After the attack on the Indian Parliament House by a joint team of terrorists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) and theJaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) on December 13,2001, there was a clamour in the New Delhi-based strategic community for military strikesagainst Pakistan.A former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), who held me in some esteem, had called me to Delhi for adiscussion on the options before India. I told him that it would be totally unwise for India to launch military strikes on Pakistan. . After adiscussion lasting more than an hour, he asked me to put down my thoughts in writing and send it to him after I returned to Chennai. I did so.He never told me what he did with my paper. I did not ask him either. I took his permission and sent the paper to the South Asia AnalysisGroup (SAAG), New Delhi, who were kind enough to carry it on their web site on December 27,2001, athttp://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers4/paper383.html.
2. I take the liberty of reproducing that article below without any change. I still largely stand by what I stated in that article. (14-1-09)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
HIT, BUT STEALTHILY
Direct military action against a State-sponsor of terrorism waging a proxy war against us by using terrorism through surrogates as alow-cost weapon without the direct involvement of its Armed Forces would be counter-productive and messy.
While there could be no doubt about India's ultimate success in a military conflict, the final cost of the conflict would further retard India'seconomic development.
Direct military action should be a weapon of last resort when there is no other way of protecting our unity and territorial integrity. We arefar, far away from such a desperate situation.
Despite its strong anti-Castro rhetoric, the US has generally avoided any direct military action against Cuba which it has, in the past,accused of sponsorship of terrorism or insurgency in Latin America because of concerns that such action could lead to a messy situationat its door step. What it can afford to do to far-away Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan, it cannot to its across-the-sea neighbour.
Avoidance of direct military action against Pakistan is dictated by its being our next-door neighbour, the suspected presence of irrationalelements in its military, intelligence and scientific establishment and the concerns of the international community over the nuclear factor. India has a common interest with the rest of the world in ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear and missile arsenal does not fall into the hands ofirrational elements.
Public and political opinion should refrain from creating a situation similar to the one created before 1962 when the clamour for a macho response to China's nibbling at our territory led to unwise decisions.
To talk of limited military action in the form of hot pursuit of terrorists, hit and run raids and air strikes on their training camps in Pakistani territory is to exhibit a surprising and worrisome ignorance of ground realities and a lack of understanding of a proxy war despite India beinga victim of it for nearly two decades now.
Legally, India has the right of hot pursuit, but it works only when armed groups indulge in hit and run raids from rear bases in a foreignterritory across the border. It cannot be used against suicide squads of foreign mercenaries operating from safe sanctuaries in our territoryprovided by alienated elements in our own population.
Destruction of training camps would be a meaningless exercise because terrorists do not have a permanent training infrastructure likeKhadakvasla or Dehra Dun or West Point. Their infrastructures are improvised and shifting and come into life whenever they manage to get asufficient number of recruits for training.
If air strikes and cross-border raids on training camps and safe havens could effectively end terrorism, Israel should be free offoreign-sponsored terrorism today. The fact that even after 30 years of a macho counter-terrorism policy, Israeli blood continues to flowshould show the ineffectiveness of its strategy.
The US bombing of the training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998 did not prevent the attack on a US naval ship in Aden in October, 2000or the terrorist strikes of September 11,2001, in the US.
When terrorism is used by a State as a low-cost weapon to achieve its strategic objective, what works against it is the ability and thedetermination of the victim State to hurt the interests of the State-sponsor in order to make it a high-cost weapon for the wielder.
State-sponsored terrorism withers away when the villain State is made to realise that it will have to pay a heavy price for its sponsorship. The US bombing of Libya in 1986 and its economic sanctions against it produced more enduring results than its bombing of the trainingcamps in Afghanistan in 1998 because it hit at the vital interests of the State-sponsor (Libya); whereas in Afghanistan, it hit only at thetraining camps without hurting the Taliban-run State.
If the current "war" against terrorism produces enduring results, it would be more due to the severe damages inflicted by the US on theTaliban State and its overthrow.
The ideologically-oriented terrorist groups of West Europe, including many inspired by Carlos, withered away after the collapse of EastGermany, the erstwhile USSR and Yugoslavia and the US pressure against Syria, Yemen and Sudan deprived them of any State-sponsor.
Egypt was able to control the activities of the Al Gama Al Islamiya and other similar groups only after the US pressure on the Sudan deprivedthem of sustenance from the Sudanese State.
If Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir is not abating, it is partly because of the reluctance of the US to exercise similarpressure on it and partly because of our unwillingness and inability to make the State of Pakistan pay a price for its sponsorship. When apuppeteer uses puppets to hurt you, you have to disable the puppeteer; otherwise, the more the puppets you destroy the more the numberthat will crop up.
Other options, which need to be tried first before even contemplating the direct military option, are political, economic and non-militarycovert actions. The political option relates to intensifying our pressure on the international community in general and the US in particular toact against Pakistan. The US is as opposed now as it was in the past to calling Pakistan to order, but one could see from the US media thatgrowing sections of public opinion there do not take as benign a view of Islamabad as the Administration does. One must take advantage of this wind of change.
India has a much stronger case against Pakistan than the US has had against the Al Qaeda and the Taliban. We have had difficulty in sellingour case because of the USA's strategic interest in Pakistan and the nostalgic links of the military-intelligence establishments of the twocountries. Loyalty to USA's allies, past and present, has been a recurring theme in President Bush's pronouncements before and after hiselection.
It would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect the US to come down on Pakistan heavily. We cannot expect more than proforma admonitionsaddressed to Pervez Musharraf. However, this should not be an argument for not keeping up our diplomatic pressure to confine Pakistan tothe dog house.
The junta will not give in as easily to US pressure vis-a-vis India as it did apropos Afghanistan. In its perception, the proxy war has brought itvery close to its objective of a change of status quo in J & K. It thinks that if it relents in the proxy war in response to US pressure, it maynot get for decades a similar opportunity to change the status quo. In its eyes, keeping the Indian security forces preoccupied with internalsecurity duties is also meant to neutralise the quantitative and qualitative advantage enjoyed by the Indian military.
The only way, short of a military conflict, of making it relent in its proxy war is by making the perceived low-cost weapon into a high-cost one. Economic warfare, through overt and covert means, could be one way of doing this. However, such economic warfare would have produced better results before September 11, but today its cash flow position has improved with its foreign exchange reserves more than tripling in three months. And yet, sustained economic warfare could neutralise the temporary reprieve which the Pakistani economy has gained.
Political, diplomatic and economic actions by themselves would not make the junta relent unless simultaneously accompanied byhard-hitting covert actions directed at Pakistan's neurologic spots carefully identified. A covert action is defined as a clandestine anddeniable action, armed or unarmed, not involving the use of the Armed Forces, which a State undertakes in a situation where the use of theconventional diplomatic or military option is considered as not feasible or advisable.
Successful covert actions demand the required professional capability in the intelligence community, objective allies in the targetted territory and consistency on the part of the political leadership in their implementation.
Consistency in our policy towards Pakistan has not been a hallmark of our national security management. It must be said to the credit of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment that it has exhibited remarkable consistency in its hatred of India and in its urge to hurt us wherever and whenever it can.
Our policy of "kabi garam, kabi naram" (sometimes hard, sometimes soft) creates confusion and uncertainty in the minds of our own securitybureacracy and makes our objective allies across the border hesitant to co-operate with us in covert actions.
The need of the hour is a counter proxy war doctrine incorporating its political, diplomatic, economic and covert components and itsimplementation in a determined and consistent manner. The results would not come dramatically, but slowly and almost imperceptibly.