Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

India, Pakistan and covert operations. All in the family?


Do read this piece by Gurmeet Kanwal, the head of the Indian Army’s Centre for Land Warfare Studies, about how India should respond to the Mumbai attacks with covert operations against Pakistan.

He says that ”hard military options will have only a transitory impact unless sustained over a long period. These will also cause inevitable collateral damage, run the risk of escalating into a larger war with attendant nuclear dangers and have adverse international ramifications. To achieve a lasting impact and ensure that the actual perpetrators of terrorism are targeted, it is necessary to employ covert capabilities to neutralise the leadership of terrorist organisations.”

But he also argues that India’s covert capabilities in Pakistan were wound down on the orders of the Prime Minister in 1997 so as to promote reconciliation. “If that is true, a great deal of effort will be necessary to establish these capabilities from scratch. It will take at least three to five years to put in place basic capabilities for covert operations in Pakistan as both the terrorist organisations and their handlers like the ISI will have to be penetrated. The R&AW must be suitably restructured immediately to undertake sustained covert operations in Pakistan. The time to debate this issue on moral and legal grounds has long passed.”

Pakistan has long accused India of supporting militants in its Baluchistan province, among other places, in retaliation for what New Delhi sees as Pakistani support for separatist movements in Punjab, the north-east, and in Kashmir. But for a democratic government, the value of covert operations is limited. India’s Congress-led government is under pressure now to show it is standing firm against the Mumbai attacks and (leaving aside ethical questions) you can’t achieve electoral popularity with covert operations.  That’s why it’s particularly interesting that someone like Gurmeet Kanwal would suggest them.