Ajai Sahni cautions against Pak retaliation
Counter Terrorism expert, Dr. Ajai Sahni, believes the tone of triumphalism following India’s surgical strikes on terror camps needs to be toned down.
As Director of the Institute of Conflict Management, Dr. Sahni points out that ` no single incident will change the terrorism paradigm given that Pakistan has been backing terrorism for the last 30 years.’
`While there is no doubt that Pakistan has been taught a lesson,’ Sahni believes `they will go in for a tactical reappraisal. The Taliban leadership has been targeted for the last fifteen years but they are still there. Pakistan has sent them deeper underground into more protected areas. The whole problem is with our orientation. India does not have a silver bullet and this problem will not be solved by a single initiative.’
Elaborating on the prevailing situation, Sahni said, `Even if we decide to renege on the Indus Water Agreement which is comprising of three complex river systems, it will still take us ten years to turn the waters off. This will not happen overnight. We will have to build run-off-the-river projects and that will take time.’
`I have been stating all these years that we need to go in for a series of complex and protracted economic, social and diplomatic initiatives against Pakistan. This is not a problem which will get resolved in the next six months. We have to keep on mounting cumulative pressure against them. Have a cumulative 20-year strategy which will have to be sustained by political will. If our perspective remains short term as has been the case between 1984 -2016, we will continue to meet with little success. We need to translate our action by using all the instrumentalities at our command.
The question before us is how will Pakistan retaliate to these surgical strikes ? Sahni sees a strong possibility of their retaliation especially since there is tremendous pressure on the Pakistani government by their own public.
`These strikes by the Indian army has changed the entire paradigm.For the last 30 years, Pakistan believed India would not cross the LOC. Now the entire context has changed. Pakistan will have to rejig its strategies appropriately and adopt different tactics. They will have to change,’ said Sahni.
What is even more significant, Sahni believes, is the manner in which India has succeeded in delegitimizing Pakistan across the globe.
`India’s case has been accepted by all countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar. China has its own reservations.
`Pakistan is on the cusp of facing global sanctions. They F 26 aircraft deal has been denied to them. The free ticket available to them five to seven years ago is not available anymore. The US designated terrorist groups are known to emanate from Pakistan,’ he said.
The recent SAARC episode with Afghanistan, Bangla Desh and Bhutan refusing to attend the summit in Pakistan has proved a further embarrassment for them
The potential costs of retaliation are exponentially greater for them especially since Pakistan is now accepted as the wellspring of regional and international terrorism.
` Modi has built up this response by orchestrating the SAARC conference and getting the support of regional players. This has given greater legitimacy to our retaliatory measures. The US supports India’s position,’ he added.
The US was not aware of these strikes but US National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s phone call on Thursday seemed an uncanny coincidence. She is reported to have told India’s National Security Adviser Doval that the US stood by India and Pakistan cannot support terror-based activities.
For the present, the situation is dynamic but Sahni believes Pakistan will change only when ` its own survival is threatened.’
Sahni gave no credence to Pakistan’s description of these strikes being nothing more than cross-border firing. `This is a standard Pakistan response. The fact is the loss of face they have suffered is tremendous,’ he added.
On the issue of whether these strikes would leave Nawaz Sharif weaker, in the long run, Sahni gave a curt reply. ` We don’t know. He could become stronger if the army feels they need a civilian government to take the flak. In the long run, it makes no difference. Whether there is an army takeover or the civilian government remains in power, the fact is that terror will stay.’
`”Every government in Pakistan supports terrorism. It is recalibrated according to the prevailing circumstances. We must realise we are dealing with the Pakistan state- it does not matter what their internal politics is,’ said Sahni.