The argument for covert action
In a Hindu Op-Ed today, Praveen Swami comments on Narendra Modi's explicit statement that he would authorize the use of covert force against our enemies across the border (Dawood, Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, et al). Swami takes a dovish view of Mr. Modi's statement - he believes that India should not retaliate with covert action because of the fear of retaliation.
In my opinion, this view is what has emboldened our enemies over the past 60 years of our independence.
We have to moderate our policies in keeping with the neighbors and adversaries we have. The Israelis retaliated with overwhelming force whenever they were attacked, and that is the way the Arabs surrounding them stopped troubling them or sheltering terrorists who used their soil to launch attacks.
These high-fangled Western liberal notions of not using force will work very well in a geo-political environment that respects it. Unfortunately, we have a neighbor that constantly provides aid and succor to forces against us, and we have done little other than complain like a little whining child. This has emboldened the ISI, The Pakistani Army, and even democratically elected governments there to conclude that India will never take action. With impunity they incite, recruit, train and then send terrorists over the border. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is home to many terrorists training camps where jihadists are brainwashed, trained, and then infiltrated across the border.
Like the Arab countries ringing Israel, Pakistan understands only the language of force. If we do not retaliate with force, they will continue to view us as as a weak, spineless debating society, and continue to take potshots at us. We must launch targeted covert strikes, take out leaders of any organizations that are inimical to us, and even launch missile strikes against terrorist training camps in Kashmir. Only then will we put some fear into them, and get them to stop. Even if that means there's a risk of retaliation, we must be prepared to run that risk, and raise our internal vigilance.
"Speak softly but carry a big stick," said US president Teddy Roosevelt. All we've been doing is speaking loudly, and never showing our stick. In the nuclear-armed subcontinent we now live in, open all-out war is almost an impossibility. Therefore, low-intensity, localized conflict done using non-state proxies will be the way Pakistan will mount a war of attrition. If we don't stop them by retaliating with force, we will be the only losers.
Caught this gem in a Tehelka article on the recent judgments by the Pakistani Supreme Court concerning the 16-year-old case of Air Mashal Ashgar Khan:
Gen Kayani [warned] the stakeholders to keep well within their constitutional limits. He talked about the army making mistakes in the past, but also reminded the people of being thoughtful at a time when the army was facing tough conditions vis-àvis national security.
Wow. Talk about causing a chilling effect on the national dialogue. The case is a fascinating one: The Supreme Court has found a former army chief guilty of extorting money from a businessman, and then routing it through the ISI to rig the elections against Benazir Bhutto.
The depth to which the tentacles of the army reach within Pakistani civil society just boggles the mind. But it begs another question: the Pakistani Army and the Indian Army were born from the same entity - the British Army in India. Why did that country take such a different path, whereas in India the Armed Forces have remained completely apolitical? Love to hear your thoughts.
Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.