There is a debate ongoing after the recent airstrikes on the alleged terrorist targets in Balakot in Pakistan. However, the debate is largely political. For the purpose of UPSC preparation, we will look at the questions these incidents have thrown up and how they have fundamentally altered India’s foreign policy doctrine vis-a-vis Pakistan.
The Pulwama Attack and its Aftermath
- The large quantity of explosives used in this attack raises serious questions on the effectiveness of the counterinsurgency (and counter-terrorism) grid. How did such a large cache of explosives reach the Pulwama district of South Kashmir? Were the explosives smuggled from across the border? Were the explosives procured internally? Irrespective of whether the explosives were smuggled into or procured internally, serious questions need to be asked about the effectiveness of the security forces in controlling further proliferation of the explosive materials.
- The planners of the attack may have recruited a local Kashmiri boy to execute the suicide bombing, and he may not have needed elaborate training for the execution. Perhaps, the only qualifications needed for such an attack were driving skills and a die-hard motivation to carry a Fidayeen strike. Given the rising recruitment of local Kashmiris in the Pakistan-based groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), would it not be easy for the recruiters to find motivated local youth to conduct more attacks? Do the security forces have an elaborate intelligence-gathering mechanism to track the activity of such recruits?
- There has been a vehement denial in Kashmir and in some circles in Delhi regarding the trend of radicalisation of Kashmiri youth. Fardeen Khanday was one of the first Fidayeen attackers recruited by the JeM. In a video recorded before his death, he called for more boys to join the cause of JeM. From the news reports, it appears that suicide bomber Aadil Ahmed joined the JeM two months after Fardeen’s attack. Is a new crop of homegrown suicide bombers and Fidayeen attackers coming up in Jammu and Kashmir? How will the security forces deal with this development and prevent such recruitments?
- There is a growing sense of alienation and unease among the Kashmiris from the mainland and this is evident from the fact that local Kashmiri youth are joining militancy in the valley in large numbers in the recent years. Has the central government abandoned the Vajpayee policy of Kasmiriyat and the Manmohan policy of tolerance and compassion towards the misguided Kashmiri youth in favour of zero tolerance to dissent in the valley and rule of the gun?
- The post-Pulwama incidents in different parts of the country witnessed attacks on innocent Kashmiri students while the central and state governments watched like silent spectators. Is the central government sending out a message that all Kashmiris would be punished for militant acts of a few individuals?
The Questions after Balakot Strike
India’s retaliation after the Pulwama terror attack at the Balakot training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), that carried out the Pulwama bombing, has raised many questions that need to be addresses.
- Will the strike deter Pakistan from providing terrorist groups like JeM a safe haven on its soil for carrying out terror strikes in Kashmir at will in the future?
- Since India has used its Air Force for the “non-military”, “anti-terror” strike at Balakot inside Pakistan and to which Pakistan promptly responded two days later by using its F-16’s to strike at India’s military installations in Kashmir, will future escalations involve the Air Force as a matter of routine? If yes, is there a guarantee that such an escalation will not lead to a nuclear conflict between the nuclear-armed neighbours?
- In a worst case scenario of nuclear escalation, is India prepared to handle the fallout and protect its citizens from the terrible destruction of a nuclear attack?
- India has been lobbying hard in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to designate the JeM founder Azhar Masood as a Global Terrorist under section 1267 of the UNSC framework. However, China has been blocking its efforts in this regard. What is India’s strategy vis-a-vis China to ensure that it does not come in the way of India’s national security concerns?
- What is India’s changed Pakistan policy post-Balakot? Is the door for diplomacy and dialogue closed forever unless Pakistan permanently abandons its policy of harbouring anti-India terrorist elements on its soil?
- In the event of a future terror attack in J&K or another part of the country carried out at the behest of Pakistan, will India respond militarily as in the case of Balakot or the use of coercive diplomacy is still not ruled out?
The above questions are of importance from the viewpoint of national security and India’s foreign policy with respect to Pakistan. The sooner these are addressed, the better.