By P K Vasudeva:┬áThe terrorist attack on a military camp in Uri, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, on 18 September in the wee hoursof morning poses yet another challenge to India. It has the potential to create a major crisis, even a flashpoint, in the relations between India and Pakistan. The attack led to the death of 18 soldiers and injuries to large numbers. It is among the worst ever attacks on the armed forces in peacetime. The surprise attack from across the LoC is much like the attack on the Pathankot airbase earlier this year with the help and support of locals. The army has blamed Jaish-e-Mohammad, which has official support from ISI of Pakistan. However, Pakistan has denied the charge and as usual, asked for actionable intelligence.
It may be assumed that the attack was intended to provoke a strong Indian response within Kashmir. India will need to strategise the right response, fully considering the merits and demerits and consequences of its response. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the perpetrators of the attack will not go unpunished and Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also shown will to crush terrorism. A senior BJP leader has said that India should ÔÇÿadopt jaw-for-a-toothÔÇÖ policy on Pakistan. While it is not easy to formulate the right response in an emotionally charged atmosphere with even the public opinion clamouring for the strongest action and punishment, but very difficult to immediately retaliate. A military response is the easiest to think of in the form of escalating hostilities on the LoC and even launching strikes on terrorist camps or other relevant targets in PoK. But the very purpose of terrorist strikes could be to draw India into such situations, which will lead to a conflagration that can go beyond control.
Some of the limited strike options considered are ÔÇô air strikes on terror camps in PoK, raids by special forces, use of BrahMos missiles and Smerch rockets at Pak posts and launching pads, increased artillery and heavy weapons fire across LoC and so on ÔÇô after the clearance of effective response by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a high powered meeting. If any of these options are taken keeping the surprise element, there is a possibility of Indians being captured as it happened during Kargil conflict, suffering heavy casualties unlike Myanmar raids, risk escalation into bigger conflict, Pak brandishing tactical nuclear weapons and the LeT and Jaish terror training camps remaining intact.
There may be a temptation to go in for a confrontational measure involving military action, which will suit a hawkish policy on Pakistan and terrorism. It may seem to be politically rewarding too. It can also be expected to divert attention from the ongoing trouble in Kashmir. But a knee-jerk response, without a careful assessment of consequences, should be avoided. A confrontation with Pakistan will also not calm the situation in Kashmir but may aggravate it. It has been difficult to find the right mix of offence and deterrence, and amiability and confrontation, in a policy on Pakistan. India has hard choices but should go in for a mature and studied response, which will promote its cause and interests in a high stakes situation.
The question remains are we prepared to undertake any of these operations? The answer is NO at this stage because the armed forces have to carry out a detailed planning and also replace its deficient arms, equipment and aircrafts with highly sophisticating modern armaments. The execution of joint operations by the army, navy and the air force is lacking because there is no Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) appointed for proper coordination of operations by the government inspite of recommendations of Subrahmanyam Committee Report and Group of MinistersÔÇÖ Task Force report in 2002 after Kargil conflict and the high powered Naresh Chandra Committee Report in 2011.
The Kargil Review CommitteeÔÇÖsreport (under the chairmanship of late K. Subrahmanyam) had led to the setting up a Group of Ministers under the Chairmanship of L K Advani Deputy Prime Minister in its report in 2002 had suggested sweeping reforms in the countryÔÇÖs security management system to ensure that any intrusion like Kargil in 1999 should not come as a total and complete surprise to the Government, the armed forces and the intelligence agencies. The main recommendation of the report was to create CDS for better coordination between the three defence services and heading the Nuclear Command beside others. However no action was taken.
In June 2011, government of India had announced setting up a high-powered committee under the Chairmanship of Naresh Chandra (task force) to review the defense management in the country and make suggestions for implementation of major defense projects (http:/www.gktoday.in/naresh-chandra-committee-recommendations). The main recommendations are:-
ÔÇó A permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. (It is the same as the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff recommended in 2002).
ÔÇó Promotion of synergy in civil-military functioning to ensure integration, withthe deputation of armed forces officers up to director level in the Ministry of Defence should be considered.
These recommendations have also not been implemented for bureaucratic reasons of insecurity that the armed forces will then become all powerful which is fabricated and not true because the Indian army is apolitical.
The best option today will be to plan a strategy at the highest level (National Security Council), procure arms, ammunition and other required armaments and carry out proper training with the help of Israel commandos which is the best in the world for execution of such operations.