The surgical strikes carried out by India‚Äôs special forces on September 29, did not signal the abandonment of a policy anchored in strategic restraint. On the contrary, it sent a message, hopefully clear enough, that strategic restraint does not imply a doctrine of inaction, that it permits sufficient flexibility for a sharp, calibrated retribution targeted at those that are the instruments of the terror machine, whoever the masterminds might be.
It is entirely possible and indeed feasible for the world's largest democracy, wedded to responsible behaviour, to inflict calibrated pain on terror outfits and their handlers. A comprehensive approach that gives local commanders that power and authority to anticipate and eliminate threats from across the line of control should be the new norm. Advance technology makes it easier. Just as the drug mafia cannot operate without the active connivance of the local police, terror outfits cannot operate without the blessings of individual units of the armed forces in heavily fortified border areas. The time has come to internationally name and shame those in uniform who provide such sanctuary and abet terrorist crimes. The Pakistani state‚Äôs deniability needs to be tested. A dossier detailing the rogue elements and entities needs to be shared with the global counter terrorism networks. Let the perpetrators of these terrorist crimes begin to feel the heat.
Such retributive punishment must go hand-in-hand with a national effort to win the hearts and minds of the long-suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir. The purpose has to be to drive home the simple message that their democratic aspirations are better realised through the Indian democratic system rather than through the extension of an ISIS caliphate. Absent significant efforts and results to improve the internal situation, forces inimical to the Indian state will continue to fish in troubled waters.
The attacks on the air base in Pathankot, and Uri more recently, signal another deeply worrying aspect of national security. The relative ease with which terrorists infiltrate and attack the establishments of our armed forces should set alarm bells ringing. This not only exacerbates the problems of a soft state but adds to the growing perception that the state is not always sufficiently resolute in taking counter action. The time has come to fix responsibility across the board, the drug mafia nexus, other smugglers and those responsible for the physical security of these sensitive establishments.
All democracies have strong and entrenched resident peace constituencies. These peaceniks will always argue that it is better to talk, to use a margin of persuasion. When the two parties involved are nuclear weapon states, the peace constituency acquires greater credibility. The time has come to call the nuclear bluff though a process of small and incremental escalation aimed at inflicting a price on those carrying out and calling the strikes. The government of India is under no obligation to share operational tactical details of the action on September 29 nor should it feel obliged to share the other actions it proposes to take diplomatically, on the economic front or even militarily in the months ahead.
Additionally, what is the point in talking to those who do not have the power to negotiate? The elected government in Pakistan needs to be shamed for what it is, a pliant steward and an active participant in waging war against another country through what is a 'cheap skate' option.
Equally, any assessment which is based on the expectation that seeking greater foreign policy convergence with the United States will provide an insurance against Pakistan and/or China is flawed, at the very least. Only we can defend ourselves. Other countries will deal with Pakistan in terms of their own national interest(s). Pakistan has hard choices to make. Seeking an escalation of conflict with a 2-trillion-dollar Indian economy can prove to be extremely costly even in the short run, if India decides to play hardball.
In some respects, this amounts to asking for an attitudinal or even DNA change in a peace loving democratic society. Perhaps nothing less will work. An irresponsible and recalcitrant neighbor requires a sui generis response.
Unless we succeed in driving home the point that there will be a price to be paid for irresponsible conduct, it will continue to be business as usual with India at the receiving end. Let the message be delivered on as wide a canvas as may be required. A wide range of policy options have already been suggested. The government does not need to share its thinking or be overly accommodative to sections of misguided domestic opinion bent on playing partisan politics.
The author has had a four decade long distinguished career in diplomacy, is one of the few Indians to have presided over the United Nations Security Council and the only Indian to have chaired its Counter Terrorism Committee.
He is the author of Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos (Harper Collins)
Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.