The Pakistan Army despite the return of democracy and installation of a civilian government in Islamabad has not ceased to be a ‘Rogue Army’ and continues to be beyond the control of the civilian government which took power after the February 2008 elections. This is most exemplified by the Pakistan Army breaking the nearly four year old ceasefire along the borders with India in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. From May 2008 onwards there have been nearly thirty serious border clashes along the LOC and the International Border in which the firefights have extended for a couple of days. India had not provided any provocations for the Pakistan Army to breach the years old ceasefire and hence the Pakistan Army has once again asserted its rogue reputation when the political situation in Pakistan is fluid and uncertain.
Indian political analysts and defence experts have dismissed these incidents in simplistic terms as connected with pushing in infiltrators to disrupt the forthcoming State Assembly elections in November. Such simplistic observations are dangerous as then the Indian foreign policy planners draw wrong conclusions.
The sudden resurgence of border clashes with India by the Pakistan Army is part of a deeper design by the Pakistan Army. It is part of a wider political signaling exercise to the United States by the Pakistan Army that just because it did not interfere in the return of democracy in Pakistan it can be politically devalued in the US strategic calculus.
Pakistan Army has since June 2008 indulged in two major political signaling exercises to the United States. The first pertained to Afghanistan and Pakistan Army’s commitment to assist US in the war on terror on the Afghan-Pak frontier. In June 2008 General Kayani the Pak Army Chief asserted that he had told US& NATO Commanders that Pakistan Army would not retrain or regroup forces for the counter-insurgency operations in support of the US Forces on the Afghan Frontier. Secondly that Pakistan Army would commit the bulk of its forces on the borders with India.
Pakistan Army’s second major political signal to the United States was to escalate border clashes with India along the LOC which had witnessed relative tranquility for the last four years.
Both these major military moves by the Pakistan Army were in direct contradiction of the statements that were coming from the newly installed civilian government in Islamabad. The Pakistani Prime Minister had declared that Pakistan would continue to support and assist the United States along the Afghan frontier. Zardari as head of the political coalition in Pakistan had made some peaceful noises on solution of the Kashmir problem with India.
Pakistan Army’s military moves therefore have to be read in a number of ways which all lead to the conclusion that it is a part of its overall assertion that the Pakistan Army still continues to be an independent entity on its own and could not care less for the return of democracy to Pakistan.
By adopting independent lines in relation to the support of US operations along the Afghan frontier in not retraining or regrouping Pakistan Army to assist the US military forces there, the signal to US is clear and that is that the Pakistan Army still views Afghanistan as its own strategic backyard and would prefer that the United States pulls out of Afghanistan or it would contrive a situation where the US has no option but to quit.
In relation to escalating tensions along the borders with India in Kashmir the message to the United States is that the Kashmir issue is still a flashpoint in South Asia despite US policies to the contrary and that the United States better pressurize India to yield on this issue.
The overall message by the Pakistan Army in both cases is to send out strong signals to USA and India that as far as Pakistan’s foreign policies on Afghanistan and India with specific reference to Kashmir is concerned, the control still vests with the Pakistan Army, notwithstanding the emergence of civilian rule in Pakistan.
In such a scenario for the peace and stability of South Asia, the United States cannot adopt ambivalent attitudes towards Pakistan Army’s rogue inclinations and it must come down firmly to make the Pakistan Army submit itself to firm civilian political control.
For India the message that it has not taken in the last few years is that its Pakistan policies must be put on hold till such time firm indicators surface that the civilian government has fully established control over the Pakistan Army and that democracy has come to stay in Pakistan. India under the Congress Government and earlier too had adopted a facile argument that it is ready to do business with whosoever is in power in Pakistan. Would India do political business with a Taliban Government if it assumes power in Pakistan?