New Delhi: The cross-LoC raids were a tactical rather than a strategic success since the old rules stood, says a new book.
“Defeat Is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War” by Myra Macdonald tracks the defining episodes in the relationship between India and Pakistan from 1998, from bitter conflict in the mountains to military confrontation in the plains, from the hijacking of a plane to the Mumbai attacks.
India has come a long way from the lonely humiliation of the Kathmandu to Kandahar hijacking in 1999 to the public announcement of cross-LoC raids into Pakistan-held territory in 2016, says MacDonald, a journalist and author specialising in South Asian politics and security.
“The cross-LoC raids were a tactical rather than strategic success, since the old rules stood. Pakistan was unlikely to abandon its strategy of supporting some jihadis while fighting others – the ideology of confrontation with India had become too deeply embedded to be uprooted. Nor had India escaped the requirements of ‘strategic restraint’.
“Beyond skirmishes on the LoC, more significant Indian military action still faced the risk of escalation into a nuclear exchange. Inside the Kashmir Valley, India still needed to find the political means of addressing Kashmiri resentment. In the event of further attacks from Pakistan, moreover, India’s options for further unpredictable retaliation remained limited,” the author says.
“If it had international support for its cross-LoC raids, it was precisely because Indian responses to attacks by jihadis from Pakistan had been so carefully controlled since 1998, thanks to Prime Minister Modi’s predecessors,” the book, published by Penguin Random House, says.
“It could not continue seeking ever more forceful retaliation without putting that at risk. Nor could it rely on international impatience with Pakistan – it was too useful a country for China and too worrying for the United States to abandon.” According to Macdonald, Pakistan’s defeat in the Great South Asian War contained a warning for India too.
“Pakistan had been brought low by hubris, a chauvinist nationalism and an unhealthy obsession with its neighbour. As it emerged as the far stronger power, India needed to be wary of succumbing to similar sentiments, lest it neglect the need to tend to the domestic stability and restraint that had served it so well,” she says.
But in the short-run, Macdonald says, India had added a new twist to the old rules. “It had announced its cross-LoC raids without international objection and acted quickly to reassure both Pakistan and the outside world that it intended no further escalation. It had added this new twist using the very weapons that Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and jihadis lacked – India’s diplomatic and economic strength.”
That India was able to do so was a product of multiple factors, many outside its control, the author says. “Pakistan had failed to adjust to the more fertile environment for jihadis that emerged at the end of the Cold War and then to the international opposition to Islamist militants that coalesced after the September 11 attacks. After 2001, it had made the mistake of trying to take on India and the US simultaneously,” she writes.