G Parthasarathy

Advantage India, after Balakot air strike

G Parthasarathy | Updated on March 06, 2019

A file picture of a Mirage 2000 fighter jet releasing bombs during the IAF exercise named "Vayu Shakti 2019"   -  PTI

Pakistan’s current economic woes and political isolation are a result of its army’s destructive policies

After the precision air strikes by the Indian Air Force on the small town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, public attention in India is now focused on bringing the leaders of the Jaish-e- Mohammed, including Jaish Supremo Maulana Masood Azhar to justice.

Ironically, Azhar would not have been such a threat today if we did not cravenly release him after being blackmailed, during the Kandahar hijacking of IC 814. Those then released, included terrorists like Omar Syed Sheikh, who funded the 9/11 hijackers in the US and murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl.

Recurring pattern

The mass killing of Indians in terrorist strikes organised by the ISI has been a continuing feature of Pakistani policies, since the Mumbai bomb blasts on March 12, 1993. People seem to forget that 253 people were killed and 713 injured in the terrorist strikes in Mumbai in 1993. These killings were organised by the then ISI Chief Lt. General Javed Nasir, who incidentally enjoyed the patronage of Nawaz Sharif for years.

The mastermind of the 1993 bomb blasts, Dawood Ibrahim, lives under heavy security protection, in the elite locality of Clifton in Karachi. There is conclusive evidence that the attack on India’s Parliament in December 13, 2001 was organised by Maulana Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed.

A former ISI Chief Lt. General Javed Akhtar admitted this, in March 2004, in Pakistan’s Parliament. In the Kargil conflict in 1999, 527 Indian soldiers had been killed and 453 wounded, which was ostensibly designed to disrupt India’s supply lines to its forces in Siachen.

When the Jaish-e-Mohammed, thereafter, briefly receded into the background, the ISI backed Lashkar-e-Taiba mounted yet another terrorist attack on November 26, 2008 on Mumbai, when 139 Indians died and 256 were injured. This received huge international attention, as the casualties included citizens of countries like US, UK, France, Germany and Israel.

Yet, within a few months, we were back to a “Composite Dialogue” with Pakistan, after the Sharm el Sheikh Summit, where the focus of attention was not the 26/11 terrorist strike on Mumbai, but unfounded Pakistani allegations of Indian involvement in the freedom struggle in Baluchistan! Sadly, this was a manifestation of Indian diplomacy, at its worst.

The Balakot Air Strikes by IAF Mirage 2000 aircraft was marked by the use of precision guided Israeli Spice 2000 bombs, which function with deadly accuracy. There is now conclusive evidence that the target was a Jaish-e-Mohammed Madrassa, which was badly damaged.

Hundreds of Jaish Jihadis, preparing for “martyrdom” in Jammu and Kashmir, were motivated and trained in Balakot, for “Jihad” in Kashmir. The training was embellished with promises of an after life in a heavenly abode. Our government would, however, have been better advised, if unverified claims of hundreds of casualties were not prematurely made, or publicised.

What will, however, please our Russian friends, is the fact that an upgraded frontline American F-16 equipped with highly sophisticated AAM-RAM missiles, was shot down by a 1970s-1980s vintage, Russian Mig 21 BIS of the IAF. This incident again exposed the notorious inefficiency of our Defence Ministry, which has delayed a proposal for modernisation of the IAF’s fighter fleet for over two decades.

Successive Defence Ministers must accept constitutional responsibility for the cavalier manner the entire issue of modernisation of our fighter fleet has been handled. More importantly, the decision-making organisational structure in our Defence Ministry, dominated by a generalist bureaucracy, needs to be drastically restructured and reformed.

Pakistan should be made to realise that India’s air strike in Balakot marks only the beginnings of a new approach, which India will now undertake.

Upgrade cover actions

Firstly, it is time for decision-makers in New Delhi to realise that our covert actions capabilities on foreign soil need to be upgraded. I had occasion to recently read a book by journalist Sandeep Unnithan, due for release shortly, on how Prime Minister Indira Gandhi personally supervised covert actions in Bangladesh in 1971, which virtually destroyed maritime communications facilities there, even before the conflict started in December 1971.

The Israelis spent years developing capabilities to seek out the perpetrators of the Second World War “Holocaust,” across the world. Their Iranian rivals have developed similar capabilities, which one saw recently, when Iran responded to a terrorist attack from Pakistani soil, which killed 29 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, near the border between Pakistani Baluchistan and the Sunni majority Iranian Province of Sistan-Baluchistan, where the port of Chabahar is located.

In an almost immediate Iranian counter-strike, across the border, over eight Pakistani soldiers were killed and a large number injured.

The time for developing capabilities for counter-strikes is now ripe. The global political, diplomatic and economic scenario in India and Pakistan has changed drastically, over the past two decades.

Pakistan remains, in international perspectives, an economically bankrupt and politically dysfunctional country, which is ostensibly democratic, but run by a military elite, which is given to promoting religious extremism across its neighbourhood. Its actions, like hosting Osama bin Laden secretly for over a decade, promoting Taliban extremism in Afghanistan and using internationally discredited terrorist groups for Jihad abroad, have irreparably sullied its international image and reliability.

Islamabad is addicted to seeking doles from rich Arab neighbours, China and international financial institutions like the IMF, Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Pakistan is constantly dependent on these countries and international institutions, for its economic survival.

In contrast, India is seen today as a country with the fastest growing economy in the world, which is increasingly attractive for foreign investment. India is at peace and enjoys excellent relations with all countries (except Pakistan) in its Indian Ocean neighbourhood.

It has multiple free trade and comprehensive economic cooperation agreements within SAARC and with members of Bimstec and Asean. There are, likewise, Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreements with South Korea and Japan.

Across its western maritime frontiers, India is the only country, which enjoys excellent relations at the same time, with the oil rich Arab Gulf States, Iran and Israel. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has publicly expressed India’s thanks for American understanding and support in recent days.

These developments now need, in course of time, to be augmented by moves to engage people in Pakistan, making it clear that India wishes them well.

They have to be made to realise that their present miseries are the result of actions by a power hungry and rogue army, which is undermining democracy and leading the country to economic disaster and international isolation.

The writer is a former High Commissioner to Pakistan

Published on March 06, 2019

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