Modi seems to have made his case before both pacifists and war-mongers, but nuanced strategy will be needed in coming days
GN Bureau | September 29, 2016
India has finally struck, albeit surgically.
After the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in Poonch and Uri on September 11 and 18, war talk was in the air and a vocal section of Indians were demanding action, though the leadership appeared preferring diplomatic channels.
But on Thursday, India responded, with the most restrained action possible – surgical strikes and that too in the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) on which India continues to have a claim.
READ: UPA had said ‘no’ to surgical strikes after 26/11
“Based on receiving specific and credible inputs that some terrorist teams had positioned themselves at launch pads along Line of Control to carry out infiltration and conduct terrorist strikes inside Jammu and Kashmir and in various metros in other states, the Indian Army conducted surgical strikes at several of these launch pads to pre-empt infiltration by terrorists. The operations were focussed on ensuring that these terrorists do not succeed in their design to cause destruction and endanger the lives of our citizens,” the director general of military operations (DGMO) said in a statement.
The strike comes after a series of non-military or diplomatic manoeuvres, which should bolster India’s case of resorting to action only as the last option. Prime minister Narendra Modi, for example, called upon the people of Pakistan to wage war against poverty, and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told the UN General Assembly about India’s restrained, indeed friendly, gestures towards Pakistan which however failed to stop terrorist attacks in India from across the border.
This apparently pacifist stance was angering Modi’s own supported more than anybody else. After his belligerent stance against Pakistan during the 2014 election campaign, they expected him to deliver a swift and direct reply to Islamabad after a series of terror strikes. “Just 22 percent of the public approves of Modi’s management of India’s volatile relationship with Pakistan. Half disapprove. This harsh judgment is relatively unchanged from 2015,” says the report authored by Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at Pew Research Center.
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In hindsight, Modi’s response – ten days late yet impactful, limited but tactical – seems a well thought out strategy of first building a case against Pakistan with restraint and then mounting a targeted salvo.
In the days to come, as Pakistan responds to this rare move, India, however, will have to continue finding the right balance between restraint and aggression – lest this escalates into a war or ‘war-like situation’ between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
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