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Artillery strikes on Pakistan will only bring good PR. For impact, India needs more Balakots

India can flail around like a helpless giant, engaging in pointless artillery duels with Pakistan or increase penalty each time the neighbor crosses the line.

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The killing of five Indian Special Forces soldiers by Pakistan Army sponsored terrorists required an Indian military response. But not this. The effect of India’s retaliatory artillery strikes on Pakistan’s behavior is easy to predict: zero, zilch, nada. Though the drone footage of artillery shells falling on (presumably) Pakistani positions might impress India’s WhatsApp warriors, it is not going to change the Pakistan Army’s behavior even an iota.

This is easy to predict, partly because India has done this many times in the past, with no discernible effect. So there is no reason to expect the results this time to be any different. But mostly, it is an easy prediction because its logic appears to be the same as it always was: a publicity stunt to demonstrate that action was being taken rather than a calculated effort to deter future attacks.

Also read: Effect of surgical and Balakot strikes gone. Piecemeal policies against Pakistan won’t work

Pakistan won’t pause

Artillery attacks are the silliest form of military retaliation because Pakistan can easily reply in the same coin. Maybe Indian attacks will be more precise, or will kill more Pakistani soldiers, but these are marginal considerations for the Pakistan Army. The fact that India destroyed one more bunker than Pakistan did or that it managed to blow up a Pakistan ammunition dump will not even figure in Pakistan Army’s calculations, let alone alter that math.  Don’t expect even a pause in the Pakistan Army’s effort to push terrorists into Kashmir.

Artillery and mortar duels across the LoC do not demonstrate Indian military’s superiority but rather a false military equivalence between the two sides. If Pakistan Army’s behavior is any guide, it actually breeds confidence that they can hold their own against India and that Pakistan is militarily as strong as India.

This is actually a lot worse than failing to deter Pakistan because it encourages the neighbour to continue its policy of supporting terror. The overriding impression – and hence the message – of India’s action is that it is unwilling or unable to escalate.  This is disappointing because, in the last few years, India appeared to have overcome its traditional fear of escalation, as demonstrated by the surgical strike and the Balakot attack. What is in doubt now is India’s capacity to stay the course. Both those attacks broke the mould: the surgical strike because India openly claimed it, and the Balakot attack because India retaliated inside Pakistan’s territory for the first time.

Also read: Islamabad’s claim over Kabul gurdwara bomber ‘reeks of Pakistani conspiracy to save him’

India needs to continually penalise Pakistan

But occasional attacks like these will not suffice.  New Delhi has to be prepared to militarily escalate each time Pakistan tests it. It should be prepared to escalate further if Pakistan responds to its escalation. Even in Balakot, India let Pakistan’s retaliatory attack go unanswered. Although there were some extenuating circumstances: one of India’s pilots had been shot down and was a prisoner and getting him back took precedence. Moreover, India had already undertaken a paradigm-breaking move.  Both these factors provided a limited excuse for not escalating further.

New Delhi needs to address this key question: whether it is retaliating for show or effect? Until now, save the surgical strike and Balakot, India’s retaliation has been for show: to simply demonstrate that it was enraged. But it was an impotent rage, a flailing around that Pakistan could safely laugh it off while India suffered. It demonstrated more of India’s helplessness than its strength. Most unfortunately, it appeared to suggest that India’s conventional military superiority was useless in tackling Pakistan’s terror tactics.

The surgical strike and Balakot appeared to be the first step to suggest that India was moving towards retaliation for effect, to demonstrate to Pakistan that it could escalate in a manner that neighbour would not be able to match. Although none of the two attacks went as far as they should have, they at least ended the long-standing myth that any Indian escalation would lead to an uncontrolled action-reaction spiral, all the way to a nuclear exchange.

Also read: Many in J&K’s Sopore booked for lockdown violation as they attend Jaish militant’s funeral

Looking beyond Balakot

But these strikes needed to be followed up with further action to demonstrate that India has both the capacity and willingness to escalate. New Delhi should have used every serious terrorist attack as an excuse for escalation, and any military response from Pakistan as an excuse for further escalation.

The problem, of course, is that this requires discipline: it takes longer-term planning, careful preparation and calibrated action. Any Indian action would lead to a response. Indian reactions to all possible Pakistani responses need to be prepared prior to any action, even while fully realising that not everything can be predicted or controlled. But a dedicated deterrence strategy and disciplined preparation would give India a much better chance of dealing with the inevitable surprises that are bound to occur with any such enterprise.

Alternatively, India can flail around like a helpless giant, engaging in pointless artillery duels, because as sure as night follows day, we’ll be here again and again.

The author is a professor in International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Views are personal.

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  1. The interntional terrorist, fanatic and beggar will die its own death. India need not use a bullet to kill this mosquito.
    They are just jealous of India.

  2. During Balakot I thought ‘why only Balakot, why not a few more similar strikes?’. It never happened so border skirmishes are to continue, at least until the next general elections – you get the drift.

