Monday, January 5, 2009



Ever since Israel started its military strikes in Gaza a week ago to put down the acts of terrorism of the Hamas, there have been demands from sections of analysts and the general public in our country that India should emulate Israel and retaliate in a similar manner against Pakistan for its complicity in the terrorist attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Pakistani terrorist organisation, in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008.

2. Nobody can question Israel's exercise of its right of self-defence to protect the lives and property of its citizens from rocket attacks from Gaza by the Hamas for weeks and months now. As the Deputy Permanent Representative of the US to the United Nations said in a press interview after the US had refused to join in the condemnation of Israel's action by the UN Security Council: " Israel, like all other members of the UN, has the right of self-defence. This right is not negotiable."

3. Like Israel and other members of the UN, India too has the right of self-defence against acts of terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory and sponsored by the State of Pakistan and has the right to retaliate against Pakistan and the duty to do so to protect the lives and property of its citizens.

4. The question is not whether we should retaliate. We should if we want Pakistan and the horde of terrorists nursed by it to take us seriously. The question is whether a direct military strike will be the wise and appropriate way of retaliating against Pakistan or should we do it through political and diplomatic measures, followed by deniable covert actions if those measures do not make Pakistan change its ways.

5. For many years, Israel has been the victim of acts of terrorism by organisations such as the Hamas and the Hizbollah sponsored mainly by Syria and Iran. Its retaliation has been directed against these terrorist organisations and not against their State-sponsors. After the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 and the Yom Kippur war of 1973 Israel has indulged in military strikes in the territory of a sovereign state and a member of the UN only on two occasions---- against the Osirak nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq in the early 1980s and against the Hizbollah's infrastructure in the Lebanese territory in 2006. In the past,Israeli armed forces had operated in Lebanese territory on other occasions too.

6. Its action against Osirak in Iraq was a success, but its action in the Lebanon in 2006 against the Hizbollah was not. Despite its concerns over the nuclear sites in Iran for the production of enriched uranium, Israel has till now avoided any military strikes on these sites despite public pressure from sections of the Israeli people to do so. It did launch an attack on a suspected nuclear site in Syria last year, but as a deniable covert action and not as an admitted military strike.It has also indulged in covert actions against suspected Hamas operatives based in Syria.

7. It is able to indulge in openly admitted military strikes against the Hamas in Gaza because Gaza is not part of any sovereign State. In the past, Israel's retaliatory military strikes have been against terrorist organisations posing a threat to Israeli citizens and property and not against the States sponsoring them. Its actions against States sponsoring terrorism have been in the form of covert actions and not direct military strikes.

8. Practically all States facing the problem of terrorism have a covert action capability because it gives you a third option if political and diplomatic measures fail. If you don't have this capability, the only option you have if political and diplomatic actions fail is a military retaliation, which could be messy when used against a next door neighbour. If you don't use military strikes and if you don't have a covert action capability, the state-sponsor and the terrorists sponsored by it develop a contempt for you.

9. The US has bombed Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation for their perceived anti-US acts, but it never does it against Cuba, its next door neighbour. It has declared Cuba a state-sponsor of terrorism and constantly keeps trying to undermine Cuba's political stability and economy, but avoids direct military action against it despite its being a super power because it knows it could be messy.

10. It is hoped the Government draws the right lessons from its dilemma after Mumbai and tries to revive quikly our covert action capability, which was discarded more than a decade ago as an ill-conceived unilateral gesture to Pakistan.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: ) Reply Reply to all Forward


Vijainder K Thakur said...

While covert operations for human intelligence gathering, or retaliatory assassinations, is all right, I hope you are not advocating that India retaliate with Mumbai terror style operations in Pakistan? I don’t know about other Indian citizens, but I would not want my country to orchestrate a terror strike in Pakistan!

Considering the demographic mix of population in Pakistan vis-à-vis India, I don’t think India has the same opportunities for covert operations in Pakistan as Pakistan has in India.

