IN its unprecedented announcement that it had conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads along the Line of Control, India has opened a new front in its battle against terrorist groups operating from bases within Pakistani territory. The military operation has been officially described to be against infiltration and as pre-emptive in nature — “focused on ensuring that these terrorists do not succeed in their design to cause destruction and endanger the lives of our citizens”. The operation has since ceased and “we do not have any plans for further continuation”, said the DGMO. Yet, this is certainly no full stop, a new situation is here, and Thursday may be its Day 1. For now, India is balancing carefully on the step it has taken up the ladder of escalation vis a vis an adversary that had been counting so far on its incapacity or restraint or both. But for all the calibration, it is clear that this is also uncharted territory. Having sent out a strong message — to Pakistan, to the domestic audience and to the international community — that Pakistan cannot continue to gamble on India’s inaction against terror, it will now need all the wisdom and restraint of India’s leadership to ensure that it remains in control of the script it so dramatically redrew on Thursday.
Indeed, India has shown a varied arsenal in the days after the September 18 terror strike in Uri, in which 18 Indian soldiers lost their lives. Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke his silence last Saturday to make a political statement — about the opportunity being lost, because of the overhang of terror, to make this truly “Asia’s century”. India and Pakistan, he said, must compete with each other, instead, to fight their common enemies, of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, infant and maternal mortality. A diplomatic strategy unfolded subsequently — an attempt was made to corner Pakistan through a review of the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960, and to isolate it by calling off India’s participation in SAARC, and along with it, that of Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan as well. And finally, a military response has come on Thursday. A multi-tiered strategy has been brought into play to craft a retaliation to the Uri strike which is not a full-scale military mobilisation but which is not the do-nothing response that Pakistan has come to expect either.
WATCH VIDEO: India’s Surgical Strike: Beyond What The Govt Said
In days to come, Delhi will need to keep utmost clarity on its objective: To raise the costs for Pakistan in the proxy war it has conducted with seeming impunity against India over nearly three decades now. On the way, it must be watchful that the escalation is not fuelled by the clamour for more and does not acquire the shape that Pakistan might seek to give it.