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Home >Politics >Policy >Uri attack is tantamount to Pakistan audacity, says former Army officer

New Delhi: A week since Pakistan based terrorists struck the Indian army garrison in Uri, north Kashmir, India has clearly indicated that it cannot be business as usual with Pakistan. Srinath Raghavan, a former Indian Army officer, now with the New Delhi based Centre for Policy Research think tank and author of books on India’s foreign and security policies says deterrence by denial i.e. strengthening India’s home land security systems is a better way of deterring Pakistan. Edited excerpts:

The attack on the Uri army camp by Pakistan based terrorists—isn’t this a deja vu situation?

We have seen these situations happen in the past, there is a long history of Pakistan sponsored terrorism. But the fact they were able to come and strike at an army unit location and inflict such levels of damage suggests a certain degree of audacity which is certainly a new development. In the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, we have not seen anything quite as audacious as this being attempted.

So how do we deal with Pakistan?

Can we do something to put a full stop to the attacks – that is a very ambitious sort of undertaking. This is not a problem which is going to be solved but it is problem we can manage. With any military option – whether artillery strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) without crossing it or army action across LoC or air strikes –the levels of damage that you want to inflict on Pakistan will have to be of such magnitude that the Pakistanis will respond strongly. If you do something milder, it might send out a signal to your domestic audience that you are doing something but beyond that, it is not going to give any results. So that is the fundamental conundrum. What I find missing in the debates since Uri is the deterrence by denial concept. That is, how are we strengthening our systems to make attacks on us progressively more and more difficult. This is a matter of improving our homeland security systems. If we put in more effort into strengthening our capabilities, we could deny Pakistan the capability to attack. In denial-based options, things are under your control at least in the first instance.

There is a lot of expectation that the Narendra Modi government will take some action. Has the PM become a victim of his own rhetoric?

Ever since he came into office, the Prime Minister has reached out to Pakistan, he has tried some moves, things have unravelled since then. He hasn’t done anything since taken office that might fuel such expectations among his supporters. This is not the first time terrorist attacks are happening under his watch. He has been measured. Like all leaders who come into positions of great power and responsibility, he realises that you have to take multiple considerations into account before making any move. And I think that is a good sign.

Does the international situation (lesser tolerance for terrorism around the world) lend support to India taking strong action ie military action against Pakistan?

In theory, while there may not be explicit support for India in responding forcefully, the international context is likely to be benign—so long as the situation is not seen as escalating. But Pakistan would have every incentive to respond in such a manner as to convince the international opinion that the situation is in fact escalating and so direct pressure on India. In practice, therefore, the diplomatic context of any military action will be challenging for India.

What should be done to change the perception that when it comes to Pakistan sponsored terrorism, it is not just India’s problem?

There is a lot of agreement in principle that terrorism is not acceptable. But when it comes to dealing with terrorism, it is invariably looked at in the context of India-Pakistan relations. The challenge for our diplomacy is to reorient that discourse and that way of framing the issue. In practice, Pakistan has got support from two of the most important powers in the world today – the US and China. We need to convince the US and China that unless they can make sure that Pakistan restrains itself and does not allow terrorism against India then there will be wider consequences -- not just what India will do but for the region as a whole. Historically, most great powers have understood the need to restrain smaller powers which are misbehaving. We have to make sure that our restraint is not taken for granted."

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