By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch
As this article goes to the media, the encounter in Pampore has been on for 42 hours. India has lost five security personnel including two officers, one being Captain Pawan Kumar the only child of his parents. Captain Tushar Mahajan too was a young officer. Last rites of the bravehearts are shown live on the media with last posts sounded with full military honours and hundreds in attendance. Media calls it a Pakistani proxy attack. Some of the media houses will probably organise TV debates with the same Pakistani stooges saying Pakistan has nothing to do with it or when countered by Indian panelists, will say, OK, if you think that way you are welcome to launch your Strike Corps. The hierarchy will say that appropriate reply will be given and the show will carry on till the next such encounter/terror attack.
But first let us examine the above, even as the encounter continues. As per reports only one terrorist has been gunned down till now and perhaps another three-four are holed up inside the double storey house being shown on the TV obviously with plenty ammunition and food. Whether there are other civilians in that house is not known but perhaps that may be the reason why heavy weapons have not been used till now. But the bottom-line is that Pakistan sends across jaundiced terrorists who perhaps are addicted to narcotics and have wreaked AIDS on the women in J&K. The Valley in particular over the years has seen rise in HIV/AIDS cases even as the state government hides the figures. These terrorists are extracting lives of our security forces including young officers. It is a very cheap option for Pakistan to keep our security heavily tied down. Next comes the media blitz of sudden found nationalism during such occurrences -- saluting the martyrs, photographs with full description, live coverage of last rites and all. All this is very fine but look at the other side of the coin. What is the status of such coverage for martyrs elsewhere? Has the US or Nato done such publicity for their personnel killed in say Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, numbers are released at later date and perhaps list of names much later. Has the Pakistani media ever given such coverage to their killed in action in Operation Zarb-e-Azb even though their officers hardly lead? The way our media handles such occurrences’ is obvious motivation to terrorists in Pakistan with jaundiced mullahs like Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood laughing all the way home, not that the Pakistani military-ISI would not be popping champagne.
What have we really done suffering Pakistan’s proxy war for the past three and a half decades? Late MK Dhar, former Joint Director IB wrote in his book ‘Open Secrets – India’s intelligence unveiled’ published 10 years ago in 2005, “I continued to advocate for an aggressive and proactive counter and forward intelligence thrust against Pakistan. My voice was rarely heard and mostly ignored. The Pakistani establishment is a geopolitical bully. The best response to blunt such a bully is to take the war inside his home. India has allowed itself to be blackmailed by Pakistan even before it went nuclear. The sabre rattling of “coercive diplomacy”, which is nothing but sterile military power, cannot convince the Islamist Pakistani Establishment that India can take the border skirmishes inside their homes and hit at the very roots of the jaundiced Islamist groups.” We have failed to establish credible deterrence against Pakistan’s proxy war, refusing to acknowledge that irregular forces have emerged with greater strategic value over conventional and even nuclear forces, as can be seen from examining conflict situations over the past decade.
Even Operation Parakram should have taught us that conventional forces are no match to irregular threats. But we still continue to rely on diplomacy which is useless without being backed by unconventional muscle. While we have been mostly relying on idealism, we have compounded it with an inward looking policy. The costs of always following an inward looking policy are much higher, as India should have realised years back. The most effective policy for India or for that matter any country, should be one that balances both realism and idealism, which in effect, makes the idealism realistic. But we need to also weigh in other issues why we are continuing with such intransigence? Ask the public and you would be surprised to know how many are of the view that they think if the terrorists would have actually entered the Parliament during attack in December 2001, our response to Pakistan’s proxy war would have been far more cohesive and effective. The fact is that you can hardly find a politician or bureaucrat's ward in the security forces. So casualties are just numbers that don’t matter, not that some politicians have also had the gumption to say that after all security forces personnel are meant to die. The second issue is the cross-border links of the terrorists and mafia which includes politician; money laundering through hawala, narcotics trade and diversion of funds to terrorist organisations, as reported by NIA from time to time, and hinted by veteran R&AW officers.
If we think that Pakistan will have a change of heart, we cannot be more foolhardy. Filing of FIR against unknown persons in the terrorist attack on Pathankot IAF air base and removing personal security of the prosecutor in the trill underway in Pakistan for the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, with the previous prosecutor gunned down are latest indicators. But the fact is that Pakistan will up the ante of proxy war with the US and China firmly in support of the Pakistani military. It is time that our government despite the approaching elections in various states and modernising-cum-development schemes, seriously get down to build the sub-conventional muscle. We urgently need to establish effective deterrence to combat Pakistan’s proxy war, which may need to be exercised from time to time in order to demonstrate its credibility. If we fail to take such action even now, then the Last Posts and the show will simply go on as hithertofore.