It may be a given that a ‘centralised regime’ compared to a democratic one would have an edge in formulating and executing agendas linked to an effective strategic fulcrum at the core of national decision-making. A fulcrum is an apparatus for translating policy decisions into action mode in the realm of foreign and strategic responses by converting national security-related tactical goals to fruition, faster and smoother. Ever since its inception in 1947, the Indian state has been befuddled in reacting to major strategic moves from its neighbourhood. The British-inspired ‘war games’ in the post-Partition phase could not be sufficiently assessed, either by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, or by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the maker of modern India.
Trusting the British and their tactical devices to leave the Partition and indeed the Kashmir issue as open-ended eventually resulted in a mayhem of inter-religious killings that created chasms between India and Pakistan. These still play out with vehemence.
Forces of history later led the Pakistan state crumbling under weak civilian leaderships, caving in to military autocracies mentored by Chiefs of Army Staff, especially on foreign policy and the strategic terrains. One over-reaching military dictator even had the cheek and temerity to “hang to death” a duly elected Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in April 1979 on a concocted charge of murder and a sham investigation to declare Bhutto guilty. No elected leader, including present Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, can ever relax in office or at home with an overawing military shadow over their lives and times whilst in power or for the lack of it.
Resultantly, when the Pak military-inspired terrorists attacked Uri base camp on September 18, mainly with the intent of bringing PM Sharif under global pressure, India initially seemed driven to a wall of indecision yet again. The same sense of inbred democratic procrastination to launch an effective counter-attack that was witnessed post Chinese aggression of 1962, terrorist attack on India’s financial capital in March 1993, Parliament attack of 2001 and the Mumbai terror strike on November 26, 2008. All these ISI-inspired armed assaults rankled many and profusely angered the Indian nation.
Fortunately, the chain of such historical indecisions was broken, and quite decisively so, by PM Narendra Modi. Choosing the time and place of counter-attack with near precision, the Indian Army hit out with discretion by entering hostile territory to eliminate scores of trained terrorists whom the Pakistan Army was to exfiltrate into India for reinforcing the Uri damage to India’s global reputation. Notably, the Indian Army struck the decisive blows with substantive display of its inherent tactical superiority over its traditional military rival. Modi with a keen sense of history seemed to adhere to Indira Gandhi-like strategic impulses to take unitary military decisions, an art of war which she exhibited to bring Pakistan to its knees in 1971. Like Indira, Modi followed a brilliant strategy combined with tactical genius of a rare variety.
Modi and his team of advisers planned the gamut of responses at different levels. The first one was to isolate Pakistan in South Asia wherein he attained success commensurate with expectations. The SAARC Summit in Islamabad slated for November has since been postponed indefinitely with Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Sri Lanka pulling out, citing support to India’s relentless campaign against cross-border terrorism and Pakistan’s inability to stem the flow of organised terrorists to neighbouring realms.
Second, India—steadily with its pacific postures to continued provocations from Rawalpindi—made known to its friends in South-east Asia, West and East Europe through an empowered campaign, mentored by Modi and his external affairs minister, that there is a time to endure and a time to act. Barring China, the Big Five in the UN Security Council maturely received and accepted stances and positions put out by South Block about Pakistan using terrorism as an avowed means of state policy.
In the Big Five league, China alone has so far been an ardent supporter of Islamabad in stifling terror investigations and denying India its legitimate position in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Derivatively, in nuclear power dynamics of the day, Beijing appears keen to mentor an Asian nuclear power bloc consisting of Pakistan, North Korea and China to eventually pressurise India and the Western world allies and friends of Washington, Seoul and Tokyo. Hopefully, even in the face of such hostile forces playing out, New Delhi’s strategic fulcrum would rise to the occasion whenever needed.
The writer is former additional secretary, Cabinet Secretariat