Consequence Management – Post Surgical Strikes

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

Consequence management post-surgical strikes are extraordinarily complex. Success, in turn, generates its own set of problems. Most important, it should not breed complacency.

Modi led government has regained initiative at diplomatic and military levels. Momentum must be maintained to create more opportunities to exploit. What about other dimensions?

Always remember that taming terror is a highly creative and intellectual exercise; and a battle of ideas/innovations and the application of all the instruments of national power.

Consequence Management refers to the broad range of activities taken to counter the effects of an attack. The terms ‘crisis response’ and ‘emergency management’ usually refers to steps taken in the immediate aftermath of an incident.

Crisis response may last hours, days or weeks, but consequence management can last for months and years. Local, state, and central government should plan ahead to counter potential terrorist/militant contingencies in all fields and at all levels.

Always remember that excessive focus on one crisis should not weaken the response to another threat. Diplomacy or classical counter insurgency by themselves cannot neutralize terrorism/militancy.

People are the end objective or the Center of Gravity (CoG). Whoever influences the “psyche” of people and gains their confidence and trust will ultimately win. Thus, the success of information warfare is most crucial. It is never ending intellectual game that needs to be played with tremendous dexterity. Media, civic society and the government have an important role to play in this.

Of course, never underestimate Pakistan as adversary ever – the real State or face of terrorism in South Asia. Revenge through 1000-year Jihad is its avowed strategic end. Even if its internal situation alters dramatically, one should not expect terror strikes to end in South Asia.

The revelation of the “SECRET FILEE” prepared by Pakistani “Think Tanks” lays bare its intentions quite clearly. Its plan is to identify the vulnerabilities in the Indian social context – diversity – and lure and exploit the disgruntled sections of society to continue the “Proxy or Hybrid War” to bleed India “through thousand cuts.”

Furthermore, the visit of General Raheel Sharif to the POK is a sure indication of what is likely to be implemented across the LOC besides shoring up the morale of his troops and terrorist cadres. Even Pakistani army would retain the choice of “time and place of cross border surgical strikes” to take revenge either through terrorist cadres or through its special forces groups.

To reiterate, LeT, HuM and JeM are three main terror groups who launch terror strikes in India particularly J & K. Their leaders have been moved temporarily into army camps for security cover.

As per intelligence estimates, there are around 2,500 terrorists training in 42 camps in PoK. Majority of cadres are motivated by religious fervor and indoctrinated to sacrifice their lives in the name of “HOLY Terror”. Some may have been attracted by financial benefit and adventure.

And, there are around 200 to 220 foreign terrorists inside J & K. They have gone hi-tech (GPS Devices) and trained to negotiate the electrified border fence besides state-of-the-art AK 47s and Under Barrel Grenade Launchers (UBGL). The Pakistan Army has activated launch pads close to the LOC. Moreover, terrorists serve as a link between their handlers and local separatist leaders.

In sum, Pakistan, Islamic State, still has awesome terror strike potency at its behest. Loss of a few cadres, considered significant by the Indian DGMO, does not eliminate or even marginalize its “crescent envelopment” capacity and capability of South Asian nations without exception.

It is fair to assess that the terrorist network still remains a potent force both in J & K and POK to continue with terror strikes in conjunction with local militant cadres.  By their omnipresence, they spread fear among locals and maintain hold to instigate groups to carryout stone pelting on daily basis.

A sharp terrorist escalation is a distinct prospect.  If so, security forces must implement strongest possible measures to stem the likely tide or tsunami of cross border terrorist strikes across the LoC/IB and to track and neutralize terrorists who manage to cross into J & K in particular.

But, terrorism cannot be eliminated; and one needs to learn to live with it without being unnecessarily obsessed with fear. At best work to reduce the threat to an acceptable level.

So, there is an urgent need to refine the current pedestrian strategic approach to counter terrorism/militancy – first treat them at the outset as law and order problems and employ military tactical responses when the situation spins out of control.  Military solution alone cannot pay ultimate peace and stability dividends. By pursuing tactical military gains and mindless attrition, the risk of strategic defeat due to casualties and collateral damages becomes real.

Winning the battle on terror means understanding its ‘why’ and working towards transforming the embittered and disillusioned into free people living harmoniously in a diverse and secular society. If a miniscule section of society is dejected and frustrated, peace becomes the first victim.

Pluralist and multicultural societies are emerging everywhere due to rapid demographic transitions – both legal and illegal. Bridging the cultural gap” or promoting “unity in diversity” is the biggest challenge faced by humankind. Unless cultural democracy replaces cultural imperialism, hope for forging harmony in diverse societies may remain an illusion.

Resource control, particularly funding and information warfare facilities and other means they need to operate and survive, is vital. Expeditious justice delivery and disposal to book and deliver verdicts of accused act as deterrent.

