India-Pakistan: Surgical Strikes, Air Strikes and beyond
In the military circles, it is often said that if you cannot understand the intentions, strategy and mindset of your enemy, you will never be able to defeat it. For more than 3 decades, India has suffered hundreds of terrorists attacks perpetrated on her soil with the support of Pakistan Army. That’s why Indian military and defense experts from over the world have done extensive research on Pakistan Army – the real power center in Pakistan which installs the PM and Govt. of its choice to maintain the facade of Democracy.
When Pakistan was carved out in 1947 to satisfy the egos and ambitions of the powerful politicians and needs and self-interests of big nations, the biggest injustice was done to the millions who were stripped off of their identity without allowing to utter a single word. They lost their culture, motherland, families, friends and their other multiple identities. They were told that being Muslims is all that matters. Forget your ancestors, forget your past and work together to build a new nation which now they are part of. But it is easier said than done. You cannot expect people with different cultures, values, background, identities, interests to suddenly rally together and be united under a new identity.
That is where India and specifically Kashmir came in handy. Pakistani people were told that India is their enemy that wants to break Pakistan and Kashmir, being the heaven of earth, when liberated from Indian rule would bring development and richness to their life. This thought process was mixed with heavy doses of religious indoctrination through thousands of Madrassas that have been operating on its soil since decades. With a strong population of over 200 million and a system that support extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism; it is not difficult to find a constant supply of few thousand young people who are ready to fight in the name of Allah or Kashmir or just out of their pure hatred for India or Hindus/Infidels.
Every professional military in the world has its own doctrine which is used to prepare an army of young people who are ready to live and die on their superior’s orders. Pakistan Military doctrine is an extensive document focused solely on India and Islam. It mentions two important terms which spills out their strategy very clearly – “Ghazwa-e-Hind” and “bleed India with a thousand cuts”.
After 1971 war, India becoming Nuclear power and multi fold increase Indian Army capabilities, Pakistan Army understood that it cannot take India in a direct war so they devised the strategy “bleed India with a thousand cuts” which basically means to exploit fault lines that exist in Indian society like religion, caste, region, etc. while simultaneously perpetrating attacks on Indian soil through non state actors to keep India down and bruised. This explains the attacks in Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Patna, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Punjab, and many other places all over India in last 3 decades. If Kashmir is the only contentious issue then why attacks all over India? Kashmir is just a facade to justify its animosity towards India to International community and give an escape route to terrorists when they carry out such heinous attacks.
“Ghazwa-e-Hind” is a manifestation of the idea whose seeds were planted in 1947 with the partition. Soldiers need inspiration and motivation while fighting the enemy specially when the enemy is 100 times more powerful. They are told that Allah has prophesied that an army will rise which will fight the “Idol worshipers” and defeat them to establish the rule of Islamic State. This last battle is called “Ghazwa-e-Hind”. They are told that Allah has chosen you to carry out its will and you all will be awarded by the Almighty in your afterlife for fighting this “Holy war or Jihad”. Pakistan Army paints the entire population of India as Hindus and its army as a Hindu Army despite the presence of all communities and religions from top to the bottom in Indian Army.
Intentions and Strategy are in itself useless if not supplemented with the right mindset to execute the plans in reality. That is why Pakistan Army has controlled every state system and institution whether it is the Government, Judiciary, Media, religious or civil society to make sure people are informed and told what they deem fit.
They propagate to their soldiers and citizens that Hindus are weak and “1 Pakistani Muslim is equal to 10 Hindu soldiers” so their numbers is not something to be afraid of. They use the Indian non-action in last 20 years after any terrorist attack as the proof of their propaganda. They also spread the lie that once the war actually starts, the 180-200 million Muslims living in India would also rise against India in their support despite having seen otherwise in the 4 wars that they have fought with India.
They use the “Nuclear bogey” to threaten India against any action on its state and non-state actors. They blackmail the World leaders to pressure India in accepting its own fate and keep quiet despite barbaric terrorist attacks by parading their “Nuclear Bombs” and potential of a Nuclear War.
They allow operation of thousands of madrassas that produce thousands of Jihadis for hundreds of terrorist organizations operating from their soil. Pakistani footprints can be seen in terror attacks all over the world whether it is Iran, Afghanistan, India, UK, USA and many other countries. And the monster that has been created and nurtured by Pakistan seems to be biting its own hand as well. But all this is justified through religious indoctrination of Jihad and Allah’s will.
One can see a clear turn towards fundamental Islam in Pakistani Society in last 3-4 decades.
Change in India’s Policy post 2016
India being a noisy Democracy with varied interests and problems, could not follow any consistent policy towards terrorism for a long time. It tried talking to Pakistan, it tried soft approach in the Kashmir Valley against terrorists, it tried intimidating Pakistan by deploying huge army on its borders in response to attack on the Indian Parliament, it tried putting pressure through International forums and diplomatic channels but nothing worked and the attacks kept getting more heinous and gruesome than before.
