Essay Should India Attack Pakistan

An early dividend of Narendra Modi’s election as India’s prime minister appeared on May 26, when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited New Delhi for the inauguration. In his winning election campaign last year, Sharif had declared, “If India takes one step for good relations, Pakistan will take two. We even want to put an end to visa requirements between the two countries...We want peace with India.” Now the two South Asian leaders are mutually pledged to resume a peace process that Sharif and then-Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had begun in 1999.

However, the hoped-for peace process could turn to war—with huge implications for the United States—if militant actors in Pakistan attack India in hopes of provoking Modi to overreact. Something like this happened in 1999. Then, Pervez Musharraf and several colleagues in the Pakistan Army launched a clandestine incursion into the Kargil region of Kashmir, which triggered a limited, hard-fought war that India won, with diplomatic assistance from Bill Clinton. Today, the likely instigators would be the Pakistani Taliban or other militant groups who wish to divert the Pakistani state from cracking down on them.

Many Pakistanis loathe Modi as a belligerent anti-Muslim Hindu fundamentalist. What distinguishes the militants from other Pakistanis is an interest in provoking Modi into military action that would unite Pakistanis in a war against India instead of against the militants themselves. Given Modi’s reputation and self-image as a strongman, it is difficult to imagine he would not respond forcefully to violence emanating from Pakistan. As one of his top advisors put it recently, “Modi will have to respond to an attack or he will lose all his credibility.”

During the last major crisis following the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai by Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, India’s leaders responded only with minimal political sanctions. This restraint was perhaps wise policy, as world and domestic opinion in Pakistan turned against the terrorists and their sponsors. But the lack of a cathartic military response left many Indians, including some senior figures in the armed forces, frustrated that the Pakistan Army did not suffer enough for harboring (if not authorizing) the terrorists.

These circumstances make it extremely difficult to see how another major terrorist attack on India would not escalate to war. And, if Modi did respond militarily, Pakistan Army leaders would feel that allowing him to “win” would reinforce the dangerous notion that Hindu belligerence pays, and that the already beleaguered Pakistan Army does not deserve the power and privileges it has long enjoyed. Humiliation would leave the Pakistani Army unable to claim the capability and authority to protect the country against its challengers abroad or at home. Facing such a prospect, the Army would feel hard-pressed to use every quiver in its arsenal, including its nuclear weapons.

Toby Dalton
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Fortunately, Modi and Sharif, along with their electorates, understand that both countries would be much better off if they could expand mutual trade and other forms of peaceful interaction. Both societies and governments recognize that the perpetrators of violence and perpetual conflict are a small minority that threatens the internal well-being of each country as well as security and prosperity between them.

Thus, the challenge for Indians and Pakistanis—and for the U.S. government, which inevitably would be impelled to mediate a new conflict—is to take steps now to prevent major terrorist attacks on India and to prepare modalities to manage consequences if prevention fails.

The United States needs to be more forthcoming than it has been in the past in sharing intelligence with India on possible threats and holding Pakistan to account for its ambivalent counterterrorism performance concerning India. Indian leaders need to correct longstanding inadequacies in their intelligence and counterterrorism organizations, and prepare contingencies for responding to attacks that take full account of the risks of escalation. Pakistani leaders, especially in the Army and Inter-Services Intelligence, need to open genuine lines of communication with their Indian counterparts and demonstrate that they are doing everything they can to prevent future Mumbai-like attacks.

Cooperation like this must occur before an attack if there will be any chance of mitigating risks of escalation after one occurs. The stakes could not be higher. The United States cannot publicly orchestrate such cooperation, but it can (and should) work behind the scenes at high levels to facilitate it.

This article was originally published in National Interest.

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  • Now you people will be dirt

    Clearly India is bigger so what! I wish Muhammad Ali Jinnah was alive then we could settle things. Also I don't understand why you hate us but we did nothing against you. It's about time you get taught a lesson by someone. Plus even if you did attack us you would be dirt against us , cause we got China our best friend (mine) so yeah you just keep your mouths shut before you get squashed by our shoes!

  • No Need to attack Pakistan

    Pakistan is a nuclear state..Dirty politics of India would never ever allow our forces to conduct direct attack on Pakistan...
    It would be difficult for Indian govt. To handle internal situations and circumstances in the wage of war.
    Our countrymen are not ready mentally to face the war, though I have no doubt on our forces.. But u see every Indian is busy in ful filling his day today needs and running after making his own dreams true ...So he would never want the war to break...
    Ours is a diverse society, with full of complexities and differences...It is not possible for us to remain united in the event of war..And there would be civil war break out which would beyond control.

