The Balakot Fallout- An Analysis

by Palepu Ravi Shankar


Well begun is half done.
One emotion which integrates all Pakistanis is hatred for India.
Pakistani Army practices exhibition of rationality-irrationality.
That is on display.
The other half won’t be easy to sort out

Rubicon Crossed
India crossed a Rubicon when it carried out its intelligence led pre-emptive non-military air strikes across the LOC and in Pakistani territory on the terrorist training camp at Balakot. It has set a standard of resolve and intent in dealing with the sub conventional threat conventionally irrespective of damage caused and Pakistani perception management in this operation. In one go it has shed the image of being a weak state and transformed into a power to reckon with. By striking surgically at an isolated target and ensuring that collateral damage is minimum either of civilian or military life and assets, it put Pakistani Army in an embarrassing position. The Deep State has responded aggressively unmindful of the consequences. The fall out is widespread. It needs to be understood to get the right perspective.

This event is only a beginning. Pakistani Army will retaliate further as its Prime Minister speaks peace. It is a matter of pride and survival for them. Conventional retaliatory strikes on Indian territory will be the norm. Terror strikes are imminent despite exposing the Deep State’s habit of sponsoring terrorism. Heating up the LOC is only a reflex face saver which will subside when ammunition shortage starts pinching and our retaliation becomes stronger. We need to second guess them and keep at it. In any case in this conflict we should be prepared to win some and lose some. It will be a long haul. At some stage bigger numbers will prevail and Pakistan will crack.

Internal Turmoil
The internal turmoil generated by continued actions will be twofold. On one hand people of Pakistan will start questioning the ability and credibility of the Deep State to save them from external aggression as the conflict progresses. The Deep State will be exposed to be weak. Professionally it cannot match the Indian Armed Forces. Seen in conjunction with the US raid to eliminate Osama Bin Laden, the vulnerability felt by the people due to repeated inability of the Pakistani Army will bubble forth. The people had already started questioning the utility of the Deep State which has been maintained despite huge deprivation to themselves. On the other hand, the state instruments of terror and the sword arms – JEM /LET will feel let down that the Deep State might not be able to protect them. After all they do the dirty work for the Deep State. The fallout of sustaining military pressure puts the Pakistani Establishment in a bind.

Value of Restraint
The restraint exhibited by India in the aftermath of 26/11 Mumbai attacks and many more that followed have built a reservoir of international understanding. The cross LOC strikes of 2016 and the Pakistani retaliation of ramping up the tempo of terror has enlarged this reservoir. Resultantly the reaction from the international community will be that the Deep State has it coming. In fact, the US President seems to even have given the tacit nudge to go ahead through his tweets. China’s reaction has been muted and restrained. UK and Russia have advised restraint by both sides. Australia and France have come out openly against Pakistan There will be no sympathy for Pakistan. The world will feel that India has done them a favor once this is over.

Abbottabad Factor
It has also clearly emerged that the Deep State has assiduously built its assets in remote hill regions away from international scrutiny. Consider the fact that Abbottabad is close to this camp. Abbottabad was proximal to Osama bin Laden’s hideout. The interconnection is too close to ignore. The Deep State’s involvement and policy of using terror as an instrument of the State lies exposed. The international community will only harden its stand against Pakistan. Its economy will take a bigger hit to begin with. As if things were not bad.

Post US Dispensation in Afghanistan
The fall out on the Post US dispensation in Afghanistan will now be interesting. This event should convince USA, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and very importantly the sensible elements in Taliban that Pakistani role in Afghanistan will have to be limited. A huge opportunity has opened for India. Good diplomacy dictates an initiative to form the India- Iran- Afghanistan axis to contain Pakistan. The strategic space for Pakistan must be shrunk. The surplus Taliban fighters must be harnessed like never before.

China Card
The initial Chinese reactions have been muted. The fall-out however must be seen in a wider perspective. Whoever predicted reunion of Germany or Vietnam accurately? To its East the North Koreans are dealing with USA. If there is a break through, if the Koreas unite, if Trump prevails and if a deal is struck; there is a good chance that USA will be sitting across Yalu once again. That’s bad news for China. To the West its Rusted Iron friend lies exposed and discredited. The Flagship of BRI – CPEC is dangerously close to this strike. If the terror factory is not curtailed or the Deep State does not mend its ways, Chinese interests could be hurt even more. Pakistani people will soon question Chinese inability to support them. The season is bad for all weather friends. Add internal problems of China. Suddenly everyone will see that China has limitations. They are limiting indeed.

Nuclear Bogey
Pervez Musharraf has exposed the Nuclear Bogey when he said that one nuke by Pak could invite twenty by India. Virtually, he has put the nuclear cat amongst the Pakistani pigeons. An anti-terror nonmilitary intelligence led surgical strike on a terrorist camp with no collateral damage is at the very bottom of the Nuclear escalatory ladder. The Deep State will suddenly realize the shallowness of flouting the nuclear card irresponsibly. I think the days of suicidal pointing a gun to its own head and screaming murder are over for Pakistan.

Lack of Crisis Managers
A major fall out of this event is that suddenly there are no crisis managers for Pakistan. During Kargil there was USA. Before that it was USSR. China is muted. Saudis will demur. Iran is sharpening its claws. It is open season. Going to UN and complaining about Indian aggression is no great deal. Suddenly they are on their own. That’s a new situation for them. Very sobering. If this is not isolation, what is?

Prospects Ahead
What are the prospects going ahead? The Deep State has undertaken an operation to save its face and create an opportunity to escalate the situation to play its nuclear ace. That is the minimum we should expect. Avoid that trap and be prepared with other responses. The second option is of course to incite people of J& K. That – they will do so. A humanitarian crisis in J&K will give them the opening they seek. Indian Government should head that off. The initial reaction in J&K would have been of stunned silence. But the hardliners will recover, and emotions will surface. The trick is to keep them on the backfoot through the carrot and stick routine.

Food for Thought
The history of Pakistan suggests that whenever Pakistan has been threatened its Army has let the people down. This event is no different. However, despite that the people have had no alternative but to go back to the Deep State. The Army and the people are on one page in their hatred for India. As usual will the people go back to the Army only? Mr Imran Khan is on a sticky wicket. On all such previous occasions the ensuing fall out has led to a coup and the Army got back to the top. Will it be different this time?

Avoid Complacency
What about India? Get going for the long haul. Well begun. Half done. The road ahead will be rocky. We should not lose focus – destroy the Deep State. Reinforce the Balakot action with another action from another direction. A different key from the same piano. Well calibrated. Without jingoism. No politicization. Keep it out of electoral politics. Till then – well done IAF. The nation is proud of you. Abhinandan will come back. Boy you are great. Salute.