  3. Not just India but the JNU prof is also flailing around like a helpless giant and indulging in pointless actions. What a rubbish oped venting his own lack of ideas and appreciation of ground realities..

    First lets examine the trigger for this piece – emotional reaction from losing 5 Special Forces men in a single action. This has happened before and this will happen again, both for structural reasons to do with deficiencies in our military as well as the very nature of war. If he cant handle 5 KIA in an Op how will he and this nation of armchair bravehearts handle multiple more casualties going down whatever vague path of robust action he fantasizes about.

    Did Surgical Strike and Balakot – which the Prof also admits did not “go far enough” have any tangible impact on Pakistani policy – no. So what does he mean by going far enough – limited war, full scale war? Has he mapped out how we will deescalate or exit if things dont go as per plan or is that not fashionable to think about? He thinks it is a myth that India-Pak conventional military action wont spiral out of control. As an academic with no skin in the game this is the very definition of what people like Nassim Taleb call the IYI – intellectual yet idiot.

    Pakistan’s asymmetric strategy is successful precisely because it does not have any conventional military counter. This does not mean we should not retaliate or mourn our fallen, all it means is we need to accept this attritional war for what it is.

    What will change things? A complete revolution in India’s national security set up in which we transform our approach to this asymmetric war. But that takes apart from time a level of motivation and competence in the military and other national security stakeholders to think in asymmetric terms. Which as the author has amply demonstrated by his own fulminations we lack.

    You cannot fight an unconventional war conventionally.

  4. Typical rant of a JNU you know what. The qualification “JNU” stamps the author and his rant as just that. Rant intended to mislead people. He, if I am not mistaken belongs to the discredited Marxian thinking.Thinking of a mentally deranged outcast who was cast out of society because of the smell he emanated that could not be suffered by any human being. It is a social ostracisation that led to the creation of the Marxian ideology of destruction.

    What he wants is for India to go to war when we can least afford it when we are facing a pandemic. There is a time and place for military action and at the appropriate time India will be undertaking that. These are people with suicide mania putting destroying India will help them provide the pseudo-Marxist ideology. We had pseudo-Marxism in West Bengal and what happened? We have pseudo-Marxism in Kerala and we all know that it has become an open state with no industry or GDP accruing institution. If the centre doesn’t pay, if Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to not allow food products and essentials to come in, what will Kerala be? A periodically tom-tom that there are thousands of expats and they’re holding up India. The truth is the expats constitute 1% of India’s population and they contribute less that half percent towards India’s income. Maybe 25 years ago it was a necessary evil. Now it is irrelevant and is only breeding antinationals. Now in these times of pandemic, they are demanding to be flown in free of cost as a matter of right. I think it is time that the government of India demand that those who are going for a job abroad should deposit return fare so that in these times the government can coordinate and bring in those who needs to come.
    Some man of limited knowledge filed a silly idiotic petition seeking India to spend its GDP completely on bringing in the expats. Thankfully the Supreme Court dismissed the petition because the judge just knew what was being asked for and the reason therefore. We had another bench ordering everybody be given free Corona tests without any consideration whatsoever about the financial implications and the affordability. That the order was half baked is clear from the fact that on being appraised of what everybody else knows, the honourable Supreme Court varied the order limiting the test to the “poor”. I think there are a lot of material that need to be looked at before such an order can be passed. I do not think it is a proper order and I think it is per incurium.
    It is these sort of behaviour is of shooting from the hip all loaded petitions of lefties from the shoulders of innocent foods that has caused most damage to Indian polity, society and economy. I think that has to be some serious thought into many of these issues after the Corona pandemic is over

  5. After Pakistan took out keeda from Modi’s 56″ backside, and Hindu Army’s rear, they are now resorted to good old days practice of artillery using.

  6. Your IAF shot down own military helicopter, Mi-17, killing 6 crew aboard. Stop slumdog-dreaming and focus on COVID-19 which Modi has blamed on Muslims in India.

  7. JNU has produced saner minds, but this author is delusional. Every action by India will have an equal and opposite reaction. So call surgical strike as well as Balakot was swiftly responded to at the time and place of Pakistans choosing.

  8. Very well and bluntly written article.
    Punishing Pakistan is the only solution. There cost of fighting and maintaining should be very very High.
    Diplomatically we have to give stern understanding to China, strictly no interference while India is Punishing China.
    Even if China interferes, ignore it like Israil does when it screws Palistinians and whole world cries hoarse against it.
    We may have some casualties, but that’s the cost of maintaining peace, already we are loosing hundreds of security forces every year in Kashmir.

  9. How shameless indians are..ur pilot was shot down in broad day light and anothr chopper also but still you glorify ur failure.wt a pity.. Also u hav written dt india could have stayed course but how could after abinandens story. It broke indias back also the courage.. The proof for both the adventures is also not to b found yet although indua claimed long ago dt v they have 1… India banks on myths but alas the people of india bliv those myths.. But then dts wt india is all about. B dt modi’s 15 lack to the acc holders, demonitization, jobs etc..everthing is a myth

  10. The fact that more Balakots are needed, is proof that Balakot itself was a failure.

    So keep escalating till war.. And then what happens?! We’ve already fought wars with Pakistan.. did the terrorism stop?!

