OPINION | Time for Retribution
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OPINION | Time for Retribution

By Group Captain Murli Menon (Retd.)
Indian Air Force

OPINION |  Time for Retribution

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Those of my generation have been waiting patiently for the “final round” with Pakistan . It is all coming together now. The audacious Uri attack and the expected always –in-denial reactions from the Pakistani establishment to our countrywide consternation,  have set the stage for our next move on the chess board. What our Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) decides will stay unknown till it plays out. The only thing certain now is that THERE WILL COME RETRIBUTION!  

The job of the military, in our context , is to place options before the decision makers in a cogent manner and then the political masters take the call. The military’s job then is to stand true to the investment the nation has made in it.. in terms of manpower, equipment, and training. When such situations arise, objectivity is normally a victim. But present indicators augur well in this respect. We are clearly thinking this through. The problem with our national military psyche so far has been the reactive and passive mindset, much more indeed than George Tanham of RAND who accused us some years ago of NOT having a strategic culture (please refer to monograph report - Indian Air Force: Trends and Perspectives) partly true, but then there's always a time to wake up from slumber.  

First on our priority is to identify the most valuable target/targets across the border. All of India’s travails – not only in J&K but all over India- emanates from a single fortress-like building in the Aabpara precinct of Islamabad- the ISI Head Quarters. This is the premise from where the entire terror machinations of our neighbor are orchestrated. That being a given , next is the key doctrinal aspect of political signaling. We have already shown our resolve to up the ante politico – diplomatically by supporting the Baloch cause and offering asylum to their leaders, the impact of that bold move would play out during the weeks and months to come. But the key aspect of “political signaling” – a key air operation for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in tandem with other wings of entire armed forces - has now to be given wings.

To make costs prohibitive for Pakistan to play terror in our country, the ISI needs to be physically neutralized. There have to be intelligence-supported strikes on the ISI operational units (inside the Pakistan) and raze it to the ground figuratively and otherwise. I am not going to get into the specifics of such missions, the professionals knows how to do it. There are also ISI sector headquarters in Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi etc (which indeed have been often targeted by the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan). Selectively, we now need to target the terror camps and their ISI-operated command posts/safe houses in these sectors, depending on the intelligence as to which one we believe has been responsible for the terror attack in question. We need to take a few leaves out of the counter-terror manuals of successful nations such as Israel and USA (look at the rapid neutralization of the Afghan–origin terrorist in New York) and start sending hard-hitting political signals to the adversary. Very clearly these are not going to be “deniability-enabled” missions. These are meant to warn the adversary to mend its behavior and to be carried out repeatedly till our will is enforced.   

Escalation ladder you say .. that is old hat now. We should control this aspect, even if there is a need to escalate. Along with the other economic retribution a such as a sea blockade and shutting off of the Indus waters, Pakistan will be on its knees in no time. The only thing we need is tough strong leadership- which we appear to be having now. In 71,the strong Indira/Maneckshaw leadership advantages were frittered away at Shimla. That surely will not happen now as too much of water has flown down the terror river. Political signaling involves the whole nation. The civil population becomes even more integrated into the warning process, dissenters and anti nationals get marginalized and we move towards an integrated civic-sense imbued society as demonstrated in New Jersey two days ago. The nay sayers would always have their forebodings for a tough Indian state.. the soft option has not delivered and national pride and elan  have reached rock bottom. Let us get on with it PM Narendra Modi!

About the Author:

Group Captain (Retd.) Murli Menon served in Indian Air Force for 32 years, transiting it tactical, operational, strategic and conceptual appointment spectra with credit. He was India’s Air Advisor to Indian High Commission at Islamabad, Pakistan (2000-2004). In his second avatar, he served for 8 years with India’s Cabinet Secretariat, including a stint as Consular at Ankara, Turkey from 2008-2011.      

He was one of the pioneers in the IAF’s Doctrine Think Tank – “Air War Strategy Cell” that produced India’s first Air Power Doctrine, the IAP 2000 in 1995. His interests include strategic studies and since post retirement he contributes to various think-tanks based out of New Delhi, India.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IndraStra Global