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.
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.



In my last write up, I had advocated “A strategy of coercive response built around politico-diplomatic dissuasion, economic coercion, and military compellence based on political isolation, punitive economic sanctions, and decisive military punitive response. I also stated that we must also reflect and take equally strong and pre-emptive actions in the internal domain to dissuade, deter and if required eliminate those who play into Pak’s malicious design”. Its time now to take stock, review, reflect and calibrate to the next level. The theme being “HIT SMARTLY, HIT VULNERABILITIES – HIT WHEN IT’S HOT”.

A week gone by and the starters of Indian response in the spirit of my article are showing visibility. The starters are commendable and indicative of the “capability, capacity and communication” of our intent. Hopefully, this should be the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I do not advocate war or war mongering; though it remains an option , but I do believe in what Sun Tsu said “ The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting”. Thus the questions that remain with respect to the recent actions are – “Is it hard enough to hurt and last, to dissuade Pak from waging Proxy War?”; “Have we targeted both the Will and Capability, which are reciprocal ?”; “Has the internal dimension been tackled hard enough to deny space for terrorists, irrespective of political patronage and antinational mudslinging ?”; “Are we optimising the time window, when memories and support of the world at large and India in particular are fresh and collaborative for a action based on moral high ground ?” and “Are we doing enough to preclude another Pulwama intensity terrorist act?”.

The key issue is that there is a “Problem of Kashmir” which has an external dimension including illegally occupied POK and there is a “Problem in Kashmir” which has an internal dimension externally abetted. Both are inclusive and not exclusive with strategic overlap, and thus require to be tackled by a multipronged integrated decisive approach.

Kautilya warned of the four threats that can beset any nation. First, an external threat externally abetted; second, an external threat internally abetted; third, an internal threat externally abetted; and fourth, an internal threat internally abetted. Of these the third and fourth are the most dangerous. Prophetic words indeed!


A coercive response strategy is all about “Ends, Ways and Means” based on Suitability (Target selection to achieve desired aim), Feasibility (discern ability to achieve the aim with available means) and Acceptability (cost benefit based on risk assessment). Smart response albeit “Hit Smartly” approach is thus a manifestation of detailed analysis and preparation of three factors- Target Selection, Impact Analysis and Response Management. It must manifest at the desired time, at designated spaces, with punitive effect and at minimum cost to a nation. Herein comes the important issue of success in such a situation.

“Success = Risk + Boldness + Time Sensitivity + Unpredictability + Consequence Management”. There will never be an ideal situation but smart actions can make the situation ideal. It thus entails calibration and strategic balance between covert and overt activities based on deniability and technology enabled response visibility, with moral high ground and control of escalation dynamics. How does this theoretical construct translate into the contours of response for the present ‘Pulwama Situation”.

In the “Problem of Kashmir”, is the Pak State and its derived strength from the collusive support from China. The Pak Army remains the primary guardian of the Pak State and its ideology, and thus the Center of Gravity of the problem.

In its quest to avenge its past scars and reinforce its present relevance, lies an anti- India stance in general and Kashmir issue in particular. Proxy war is a manifestation of the above in keeping with its inferior conventional capability and strategy of denial of response by nuclear sabre rattling.

Thus smart response strategy against Pak military must be to add more scars and dilute its relevance by discrediting it in the eyes of the nation.

Our smart fighting must be to hit the nation where Pak Army is made impotent of a response and strategically dislocated e.g. economic choking, diplomatic isolation and collaborative anti-terrorist response by targeted states viz Iran, Afghanistan and India or exploitation of its internal fault lines to payback in the same coin with borrowed deniability etc.

To discredit in the physical domain, we must keep Pak’s internal and external lines under sustained military pressure on the LoC and target its vulnerabilities in depth which contribute to its military adventurism. A few ammunition dumps and defence infrastructure going up in flames would raise the cost of proxy war. The tools maybe kinetic or non -kinetic but the effect must be telling. To add fuel to the fire, we must also have a focussed perception management campaign as part of our Information Warfare, to discredit Pak Army in the eyes of its people and Pak Military Leadership in the eyes of its rank and file.

Considering that Pakistan’s belligerence rests on the China-Pakistan nexus, the strategy to mitigate it must target this nexus, in addition to measures against Pakistan. China’s collusive support must be diluted based on moral dislocation by making its response if any, indicative of supporting global terrorism of which it remains a victim in Xinjiang province. Diplomatically with or without success we must keep China engaged to join the chorus of war against terrorism. The extended lines of CPEC and its financial viability also lend to vulnerabilities within Pak, which need to be addressed.

