Double the force: Parikkar takes Modi-Doval hardline on Pak firing further

The new NDA policy of hitting Pakistan back hard when provoked is a much-needed corrective to the old policy of not doing anything to escalate tensions.

R Jagannathan October 22, 2014 19:10:02 IST
Double the force: Parikkar takes Modi-Doval hardline on Pak firing further

After the killing of one Border Security Force jawan by the Pakistanis along the international border in Samba sector of Jammu, India’s solid retaliation has resulted in four Pakistani Rangers were reportedly killed, says an NDTV report.

This policy is part of the new Narendra Modi-Ajit Doval line of giving it back in spades if Pakistan tries to escalate tensions along the line of control or the international border.

The new Defence Minister, Manohar Parikkar, has also made it clear that while India would not violate the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, if provoked, it would react with twice the force. Parrikar said yesterday (30 December) that his instructions to the BSF were simple. “I would say, don't agitate, react appropriately but without holding yourself back. When something happens, retaliate with double the force.”

This new line of retaliatory action was spelt out by Modi's National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on 21 October at a security conference. Doval said that India was keen to resolve all its problems with Pakistan and China through dialogue, but it will also invest in an effective deterrence.

Double the force Parikkar takes ModiDoval hardline on Pak firing further

Ajit Doval. Reuters

“Effective deterrence”, he implied, was the key to peace. Even as he was outlining this concept, it was being put into effect when the government asked our jawans on the international border and the line of control in J&K to retaliate massively if the Pakistanis try disturbing the peace by unprovoked firing. The Pakistanis are said to have been surprised by the ferocity of the BSF response to their provocations both in October and now.

India under Modi is evolving a new security doctrine that abandons the weak-kneed and pointless pusillanimity of the Manmohan Singh years. What is being junked is the old acceptance that we will take any provocation lying down in order to signal our peaceful intentions. While some peaceniks think this is fine, the fact is it gave both our neighbours the impression that we Indians have no spine. It has, in fact, emboldened them to indulge in more brazen provocations.

While it is too early to say how the Modi-Doval hardline approach is going to work, there is little doubt that the old stance has been a failure. But the surprising thing is that the new stance has generated its fair bunch of critics. In a cover story two months ago, India Today warned that we are “playing with fire”, and Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie said in his editor’s note that “shelling across the border is not going to bring about any long-term resolution to the Kashmir conflict; a solution can only be reached through sustained dialogue, however frustrating that may sometimes be. The sooner we can sit across the table, the better.”

He is completely wrong, for this is precisely the policy we have been following and we are nowhere near a solution.

Praveen Swami, a former Firstpost editor now with The Indian Express, also criticised the new line on the LoC firing, and suggests that “machismo has never worked as a plan against Pakistan". He added: “The lesson from the data is simple: firing on the LoC helps Pakistan pursue an escalatory strategy; quiet makes it harder. In 2003, the ceasefire went into place - and with it, India was able to complete fencing and enhance aggressive counter-infiltration measures. Fighting inside Jammu and Kashmir went into a year-on-year decline.”

Sure, if the only idea of the Modi-Doval strategy is machismo, he would be right. But was the non-strategy of ignoring Pakistani provocations actually working? Swami probably confuses coincidence with correlation and correlation with causation. The reason for the relative quiet on the LoC after 2003 may have had little to do with the ceasefire agreement or the weak Indian response to provocations. It had everything to do with American pressure on that country after 9/11. After the 1971 defeat, too, Pakistan gave us a decade-and-a-half  of quiet. It was merely biding its time till it regained its strength. Now that America itself is in retreat from Afghanistan and shows no stomach for another battle, Pakistan feels emboldened to up the ante once again with India. Fear of America is gone. Meanwhile, China is asking Pakistan to pressure us when it can, thus giving it another reason to start low-intensity hostilities. In this situation, it is questionable whether keeping quiet is the right policy for us. Also worth noting: China is more interested in Siachen being vacated by us than even Pakistan.

It is obvious that any change is unsettling for the security-wallahs and peaceniks who have been comfortable with breast-beating when India did nothing to deal with its recalcitrant neighbours. They could then say we need a more robust policy on terror and border management without having to explain how. Now that there are signs of some genuinely robust rethinking on our part, they are suddenly fretting about the consequences.

