Home India and Pakistan - Dropping the Other Shoe

India and Pakistan - Dropping the Other Shoe

At the pain of repetition, this article starts with the joke about waiting for the other shoe to drop. A man who checked into an inn one night was warned to be quiet because the guest in the room below his was a light sleeper with a bad temper. As he undressed for bed, the man dropped one shoe, which, sure enough, awakened the other guest. The man suddenly remembered the warning, took off the other shoe in silence, and got into bed. An hour later, he heard a pounding on the wall and a shout: "When are you going to drop the other shoe?"

This is the state, post the attack by Pakistan sponsored militants at Uri on 19 Sep 2016. First, the Pakistanis were waiting for the shoe to be dropped. It dropped after 11 days in the form of the cross border strikes by the Indian army. Now, India is waiting for the shoe to drop. For the Army soldiers on the LoC who are alert 24x7 it is business as usual. Others in the depth areas are on high alert, waiting with professional patience. The media waits with bated breath and professional impatience. This is infectious, and their anxiety permeates into society through the daily dissection of every big or small militant action.

Incidents in Kashmir which used to get scant attention being low in scale are suddenly drawing headline attention.Since the Uri attack the following incidents have been highlighted or alluded to by the media as Pakistani retaliation for Uri :

  • Attack on Army (46 Rashtriya Rifles [RR])/BSF camp in Baramulla on 03 Oct 2016 in which one BSF constable was killed.
  • Snatching of five SLR rifles from a J&K police post in Kulgam on 04 Oct 2016.
  • Attack on the camp of 30 RR in Handwara in which all three attackers were killed.
  • Grenade Attack on a J&K police picketin Shupian on 07 Oct 2016 in an abortive attempt to loot weapons. One policeman was killed and another injured.
  • Snatching of two AK rifles from a J&K police picket on 09 Oct 2016 in a village in Pulwama district of Kashmir.
  • Grenade attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) patrol in Shopian on 11 Oct 2016; one CRPF constable and six civilian pedestrians were injured.
  • Two Militants cornered in the Entrepreneurship Development Institute building at Pampore on 10 Oct 2016 and killed after a 60 hours’ operation in which this previously damaged building was almost destroyed.
  • Attack on a Shastra Seema Bal (SSB)[i] convoy returning to their camp in Zakura industrial area on the suburbs of Srinagar in which oneSSB constable was killed and eight others were injured on 13 Oct 2013.
  • Firing on a J&K Police vehicle in Handwara on 15 Oct 2016.

None of these attacks qualify to be the retaliation being waited for with bated breath. They are too low in scope and too similar to the spate of militant activities which happen in periods when there is a spike in militant actions. The spike may be the result of directions from Pakistan or actions by eager militants anxious not to be left out of the action when media attention is on militancy. Just as the media goes into overdrive at such times because news editors expect reporters to project their channel or paper at this time, so is the state with the various militant organisations. After all, if they are being paid to hit the Indian state or foment trouble they can’t miss the party, or draw the ire of a handler from Pakistan accusing them of sitting on their haunches.

More specific comments on some of the ‘other shoe’ incidents are given below:

  • The ‘attack’ at Baramulla on 03 Oct was hardly an attack. Stand-off firings at military and police camps have been common in the Valley since the beginning of militancy. If it results in a fatal casualty it normally gets two lines in an innocuous corner of a paper or a five second glimpse in the bottom of TV screens. It is only in the present ‘waiting for the other shoe’ period that it gets highlighted. It was more of firing on the BSF camp where the casualties occurred, than the adjoining 46 RR. Much was made in the media about an attack on a camp of 46 RR. Probably in this hyped state a revenge attack on the army draws more attention.
  • Five 7.62 SLR rifles being stolen from a police post at Kulgam again got media attention as some media sources referred to it as another terrorist retaliation after Baramulla[ii]. This was linking it to Baramulla when the Baramulla attack itself was being questioned whether it was an attack or a case of ‘friendly fire’.[iii][iv]Those who are well versed with the Kashmir militancy know that right from the beginning of militancy the militants don’t use SLR rifles. They are too cumbersome and don’t fire full automatic. They are sometimes used with the barrel cut off by novice unreliable militants who haven’t proved their competence to be given an AK-47 and who are sent out to scare someone or extort money.
  • During periods of peaks in militancy, such as at present in the Valley, the various paramilitary forces are moved piecemeal to Kashmir from far flung areas to fill voids in CRPF deployment. It is presumed that the SSB party which was attacked was from such a unit or sub-unit. Such forces cannot be expected to be as proficient in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir as those units which go through a structured pre-induction training. However, their militarised equipment and dresses make both the militants, the media and the Indian public believe that the Indian army has been targeted.
  • The firing on the police vehicle on 15 Oct 2016 was reported by one channel as the seventh attack in 25 days, indirectly linking it to Uri and subsequent events.

