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Uri Attack – Should We Give Up Strategic Restraint ?

Maj Gen RPS Bhadauria (Retd) writes: A weak response is unlikely to convince Pakistan to give up the proxy war, it may well embolden the Pakistan Army to aggravate the problem.

The Fidayeen attack on the Indian Army in Uri on 18 Sep 2016 has evoked outrage amongst all section of the society – be it politicians, security community, military personnel both serving and retired or man on the street. This gruesome and cowardly act has been condemned by all the major powers; Russia has gone to the extent of cancelling the scheduled joint military exercise with Pakistan. Even China said that it was “shocked” by the attack on an Indian Army base at Uri in Kashmir.

The view that such an act needs a strong and an appropriate response is not in dispute. But, what has evoked a debate is the manner of our response. On one side of the spectrum are the views like ‘Jaw for the tooth’ and immediate strikes on the military bases / camps in Pakistan and on the other side are the views that politico-diplomatic-economic leverages must be used to isolate Pakistan so as to force it to change its strategic behaviour and give up terrorism as to tool to inflict thousand cuts on India.

It is not the time to take decisions in a hurry or emotionally. MoS and former COAS, Gen VK Singh has given a statement saying that “the action has to be taken without getting influenced by emotions, anger. It has to be taken coolly and with proper planning,” Immediate military response may well be falling in to a trap laid by our detractors.

A military response will have to factor in aspects such as our level of  operational preparedness, chances of success, retaliation from Pakistan, domination of the escalatory matrix to name a few. While military action will be able to assuage the desire of angry public for revenge, but a weak response is unlikely to convince Pakistan to give up the proxy war, it may well embolden the Pakistan Army to aggravate the problem. A strong response, which most likely will result in a conflict even if limited in scope, time and space, is not in our national interest at this stage  as it will divert our attention, energies and resources from our national goal of economic development to create jobs,  alleviate poverty and emerge as a major world power.

What then should be our response? The contours of our strategy against the proxy war have been visible for some time now. Diplomatic efforts have been underway to isolate Pakistan. PM Modi has openly stated that the world needs to take note of human rights violation of people of Balochistan and GB area. The Uri attack may well be a reaction to this strategy.

Militarily, we must strengthen our deployment on the LoC to counter increasing infiltration attempts, revitalise our intelligence and operational grid in valley to neutralise not only the terrorists but also the over ground workers. It is also time to develop asymmetric capabilities whether cyber, electronic or for covert operations which must be employed to counter the proxy war.

Politically, the government must fast track implementation of the agenda of governance and various development projects and create jobs in J&K. Hopefully; the success of the present political experiment in J&K will pave the way for peace in the valley.

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