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Pulwama attack aftermath: Saner counsel must prevail; Narendra Modi should isolate Pakistan globally

In the aftermath of the Pulwama IED blast that killed 42 CRPF soldiers, saner counsels at the top-most levels of political and military hierarchy need to prevail. The element of surprise in executing surgical strikes is over. The statement by the Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) that a retaliatory action across the border is needed would have further alerted Pakistan, if indeed such 'alerting' was needed. We are also in the period of the run-up to the elections; one hopes that our leaders will be wise enough not to take any action that smells of potential electoral gains.

The 'retaliation' must be on other fronts. We have already begun a diplomatic push to corner Pakistan. We have also withdrawn the Most Favored Nation status. These are welcome first moves and more needs to be done in this direction. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has an excellent personal rapport with leaders of the Middle Eastern countries, notably UAE and Saudi Arabia, and that must be used to isolate Pakistan. Our diplomatic efforts must be worldwide and sustained. Indira Gandhi's approach in this regard before the India-Pakistan War of 1971 is a good template to follow. Already there are signs that IMF has begun to exert pressure on Pakistan regarding the free pass given to Jaish Mohammed by his country and that would surely give Imran Khan serious food for thought.

Secondly, we must develop and articulate a long-term strategic vision. What is our strategy to deal with Pakistan? How are we envisioning a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio? After the Uri attack, the Prime Minister had announced that there would be a tactical and strategic response. The surgical strikes fulfilled the first promise. But what about the strategic response?

Next come the tactical options. While these are best left to the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO), here are a few suggestions:

 Pulwama attack aftermath: Saner counsel must prevail; Narendra Modi should isolate Pakistan globally

An Indian Army soldier stands at guard near the blast site in Pulwama in Kashmir. PTI

We are all aware that terrorists cannot survive for long without local support. While some of this support is extracted by by generating fear, some is proffered voluntarily by the populace. But our focus must not be on the hapless individuals who may have served a meal or two for the terrorists. Instead, we set our sights on the big fish — the Overground Workers (OGW) who serve as a conduit and interface between Pakistan and the terrorists. They are the ones providing resources and guidance to the terrorists who have infiltrated into an unknown territory. Many of these OGWs are 'respected' members of society, pursuing other professions. Some are even card carrying members of political parties. I say this from ground experience that the irony is that locals know who these people are and their identities are open secrets. There must be a concerted and, if I may add, ruthless effort to expeditiously bring these elements to justice.

Secondly, we must look at the abysmal quality of our intelligence. When I served in Kashmir, we heard from senior officers that ' intelligence was 90 percent' contributory to success and thereafter the actual operation carried mere 10 percent weight-age. We heard this ad infinitum. And yet, whether in staffing or resources, we do not give intelligence apparatus adequate importance. Indeed, far from it.

The failure of multiple agencies to act on the freely circulated Jaish Mohammed video of the suicide bomber Adil (who belonged to the village of Kakpura, not too far from the site of the blast) days before the incident is a telling example; how could such a prominently displayed piece of critical intelligence fall through the cracks of all agencies? Intelligence — particularly Military Intelligence (MI) — needs to be qualitative. Quantum increase in the importance given to intelligence, particularly in terms of career progression to encourage the best to join. The other option is to have a small permanent core of MI personnel and make the best Infantry and other arms officers who have ground experience in operational areas serve in Intelligence operations on deputation of 2 to 3 years.

If this is made mandatory and the top-notch officers of all ranks rewarded properly, perhaps we would elicit better results. Such a restructuring may take long to fully implement but could be a game-changer for intelligence operations.

Beyond this, for a tactical response, I yield to the experts of DGMO and Northern Command. Whatever we do must be thoroughly considered for the likely outcomes, collateral damage including to own forces, the complete likelihood of a tit-for-tat response from the other side and the end-game we have in mind. And in no case should we give in to the temptation to strike immediately.

The author served in the India Army for 37 years as an Infantry officer and had multiple tours of duty in Kashmir, including the command of a Rashtriya Rifles battalion in active operations. He is now CEO of Rodic Consultants Pvt. Ltd

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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2019 16:04:52 IST