The farce of the surgical strike


A new face to an old conflict

In the wake of a diplomatic offensive by Pakistan to expose Indian atrocities in Kashmir that continue unabated for the last well over three months, India unleashed a  counter strategy to divert the attention of the world from the real issue. It stage-managed the Uri incident and then firing all its guns tried to portray the uprising in Kashmir as a wave of terrorism enjoying Pakistan’s support and backing. Indian Prime Minister created war hysteria in India by adopting threatening posture towards Pakistan and vowed to avenge the alleged attack. It was in the backdrop of raising the bar too high that the Indians had to do something to assuage the public sentiment, like the farce of surgical strike.

The Modi government has miserably failed to prove the authenticity of its claims to those in India itself who raised doubts about the operation as well as the international community. Pakistan immediately rejected the Indian claims as farcical and lost no time in exposing their hollowness by taking the media and the UN military observers to the site, with the latter unequivocally stating that they did not see any sign of the surgical strike.

Some reliable sources believe that in view of the situation in Kashmir which was getting out of control with every passing day, India was contemplating to divert the focus of the world from Kashmir by implement its doctrine of cold start in the shape of a surgical strike and there were reports of India getting the areas near the LOC vacated. But the idea was abandoned in view of the level of readiness on the Pakistani side to face any eventuality.

The word has it that on the basis of intelligence reports, Pakistani Army took a number of security measures along with Line of Control and other sensitive border points with India. Special combatant troops were stationed at sensitive points along the LOC and according to some reports several Hatf missiles were also deployed to deter the Indians. The Indians assessing the ground situation and the risks involved in any military adventurism abandoned the idea. However in a attempt to save face, it unleashed the hoax of the surgical strike having taken place.

That proves the effectiveness of Pakistan’s strategy to develop tactical nuclear weapons in response to the Indian doctrine of ‘cold start’ though there is no dearth of people who are critical of this approach which according to them sends wrong signals to the world community in regards to our credentials as a responsible nuclear state. That is a skewed and simplified view that fails to weigh the risks to our security in the absence of a nuclear deterrent.

Territorial integrity and security of a country invariably gets top priority and many wars throughout the history and even the two world wars happened because the involved states felt threatened by other states and were tempted to neutralize and decimate the capability of the other to pose any threat to its security. Another ingredient that has also contributed to wars and conflicts is the irrepressible desire of the strong countries and nations to establish their ascendency and hegemony over other smaller and weaker countries to extend the tentacles of their influence at the global level. That provides the rationale and justification for all the states to enhance their defence capabilities commensurate with the level of threat, more so when the enemy is a neighbouring country.

Unfortunately, since the partition of the sub-continent, India and Pakistan have been locked in a conflict over Kashmir and both sides consider each other as an arch enemy. India which is bigger in size and resources not only has been trying to browbeat Pakistan through its arms build-up and going nuclear but has also been pursuing a calculated policy of establishing its hegemony in the region encouraged by US and its western allies who have their strategic and commercial interests in the region.

It has continued to enhance its capability of conventional war fare and has been spending staggering amounts of money on acquisition of weapons from different sources that led to a big gap between the capabilities of the two countries in the conventional domain. Inebriated by this development India has adopted a belligerent posture towards Pakistan and even coined the concept of Pakistan-specific ‘Cold Start’ which stipulates hitting specific targets within Pakistan instead of starting full-scale war. These provocative and threatening actions by India could not have gone un-responded by Pakistan.

The befitting response was the initiation of a missile programme designed to produce short-range missiles which could carry small nuclear war-heads and hit all targets within India. This option again has been forced on Pakistan by the aggressive Indian designs. Pakistan rightly feels that it would stop India from entertaining aggressive designs against Pakistan and have the temptation to commit any indiscretion. It is yet another deterrent to forestall the possibility of even a limited war between the two countries.

Another consideration for adopting nuclear deterrent approach is that Pakistan cannot afford to enter into an arms race with India in regards to either conventional or nuclear weapons. Through this approach it desires not only to deter a nuclear attack but also a conventional attack by compensating for its conventional disadvantage through nuclear means. That does not however mean that Pakistan will use the nuclear option as a first choice the moment India launches an attack, as assumed by the critics of the nuclear deterrent approach.

This strategy has surely prevented war between the two countries. There have been at least three instances when Pakistan and Indian forces were close to fighting a war but war did not take place.  The first time in 1986-87 when it was Brass Tacks mobilization of forces by India, second time in 1990 when relations between the two became severely estranged and finally in 2001-2002 when both the forces were in an eye ball to eye ball contact. In all these instances both the forces kept from fighting a war despite all odds. Thus it can be safely assumed that the success of deterrence lies in the absence of war.

India and Pakistan living in peace with each other is absolutely imperative for the security and economic progress of both the countries as well the entire region. The continuation of hostilities between them will harm both the countries. Pakistan has made positive overtures towards India but regrettably those moves have been spurned. India is treading a disastrous course and needs to revisit its policy towards Pakistan. The International community also needs to lend a helping hand in defusing the prevailing tensions between the two countries and having the Kashmir dispute resolved in view of the bilateral arrangement going nowhere.