After the attack on Parliament in 2001, it was clear to all right thinking members of the strategic community that the most likely scenario for conflict in South Asia would be that of punitive retaliation after a Pakistan terror strike. In 2001, the prime minister and the chiefs of the three services discussed what could be done. The PM wanted a swift, surgical and punitive action whereas the chiefs were offering a war of attrition. None of the three services offered what the PM wanted because either they did not have the intelligence, or the hardware, or the training or a concept. The situation actually called for a surgical strike by special forces to be launched across the border in specially equipped low-flying, night-flying helicopters, of which we had none at the time.
It is assumed that the chiefs would have gone back shamefaced and addressed this lacuna immediately. But seven years later came the Mumbai horror and the then PM and the chiefs had the same kind of conversation they had had in 2001. The PM asking for options for punitive retaliation and the chiefs offered none, for the same reasons as in 2001. If it wasn’t clear in 2001, it should have been clear in 2008, that a war arising out of punitive retaliation would be the most likely scenario for conflict in South Asia and that the three services should prepare single-mindedly for that scenario. Incredible though it seems, nothing was done towards preparing for that scenario. Then came Pathankot and now Uri.