By Dr. Smruti S Pattanaik/The Economic Times
The suicide attack in Pulwama, Kashmir on February 14, killing 40 Central Reserve Police Force Jawans once again revealed the audacity of the Pakistan-based terror group the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and their sponsors to strike at will hoping that India will not retaliate.
Unlike the past and especially since the Uri attack, India has taken both diplomatic and military measures in response to Pakistan’s sponsorship of cross border terrorism.
Its decision to go for a surgical strike in response to the Uri attack and its air strikes deep inside Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) after Pulwama, conveyed that it can no more rely only on the international community rebuking Pakistan and expect a course correction by the Deep State.
Given the on-going Afghan peace talks, where Pakistan has emerged as a deal maker due to its relations with the Taliban, Islamabad or rather Rawalpindi, is convinced that its real strength lies in nurturing Jihadis who can deliver both battlefield and diplomatic success in India as well as Afghanistan.
Since 1990, Pakistan has assiduously pursued cross-border terrorism as a military tactic against India while trying to project terrorism in Kashmir as being indigenous.
Since 1995, Pakistan has been inserting both Pakistani and foreign terrorists to keep violence going in Kashmir. It tried to expand its terror network to other parts of India, but 9/11 derailed the plan because the international community did not have an appetite for terrorist violence.
Pakistan became an international focal point in the war on terror in spite of its duplicity in sheltering Osama bin Laden and later providing sanctuary to the Haqqani network. Its pursuance of cross border terrorism continued and after India mobilised its troops following the attack on the Indian Parliament (claimed by JeM), Pakistan banned Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and asked the Kashmir focussed terrorists to lie low.
The two major groups that are operating in Kashmir are the LeT and JeM. While LeT is completely committed to Kashmir; Jaish has a domestic agenda. After the attacks on President Parvez Musharraf in 2003 in which airmen affiliated to JeM were involved, many of its cadres were arrested.
However, Pakistan has never taken any action to dismantle JeM’s infrastructure. Rather, Massod Azhar was placed under house arrest each time his outfit claimed responsibility of an attack on India.
In the past, India has taken up the issue of terrorism with Pakistan. India shared details of terrorists involved in the Mumbai attack, their voice samples and other proofs with Pakistan, in the hope that the Pakistan government will take action against those involved in the attack following its 2004 commitment. But in 2015, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the master mind of the Mumbai attack was allowed to walk free after the Lahore High Court acquitted him due to lack of evidence.
Lakhvi led a comfortable life and even fathered a child when he was in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. This clearly showed Pakistan’s unwillingness to cooperate. Rather, Islamabad’s demand for ‘actionable’ proof both in the aftermath of Mumbai and Uri terror attacks reflects a time-buying tactic.
It was not surprising that even former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif criticised the slow trial in the Mumbai attack case.
India, which in the past has shared dossiers on terrorists involved in the Mumbai attack and later allowed a Pakistan team to investigate the Pathankot attack had no other option but to destroy the terror camps in Pakistan.
India’s action was a message to Islamabad that if it can pursue terrorism under a nuclear umbrella, India can also exercise several options to retaliate as it deems fit under the same umbrella.
Since nuclearization, Pakistan has been arguing that Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint while pursuing terrorism against India under the nuclear umbrella. It is about time that India called Islamabad’s bluff.
India’s retaliatory air strikes in Balakot deep inside PoJK, also points to the fact that India has developed the capacity to launch a successful strike. While underlining that its action is against the ‘menace of terrorism’ requiring a ‘non-military’ pre-emptive strike against the JeM’s massive infrastructure that manufactures jihadists to operate against India, it made it clear that this fight is solely against terrorists and not against the civilian population in Pakistan.
This distinction is significant and reflects India’s policy that has always distinguished people from the government as was the case in granting medical visas to Pakistanis while refusing to engage Pakistan in a dialogue in the aftermath of Uri.
Pakistan continued to place high value on cross border terrorism and had developed a sense of impunity due to India’s inability to retaliate. It is therefore time that India raised the diplomatic and military cost for Pakistan while taking necessary action to secure itself.
The earlier surgical strike and the air strike after the Pulwama terror attack reflect a certain direction in India’s policy. Rather than crying hoarse over Pakistan sponsored terror attacks and asking the world community to act against Pakistan, India can take a range to punitive actions to force Pakistan to undertake a course correction.
(Dr. Smruti S Pattanaik. featured in the picture above, is a Research Fellow, at the New-Delhi based Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses)