Soldiers beheaded on LoC: Pakistan's image is its Achilles' Heel, India must target that

Despite the national outrage over the mutilation of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control and the urgency with which the government has promised retribution, the fact remains: There is very little one can do without upping the ante to the point of a fifth war.

BSF head constable Prem Sagar. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

BSF head constable Prem Sagar. Image courtesy: CNN-News18

While Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has indicated India’s huge anger over this incredibly unsoldierly conduct, Pakistan has swiftly denied the accusation.

With good reason. Not even its rank and file would be in agreement with such actions and the Pakistani soldier, per se, has to be reassured that it did not happen. So Islamabad goes into denial mode.

It does not matter which country he belongs to: The professional soldier believes in a code of conduct. To be compared to a terrorist would not sit well with him.

Odds are that even though we are bristling with indignation, at present, the military option is not viable. Within a month or so the rains will come and the western sector will be a soggy marsh, making armour and artillery movement nigh impossible.

Pakistan knows all this, which is why it engaged in the misconduct. But there is an Achilles’ heel: Pakistan being seen around the world as a failed state and the worlds’ leading host to terror groups. Its people are very sensitive about this image and the idea of their officers mutilating soldiers against all conventions sits badly with civil and military personnel.

What India should do and do now is engage in surgical strikes on the diplomatic front and go big on this conversion of the image of the Pakistani forces from proud soldiers to terrorists. This will strike right at the heart of their morale. India’s PR has always been weaker than Pakistan’s. This is the right occasion to right this failure.

Go to the UN. Let the world know of Pakistan's unbecoming conduct. Take this case to the International Criminal Court ICC which has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for war crimes.

The idea would be to turn up the heat and go for maximum global embarrassment. Let's use our diplomatic network to obtain condemnation from other world leaders so that the pressure is relentless. Use the media to our advantage.

Unfortunately, our military options are sharply limited by the risk of creating a warlike situation. At present, the weather is not conducive to combat and the oppressive heat would make sustaining a battle very difficult.

The possible scenario of intensifying the artillery barrage is on the cards, but for how long? And it will only end with an equal response from the other side. Once there is an escalation, where will it stop?

As for strikes across the LOC, based on our intelligence of the terror camps and strongholds following the 29 September, 2016 surgical strikes, these have now gone cold. This would have been effective if they had been ordered in the immediate aftermath of the killings, but not days later when the enemy is alert and expecting an attack. Without the element of surprise, this is a non-starter. The initial high of a surgical strike dissipates after the first 24 hours. What we can also do is follow the money.

If we really want to salute the two soldiers that were beheaded: Head Constable Prem Sagar (200 BSF Battalion) and Naib Subedar Paramjeet Singh (22 Sikh Regiment) let’s stop messing about and shut the door on Pakistan.

India does not need Pakistan. We need to hit Islamabad where it hurts: In their pocket. Freeze trade entirely. Stop the trains. No visas or visits. No businessmen friends dropping in for tea with or without messages. No more samjhauta… of any sort.

Unless we are ready to do just this and do it without exception, this atrocity too shall pass. And before long, it will become water under the bridge.

Updated Date: May 02, 2017 15:37 PM

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