The September 18 attack at the 12th Brigade headquarters at Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, by Pakistan-based terrorists brings out the worst in those of us who pretend to be our leaders and expert on strategic matters. Their reaction to the incident betrays cynicism, lack of self-belief and reluctance to take pride in nationhood. You heard them trashing Shushma Swaraj’s spirited defence of India’s stand on Kashmir at the UN and accusing the government of perpetuating unrest in Kashmir by refusing to involve Pakistan and separatists in settling the political status of the state. They would mock PM Modi for not teaching Pak Army a lesson and at the same breath, suggest that India must avoid hot pursuit lest it leads to a war.
They have simply gone berserk after the Indian Army surgically struck the terrorist camps in PoK, 11 days later. Like juveniles, they have fallen for Pakistani propaganda and asking for proof that the strike indeed took place. You wonder if this preposterous demand has any parallel in history.
The surgical strike was a sensitive operation and its details cannot be shared. There is absolutely no need to take the habitual baiters into confidence or educate Pakistan with evidences. I recall Atal Bihari Vajpayee once losing his cool and pulling up an irrepressible Janata Dal MP who insisted on knowing details of an Afghan operation during the debate on budget allocation.
Amid the cacophony over the raid, we also heard a congenital publicity seeker calling PM Modi a war monger, a babe in the political wonderland describing him a broker dealing in martyr’s blood, a self-styled dove dubbing the surgical strike a tamasha and our comrades finding the DGMO’s claim of a successful strike as unbelievable. The churlish response was, however, reserved for Pawar, Antony and Chidambaram who came out of amnesia to declare that similar strikes took place during their ragtag days.
The Uri attack, however, has one positive fall-out. It has drastically changed the rules of engagements with Pakistan. Days are gone when PMs and opposition political leaders ritualistically spoke of vengeance. Also gone is the fear of a nuclear war, should the Indian Army crosses the LoC to smash terrorists’ launching pads. This time, there was no prevarication.
Indian troops raided terrorist bases in PoK, killed several inmates, including Pak soldiers, and returned. Earlier, we were content with announcing inquiries into the circumstances leading to the breach of security parameters. Now it is accepted that occasional lapses in guarding military bases will remain part of occupational hazard but that shall not preclude retaliatory attacks.
Islamabad obviously read Modi wrong. If Modi can invite Nawaz Sharif at his swearing-in ceremony, go to Lahore to have tea with the Pak PM on his birthday, touch Sharif’s mother’s feet and allow a team of ISI and police to visit Pathankot airbase to verify Indian claims of Pak involvement in the terrorist attack on January 2, he can also drag Sharif before the international community as a collaborator to the efforts of Pak Army, Lashkar-e-Toiba, JeM and other mujahideen groups to unleash terrorists for destabilising the subcontinent and beyond. Wisely, there was no attempt to strike at Pak military establishments or deny the raid. The silence would have invited rumours, false accusations against intelligence agencies and doubts over motives.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan today finds itself isolated whereas Delhi receives overwhelming international and regional support for its surgical strike to defend its territorial integrity. This actually paves the way for similar raids in future without fear of running into a nuclear war or facing political and economic sanctions from the international community.
Another significant development has been the government’s move to correct the historical ambiguity around India’s relationship with Pakistan existing since 1947. The charity time seems to be over. Delhi has now decided to re-visit the Indus Water Treaty and fully utilise its share of water, review the most favoured nation (MFN) status granted to Pakistan in 1996 and deny Pakistan the honour of hosting SAARC summits while funding, arming and launching terrorists to disturb the regional peace. Simultaneously, a clear message has gone to Kashmiris that arson, stone pelting and sloganeering will not buy them separation from the Indian union and Pakistan will no longer be sitting around the table when leaders from J&K and Delhi discuss how to address grievances of Kashmiris and restore normalcy in the state. PM Modi has set terms that the Congress, our desi comrades and their likes will find hard to reverse while dealing with Pakistan in years ahead.
The writer is former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing