LT GEN A B SHIVANE, PVSM, AVSM,VSM (RETD)
New Delhi, 17 February 2019
The hurt nation pride, post dastardly and cowardly massacre at Pulwama has raised the ante for retribution by the nation. This has led to a surge in the print and electronic media evaluating various political, diplomatic and military options without the basic foundational understanding and playing to the galleries. While the emotions are high, the sensibilities of a professional, decisive, and holistic response, above petty politics and glare of elections must prevail. The response of the nation must have the desired effect, be calibrated and synergized with all the elements of national power. We must not forget that Pulwama marked a new escalation ladder in terrorist act by an indigenous executor and a Pak mastermind as the key handler. We thus need to target both the external and internal dimensions dispassionately and ruthlessly for terrorists cannot be differentiated as good, bad and the ugly. Further, to act decisively we need to understand the strategic culture of Pak, the fault lines in and external to the valley, identify the Centre’s of Gravity, and target them decisively with a whole of nation approach. This requires a paradigm shift in our policy from erstwhile traditional strategic restraint to perceived strategic deterrence (post Uri), to the next level of strategic coercion supported by military compellence. This analysis does not aim to identify the specific actions to implement this strategy which must be left to the national security apparatus, which is well equipped and empowered to implement them with the desired effect. However, the framework and focus needs to be defined with clarity while retaining the ambiguities of multiple response options.
Wars are fought to achieve political aims so also is the case with proxy war and its responses. Wars are fought with a whole of nation approach and with all elements of national power. Thus, a policy focusing only on retribution is aimless. Our politico mil aim must be synergized to deter Pak from waging the proxy war. We have to enforce “compellence” on Pakistan to achieve our political aims and deny them their political objectives. Militarily, another tactical surgical strike would not be enough. While it partially achieved its aim of demonstrated capability and communicating political resolve both to the world and its own people, it failed at the strategic level in communicating our capacity to deter and defeat Pak’s despicable designs, as the response was essentially tactical. The most important aspect to understand about deterrence is that it is not a one-way action, but rather involves a reciprocal relationship between the two players in which perception and actions are crucial operational components. Specifically, the adversary must agree to be deterred by the capability, credibility and communication of the response. A strategy of coercive response thus should be built around politico-diplomatic dissuasion, economic coercion, and military compellence based on political isolation, economic sanctions, and decisive military punitive response. We thus need to hit harder to cripple both the will and capability of Pak and its perpetuators who have launched this proxy war. At the psychological level, targeting the will requires diplomatic and economic isolation not just by India but beyond at international level to be termed or even debated as a terrorist state. We have the fodder but need the acumen to exploit it. Time is right now when world opinion is in our favour. Targeting the will induce a negative cost benefit effect resulting in dilution in the compulsions of proxy war and reorientation of its strategy vis a vis Kashmir. At the physical level we must decisively target capability by focusing on a strategy of military compellence, preempting to thwart Pak’s nefarious designs at the grassroots, annihilating terrorist leadership and denial of support infrastructure within the valley. We must also reflect and take equally strong and preemptive actions in the internal domain to dissuade, deter and if required eliminate those who play into Pak’s malicious design. A zero tolerance to those behind the scenes and those in the front involved in treason and subversion to the state, irrespective of their status needs ruthless action be it in covert or overt domain. If we address our own fault lines, we would deny space to Pak and their reprehensible designs.
Hit Hard Where it Hurts
To hit where it hurts we need to understand the strategic culture and identify the fault lines of Pakistan as a nation in the overall context of geostrategic environment. Strategic culture affects broader issues of national security and strategy, including perceptions of reality and responses to these perceptions. A vulnerability analysis of Pak clearly highlights its fragile rentier economy, its internal security instability, ethnic cum cultural fault lines and its deflated standing as a responsible nation. The core of Pakistan’s strategic culture rises from its psychological insecurity, vulnerable geography, fragile economy and disposition of a revisionist Islamic state with levers of national security, foreign policy, as well as domestic dynamics with the army. These need to be exploited by a clear discernment of the Centre’s of Gravity at the strategic, operational and tactical level. Accordingly, we must identify the adversary’s critical capability, deny / neutralise its critical requirement to support this capability and target the critical vulnerabilities at all levels. The levers of hitting Pak hard, lie not only within the sole India specific response but in orienting international opinion against Pak resulting in its political isolation by being branded as a terrorist state, leading the international economic sanctions against it and garnering support for a decisive punitive military action be it covert or overt. The political aim should be to raise the cost for Pakistan’s deep state for waging its proxy war, with a view to eventually making the cost prohibitive. The diplomatic aim should be to isolate Pakistan in the international community, economics aim must be to choke its economy while the military aim should be to inflict decisive punitive damage on the Pakistan army to further the political aim. Counter-terrorist operations must be supplemented by covert operations to eliminate the so called ‘strategic assets’, LET and JEM leadership and exploiting Pak’s fault lines, to pay them back in the same coin. The focus must be to expose and discredit the state and its military in the eyes of its people in specific and world at large. With a clear advantage over Pakistan in soft power, international clout, and requisite hard power, India can utilise this strategy of compellence to bring Pak on its knees. This would contribute to hitting hard where it hurts.
Hurt Where it Lasts
A one-time action may have a short memory and time stipulated recoupability. Thus, a sustained military pressure to hit hard and keep hitting hard at the time and place of our choosing will hurt and have telling effect over the long run. While option of a full-scale war may be the last resort which must be kept alive, but steps short of it with adequate intensity and sustained tempo will have greater impact. We may call it an intense sub-conventional military response with levers of escalation dynamics in control. Pakistan does not have a credible response mechanism in case India retaliates with an aggressive military action, short of full-scale war. This response must have a covert and overt character both across the LoC and in the hinterland backed up by aggressive intelligence, technology enablement and delegated execution. However, military action while critical, will by itself not suffice. Thus, it needs to be complemented by political, diplomatic and economic tools for isolation and choking of Pakistan repeatedly and at the global plane, till it sees the futility of its misadventure. We must also not shy away in eliminating ruthlessly and taking stern actions against all those who support, propagate, aid or indulge in acts of terrorism within the nation. Its time that we stand as one and act decisively utlising all instruments of national power. The nation cannot continue to suffer year after year and react incident by incident.
About The Writer: Lt Gen A B Shivane PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd) has had an illustrious service of over 39 years having commanded a Strike Corps and retired as DGMF. The officer handled the desk of Internal Security in Srinagar 1997 to 1999. Presently he is a Consultant with MoD / OFB.
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.