Home / Politics / Policy /  India signals a more muscular approach in dealing with Pakistan

New Delhi: The Indian government has signalled a more muscular approach towards Pakistan, with a senior government functionary saying that the country is poised to significantly increase its defence budget.

The person, who did not want to be named, said the spike in tensions with Pakistan was unlikely to impinge on India’s economic growth and stability.

“We have to live with it (Pakistan). One impact it will have on our finances is that we have to increase our defence budget. But we expect demonetisation and implementation of GST (goods and services tax, seen as India’s most ambitious tax reform) in the medium term, will give us enough to make higher allocations for defence," the person said.

When asked how India would respond to the killing and beheading of two Indian security personnel on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir on 1 May, the person said the Indian Army would choose the time and place for its response.

ALSO READ : Pakistan summons Indian envoy over alleged LoC ceasefire violation

India-Pakistan ties have been in free fall in the past year mainly due to three major attacks by terrorists on key military installations in India. On 2 January last year, terrorists attacked the Pathankot air force station, derailing a nascent peace process set in motion just weeks earlier with the visits of Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore in December 2015.

A second attack on an Indian Army garrison in Uri, Kashmir on 18 September and a third on an Indian Army residential complex in November stoked tensions between the two countries, derailing any hopes of the resumption of a dialogue stalled since 2013.

Tensions have remained high this year too with many violations of a 2003 ceasefire between the two countries being reported.

That India had already adopted a tougher line towards Pakistan came when its military, in a rare public announcement, said that on 29 September it had conducted “surgical strikes" to take out terrorist launch pads situated beyond the de facto border in Kashmir.

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The September surgical strikes were a response to the attack in Uri in which 19 Indian soldiers were killed.

Even prior to the surgical strikes, India’s response to Pakistan’s violations of a 2003 ceasefire pact between the two countries along their borders —seen as aimed at terrorizing the population living on the Indian side of the border or providing covering fire for terrorists waiting to infiltrate into India—has been seen as inflicting heavy damage on Pakistani posts and positions.

Evidence that there was no change of course came on Thursday with Pakistan summoning Indian deputy high commissioner J.P. Singh to the foreign office in Islamabad over firing along the LoC that killed one person and injured three others. Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria in Twitter posts accused India of violating the 2003 ceasefire agreement in Tandar, Sabzkot, Khuiratta, Baron, Bagsar and Khanjar.

The Indian shelling followed the death of a 35-year-old Indian woman in mortar shelling by Pakistani troops in the Nowshera sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district.

Analysts say increasing the defence budget and strengthening Indian defences were welcome steps but what India needs is a change in tactics.

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“Increasing the defence budget is fine but we need to know how to deal with the Pakistan Army which is a rogue army," said Gaurav Arya, a defence analyst. “We need to make it expensive for the Pakistan Army to wage war against us."

“We also need to be aware of the close links between China and Pakistan and we need to be ready to fight a two-front war," he added.

C.U. Bhaskar, a retired naval commodore and currently director of the Society for Policy Studies think tank in New Delhi, said: “India needs to acquire defence capacity to deal with a variety of challenges of which Pakistan is the most visible."

“A higher index of national power creates more space to deal with security challenges," he said. “But more than higher allocations, we have to spend the budget in an appropriate manner," he said, faulting budget spending for some of India’s security woes.

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