How are India and Pakistan ‘ surgically striking’ peace in the region?
“If India’s operation was indeed a routine Line of Control violation, as Pakistan claims, then the Pakistan reaction to it has been anything but routine,” says Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
Undoubtedly, India’s claim of having carried out a ‘surgical strike’ in Pakistan in an apparent response to the Uri attack in Jammu and Kashmir has heightened political and military tensions between the two countries.
India’s alleged military action in Pakistan is the beginning of an era where New Dehli can be expected to retaliate against Pakistan if any terrorist attack takes place in India. This new strategic assertiveness on India’s part is aimed at sending a clear message to Islamabad that anymore terrorist attacks on its soil will not go unanswered. However, such military retaliations by India will be very limited and cautious, for New Dehli is aware that any military action inside Pakistan may lead to an all out war between the two countries.
Two things are important in India’s alleged surgical strike in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. One, the alleged strikes took place just across the LoC (according to some sources, Indian forces penetrated 2 to 3 kilometers across LoC) rather than deep inside Pakistan, highlighting New Dehli’s dilemma that India is successfully deterred by Pakistan’s nuclear capability. Secondly: the strikes, whose information or details have yet to be made public by the Indian army, appear to be an attempt by Prime Minister Modi’s government to ease out domestic public and media pressure that had swelled in the wake of the Uri attack, with questions regarding whether India, despite all concerns, was able to carry out a military action against Pakistan?
After the Uri attack, the government in India has been under immense pressure. Primarily, Modi, who during his election campaign, promised tougher action against Pakistan, was being seen as soft and a leader who was unable to follow on his promises. A series of terrorist incidents including the Pathankot attack, have taken place in India since Modi came to office. This latest attack that killed 18 Indian soldiers could not have gone without a reaction. While the dramatic nature of the strikes across the LoC suggests that New Dehli’s action was not another routine violation, it mainly achieved a much needed symbolic win for Modi to satisfy domestic warmongers who were demanding action against Pakistan. Moreover, India’s use of term ‘surgical strike’ to describe the operational details of the attack also points towards New Dehli’s Cold Start doctrine that it has usually pointed to in order to describe any limited military action against Pakistan in case of a terrorist attack in India.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has completely rejected New Dehli’s claims of having sent troops across the disputed border to kill suspected terrorist. While it’s highly likely that Indian forces may have crossed the border, its improbable that Pakistan’s military will admit to any such possibility. Pakistan’s aggressive and retaliatory attitude after Indian military press conference to make the surgical strike public does not seem to be a reaction to a routine border clash. Moreover, it’s uncommon that Pakistan calls any firing incidents across the LoC by India “naked aggression.”
India’s blatant blame that Pakistan is aggravating tensions in Jammu and Kashmir, have virtually taken away any semblance of legitimacy from the people of Kashmir region.
“If India‘s operation was indeed a routine Line of Control violation, as Pakistan claims, then the Pakistan reaction to it has been anything but routine,” says Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Center.
In New Dehli and Islamabad, the war of rhetoric’s aided by unnecessary military provocations has plunged the region into a new era of instability. India’s plan to isolate Pakistan by mounting diplomatic pressure and taking military action, is not likely to succeed: Russia which has been India’s closest ally, refused to call off its first ever joint military exercises with Pakistan; China has reiterated its absolute support for Pakistan in case of any Indian aggression; and Iran has openly expressed desire to join the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Moreover, India boycott of the SAARC’s conference in Pakistan will not have any real impact beyond symbolic New Dehli’s symbolic onslaught: the organisation has, thus far, proved dysfunctional, for it has failed to achieve anything strategic since its formation.
Unfortunately, the real fallout of this latest round of tensions between India and Pakistan is going to be the people of Kashmir. Suddenly, the recent tensions which began with Kashmir have increasingly become a bilateral problem. India’s blatant blame that Pakistan is aggravating tensions in Jammu and Kashmir, have virtually taken away any semblance of legitimacy from the people of Kashmir region.
The situation is likely to escalate further if there was an actual military strike in Pakistan controlled Kashmir by India. Unfortunately what is missing on Pakistan’s part is the virtual absence of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: apparently all press releases and statements are being issued by the military rather than the civilian government. It underlines to Pakistan another deep struggle with its own civilian and military divide, for situation might have been different had Sharif’s government been allowed to formulate policy towards India.
Like all previous military standoffs, this new round of chaos and instability will end up nowhere. Once the dust settles, we will be back to square one.