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'India can strike Lashkar camps'

December 24, 2008

Mumbai-born Dr Ashley J Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is perhaps America's foremost strategic affairs expert on South Asia and China.

Dr Tellis enjoyed three different stints with the administration during President George W Bush's two terms in office: First as senior advisor to then United States ambassador to India Robert D Blackwill; then as special assistant to the President and senior director for strategic planning and Southwest Asia; and finally as senior adviser to then Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.

More recently, Dr Tellis served as an informal strategic affairs adviser to Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. His strategic expertise had made him much sought-after in the wake of 26/11, sparking regular appearances across the electronic media.

Dr Tellis spoke to Rediff India Abroad Editor Aziz Haniffa.

Can India conduct a tactical, surgical strike against Lashkar-e-Tayiba camps in Muridke and other areas in Pakistan? Should it?

India has the technical capacity to conduct a tactical strike against Lashkar-e-Tayiba camps in Pakistan, but the problem with all these scenarios is not how you start the conflict, but how you terminate it. That's why the Government of India has been extremely cautious with respect to levying any threat on Pakistan. All that they have said is that we have through our intelligence and investigation discerned that there is a link between this attack and various forces that exist within Pakistan, and that they are hoping the Pakistanis will conduct their own investigations, reach the same conclusion and apprehend these guys or turn them over to the Indians for prosecution.

Assume India does launch a tactical strike against the terrorist camps, what form can it take -- lobbing targeted missiles or something bigger?

There are various ways. You can launch a strike with air power, or use a combination of air and land power. It all depends on your target, what it is you want to eliminate. For the sake of argument, if you assume that they go after some terrorist camps, I would imagine that you can do it either through air power alone, or air power with some land support.

If you are talking of a purely punitive strike designed not so much to eliminate the terrorist camps but to send a signal of Indian retribution, then you can also use naval forces. But then, these targets become more and more removed from the source of the threat.

Image: Indian soldiers near the Line of Control in Saraie, 150 km west of Srinagar. The peace process between the two countries have ground to a halt following the terrorist attack on Mumbai. Photograph: Danish Ismail/Reuters

Also read: 'Talk of war, surgical strikes is ill-advised'

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