Beyond URI


Conflict resolution is key


Dr George Perkovich, arguably the world’s leading expert on nuclear politics in South Asia, warned that a Pakistan-inspired terrorist attack in India could provoke an Indian military retaliation and in turn provoke a Pakistani nuclear response:


“—-Rather than immediately winning international support for declaring Pakistan a State-sponsor of terrorism, —-it might be more advisable to continue developing India’s larger strategy for diplomatically and economically isolating Pakistan. —

—–what the US did after 9/11 is a good example of what not to do, though the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq were popular for awhile.—Look at Afghanistan today, and how Americans regard that experience. Look at Iraq, and the emergence of ISIL/ISIS…

—The situation between India and Pakistan obviously is different in many ways, but the general point is that it is worthwhile to look for more clever and less volatile ways to punish supporters of terrorism than the ways that might satisfy the crowd. Military action that might satisfy public opinion on the first day can lead to consequences weeks later that will make the crowd turn on the leaders that they at first cheered. —

—-It’s complicated still further by the tensions and violence in the Kashmir valley that preceded the attack and that most observers understand to be rooted in indigenous factors, not the Pakistani hand. In India’s case (as arguably with Israel and the Palestinians) there is probably no solution that excludes some sort of political accommodation with representatives of significant elements of the Kashmiri Muslim population and, frustratingly, with Pakistan.”


Pakistan’s Prime Minister has spoken at the UN. The general and pervasive opinion is that his speech was good, covered all important issues and presented Pakistan’s and Kashmir’s case forcefully. Nitpicker’s aside this is what the majority of Pakistanis expected of him and he has delivered. The Prime Minister also met with the US Secretary of State and the carefully worded press release clearly indicates that it was a good meeting: “The Prime Minister and Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir — particularly the army base attack and the need for all sides to reduce tensions.” The readout by India analysts from this is that Pakistan was not censured, that the US shared Pakistan’s concern over violence in Kashmir, that the two month old violence in IHK is the reason behind the URI attack and that the US favors talks between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions—-not far off the mark, but clearly indicative that this is not what India expected– and of course nothing about their expectations being unrealistic. In this context the quotes from Dr Perkovich listed above are very relevant.

Immediately after the Uri attack India pointed the finger at Pakistan and the hawks in India and Indian media went ballistic in demanding retaliation against Pakistan. It did not help matters that there were irresponsible statements from responsible people in India. The initial Indian reaction was probably to deflect focus from the fact that a military facility in a violence racked area where the Indian military was committing unspeakable atrocities was so badly guarded that a few attackers could carry out a successful attack. After the rage in IHK and the killing and blinding of Kashmiris such a reaction should have been expected. The reaction in Pakistan was also strong because India had unmistakably signaled its intention to destabilise Pakistan through covert operations — overt disclosure of covert intentions much earlier. In the prevailing environment any military action that India undertakes would be disproportionate because it would be the first step on an escalatory ladder with no end. The post Pathankot format should have been followed — investigation, marshalling of credible evidence, joint investigation and finally mutually agreed action. India’s reaction so far is exactly what the attackers wanted — conflict that highlights the violence in Kashmir or a proxy war of covert operations between India and Pakistan that leads to overt support of the freedom struggle in Kashmir. It is just as well that the realisation is dawning that nuclear weapon states cannot get into escalatory situations and that media and hawks’ pressures should not dictate actions.

Pakistan has offered strategic restraint, it has offered moratorium on nuclear testing and its offer of unconditional comprehensive dialogue is on the table. What is needed is statesmanship and diplomacy to get out of the pressures generated by the violence in Kashmir and the Uri attack so that the focus can shift to dialogue between India and Pakistan and between India and the long suffering Kashmiris in IHK. India needs a rethink on relations with Pakistan and on its policy in Kashmir. It is good that the Prime Minister and the President of Iran have had a good meeting. A similar meeting is needed with the Afghan President because short sighted political survival oriented policies will not help Afghanistan in the long run. The US understands the complexity of the situation in South Asia and it needs to balance its policy in the region so that it does not add to the existing complexity and still gets its concerns addressed. The answer is not the isolation of Pakistan but a drawing in of Pakistan to lead to a situation from where the transition to a resolution of protracted conflicts becomes a possibility.

And a final word on what India must absolutely not do unless it wants to disregard the UN and the entire world and ensure large scale destruction  extract from an article by General Panag, Indian Army—” The Indian parliament resolution on J&K dated 22 February 1994 makes it incumbent upon the Government to take all measures, diplomatic and military, to recover the territory of J&K under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan is using the territory under its illegal occupation to wage a proxy war in J&K. It is only a matter of time before the ISIS entrenches itself in J&K, actively-facilitated by Pakistan. Our diplomacy must convey this to the world and create the conditions to justify a J&K-centric limited war despite the nuclear backdrop. We should adopt a strategic defensive posture in the territory outside J&K and declare the same to the world. If Pakistan escalates the war outside J&K, we should decimate its Air Force, Navy and Mechanised Forces”. 


Easier said than done!