Despite the war jingoism, anti- Pakistan media rants, slogans of revenge and threats of military strike against Pakistan since the Pulwama attack on paramilitary convoy in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, India has limited options against Pakistan.
There is no doubt that tension is running very high. The Indian government is under lot of pressure from hardline Hindu extremist groups to retaliate against Pakistan. The general elections are just couple of months away. This attack is going to be an important issue during the election campaign. This is a crucial election for BJP and PM Modi.
But the question is what the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi really can do. So let’s see what sort of options Indian government really has at the moment. The Indian government has already suspended the trade between the two countries. India has withdrawn the Pakistan’s most favoured Nation status. So what else Indian government can do to satisfy the hardline extremist Hindu groups and voters?
What else India can do to harm Pakistan economically. There is very little room for economic maneuvers. India will need the cooperation of US and major European powers to hurt the economic interests of Pakistan. But they might not do that because Afghan peace process is underway and US is talking with Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan.
India is also trying to get Pakistan blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force – an inter-governmental body established in July 1989 to combat money laundering. Pakistan is already on the organisation’s watch list and would join the likes of North Korea and Iran if it gets blacklisted.
The other option for India is to launch diplomatic offensive against Pakistan to isolate it internationally. But all the efforts in the past failed to bring desired results. India failed to isolate Pakistan. So there is little India can do alone on this front.
The military options are also on the table. These could include a surgical or targeted strike against terrorist bases or an air strike by Indian fighter jets – even from within Indian Territory – on selected terrorist targets. There are lot of talks and discussions on possible surgical strike inside Pakistan.
Modi led Indian government claimed such a surgical strike in the past but never provided details of such action. The Indian media is ready to make a fictional surgical strike a reality.
Will the Pakistan tolerate such a surgical strike or missile attack on its land, the answer is no. Pakistan will retaliate, any sort of strike or attack on its territory. Pakistan will consider such attack or strike a declaration of war. I don’t think India really afford or even wanted a war. There is very little that India can do militarily to show its military muscle.
There are some who arguing that India may walk out of the Indus Water Treaty,which was signed by the two neighbours in September 1960. While this would create problems for Pakistan, it could also backfire on India diplomatically as it would be seen as a case of New Delhi having unilaterally withdrawn from a treaty that was mutually agreed upon. This could also be used by extremist elements within Pakistan to whip up anti-India sentiment.
Modi, speaking at an event after the attack, said: “I know there is deep anger, your blood boils looking at what has happened. At this moment, there are expectations and the feelings of a strong response which is quite natural. We have given full freedom to the security forces.”
The Pulwama attack and the way New Delhi responds may well decide not only the fate of India-Pakistan relations for the foreseeable future, but the way India is perceived in the region and beyond. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has already warn India that Islamabad will retaliate if New Delhi takes any military action – something India’s military commanders will have to take into account.
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17 November, 2019