    Is a nuclear war as simple as lighting a coil to kill mosquitoes?! Won’t Pakistan also retaliate?!

    The only option is to talk with Pakistan.. else this to and fro of bloodshed will only continue!!

    • At last a very reasoned and thoughtful unbiased comment from an indian. Why cant India just talk and negotiate with its neighbour who is not going to be wished away by extremist indians Or destroyed militarily. Its a myth perpetrated by the hindutva and fake indian media that Pak is a terrorist state. If one applies the same criteria then India is a bigger state terrorist. There is only one solution And that is negotiations and normalisation of relations. IK invited modi to take a step and he would take two steps towards peace! What did Modi do in response? Tried to isolate Pak internationally and launched ‘fake surgical strikes’. To show his hindutva followers that he is a tough guy. Majority of indians like the pakistanis want peace. They should stand up and demand this of Modi.

    • Its not abhinandan only. On next day of failed Balakot adventure – an IAF fighter pilot committed suicide apparently for dropping payload. Eventually IAF squadron resignation taken in few days for not even appearing on media and telling about failed adventure

  11. Today a two year old child was martyred in kashmir due to Indian shelling. Let that sink in for a moment.

  12. Lol، Rajesh Gopal won’t even do well as a bollywood film script writer. This plot has been filmed too many times now. In reality its Pakistan that keeps shooting down Indian planes and keep killing indian not so special forces. I am sorry but it is what it is.

  13. Balakot strike was an unmatched disaster…..If the purpose was to show that India could do what Israel does in Syria…exactly the reverse results came out…….India struck in the middle of night …PAF struck in India in broad day light….India lost a Mig & Mi17 helicopter…..PAF was able to jam all communications between IAF jets so much so that the SU 30 & Mirage 2000 could not even attack the intruding Pakistan JF 17 & F 16.Hence PAF gained a tactical & psychological edge……so to talk of escalating now does not make much sense !!!

  14. Aggression is not in our genes whereas Mughals downward that’s been the identity of some nations such as the one on our western neighbourhood. Clearly it isn’t the political will to retaliate that’s lacking, perhaps the much needed modern military ware to ensure tactical superiority over a short period of engagement.

  15. Honestly cannot figure out what the columnist is suggesting. Neither surgical strikes nor Balakot have given us respite, so keep doing more, and at a higher level of use of force. And remain sanguine that some miscalculation or unintended act will not lead to war. Conventional to begin with. Aamne saamne baith kar baat cheet karne mein kya taqleef hai.

  16. Please give steps. Don’t just advise. Do you want a full fledged war ? If yes, first right down the consequences. Don’t instigate aam admi into thinking that it is an easy thing to do and those who are in military and power don’t know how to conduct the affairs of the country.

  17. I’m sure the Government of India understands that artillery fire assaults will not deter Pakistan. However a Balakot-type air strike in the middle of a global pandemic for an action of this type and magnitude (5 Indian soldiers and an equal number of terrorists killed) would not be appropriate. Besides, the air skirmish after Balakot showed up gaps in India’s aerial combat capability which are hopefully being fixed. What one hopes, of course, is that the artillery fire assault is not the only punitive action being undertaken – it ought to be possible to do further damage within Pakistan through cover operations.

    • Even USA is turning and running with its tail between legs, tera india kis kheth ki mooli hai, chutye..Indians have always been conquered by Muslims.. Indians are just twitter don’t have the genes to fight.

      • Well said. India needs to realise that there is only a peaceful solution to this situation. If many world powers had to settled huge territorial problems by negotiation, then two countries who shared same heritage and culture should do the same.

  18. After your sincere suggestions, now guess why India does not act according to your suggested ideas???

    Its because your military and political leadership (fully aware of the Pakistan’s capabilities and expected response) is scared of the harsh and counter-productive consequences of such foolish ideas and actions
    Surely they know the things that can not fit into your childish mind

  19. Isn’t the fact that ‘more’ Balakots are required proof that the Balakot strike itself was unsuccessful?!! So how will more such unsuccessful attempts lead to eventual success?!

    The author is talking about nuclear war like he was going to launch a fogging operation against the neighbourhood mosquitoes!! Pakistan also has nuclear weapons.

    There are two ways to stop terrorism from Pakistan.. keep escalating until it leads to a war, or talk. And maybe I’m stupid, but the latter seems the smarter option – both in terms of the economy and lives!

  20. U think india has capacity… u want another balakot… u r dumb as duffer.. quarantine has negatively effected u… smoke something good…

  21. Is there anything new this author wants to say,?
    Entire article is about events happened many months back. This msg could have been delivered in 140 character tweet.

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