<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Indian Army’s clinical exfiltration mission carrying out surgical strikes across the LoC inflicting ‘significant damage’ to terrorists and those who protect them has shocked the world. It is not only due to the fact that it comes at a time, when most commentators assumed India will be showing strategic restraint post PM Modi’s speech, but also the manner and language with which the army decided to break the news was striking and emphatic.Indian DGMO Ranbir Singh said that he has informed the Pak DGMO about the strikes once the operation was done and clearly conveyed India’s locus standi vis-à-vis cross-border terror. It was the first time India publicly acknowledged that it had carried out a preemptive strike across the LoC. Pakistan’s reaction so far has ranged from denial, exasperation and finally baying for retribution. If one looks at what has transpired in the last couple of days, some clear points emerge:1. The threshold of tolerance has been loweredDGMO’s statement says that India attacked the terror pads inside LoC as soon as credible information was received about terrorists looking to infiltrate. It indicates that India is ready to make preemptive strikes to shield its citizens rather than waiting for the enemy to attack. Contrast it with post 26/11 response, where Manmohan government decided against any such move fearing escalation. It is certainly a brave new India trying to project a no-nonsense attitude towards terror. Can the army and the upper echelons of the political class keep this level of tolerance for strikes in the future? It may determine the course of the Indo-Pak relationship.2. Pak establishment in a fixThe response to India’s surgical strike from Pakistan is a story in itself. Initially Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned ‘unprovoked aggression’ from India. It was followed up by Pak military playing down the surgical strike story saying it was routine fire-fight at the LOC. On Friday, Sharif warned India that Pakistan can also carry out a ‘surgical strike’, which was followed up by 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed practically saying the same thing. For Pakistan, it is a double edged-sword. Acknowledging it was a surgical strike means they will be under the pressure to retaliate and risk massive escalation. On the other hand, not doing anything will give a dour message to the electorate. Modi has essentially put Sharif in a bind by using the first mover’s advantage. It is up to Pakistan now to decide how to play the geo-political game in the near future.3. PM Modi’s Pak policy – A case of leveraging a massive mandatePM Modi invited Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders to his oath-taking ceremony as a goodwill measure. Last year, he took an impromptu detour while coming back from Afghanistan to wish Sharif on his birthday. When Modi did this Pak outreach – it wasn’t the case that situation was extremely conducive for bilateral talks. Yet PM did his bit knowing he had the legroom to handle a hostile reaction from his core constituency. He allowed an ISI team to visit Pathankot after the siege was over. Yet, Pakistan didn’t warm to India’s olive branch and continued to give covert and overt support to terror activities in India. Nawaz Sharif eulogising Burhan Wani in UN was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s broke. In one swoop, India has switched the game against Pakistan and it has been made clear that talks are off the table till they mend their ways. India’s payback to Pakistan post Uri attack is part of the same doctrine. India will like to maintain cordial relations but not at the cost national security. It is time for a more muscular policy without mere posturing. An unsure leader can’t take decisive action. Modi on the other hand, could tinker his Pak policy knowing he enjoys the support of the electorate.4. Global response to surgical attackPM Modi in his speech at Kozhikode highlighted how India will be looking to marginalise Pakistan in the international forum. The India-led pull-out has virtually scuttled the 19th SAARC summit which was scheduled to be held at Islamabad in November but has been postponed. While Pak cried foul post India’s surgical strike, most countries have either taken a cautious stance or openly supported India. Bangladesh and Afghanistan have sided with India. But the most significant endorsement has come from Russia which while calling for talks between the two hostile nations has asked Pakistan to stop sheltering terrorists in their country.US and Pak ally China have reacted in a tempered manner to the surgical strike urging both the countries to aim for de-escalation. Prima facie, India’s stance has been vindicated, the fact that a surgical strike was done to stop imminent terror strikes have received a broad acceptance in the global community. That’s a big win for Modi’s foreign policy.5. India united – A rare political unison Virtually every political party in India has supported the surgical strike and backed the government’s steps to counter Pakistan. Congress VP Rahul Gandhi, went as far as to call this the ‘first time Modi acted like the PM of India’. A back-handed compliment no doubt, but Modi will take it for now. The fact remains that with the Uri payback, PM Modi has managed to silence his critics, charm the neutrals and assuage the core base who were increasingly getting iffy with lack of action on several fronts. Modi is almost midway through his term – a time when the traditional support base of a leader starts depleting. For PM Modi the afterglow of this attack is a golden opportunity to push legislative agendas, when the nation wants its politicians to speak in one voice. It is a time for Modi to reboot his policies and look for greater consensus to implement the mandate people have entrusted him with.All in all, India has played its card right with the decisive blow. The script could have gone horribly wrong. A botched operation would have meant a huge face loss for both the army and civilian leadership. But an aspirational superpower, looking to get its seat at the high-table with other world powers can’t afford to be defensive when its sovereignty is threatened. India has just defined the new-normal to the global community.
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