Covert strikes in Pakistan: Can India carry out one?

New Delhi, Sept 7: The issue was discussed after the 26/11 attacks and today once again the possibility of carrying out a covert strike within Pakistan is being debated. Yesterday, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, union minister said that India always remained ready to neutralize Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed.

If India has neutralize Saeed or Dawood, then it needs to be done in Pakistan and would require a covert operation. The question is can India carry out a covert operation in Pakistan like the US did in the case of Osama Bin Laden?

Pak: Can India carry out covert strike?

There are various issues that come into the picture when a covert operation is being carried out. India is very capable of carrying out a hit job in Pakistan.

There are two aspects that would need to be taken care of. The operation has to be extremely precise and there is no scope for mistakes. The other factor that India will and has always borne in mind is that Pakistan is a nuclear state and would not want tensions escalating to a point of no return.

Can India do a Neptune Spear?
The question is can India do an Operation Neptune Spear like the Americans did to kill Osama Bin Laden? The Indian defence forces are one of the most respected and professional forces in the world. The forces would need to be backed by concrete and real time intelligence.

Security experts say that the most important aspect of covert operations would depend on the kind of intelligence. There cannot be any room for failure and the last thing the forces want is to land up in a no-man's zone due to failed intelligence.

Continuing to emphasize on intelligence, security experts also add that it is extremely important to have real time intelligence. When the forces set out on a mission, they need to get intelligence every minute and if the target appears to be shifting position, intelligence needs to be provided in real time. It is not sufficient if Intelligence is good, it needs to be flawless.

Don't do the macho man:
The word covert says it all. One would need to be as discreet as possible about it and none should get even a whiff of what the forces are planning. In a covert operation, speaking about what the agencies are planning is the last thing that has to be done. A covert operation cannot be undertaken after announcing the same in a press conference.

If one looks at the Osama Bin Laden operation, the US made it seem as though they had given up on the man. For years together they did not speak about him and constantly gave the impression that he was hiding somewhere in the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan. It was only once the operation was complete and Laden buried at sea did the world get to know about it.

A few years after Operation Neptune Spear, there were doubts that were raised about manner in which the killing of Bin Laden took place. Some accused the Pakistanis of selling information about Bin Laden to the US. These issues are debated even today, but not once has the US confirmed this. The moral of the story is that when a covert operation is carried out in another country, integrity demands that the source is protected.

Pakistan is a nuclear state:
Before India launches an operation, it would also need to bear in mind that Pakistan is a nuclear state. However experts say that it is not something that one needs to worry about too much as the issue is not going for war, but to carry out a hit job.

There are many ways of carrying out a hit job. The job can be done and India could live in denial about having anything to do with it.

The chance of tensions escalating only arises when a hit job is carried out and some politician speaks about in the press. The other aspect is that India cannot do exactly what the US did. The US can get away with a lot due to its super power status. India may instead try relying on a hit job to be carried out by a person completely un-connected with the forces.

The need for political will:

For a moment let us not compare India to the US. Let us take the Israelis and their style of operation. They are able to enter into countries and carry out a hit job. The death of Yaseer Arafat was a classic example of how the Israelis operate. The country however denies having anything to do with it and this is the right approach.

One Israeli counter terror specialist who was in India after the 26/11 attack was quizzed on how his country manages to carry out hit jobs and gets away with it. He had a very simple answer and said that in Israel there is political will and the government will back the army to the hilt when international pressure starts to mount, he had also said.

If the Indian forces were to carry out a hit job in another country, then the need for political will is very important. If India does get to Dawood or Saeed, then Pakistan is bound to complain and accuse. The political set up needs to be strong and back the forces to the hilt. When India carried out the operation in Myanmar recently, revealing the fact the Indian army entered foreign territory ought not to have been made public.

And finally... can it be done?

The key question is can India carry out a covert operation in Pakistan? To begin with no country which has nuclear capabilities has been hit by a targeted operation. This would mean India would need to rely on a hit job. On the defence front, India has specialists who are very capable of carrying out hit jobs or targeted operations too.

Security experts say that Pakistan has always used its nuclear tag to ensure that there is no major operation carried out within the country unless it allows it to happen.

Pakistan continues to use this to their advantage and escalate tensions with India knowing well a full blown military conflict is out of the question. Recently the army chief had said we can only fight short wars along the border.

Using the terrorist for a terrorist style of functioning too is a bit difficult. India is a rising power and is positioning itself in that manner. It cannot afford to create terrorists and send them out like how Pakistan does.

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