India and Pakistan are neighbours. Since we can’t change that we need to manage them. To manage them we need to understand their psyche and intentions.
When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan supported a guerilla war to oust them. The philosophy was to carry out guerilla attacks. When a Soviet Major General deployed his Division to invade Pakistan, all attacks stopped. He redeployed in a defensive formation after six months and attacks resumed.
General Zia-ul-Haque started to use the same strategy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts. Numerous attacks have taken place in India sponsored by Pakistan and we did not react in a meaningful manner to proactively ensure that these attacks stop.
In the Pulwama attack, loss of life was huge compared to the previous attacks and that has stirred our collective conscience into action. Pakistan asked for proof, which is needed when the accused pleads “not guilty”. Jaish has claimed responsibility, so why the proof? The surgical air strikes on the Jaish camps were not only in PoK but also in Pakistan. This has demonstrated that terrorists are not safe in Pakistan.
Pakistan denied that they lost mujahideen in this strike and has asked us for proof just like the previous surgical strike! Admitting that they lost mujahideen would have lowered the morale of the remaining mujahideen as well as given a message to the population that its armed forces are incapable of protecting the population against Indian attacks. It allows us to continue such attacks.
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Their NCA (Nuclear Command Authority) members met. Nuclear attack will invite massive retaliation from our side. About 7 crore people will perish on both sides. Pakistan will lose 40 per cent of population and we about 5 per cent. This is a cold mathematical calculation without humanitarian considerations.
Their Army rules Pakistan. ISI is its eyes and ears, while ISPR the mouth. All actions related to control of Pakistan are exercised by these organisations. Both are headed by serving generals who are subordinate to the Army chief. ISI sees and hears what the population does and says, ISPR decides what the population should hear and see. The PM is a facade to project that democracy is in place. Dialogue, if any, should be with the Pakistan Army which is the actual power centre. PAF is a subordinate service of that army. IAF struck. PAF was told to retaliate with no clear objectives. It had to obey orders from people who don’t know how to employ air power. They had to do something to assuage the domestic audience. They could not inflict any significant damage.
In the ensuing air combat, a 60s vintage MiG-21 shot down a much more modern F16. The MiG-21 was also hit and the pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had to eject. It is understood that the F16 pilot Wg Cdr Shahzaz-ud-din sustained injuries during ejection and was subsequently lynched by the local population who mistook his identity.
Since they attacked military targets it is an act of war and we reserve the right to escalate it. It could be a limited war where we seek behavioural modification or a total war to make them surrender unconditionally. The aim has to be selected with clarity and should be given to the military. If we back down from either of these options, how do we ensure there will not be another terrorist strike? Escalation is inevitable; we need to decide the level. We need to neutralise the root cause, which is the Pakistan Army and ISI leadership. They should pay for the consequences, not the misguided terrorists who are prepared to die anyway. International opinion should not dictate our actions. They will support us if we are strong.
Chacko flew MiG 25s; was faculty at Staff College, College of Defence Management