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View: We need Doklam-like policy to deal with Pakistan

Author: Abhijit Iyer-Mitra
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: December 29, 2017
URL:   https://m.economictimes.com/news/defence/view-we-need-doklam-like-policy-to-deal-with-pakistan/articleshow_mid/62288828.cms?utm_expid=.ebqSTgj1R76-y1FCuA4Mvw.1&utm_referrer=https://m.economictimes.com/

Deja vu? Just a few months after India's 'surgical strikes' against Pakistan, we now have the same old game play out again. Pakistan crossed the border killing our troops, we crossed the border killing theirs, as we've done for the last 70-odd years. All of this begs the question: what is a 'surgical strike'? This, while GoI has racked up the single biggest micro-strategic defeat of China in the last 30 years at Doklam?

The closest parallel we have is surgery itself, which implies 1) That the procedure be deep (into the body) and not at the superficial skin level 2) that the instrument used be different from the intended target (scalpel through flesh, not like a flesh-on-flesh deep-tissue massage) and that it employs great precision like a scalpel and localise its effects to the target 3) that the benefits gained be disproportionate to the actual wounding involved in the process. By this measure none of India's cross border strikes against Pakistan counts as surgical.

First , unlike Pakistan, which frequently projects power deep inside India either through fifth columns or terror subsidiaries, India restricts itself to hitting Pakistan only on the border. Our reputation as untrustworthy serial abandoners and unreliable allies who throw human assets to wolves means the pool of people willing to help us is limited. Also our focus on the army, ignoring air and naval forces, means that the deep penetration required for surgical strikes is not possible, intellectually, sub-conventionally or indeed conventionally.

Second , India's misdiagnosis of the problem. Killing hundreds or even thousands of Pakistani jawans will not change their behaviour. It is only when the level of brigadier and above, and assets of the fauji foundation are targeted that Pakistan's deep State feels the pain. There is no point in 'precision' surgery shorn of diagnostic precision. In effect, India's actions are as misdirected as performing a colectomy to cure a brain tumour. Yet, that is exactly what India persists in believing.

Third , the futile use of ground troops in tit-for-tat actions. It's brave for sure. But all it does is temporarily satisfy bloodlust, fails to break the action-reaction cycle and only invites retaliation. Non-linear and more impactful options like the navy and airforce cannot be utilised because they've been neglected by the political leadership for far too long to become potent overnight.

When your methods are limited, your diagnosis wrong, your weapons blunt and you believe that courage is substitute for strategy and guile, you get a flawed 'Pakistan policy'.

Why then was China-Dokalam different? Why did we achieve such spectacular results, that too without the use of force? For starters, what India did at Dokalam was that it did not attack Chinese troops, it attacked Chinese strategy with severe downstream consequences for Chinese actions in the South China Sea. India struck China's diplomatic credibility as a 'responsible nuclear power' and the very credibility of its nuclear deterrent at some level. Practically, it was carefully calculated to cause maximum political damage to Xi Jinping at a crucial stage of his career, the 19th party conference and the BRICS summit hosting.

In short, it was everything India's Pakistan strategy isn't -- understated, quiet and effective.

- (The writer is Senior Fellow, Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies)
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