Pakistan used the threat of nuclear weapons as a “magic word” to deter India from punishing terrorists hiding across the border, but that changed after the surgical strikes and the Balakot air strikes, former India Army officers said on Thursday.
The 2016 surgical strikes after the Uri attack on an Indian Army base, the Balakot airstrike this year and a change in the “Indian psyche” together were instrumental in calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff, Lt Gen (retd) Amit Sharma and Maj Gen (retd) Dhruv C Katoch said.
They made the remarks during the launch of the book, “The Bugle Calls: A Life in the Indian Army”, written by Lt. Colonel (retd) Naresh Rastogi and former diplomat Kiran Doshi.
“These surgical strikes, with full support from the political authority, represented a dramatic shift in our approach,” said Maj Gen Katoch.
“It was a different ball game altogether. The message was very clear: ‘Do what you want’, but we (India) won’t be deterred by a nuclear threat,” he said.
He said India called Pakistan’s bluff twice with surgical strikes and air strikes.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan during his maiden speech at the 74th UN General Assembly devoted most of his time to India and Kashmir, drumming up hysteria over a possible nuclear war after New Delhi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August.
Calling Khan’s nuclear war threat “immature” and “plain brinkmanship”, Lt Gen Sharma said all this rhetoric was done to direct the international attention towards Kashmir.
He said the “entire existence” of Pakistan’s political and military leadership is about Kashmir. But with Article 370 gone, they don’t know what to do, he added.
“Now, they are trying to get the world to do something to India by scaring the world with nuclear weapons. I feel this is brinkmanship, no country goes to nuclear war over these things,” Lt Gen Sharma, who was the Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Forces Command in 2014, said.
Citing the book, he talked about an interaction between a Pakistani army officer and an Indian Army officer. The Pakistani officer told the Indian officer, “Indians are like batsmen, you have to stop us every time, and we are bowlers who have to get through only once”.
This, he said, was the Pakistani psyche for a long time and they have used the threat of using nuclear weapons as a “magic word” to stop India from doing acting against terrorists.
But not anymore, he asserted.
“This psyche changed after Balakot and Uri surgical strikes,” he said.
“From being batsmen, we are now googly bowlers. That is we have become offensive … Today, we have an offensive government,” he said.
On the question of India’s “No First Use’ policy, Maj Gen Katoch brought the attention to the second line of the policy which, he said, is very categorical about “massive retaliation”.
“It (India) will not use nuclear weapons first, but if attacked, and that is where the actual philosophy comes in, there will be a massive response, massive retaliation. I think that is the lesson people should not forget,” he said.
He said he feels Pakistan cannot carry out the nuclear threat.
“If they do so, the consequences to Pakistan would be severe and that country will no longer exist,” he warned.
Published by Westland, the book, “The Bugle Calls-A Life in the Indian Army”, is a candid, racy, humorous memoir of a life lived in the Indian Army.
Source: Economic Times