The further away you get from the frontlines the more diffuse becomes the interpretation of events. A newspaper had a headline on 04 Oct stating ‘India to Keep Pak in Check Surgically’.[v] Certain parts of our society of which some people in Bollywood can be cited as an example, appear to be so carried away by the ‘surgical strike’ part of the narrative that they believe that if events such as the Uri attack are dealt with surgically, the rest of the ‘body politic’ can continue their lives in the ‘business as usual’ manner. The editorial of the same paper stated (referring to the standoff firing at Baramulla) that “a well-equipped gang of terrorists failed in an hour long bid to storm an infantry division headquarters”.[vi] Again it is catchy journalism to allude to terrorists upping the ante by targeting a division headquarters after a brigade headquarters at Uri. Baramulla does house a Division headquarter but not near the area of the reported standoff firing.

Article 51 of the UN Charter provides an inherent right of self Defence. India’s cross border strikes were an assertion of this right. Pakistan as a state cannot have a similar right since the Indian narrative is that it attacked militant camps which had militants waiting to infiltrate. They were a ‘clear and present danger’ which India had a right to prevent. Even immediately after the strikes there were at least three reported abortive attempts to infiltrate which were thwarted.[vii] Pakistan Army outposts which support the militant ‘launching pads’ just suffered collateral damage as they are normally co-located. Can those who indulge in or support terrorism also invoke Article 51?A country would need an overwhelmingly sympathetic world opinion to justify that. However, as Michael Krepon states, “In the court of international public opinion, the burden of proof shifted from New Delhi to Islamabad after the attack on the Indian parliament and the Mumbai attacks. Because Pakistani authorities have not taken overt steps to shut down the offices of certain militant groups after promising to do so, Islamabad has lost the benefit of the doubt abroad”.[viii] Pakistan therefore faces a dilemma in engineering an attack which can be a sufficient retaliation to its claimed border being violated as it cannot justify that to the world. It will also think long and hard before planning a terrorist attack on the scale of Mumbai or the Parliament attack. The veneer of deniability it has used in the past is getting eroded with every attack. A major attack will mean retaliatory actions by India further up the escalation ladder; Pakistan knows that India has demonstrated the will for those actions.

The other shoe may have been quietly taken off.

 

References

[i] SSB is a paramilitary Armed border guarding force tasked to guard the relatively benign Nepal and Bhutan borders.

[ii] Zee News , Oct 04, 2015. Retrieved 04 Oct 2016 from http://zeenews.india.com/news/jammu-and-kashmir/after-baramulla-terrorists-snatch-five-rifles-from-police-picket-in-kashmirs-kulgam_1936381.html

[iii] Times of India, 04 Oct 2016.

[iv] Yusuf Jameel, ‘Confusion over J&K Attack’. The Deccan Chronicle, 04 Oct 2016, Hyderabad Edition.p.9

[v] The Deccan Chronicle, 04 Oct 2016, Hyderabad Edition.

[vi] Ibid. ‘Flush Jehadis out of J&K Hideouts’, p.10.[vii]Indian Express. 06 Oct 2016. Express Web Desk. Three infiltration bids in Kashmir, assisted by Pakistani posts, foiled: Indian Army. Accessed 15 Oct 2016 from http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/three-pakistan-assissted-infiltration-bids-foiled-in-jk-army-3067835/

[viii] Michael Krepon. Op ed ,‘Losing the War Narrative’ The Dawn Herald Oct 11, 2016. Accessed 16 Oct 2016 from http://herald.dawn.com/news/1153555/losing-the-war-narrative

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Ghanshyam Katoch

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