Nobody in their right minds would have discounted a Pakistani backlash. Least of all the Indian army. But there was some uncertainty over the nature of the strike. Would the GHQ in Rawalpindi emulate India and initiate an operation by the Special Services Group (SSG) to live up to its hyped machismo? Or would it — as it has so conveniently done in the past — employ the proxies and activate its sleeper cells?
We got our answer on Sunday night. The terrorist attack on an army base at Baramulla, which also houses a BSF unit, and a suspected simultaneous infiltration attempt at Chakri post in Punjab’s Gurdaspur sector made it clear that Pakistan army would continue to use proxies to do its dirty work.
India should, therefore, brace for an immediate spike in terror ambush on security installations and even on soft targets, a vigorous infiltration bid before the setting in of winter, a renewed push for the insurgency in Kashmir and maybe even activation of sleeper cells who could try to target civilians or fan subversive unrests in India.
Details of the Baramulla attack are still trickling in but early reports indicate it was essentially a foiled bid that resulted in the death of one BSF jawan from the 40th battalion, a critical injury to his colleague and neutralisation of two terrorists, though this has not yet That the assault started at around 10.30pm Sunday night when at least six heavily-armed terrorists opened fire on the 46 Rashtriya Rifles camp in Janbazpora on the outskirts of Baramulla city, 54 km from capital Srinagar.
The attackers, says the report quoting Baramulla police control room, tried to enter through a public park near the camp but then were forced to take positions on the banks of the Jhelum river after being challenged by the Indian army and BSF who, unlike in Uri, were on high alert. The martyred soldier as Constable Nitin and injured jawan as Constable Pulwinder and reports that at least two terrorists were killed in “fierce gun battle”.
This, however, has been contested. Indian Express quoted SSP Imtiaz Hussain on Monday as saying that the militants had used civilians as shields.
“The terrorists managed to escape as it was dark and the Army couldn’t retaliate effectively due to apprehension of civilian casualty,” he said, according to the report.
Meanwhile, in Gurdaspur sector of Punjab, BSF opened fire on Monday after suspected infiltration at Chakri post. Though there was “no retaliation of fire from the Pakistani side,” a search operation was conducted at Dorangla village after some “suspected persons were spotted there.
That Pakistan violated the ceasefire at Chakri around 12.30 in the night, hours after the Baramulla assault was launched.
These attempts, especially the fidayeen attack on Baramulla, tell us that Pakistan is struggling to contain the sharp vicissitude of contrasting stresses following the Indian army’s surgical strike on the morning of 29 September. It has been thrown at the wrong end of a multitude of domestic and international pressures and is desperately trying to strike a balance between the two.
On the one hand, Pakistan itches to give India a “befitting reply” for what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called “unprovoked and naked aggression” and yet ironically, finds itself trapped within its own rhetoric. The nuclear blackmail threats have finally come home to roost.
Ever since India undertook the covert operation, the US has been unusually vocal about Pakistan’s “irresponsible nuclear threats” and have asked it to ensure wiping out of all terror infrastructure to maintain stability in the region. Most P5 nations have either been sympathetic to India’s viewpoint or have advised de-escalation of tension in the region.
Last Friday, for instance, the White House criticised Islamabad for “some of the rhetoric from the Pakistani government” about the possibility of using nukes, saying, “nuclear-capable states have a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities”.
US State Department spokesperson Mark Toner even went to the extent of saying that Uri was a result of cross-border terrorism. “We have consistently expressed our concerns regarding the danger that cross-border terrorism poses for the region, and that certainly includes the terrorist attacks in Uri.” The pressure on Pakistan to “combat and delegitimise” terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, Haqqani Network, and Jaish-e-Mohammad was palpable.
Collectively, these mean that Pakistan is unable to launch even a limited military counter-attack and risk the wrath of powers on whom depends its fragile economy.
If this is one side of the coin, the other side represents a growing discontent of the jihadi Frankensteins. It is all very well for Rawalpindi to insist that the surgical strikes never took place and try to stave off some domestic pressure, but it is a pose their pet terror warriors are not buying. They want tangible action against India to boost a morale which has taken a beating after 29 September.
Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, thundered before a congregation on Friday that Pakistan would show India what surgical strikes are, and not even the US would be able to save them.
The 26/11 mastermind claimed that the world has seen just a “glimpse of our revenge… India has owned up to crossing the LoC. You will get the deserved response soon.
The covert operation which India claimed had “significantly damaged” terror facilities in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, would have also resulted in two more repercussions — spell out India’s aggressive intent about future operations and consequently, make it dearer for Pakistan to maintain the terror factories.
The potentially most powerful effect of the operation may be to put some stress on the relationship between the military and non-state actors in Pakistan… Presumably, the non-state actors will demand greater protection, and hence increase the potential cost of using them.”
Translated, it means a further ratcheting up of pressure on Pakistan. Cleaved between trying to address its strategic needs and cater to the outrage of its domestic populace and meet the demands of so-called non-state actors, Pakistan army launched a desperate disinformation drive on Sunday, flying down the international and local media to Line of Control to “prove” that India didn’t conduct any surgical strikes across LoC.
But that, obviously, won’t be enough. Cessation of violence against India will spell the end of the idea that is Pakistan. And since it’s well-fed, Mercedes-riding army generals have forgotten how to face a bullet on a battlefield, that war will continue to be fought via its proxies. It may mean an eventual implosion, but as the Chinese say, it is very hard to get off when one gets used to riding a tiger. For India, it means these terror snipings will continue. We cannot lower our guard.