What is, therefore, absolutely vital is to identify, formulate and implement credible long-term development strategies in social, political and economic fields with the end objective to win over the hearts and minds of the majority.

Be that as it may, none can deny credit to the Modi-led government to isolate Pakistan diplomatically (apart from China and quite a few OIC nations), at both the international and regional level. But, geopolitics is quite a fluid game and can change dramatically.

Undeniably, Modi-led government has failed on the domestic front to unite the nation, particularly opposition parties, to counter terror effort due to forthcoming elections in UP, Punjab and Goa three months later. Promoting unity on the domestic front over the Pakistan State sponsored terror would remain the single most key challenge for the ruling regime. The obduracy of the opposition parties to embarrass Modi led government is phenomenal to score brownie points.

Meanwhile, Government must plan, coordinate and direct a multi dimensional and multi-pronged approach to contain cross border terrorism.

Inter-alia, counter terrorism/militancy by security forces and local police focus must include: strengthening of border management and multi-tiered and multi-modal deployment along the IB/LoC and near the ever changing infiltration routes; construction of border fencing; improved technology, weapons and equipments for SFs; improved intelligence and operational coordination; synergized intelligence flows to check infiltration; and pre-emptive action against terrorists within the State.

Most important to realize is that “terror breeds fear among the majority.” Fear is a contagious disease. The antidote to fear is information. If one wants to promote and consolidate peace, first one must understand the ‘psyche’ or dynamic changes in thinking and attitudes of all actors. Develop and understand situational awareness of terrorism and its context. In depth knowledge of the phenomenon of terrorism and the underlying psychology of terrorists is vital to arrive at sound strategic responses.

People who matter need to learn to do things dramatically different by refined thinking and mode of operation; in that they must learn to respect the complexities of the situation, sensitivities of individuals and design a just and non partisan operational approach.

In the context of security forces, the change in the operational culture is most critical at grass roots level. Psychological reconditioning takes time at all levels and frequent turnovers cannot facilitate building relationships, which is the cornerstone of building peace.

In sum, anti terrorism/militancy presents massive challenges. Absolute security or securing everything is impossible and would not be cost effective. Risk and vulnerability are the price of living in a free and open society. A careful and comprehensive assessment of the threats and vulnerabilities is the need of the hour. The conventional counter terrorism/militancy approach may only further contribute to greater psychological estrangement.

Even conventional containment approach through episodic declarations of intent may not contribute to sustainable peace. What is needed is a comprehensive proactive national strategy and plan based on harnessing the capacities of media and Civil Societies in furtherance of aim of promoting “psychological reconditioning” of people. Addressing root causes of terror/militancy holds the key. The state needs to provide balanced political, economic and social reforms. These reforms need to be refined on need basis and fulfill the aspirations of dissatisfied people or groups so that people refrain from joining the terrorists and win back those who have already defected. Further, gaining trust of the people will improve intelligence gathering and more focused use of responses of the state.

Peace is a bold but calculated risk, a brave and noble choice. Gaining peace is an uphill challenge. Is there a Case for an Alternative Approach? Can we look at Peace as an instrument to arrest and finally stop terrorism! Peace, Progress, Prosperity & Brotherhood springs out of People –P4B.   So also, terror/militancy also springs out of people. Perfect peace at global level is a virtual impossibility due to glaring inequalities everywhere.

John Hagelin, Founder, United States Peace Government says, “Today we urgently need a new, more fundamental approach to peace that can neutralize the very basis of terrorism and war.” In retrospect, the national strategy against terror needs to focus on humanizing or taming or containment rather than the prevalent view of absolute destruction.

And, the four-pronged vision must include: application of requisite psychological tools and peace initiatives to address youth and able bodied against the folly of terror; and better awareness among the people to face the threat without being terrorized; prevent and defeat violent extremism; and sustainable and inclusive development through creation of environment inhospitable to extremists and all those who support it.

The refined all-comprehensive approach includes: collaborating with likeminded nations; isolate and apply diplomatic, economic and social pressure on Pakistan; appreciate war to terminate terrorism is not pragmatic and unlikely to win; capacity building through situational awareness of all agencies to effectively conduct anti terror/militancy operations to protect people, infrastructure etc., by target hardening, transportation, land and maritime border security; identify and isolate separatist leaders from their sponsors across the LOC and their cadres inside; exercise stringent resource control; make no concessions to terrorists/militants and strike no deals; get beyond the notion of them vs. us or good vs. bad terrorists; bring terrorists to justice for their crimes expeditiously;  protect and secure all key installations and transportation means; conduct offensive operations against the terrorists to stem the tide of terrorism to a manageable level or containment.

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