India capable of doing an Abbottabad, but show restraint: Experts
New Delhi, May 8 (IANS) India has a long list of most-wanted living in Pakistan and can pull off an Abbottabad-like covert operation, but it should show restraint, say defence and strategic experts.
Can India actually pull off a covert operation like the US’ ‘Operation Geronimo’? ‘Yes, we can,’ say military experts. But they caution India to first upgrade its special forces equipment, prepare for ‘catastrophic’ fallout, including a possible nuclear conflict, and bring itself up to have a political will before it even thinks of such a daredevilry.
In the backdrop of Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbottabad in Pakistan on May 1, India’s Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik and Indian Army chief General V.K. Singh declared their forces have the capability and competence to carry out a commando operation outside the country to target terrorists.
Their remarks invited angry reactions from Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and army chief General Asfaq Parvez Kayani, who warned against such ‘misadventure’, saying it would invite a ‘catastrophic’ response.
‘There is no doubt about it. The army, navy and air force are paid to be ready. None of the services chiefs is going to say he does not have the capability,’ says retired Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar, director of naval think-tank National Maritime Foundation, when asked about the services chief’s comments.
Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, director of army think-tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies, concurs with Uday Bhaskar. ‘We virtually have the same capability (as the US Navy SEALs),’ Kanwal told IANS, pointing out that the army itself has over half-a-dozen special forces battalions trained to carry out such attacks on strategic targets.
These apart, the navy also has a strong contingent of Marine Commandos, or MARCOS, on the line of US Navy SEALs, who go through amphibious covert operations training on land, air and sea. The air force has its own special forces, code-named Garuds.
What India lacks is the technological advantage that the Americans enjoy in the form of stealth helicopters, electronic and aerial surveillance through their drones and spy satellites, apart from their air defence counter-measures.
‘To be very honest, it is not possible to disclose if we have these capabilities or not. But, yes, we have the joint strategic capability for any special task that the government assigns to the armed forces, not necessarily in the neighbourhood, but anywhere around the globe,’ Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, former Indian Air Force (IAF) vice chief, told IANS.
The IAF also has the strategic lift capability for long distance in the form of the newly acquired American aircraft C-130Js for its special forces inducted this February. India has already launched Cartosat-II satellite that can be put to military use, while the armed forces will have their dedicated satellites soon beginning next year. The armed forces search for drones, including an indigenous one, continues.
‘But the decision on such operations is not taken by the uniformed personnel. It is taken by the political leadership after receiving all inputs including the implications and fall- out, and after planning for all exigencies, be it a nuclear conflict,’ Barbora said.
India need not talk about an ‘Operation Geronimo’ of its own till the time it can achieve strategic advantage through covert operations without having to talk about it first, the experts feel.
‘In this 24X7 age, India should show some discipline on what it says. There has to be a coordinated response to situations at all levels,’ says Uday Bhaskar, calling for restraint.
Instead, India should look at energising its external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for getting its wanted, rather than use its armed forces, says Gurmeet Kanwal.
India has a long list of most-wanted on Pakistani soil for terror acts, including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks’ mastermind Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammed founder Masood Azhar, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim known for his role in the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings that killed hundreds.