India must opt for 'out-of-box' options to counter proxy war by Pakistan

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

Delhi, India Mar 11, 2019, 04.15 PM (IST) Major General S B Asthana

India has suffered enough of proxy war in the last 30 years, which continues in Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ with same vigour as hitherto fore.  

The surgical strikes launched in 2016 after the terrorist attack in Uri, was the first signal that India has changed its strategy of being ‘Defensive’ as a responsible country, to adopting ‘Offensive Defense’ for protection of its citizens from Pakistan-sponsored Proxy war through the terrorist groups like JeM, LeT and others. 

They continue infiltrating into India with the help of Pakistani Army and ISI, kill innocent people and lure the youth of Kashmir towards the misplaced version of Jihad, after a prolonged dose of radicalisation through Madrasas in the name of education. Some segments of the youth of Kashmir find a reason to be lured by money and privileges offered to them. The absence of any worthwhile industries due to lack of investors due to provisions like Article 370, deterring any sensible industrialist to invest in Kashmir is another reason for growing fundamentalism.  

The recent terrorist attack on the CRPF convoy killed at least 40 personnel. The attack, claimed by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which has the patronage of the Pakistan Army and ISI, proved that proxy war against India has become the state policy of Pakistan.

India had no other option but to give a befitting response. India is now convinced that surgical treatment of the terrorists is required by the complete application of ‘Comprehensive National Power’ (CNP) of India because Pakistan was unlikely to take any action against them.  

The air strikes and aftermath 

On February 26, 2019, a set of 12 Mirage 2000 aircraft carried out pinpoint precision strikes using SPICE-2000 guidance kit fitted on conventional bombs, making them highly accurate ‘smart bombs’ carrying out this daring raid/surgical airstrike to destroy the largest training camp of JeM. The strikes were non-military, pre-emptive action, specifically targeted at the JeM camp at Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province deep inside Pakistan territory. The target chosen was a training camp located in a thick forest on a hilltop far away from any civilian presence. India also indicated its desire of no further escalation, as the strike was directed against the terrorist group responsible for Pulwama attack and not against the state of Pakistan, its establishment or its people.  

The air strikes had the desired effects as it is learnt that 80 per cent of bombs struck at the precise designated targets. It not only struck the heartland of terror by striking the designated targets, but it also exhibited the Pakistan Armed Forces in poor light as they failed to detect such strike, rendering all their air defence systems surprised. It also called their nuclear bluff, as Pakistan has been holding back India from military action into their territory by blackmailing that if India crosses the LoC/IB it will respond with a nuclear weapon. 

This air strike proved that India reserves the right of self-defence and will strike terrorists wherever they are, even if amounts to getting into Pakistan territory, and would keep all options on the table, in case Pakistan decides to climb the escalation ladder in our response. 

As expected, to salvage its pride Pakistan Air Force using three F-16 aircraft entered Indian air space with an intent to take on a military target was deterred by alert IAF combat patrol and they had to cross back to their territory. The dogfight between the F-16 and our MIG-21 resulted in both jets crashing down resulting in an unfortunate ejection of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman drifting to the Pakistani side of LoC. The Indian pilot got heroes welcome on coming back to India, whereas Pakistan refused to acknowledge the loss of F-16 aircraft and Wing Commander Shamsuddin, and preferred to hide the loss because the use of F-16 aircraft amounted to the violation of their ‘End User Agreement’ with the US. The recent flip flop by Pakistani establishment indicates its panic reaction after Jaish-e Mohammad (JeM) claimed the responsibility of Pulwama suicide attack.

Pakistan's DG ISPR denied the existence of JeM and its leader Maulana Masood Azhar on its soil. Later, Pakistan Foreign Minister accepted that he was in Pakistan. Subsequently, Pakistan arrested 44 JeM terrorists including Maulana Masood Azhar’s son and brother under tremendous international pressure.

Options for India post air strikes 

In our national interest to prevent the proxy war by Pakistan, India has to use every element of CNP. It means India has to exercise a multipronged approach including - diplomatic, political, economic and military offensive against Pakistan. As the main player, the Pakistani Army will not like to compromise on promoting proxy war, because their influence and relevance in their country is due to their role of being the sole protector from “Indian threat” and keeping Kashmir issue alive. To deal with the rogue state India will have to consider some “out of box options”. 

Diplomatic option 

The global community is well aware of Pakistan being the epicentre of terrorism, as it continues to harbour, train, support and utilise terrorists in its surroundings to include India, Afghanistan and Iran, as its strategic assets. After Osama Bin Laden being found in Pakistan, the deniability tool of Pakistan has taken a beating. We have to keep the diplomatic offensive on so that the global community is convinced with our actions. The world opinion seems to be against Pakistan, with a fresh proposal to declare Maulana Masood Azhar a global terrorist and we need to push it through. While India may like to globally isolate Pakistan but it is practically not possible because some of the countries have a strategic interest in it. The US National Security Advisor (NSA) advocated India has the right of self-defense and the similar sentiment expressed by other states (except China) did convince the international community for our offensive-defense to prevent proxy war. The diplomatic offensive needs to continue for a long term effect because the global climate is prone to frequent changes. The US needs Pakistan to keep their interest alive in Afghanistan. Pakistan is priceless for China in terms of financial investments in CPEC. We, therefore, need smart diplomacy with China.  

Economic offensive

Scrapping unilateral ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status and imposing 200 per cent tariffs is a symbolic gesture due to extremely low trade volume and that too skewed in our favour. We need to build a strong case with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to declare them ‘Black instead of Grey’ in the next meeting which will affect its formal economy. It, however, needs to be noted that the terror industry of Pakistan functions on parallel economy fuelled by narcotic trade, Pakistan Military and ISI funding. It is, therefore, imperative that we close the tap in Kashmir by the conviction of separatists involved in money laundering to the pangs of terror industry within Kashmir. Water flowing uninterrupted to Pakistan is the main source for their cultivation and power generation, more so in Punjab, which is home to the maximum ruling elite of Pakistan. We should start by utilising full quota of water authorised to India as per Indus water treaty, and also suspend the treaty to re-negotiate further, till Pakistan shuns proxy war against India.   

Political offensive    

India should move a step ahead from pure sympathy and moral support towards the barbaric treatment of Balochi nationals by the Pakistani military. India could consider giving asylum to their leaders and later may step up to allow them to form the ‘government in exile’ in India. India should start asserting its legal right over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Military options

India has called the Pakistani bluff about the use of nuclear weapons and has all the options on the table to respond militarily to Pakistan proxy war. The space for the conventional war exists between the proxy and nuclear war. Pakistan is unlikely to adopt the nuclear option it has. Also, India should continue taking appropriate measures to bring all the separatists and facilitators of Pakistan's proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir to books.  


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)

Major General S B Asthana

Major General S B Asthana had been an Infantry General with 40 years of defence experience at national and international level.

Story highlights

India must follow a multipronged approach including - diplomatic, political, economic and military offensive against Pakistan