New York: Gone is the exuberant American desire to be peacemaker. Washington now knows that it has been played by Islamabad, it's false ally in the war on terror. With the US more willing to cut Pakistan loose, there is nothing stopping the Modi government from using hard power to dissuade Pakistan’s terror network from targeting India, experts say.
After the 2008 rampage in Mumbai in which Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) killed 164 people, the Manmohan Singh government considered all options. It weighed in on an air strike to take out the Jamaat ul-Dawa (JuD) headquarters at Muridke, a small town 50 miles from the Indian border in Punjab which was the ideological hub for the Mumbai attackers. It also contemplated bombing terrorist training camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.
US Senator John McCain warned a group of Pakistanis over lunch in Lahore that Singh who was “visibly angry and reeling from the shock of the attacks” was seriously contemplating the use of force if Pakistan failed to act against the LeT. However, India finally succumbed to US pressure and inched back from military retaliation.
"Pakistan is of far lesser significance to the United States today than it was in 2008. The circumstances are markedly different consequently there is much less interest in coddling Pakistan," said South Asia expert Sumit Ganguly, who holds the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilisations at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Ever since 9/11, the United States has provided Pakistan with a steady supply of security and non-security assistance. US officials have justified generous transfers worth over $30 billion since 2002 on the grounds that they secure Pakistan’s ongoing cooperation in Afghanistan and bolster Pakistan’s ability to fight terrorism. However, Pakistan has played fast and loose, and nothing has convince the Pakistani government to end its long-standing support to terrorist groups.
In a sign of ongoing Washington's frustration with Islamabad for not acting against militants fuelling violence in Afghanistan, the Pentagon on 3 August withheld $300 million in military assistance to Pakistan. Defence Secretary Ashton B Carter had decided against making a certification to Congress citing the continuing operations of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani militants on Pakistani soil.
India, itself has a few military options that it could consider against Pakistan. India could attempt an artillery strike on Pakistani army positions which are used to help militants cross over into parts of Kashmir, military experts say. Second option on the table would be sending special forces inside Pakistan to attack guerrilla training camps.
"We have to learn the value of hard power – how to acquire it, how to use it, and how to stop browbeating ourselves into inaction," wrote R Jagannathan in Swarajya.
"If the Pakistan-backed terrorist attack at Uri on 18 September, which killed 17 armymen, does not lead us towards long-term strategic action, we might as well resign ourselves to becoming the punching-bag for that terrorist state, with negative consequences for us in the long run."
Sometimes powerful Indian politicians who can afford an army of private guards can be careless about taking a tough stand on terrorism. They nudge India carelessly down the "strategic restraint" path even when it has failed abysmally.
"It is appalling that since the 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament, India has not devised a strategy of striking back against Pakistan in the wake of terrorist attacks which emanate from Pakistani soil. It is mindboggling and shows the callousness of the Indian political class," said Ganguly.
"They are not the usual victims of terror: It is the Indian paramilitary forces, security personnel, it is Indians who are unlucky enough to live near the border or who happen to take public transport. Politicians living in New Delhi with multiple layers of security don't have to fret about the threat of terrorism from Pakistan. If it affected them you can be certain that steps would have been taken to plan a retaliatory strategy which would be commensurate with the periodic attacks from Pakistan."
"What sort of great power are we if we are so terrified of escalation?" he added.
In terms of military strength, India was ranked fifth in the world after US, Russia, China and Japan, according to a 2015 report Credit Suisse based on data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Global Firepower.