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Thursday, October 13, 2016

Uri Attack: Time to Seal the Borders

In the aftermath of the Uri attack by the terrorists—who, having managed to cross the border so easily, straight walked into a major military base and killed as many as 18 soldiers besides causing extensive damage—mighty anger is sweeping across the country which is understandable. However, what is not comprehensible is: the unrelenting hype in the media as to how India can take revenge on Pakistan, the neighbor who is persistently sponsoring terrorist attacks on India.

In this melee, the nation appears to have lost sight of the battery of questions posited by the Uri attack that  demand immediate corrective action. These questions are simple, yet are of profound significance. And there is nothing new in them, for at the happening of every such terrorist attack they simply pop up. Indeed, they simply keep knocking our minds at every such strike: How is that so heavily armored insurgents could cross the Line of Control (LoC) so easily? Why such poor security arrangements in guarding a military base? Why such poor coordination between intelligence providers and the security establishments around even the military bases? Why are we not availing technologies such as thermal images, night vision equipment, surveillance cameras, drones, etc. to monitor movement along and across the LoC? Why are we continuing to be lax in enforcing standards of drills and procedures meant for the maintenance of military equipment and safety of military establishments? How is that soldiers were sleeping in vulnerable environs, that too, in a base located in a known sensitive sector? Is there no mechanism that investigates such attacks, identifies lapses, if any, which could have facilitated such attacks and punishes the guilty sufficiently enough to deter such recurrences?

It is these questions and the answers thereof that matter most to the nation. For, Pakistan is an unreliable neighbor. And, despite the restraint that India has exhibited over the years, it continues to keep its anti-India rhetoric active, even flouts basic bilateral courtesies, and continues to afford the needed space and tactical support to the perpetrators of terror attacks on India. Its innate anti-India stance is glaringly visible in its act of turning down the request of India’s National Investigation Agency team to visit Pakistan in connection with the investigation of terrorist attack on Pathankot airbase, that too, even after India allowing Pakistan’s investigators to visit Pathankot airbase. Nor did Pakistan book Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the organization that is known to be behind the recent terror attacks on India, including, of course, the Uri attack.

Against this ground reality, what India needs now is not military action but a diligent examination of the questions posed by the Uri attack and orchestration of corrective measures and their implementation with immediate effect to make our borders less and less porous. However mighty our inherent maladies—our known disdain for law, lack of sense of accountability across the hierarchy and endemic corruption even among the agencies engaged in maintaining the national security that are known to aid the hostile elements gain easy entry into even vital establishments—could be, unless we secure our borders, we remain condemned forever as viable targets for terrorist attacks. 

That said, we must now examine the question: Why military action against Pakistan is not a wise option? Reasons galore: Primarily, Pakistan is not a strategic threat to India but a mere irritant, and hence it does not warrant a war. Secondly, though a section of strategists argue that Indian military force can fight and win a war against Pakistan—which could even be true—the daunting question remains: War at what cost? And that is the most disturbing question, for it is certain to harm our economic prosperity. It is this unacceptable cost of winning a war—that might even risk a potential nuclear exchange—with Pakistan which persuades India to look for effective alternatives.

Evidently, Prime Minister Modi appears to be seized of this reality when he directly addressed Pakistan people from Kozikhode thus: “We are ready to fight you, if you have the courage. Come, we’ll fight poverty in our country and you fight in yours. Let’s see who eradicates poverty first.” Of course, coupled with his well-guarded warning to Pakistan, “I assure the nation that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished”, Modi, in effect, de-emphasized the military-option as a response to Uri attack. He even put the war-enthusiasts at bay by indicating that India will not abrogate the Indus Waters Treaty, and instead would rather use its provisions fully to build dams on the rivers to reduce water flow into Pakistan. True, that it takes decades to impact Pakistan through this route, but what matters most here is the intent.

Having undertaken ‘surgical strikes’ that proved Indian army’s increased capabilities beyond doubt, what now becomes more imperative is: India must be on alert, seal its borders effectively, and be ready to strike at infiltrators, but certainly not to escalate. Simultaneously, the political leadership should work for: one, to isolate Pakistan and two, to defuse the ongoing tensions in the valley, which shall make Pakistan’s fancy to meddle in India’s affairs difficult.


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