Hit Pakistan Where it Hurts Most and Win over Kashmiris

The unbridled angst and anger among people in India after the Pulwama attack on CRPF convoy is understandable. The sight of the bodies of so many martyred Jawans wrapped in tricolor is overwhelming enough for all citizens of the country. Some of this pent-up emotion is even resulting in an attack on innocent citizens and damage of public property.

While any such act in anger is reprehensible, it goes without saying that India needs to give a befitting reply to Pakistan and every other perpetrator of terrorist activities in the country. However, any action in a hurry and in a fit of rage can be counter-productive.

So, while the government has to acknowledge people’s anger over growing incidents of terror attacks in Jammu & Kashmir in particular, any response to terrorism in the country has to be strategic in nature and should comprise a mix of military, economic and diplomatic approach.

How to deal with Pakistan

The government has started off by withdrawing the most favored nation (MFN) status for Pakistan and imposing 200% import duty on goods coming from there and planning to curtail supply of water from border rivers. Though it is more a symbolic ‘attack,’ the broader objective would be to hit Pakistan’s economic interest. Removal of MFN status and hiking import duty on goods coming from Pakistan are going to have a negligible impact on Pakistan’s economy.

India has to convince its old and long-term trade and diplomatic partners to minimise trade and commerce ties with Pakistan. Given India’s recent ascent as an economic powerhouse – we are now the 5th largest country in terms of GDPs – India must wield its power in global institutions like IMF and World Bank to put strict conditions for Pakistan to avail any loan in future.

It is good that the Donald Trump administration in the US has suspended the $1.3 billion annual aid to Pakistan. China is Pakistan’s all-weather friend, and it would depend on India’s diplomatic acumen to convince China to control its purse string – but this seems highly unlikely. Saudi Arabia is another major ally of Pakistan, and during the recent visit of its Prince to Pakistan, huge investments worth US$ 20 billion have been discussed.

As far as military action is concerned, we can take Uri kind of surgical strike without making too much noise. Wage a silent, unannounced low-intensity war with Pakistan without going to town about it. In today’s times, any ostentatious escalation across the border could have diplomatic and economic ramifications.

But we must keep the military options open. Inflicting severe damage on the Pakistan armed forces is necessary and send a clear message that we cannot allow them to continuously bleed our forces.

J&K’s terror problem

Jammu & Kashmir needs a more carrot and less stick-like strategy. The government must try not to alienate the Kashmiri people. Unless we win the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people, we cannot win the war on terror waged from the soil of Kashmir.

The disillusioned youth of the region is easy fodder for terror handlers across the border. The incidents of attack on Kashmiri students and businesspeople across different parts of India could only alienate them further.

The government aims to bring the youth of Kashmir in the mainstream. One way of doing it is by providing more employment opportunities in the region, promoting and facilitating growth in tourism and other business activities would undoubtedly help restore normalcy in the region.

At the same time, we should strengthen the law and order situation in the state by targeting terror operatives. What Kashmir also needs urgently is resuming of the democratic process in the state.

With Supreme Court expected to take up hearing on challenges to Article 35 (A) which confers special rights & privileges upon citizens of J&K, the state is going to face further violence from locals if the SC allows removal of this Article 35 (A).

To conclude, since Independence, we have faced problems with Pakistan and J&K and it is high time that we find a long-term solution to resolve them and make India stronger and more equitable society.

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