Prime Minister Modi while addressing NCC cadets on NCC daystated, ‘Pakistan has lost three wars against India, whose (Indian) armed forces would need not more than a week to 10 days to defeat the neighbouring country in case of another war.’ He added, ‘when our armed forces sought permission to take action, they were refused. But today the country is moving forward with ‘yuva soch’ (youthful thinking). So, it carries out surgical strikes and airstrikes to teach terrorists a lesson in their own backyard.’
The Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh, speaking at the 12th South Asian Conference at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysesasserted, ‘India is fully capable of giving a firm response to cross-border terrorism and the strikes in 2016 and 2019 demonstrated the country’s firm resolve to defeat terrorism.’
General MM Naravane, the current army chief, addressed the media in his customary pre-army day address as also in his speech on army day. He was specific on a few aspects in his address. He stated that the army owes its allegiance to the Indian constitution and its core values of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity.
He stated, ‘We are deployed on the border safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is to secure for our people these core values.’ This was aimed at conveying to the nation that the army is not politicised, a charge which the forces have faced in recent times.
His comments on Pak, both during his address and in reply to questions from the media were significant. There were two major issues projected by him. The first was that the army was prepared for any military operation. He stated that in case the Government gave an order the army ‘will take steps’ to wrest POK from Islamabad’s control. This statement reflected the changed stance from a defensive India to one which is willing to safeguard its sovereignty and integrity by offensive action.
His second comment was on retaliation to Pak’s continued strategy of employing terrorism as an instrument of state policy. He mentioned that India reserves the right to retaliate against Pak sponsored terrorist strikes or even when it has inputs that strikes are imminent. It is a continuation of two Indian offensive actions against Pak’s terrorist strikes, which have now become a hallmark in India’s national policy. Indian retaliation, calling the Pak nuclear bluff has rattled them. The army chiefamplified his comment on Pak’s nuclear threatwhen he stated that nuclear weapons are meant for deterrence, not war.
General Naravane also spoke of Pak-China collusion and the importance of the Siachen Glacier in separating Pak and Chinese deployment in the Sakshgam valley. This implied that despite all difficulties, India would continue to deploy on the glacier.
This changed Indian offensive strategy has Pak worried. Post Mumbai, the armed forces lacked capacity and capability to act due to vast shortfalls. The national leadership had considered the role of armed forces solely for defence, never for offensive actions, impacted by Pak’s nuclear bluff. Within the last few years there has been mass induction of military equipment, enhancing confidence of tackling inimical nations, even offensively. Further, India was always concerned about Pak’s nuclear threat, the bluff being called by the Balakote strike.
Pak, on the other hand, aware that Kashmir is peaceful and there is no military solution to J and K, have readied over two hundred battle-hardened Afghan terrorists for infiltration into the region. Strong Indian retaliation to Pak ceasefire violations have led to increased Pak casualties and fear within their forces. There have been multiple reports of Pak soldiers being unwilling to respond and hold onto their posts, aware that India means business.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries have been downgraded by Pak, post the abrogation of Article 370, by withdrawing its High Commissioner. General Naravane commented during his army day address, ‘the scrapping of Article 370 – a historic step – has adversely affected the plans of the western neighbour and its proxies. It will help integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the mainstream.’ Pak has realized that the Indian threat to not discuss Kashmir is serious and the issue may soon become redundant.
Imran approached every nation seeking to enhance pressure on India to push back its decisions but failed. This added to frustration within Pak. With major world powers backing India, Pak is left with only China for support. Its attempt at raising Kashmir in the UN Security Council met with no support. Even China could not push forth a discussion on the same.
Pak responded to every Indian comment, stating that its armed forces were prepared to defend the country. It added that Indian comments were aimed at diverting local minds from recent ongoing protests.The continuation of expounding the same approach as adopted by General Bipin Rawat, has left Pak recalibrating its Kashmir strategy.
Pak has realized that it cannot risk another major terrorist strike, where India would respond militarily. It remains aware of shortfalls in its own capabilities and the precarious state of its economy, due to which it cannot afford a conflict. Its rising inflation to beyond 14 percent and growing national debt leave it with little choice.
Such has been the fear within Pak that Imran Khan and Qureshi have regularly announced that India could launch an offensive based on a ‘false flag operation.’ Qureshi has written multiple letters to the UN conveying this fear. This fear is also being spread globally, as Pak’s permanent representative to the UN made similar comments to the UN Security Council.Imran has been stating at every opportunity that India is likely to commit ‘genocide’ in Kashmir on the same lines as Myanmar.
Pak’s bravado and threats are hollow and must be ignored. Indian pressure of offensive actions on Pak must remain. India should seek to continue to exploit Pak’s economic weakness and its capability shortfalls. Pak only understands the language of pressure and it must remain.
(The author is Major General Retd)