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.
I wasn't surprised to read this in today's Times of India: "Chennai turning into safe haven for drug smugglers". I have long maintained that our police forces, customs and border security agencies such as the BSF and Coast Guard have been so focused on preventing the next terrorist attach that they've taken their eye off the ball as far as smuggling and organized crime is concerned.
The article goes on to validate my view:
"Customs officials arrest the couriers and hand them over to the narcotic wing of the crime branch or the state police for further action. After that, the drug trail goes cold. "
Why? I believe that state police agencies have allocated scant resources to the pursuit of drug smugglers and other organized crime syndicates. They're all focused on VIP security (Chennai residents will notice the large contingent of police deployed by the side of the road when the Chief Minister is on the move), and preventing terrorist attacks.
I guess the mafia don't have a problem with that.
President Obama has authorized several small, focused commando strikes during the past few years. His doctrine has focused on changing the orientation of the US military from large, conventional battles to small special-forces action against non-state actors. National Public Radio has an excellent analysis here.
This is a luxury the US has, because in general, they have the ability to choose the time and place of battle. They do not need a large defensive force to defend their homeland, and most of their wars have been fought in foreign lands. (Sidenote: The US has an organization called "Veterans of Foreign Wars". Question: Which war did the US fight that wasn't a "foreign war"?).
India and Pakistan, on the other hand, have large, conventional standing forces to fight conventional battles against each other. These units are typically ill prepared for civilian law-and-order duties, or for counter-insurgency operations. Their training, arms and equipment, manuals of warfare are all designed for an environment where the enemy is well known and the restrictions on engagement limited.
Deploy these same units into a situation where they face a non-state actor (a terrorist group like the LTTE or the Maoist Guerillas) and they will take some time to adjust. Add restrictive rules of engagement because of the presence of a large local population of innocents, and the situation becomes double difficult.
An then there's the personnel side to consider. The typical Indian army foot soldier has been drilled till he learns how to take orders and act immediately without questioning or thinking. Put him in a situation where things are ambiguous and he has to improvise, and you're asking for too much.
A force capable of operating effectively against non-state actors such as Maoists or Kashmiri or Assamese terrorists needs to be developed from the ground up. The type of men it recruits, how it trains them, their mental attitude, doctrine of operation -- all these things need to be designed so that they are suited to the mission at hand. These things don't happen overnight.
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.