India is the civilisation which has never invaded a territory since its inception and followed the rule of sovereignty even before it was established by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Saptang Theory of State, devised by Kautilya in 4th century BC talked about ‘Rashtra’ or ‘Janapada’ (territory or nation state) and international recognition of the state through ‘Mitra’ i.e. allies. Evidently, the Indian civilisation deeply respected territorial sovereignty and recognised the need of international recognition of the state and cultivation of allies. Despite this civilised and harmonious behaviour, we were invaded multiple times, starting from the Greeks, Parthians, Kushans (in ancient times); Turkish and Mongolian (medieval times) and, European invaders, especially British (in modern times). Our decency has been misconstrued with cowardice to justify external aggression with impunity.
Post-independent India (since 1947) adopted a ‘defensive’ approach to security which costed it further invasions by Pakistanis (in 1949, 1965, 1971 and 1999) and Chinese (in 1962). The western neighbour who owes its existence to hatred against India forwarded the theory of ‘bleeding India with a thousand cuts’ (General Zia ul Haq, former dictator of Pakistan) and ‘balkanisation of India’ (General Hamid Gul, former ISI Chief). This vicious hatred emanates not merely from India’s success in providing a pluralistic democracy with marvellous economic success but the failure of ‘two-nation theory’ which carved out Pakistan from undivided India in 1947. During all this aggression, India merely defended itself and even returned the captured territories and prisoners of war to the enemy country as a humanitarian gesture. It was said that India wins at the ground but loses at the table. The defensive approach costed us terrorist attacks, civilian casualties, nuclear blackmail and internal security situations motivated by forces inimical to India’s interests.
For almost 70 years, the defensive approach ruled our strategic policy circles. With the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his security team in 2014, the much-needed shift was made towards ‘defensive offence’. It was labelled as the policy of ‘New India’ which saw its practical application in surgical strikes of September 2016 upon terror sanctuaries in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and yesterday’s air strikes in both PoK and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These both strikes were done in retaliation against the terrorists who crossed the border to kill our brave soldiers, so they were ‘defensive’ in nature, and it meant to impose costs upon the terrorists to act as an insurance against future misadventures by them, which makes it a ‘pre-emptive offence’.
When we talk of ‘New India’ in security domain, it means that we have made a fundamental shift from ‘defence’ towards ‘defensive offence’ to ensure that pre-emptive action (within the mandate of Article 51 of UN Charter) will be taken to ensure protection of our territory, society and economy. The shortcomings of a ‘defensive’ strategy were apparent while dealing with our rogue western neighbour. Defensive strategy lets them guide the narrative & never lets us win. The fruit of a successful defence is merely ‘stalemate’ i.e. even if I successfully thwart all the attempts made at my throat, I will still comeback at the position of status quo. It cannot even serve as an insurance against further attempts at my life. Whereas, a ‘defensive offence’ strategy would allow us to shift the equilibrium in our favour, at our terms and add to our strengths. It complements our nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use’ which is also based on pre-emptive strikes to serve as an insurance against nuclear misadventures by our neighbourhood forces. Strategically speaking, rather than hiding our vulnerabilities, we will now be able to explore the opportunities posed by the enemy’s vulnerabilities.
Nonetheless, yesterday’s air strikes must be seen as a cross-border extension of ‘Operation All Out’ which is in active mode since 2017 to eliminate terrorists from the state of Jammu and Kashmir. India didn’t intend to violate the sovereignty of Pakistani state but was forced to dislocate terror launchpads operating in the targeted territory. We should be proud of our highly professional Indian Air Force which exercised maximum restraint to not violate the territorial sovereignty of Pakistan, while dismembering the terror sanctuaries operating in the same territory. The entire region must speak in one voice against terrorism & its supporters.
I would like to request our friendly people of Pakistan that we, the people of India have no animosity against you and we would like to establish good relations with you but the hawkish elements in your state apparatus are risking your economy and security for their own survival. They test our patience at your cost and we are being forced to respond in a way that may hurt your own survival in the long run.