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After Pulwama, India made a doctrinal change: analysis


Hours after the Balakot air attack on February 26 last year, then Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale read a brief statement that implicitly marked a powerful doctrinal change in the way India would handle Pakistan-sponsored terror in the future. Many aspects of the sequence of events that began with the Pulwama terrorist attack on February 14, exactly one year ago, and concluded with the return of Pakistan wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman on March 1, have attracted considerable attention; the doctrine although it does not have.

The statement affirmed Among others, “Credible information was received that JeM was attempting another suicide attack in various parts of the country, and that fidayeen jihadists were being trained for this purpose. In the face of imminent danger, a preventive attack became absolutely necessary. “Previously, the statement had indicated that Pakistan had always denied the existence of terrorist training camps, despite the information provided, and that Pakistan had not taken measures to” dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on its soil. “The obvious implication was that if Pakistan did not take action, India would do so to protect its people. That can only be achieved through preventive action.

The Foreign Secretary’s statement marked a dramatic departure from both the policy followed by successive Indian governments before the surgical attacks after Uri in 2016, as well as what those attacks represented. They were retributive, unlike being directly preventive, and they had the expectation that Pakistan would take the right lesson: that the era of making use of terror as part of its security doctrine against India was over. Clearly, that lesson was not learned; Therefore, Pulwama.

Before the surgical attacks, India followed a policy of hardening the defenses to avoid terrorist attacks and diplomatic responses whenever they occurred and caused great loss of life. The goal was to exert so much international pressure on Pakistan that he had no choice but to abandon the use of terror. This never happened. Why?

The interest of the great powers lies in preventing an escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan and armed hostilities, not in preventing the loss of Indian lives. This is the harsh reality of international relations where states act to safeguard and promote their interests and not by altruism. Therefore, India was applauded for its responsible and wise conduct, while Pakistan alone, if it did, gently knocked the knuckles.

The fact is that India followed the diplomatic path when dealing with Pakistani terror, because it did not consider it, certainly since the late 1990s, as a strategic threat. He obviously did it because he thought that Pakistan could not get Jammu and Kashmir out of the Union. In relegating the threat, Indian political and strategic classes ignored the political, economic and social costs that Pakistani terror was really extracting. The preventive doctrine has not only warned Pakistan, but has also pointed out to the world that India is no longer willing to bear these costs.

Balakot’s action has posed a very serious challenge, especially in doctrinal terms, to Pakistan’s search for terrorism, which was based on the shield provided by nuclear weapons. For decades, he had tried to avoid Indian kinetic action by presenting the argument that such an action would launch a dangerous escalation between the two countries with nuclear weapons. Pakistan had regularly pushed that point of view into the international community, whose first interest, of course, was to avoid such escalation between two nuclear countries.

The members of the Pakistani security community raise that point again. Recently, Lieutenant General (retired) Khalid Kidwai, the principal ideologist on strategic issues of the Pakistani army brotherhood, told a London audience that Pakistan’s doctrine was “quid pro quo plus,” as evidenced by his counterattack on the attack. from Balakot. He stressed that Pakistan would always respond more strongly to any Indian attack. He stressed that Indian kinetic action would be irresponsible and progressive. Kidwai’s comments were mixed with the current usual Pakistani invective against India and particularly against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Not surprisingly, what was missing in the Kidwai statement was a reference to Pakistan’s dependence on terror as part of its security doctrine and its role in provoking India in an attempt to keep it defensive. The point that the government and the security community of India need to make vigorously on the anniversary of Pulwama and Balakot is that terrorism, and not the response of India, is the first step on the ladder.

As India celebrates the anniversary of the sacrifice of the Pulwama martyrs, it is necessary for the government and the political class to reiterate the preventive doctrine in clear terms so that global actors take note that the only sure way to prevent the dangers of Escalation is to ensure that Pakistan changes its position on terrorism, since India is no longer willing to accept the loss of innocent lives and other costs.

Vivek Katju is a former diplomat

The opinions expressed are personal.

Hindustan Times