Pathankot attacks was mainly possible because the terrorists took advantage of the rampant drug trade that takes place in the Punjab. In Uri, the army has admitted to the strong possibility of insider information as the attack happened during the change of guard which is when the security forces are most vulnerable. The unrest in the valley has made intelligence collection very difficult. The faster the valley returns to normalcy the easier it is for informers to tip off the intelligence services.Peace in the valley is crucial in the regard. The government has failed massively in the propaganda front in the valley. The pro-India state apparatus is in shambles. Anyone who would have anything good to say about India risks the prospect of getting their houses burned or killed. There have been heart breaking reports of how policemen in the valley have been coerced by mobs to renounce their allegiance to the Union of India. Political workers for various political parties have been driven out of the valley and forced to take refuge in Jammu because living in the valley has become too dangerous. The Kashmiri pandit rehabilitation program has also suffered with Kashmiri Hindus being attacked at the first sign of trouble. The closeness of the mosque in creating unrest has created further problems. Mullahs use Friday prayers as a way to instigate mobs consisting of women and children to attack police stations. Some of these people who get injured or die in the clashes are then projected as innocent victims. Major protests were planned on Eid and when the government ordered a curfew ,the propaganda machinery began to project it as a government conspiracy to deny the people religious freedom. The level of propaganda is so shameful that even the former chief minister Omar Abdullah has started playing to the gallery to cash in on the separatist sentiment. The propaganda war is the biggest failure of various governments over the years. The vitriolic anti-minority statements by some members of the NDA government and the cow politics going on in the past 2 years haven’t really made things any better.
Another angle that is conveniently overlooked is the political situation that exists in Pakistan. It must be remembered that Nawaz Sharif is not averse to India. In fact,he sees great potential in having friendly relations with India.Unfortunately he always has to play second fiddle to the army. The only reason that he is actively pursuing Kashmir with such gusto at this point in time is because his political image at home has taken a beating(Panama papers & his surgery abroad) and mentioning Kashmir is too good an opportunity to miss. In the aftermath of 26/11 the PPP civilian government had contemplated sending the ISI chief to India although this was vetoed by the army. It might be hard for some Indians to believe this but despite everything that has happened, there are many Pakistanis who are not hostile to India and would prefer normalization of ties with India. The moment the civilian government is firmly in control a political solution for Kashmir will present itself. Thus it is important that enough time,effort and money is spent by India in strengthening the democratic foundations of Pakistan.
Afghanistan is the wild card that is often overlooked by most Indians. While policy makers have given attention to Afghanistan it hasn’t been given its due recognition. Most Afghans cannot stand Pakistan as Pakistan’s meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs has left the country in ruins. In fact, Afghanistan has suffered more than India when it comes to Pakistan and terrorism. A strong Afghanistan will be a very useful ally in applying pressure on Pakistan and intelligence gathering. There is a very interesting story with respect to this:Back in 2006 Amrullah Saleh,the then head of National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan had discovered that Osama Bin Laden was in the Pakistani town of Mansehra ,which is a few kilometers away from Abottabad. When he presented this information to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf,Musharraf banged the table in frustration and yelled if he was the President of a banana republic.The rest of course is history. Such valuable human intelligence provided by Afghanistan can help India not only expose Pakistan but also understand the vulnerabilities in the Pakistani security apparatus. Ashraf Ghani, the current President of Afghanistan who tried to reconcile with Pakistan, realized its futility and has been actively asking India for heavy military equipment to protect it from Pakistan. Active military aid along with re-building Afghanistan by India would make Pakistan more nervous than any amount of diplomatic isolation could ever achieve.
Other moves that can be considered by India include Balochistan & revisiting the Indus Valley Treaty. They look good on paper but have their own set of complications. Any mention of Balochistan would make the Chinese nervous as well who have invested $46 billion in developing an economic corridor in the region. Not to mention Iran & Afghanistan also have Baloch regions under their control. With Iran & Afghanistan acting as India’s economic corridor into West & Central Asia, India would need to tread carefully while expressing support for Balochistan. The Indus water treaty is another area where India can apply pressure. One of the main reasons for Pakistan’s obsession over Kashmir is the fact that the Indus(The lifeline of Pakistan) flows through the state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is thus unsurprising that Indian control over this lifeline to Pakistan has given many Pakistani generals sleepless nights. However, any such move can open a can of worms. The Tibet region which is controlled by China has similar strategic significance vis-a vis India. Any attempt by India to deny Pakistan water can give the Chinese an excuse to do the same with India.
International isolation of Pakistan is an incomplete strategy due to the dynamic nature of international politics. In 1999, post Kargil Pakistan was completely isolated with even China being forced to insist upon Pakistan that it must withdraw its troops.However, that did not stop it from conducting an assault on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. Pakistan was even given the title “Major non nato ally” in the coming years by the United States.This is not to say that International isolation must be abandoned but must be followed through with another strategy with regional players such as Iran,Afghanistan and China to wean away Pakistan from a being a revisionist state to one that accepts the status quo and allows the peaceful rise of India.