India

America Normalized India's Airstrike Against Pakistan

But courting war might be India's worst option in dealing with Pakistani-sponsored terrorism

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As the most powerful country on the planet, America affects the world sometimes not by what it tells it to do but by what it actually does. Its

Modi
Hindustan Times Sipa via Newscom

actions establish norms that guide the behavior of other countries. Nowhere was this clearer than in India whose Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched air strikes to destroy terrorist camps in the heart of Pakistan—just like America did when it attacked Osama bin Laden's hideaway complex in 2011 and killed the 9-11 mastermind.

The strikes were payback for a Valentine's Day suicide bombing in the northern Indian state of Kashmir where a terrorist linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group headquartered in Pakistan, rammed 600 pounds of explosives in a military convoy, killing more than 40 Indian soldiers and wounding many others.

But India's response signals a new level of assertiveness that has less to do with effective counter-terrorism and more to do with appeasing street sentiment.

The aid and comfort that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, a rogue agency whom the country's civilian government can't seem to control, provides to anti-India terrorist outfits had been a source of major tension between these two nuclear-armed neighbors long before Osama bin Laden became a thorn on the United States' side. Jaish, and its sister terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba, both of whom oppose Indian rule in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir, have perpetrated several deadly incidents on Indian soil over 30 years.

The most spectacular of course was the 2008 Mumbai attack when multiple Lashkar terrorists sailed into the city and conducted a series of 12 coordinated shootings and bombing including at a five-star hotel, synagogue and train station over four days, killing 174 and wounding 300. But also audacious was the 2001 attack by Jaish on the Indian Parliament—when it was in session, no less—that killed six people. And then there was the 2016 attack in Uri, a town in Kashmir, when seven Jaish militants attacked an Indian army brigade, killing 17 army personnel.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Indeed, Jaish alone has taken somewhere between 45,000-70,000 lives during its existence. The Indian government has repeatedly shared actionable intelligence with Pakistan about the culprits but, despite promises, Pakistani authorities have failed to take any meaningful action, partly because they can't get ISI to cooperate. Indeed, thanks to ISI's patronage, Jaish mastermind, Masood Azhar, lives openly in Bahawalpur where he runs a seminary and a media outfit. His nephew, meanwhile, heads a camp in Balakot, a city less than 40 miles from where bin Laden was ensconced in Abbotabad.

It is this camp that the Indian Air Force dispatched 12 Mirage planes to flatten with six 1,000 kg bombs. India dubbed this a pre-emptive, non-military strike – pre-emptive because it claimed to have intelligence that Jaish was planning more attacks and non-military because it studiously avoided Pakistan's military assets.

This might sound restrained but the fact of the matter is that it marks a significant escalation—even a "watershed" compared to India's past reaction, notes Indian Express' Sushant Singh.

Indeed, after the Mumbai attack—whose scale and trauma were far greater than the recent one—the Indian government chose only to put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. Meanwhile, although India mobilized its armed forces after the attack on the Parliament, its main focus was on rounding up the local colluders and putting them on trial. The only other time that India restored to airpower was during the 1999 Kargil conflict when Pakistani soldiers disguised as militants crossed the Line of Control demarcating the border between the two countries and attacked the Indian army positioned there. But even then India, despite its considerable conventional superiority, didn't dispatch warplanes into the Pakistani hinterland and attack a civilian area. Its response now, therefore, represents a major departure from existing norms between the two sides.

Part of this no doubt is the result of the hawkish tendencies of Prime Minister Modi, who is up for re-election this summer. He has been a staunch advocate of a muscular foreign policy, boasting constantly about his ability – given his "56-inch chest"— to stand up to Pakistan. And, true to form, he amped the jingoism instantly after the recent attack promising Indians that he would respond to Pakistan in a fashion that would make them proud.

But the fact of the matter is that even a more moderate leader than Modi would not have been able to ignore the desire of the Indian public to draw blood in the face of Pakistan's repeated provocations. Over 72 percent Indians now view Pakistan unfavorably—64 percent of them very unfavorably—a 10-point increase over the last five years, according to Pew Research.

In light of this, the model of America's operation against Osama-bin-Laden—daring, precise, effective—was hard for Indian leaders to resist. Indeed, to do so given that America used it to such good effect against the same enemy would have been an admission of impotence.

