On September 18, Home Minister Rajnath Singh cancelled his overseas visit after hearing of the attack on an army camp in Uri. Back in 2014 on December 05, six terrorists had attacked the Indian Army’s camp at Mohura in Uri. The Army then had retaliated killing all the six terrorists. Our own losses included eight army soldiers and three Jammu and Kashmir policemen. In all, 17 human lives were lost.
In a rerun of sorts, a similar audacious attack was launched in the wee hours on September 18, 2016 at Uri on an Army Camp by Pakistani terrorists. Amasingly the response of the government of India, the media and the analysts appeared to be eerily similar to that which followed the earlier attacks. A response that has been well rehearsed over and over again. Something that has been perfected, as it appears, in the ongoing proxy war unleashed by our revisionist neighbour, Pakistan.
No one seems to have learnt a lesson. The Army always blames it on the harsh inhospitable terrain to cover up its ineffectiveness in checking infiltration. This despite the fact that millions of rupees have been invested in erecting the fence along the LoC and three tier counter infiltration Army deployment providing depth to the obstacle.
The politicians have their responses ready depending upon the forthcoming elections and their political constituencies and compulsions. The media goes berserk chasing prime time headlines. National fervour, emotions, melodrama and the aggressive argumentative Indian makes a perfect TRP recipe.
Every attack is followed by high level meetings followed by dossiers and diplomatic sparring. On the other side, the cunning Pakistani leaders snigger at the Indian rhetoric, quietly reminding their arch enemy India about their nuclear capability.
This set piece performance as per the script has become a part of our existence and psyche. More than 24 hours have elapsed since the four gun blazing Jaish-e-Mohamad terrorists came and butchered 17 Indian soldiers. An extremely shameful incident for any soldier and the army at large.
Adding injury to that insult is the vain waiting of a decision to enable take the revenge for those killed comrades. A wait that seems unending. Frustration and demoralisation grows with each attack, and the rising body count.
Since day before yesterday, there have been a series high level meetings at New Delhi. A few tweets and a few statements did generate a hope of a retaliation or at least a muscular response. At this juncture, I would like to recall the statement of the then Indian Army Chief, General Bikram Singh, who after the LoC beheadings, said, “we will retaliate at the place and time of our own choosing”. Alas! In these many years we have not been able to select a place and set the time. The soldiers continue to die as the nation and its army bleeds.
Being an optimistic veteran, I believe and hope that this time around the script may change. India could respond. Discussions are underway to work out the type of response, be it diplomatic, strategic or tactical or a mix of all.
The nation looks at the Prime Minister with the hope that he will call the Pakistani bluff and teach them an everlasting lesson. Within the military circles, the talk of a tactical response over the strategic one is growing increasingly louder. As an old saying goes, “the ships are not built for the harbours.” Let’s hope our national prestige and soldier’s honour is restored and the battle ships steam out. By the fall of the evening on September 19, it emerged that the Indian Prime Minister has asked his government to focus on isolating Pakistan diplomatically.
Is India buying time? Or has Mr Narendra Modi realised what his predecessors, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr Manmohan Singh came to realise about the harsh facts of our strength and political will after the Parliament and Mumbai attacks? Has Modi covered those startling gaps in preparedness of our armed forces, which was once highlighted by his own minister General V K Singh, when he was the Military Chief, through his leaked letter to the Prime Minister.
Or, has Mr Modi has decided to play a Mrs Gandhi, who went ahead to shape the world opinion before reshaping the region’s map. The options available to India that can be exercised under present circumstances are diplomatic, strategic and tactical in that order. Diplomatically India needs to go out all tongs and hammer to expose the real face of Pakistan to the world. We need to highlight the atrocities in Baluchistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir to the world, and walk the talk of extending support to Baluchistan as underscored by the Prime Minister on August 15 from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
India needs to change its stance from being a vulnerable nation at the mercy of Pakistan to a strong aggressive nation at the UNGA. We need to expose Pakistan at the world body and reply credibly to the Kashmir bogey.
Strategically on long term basis we need to strengthen our position in Afghanistan and support Baluch movement more substantially both materially and morally.
Going specifically on the response to Uri, India could explore usage of Navy for an economic blockade supported by cruise missile attacks on all the terrorist camps in POK and Pakistan Punjab. Use of Air Force at initial stage could bring in reverses as Pakistan’s air defence would all be primed, their eyes fully focused on the Indian skies. Hence that may not be a wise option.
While exercising this option, India will have to be prepared for the likely heavy cost of the conflict spiralling out of control on the escalatory ladder. Tactically, Indian army could raise the bar and bring upon the enemy to bear a heavy price for facilitating infiltration by smothering their defensive posts on the LoC that fall on that nefarious route. Weapons like the Smerch, Pinnaka and the Bofors could play havoc with Pakistani positions across the Line of Control. Use of infantry and special forces for cross border raids could augment the tactical efforts.
On the domestic front, we need to strike a unity in all political voices when it comes to action against Pakistan as the tone tends to change due to ethnic and religious affinity shared across the border with their core vote bank constituencies.
India has to be serious to get the support it desires from the world on Pakistan. We need to help ourselves before expecting any one else to help us.
It’s the right time now.
Former CO 9 SIKH Light Infantry. Associate Editor of Indian Defence Review. Author of Kashmir’s Death Trap: Tales of Perfidy and Valour. email: firstname.lastname@example.org