The Unending Game – Decoding the Guardian’s Report on Killings of Terrorists in Pakistan 

  • It is quite curious and suspicious that despite knowing the Indian Involvement in these incidents (as claimed by the Guardian report), Pakistan has not raised this report officially in any international forum.
  • While there are no clear answers to the question of India engaging in clandestine black operations to eliminate threats emerging from foreign soil, in the backdrop of the strategic cohesion policy adopted by the Indian government, the possibility of such covert operations cannot be ruled out.
  • Narrative or Propaganda, policy measure or an intelligence game, or everything combined in segments, a clear answer in this case will probably never emerge.

UK’s Guardian report, which came out last week alleged that Indian intelligence agency R&AW (Research and Analysis Wing) had carried out assassinations of more than 20 terrorists on Pakistani soil. This report is based on the interviews given by the intelligence officers from both sides and a few alleged pieces of evidence that the Guardian is supposed to have accessed. However, it is quite curious and suspicious that despite knowing the Indian Involvement in these incidents, Pakistan has not raised this report officially in any international forum. A country that shows no hesitation in raising the issues against India is now revealing these sensitive reports on its national security fragility to a foreign media house. Or has this report been deliberately planted in the media to unleash a strategic messaging phenomenon, that can result in a well-calibrated deterrence?

To answer this question, we need to take a look at the deep state apparatus of both the countries, its intelligence and strategic establishment which has long been involved in the unending game of espionage. Most Importantly gauging the state policy of both countries also becomes extremely important. 

Strategic Directions and State Policies

India and Pakistan have been in two diabolical directions when it comes to the issue of terrorism. While India is busy combatting terrorism as a menace, Pakistan is busy nurturing, training and funding the terrorist camps. This has been the scenario now for almost four decades. Pakistan has a policy of ‘Bleeding India into a thousand cuts’ and uses non-state actors like terrorists and sleeper cells to further its agenda. This is a well-known policy, which has been established by the Pakistani state. India, on the other hand, had followed a legalist approach of international diplomatic pressure, diplomacy and negotiations with the like-minded sections of the establishment in Pakistan until 2014. But from 2014 onwards, the Indian government has shown resilience and a paradigm shift in its policy towards Pakistan, a policy of hot pursuits, non-military preemptive strikes and a cohesive deterrence strategy has been followed. Overall, we can say that a policy of strategic cohesion has been followed by India for almost ten years now. 

Understanding Strategic Cohesion

Strategic Cohesion is a concept that encompasses the alignment, unity, and coordination of efforts within a nation-state to achieve its strategic goals effectively. Here’s a breakdown of the key aspects of strategic cohesion:

Alignment of Goals: Strategic cohesion starts with ensuring that each stakeholder in the government’s security establishment understands and shares the same strategic goals. This alignment ensures that individual and team efforts are directed towards common objectives.

Shared Vision: It involves having a shared vision of where the nation is heading in the long term. This vision acts as a guiding star that helps in decision-making and prioritizing initiatives that are in line with the strategic direction.

Communication: Effective communication plays a crucial role in strategic cohesion. Clear and open communication channels help in disseminating strategic objectives, progress updates, and any changes in direction to all levels of a country’s government apparatus. 

Collaboration: Strategic cohesion encourages collaboration among different teams, departments, and stakeholders in the national security architecture, both in traditional and non-traditional dimensions of security. This collaboration ensures that resources are pooled, knowledge is shared, and efforts are coordinated towards achieving strategic objectives.

Adaptability: Governments having a policy of high strategic cohesion are often more adaptable towards unforeseen challenges in the security environment. They can quickly realign their strategies and mobilize resources to address emerging challenges or recognize geopolitical opportunities.

Leadership: Strong leadership is essential for fostering strategic cohesion. Leaders play a key role in articulating the strategic vision, building consensus, empowering teams, and creating a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. With the present leadership in India under PM Modi, the entire narrative and the perception around national security issues has become offensive and cohesive in its direction. 