This is not mere speculation. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, not generally known as a fire-breathing nationalist, has explicitly invoked the parallel. He insists that, like the United States, India has the capacity to eliminate terrorist masterminds without taking major casualties on its own side. "This (a U.S.-style operation) used to be only a imagination, a wish, a frustration and disappointment," he maintains. "But it's possible today."

Pakistan has so far maintained its equanimity. In contrast to Prime Minister Modi's saber rattling, President Imran Khan (a former cricket player who in his youth was a major heartthrob in both countries) has counseled calm and, in a show of maturity and goodwill, promised the early return of the Indian pilot captured from a downed Indian plane.

However, it is unclear if he or his successors will be able to maintain such composure if India makes a habit of encroaching on Pakistani sovereignty to hunt down terrorists. And, yet, having now upped the ante, India is going to have a hard time dialing back its future response, all of which could well lead to an alarming escalation of future hostilities.

Terrorism is a scourge and a bane. But the hard reality is that containment, for all its flaws, is the least bad option to deal with it. Military solutions, on the other hand, are generally the worst, not the least because they dull the desire for political solutions.

America may have set a terrible example for the two neighbors.

This column originally appeared in The Week

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  1. “As the most powerful country on the planet, America affects the world sometimes not by what it tells it to do but by what it actually does. Its actions establish norms that guide the behavior of other countries…”

    Yes Obo was a war-monger, but FFS!
    What a hack.

    1. An annoying hack that can’t spell R-O-G-U-E.

      Unless she is truly worried that Pakistan can’t control its cosmetics manufacturing agency.

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  2. The aid and comfort that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, a rouge agency whom the country’s civilian government can’t seem to control,”

    Does this not describe our CIA to a T with the DOJ tagging along. Just replace Pakistan with U.S.

    1. Just replace Pakistan with U.S.

      And ‘rouge’ with ‘red, white, and blue’.

  3. The strikes were payback for a Valentine’s Day suicide bombing in the northern Indian state of Kashmir where a terrorist linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a militant group headquartered in Pakistan, rammed 600 pounds of explosives in a military convoy, killing more than 40 Indian soldiers and wounding many others.

    The appropriate response here is to send them flowers to put in the barrels of their guns.

  4. It feels good to from such an inspirational place!

    1. You’d think the fucking dirt was magical or something.

  5. “The aid and comfort that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, a rouge agency whom the country’s civilian government can’t seem to control,”

    Much in the same way that Portland and Berkley’s cops can’t seem to prevent Antifa from attacking people, but they’re more than capable of stepping in when people defend themselves. Don’t kid yourselves, Pakistan has no problem with the terrorists. To quote Sir Arthur Harris, the Brit in charge of WWII’s Dresden bombing, “They entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them…They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”

  6. It doesn’t sound like anything is being contained.

  7. Hard to believe, but this is worse than her Open Borders articles.

    1. Seriously. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that India hasn’t done something like this prior. Any country that has lost 50k of its people to a terrorist organization hiding behind another country’s skirts would be in the moral right to take the gloves off and defend itself. I don’t like how the USA goes into countries and starts bombing, but this is an entirely different scenario.

    2. Hard to believe, but this is worse than her Open Borders articles.

      I disagree. Not at all hard to believe.

    3. Shit By Even Shikha Standards is shit indeed

  8. Terrorism is a scourge and a bane. But the hard reality is that containment, for all its flaws, is the least bad option to deal with it. Military solutions, on the other hand, are generally the worst, not the least because they dull the desire for political solutions.

    1. And how has that been working for them?

      I can’t fucking believe I actually read one of her insipid articles.

      1. It’s a balance of power thing. She can’t accept that this is one of those cases where the stronger power is in the right.

        1. 1.3 billion against a minority in a country of 210 million. It’s like watching a high school junior get beat up by a 4th grader.

          The chance that Pakistan responds with nukes to limited strikes = 0.

  9. “a rouge agency whom the country’s civilian government can’t seem to control”

    Many can’t control blushing. Nothing to be ashamed of.

    1. Damn. Beat me by 20 min.

  10. Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
    Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
    Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
    Indo-Pakistani War of 1999

    Now blame the USA for all them too…. Fucking fire Shikha already. This is just beyond the pale. India and Pakistan didn’t need any help from the USA to start killing each other.