The starters thus must gather intensity, be it overt or covert but must be smart to hit. Hit smartly, hit where and when he does not expect, hit where it hurts and keep him perpetually on the horns of the dilemma. We must learn and draw our strength from Arthasastra, Chanakyaniti and warriors like Chhatrapati Shivaji.

In the “Problem in Kashmir”, are the people of Kashmir in general and the youth in specific, who are the Centre of Gravity.

We must weed out the good from the bad; mainstream from separatists, and deny them space from being exploited. Nationalism and national interest must not be compromised over petty politics even if reversal of historic policy decisions have to be taken with a “Nation Above All” approach.

Separatists must be exposed and dealt as antinational with stern measures and not just passive removal of their security. The Hurriyat or separatist leaders are the pawns of Pakistan and are responsible for provoking the youth in the Valley. They serve the interest of Pakistan, prefer the Pak flag and are sympathetic to terror organisations, and thus do not merit Indian Citizenship.

Terrorist classification needs to be redefined to also include those who abet, fund, support terrorism and hamper anti- terrorist operations albeit in the garb of stone pelters. The roots of militancy however lie in the radicalisation (political or religious?) and alienation of the youth.

This requires actions beyond military as Kashmir is a political problem and merits a political and governance solution. The military can manage the problem but only the political solution can solve the problem. If there is a will there is a way. It is, therefore, time for a new initiative, a new narrative and new idioms to win back a populace who feel alienated and arrive at a common ground and a consensus within the constitution of India.

The problem must be seen as a governance problem of India, a problem in J&K not just Kashmir and a problem whose solution lies in a multiparty response with people of J & K as central to it and not Pakistan. J&K beckons a smart strategy of perception management, good governance and firmness to anti national activities.


Smart hitting is also a factor of hitting the adversary’s vulnerabilities. The need is to pitch your strength against his weakness. Scarred from birth with divisive religious policies, Pakistan lost the benefit of a natural societal instrument of balance early in its history.

Pakistan’s present Fault Line lies in the mephistophelian engineered mindset that has created multiple fault lines and which have snowballed into an uncontrolled Frankenstein threatening its very existence and vulnerable geography.

These can be divided into social-ethnic and religious divide, military dominance controlling a fragile democracy, centrists versus federationists versus separatists, moderates versus extremists, rentier economy with disparate distribution, corruption at all levels including military, alarming water poverty index and the emerging disconnect between the state, non- state and quasi state actors just to name a few. Besides, institutionalised radicalisation and gun culture has gripped the Pak society with multifarious fissure.

Here lies the strategy of use of kinetic and non-kinetic tools to create fissures and target Pak’s illegitimate agenda in Kashmir by a punitive and smart payback. Those vulnerabilities with maximum impact and least recuperability must be targeted first.

The curtailment of flow of water from the Indian allotted eastern rivers is thus legal and sensible. Indeed hit hard, hit where it hurts and hit where the hurt lasts.

In the internal dimension we must reflect to address both the internal and terrorist fault lines in our approach to a long term solution. The key is highlight and address the agenda of Pak terrorist, demystify the POK socio economic conditions and orchestrate/ exploit inter group fissures. The focus must be to dissuade, deter, deny and defeat the nexus between Pak and local youth.

Simultaneously create a more effective and impactive governance mechanism. The primary focus must be on perception management and information warfare supported by incisive intelligence driven operations. The six organisational tools that sustain group cohesion and existence are ideology, alienation through radicalisation, leadership, recruitment pools, publicity and finance.

The operational tools used by terrorist groups to sustain terrorist attacks are command and control, weapons/ explosives, familiar geography, over ground workers (OGWs)/ sympathetic bases, digital space and perception management. These need to be denied and targeted in our politico military response strategy both through covert and overt actions. Our response must be technology enabled and sap the will of those separatist / terrorist, while winning back the youth in to the mainstream.

Not only should India analyse the exploitable weaknesses and fault lines of a belligerent Pakistan but should also engage in capacity building, in conjunction with strategic partners in the cyber, space, ISR ( intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), and electro-magnetic domains for application in the non-kinetic mode.


Time lost can never be gained. We need to calibrate our Strike, when the issue is hot, adversary on the back foot and the strategic levers in our favour. Indeed we have the physical and psychological ascendancy. This does not mean rushed or emotive decisions but a positive and escalatory signalling by a hurt nation seeking punitive response. India’s growing belief and capacity in its ability to control the spiral of potential escalation and maintain escalation dominance suggests that that there continues to be a strong divide between sub conventional conflict and all out conflict, both in the moral and physical domain.

Thus India’s response narrative must have the necessary time sensitivity to be punitive within the global acceptability matrix. Similarly in the internal domain, change the narrative in the light of present situation to stymie future incidents of such nature. So strike while the iron is hot and strike with due calibration.



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.


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