NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday mulled various responses to the Pakistani aircraft intruding into Indian territory, and the capture of an IAF MiG 21 Bison pilot, who was shot down over PoK while challenging the intruders. Most experts, however, argued that the incident should not cause Delhi to lose focus from the main objective of destroying terrorist camps across the border.
Former Army Chief General VP Malik said that the targeting of Indian military installations could lead to a limited war. “The point is that Pakistan’s action can escalate to limited war if this action-reaction phenomenon continues.” While insisting that a full-scale war is not in either nation’s interest, “We have to be always prepared,” he said. This intrusion that followed India’s bombing of ‘non-military’ targets in Pakistan should not surprise us, opined former Air Chief Marshal FH Major. “Before such operations are launched these kinds of escalations are always factored.”
While former diplomats were hesitant to spell out options saying that the situation was too fluid and that the Indian reaction depended on the political leadership, AB Kukreja, a diplomat who served in Pakistan, felt that “diplomatically, we can downgrade relations further, and expel their officials from India. We can also stop talks on the Kartarpur corridor, though that might hurt Sikh sentiments. And then of course, there is the water card. Though the threat cannot be implemented overnight.” According to him, it was important not to lose sight of the main objective, which was to stem the flow of terror from Pakistan.
Air Marshal Bijoy Pandey, former air officer commanding in-chief of Headquarters Training Command, believes that “Pakistan is not capable of conventional war... because it is only capable of proxy war using terrorist outfits, the battle will be confined to J&K.” He said the Indian forces were engaged in cleaning the Valley of terrorists, which could yield results over time. “We have flexed our muscles, and the PM has given a free hand to the forces. But this does not mean we can launch a war, the objective should be to clear out other major terrorist bases in Pakistan.” And instead of using special forces like in the surgical strike that followed the terror strike on Uri, India should increasingly use strike aircraft backed by satellite.