May 26, 2020
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Limited Means

Tackling cross-border terrorism is the main goal. Limited action seems the favoured plan.

Limited Means
What are India’s options now that an all-out war is ruled out? Will it be a "limited war", a "precision strike" or a "lightning raid"? There are enough indications from army brass that a focused, limited action across the LoC is the favoured plan. In itself, the limited war idea, experts admit, is a flawed concept. Says Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, ex-army vice-chief : "Limited war is a relative term. Our main aim is to tackle cross-border terrorism...take all measures to prevent it."

Senior army officers at the helm of affairs in Srinagar and Delhi told Outlook about four possible action plans:

  • Raid militant camps located across the LoC

  • Deploy maximum force along the LoC to make infiltration a high-cost, low-returns affair

  • Launch precision air strikes on militant camps

  • Alter the LoC, capture certain strategic areas to prevent infiltration.

Of the four options, raids by special forces across the LoC specifically to destroy jehadi camps is a distinct possibility. But this plan has an inherent risk of failure. Indian paratroopers can go behind enemy lines but to launch any raid, they will need accurate, real-time intelligence. Says a para-commando officer: "The biggest weapon in any covert operation is exact intelligence on the enemy’s strength and location. Before any such operation, we must be sure of our information." The question is, is real-time, ‘actionable’ information available?

The second plan is to intensify deployment along the LoC so that infiltrators find it virtually impossible to cross over. For this, more infantry and mountain troops will have to be brought into J&K.

The third plan is launching precision air strikes on the 30-odd jehadi camps in PoK, followed by pin-point artillery fire on establishments closer to the LoC. This option is the easiest to implement but defence analysts warn of collateral damage to civilian population. "If civilians get hurt, we lose much of the high moral ground," says an IB official.

The last alternative is to change the "status" of the LoC in order to hold areas in PoK that serve as a launch pad for the jehadis. Says Lt Gen D.B. Shekatkar, a former divisional commander in Kashmir: "The LoC is not sacrosanct. It can be altered to our advantage to block ingress routes."

The last two alternatives are of course fraught with the risk of escalating tensions. Air strikes will invite immediate retaliation from the Pakistani air force and could even open up another front along the international border. Any action across the LoC will therefore have to be well-thought out.

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