NEW DELHI: For long, India's response to a major terror strike inspired and backed by Pakistan was largely to suspend dialogue and launch a diplomatic offensive. At the other end of the scale was the threat, rarely invoked, to use military might as after the attack on Parliament in 2001.

The 2001-02 military standoff lasted months and ended with a ceasefire agreement and later a joint statement where Pakistan pledged not to let its territory be used for terror against India. Though Pakistan has breached the pledge often, the muscle flexing did force some concessions from Pakistan's then ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf.

But massive military mobilisation is cumbersome and expensive and cannot be frequently repeated. Soon, Pakistan got back to its routine - waiting for the storm to blow over and international pressure to build on "nuclear armed" neighbours to resume talks. India's reluctance to use force after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks reinforced this belief in Pakistan's elite circles.

India was left oscillating between an ineffective suspension of a stuttering dialogue and threat of war. There did not seem any effective measures between these opposing points on a strategic scale.

The situation changed with the Modi government resorting to the 2016 surgical strikes which brought home to the military brass in Rawalpindi that infiltrating terrorists into Jammu & Kashmir will not be without costs. Pakistan denied the strikes occurred, but local reports, including an audio sting of the local police head, made it clear that many jihads waiting on launch pads had died.

The 2019 Pulwama attack led to the Balakot strike and while Islamabad again denied the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp was hit, prolonged closure of its air space indicated that the possibility of IAF striking targets deep in Pakistan had induced a worrying sense of uncertainty.

Though Indian planners may not have specifically considered it, the Modi government's actions seem to draw a leaf from the "compellence doctrine" articulated by Nobel winning economist Thomas Schelling which outlines actions to proactively change status quo instead of the more passive deterrence.

Innovative diplomacy in West Asia with Saudia Arabia and the UAE drawn into closer ties are other, more conventional, aspects of Indian policy to contain Pakistan whose leaders lament the indifference of Muslim states to developments in J&K.

The decision to turn Article 370 into a dead letter is the Modi government's boldest and most significant step and one that Pakistan cannot ignore. It now finds itself in the unusual situation of scrambling to react - a change from the past when it brazened it out.

Pakistan has, apart from a major campaign on "human rights" in J&K, raised the nuclear scenario to gain global attention. This has been a familiar recipe too though the incongruity of raising the spectre of atomic weapons in response to alleged human rights violations might escape Pakistani PM Imran Khan.

While India has not changed its nuclear no first use posture, a stance that marks it as a responsible nation, defence minister Rajnath Singh's suggestion that NFU is not cast in stone gives Pakistan's military more to chew on. It is another inflexion point in a battle of nerves.

From hints that NFU is not sacrosanct to plans to use Indus waters (without breaching the water sharing treaty) are intended to make Pakistan bear the consequences of its rogue actions. It's a new experience.