On the night of December 31st 2014, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted and neutralized a boat filled with explosives that had come all the way from Karachi in Pakistan and intruded into Indian waters. This operation is a telling example of the India’s new resolve and determination to keep the country safe. After many years, the national security establishment has done itself and the country proud by preempting a grave threat to the country by pooling its resources and smartly executing its counter-terror operations. India appears to be in no mood to mouth platitudes or wallow in self-pity any longer. It is now determined to pull the plug on terrorists from across the border and will go to any length to keep them at bay. The 2015 New Year’s Day operation clearly marks the maturing of the Indian National Security dispensation.
Since it shook off the shackles of British rule in 1947, India has seen constant security threats and wars with its recalcitrant neighbor. Thousands of Indians have been killed by terrorist trained in Pakistan. Fully exploiting an effete Indian leadership, Pakistan had inflicted its ‘thousand cuts’ on India. It went almost unchallenged, often getting away with incredible impunity.
For over thirty years, India had failed to come up with a credible and visible deterrent against this organized terror from Pakistan. India’s response, at best, has been brave words of fake resolve to fight it. For most of these three decades, India was run by political coalitions that were unwilling to put the country’s interest above their petty short term political gains. The country’s political leadership did not wield real authority, and importantly, was incompetent. Consequently, over the years, this had egged Pakistan to make terror an instrument of state policy to pin India down and had succeeded hands down.
The elections in summer of 2014 seem to have brought rapid changes. Earlier this winter when Pakistan, fired at Indian positions along the line of control (LOC), the response was unexpected. The ‘mortar-for-bullet’ response by the Indian security forces not only shocked Pakistan, but also India. Pakistan was forced to back off with a bloody nose and even admit that it did not expect such a powerful response from India.
Earlier in the year, India’s response to China’s intrusion in Ladakh was another pointer to its subtle, yet new assertiveness. Never before has India’s political leadership met China eye to eye and called off its bluff. While there is still much work to be done on the China front, recent decisions have only highlighted a vigor and maturity seen only among Western powers.
The overwhelming participation of the people of Kashmir in the elections is another key victory over terrorists. The security forces had ensured that elections were conducted in a peaceful manner – a feat that the National security adviser to the Prime Minister, Ajit Doval, rightfully claimed as a victory for India.
India has shown equal alacrity in safeguarding its economic interests - as seen from WTO negotiations. It stood its ground against the US pressure. While fully recognizing its vulnerabilities in a connected world, it has placed its bets correctly on securing its long term interest with a new found firmness. The wave of diplomatic charm offensives to win friends across the globe and in particular, a ‘Look-East’ policy - are definite pointers to a well-baked vision to further India’s interests.
These significant developments have not been adequately reported by the mainstream media in India. Either they have missed it or chosen to ignore it. On the other hand, some media reports have raised doubts over the authenticity of the interception of the Pakistani boat, and questioned every detail with the obvious intent to discredit the government. This is unfortunate and unprofessional when the full facts of the case are under investigation. In some sense, the media has lost its connect with the average Indian. They need to urgently revisit their priorities and get back on track to the business of dispassionately informing the people.
It would be unwise to dismiss the ‘mortar-for-bullet’ response to Pakistan’s intrusions at the border or the neutralization of Pakistani terrorists at sea as a one off chance event. It is only the tip of the iceberg of a host of tactical responses – and part of a larger policy framework – to handle a cantankerous neighbor. They reveal a deep and fundamental change in perspective to the country’s security.
India has superior and necessary assets –both human and material - to create the desired security climate conducive to achieve its strategic objectives – rapid economic growth to wipe out poverty from its land. The new security policy envisions economic growth and robust national security as two sides of a coin. In other words the two complement the other. Given that 80% of India is below 35 years of age, there is grave urgency to boost rapid economic growth to provide employment to the growing young workforce. Thus India is faced with a Hobson’s choice – rapid economic growth or a slide back to poverty. The latter will push India into social unrest and chaos. Hence at this juncture, India has no choice but to invest in its security for its growth. Consequently, it cannot afford to be distracted by Pakistan’s churlish designs. India’s new security doctrine seems be pivoting around this insight. In this context, Pakistan should also realize the economic realities of the changes in India and the consequences it may have to face if it persists with its proxy war. Since rapid growth is the only choice for India, Pakistan’s proxy war may cause severe retribution from India.
Most importantly, the new national security paradigm is not limited to designing Pakistan centric response architecture, but building pragmatic and strategic machinery designed to protect India’s long term and immediate interests - wherever the threats may come from. The ground is prepared and India is ready to launch its aggressive economic growth strategies without distractions. Shock and awe awaits those who threaten India’s interests.