Surgical Strikes in 2016
But post Uri attack in 2016 where terrorists bombed and burned sleeping soldiers in a military camp, India under a strong leader, who had by the time attempted multiple peace initiatives, decided to change its policy on terror. India changed its policy from defensive-offensive (some would say defensive-defensive) to offensive-defensive which basically means that India would not just wait for terrorist attacks to happen and retaliate (if any) afterwards but would go on a pre-emptive offensive stance and would eliminate terrorists before they can mount any attack.
This change was signaled by “Surgical Strikes” conducted deep inside POK on multiple terrorists launchpads and camps. More than 100 terrorists were eliminated before they could enter the Indian territory. DGMO, Indian Army, made it pretty clear that it was not a revenge mission but a preemptive one to prevent potential attacks on Indian soil. This was significant because India Govt had refused to give permission to Indian forces to cross LOC even during 1999 Kargil War. And here Indian Govt planned and executed a preemptive strike on terrorists residing across LOC through brave Indian forces.
Pakistan response of denial and silence proved to the Indian establishment that there is finally a way to tackle terror in the region.
Pulwama and Balakot Air Strikes
A lot of people ask what did Surgical Strikes achieve? It has not stopped terrorism. Well no one expected Pakistan to behave just after one strike. After all Pakistan is not a sensible nation but “a rouge army controlling the land and people”.
But the strikes surely raised the costs for Pakistan, create fear among terrorists groups, curb new recruitments, helped in maintaining relative peace in Kashmir for many months and no terrorist attacks being carried out in any other part of the country. For a country which had seen terrorist attack in some part of the country every few months for so many years, this was a welcome change.
However, there were attempts from Pakistan side like in Amarnath but were mostly thwarted by an alert intelligence apparatus. But as it happens in a game of dodgeball, no matter how many balls you avoid, one sneaks in to hit you hard and that’s what happened in Pulwama where first of its kind attack was perpetrated by JeM terrorists in which they conducted a suicide attack using a car full of explosives. This form of attack is common in Afghanistan where Taliban and JeM mostly operates. India lost more than 40 of its bravehearts in this cowardice attack. The attack was carried out by a local radicalized JeM terrorist who wanted to hurt “Cow Urine Drinkers”.
This was a big change in Kashmir situation as it signaled that the Kashmir Independence struggle is over and now it is all about waging Jihad against Infidels. This conjecture was also supported by the fact that armed forces have launched a successful “All Out Operation” against terrorists since 2016 which has resulted in many districts getting fully or partially free from terrorism.
But the nation was seething in anger. The question was not “If India would react” as that was settled in 2016, the question was “how would India react”. And India reacted 12 days after the attack with Air Strikes on 2 locations in POK and one location, Balakot, in Pakistan. Indian Air Force carried out a planned attack to destroy the major terrorist camps which had the capacity to harbor and train 600-700 terrorists. Multiple reports have cited casualties to be around 250-350. NTRO (National Telecom Research Organization) which is a covert organization has cited mobile tower data to say around 300 less mobiles were operating in the region immediately after the air strikes, or the satellite images submitted by IAF in its report to Indian Government.
Numbers and effectiveness apart, this was a major response from India as this was the first time India used Air Power against Pakistan since 1971 war and carried out the strikes not just across LOC but across International Border. This was huge and the response from Pakistan proved that when it sent as many as 20 F16s and other fighter aircrafts to attack Indian military establishments risking the violation of F-16 procurement agreement with USA. India successfully thwarted the Pakistan attempt and managed to bring one F-16 with its old retrograde Mig-21 fighter aircraft.
The Road Ahead
Having conducted the Air Strikes on Pakistan soil without a major reaction from Pakistan, India has finally called the “Nuclear Bluff” of Pakistan. It has proven to the world and its own people that there is a escalation ladder and a limited war can be fought against terrorism without risking a nuclear escalation. It has also rattled Pakistan to the extent that ministers are giving contradictory statements everyday and a hogwash attempt has already started in Pakistan where symbolic actions are being taken against terrorist organizations and their leaders.
However, this is not the end of the problem. Pakistan Army is incapable of understanding anything as their own survival and riches are dependent upon keeping the conflict against India alive so that they can justify their 60% control, directly or indirectly, of Pakistan’s GDP to their own public.
It is believed that every conflict has a ladder of escalation and limited war can be fought without ever reaching the “Nuclear threshold” and in India-Pakistan case covert studies list 18 ladders (some even higher) of escalation and response from India before conflict breaches the nuclear threshold.
And if only few responses and escalations from India has rattled Pakistan so much, there is hope that the problem might get solved before ever reaching the nuclear level. If that happens, the lip-service by world leaders for the “Fight against terrorism” would get a major boost as through different reports it is estimated that 70-80% terrorists attacks originate from Pakistan soil. However it seems that while the world would only do lip-service, India is tasked to fight this war against terrorism and its factory – Pakistan Army.