LT GEN A B SHIVANE, PVSM, AVSM,VSM (RETD)
NEW DELHI, 04 MARCH 2019
The narrative of Pak sponsored proxy war has changed. The new normal in Proxy War escalatory dynamics has added a distinctive strategic dimension to the negative cost benefit of its relevance. However, the question that remains is, given the rationality irrationality paradox of Pakistan’s strategic culture, its belligerence towards India, Pak Army’s belief in it being the guardian of the nation’s ideology and its obsession with Kashmir; WILL THINGS CHANGE? Will the fallout of this new normal result in an effective deterrence to proxy war or will it lead to just a cursory pause or a redefined course? The answer to the above will lie firstly in the future trajectory of India in dealing firmly with Pak diplomatically, economically and militarily, secondly the world at large in demanding greater accountability and responsibility from Pakistan and finally most importantly Pak as a nation willing to introspect and reform for the better. A week since the Balakot Punitive Strikes and the aftermath, it’s time to reflect and define the future course.
The war against terrorism and proxy war to defeat a belligerent Pakistan and its terror factory is not yet over. It’s not even the end of the beginning but the beginning of beginning, to usher in an era of peace in the subcontinent, even if it means through the sustained use of all instruments of national power. Winning the peace is as important as winning the war. Unfortunately, more often than not the later paves the way for the former to last.
The strategic messaging post Balakot air strikes is indicative of an India with a decisive political will, demonstrated military capability and bold communication to respond punitively to Pak perpetuated proxy war, utilizing all instruments of national power aggressively. The use of airpower on terrorist targets irrespective of perceived boundaries, have defined a new military escalatory response calculus. This has certainly raised the cost of waging proxy war for Pakistan with assured retribution and resolute national resolve. It also strategically signals to Pak that India is not charry of escalation dynamics when its national interests are being threatened. Pak’s stand on Balakot Terrorist camp not existing and gimmicks of eco terrorism is consistent with its ostrich deniability stand. This limited war was a “Dharma-Yudh”, a righteous war between good and evil. It was more about the resolve to hit evil, hit hard, hit where it hurts and hit where the hurt lasts. The attempted Pak counter air strike in response to Balakot was more of a face saving for the nation and an acceptance of it being vulnerable, hammered and shamed. So, while the tactical air strikes and counter air strikes dynamics may be debated but the superiority of outcome and strategic victory cannot be denied to India. India targeted terrorism as a preemptive action for self defence and succeeded. Pak responded by attempting to strike military targets and failed. It has been both a military and moral victory for India acclaimed by the world. It has also highlighted that proxy war under the guise of nuclear umbrella is a myth and Pakistan will have to pay a disproportionate assured price for the same. But perhaps most importantly, the last few days have reminded us that no war can be won without good diplomacy. It also displayed media as a tool and a weapon rolled into one, and nowhere was this more evident as the moods swung rapidly from revenge to celebration to somber to rejoice. Hopefully the media and its new breed of defence analyst will mature with time to show greater depth in understanding the strategic security domain and lesser predisposition to playing to the galleries. Notwithstanding above, in this righteous cause the nation stood firm as one, silencing antinational critiques, Pak propogandist, repulsive self-oriented politicians and their attendant rhetoric’s.
The global admonition of Pakistan and lack of support even by its most close allies China, UAE and Saudi Arabia has been a major diplomatic victory. Three diplomatic realities are significant indicators of a “Rising India” and a “Failed Pakistan”. Firstly, Pak’s all-weather friend China was a signatory to the strong statement by UNSC naming Pulwama and JeM, diluting its sympathetic stand for Pak and strengthening India’s fight against terrorism. China may just find it hard to look the other way as Pakistan obfuscates on action against Masood Azhar and JeM. This must be taken to its logical conclusion. Secondly, OIC hosted India one of its largest oil consumers, as a “Guest of Honour” for the inaugural plenary meeting of Foreign Ministers , snubbing its founder Pak’s dissent and absenteeism. Thirdly, international pressure compelled Pak to release the Indian MIG 21 Pilot who shot down its indomitable F16, in a historic first. By returning Wing Commander Abhinandan Vartaman, Pakistan has tried to play its cards well, concealing all the pressures and compulsions behind it. It seeks to de-escalate tensions, stall further retribution and gain a perceived moral high ground, albeit from a position of hopelessness. The reality is that it was fear of failure to sustain this escalatory matrix and not hope of success that made it crumble. Some armchair protagonist do mention that Pak through recent crisis has successfully internationalized Kashmir. But the bitter truth is India has not only internationalized and exposed “Pak as Terroristan” but proved to the world that India 2.0 can handle its own affairs effectively on all fronts. Pakistan today stands diplomatically desolate for its own doings and erosive strategic culture.
