Pulwama terror attack: Can India respond like Israel?
Instead of relying on its Army for all its covert operations, Israel reacts to threats in a continuous mode unlike in India where a punitive strike is always an after-thought.
After every terror attack in India, people want the government to take action against Pakistan the way Israel would in such circumstances. This feeling is further accentuated by the narrative built by mass media which, in turn, pressurises the state to fall back on the Indian Army.
Israel, that way, has behaved very differently from many states that find themselves surrounded by hostile neighbours. Instead of relying on its Army for all its covert operations, Israel's other agencies also carry out operations across the world. Israel reacts to threats in a continuous mode unlike in India where a punitive strike is always an after-thought.
Israel has carried out hits all over the world to protect its citizens and demolish organisations like the PLO and Hamas including those who stood in opposition to Israeli interest.
India, on the other hand, has never exercised such an approach. Rather, it begs the question of how our intelligence agencies lost their teeth after the glorious 1971 victory which led to the creation of independent Bangladesh.
India has never been known to carry out such deep hits. Its peace-keeping mission in Sri Lanka also ended up in disaster as Indian forces became a victim of internecine politics of Sri Lanka.
Israel, on the other hand, has gone all over the world to eliminate those who opposed its interests. The best example would that be of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi who was part of Adolf Hitler's key leadership.
Eichmann was responsible for killing thousands of Jews in Europe and was part of Hitler’s favourite project - Final Solution. When Nazis started to lose the war, Eichmann first decamped in Germany and then fled to British occupied area under a false identity in 1950 from Italy. He fled to Argentina which was a preferred place for the Nazis to disappear after Reich had fallen. His family joined him in 1952. It did not break the resolve of Israel. They looked for him all across South America till they abducted him in 1960 in Argentina and got him back to Israel for a trial. He was tried in Jerusalem and sentenced to death in 1961.
Another example would that be of the Munich Massacre of 1972 where 11 Israeli athletes were killed by a Palestinian terror outfit called Black September. Under Golda Meir’s leadership, operation ‘Wrath of God’ was launched by Israel whose code word was 'Bayonet'. The hit team involved individuals from Mossad and special forces operatives from Israel Defence Forces.
The team hunted individuals associated with planning the attack across Europe and West Asia. The team also made mistakes and put down the wrong person in Norway in 1973 sparking international outrage. As a result, PM Meir had to suspend the operation for a while only to have it revived in 1979. This time around, Israel successfully located Ali Hassan Salameh, known as Red Prince, who was the operational head of the terrorist group Black September. He was put down in Beirut the same year.
In 1962, Israel targeted German scientist working for a rocket programme under the leadership of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Naseer. The operation was called Operation Damocles. Egyptians were forced to close down the programme, the scientists were intimidated. The operation damaged Egypt’s effort to build bigger, better rockets to target Israel.
Israel also targeted important functionaries of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Hamas throughout West Asia. Israel enjoys an audacious record of carrying deep strikes on countries like Syria, Jordan and Lebanon against terror groups.
The best recent example would that be of Isreal's national intelligence agency Mossad’s Dubai Operation in 2010. The agents neutralized chief weapons buyer of Hamas. Though agents were caught by CCTV cameras all over the place, the message which Israel sent was loud and clear. Israel reinforced that they will hunt down its enemies in any part of the world.
India has not been able to covertly target the key people of Pakistan Army whereas Pakistan has targeted important people of Indian Defence Forces and the police forces across India with impunity. We have not been able to send the message that we mean business when it comes to targeting us. We have failed to send the message to the enemies that we will get them at any cost. It is also because we have not built capacities like Israel. Also, political parties did not evolve a consensus on geopolitical realities. Till 2001, Indian politicians were not able to gauge the problem of Islamic fundamentalism.
In the absence of skill and assets abroad, the political party in power falls back on conventional tactics to counter Pakistan; a move that has its own limits. This too, disproportionately, falls on the shoulder of the Indian Army.
If India wants to behave like Israel, then it will have to build capacity and hit out at Pakistan across the world.
This is being said when India’s geopolitical reality is very different from that of Israel. In past, Israel received continuous backing from the US, unlike India.
Today, Pakistan is extremely close to China which is asserting itself all over the world. Doklam is an example in that case. It is a reality not shared by Israel. India shares a boundary with two nuclear-capable nations.
Pakistan has already forced America's hands in pushing them to talk to the Taliban in Qatar which has made them even bolder.
Also, Kashmir is an integral part of India, unlike the Palestinian areas which for Israel stand as enemy regions. Lastly, Pakistan is a nuclear-armed nation. Any conventional war will have the possibility of the nuke power being misused by the Pakistan Army. In this case, India must do two things which Pakistan.
Firstly, India must hit at Pakistan's interests all over the world. The Centre should also kick-start the political process in Jammu and Kashmir as India cannot afford to have alienated population in the Valley when Pakistan is openly attacking Indian forces.
Finally, India's response against Pakistan must be continuous until and unless the South Asian nation is forced to ask for time. In absence of it, we may end up repeating Operation Parakram which did not change the DNA of the Pakistani state.
All that has happened in the last five years signals the fact that we have simply consumed the idea of a powerful India. We consumed surgical strikes for electoral ends. All of this has ended up creating hysteria across the nation, demanding war. One has to go to Syria and Afghanistan to understand how a full-fledged war affects a country.
The bottom line? Simply put, in the multi-polar world, India’s engagement with Pakistan will be bloody and we will have to take them to war rather than bleeding and fighting it out on our own land. For this, the only answer is harnessing the covert capability to strike at Pakistan's deep state - its Army.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)