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Rohan Kusnur asked: What were the factors responsible for the show of restraint by India after major terrorist strikes like 2001 parliament attack and 26/11 Mumbai attacks?

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  • Ashok Kumar Behuria replies: As a responsible country in the comity of nations, India has rightly advocated restraint not only on these two occasions but also on several terrorist incidents across the country over the years. The factors driving this policy of restraint are: strategy of deniable subversion adopted by Pakistan, and nuclear balance which is in place since 1998.

    It is true that most of these terror attacks are traced to Pakistani territory. The groups orchestrating these attacks from Pakistani soil are reportedly acting at the behest of the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. Pakistan has traditionally used the militant/terror groups to pose perennial security challenges for India. Pakistani strategy involves the factor of deniability and therefore it has been difficult to pursue this issue successfully with Pakistan at the official level, despite the fact that we have a full-fledged discussion on the issue of terrorism in bilateral dialogues that we have had with Pakistan since the Lahore Agreement. Pakistan has quite adamantly refused to acknowledge any role in the terror attacks.

    The other factor constraining India's muscular response is the open nuclear deterrence that has come into play since 1998 between the two countries. While it has not discouraged Pakistan from using subversion (read terrorism) as a tool of their security policy vis-à-vis India, it has certainly prevented any possible Indian pre-emptive or punitive action as a response to terrorist attacks. Be that as it may, India did mobilise its army along the international border with Pakistan under Operation Parakram which did have a deterring effect on Pakistani behaviour, even if it is usually perceived as a cost-ineffective and an expensive counter-measure.
    The lesson from these experiences is that India will have to beef up its international security mechanism and plug the holes on a progressive basis, engage Pakistan on terrorism, and generate international pressure on Pakistan to behave responsibly.