Economically too Pakistan is on its knees. It is on the brink of an energy emergency and economic collapse, indicative by the steep dive in the Karachi Stock Index and the collapse of Pak rupee. It cannot sustain its own survival being a rentier economy, leave alone the cost of a conflict with India the world’s fifth largest economy. Its trajectory is heading into a FATF blacklist which India must willingly oblige. Every mobalisation and military buildup as a response to Indian retribution to Proxy War will further squeeze its scarce resources, which it can ill afford. Pakistan must also not forget that it ranks third amongst countries facing water shortages. India can contribute to its miseries even within the provisions of Indus Water Treaty. India must make immediate arrangements to fully utilise its quota of water, part of which is flowing unharnessed into Pakistan, while holding out an escalatory threat to opt out of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. This action will have a major impact on the already water starved Pakistan agronomy, which remains its mainstay.
Pakistan is at an historical crossroad yet again. Militarily subdued, diplomatically isolated and economically choked, will Pakistan and its dominant institution Pak Army Blink? It needs to reflect on its vision, its ways and means to the “Naya Pakistan”. It needs to act against and not deny its vacillation in supporting its strategic assets- the types of JeM, LeT and its leadership. It must decide on a “Nation Above All“ approach, that either it becomes a mature and respected democratic entity with a thriving economy or it continues to dig its own grave into a debilitating contradiction of its internal and external conflict. Its time Pak addresses its chronic insecurities, revisionist culture and grand ideological ambitions that generate high level of conflict for itself, the region and the world. Its trajectory cannot be based on these revisionist policies which threatens the very existence of its own state. It’s time to reflect and see the futility and disastrous outcome of prosecuting proxy war under its perceived ever-expanding nuclear umbrella which has brought international opprobrium upon Pakistan. The reality cannot be put under the carpet that Pakistan’s diminishing global standing, internal instability, fragile economy and other instruments of national power are inadequate for the endless quest of seizing Kashmir, resisting India’s rise and waging proxy war. It’s time to for Pak as a nation to question the present narrative and change the fundamentals. Let the nation have an army not the Army have the nation. Let the nation take pride and internally focus on its rightful trajectory to rise and prosper and not focus externally on undoing others trajectory by proxies and bedeviled. India’s fight is against terrorism and not Pakistan people. India can be the best of friends and worst of enemies. The choice is with Pakistan if it wants to change the course of history for a better future. The people of Pakistan must empower themselves and become the Center of Gravity of Naya Pakistan.
In the meantime, India must not loosen the noose. Its new-found strategy of compellence must be pursued to its logical end both by overt and covert means at hand, targeting the physical, moral and psychological domains of terrorism and proxy war. We must reserve the right to hit hard all dimensions of proxy war, at impunity with a redefined grammar of retribution, if required again and again. Escalated LoC firing will cost and hurt Pak more than India. Its war endurance is subcritical to even sustain the nation for few days. Its nuclear rhetoric’s lie exposed and fraught with massive retaliation against a vulnerable geography which threatens its very existence. Indeed, for the sake of regional peace and stability, India cannot ease its diplomatic, military and economic pressures. India must bring Pakistan to measurably and verifiably demonstrate its will to dismantle its terror infrastructure and take punitive action against terrorist leadership prospering in the cloak of Jihadi’s. The game of “Dossier – Dossier” must end and Pak forced to act. It may be easier said than done and may test the nations sustained resolve and resources. But so be it. Stalemate is a victory for Pakistan and not an option. Pakistan’s quest to settle for a cursory pause in proxy war or a redefined course with cosmetic actions must be stalled at all costs. The proxy war must be brought to a decisive and conclusive end.
Internally too this window of opportunity must be fully utilized with firm handling of antinational separatists and traitors of India plotting against the nation. JEI banned and Hurriyat under custody must lead to trial for treason and exemplary punishment. Their wings must be clipped for posterity as an example for others who so dare. Other pro Pak propogandists, anti-nationals and politicians who lack nationalistic culture must be made irrelevant and be sent to oblivion. Counter terror operations must continue with renewed vigor to hunt, hit and eliminate those who still dare. However, there must be the fine dividing line between the main stream and the terrorist. Terrorist classification also needs to be redefined to 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. Security stabilisation is essential pre-requisite yet it has to be complemented with internal healing and de-radicalisation. This requires matching actions by the government beyond military to bring back the youth to the mainstream. There is need to simultaneously forge a “One Nation One Jammu and Kashmir” policy to fully integrate the state into the larger Indian Union. The terror industry which suits many individual agendas must end. The people of J&K must benefit and prosper equally from a Rising India. The nation and its polity must stand united in this internal resolve too.
“HISTORY PRESENTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO INDIA, PAKISTAN AND THE WORLD. IT MUST NOT BE LOST. THE PROXY WAR MUST END ONCE FOR ALL. THE NATION MUST BE PATIENT, UNITED AND READY TO SACRIFICE TEMPORARY CALM FOR LASTING PEACE”
“Na Karma, Na prajaya, dhaena,
(Not by action, not by progeny,
not by wealth but by sacrifice alone
can immortal goal be achieved)
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.