What happened in Uri last week was an act of war, but as usual we diminished it by describing it as terrorism. Ever since it was defeated in Kargil nearly 20 years ago, Pakistan has made it absolutely clear time and time again that it will wage a new kind of war against India, and yet the men in charge of India’s security remain in denial. If we had acknowledged at least after 26/11 that India was in a state of war, then it is possible that the urgency that wartime brings may have become evident by now, and it would not have been so easy for four men to inflict the damage they did at a brigade headquarters so close to the border.
The Defence Minister acknowledged later that mistakes must have been made for the attack to have been so successful. We must hope that he will now punish those who were careless enough to allow 18 Indian soldiers to be killed so easily. The horrible truth is that Pakistan’s military strategists seem to know exactly what they are doing while in India our strategists continue to deal with national security in a dangerously lackadaisical fashion. So as we approach the eighth anniversary of 26/11, we need to truthfully admit that neither Mumbai, nor the coast on which our commercial capital sits is any safer today than it was in 2008. It is true that armoured cars can be seen in the streets of Mumbai when there is a ‘high alert’ and true that there are patrol boats visible now and then in the waters that separate this island city from the mainland of India. But, it is equally true that the men involved in these operations have no special training.
So if the men spotted in Uran last week were Pakistani jihadists, it is very possible they will find it just as easy to hold Mumbai to ransom for as long as Ajmal Kasab and gang did. It is also possible that like last time, it will take 24 hours for trained commandos to be transported to Mumbai, and that after landing in this city, there will be the logistical delays we saw last time. If we want things to change, we will have to begin by acknowledging that we are not dealing with random religious fanatics but with Pakistani soldiers trained in a new kind of warfare. Jihadist groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba are assets of the Pakistani army.
After 18 soldiers were killed in Uri, spokesmen of the government of India did an excellent job internationally defining Pakistan as a country that uses terrorism as State policy. This is good but unnecessary since Pakistan is already viewed as the headquarters of the worldwide jihad by almost every country except China. What we should be concentrating more on is strengthening India’s defences exactly as we would in a time of war.
Instead of dithering between dialogue and hostilities, we should recognise that the military men who control Pakistan’s foreign policy have a vested interest in hostilities. Tea parties with Nawaz Sharif will make no difference. What may make a difference is if we deal directly with the military men. Dr Manmohan Singh did this with Pervez Musharraf and, from all accounts, came closest to bringing about a Kashmir solution. Musharraf himself admitted at a press conference I was present at in Davos that a solution was possible if everyone took one step back from their stated positions. Then he lost his job and the rest is history.
Speaking of Kashmir, we need also to accept that Pakistan’s hatred of India is unlikely to end even if our Kashmir problem does. It is no longer the ‘core issue’ but merely an excuse to pursue the ultimate dream, which is to break India into pieces. It is frightening how many ordinary Pakistanis believe that this is one day going to happen. It seems to comfort them in their own failed Islamic republic to think that one day Pakistan will become India’s equal. India’s economic achievements since we abandoned Nehruvian socialism frighten Pakistanis almost more than our military strength. It is no accident that of all Indian cities it was Mumbai that was targeted in 2008.
So we must accept that it is no longer just Kashmir that is the issue. And that we are at war. Pakistan does indeed produce an endless supply of recruits for the worldwide jihad but the men it sends to India to kill innocent people are a different breed. They may be soldiers of Islam like ordinary jihadists but they have also been trained to think of India as an ‘existential threat’. If we are to defend our beloved Dar ul Harb against Allah’s soldiers, we must begin by accepting that we are at war with Pakistan.
Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh