Engaging Pakistan - 2010

If one has to choose between cowardice and violence, I would advocate violence.” - Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

President Obama has finally said publicly what was well known now for some time – that Pakistan is now stuck in a vortex with the Frankenstein that it created to deal with a troubled past and an irksome neighbor it didn’t want to live with.

Pakistan attempted to redefine warfare in the later part of the 20th Century – and now is on the verge of admitting its insidious ploy has failed. From being mute witnesses who feigned ignorance every time a terror strike took place in India, from 1990 to 2005, post 2005, we see the Pakistani establishment is quick to respond that they too are victims of terror - and therefore not responsible for it!

Warfare, from what we have known of it in the twentieth century, has changed radically. It was widely proclaimed in the seventies that the change would be spiraled by technology; the Revolution in Military Affairs that was so talked of at that time. While technology has undoubtedly made an enormous impact on the methods of waging conventional wars, the true change, however, has been in the Grand Strategy of certain nations who have used violence so subtly and innovatively as an instrument of State policy. These activities have however been covert, muted, less visible, and have been decidedly more difficult to respond to by the victim nations. The emergence of non-state players like the Al Qaida, Laskar-e-toiba, Hamas and the Hezbollah have further helped these rogue nations to remain veiled from the eyes of the world in its covert support to this form of violence.

The fear that conventional wars will cause tremendous human and economic damage with little to gain - territorial or politically - for post war negotiations, have caused modern nations to be reluctant to go to war with their militaries. The threat of nuclear wars has further raised doubts on the possibility of victory due to the inevitability of pressure from the international community to cease hostilities fearing the colossal economic, psychological, and ecological effects of such a catastrophic war.

These concerns of modern democratic nations, have tempted militarily weaker nations, with no liberal traditions, to carry out low intensity wars to achieve strategic objectives against their more powerful adversaries. The constant threat of terrorist violence is the tool that aggressor nations believe will force the adversary to accept terms favorable to it to establish control over traditional disputes. The easy deniability of such violence by the State and subtly blaming non-state players and expressing helplessness in controlling them, have further compounded the problems of an effective response by the victim state.

Pakistan, and the Muslim nations ranged against Israel in the Middle East, has been the premier exponents of this innovative doctrine. India has been at the receiving end for over a decade with Indian efforts to try and resolve the Kashmir problem by peaceful means having met with nothing more than rhetoric by the Pakistani leadership. Pakistan has over nearly two decades, effectively blunted India’s slightly superior conventional military capabilities and its reluctance to go to war, by this insidious and clever proxy war campaign. In the event, it would seem most unlikely that a political solution to the problem would materialize in the near future.

The current situation needs examining and modern nations like India, will need to redefine its strategic doctrines to effectively counter this all-pervasive threat to its nationhood.

Much of the present imbroglio is due to the lack of clarity on emerging non-military components of modern warfare and the lack of realization that warfare has transcended the traditional views of conventional military space. [1]

Changing Nature of Conflicts

Military strategy has traditionally evolved from national doctrines, which have often been enunciated publicly by the nation’s policy makers. This has been true for most of the twentieth century, whether it was Hitler’s concept of le-bens-raum preceding the Second World War, the policy of containment by the West after World War II, or the policy of non-alignment adopted by third-world countries during the uneasy post war years.

Military action has always been seen and easily perceived, as an extension of the stated foreign policy of the nation. However, the last decade has witnessed a distancing between the overtly stated national aims and foreign policy of some nations and the covert actions of its own military. This has allowed it to pursue a dual agenda – a duplicity that negates adverse international opinion and also deters an overt military response from the victimized state.

The general objective of war - forcing the political leadership of the victim state to accept terms imposed by the aggressor – is now increasingly achieved without the use of direct conventional military force. A strategy of indirect actions, including political, diplomatic, financial and economic pressure, as well as waging information warfare, imposing international legal and economic sanctions, and carrying out subversive acts by special forces, backed up by a show of military might and the readiness to use it, will become the nature of emerging conflicts. The will of the political leadership of the victim state will be attempted to be broken by terrorist strikes in sensitive population centers, engineering strikes on its industrial facilities and national institutions, as well as by instilling the idea into its people, and the international community, that the incumbent leadership of the country is incapable of efficiently running the state.

While insidious wars against neighboring states have been going on for centuries, the use of terrorism and terrorists acts have been of more recent origins. The Palestinian Intifada against Israel is probably the first conflict where a nebulous group of terrorists continuously targeted another nation. The attack on the World Trade Centre in New York is of course, the most dramatic of such actions where the aggressor is yet to be conclusively identified.

