The Big Picture – Diplomatic Challenges after Surgical Strikes?

  • November 14, 2016
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The Big Picture- RSTV
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Diplomatic Challenges after Surgical Strikes?


General Studies 2

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

General Studies 3

  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas


After the surgical strikes undertaken by Indian Army across the LOC, now the question is what next? While the Indian government is involved in assessing the fallout of the strikes and is also preparing for any retaliation, there are also questions about what these strikes mean and how it is viewed in international community.

Pakistan’s denial of surgical strikes

One thing that continues to baffle a lot of people is why is Pakistan still in state of denial and if they are taking a huge risk by staying in this kind of state of denial. It shows that their high alert in which they were soon after Uri incident, the fact that the Indian commandos were able to cross LOC and conduct strikes and come back, doesn’t show Pakistan army in good.

But many believe that they are being careful because if they were to admit that this event happened then there will be a pressure on them to react and that would escalate the matters.

They are terming it as a cross border violation and India is wise enough to not press the point to much as India has made its point and people know about it. Thus, India is not much concerned about the denial of surgical strike by Pakistan.

Change in attitude

Uri is not the first cross border attack on India. Earlier there was Kargil war, 2001 parliament attacks, 26/11 and Pathankot. But India never crossed LOC as it respected the limits. But this time, India showed the world India has taken some action instead of its earlier attitude of only complaining.

This is not the end of 2003 ceasefire agreement as it had more or less ended after 2008 attack. Since then, there has been an escalation in incidents of exchange of fire across the line of control compared to 2003-08 period.

In the past too, army might have crossed the LOC and undertook operation, but it was never talked about. But this time, there was domestic compulsion on government after Gurdaspur, Pathankot and Uri. There was an expectation that this government has to react and there should be some punitive action. However at the same time, the government is not wanting to escalate the matters further and DGMO statement also mentioned that it was one-shot exercise and it is not going to be repeated.

India briefed envoys from different countries that India crossed the LOC because there was an imminent threat of terrorist assembling there to infiltrate into India. So India invoked self-defence under article 51 of UN charter which is permitted, where India took an action to neutralise an imminent threat coming across LOC. It was not an offensive action but a counter- terrorism operation.

Reaction of USA

The US reaction is subdued as the utility of Pakistan for US is now much reduced. In US congress, there was special session was Pakistan was attacked. The strategic utility of Pakistan regarding US presence in Afghanistan is going down drastically. On the other hand, counter terrorism concern regarding Pakistan is growing.

So, US is fine with India’s calculated attack against Pakistan in a manner that prevents further escalation.

With USA, India should convey to Pakistan that the irresponsible talk of nuclear action is rubbish and world will not tolerate it.

Neighbour support

India has got support of its neighbours- Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. When this happens, the rest of the world also sees that it is not just India but a general problem. Its result was thus that the SAARC summit had to be postponed.

India has also given an indirect hint at China at UNGA that countries that are not with India in fighting war against terrorism should be isolated. China’s position on Azhar is an indirect support to Pakistan.

Losing moral high ground?

The people in the west are of the opinion that India lost its moral high ground with the strikes. Many talk about the virtues of India’s strategic restraint. But, this operation has been craftily choreographed where diplomatic community was informed about it with the background that India is suffering from cross border terrorism for more than two decades and now it has to take the action to prevent further such infiltration. The significance of this strike is the symbolism of crossing the LOC to defend the nation from infiltration rather than focusing on number of casualty. Thus, India has not lost the moral high ground by taking action against terrorists.

Isolating Pakistan

India is continuing with its attempts to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. India has been victim of cross border terrorist attacks. But now, India has built up its capabilities which enables it to take retaliatory actions which was perhaps not possible previously. The degree of restraint will be maintained as India also knows that Pakistan is a nuclear weapon state. So diplomatic isolation strategy will continue.

Pressure to talk on Kashmir?

One of the objective of Pakistan has always been to get India on table to discuss Kashmir. But India will never talk to Pakistan on Kashmir. India is under no pressure to take such change in stand because it has clearly said that J&K is part of India and it is illegally occupied. India will only talk about 1994 parliament resolution on how to vacate it. What India does with Kashmir is its internal matter and no one is allowed to get involved in it.


Three things are expected to happen

  1. India will have to build capacities to inflict economic costs on Pakistan so that India can alter the behaviour of Pakistani state and limit the damage they do through cross border terrorism as well as fidayeen attacks.
  2. The Kashmir situation needs to be sorted out now as it is a handicap for the security forces to deal with cross border terrorism.
  3. India will have to talk to Pakistan but at the time of its own choice.

Connecting the dots:

  • India plans to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. How is it expected to be helpful to India? Critically analyse.


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