Killing of Ummer Fayaz: Pakistan continues to mock India, but does New Delhi have a retribution plan?

With the abduction and killing of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz while on leave in Kulgam (Jammu and Kashmir), Pakistan has raised the level of its proxy war to a new high, more so since it comes close to the beheading of Naib Subedar Paramjit Singh and BSF head constable Prem Sagar by a Pakistani BAT on 30 April. Whether the significance of these incidents matters to policymakers beyond the numbers is not known, notwithstanding the rhetoric.

Fayaz's life was brutally snuffed out just as he had commenced his career in the Indian Army. What Pakistan is doing is literally mocking the Government of India knowing full well that its focus is more on trade, economy and commerce. Do we realise what hybrid war is all about and that it is militarily-strong nations that the world respects? Donald Trump’s references to Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping and increased financial and military assistance to Pakistan being just a few indicators. Stone-pelting close to Fayaz’s house while his funeral was underway, greatly undermines Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who recently told the media not to describe these youth as stone-pelters.

The late MK Dhar, who was former joint director of IB, wrote in his 2005 book Open Secrets: India’s intelligence unveiled, "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."

Soldiers pay respect to Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz at his funeral on Wednesday. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Soldiers pay respect to Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz at his funeral on Wednesday. Firstpost/Sameer Yasir

Recently, a former RAW official has gone on record as saying the present situation in Jammu and Kashmir is because Delhi is trying to change the character of the Valley and Pakistan has nothing to do with it. Ironically, just before Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed, RAW continued to advise policymakers that Hurriyat separatists were inconsequential, which gave them a free hand to radicalise the youth and to visit Pakistan's high commission. Intel news now that Hurriyat has been funding stone-pelters and former high commissioner Abdul Basit is linked to all this, doesn’t impress all that much when for years IB has been funding the Hurriyat.

The Pakistan Army’s anti-India agenda is irreversible. It has never won a war and can’t get over the ignominy of losing East Pakistan and having 93,000 prisoners of war taken by India. Jihad against India is not going to end even if Kashmir is resolved. The bible of Pakistan’s army is the Quranic Concept of War authored by Brigadier SK Malik of the Pakistan Army in 1979. It includes a 13-page preface by Allah Buksh K Brohi, former Pakistani High Commissioner to India, and Zia-Ul-Haq, former President of Pakistan and army chief, starting off the book with the concept of jihad within Islam, justifying terrorism and explaining that jihad is not simply the domain of the military, but every citizen must participate in jihad. Little wonder then Pervez Hoodbhoy, Pakistani nuclear physicist, wrote in 2008, "The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s schools, colleges and universities has had profound effect on young people, with militant jihad having become a part of the culture in college and university campuses, and armed groups inviting students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan."

It is time we set aside rhetoric of the ‘surgical strike’ and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval's threat that 'if there is one more Uri, Pakistan will lose Balochistan'. Retribution at the army unit-level will invariably be extracted, albeit what gets publicised is only fire assaults. This suits Pakistan portraying India as a soft State. But the 'free hand to the Army' is accompanied by a Supreme Court ruling to file an FIR for every encounter. In 1990, Pakistani infiltrators interrogated at the joint interrogation centre in Srinagar revealed that the ISI briefed them to go and kill Indians and take advantage of as many Kashmiri girls, with the promise of no prosecution if they get caught. Additionally, they were assured that Indian human right activists would be screaming to have them released.

Today, there are self-styled Gandhians advocating that the other cheek be offered when slapped, without knowing that in 1947 Mahatma Gandhi told Brigadier (later Lieutenant-General) LP Sen, then Commander of the 191 Infantry Brigade, "If one has to choose between cowardice and violence, I will choose violence."

Do we as a nation understand hybrid warfare — the major components of which include special operations, information operations, cyber warfare, regular and irregular operations? Rameshwar Nath Kao's 'Kaoboys' did a wonderful job in the 1970s, but warfare has moved beyond intelligence to special operations combining both external intelligence and special forces — something India fails to acknowledge. Hence, we have adverse strategic asymmetry vis-à-vis Pakistan and China at a sub-conventional level.

Then, there is the constituency that wants to keep the military aside instead of optimising its capabilities.

The use of the National Security Guard instead of the army's special forces (who had arrived before the NSG) at the IAF base in Pathankot and sending Indo Tibetan Border Police commandos to Afghanistan instead of special forces in ITBP uniform (although proposed) are examples — both ironically at the insistence of Doval. The subtle wedge being driven between the armed forces and the police forces, though attributed to bureaucratic machinations, actually indicates the finesse with which our adversaries are targeting India internally.

Hybrid war is not waged against the military but against a nation. The clichés of "appropriate response" and "will do at time and place of our choosing" executed at the tactical level will not suffice. This is a vicious hybrid war in which India must respond at the strategic level against the Pakistan Army. The earlier done, the better and it must be carried out without waiting for a politically-opportune moment — read 2019 General Election. Our response spanning the full range of hybrid war must be ruthlessly taken deep inside Pakistan at the strategic level. The prime minister’s advisors and know-alls in the administration may have convinced him India doesn't need a cohesive national security strategy. But not being proactive in hybrid warfare will leave us holding our moneybags, talking trade and economy, but no one will respect us.

The author is a veteran lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

Updated Date: May 11, 2017 08:15 AM

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