NEW DELHI: Thursday’s attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama, in which over 40 troopers were martyred and many more injured, has led to growing pressure on the government to act against Pakistan. “Unfortunately on television the impression being created is that we have no further options, that we have carried out the surgical strike and nothing happened,” said Tilak Devasher, former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and author of two books on Pakistan.
"I don’t think we have exercised the full range of options that we have. Diplomatic options like recalling our High Commissioner, or downgrading diplomatic relations could be a strong message. If you want to further escalate it, you could have a small presence which just receives and delivers messages, just a first secretary or something, and expel the Pakistani mission here,” he said.
“While I leave the military option to the Army, the Prime Minister has already said the Armed Forces have been given full independence to do what they want. Then Pakistan has gone to the IMF for funds, we have certain voting powers there. We can also work with other members of the Financial Action Task Force, particularly the US, to convince them to put Pakistan on the blacklist,” he argued.
He added, “We can certainly revive discussions at the UN to define terrorism, which have been stuck for a while. Or actually, we can define it ourselves, and while I am not sure what the legal implications are, it is worth considering declaring Pakistan a terrorist state. There was a private member bill that didn’t see the light of day, but it is certainly worth discussing, at least,” he felt.
“As for Pakistan pointing out that the bomber was a local Kashmiri and not someone who had come across the border, the point is that there is no Jaish-e-Mohammed in India, so they can’t hide behind that cover. So Pakistan is involved, they can keep saying what they want,” he concluded.
Concurring that Pakistan’s connection with this terror act is unambiguous, former Northern Army Commander General DS Hooda, who led the surgical strike in 2016 after the attack on the Uri Brigade Headquarters, said no terror organisation had claimed responsibility for the Uri attack. However, this time the Jaish-e-Mohammad had immediately taken responsibility.
"There is a clear Pakistani hand in this attack. The whole leadership of JeM is based out of Pakistan and with the number of casualties that have taken place, the government will have to retaliate and show some action. What will be the form and shape of the retaliation will be the prerogative of the government but I feel a covert operation is an option that needs to be exercised," He said. While conceding that conducting a cross-border strike may be a bigger challenge for India this time as Pakistan would be better prepared, he said the possibility of such a strike could not be ruled out.
"Last time, there was a fair element of surprise when we carried out the surgical strike. There will be greater preparations on their side this time. But I think some of these options to retaliate are going to be exercised. We could see a cross-border operation like a surgical strike." Hooda further said that India must target the terrorist leadership in Pakistan."We must try and take out the leadership of terror organisations from Pakistan, like Hafeez Saeed and Masood Azhar. They can't be sitting there comfortably. Terrorist leadership in foreign countries have been taken out. India must make attempts in this direction," he said.
Other experts proposed a whole range of measures to put pressure on Pakistan on the diplomatic front, through the UN security council and the US government, and isolate it. "Merely saying we are not going to talk to Pakistan as has happened in the past will not be the case this time. Similarly, there is likely to be an increase of pressure on Pakistani soldiers across the Line of Control," said one.
“Enough is enough. We should actually consider paying Pakistan back in its own coin,” fumed a former intelligence officer who has served in both Pakistan and China. “To start with, why can’t we put out an international mercenary contract on the terrorist leadership there? And also announce a substantial bounty on their heads, including not just money, but a pledge to give any Pakistani who kills any of the these scumbags a new life in India under our new witness protection programme?” he said. “I know that the US bounty on Hafeez Saeed hasn’t worked, but at least this will add to the security constraints on these lowlifes who are walking around freely in Pakistan at the moment,” he said.
"And then of course we must play the water card," he said, adding, "I am not saying we should revoke the Indus Water Treaty, though we can always threaten to do so, but even if we were to aggressively divert water from the rivers allowed to us under the treaty, which we have not done so far, it would cause enough pain downstream."
And if even that doesn't work, he said, "We must get actively involved in the secessionist and separatist movements in Balochistan and the NWFP, which are already seething against the government. The former will also force Pakistan's best friend China to sit up and take notice, because their prized economic corridor to Gwadar runs through that region, and any unrest there raises the security costs of the project."