Yes, there is no other choice

I have been saying since the beginning of the year that now is the best time for India to go for a defining war against Pakistan. After the attack on Parliament and the resultant massing of troops on the border, there have been all sorts of happenings: promises by Gen. Musharraf to contain cross-border terrorism, banning of certain Pakistani terrorist groups, etc.

But at the end of all this, where are we? Nothing has changed. Terrorist acts continue to bleed India. The latest, as I write this, is the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gujarat.

I have said this before, and I say this again: enough of turning the other cheek. Pakistanis have continued to hurt India because they can see that India is a paper tiger. Despite all the fine words about revenge and “befitting replies,” India has actually done nothing. This is the worst possible response to terrorism: for, the terrorist is emboldened. His logic is simple: I hurt the enemy. If I were the enemy, I would hit back with all the force at my disposal. The enemy has not done this. Therefore, I conclude that the enemy is incapable of hitting back. Therefore, it is time to hit him harder and more brutally.

This is exactly what has prompted the increasingly bold attacks by Pakistani terrorists on India. The attacks on Parliament, those on the army facilities in Kaluchak and several others, the burning of the Sabarmati Express, the killing of Hindu pilgrims on the Amarnath trek, and most recently, the attack on hundreds of Hindu worshippers at the Akshardham temple.

The Pakistani logic is impeccable. In fact, Musharraf is in a win-win situation. If, on the one hand, India does not retaliate, each successful attack on their part encourages more and more terrorists to try their hand at another, more brazen, more violent attack.

If, on the other hand, Musharraf is able to create a situation in India where there is massive retaliation against Muslims, just like what happened in Gujarat after the Godhra carnage, then that is also good as far as the Pakistani is concerned. For, it is not out of concern for the Muslims of Kashmir or the rest of India that they are waging their war. They are religious fanatics who want to convert India into a Muslim country; in fact they want to convert the whole world to Islam.

The only thing that will get them out of this situation is a terrible military defeat, which India can inflict on them. Will they use their nuclear option? Perhaps. But they also know the consequence: their country will be wiped off the map. And bullies are cowards.

Bindu Raghavan is a software engineer and housewife in India.

No, not until we have exhausted all options

There are very good arguments for going to war against Pakistan. Nevertheless, we have to consider the fact that, even if India succeeds in wiping out Pakistan, a third of India, including Delhi and Bombay, is likely to be vaporized. The Pakistanis do have well tested made-in-China nuclear bombs and missiles. Therefore, in a cost benefit trade-off, open war remains the last resort.

Furthermore, recent elections in Jammu and Kashmir have shown the weariness of the public with terrorism there. The bullet is losing to the ballot: let’s not waste this golden opportunity to improve things in Kashmir by falling for bellicose war rhetoric.

Pakistan wants to establish a Muslim empire in India. They idolize medieval Muslim raiders, Afghans/Turks/Mongols et al and wish to emulate them. But India has won every conventional war due to superiority in numbers and a much larger economy. Knowing this, Pakistan will almost certainly use their nuclear weapon as they begin to lose the next conventional war.

But they too do not want to go to open war. Hence their “asymmetrical warfare.” So far, this has succeeded for two reasons: one, the incompetence of the Indian response, and two, covert support by the U.S. In case of war, undoubtedly the U.S. will bring down serious sanctions on India: a small foretaste was the warning to Western nationals to leave India; another is the S&P downgrade.

There’s nothing India can do about No. 2. As for No. 1, India’s response has failed because it has not hurt the Pakistanis in any way: all the damage is to India. This has to change. If not muscle, we must use guile. Covert tactics may be the answer.

First, infiltration and counter espionage. If terrorist cells are compromised, and they cannot trust anybody for safe houses and support in India, attacks will diminish. Second, counter-terror. You can always buy people off with the right bait: money, sex, whatever their vice is. Spectacular attacks on Pakistani civilian targets can be arranged: you do one in India, we do three in Pakistan.

Third, counter-incentives. If a terrorist is reasonably sure loved ones will be located and hurt by covert forces, he is less likely to volunteer to be a suicide bomber. Fourth, imposing costs on the higher-ups. Today, Pakistani generals just move some lines on a map, and Indians die. If this can be made more concrete to the generals, as in, I have to watch where I eat or pray because Indian counter-terrorists may shoot me, that would make them think twice. Nobody likes to live in fear.

India’s RAW has been an underutilized resource. Let us try covert tactics before going to war.

Rajeev Srinivasan wrote this from Bangalore, India.

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Rajeev Srinivasan considers San Francisco and Kerala his two homes. His columns also appear in Rediff on the Net and The Sunday Observer.

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