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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

India’s Fury on Kulbhushan’s Death Sentence: What are India’s real options?

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |

A few hours after Pakistan Army Chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ratified the death sentence given to Kulbushan Jadhav, the heated comments from Indian politicians started flooding in. Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, unequivocally warned Pakistan of the dire consequence if “India’s son” were to be executed. She went on to assert that India would leave “no stone unturned” to ensure justice for Jadhav.

Read more: Kulbhushan Yadav’s death sentence: Has Pakistan pressed the self-destruct button?

“I would caution the Pakistan government to consider the consequences for our bilateral relationship if they proceed on this matter.”

She vehemently stated that the proceedings of the military courts were “farcical” and if the sentence is carried out, it would be an act of “premeditated murder”. Directing various allegations towards Pakistan, she said:

“If anything, he is the victim of a plan that seeks to cast aspersions on India to deflect international attention from Pakistan’s well-known record of sponsoring and supporting terrorism.”

According to the press release by ISPR, Kulbushan Jadhav, after confessing before a Magistrate and court, was sentenced through the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952:

“He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate, and organize espionage/sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Baluchistan and Karachi.”

India and Pakistan downward spiriling of relations

Pakistan and India have, of course, got different stories for Kulbushan Jadhav. From Pakistan’s point of view. Jadhav is a terrorist and a spy who has earned this punishment for his heinous acts of jeopardizing the security of Pakistan. On the contrary, India considers him an innocent, legitimate Indian national.

It is true that the Indo-Pakistan relations have never been very good, and now with the introduction of Jadhav-chapter, the condition is definitely going to get worse.

Pakistan may not perceive Indian airstrikes as limited, justified and a means to terminate conflict. Hence, a response will be well in order, and what started as a limited war could turn into a full-scale war.

The unresolved Kashmir issue, recent surgical strikes, skirmishes on the Line of Control (LoC), and the ever-present blame-game strategy from both sides of the border do not allow these two neighbors to develop any friendly ties.

The sentence awarded to Jadhav and India’s response to it can further deteriorate the situation. It is imperative to understand the implications of an increase in animosity in the South Asian theater. Both are armed to the teeth with conventional and nuclear forces; thus, the stakes involved in a peaceful region are way too high.

Read more: Kulbhushan’s death sentence: a “Circuit Breaker” or “Grand Bargain”?

What does the future hold?

The options at India’s disposal, if used have the propensity to “raise the Armageddon”. Let us look at the military courses that India could take against Pakistan. The prevalent idea appears to be to use a credible military threat to encourage Pakistan to change its course; “military threat” acting as “linchpin” to achieve Pakistani compliance to Indian demands. The Indian political and military leadership have thus repeatedly expressed their intention and resolve to carry out airstrikes and invoke the Cold Start Doctrine.

It must be understood that there are tactical and operational challenges in conducting airstrikes and launching Cold Start. Besides, both policy actions will run the risk of escalation, something which needs to be lucidly analyzed.

Whether we have to conduct conventional operations for such strikes is a decision well-thought through, involving the government and the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The features of the Cold Start Doctrine are such that Pivot Corps, Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs), and Strike Corps along with air support will bite and hold territory 15 to 25 kilometers inside Pakistan. If India manages to achieve this objective, it is logical to assume that Pakistan has to take punitive retaliatory action to wrest back control. India would have the encouragement to press on but if they are unable to breakthrough they would direct more firepower which would cause escalated pressure. Pakistan may invoke their tactical nuclear weapons and shift the burden of escalation on India as Indian inroads would not be deemed of as limited. Hence, Indian decision-makers will have to be cautious while promulgating this proactive war strategy.

Read more: Dangerous implications of India’s cold start doctrine

Similarly, airstrikes on alleged militant camps inside Pakistan will invite a ferocious response from Pakistan. The air combat will not only be ensured by ground conventional battles but will also lower the nuclear threshold. Pakistan may not perceive Indian airstrikes as limited, justified and a means to terminate conflict. Hence, a response will be well in order, and what started as a limited war could turn into a full-scale war with the ever-increasing likelihood of the usage of nuclear weapons.

It is, therefore, befitting to argue that Indo-Pak ties are all set to take a dangerous collision course in wake of the death sentence awarded to Kulbushan Jadhav. Indian aims to browbeat Pakistan are limited, risky and incendiary. How India reacts remains an important question to be answered.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Associate at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR), Islamabad. He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs of South Asia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.