All responses to terror attacks must be well thought out and based on cold calculations and not on emotions.
How many deaths of security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir are enough to create a national outrage and for the government to threaten retaliation? Before the attack in Pulwama, it seemed to be 19, which was the number of soldiers tragically killed during a terror attack on an Army establishment in Uri located near the Line of Control in September 2016. The incident resulted in Army Special Forces successfully effecting five simultaneous coordinated retaliatory attacks on terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The threshold of intolerance now seems to be 44, which was the number of CRPF constables killed in a suicide attack in Pulwama on Valentine’s Day.
India’s responses should not hinge on the number of security force personnel killed or a solitary sensational incident. Even one soldier or constable killed is too much. Forty four lives cannot and should not be considered more precious and more sensational than one, two or four security personnel killed. Security force personnel symbolise and represent the authority, strength and image of the state and this cannot and must never be compromised.
In the last 29 years starting from January 1990, the Indian security forces have lost over 6,500 personnel (6,454 as of 3 February 2019) in Pakistan’s proxy war. This is more than the number of Army soldiers killed in any of the three wars fought with Pakistan and one with China. The number of security force personnel wounded is even higher. The total killed during this period is over 45,000, which includes about 24,000 terrorists and over 15,000 civilians. In addition to the high human cost, it has led to considerable financial, political and diplomatic fatigue for India.
In contrast, Pakistan has lost considerably less in its proxy war. Rawalpindi’s proxy war has been a low-cost low-loss affair for the Pakistan army and ISI, notwithstanding all the firing and shelling along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (located ahead of the Siachen Glacier) and the occasional tactical level covert actions that the Army has been effecting along the LoC. In other words, Pakistan is spending less and inflicting more harm in Jammu and Kashmir, whereas India’s human and financial cost, and that too on its own soil, is disproportionately huge.
For how long will this continue? Another 29 years? Or more? Pakistan will not stop. It will remain hostile towards India even as a section of Kashmiris continues to serve as Pakistan’s proxies, receiving arms, training, money and moral support from Islamabad, unless Pakistan itself ceases to exist or Jammu and Kashmir ceases to be a part of India or Pakistan is considerably weakened. The first two situations are ruled out.
Thus, India’s response has to be on several simultaneous fronts. And for this, a high level fully empowered special group has to stay constantly dedicated to handling the state irrespective of the political dispensation in power. It has to be equipped with the resources, will and stamina to play the long game.
First and foremost, all responses to terror attacks must be well thought out and based on cold calculations and never on emotions. This is not the first sensational attack carried out by Pakistani proxies. And tragically, neither is it likely to be the last. So long as India’s response remains that of applying bandages to Pakistan’s policy of bleeding India with a thousand cuts, India will continue to slow bleed.
At one level, the security and intelligence establishments must have several retaliatory plans ready and be in a constant state of preparedness in order to execute these plans at short notice, especially after every major terror attack. Such retaliatory strikes have to be in the form of covert operations—whether carried out by the Army or through intelligence agencies. This is a language Pakistan will well understand. However, covert operations must never be publicly revealed or politicised lest it lose its purpose and effectiveness.
Next, there is serious need to review the leadership of India’a security establishment at all levels. Security forces need to review their training standards and tactics seriously and aim to become the world’s best. There is need for serious investment in technology, especially related to surveillance and intelligence gathering such as drones, cameras, communication, listening devices, direction finders etc., along with better protective gear including light and high quality bullet proof jackets for every soldier and constable.
The need for better leadership, training, tactics and equipment just cannot be emphasised enough. Soldiers and constables are not cannon fodder or expendables. They are human beings fighting a proxy war for the country and every one of them is a symbol and image of the Indian state. The Indian state must be at the top of the game in human and electronic intelligence gathering in the state and across the border. This is a very fundamental, critical and pivotal need.
The country, the government and society must never permit attacks or reprisals on the people of Jammu and Kashmir residing, working and studying in other parts of the country. Apart from the fact that all Kashmiris are citizens of India entitled to all six Fundamental Rights sanctimoniously enshrined in our Constitution, such attacks will amount to gleefully playing into the hands of the terrorists, secessionists and their mentors in Pakistan. If anything, citizens in Kashmir need more exposure to the Idea of India, the opportunities, diversity, composite culture and soft power that India has to offer and stands for.
There has been no dearth of funds for Jammu and Kashmir. For example, between 2000 and 2016 (16 years), the state received 10% of all Central grants, despite having only 1% of the population (12.55 million) compared to Uttar Pradesh, which, with 13% of the national population, was allocated 8.2% of the Central grant. In all, J&K received Rs 1.14 lakh crore in these 16 years, which amounts to over 25% of Central funds given to 11 special category states. Yet, fiscal mismanagement in the state is evident from the fact that 32,625 audit observations containing 8,518 inspection reports pertaining to the 15-year 1999-2014 period were outstanding as of 31 March 2014, according to a recent report prepared by the CAG.
While diplomatic efforts must continue to expose and internationally isolate Pakistan as, for example, India succeeded during the Kargil War, the government in New Delhi must bear in mind that no one is going to fight India’a battles. India has to fight its own battles. Other than statements by a few world leaders, New Delhi has not managed to get anything substantial from the world community. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has decided to keep Pakistan on the grey list (until October) despite India’s efforts to put it on the black list over non-compliance to terror funding. Such a blacklisting would have prevented Bretton Woods institutions such as the IMF from financially supporting Pakistan.
For a start, India must start doing what it wants other countries to do against Pakistan. India should declare Pakistan to be a sponsor of terrorism and scale down, if not altogether sever, diplomatic ties with Pakistan by reducing the strength to a bare minimum, starting with the defence attaches and ISI probables in the Pakistani high commission.
Finally, the long term solution lies in a resolute government abrogating Article 370, a “temporary provision” as officially recorded and drafted under “temporary, transitional and special provisions” listed in Part XXI of the Indian Constitution. The government must also abrogate Article 35A that forbids Indian citizens from becoming permanent residents of the state and abrogate the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir that was adopted a full 10 years after the state acceded to India and seven years after India adopted its Constitution.
There is no room for a second Constitution in the Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic of India with its commitment to Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as enunciated in the Preamble of the Constitution.
Dinesh Kumar author is a defence analyst.