Former Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, who held the post during the terror attacks of 26/11 in Mumbai said that he had advocated immediate military retaliation. He talked about wanting to retaliate against the LeT in Muridke, which lies in the Punjab province of Pakistan or their camps in the PoK or against the ISI, which he considers was clearly complicit as in his own words, it would have been “emotionally satisfying”. Menon told IE that he believed, a military retaliation would have majorly helped India in “erasing the shame of the incompetence that India’s police and security agencies displayed in the glare of the world’s television lights for full three days”.
Although, he admits that once the rage went south, it was the right decision to not retaliate militarily but focus on “diplomatic, covert and other means” in his book, Choices: Inside the making of India’s Foreign Policy, released in the United States and the United Kingdom. He writes about how militarily retaliation wasn’t the right choice at the time and says that after careful examination of the options at the highest level of government, it was concluded, much more could be gained from not attacking Pakistan. He says that an Indian attack on Pakistan would have led their entire population behind their army and weakened a newly elected democratic government of Asif Ali Zardari. He also admits that a contained strike on a few LeT camps in Muridke or the PoK would have been very impractical and hardly leave any impact on the banned organisation.
Around 166 people, including 26 foreigners had been killed between November 26 and 28 in a series of terror attacks across different locations in Mumbai by 10 different terrorists from Lashkar-e-Taiba. Menon states that while there have many other attacks in Mumbai before 26/11, nothing of this gravity had ever been witnessed before. In his own words, “nothing matched the level of organisation, the sheer savagery, and the television-style spectacle” of this attack. Talking about cross-border terrorism, he says that they do not cause Indian an existential crisis but a prolonged economic failure would.
He argued against the common misconception that one military action would put an end to this conflict once and for all, he says that India’s political objective must be to recognise that this is a long conflict that cannot be solved. “This is an idea that most Indians are reluctant to accept and some find intolerable”, he added. He said that the popular opinion of indulging in an Israeli model of military action would have only limited effects. He questioned the Israeli tactics and said that their way of short responses against non-state actors but not against non-state sponsors seeks a cumulative deterrence, and said that the use of forces in an asymmetric warfare is very questionable unless the non-state actors start acting as governments.