    Our politicians are not enough matured and they would never be...

    So just forget about war..I suggest give Kashmir and get Baluchistan and resolve the issue...

    India and Indians are in deep trouble...Only God can save this country from politics and corruption a big evil even bigger than any terrorist...

    So just keep quite and pray to God to bless all..

    Thank You

  • India will lose there country.

    As all know that Pakistan is stabilizing day by day and getting progress
    in all aspects of economic and diplomatic relations with the huge allies Russia and China, it is getting better and better progressive towards its future, so India would be a fool to attack cause they really dont know the Pak army which relates to the best armies in the world, with its high detsruction weapons and all the machineries they will not lose a chance on India so just be careful with a huge support from the nation towards the crab.

  • We are not dirt we are the only nuclear power Muslim country

    Why do you Indian people be so mean. I wish Muhammad Ali Jinnah was alive at least he would stop YOU Indians from calling us names. My argument is : even if India would attack they would turn into dirt because we have our best friend China with , whom I trust all the time. And China is more bigger than YOUR India!

  • We are not dirt we are the only nuclear power Muslim country

    Why do you Indian people be so mean. I wish Muhammad Ali Jinnah was alive at least he would stop YOU Indians from calling us names. My argument is : even if India would attack they would turn into dirt because we have our best friend China with , whom I trust all the time. And China is more bigger than YOUR India!

  • Haha attack Pakistan !

    Attacking Pakistan will mean starting a WW3 . Lets not forget that Pakistan is a country with sophisticated military and advanced missile delivery system with capable of delivering nuclear warheads. India attacking Pakistan will definitely trigger a nuclear war in that region. Lets not forget that Pakistan is also in alliance with China and India and Indian relations are still considered not very friendly with China.

  • India should not attack Pakistan.



    India should not attack Pakistan. I think it would be a very bad idea for India
    to attack Pakistan. We already have
    enough instability in that region. India
    is a major tourist attraction, and an ally of the United States. It would be in everyone’s best interest if
    this war never were to happen.


  • Why would they!

    Over what, last I heard Pakistan hasn't declared war. Sure tensions go high some times, but when don't they. Fact is a war would just be a bloody nonsense and achieve nothing for either side. Also considering the whole thing going on in Syria right now, I don't think another war going off is going to help.

  • Jai hind vande mataram

    As we all know that in past there has been many terrorist attacks done by Pakistan on our country especially the 26/11 TAJ attack . I don't believe that war is an option to give land still to all these attacks. History witness that every time India go for a war with Pakistan, India has succeeded in its mission. Recent Uri attack as well as Pathankot attack gave the entire nation a big shock. In turn India go for a surgical strike which was a big success. I strongly oppose and disbelieve that Islam is a religion of terrorism and provide teaching of violence as a path to heaven. This is a false propaganda. No religion gives a message of war. We do not hate all the Pakistanis and want to destroy them. Also not each and every individual of Pakistan want to go for war. Only the one who attack our country is guilty in terms of our nation if in future Pakistan attacks on our nation then only we will strike back otherwise surgical strike is a best option to level things up. Economically war is not good for either of the nation and will bring nothing more than destruction of life and property.

    We can not blame the whole country for the terrorist attacks and not every individual is responsible for attack.
    We cant say Islam a religion of terrorism as only 0.0001% of followers of Islam are terrorist and practice such coward attacks and remaining 99.9999% of Islam followers are no different than you and me and believe in peace not war

  • Jai hind and vande mataram

    As we all know that in past there has been many terrorist attacks done by Pakistan on our country especially the 26/11 TAJ attack . I don't believe that war is an option to give land still to all these attacks. History witness that every time India go for a war with Pakistan, India has succeeded in its mission. Recent Uri attack as well as Python's attack gave the entire nation a big shock. In turn India go for a surgical strike which was a big success. I strongly oppose and disbelieve that Islam is a religion of terrorism and provide teaching of violence as a path to heaven. This is a false propaganda. No religion gives a message of war. We do not hate all the Pakistanis and want to destroy them. Also not each and every individual of Pakistan want to go for war. Only the one who attack our country is guilty in terms of our nation if in future Pakistan attacks on our nation then only we will strike back otherwise surgical strike is a best option to level things up. Economically war is not good for either of the nation and will bring nothing more than destruction of life and property.

    We can not blame the whole country for the terrorist attacks and not every individual is responsible for attack.
    We cant say Islam a religion of terrorism as only 0.0001% of followers of Islam are terrorist and practice such coward attacks and remaining 99.9999% of Islam followers are no different than you and me and believe in peace not war

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