RAHUL BEDI | 20 SEPTEMBER, 2016
Uri Attack: A 'Befitting Response'? Really?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, its advisors, minders in the RSS and the military collectively are poised to deliver a ‘befitting response ‘ to Pakistan for the Uri attack.
Television news channels and the entire media are abuzz with what-passes-for-defence-and-security experts eager to satisfy their collective blood lust via this deadly, but undefined response.
Each evening these retired military and security officials alongside former ambassadors, wax eloquent on how decisive deliverance will imminently be achieved, as if the Pakistani’s are simply waiting for the Indian military to exact revenge in a blaze of television and media coverage.
But none of them even remotely define what exactly a ‘befitting response’ really is and what it specifically means when they declare that India’s days of strategic restraint are over.
Does this involve the number of Pakistani soldiers that need to be killed by India, to bring about parity?
Applying Mrs Sushma Swaraj’s 10:1 ratio, would make it a grand total of 170 enemy soldiers, just for the Uri strike; Is that what Modi and Ram Madhav are striving for when they talk of a jaw for a tooth? A simple, no fuss, tit-for-tat numbers game?
Or is a befitting response destroying scores of militant training camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) which are no more than a handful of jerry built huts in the hills, a Jungle Jim, an exercise yard and some jute mats?
Or could this enigmatic response include destroying Pakistani border posts and bombarding their front line units with artillery and mortar fire, in effect ending the November 2003 ceasefire that has broadly held for 13 years?
Or perhaps it is employing BrahMos cruise missiles, as suggested by one such ‘expert’ recently on television, to take out (undefined) targets across the Line of Control (LoC)?
Or does it entail deploying Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters to perform a similar task, but keeping the target area confined to POK, as if under some bizarre freemasonry agreed upon in back channel negotiations, this region is ‘attackable’ without Pakistani retaliation.
After all, Modi and the BJP has declared that POK is Indian territory and the irritating reality that Pakistan has controlled it for 69 years and militarized it, is incidental. Hence, confining the bombardment to this secluded zone was acceptable.
In short, the concept of ‘befitting response’ remains nebulous and ridiculous.
The other, equally foolish and naïve assumption by the growing gaggle of hysterical Indian military experts is that the Pakistani’s are well, asking to be assaulted.
These ‘specialists’, led by former three-star generals, many of who have served in Kashmir and commanded units along the LoC, are also of the view that such macho talk will deter Pakistan from any future strikes and perfidy.
They simply refuse to acknowledge that in the real world operational plans, presumably war-gamed interminably, need to be activated swiftly to maintain the element of surprise in all military campaigns.
If these do indeed exist- and that is questionable- they should have been operationalised within a couple of hours, at the outside after the Uri attack and completed shortly thereafter.
After all, it is no secret that Pakistan is India’s principal enemy, one that frequently employs non-state actors, backed by its military and Inter Services Intelligence Directorate, to attack Indian targets.
Consequently, it is safe to assume that the army does have assault plans in place for just such contingencies. But sadly, it seems the axiom Velox Militae Forum or Quick Military Strike is simply not part of its thinking or operational philosophy.
Instead, the army chief Gen Dalbir Singh, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and a host of senior officials rushed to Uri for an ‘on the spot assessment’.
Many in the army questioned Gen Singh rushing to Uri, upsetting the chain of command that includes the local divisional, corps and army commanders. It’s a little known fact that during the 1971 campaign against Pakistan, Field Marshal S H F J Manekshaw never visited the Bangladesh front, leaving the entire execution of the campaign to field commanders.
Thereafter, statements were issued in Delhi with Modi declaring that those responsible for the attack would not go ‘unpunished’.
Other leaders stated that India would undertake ‘definitive and demonstrable’ action against Pakistan with one even boasting that this would be executed in full media glare to show the world what Delhi was capable of achieving militarily.
In New Delhi, meanwhile, the PM has presided over several high-powered meetings attended by some service and intelligence chiefs and other security officials to decide on the enigmatic ‘befitting response’.
One riposte, it appeared that emerged from these was India’s tacit decision to award travel documents to the Baloch leader Brahamdagh Bugti, exiled in Switzerland.
So much so that BJP spokesman Sambit Patra even went to the extent of claiming on national television that the Uri attack was Pakistan’s response to Modi raising the Baloch issue on Independence Day, and possibly at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later this week.
However, amidst putatively transmitting a ‘befitting response’ to Pakistan Indian officials and experts refuse to even discuss the security breaches that resulted in the Uri attacks. For them questioning the army at this stage on such matters is sacrilegious.
The din of impending battle and delivery of a ‘befitting response’ , it seems, has pushed the Uri cantonment security lapses to the background.
According to media reports the inquiry into the January strike on the IAF base in Pathankot by four Pakistan-launched gunmen has been lying on Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's desk for several weeks, awaiting disposal.
Will the Uri transgression by the 12th Infantry Brigade suffer the same fate, till the next attack?
Or will there not be one, as India’s inscrutable ‘befitting response’ would have Pakistan quaking and terrified, never to even contemplate another strike?
Modi and his National Security Advisor Ajit Doval have the answer.