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India stands united as a nation today

September 30, 2016 15:10 IST

'The government has sent a clear message to Pakistan: It is no longer business as usual.'
'The rules of the game have changed and a new game is at play,' says Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd).

Celebration of the surgical strikes 

In an article I wrote within hours of the terrorist attack at Uri ten days ago (Time to hit and hurt the Pakistan army! Rediff.com, September 18, 2016), it had been suggested that 'such large-scale casualties must not go unpunished' and that 'for every act of terrorism on Indian territory for which there is credible evidence pointing to the Pakistan army and the ISI's involvement, carefully calibrated military strikes must be launched against the Pakistan army.'

It is gratifying to note that the government has moved swiftly to launch surgical strikes to neutralise terrorist training camps across the Line of Control inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

Troops of the Indian Army's famed Special Forces were employed to launch trans-LoC raids on the night of September 28. They infiltrated through gaps in the defences and stealthily made their way through the Pakistan army's minefields. Then they neutralised the targets given to them and returned to their bases by different routes, once again crossing minefields and other obstacles.

It has been reported that seven terrorist training camps have been destroyed and 30 to 40 terrorists, who were poised to launch infiltration bids, were killed. These complex operations across challenging mountainous terrain were planned systematically and executed with professional elan. There were no Indian casualties.

The spectacular success achieved by India's Special Forces has left Pakistan's political and military leadership confused and in disarray. They faced a major dilemma when India made its surgical strikes public. If they admitted that India had indeed launched trans-LoC raids, they could call India's action irresponsible.

However, within Pakistan they would suffer a loss of face and would be expected by the citizens to do something equally big in return. In the event they opted to remain in denial -- in keeping with their national psyche.

The blame game has begun in Pakistan. In a television interview, Imran Khan was severely critical of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's leadership. He said he 'will show Sharif how to respond to Modi.'

Pakistan's leaders find their country diplomatically isolated both in the region and beyond. True to form, they have once again begun to indulge in their favourite pastime of nuclear sabre-rattling. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has once again held out a nuclear threat to India. 'Islamabad,' he said, 'is open to using tactical (nuclear) devices against India if it feels its safety is threatened.'

The ability to launch surgical strikes by the Special Forces is but one option available to India. In the military domain there is a range of options that India can exercise.

These include hitting the forward posts of the Pakistan army through the direct firing of artillery guns so as to minimise collateral damage; air strikes by fighter aircraft of the IAF; the employment of attack helicopters; the destruction of key military targets using PGMs from a stand-off distance; and, the employment of border action teams (BATs) to improve the army's defensive posture.

Besides military options, there are many other arrows in India's quiver. Several of the available political and diplomatic options must be exercised simultaneously to effectively counter Pakistan's proxy war.

The aim should be to gradually raise the cost for Pakistan's Deep State till it becomes prohibitive.

Efforts should be made to have Pakistan declared a terrorist State. India should take the first step in this regard and make a declaration to this effect.

If necessary, India should withdraw its high commissioner from Islamabad and scale down the size of its mission.

The imposition of unilateral economic sanctions is also a measure that India could consider, especially if the UN Security Council fails to impose economic sanctions at India's request.

India could also use its buyer's clout with defence MNCs to ensure that companies that sell weapons and defence equipment to India refrain from selling the same to Pakistan.

Pakistan has been sending terrorists into India to strike at civilian targets for almost three decades.

India's response -- or the lack of response -- used to be entirely predictable. Now an element of unpredictability has been added and Pakistan can never again be sure of how India would respond to something the army and the ISI may be planning.

At least for the time being, the Panipat Syndrome that has afflicted India for long (I wrote about it: Why India suffers from the Panipat Syndrome, Rediff.com, February 2016) has been buried.

Today, in the wake of the trans-LoC surgical strikes, India stands united as a nation; its people stand together as one with their heads held high. And India has the support of almost the entire international community as the world is tired of the crippling impact of fundamentalist terrorism.

Pakistan is a house divided; its leaders are blaming each other; and, its army is once again in denial mode. And Pakistan stands alone in isolation both among is neighbours in South Asia who are tired of its sponsorship of terrorism; and, in the international community.

Pakistan has become a pariah State and it remains to be seen whether its leaders will see the light of day and make a course correction, or if they will continue down the path of ruin.

If Pakistan implodes, the repercussions will be felt far and wide as its nuclear warheads will in all probability fall into jihadi hands.

The credit for this refreshing change in course goes to the prime minister, his colleagues in the Cabinet Committee on Security and the NSA.

Of course, the gallant officers and jawans of India's Special Forces deserve special credit for their outstanding contribution to the change in the discourse of Pakistan's proxy war and India's response to it.

India has ensured that the sacrifice made by the 20 soldiers who lost their lives at Uri shall not have been in vain.

The government has sent a clear message to India's recalcitrant neighbour: It is no longer business as usual.

The rules of the game have changed and a new game is at play.

Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd) is Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

IMAGE: Mahant Dviyagiri of the Mankameswer temple and others in Lucknow celebrate India's 'surgical strikes' along the Line of Control. Photograph: Nand Kumar/PTI

Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal (retd)