India must embrace a proactive approach to eradicating terrorism: Expert

Beef up counter-terror capabilities

In a first-ever since the 1971 Indo-Pak War, India successfully conducted night air strikes on February 26, to hit a major training facility of terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed  (JeM) at Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan as also two terrorist camps in the PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) at Muzzafrabad and Chakhoti. The attacks carried out by the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) Mirage 2000 aircraft using the latest Spice-2000 precision-guided munitions (PGMs) and  AGM-142 (Popeye-2) missiles also indicated a paradigm shift in India’s policy in conducting counter-terror operations in the wake of dastardly JeM-claimed Pulwama terror attack. 

For more than three decades, India continued to exercise strategic constraint even though it was subjected to highly provocative cross-border terrorist attacks by Pakistan that was following ‘death by thousand cuts’ as an instrument of state policy, unleashing Pakistan Army/ISI-trained-and-controlled terror outfits against India with impunity. 

Special operations conducted by the Army across the LoC (Line of Control) in PoK post Uri terrorist attack was the first time India showed its resolve of taking the fight to the enemy camp in carrying out punitive attacks. But, if the first ‘Surgical Strike’ was restricted to within a short distance of the LOC, in ‘Surgical Strike-II’  — if it may be called that — India demonstrated beyond doubt that it would not hesitate to conduct counter-terror operations even if it meant attacking targets deep inside, including Pakistan’s sovereign territory. It is also a historical first where aerial strikes have been carried out against a nuclear-armed adversary.

Representative Image. Photo: Shutterstock
Stunned by India’s bold move, a confused and rattled Pakistan tried to go up the escalation ladder with a counterattack, putting in the air a big strike package against Indian military installations in Jammu sector, but lost again, when an F-16, Block 50 – a contemporary and front-line jet fighter of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) – was shot down by a vintage and on the verge of retirement MiG-21 Bison of the IAF; a feat that must surely be a first in the annals of air combat. Even though Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman had to eject when his ageing aircraft fell victim to another F-16 of the enemy pack, it was nothing else but again a big loss of face for Pakistan.

And now that the situation has been diffused with Pakistan backing off and returning the Indian pilot as per the requirements of the Geneva Conventions, the big question still remains: Will this be a lesson and a trigger for Pakistan to dismantle its terror machine, especially when it stands exposed internationally as a hub-centre for global terrorism? The answer perhaps is that it is most unlikely as long as the Pakistan Army-ISI combine continues to rule the roost in Pakistan and the fact that this situation is not going to change for a long time.

Under the circumstances, it is imperative that India beefs up its counter-terror capabilities to the fullest while staying on guard to foil all terrorist attacks.

To give effect to the above, India needs to:-

(a)Effectively seal its land/maritime borders to make them infiltration proof, making full use of the available and contemporary technologies.

(b)Set up a viable country-wide seamless internal security apparatus on the same lines as has been done by the US post 9/11 to thwart acts of terrorism in the bud.

(c)Take cogent measures to deradicalise Islamic youth not only in J&K but the entire length and breadth of the country.

But, more than anything else, especially after having demonstrated its resolve and capabilities, India must embrace a proactive approach to eradicating terrorism emanating from its neighbourhood, even if it means going for the jugular.

V K ‘Jimmy’ Bhatia, Air Marshal (Retd)

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