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Publicising military action escalates conflict: ex-NSA Shivshankar Menon

New Delhi, April 23, 2019-

Cross-border military action that is made public necessarily provokes the other side to respond, leading to escalation of conflict between two countries, according to former National Security Advisor (NSA) Shivshankar Menon.

Speaking at a panel here on Monday during the launch of a book on ceasefire violations — “Line on Fire” — by JNU Professor Happymon Jacob, Menon said that “if the goal (of military action) is to assert moral ascendancy, or grab land, or whatever, it is best done quietly”.

“The moment it’s done publicly, you’re forcing the other side to respond, and to be seen to respond. They have no choice..either they deny, or they’re seen by their people. You’re then climbing on an escalation ladder by just going public,” the Indian diplomat said.

“Since we’ve been going public recently, it automatically becomes politicised,” he added.

“Line on Fire” was launched jointly by former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief A.S Dulat, former Indian Army Military Secretary Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain, journalist Barkha Dutt and Menon.

The volume, published by Oxford University Press, attempts to understand why India-Pakistan ceasefire violations continue to take place despite consistent efforts to reduce the tensions between both nations.

The 69-year old former NSA also described the 2016 “surgical strike” across the Line of Control (LOC) as “so-called”.

“Surgical strike is a very precise term that came out of the whole nuclear deterrence literature. The idea is that you’d excise or cut off the threat — that’s why it’s surgical — and secondly, you’d strike at the root.

“In other words, a nuclear surgical strike would be that you took out your adversary’s nuclear weapons,” he explained.

“The problem when you start using terms that have a precise military meaning in different contexts is that you’re suggesting that you’ve managed to achieve this.

“But you haven’t eliminated the terrorists and you haven’t actually hit him across the board, in fact, you’ve hit a few launching pads, and how far from the line is a matter of speculation”, he added.

Asked if he was questioning the bravery of the Indian soldiers, Menon clarified that he was not.

“Nowhere is this a question of bravery..it’s a remarkable achievement what the Indian army does everyday on the line. You really should pay them tribute, but you actually insult them when you try to put other meanings to the term,” he responded.

Dutt, who moderated the discussion, said that the question is about military nomenclature and not about the bravery of the Indian Army.

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