|#1639||4191||September 21, 2016||By Ghanshyam Katoch|
The attack at Uri on 18 Sep 2016 which left 18 jawans killed and 19 injured was an outrage. The outrage generated should rival that which was generated post the attack on an army convoy at Manipur in Jun 2015 in which 18 jawans were killed and 11 injured. In that case the troops were part of a unit moving out after a field tenure, in this case the bulk of the casualties were of an advance party of a unit moving in to a field area. However, the impact that the attack at Uri generated in terms of nationwide debate and opprobrium is much more. This is no surprise because while the casualties in Chandel district of Manipur were in course of fighting an insurgency, those at Uri were sustained in a proxy war where the hatred is visceral. That Pakistan is pursuing a proxy war in Kashmir is an unambiguous fact. If that is a fact then why should we express indignation at the attacks launched upon our men in uniform. We should absorb that blow with professional stoicism and reply to it with an objective assessment of consequences.
The retaliatory reaction in the Manipur case could be more unconstrained as the reaction could neither invite international intervention/pressure, nor was the insurgent attack it sought to punish, supported by the country (Myanmar) in which the attackers had sanctuary/bases.
Uri is a different story. It happened after two months of severe Pakistan-instigated unrest in the Valley. A coordinated response to the unrest has been hampered because of the nature of politics in the Valley, the nature of the protests there which so far have resulted in 81 civilian deaths and political one-upmanship attempts by the opposition. We will not talk of Burhan Wani as that is just another name. If he had not been used as a catalyst, someone else would have been used.
The issue is that such ‘terrorist’ attacks which occur with monotonous regularity, whether in J&K or out of it have assumed a familiar path. National indignation, statements condemning the terrorist attack, hawks advocating drastic military action, doves appealing to give peace a chance and statements saying that we have proof that the attack was supported by the Pakistani state or that we are investigating whether it was supported by the Pakistani army/terrorist groups/state. Umpteen times we have conclusive proof that such attacks have originated from Pakistan. Can there be bigger proof than Ajmal Kasab? But if such proof is going to get us no benefits because Pakistan negates that by saying that it has no control over the unknown people operating from its soil who are motivated by the Indian ‘atrocities’ in Kashmir, why should we even bother to get proof?
It is well known by those who have served in operational areas where a warlike situation exists that the spells of the greatest vulnerability are either at first light or at last light (ie early morning or late evening). In the first case the attacker will have the cover of darkness to sneak upto the target and then launch his attack. This is especially so when the attack is of the nature of a suicide (Fidayeen) attack because the attacker does not worry about being ‘daylighted’ which makes his escape well nigh impossible. A last light attack will be preferred by those who are already in hides near the target and would also want to escape in the aftermath of the confusion of the attack. Anywhere close to the Line of Control (LoC) or International Border (IB), say within two hours walking distance from the LoC/IB, a first light attack has a very high probability. The attackers will sneak across the border between 10 PM and 2 AM and then reach their targets by first light. This is a truism that should be well known to all commanders from the lowest to the highest if they have intimate knowledge and experience about the dynamics of the terrorist/militant threat in J&K/whatever area they are in.
Intelligence and knowledge of the enemy gives an edge to any army to win the battle. It is good to know your enemy and even give him professional respect where he deserves it. It enables you to be better prepared.
This article makes the following points :
Calling the attack at Uri ‘cowardly’ is correct from a civilian perspective. However, viewing it as the same by the army is in ‘bad faith’. We would start believing that statement and consequently be not properly prepared to defeat our enemy. As defined by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre ‘bad faith’ is lying to oneself, which can be to the point of self-deception. A suicide attack on civilians is cowardly and is terrorism. On the army it is a tactic of war. In either case the perpetrator is not a coward. So we should be outraged by the Uri attack, but with professional calmness of purpose.
The author is a former Director-General Perspective Planning of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.