This is not to say Modi must escalate the tensions. He should not. The effectiveness, or otherwise, of the new security policy can only be gauged after it has been rolled out and implemented over the next few years. However, the policy cannot go wrong as long as it keeps some core principles in mind and we completely understand how our neighbours think about themselves and us. Right now they think we lack resolve and can be slowly coerced to sign away our rights - whether it is in J&K, Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.

This is exactly what our policy should seek to dispel: that we are pushovers. But conveying this needs more than firing mortars into Pakistan-occupied J&K. It needs us to embrace a whole raft of initiatives and a long-term vision to send this message across.

The core of our strategy should be to, first, build a fast-growing and entrepreneurial economy; second, develop a policy of continuous diplomatic engagement with Pakistan, China and all the major powers; and, third, to build a strong internal and external security doctrine that can effectively deal with terror and Sino-Pak collusion in boxing India into a corner.

As we have repeatedly noted, this policy will have to take into account what Pakistan and China are all about. The former is an ideological state in a permanent mental frame of war against "Hindu" India; the latter is a hegemon to beat all hegemons of the past.

The reality of Pakistan is this: Islam and a permanent anti-India stance are vital to its staying in one piece. So we should forget about any kind of solution to our problems with terror in a foreseeable timeframe. And Kashmir is not the core issue at all. An ideological state has to be defeated in the mind before it can offer durable peace; its actions are not guided by rational security concerns alone. A normal state would have been happy to discuss peace after achieving nuclear parity with India in 1998; but Pakistan sees nuclear parity as a shield under which it can prosecute permanent low-intensity warfare and terror against India. This means we have to keep raising the costs to Pakistan for this policy even while keeping our aggression below the threshold of formal war.

This is what C Christine Fair, in her book Fighting To The End: The Pakistani Army's Way of War, clearly emphasises. Repeated defeats, and even the loss of East Pakistan in 1971, did not make the Pakistani army (which is the Pakistani state really) want to work out an honourable peace. Defeat for Pakistan is not defeat in the battlefield, but the inability to be a thorn in India's side. Any concession on J&K will only convince the Pakistani generals that they were right all along in pursuing a path of mindless antagonism to India. The ISI will keep sending terrorists over to do damage. Let's not fool ourselves that talks will solve this problem.

For India, this means four or five things: we have to keep strengthening our resolve to fight terror and roll with the punches when we can't prevent it; we have to give it back to Pakistan without raising the stakes where it becomes an open war with the nuclear threat hanging over us; we have to develop covert capabilities inside Pakistan so that they know two can play the dangerous game; we have to diplomatically explain to the world what we are doing and why Kashmir isn't the issue, but Pakistan's ideology-driven terrorism is; and, lastly, we have to keep talking to Pakistan to convince them they cannot win and to tell the world dialogue isn't a problem for us. Underlying it all we have to give a consistent message: enmity with India has costs. If you try to harm us we will harm you.

We have to prepare ourselves for a 100-year war of attrition with Pakistan till the latter accepts reality or falls victim to its own follies and disintegrates. Right now the latter possibility looks more probable than the former.

As for China, it is a hegemon which wants to use its economic clout to settle borders and control security zones to its satisfaction. It is willing to trade economic concessions for territorial and political gains. To deter China, we have to grow faster than them, develop tactical and effective nuclear deterrence abilities, and emphasise that trade cannot grow if they keep wanting to change the status quo on the border by aggressive and intimidatory tactics. And, of course, we have to aggressively pursue long-term anti-China alliances - economic and strategic - with the Japanese, the Vietnamese and the US. It will take a long time for China to get the message that they cannot browbeat us into making concessions, but the Chinese always think long-term. So we too need to prepare for at least a 50-year mind battle with the Chinese to achieve a durable peace on our borders.

This is the context in which we must view the Modi-Doval emerging doctrine of security. The Prime Minister's decision to spend Diwali in J&K should be part of our internal effort to bring the valley into the mainstream of Indian thought and strategy. This sends a message both to the separatists, Pakistan and China.

It was on 26 October 1947 that Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of J&K, signed the instrument of accession with India after Pakistan sent Pathan tribesmen into his state to coerce it to sign up with them. This 26 October, India has to send a message to J&K, Pakistan, China and the world that this accession is final. There is nothing to negotiate with anyone except with our own estranged people in that state.

(Parts of this story were first published on 22 October)

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