Is it possible that the decision to suspend covert operations against Pakistan was prompted not by the quest for a moral high ground but a no win scenario?

JIJA said...

Your Post makes very interesting reading. I guess the thought has been uppermost in the mind of most why India should nt emulate Israel. What would be interesting to learn from your analysis is wheather there is a way we can do damage to the terror camps without violating the integrity of the borders, and infringing on other rights, in covert or direct action.
Also covert action has to be absolutely covert. We need tighter strategies and a project management approach at least when they are in a mission mode.
It is not difficult to get ourselves in to mission mode. The question is whether we can muster the will needed. And also, who will bell the cat?

Raymond Turney said...

I'm mildly mystified by advocates of treating the Pakistani threat the way the Israelis deal with Hamas.

The LeT is in POK, which is defended by Pakistan's army and air force. If we go by the results of Kargil, India's army and air force can beat Pakistan's, but it would be no walkover.

The Gaza Strip is protected by the relatively weak military force of Hamas itself. The nearby Arab states don't like Hamas; the ISI organized the LeT. Egypt is collaborating with Israel's attack on Gaza. Pakistan is not willing to cooperate with India.

In short, the situations are completely different.

I'm generally down on covert ops, because they are hard to control, the people you're working with often have different objectives than you do, and they have an unfortunate habit of becoming overt when you really don't want them to. I really regret the US decision to arm the Afghan mujahideen against Russia, because arming jihadis and persuading them that they can defeat a superpower has not looked like a good idea since 9/12/2001.

That said, B. Raman and Vikram Sood are the least bad of a set of unattractive options for India.

This has been a moderately long comment. If you want more, please read my blog at:


Raymond Turney said...



"That said, B. Raman and Vikram Sood are the least bad of a set of unattractive options for India."

should have been:

That said, B. Raman and Vikram Sood make a good case that covert operations are the least bad of a set of unattractive options for India.

javid said...

Dear all, pakistan has nothing to loose,it is all american money that they are spending.Unfortunately our all politicians especially kashmiri politicians, are also responsible for this mess,wheather it is mumbia,kashmir or any other part.India will not gain anything byway of attacking pakistan,nor will pakistan loose, who are immune to this .

chandrabhan said...

Raman sir,
I think I have made my comments regarding India's options on the succeding article. You make a point sir but how do we make Terrorist state of Pukistan bleed? I K Gujral eliminated the covert action division of RAW and I have always been surprised Why Vajpayee maintained the status quo?
I do hope Teflon coated MMS take steps to revive it. I do understand that it will take couple of years minimum to rebuild it to make it a credible threat for Kiya-Nahin, Hafeez Syed and company.
At this juncture, we must
1. Turn into fortress India
2. Grow the economy very fast
3. Bleed the TSP thru military spending - US vs USSR. I read yesterday that Kiya-nahin has already taken 20% from the milk money sloted for TSP kids.
4. Covert capabilities of raw must be built with urgency.
5. NIA agency should work in Tandem with RAW and put NSG under the direct command of NIA boss
6. encourage talibanisation of TSP. Once Pakjab is threatened at La-whore then only the jernails will move. They don't care about poor abduls and Ayeshas slogging in their feilds. around 40 families in TSP own more than 4000 acres of land each.
7. Put economic sanctions on TSP. Declare them a terrorist state and oppose the bailouts at every forum. Since TSPA owns all the major businesses, it will be hurt badly by sanctions. Puki army is a huge business enterprise and it runs everything - from transport to milk factories.

Does MMS have the guts to do it? Will the incumbent NDA govt be able to do it? Why any action against Pukiland seen thru the prism of IM's?

I just want to make a fervent appeal to all thebabu's who read your blog, "You are the pillars of this edifice called India, don't let it down. Politicians are wither dumb or plain selfish and the last intelligent PM was PVN. Vajpayee was a poet and too much of emotional being. Please don't let the jokers ruin what was created thru blood,gut and sacrifice".