    1. No, the USA was clearly responsible for all of those wars. And all wars ever.
      Pay attention.

    2. Now go back and do all the Muslim invasions of India over the past 1300 years.

      1. Well, 1300 years ago, who lived in America? Indians. So, there

    3. Trump: America First!
      Shikha: Hate America First!

    4. Also worth noting that prior to 1947 India and Pakistan were both part of British India. They’ve been fighting for the entire time they’ve existed as separate nations

    5. Exactly.

      I don’t suppose it’s possible to ask both India and Pakistan to grow the f**k up?

      I feared not.

  11. “just like America did when it attacked Osama bin Laden’s hideaway complex in 2011 and killed the 9-11 mastermind.”

    Well, we did make sure that OBL did not have nukes. Minor difference.

    1. Also that one helicopter was pretty neat

  12. Sounds like Pakistan and India needs more diversity and Taco trucks.

    1. “Diversity is their strength!”

  13. It is this camp that the Indian Air Force dispatched 12 Mirage planes to flatten with six 1,000 kg bombs.

    Did they share?

    1. THE PLANE WITH THE BOMB BOMBS
      IF THE PLANE WITH THE BOMB IS SHOT
      THE OTHER PLANE PICKS UP THE BOMB AND BOMBS

  14. I wouldn’t compare a snatch-and-grab op with what’s currently going on between Pak.-India.

  15. Yet another statement of what can’t be done, while recommending a nebulous solution, “containment”.

    The only effective way to contain terrorism is to kill them before they can kill you.

  16. Good. Based Modi will blow those inbred goatfuckers into the stone age.

  17. Oh, shut up. There are barely any countries in the world with the teeth to defend themselves, and I’m glad to see India join the list.

    The Indian airstrikes had zero civilian damage, and were targeted specifically at terror camps that the Pakistani government claims to have no relation to. If that is so, then Pakistan has no freaking reason to complain — if they can’t get a hold of terrorists in their own territory, a more civilised nation has got to do the job for them.

    The only thing the Pakistani government is really adept at is manipulating the Western media. If anyone’s wondering, this is why Trump is popular with Indians — we’re BORED of spineless idiots like Obama who’ll gladly take the credit for the killing of Osama but will continue funding — and calling “our greatest ally in the War on Terror” — the very country that was found sheltering him. Trump recognised the flaws in American foreign policy towards South Asia and *fixed them*.

    1. “The only thing the Pakistani government is really adept at is manipulating the Western media.”

      Trump is adept at manipulating Western media.

      Pakistan doesn’t need to be adept. Western media is on their side against America.

    2. They should have waited for the US to come in an fix things up in a jiffy. We are in-an-out, not long-term occupiers.

  18. “America may have set a terrible example for the two neighbors.”

    Hate America First, from our resident Open Borders immigrant.

  19. 1. India population: 1.3 billion; per-capita GDP $1940
    2. Pakistan population: 200 million; per-capita GDP $1550
    3. Jihadis are dicks, only dicks allow jihadis to just kinda hang out
    4. India’s response signals a new level of assertiveness
    –as opposed to biting the pillow
    5. America may have set a terrible example for the two neighbors
    –if the terrible example is to go precise and hard on a small target, instead of casting an entire nation into chaotic turmoil via regime change, it is a preferable terrible example
    6. Fucks given: Zero. If India identifies a recurring threat location in de facto uncontrolled shithole territory, regardless of the paper sovereignty of said shithole, and they decide that “bombs away” is the ticket, who the fuck is the world or the US to say no. The world is mostly idiots and empty space. This amounts to a little heat and pressure in a dreary miasma of death and hate and doing-without. A minor blip.
    7. I hate war and I hate government of any kind, but let’s not get all verklempt about a single bombing run in a world that has more bombing runs than tornadoes.
    8. Compared to most of their regional counterparts, India is a bastion of free expression and capitalism. Perhaps we can refrain from shitting on them if they get a little excited about their Western war toys every other blue moon.

    1. India struggling to beat Pakistan for GDP per capita. Sad.

  20. Perhaps Pakistan was never such a good idea.

    1. Definitely not a good idea and a few decades in half of the idea wanted out from the other half.

      It intrigues me that Pakistan, a country set up as a homeland for Muslims, is never described as ‘racist’ by the left.
      Whereas Israel, a country set up as a homeland for Jews, is.

      1. sssshhhhh!

  21. Good for India. Pakistan should be happy to, as it undoubtedly saved some money.

    1. the bombings did untold hundreds of dollars of improvements

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