India must go for covert action in Pakistan

Source: News Tack India

If Pakistan doesn’t stop backing terrorists acting against India, New Delhi must pay back Islamabad in the same coin, says a scholarly book on Indian counterterrorism strategy.

“Indian policymakers need to critically evaluate whether in fact a ‘strong and stable Pakistan’ is in India’s interest,” says Prem Mahadevan in “The Politics of Counterterrorism in India” (I.B. Tauris).

Suggesting that the entire basis of Indian counterterrorist policy might need to be re-examined, the 297-page book says that New Delhi should take a unilateral two-pronged approach against pan-Islamist jehad.

While implementing domestic security reforms, the book says, the “more productive approach could be to take the counterterrorist offensive inside Pakistan itself”.

“This would be a daring move, requiring considerable political courage to initially be implemented.

“Once started, however, it has the potential to exert a strong deterrent effect upon the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence agency) and Pakistani jehadists.”

According to the author, a senior researcher at the Centre for Security Studies in Zurich, India’s failure to declare Pakistan a long-term adversary, “whose covert operations need to be reciprocated, has left Indian citizens vulnerable to further terrorist attacks”.

Mahadevan quoted former RAW chief K. Sankaran Nair as saying: “If what Pakistan does within our borders exceeds our capacity to control it, then we must take the fight to their doorstep. There is no question.”

The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) is India’s external intelligence agency.

The book says: “Strikes against terrorist masterminds, including ‘rogue’ or ‘freelance’ ISI officials, would thus be an integral component of an ideal Indian counterterrorist policy.”

 

Former Intelligence Bureau Ajit Doval is also quoted as saying: “India cannot afford to indefinitely play the game in defensive mode, which is like playing soccer with a single goalpost in which you only receive the hits.

“Developing credible covert capacity, whose use can be controlled and calibrated, will be an effective deterrent against Pakistan.”

The book asks India to jettison “the current policy of mortgaging Indian counterterrorist efforts to Western strategic agenda…”

Western governments, it says, seem increasingly indifferent to Indian concerns about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

“India can explore options for disciplining the Pakistani establishment through covert action.

“The adoption of an offensive counterterrorist policy would require massively upgrading Indian intelligence capabilities and orienting them for offensive use.

“It would also involve crafting a diplomatic strategy that portrays Pakistan as a weak state unable to control radical elements within its borders.

“For purely tactical purposes, India can partially endorse the official line by Islamabad that cross-border terrorist attacks are the work of non-state actors.”

The book goes on to say that New Delhi can use the diplomatic space thus created to liquidate Pakistani terrorists while insisting that it does not seek to target or otherwise undermine the Pakistani state.

“Symbolic peace talks can also be held with Islamabad for the sake of retaining international goodwill.

“Although the ISI and LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) can be expected to hit back, at least they would no longer enjoy impunity while doing so.

“Eventually, given the sheer asymmetry of power between India and Pakistan, the former is bound to win a covert war.”

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