Measurement and Feedback: Regular measurement of progress towards strategic goals and feedback loops are integral to strategic cohesion. This allows the governments to course-correct if needed and learn from both successes and failures. In India, Under the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) NSCS (National Security Council Secretariat) headed by the NSA (National Security Advisor) undertakes a systematic assessment of the national security situation both internally and externally.  

In essence, strategic cohesion is about creating a unified and focused approach to strategic planning and execution across the entire strategic establishment of a nation, leading to enhanced performance, competitiveness, and sustainable growth.

Guardian’s Story – A Double-headed Snake

The reason for explaining the key concept of strategic cohesion was to convey the fact that this report is a result of a peculiar kind of modern warfare, that runs on the barrels of information and communication strategies. There are two versions of this story being heralded by several sources in the establishment, 1) The Official Version: There is no Indian Involvement in the killings of the terrorists as it is not India’s state policy to carry out such attacks on the foreign soil. Officially, even the Indian government has accepted the same, and it has been endorsed on record by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. 2) The Intelligence version: This version, which is floating across the journalistic and intelligence circuits in India, this story has been deliberately planted by the intelligence establishment of India, with a nod from the Indian government itself. 

The official version has already been questioned by several strategic observers both within and outside the country. So, does this version have some credence to it? Does India engage in some clandestine black operation to eliminate the sources of the threat emerging from foreign soil? There is no clear answer to this question, but in the backdrop of the strategic cohesion policy adopted by the Indian government, the possibility of such covert operations cannot be ruled out. Intelligence is a nasty business with an unending game revolving the espionage, extortion, killings, drug networking, and even agents of a country turning rouge agents or double agents at times. It is said that the government of India wanted this strategic message to pass on to the entire world that India is capable of carrying out offensive attacks on foreign soil to safeguard its national security and secure its national interests at any cost. More than these reports being published by foreign media, the narrative and messaging of a robust national security system which is uncompromising in its approach needed to have been conveyed to the world, and India is quietly doing the same. Although the allegations of Indian involvement in Canada and America are baseless, India following this aggressive and offensive policy, especially in its neighbourhood is true. This means that India is now following the policy of offensive realism in its strategic policy.

 Offensive realism is a theory in international relations that argues a desire for power and security primarily drives states. Political scientist John Mearsheimer developed it and is a subset of the broader realist school of thought in international relations theory. Here are some key points about offensive realism:

Power Maximization: Offensive realism posits that states seek to maximize their power relative to other states to ensure their security and survival. This pursuit of power is seen as a rational response to the anarchic nature of the international system, where there is no overarching authority to enforce rules or prevent conflict.

Security Dilemma: Offensive realism acknowledges the security dilemma, which occurs when states’ efforts to increase their security are perceived as threatening by other states. This can lead to a cycle of insecurity and competition as states seek to protect themselves from potential threats.

Balancing and Bandwagoning: According to offensive realism, states have two main strategies for dealing with power disparities. They can either balance against a more powerful state by forming alliances with other states or acquiring military capabilities to counter the threat, or they can bandwagon with the more powerful state to gain protection or benefits.

Overall, offensive realism provides a lens through which to understand the competitive nature of international relations and the central role of power in shaping state behaviour and interactions. 

Let’s take a look at the macro-level operations that India has engaged from Myanmar to URI Surgical Strikes to Balakot Air Strikes. The objective of the government has always been to eliminate the terrorists who have or intend to destabilize India, by puncturing its security apparatus. It is said that major commandries of the terror groups active in Jammu and Kashmir, who were hiding in Pakistan under its intelligence and military shelter have been knocked off, and quietly eliminated in the past few years. The questions of who, why, what, when and how are again a covert conundrum of the unending game of espionage. The reason for Pakistan’s silence happens to be the lack of any trail or evidence to raise the issue officially, and its internal strife with military and civil establishments along with the country being in slumber for the past few years. Narrative or Propaganda, policy measure or an intelligence game, or everything combined in segments, a clear answer in this case will probably never emerge. But it needs to be mentioned here that this is just the tip of the iceberg. 

(Viswapramod is an International Affairs analyst and contributes regularly to magazines and portals. He has an MA in International Relations. Views expressed are the author’s own)

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