Nalin Mehta in Academic Interest | India | TOI

Not since Mumbai’s 26/11 has the nation been so united in its horror and anger at a terrorist attack as by the brutality at Pulwama. The sheer scale of the loss and the macabre images of destruction at the Pampore-Letapore section of the Srinagar-Jammu highway have so seared India’s collective consciousness that it simply cannot be business as usual with Pakistan anymore.

From the attack on the Kaluchak military camp in 2002 to the outrage at Pathankot air base and the Uri brigade in 2016, we have seen direct attacks by Pakistan’s proxies on Indian security forces before. But as with the attack on Parliament in 2001 and the mayhem at Mumbai in 2008, the public anger shows that something seems to have fundamentally shifted with Pulwama.

First, apart from this being the biggest casualty count in a Kashmir terror attack, the timing and tactic are both significant. Terrorists in Kashmir had not resorted to big car bombs in over a decade. The first suicide car bombing targeted Srinagar’s Badami Bagh cantonment in 2000, the second was outside its old legislative complex in 2001, the third near the private residence of then CM Mufti Mohammed Sayeed in 2005. Thereafter, as former 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain has pointed out, it was “almost like a switch was turned off” after 2009.
The fact that terror handlers in Pakistan have shifted tactics in Kashmir just ahead of the national elections is no coincidence. Pulwama was not a random crime of opportunity: it took planning, resources and expertise.

The Pakistani deep state is testing India’s resolve as the nation heads into a divisive poll battle. The bombing is nothing short of a hostile act of war.  In our response, we must suspend politics as usual.

Second, it must mean the end of all hopes peaceniks had invested in Imran Khan as PM. With the balance of power shifting in Afghanistan as the Americans withdraw, the Pakistan army is again raising the temperature in Kashmir. The promise of the Kartarpur corridor and the idea of a detente based on goodwill measures was  only a distracting gambit. The fundamental calculus of the Pakistan army remains unchanged.

Third, the real issue is China. India is reportedly planning another round of talks with the US for the UN Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Yet, Beijing has consistently blocked such moves since March 2016 in the UN Security Council’s 1267 sanctions committee. China’s all-weather friendship with Pakistan means that Pakistan continues to have diplomatic cover. India’s approach to Beijing must shift.

Fourth, what can India do realistically? Given the feeling of helpless anger that such senseless terror engenders, a desire for retribution is natural. Yet, it is easier to declare war in TV studios than to create policy tools that have real deterrence value.
The post-Uri surgical strikes were a great tactical victory but have not changed the basic Pakistani template of terror as an instrument of state policy. India’s armed forces on the ground will respond tactically at a time and place of their own choosing but the strategic challenge from Pakistan remains. As several generals have pointed out we need a military response that is part of a calibrated escalation matrix, not a knee-jerk one.

A deeper concern is that while more terrorists (276) were killed in Kashmir in 2018 than in any other year since 2014 (when 114 were killed), police figures show that for the first time in this decade the number of local terrorists killed is significantly higher than foreign ones.Fifth, while it is good to isolate Pakistan diplomatically, does anyone really believe that revoking most-favoured-nation status or the usual tools of diplomacy will change Islamabad’s behaviour? It may be time to consider harder options like revoking the Indus Water Treaty. Action, not talks, is needed. India must itself declare Pakistan a terrorist state, as a now-withdrawn private member’s bill sought to do in 2016. We should begin by doing what we are asking the world to do.

Like with Uri, questions will of course be asked about how such an attack could happen. Yet, the time for public recriminations is later. Politically, for now, it is important to present a united face. Prime Minister Modi has rightly signalled political intent for a strong response and it is significant that Rahul Gandhi, for the second time in five years, has chosen to support the Modi government by suspending divisive discussion on Pulwama.
Pulwama needs a coherent national response, cutting across party lines. With public anger so high, it has also added yet another X-factor into the electoral mix as we head to the polls.

There are only three ways we can compel/convince Pakistan to end terror

Aakar Patel in Aakarvani | India | TOI
India must approach the problem of the terror groups in Pakistan in two ways. This sounds didactic and it is, but the reality is that our governments have learned nothing.
The first approach is that we must figure out how to convince Pakistan to do the right thing. That is to ensure that groups based in their country are continually squeezed so that they cannot harm us.

How can India manage to convince Pakistan to do that? We can do it in one of three ways and there are only three ways.

The first is that we can compel the Pakistanis to do what we want. This means the use or threatened use of force. We can either convince them that our threat of violence against them is credible and the imbalance in force will defeat them. Or if not, then we convince ourselves that we can do it and proceed to demonstrate that through force.

The second is that we get an external party — say America or China or the United Nations — to get Pakistan to behave. This means mediation.

The third mechanism is to talk to Pakistan and to convince them through negotiation. This is what we have agreed to do in the Simla Agreement.
What is the goal to be achieved here? Again it is quite clear. We want Pakistan to get the groups on its soil to stop harming us. If we want that to happen we have these three ways of doing so.

Now let us look at what we have been doing so far. On the third way we are clear that we will not talk to Pakistan till cross-border terrorism stops. But the reality is that it is not stopping.

Violence in Kashmir has dropped from its peak in 2001-2002 (when over 4,500 people died in a year) almost every year. Last year 457 died, including 95 security personnel. For the last decade or so the number of dead has remained more or less the same — about 200-300 soldiers, terrorists and civilians.

But this is still violence and it is unacceptable and has to stop, but we haven’t managed to stop it through not talking.

On the issue of the second, we have consistently said that we will not allow a third party in this dispute. Indira Gandhi compelled Pakistan (through war in 1971) to settle all future disputes only through bilateral talks and so the Simla Agreement binds us into not going for mediation in any case.

To go back to the three means of convincing Pakistan, we have ruled out talks and the Simla Agreement has ruled out mediation.

That leaves the first one, force. The problem that this government and every government after 1998 has faced is that of uncertainty.

Indira Gandhi could compel Pakistan’s generals because they were not yet nuclear and we had conventional superiority. That has changed. How much military pain from us will Pakistan absorb before it uses or threatens to use nuclear weapons? If we know the answer to that we can calibrate our military response. But we do not know the answer to that. And that is what has stopped us from going to war. In my opinion that is a wise thing to have done, but what my opinion is doesn’t matter here. We’re looking at possibilities.The analysis above brings us to an absurd conclusion. What we are in essence saying is that we will deal with the problem of Pakistan through not-warring, not-mediation and not-talking.

If we are puzzled that our efforts have not yet sorted things out then we should not be because we appear to be doing nothing. That is why we must be tiresomely didactic with our leaders till they recognise and accept the reality of this impasse.We should demand to know from this government and the ones after it which of these ways they are using to keep our nation safe.

We cannot accept the continual sacrifice of our warriors because of inaction. The death of a few of the enemy (‘surgical strike’) cannot be considered sufficient recompense for the blood of our martyrs. We should not see ourselves as a nation enthusiastic about honouring the jawan but also willing to see him die. The sad reality is that he has become fodder to the news anchor who encourages his martyrdom so that he can be worshipped afterwards. Breaking out of our inaction may change this.

In the rest of India terror attacks outside the northeast and the Naxal zone are close to zero and have been for many years. This problem of crossborder terrorism is a Kashmir problem.

I opened by saying we must use two approaches. The other approach is to reduce Pakistani terror by not sending our own people, the Kashmiris, their way. But let that solution occupy exactly as much space here as it does in our national mindset.