Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
Security challenges and their management in border areas
The much awaited response promised by the government following the Uri attacks on September happened when Indian army in its counter terrorist operation conducted surgical strikes at various launch pads along the line of control (LOC) to prevent infiltration of terrorists. The army has declared that significant casualties have occurred in those terrorist camps and those providing support to them.
Meanwhile Pakistan denied to such surgical strikes conducted by India and it said that it was unprovoked cross border firing which was retaliated by them in which two of its army men were killed. Thus, the claims and counter claims continued with the government calling an all-party meet to apprise the leaders of the situation.
Now a high alert has been sounded in nearby villages of Punjab and J&K and precautionary evacuation is taking place anticipating retaliation from Pakistan.
Understanding the strike
This was a tactical surgical strike choosing shallow targets across LOC. As per the available reports, the Indian Army had developed information which gave indication that at certain launch pads, there were terrorists getting collected for infiltrating across LOC.
A launch pad is a place where the terrorists get together along with their handlers and guides and do the last minute preparations before they start moving towards the LOC.
Launch pads could be next to Pakistani army base, could be somebody’s house or in the fields. There is no permanent or designated infrastructure of a launch pad. Experience shows that they come in contact with the guides which are the villagers residing nearby LOC.
For the surgical strike, it can be said that either it was intelligence or knowledge of the continuous infiltration taking across LOC. As per DGMO statement, more than 20 infiltrations in 2016 had been neutralised by Indian Army. This means that such things have happened in the past, only the intensity goes up and down. This surgical strike is special as it is a pre-emptive action whereas earlier it used to be reactive or defensive. Technically, India is striking its own territory (POK) but India does not want to change the LOC by force and hence it has maintained restraint in its actions.
This is the first time Indian Army has conducted a surgical strike which is qualitatively different from firing across the LOC which generally takes place on Pakistani provocation.
Action due to pressure?
It has been said that the government was on pressure to act. But it is also interesting to know that DGMO’s statement mentioned that surgical strike was to stop infiltration and it did not mention if it was a counter to Uri attacks.
There was a great deal of internal political compulsion where Pathankot was followed by Uri very closely. In both the attacks, there is something more than the terrorist attack because they were exclusively on the defence establishment and no civilian were involved in these attacks. So technically it is not terrorism but an act of ‘undeclared war’.
This is an unprecedented step and it is doubtful if government could have taken the political risk of trying to convert a minor action into a major action and give it such publicity and also inform all political parties and constitutional leadership of the country had it not been so.
Why has Pakistan downplayed it?
Pakistan did not want the situation to turn into a full blown crisis. They realise the international opinion of the justification that India has to undertake a strike. Indeed, the international interlocutors wonder at Indian patience. All through these decades they asked India when it will start acting. Thus, it is for the first time India is showing that enough is enough. It is also good that this has been part of overall package of steps which PM has taken to examine the premises of India’s Pakistan policy. It was high time that India did so.
Now the question is if Pakistan will continue to show restraint and if they act, then how will they act? Because if they acknowledge that there was a surgical strike, the army leadership will be under tremendous pressure to act. Therefore they have taken the view that it is not any extraordinary situation and routine and traditional exchange of fire across the LOC.
The DGMO informed this to his counterpart of Pakistan so as to avoid the retaliatory firing. They clearly mentioned that it is a counter terrorism operation. So it not a violation of the 2003 ceasefire understanding.
It is significant as first time seven launch pads are being struck at the same time and also the publicity is given to it. It is a clear signal of will. A covert action is signal which is sent covertly to the adversary but when it is taken up at the public level, then there is definitely an element of response to the public pressure. But it is also a signal to international community as well as to the adversary (here Pakistan) that India is not shy of going public and not shy of an escalation when even India does not want any escalation. Thus, the Indian DGMO approached the other side and informed of actions taken. India doesn’t want to escalate it but if Pakistan wants to retaliate then India is prepared for it.
Effect on Kashmir
It will have a sobering effect on Kashmir. There are few people who have not appreciated what has happened but at the same time the message is clear that the government wants to deal with tough hand, whether right or wrong.
Connecting the dots:
Pakistan’s denial of terrorism activities on its state has been blown up by India’s surgical strike. Do you think this was the correct action taken by government and Indian army considering that Uri attacks had taken place 10 days ago? Examine.
Is surgical strike a response to Uri attacks or it is an individual action of Army to weed out terrorist infiltration across border? Identify and discuss.