Ever since they gained independence from Britain in 1947, a perpetual state of heightened tension has existed between India and Pakistan due to the disputed territory of Kashmir, with war ensuing on three occasions even as recently as 1999.
This conflict has mutated into a far more savage and repulsive form as the Pakistan army backed by its intelligence services, the Inter-Services Intelligence, developed a new tactic over the last 20 years: the use of terrorist mujahideen to fight a proxy war against India.
This policy has fueled several terrorist attacks on Indian soil, including the hijacking of an aircraft in 1999, the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in Delhi that killed nine, the 2006 Mumbai train blasts that killed 209, the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 164, and most recently an attack on an Indian Airforce Base in Pathankot in January, just to name a few.
As terrorism has engulfed South Asia, attacks have become a common occurrence across the subcontinent. These attacks have directly or indirectly had an impact on all the people of South Asia, including many students at UCLA. These incidents happen in the busiest areas of the biggest Indian cities. For example, the 209 people who died in the Mumbai trains, which are the lifeline of the city, could have been any of our parents, relatives or friends.
If Pakistan continues to allow these terrorists to roam free and encourage them, India must no longer believe that they will be brought to justice in Pakistani courts. Instead, India should adopt a two-pronged strategy to ultimately destroy these terrorists and the Pakistani establishment that supports them.
Firstly, India should immediately enter a more offensive mode and carry out cross-border operations to destroy the hundreds of terrorist camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or ‘Azad Kashmir’ and Pakistani Punjab. India, as one of the largest and strongest military powers in the world, can destroy these terrorist camps with extensive special operation forces. The army has repeatedly stated its capabilities, but there is a lack of political will from the government to carry out such operations.
Secondly, India should isolate Pakistan economically and politically. India is the 7th largest economy with a nominal GDP of $2.05 trillion and the fastest growing economy in the world with a 2016 projected GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent. In comparison, Pakistan’s GDP is $250 billion.
According to India’s current National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, a country solely on the defensive against a constant terrorist threat is bound to be hurt at some point, which will result in the loss of precious life, infrastructure and national security that might otherwise have been saved. He says that a far more effective strategy would be to attack the source of the terrorist aggression and thereby eliminate the root cause.
Economic and military growth has contributed to a gradual increase in political clout which eventually can be used to suffocate the Pakistani establishment. However India is currently unable to organize international sanctions to suppress their attackers in the same way as the Western Powers and Russia.
India continues to stand by while doing its best to intercept and stop these attacks but nothing more than that. By using proxies to hurt India, Pakistan believes it is playing a clever foolproof game in which it does not come off as directly culpable, but manages to still inflict damage by supporting these terrorists. The main terrorist organizations acting against India are the Lakshar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed. They support the Pakistan position on the Kashmir issue and therefore are a valuable tool to use in the conflict.
India continues to place goodwill and faith in the Pakistani establishment and the bilateral diplomatic process only to be repeatedly stabbed in the back by these proxies. On Dec. 25, 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an impromptu visit to Pakistan on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s birthday to restart the bilateral process after a period of frosty silence. A few days later, his favor was returned with a terrorist attack on the Pathankot Indian Airforce Base.
Indian authorities have repeatedly given Pakistan proof of these terrorist’s crimes and demanded punishment in Pakistan courts but their efforts have been futile. For example, after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India passed over a 69-page dossier to Pakistan as proof of the crimes of the LeT and its chief Hafiz Saeed with evidence including confessions of one of the terrorists caught alive, Ajmal Kasab, who was later given capital punishment by the Indian Courts.
Unlike in the case of Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist leaders who remained hidden, these Pakistani terrorist leaders live openly under the patronage of the ISI. Saeed, living in Lahore, has his own top security provided by the police and regularly addresses Friday prayer sermons in local mosques where he reiterates his call for attacks against India and the death of the “kafirs” or unbelievers in Kashmir. Masood Azhar, the leader of the JeM and perpetrator of the IC1918 hijacking has openly lived in Pakistan since 2000. These are terrorists with crimes under international law.
However the most tragic group in all of this must be the Pakistani civilians. By cultivating terrorism in India and Afghanistan, Pakistan has brought the very same scourge to itself with over 35,000 casualties between 2001 and 2011 and hundreds more since. This scale of death and destruction is much larger than what India suffers and is a direct result of a poisonous policy of the ISI and Pakistani Army.
These terrorists may believe the clash is between theocratic Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India, but India is a secular nation, home to a comparable number of Muslims.
If these terrorists are mere rogue actors as Pakistan claims, then it should be removing them. But since it is not taking action, India must do so in order to ensure that more lives are not lost and more damage is not done.
India has entered a futile cycle. Engage in talks, suffer an attack, mourn for its dead, say it is resilient, break off talks and then eventually reengage. The time has come for India to ditch its trust in the Pakistani Judiciary and instead take matters into its own hands.