“Perhaps, in 2008, India’s response was not sufficient..” – Former Diplomat Ajay Bisaria on 26/11 attacks

Ajay Bisaria in his new book “Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship between India and Pakistan” talks about India’s response to terrorism

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Former diplomat Ajay Bisaria has made strong remarks regarding India’s response to the 26/11 attacks and what has changed with the surgical strikes and Balakot strike. He claims that while New Delhi was overly dependent on diplomacy in 2008, its recent actions have ensured that it now has a countermeasure for Pakistan’s unconventional warfare.

Speaking exclusively to NDTV on Tuesday, Mr. Bisaria—who was Pakistan’s Indian High Commissioner at the time of the February 2019 airstrike on Balakot—said that the confidence of Indian diplomats has shifted as a result of their clear mandate and faith in the leadership. In his latest book, “Anger Management: The Troubled Diplomatic Relationship between India and Pakistan,” the former diplomat argues that there is a policy conundrum when it comes to combating terrorism and that India’s moderation may have given the wrong impression to terrorists and those who support them in Pakistan.

“In case India had reacted in 2008 the way it did in 2016 or 2019 with a surgical (strike) or airstrike, a strong Indian response would have entered the security calculus of Pakistan and served as a disincentive for the Pakistan army’s support of India-focused militant groups,” he wrote

When he was asked about this, Mr Bisaria, who was also the principal secretary to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said,” I think this has been a dilemma for India for three decades, ever since we have started facing terrorism, and I would argue even from the 1980s. The question before India and Indian policymakers has been how to react to it.”

“So the argument I make is that, perhaps, in 2008, India’s response was not sufficient, it wasn’t adequate. It was over-reliant on diplomacy and not reliant enough on the use of hard power. I make a deeper point that India has suffered terrorism in the eighties in Punjab and then in the 80s and 90s in Kashmir. If we had crafted a response to this sub-conventional warfare by Pakistan even earlier, we could perhaps have saved ourselves from a lot of bloodshed and loss of lives,” the former diplomat explained.

India’s Dealing with Pakistan

Regarding whether he believed that the government at the time depended too heavily on diplomats, Mr. Bisaria responded that this would be oversimplifying the matter and that the real question is whether there was the willingness and ability to look beyond diplomacy.

“And the argument is that India now has an answer to Pakistan’s sub-conventional warfare, as expressed in 2016 with surgical strikes and in 2019 with airstrikes, that it is dealing in the sub-conventional space where you have, you know, a kind of warfare or proxy warfare below the conventional realm of battle. And I think that is something that is going to serve India well in dealing with the Pakistan issue,” he emphasized.

 Regarding assertions made by certain specialists that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach to addressing Pakistan had resulted in a decrease in terrorist incidents in India, the ex-diplomat emphasized that both the willingness and the ability have shifted. He claimed that India chose to respond to Pakistan’s terrorism by acting far more forcefully than it had done in the past, in 2016 (after the attack on an Army camp in Uri) and in the wake of the Pulwama attack in 2019.

Mr Bisaria also pointed out that Prime Minister Modi had also attempted diplomacy. “2014 and 2015, remember, was a period when he engaged with Nawaz Sharif. Nawaz Sharif was here for his inauguration, for his swearing in, and Prime Minister Modi himself made a visit to Pakistan towards the end of 2015. But we finally managed to craft a response to terrorism, which entered Pakistan’s calculus, that this would be a cost that Pakistan would have to pay, whether deploying state actors or non-state actors,” he said.

By: Gursharan Kaur

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