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Friday, November 29, 2013

Pakistan should be given a befitting response for border incident

The retaliatory action for the Pakistan army’s brutal
killing of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control should be
punishing and decisive. We need to make a pragmatic
assessment of Pakistan as a state and its mindset on India,
its capabilities and intentions and pattern of its
engagement with us.
There can be no denying the excesses of the Pakistan
army in brutally killing two Indian soldiers at the Line of
Control. But an eye-for-an-eye (or ‘ten heads for one
head’) response can only lead to an escalating spiral of
violence, with huge human, social and economic costs.
Better then to sit across the table, under the institutional
mechanism of CBM (confidence building
measures), to prevent the occurrence of such
incidents. Keeping CBM going does not mean
ceding ground on security concerns; a two-track
approach is needed.
In the wake of recent experience, we need to amend our
policy of appeasement and accommodation. Einstein’s
definition that insanity is doing the
same thing over and over again and
expecting different results next time,
holds out a lesson for India. Our
confused and inconsistent policy
based on faulty assumptions needs to
be substituted by a realistic assessment of our neighbour’s
intentions and actions.
As for the current episode, macabre though it is, it should
be kept in mind that such acts have allegedly occurred in
the past on both sides of the border, going by our own
media accounts.
A plea for peace is not meant to wish away serious
differences. Pakistan has erred repeatedly — this time,
26/11 and Kargil. However, the Pakistan state is under
siege, and provoking a conflict at this stage will
strengthen the Pakistan Army and religious extremists in
their bid to wrest more political power from and further
weaken the civilian government. Hence, this is the time to
exercise restraint.
The gruesome act of barbarism displayed by the
beheading of an Indian soldier followed by total denial
and blustering, though reprehensible, is neither the first of
its kind, nor unexpected from Pakistan. What is
unacceptable is that despite many such incidents in the
past, India did not press into action a well-thought-out
response within hours of the incident; not as a retaliatory
measure but to make tactical deterrence credible.
Ensuring tactical deterrence and preventing any border
violation is the responsibility of local commanders
It would be foolhardy to overlook the spin-offs from
increased bilateral trade, particularly when the developed
countries are in crisis. The business community on both
sides is only being pragmatic in pressing for a reduction
in trade barriers. Bilateral trade talks held last year
marked a major step forward, with both countries
agreeing to keep their ‘negative lists’ to a minimum.
After policy guidelines and Standard Operating
Procedures are laid down, local decision-making and
execution should be left to the local commanders.
Pakistan should be informed that our response will be in
real time, and decisive. The deterrence content of our
actions should be enhanced through improved equipment
and technological support. Given the clarity of
instructions, our troops are capable of delivering the
impossible. A delayed, hesitant and confused response not
only conveys a wrong message to our adversaries, but
demoralises our own forces and dents the national will.
Over the last decade, despite Kargil and 26/11, both
countries have improved cultural, commercial and peopleto-
people exchanges. This has set in motion an
irreversible change in popular perception: Pakistan is no
longer the mysterious ‘other’ it used to be. Cricket
matches between the two countries are now a benign
affair, and not ‘war by other means’.
The Prime Minister’s statement that there would be no
more “business as usual” and the Defence Minister
terming the incident as a ‘turning point’ send a strong
message. Unfortunately though, in the past too, much
braver assertions were made and forgotten. Pakistanis
laugh it off as a bluster meant for domestic consumption
As psycho-analyst Salman Akhtar has observed, the
wounds of Partition have started to heal, with the urge for
revenge giving way to remorse, reconciliation and


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