Insights into Editorial: Calibrated Responses: The Way Forward for Defeating Proxy War
The terror attack on an army camp in Uri, Kashmir, has once again put the spotlight on Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Four suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists stormed the army camp, killing 18 jawans and injuring at least 30 before being eliminated themselves. The strike was uncannily similar to the Pathankot terror attack on an airbase earlier this year.
- Two fidayeen strikes on major Indian military bases within a span of nine months is certainly worrisome for the Indian security establishment. It clearly shows that the military needs to tighten its defences and boost security measures at its bases near the border with Pakistan.
- These attacks, according to experts, may give rise to proxy war.
Changing nature of warfare:
Today, with conventional war becoming a receding option, we are said to be in an era of hybrid warfare; a diverse and dynamic blend of conventional, low intensity, and cyber operations. Low intensity warfare is being orchestrated through both regular forces and irregulars. Examples include Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the Iranian sponsoring of Hezbollah against Israel.
Proxy wars by Pakistan:
The prosecution of hybrid warfare through irregulars and non-state actors has gained currency over a period of time. Pakistan, after enacting the role of a front line state and supporting the mujahideen to defeat then Soviet Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s at the behest of the United States, has gone on to master this art.
How is this affecting India?
Having repeatedly failed to defeat India in conventional war, the Pakistan Army has pursued the low intensity warfare option, with non-state actors as its strategic asset. It has employed terrorists belonging to various groups to wage proxy war in order to achieve its prime political objective of internationalising the Kashmir issue.
- As a low cost option, this has also well served the interest of Pakistan’s military to keep the Indian Army engaged in combating terrorism. To inflict casualties of the magnitude of the Uri strike through conventional means would imply launching a major operation with a high risk of own losses.
- Thus the proxy war strategy suits the political bosses in Islamabad and the military brass in Rawalpindi. Given its internal turbulence, Pakistan is likely to continue to pursue this policy, may be even more proactively in future, unless India takes effective counter measures to thwart Islamabad’s grand design.
How should India respond?
- To start with, policy makers have to formulate a well-defined security strategy to defeat Pakistan’s proxy war strategy.
- India’s response ought to be at both strategic and operational levels. The strategic dimensions have to be driven through politico- diplomatic means, complemented by Comprehensive National Power, including both hard and soft power to bring requisite pressure to bear on Islamabad to mend its ways.
- Today, Pakistan is being perceived as a nation which is sponsoring terrorism as state policy. India has to exploit opportunities across the border to pay back Pakistan in the same coin. This entails the creation of requisite wherewithal.
- With regard to the operational aspects, it should be best left to the field commanders. There are a number of tactical options, including local punitive actions, surgical operations, upping the ante along the Line of Control (LoC), and precision air strikes against the terrorist infrastructure, to name a few.
- The counter infiltration posture along the LoC and the counter insurgency grid in the hinterland must be continuously reviewed and perfected. The security of vulnerable areas which have been repeatedly targeted needs to be revamped.
- There is also an urgent need for force restructuring and modernization to enhance the operational efficiency of the armed forces, thus enabling them to undertake multiple missions across the spectrum.
- It is also imperative that operational actions be in sync and aligned with the strategic direction to achieve the desired results. Besides, there is a need for coordination between various internal security agencies and the armed forces to ensure seamless synergy. The roles of the two sets of forces need to be clearly defined.
- Despite fool proof security measures, the odd terrorist related incident cannot be ruled out. To this end, the tendency of the top political leadership and senior military commanders to rush to the scene of action needs to be curbed. This adversely impacts upon the efforts of the local commanders in handling the crisis at hand, with their focus shifting to VIP management.
That said, government now needs to formulate an appropriate post-Uri response. And while the political and military establishment mull over a calibrated approach, there’s no denying the fact that one of the most effective tools to put pressure on Pakistan is to move China. True, hitherto China has played the role of an all-weather friend to Pakistan. But New Delhi should cite the Uri attack and tell Beijing that a similar fate could befall it should it not put pressure on Islamabad to crack down on terror groups.
Plus, let’s not forget the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear-armed state. It would be dangerous for the entire world if those nukes fall into terrorist hands. Hence, it is the responsibility of the entire international community to jointly tackle Pakistan-based terrorism. And given that India and China are Pakistan’s immediate neighbours, the two countries have the highest threat perception of Pakistan-origin terrorism. Thus, New Delhi and Beijing have ample reasons to work together to find a solution to this terror menace.
India is being perceived as an emerging regional power and a key player in the new world order. To be a deserving claimant for a seat at the top table, India needs to project itself as a responsible and resilient nation that is capable of not only safeguarding its own security but also serve as a stabilizing factor in the region at large. Ironically, the Indian response to such terrorist actions has basically been incidence-specific and tactical, without a strategic approach. It is time to draw out a calibrated response mechanism to defeat the proxy war unleashed by our Western neighbour. Pakistan cannot be allowed to get away with its nefarious designs. Through a pragmatic strategy coupled with national will, India should undertake calibrated responses to defeat Pakistan’s proxy war game plan with a view to making its misadventures prohibitively costly and unsustainable.