Cover Story
The Indian Army
Challenges of Irregular War
By Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab
Two questions New Delhi is grappling with and the world is waiting to know the answers off: How would India respond to the 26 November 2008 Mumbai attacks by 10 Pakistani terrorists, and what happens the next time such an attempt is made by Pakistan-based terrorists?

Media reports suggest that New Delhi has adopted a three-pronged response: global diplomatic pressure on Islamabad to both own up its role in the attacks and to give tangible proof of its sincerity to end terrorism from its soil; take steps within to tighten homeland security; and to adopt a befitting military response to discourage terrorism on mainland India. How much the world community led by the US will push Islamabad to assuage India’s concerns depends upon what military response New Delhi is contemplating now and for future occurrences. India’s military response will be the key determent of the aftermath of 26/11. The media certainly has little clue about this. Worse, it has gone hysterical and emotional seeking assurances from like-minded self-professed security experts whose suggestions range from raids by Special Forces across the Line of Control (LC), to limited strikes by the Indian Air Force on terrorists’ infrastructure and strategic targets to an open war to teach Pakistan the ultimate lesson. With time it is becoming clear that India’s military leadership may not have advised any of these measures. Or maybe, the political leadership has disregarded the military option as unnecessary, it is being argued. To appreciate this, the first step is to understand the 26/11 perspective in terms of Jammu and Kashmir, lessons of Operation Parakram, and strengthened ties between India and the US.

Let us start with Jammu and Kashmir. The bilateral peace-process between India and Pakistan that started with the ceasefire on the LC on 26 November 2003 has touched the people of Kashmir in an unimaginable way. There is a belief in the Kashmir valley that the idea of one Kashmir across the divide, however slow and imperfect, is irreversible and hence attainable. This seems to be the new interpretation of ‘azadi.’ Thus, even as the people have not given up the ‘azadi’ dream, they want their daily life to improve by good governance. This, they believe, is possible by choosing their representatives who would argue for them in the state assembly. The Separatists’ leaders did not quite understand that the people want both governance as well as azadi. This explains the high voter turn-out in the recent assembly elections despite boycott call by the Separatists. To stay relevant, the Separatists will now be hard-pressed to seek minimal terrorist violence as this will engender a strong state’s response (army included) making people’s lives difficult once again. Moreover, this will disturb peace on LC and hinder people-to-people contact. This will not be palatable to the Kashmir people. The Separatists are not the only ones who would not want to be seen as spoilers by the Kashmir people. Both Pakistan and India will do their best to not be seen as villains in people’s perception. Except for routine infiltration across the LC and through other traditional routes into the Valley, the Pakistan Army is unlikely to encourage terrorists’ free run in the border state. Moreover, with a good counter-insurgency grid painstakingly established by the security forces in Kashmir, it is becoming increasing difficult for infiltrators to find support amongst people especially in the hinterland before they can merge with the urban population. Similarly, it does not help India if its army does raids across the LC. In both cases of either Pakistan Army or the Indian Army upping the ante across the LC, the cease fire on the military-held line will go up in flames and people’s azadi dream would be shattered.
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