Former NSA Shivshankar Menon has revealed that he had pressed for military action against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror camps in Pakistan’s Punjab province and PoK immediately after the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 185 people dead.
In his first book post retirement – ‘Choices: Inside the making of India's Foreign Policy’, Menon, who was then foreign secretary in the Manmohan Singh government, however, said that any military action would have been emotionally satisfying but the decision not to retaliate militarily and to concentrate on diplomacy was the right one for that time and place.
“On sober reflection and in hindsight… the decision not to retaliate militarily and to concentrate on diplomatic, covert, and other means was the right one for that time and place,” Menon writes.
“The simple answer to why India did not immediately attack Pakistan is that after examining the options at the highest levels of government, the decision-makers concluded that more was to be gained from not attacking Pakistan than from attacking it,” Menon further writes.
Menon, who had also serves as the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, said that Mumbai had seen more deadly terrorist attacks in past but ‘nothing matched the level of organization, the sheer savagery, and the television-style spectacle’ of 26/11.
He said that an attack could have weakened the then Yousaf Raza Gillani government and boosted the power of the Pakistani military.
“A limited strike on selected terrorist targets say, the LeT headquarters in Muridke or LeT camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir would have had limited practical utility and hardly any effect on the organization,” he writes.
Arguing against the idea that one military action will end the conflict, he said, “India’s immediate political objective must recognise that this is a long conflict that cannot be solved - that is protracted and intractable. This is an idea that most Indians are reluctant to accept and some find intolerable.”
He also said that India- Pakistan relations are one of the few ‘major failures of Indian foreign policy’.