Pakistan attempted to force the Indian leadership to accept its terms on the Kashmir dispute, without going to war with its regular Army. The Kargil incursion by Pakistan by what was initially claimed by the Pakistani establishment as freedom fighters, and the preceding decade of violence triggered by cross-border infiltrators is the first obvious attempt by an enemy nation to win its territorial wars by proxies. If the Kargil incursions were successful, the Pakistani Army would then have attempted to establish permanent presence in the region as a prelude to their grand designs on the rest of Kashmir.

Kidnapping, Hostage Taking and Suicide Bombings

In Iraq and Russia, over the past few years, the civilized world has been horrified by the manifestation of the most gruesome methods used to fight wars today. Kidnapping, hostage taking, murder of children as seen in the Beslan suicide bombings, mindlessly executed against any target, chiefly civilian, has been the norm of such attacks. To believe that it is uncivilized and unmilitary to attack civilian targets is only exposing a lack of appreciation of the way conflicts will continue to take shape across the world.

Today the rule of law is at risk around the world with many players in these conflicts who have little concern of the rules of war formulated after the Second World War in the form of the Geneva Conventions. In the UN Security Council, Mr Kofi Anan spoke of this issue in 2005. He said,

“Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded – those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable –- especially children.

To mention only a few flagrant and topical examples:

In Iraq, we see civilians massacred in cold blood, while relief workers, journalists and other non-combatants are taken hostage and put to death in the most barbarous fashion. At the same time, we have seen Iraqi prisoners disgracefully abused.

In Darfur, we see whole populations displaced, and their homes destroyed, while rape is used as a deliberate strategy.

In northern Uganda, we have seen children mutilated, and forced to take part in acts of unspeakable cruelty.

In Beslan, we have seen children taken hostage and brutally massacred.
In Israel, we see civilians, including children, deliberately targeted by Palestinian suicide bombers. And in Palestine, we see homes destroyed, lands seized, and needless civilian casualties caused by Israel’s excessive use of force.

And all over the world we see people being prepared for further such acts, through hate propaganda directed at Jews, Muslims, against anyone who can be identified as different from one’s own group.

No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts. They put all of us to shame. Their prevalence reflects our collective failure to uphold the rule of law, and instill respect for it in our fellow men and women. We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect.” [2]

Pakistan has perfected all these methods against India over the years – the hijacking of IC 814 to negotiate the release of Azhar Mehmood the subsequent chief of the Jaish–e-Mohammad, who is presently based in Pakistan, and quite clearly patronized by the establishment; the gruesome killings of the families of soldiers in Kaluchak Military camp in Jammu; and the numerous suicide bombings targeting civilians to terrorize the nation, including the horrific attacks in Mumbai seems to suggest that Pakistan is the leader in undermining the rules of warfare in the twenty-first century. “No cause, no grievance however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts” are the words of the UN Secretary General. Pakistan has obviously not believed in this argument.

Cyber Wars

While cataclysmic cyber wars between nations have yet to materialize, it seems inevitable in the coming decade. In fact the signs of such a threat are already upon us. In Feb 2004 a group of Pakistani hackers entered and defaced certain sensitive Indian sites including the site of the Department of Atomic Energy. With the increasing dependence of modern nations on networks and the not inconsiderable economic dependence on such networks, India must be prepared for this latest form of warfare which an ingenious enemy nation like Pakistan shall surely attempt to capitalize on to augment its proxy war strategy. Like the strategy of deniability in proxy wars, cyber wars too give the aggressor nation similar advantage of denying any responsibility by the aggressor State. This new threat can cause huge and unexpected threats to the nation’s security and to the economy

Other Means

A variety of other means; fuelling arms, material and financial support to sectarian, extremist, and dissatisfied elements within the victim nation, abetting the colonization of border areas with refugees from the aggressor nations, counterfeiting currency in large amounts to destabilize the economy, are all forms of warfare that shall be gaining ground in the coming decades.

Compulsions of Democratic, Liberal Nations

Modern democratic nations, with their beliefs so steeped in liberty and freedom, individual rights and equality, have been unsure and confused, and more ignificantly, dangerously polarized in its response to this threat. How does a nation respond to a neighboring country whose governments and heads of state overtly talk of peace, but the military wages an insidious war? Do the democratic and liberal traditions of a nation impose a restraint on an effective response to such a sinister war? The resistance to go war – highlighted during Operation Parakram is a pointer to the problems liberal democracies, like India, shall face when combating such sinister wars.

The threat of two nuclear states going to war, the fear of widespread destruction and the apprehension of a nuclear holocaust, imposes considerable restraint on the use of conventional military power as a response to such a threat. Belonging to the comity of responsible nation states and subjected to international laws and pressures, greatly restraints India from responding with conventional military force to Pakistani designs such as the engineered attack on the Indian Parliament.

Democratic nations with its practice of civilian control over its military have customarily focused on security threats only during periods of conventional war looming on its borders. Security issues when there is ostensible peace on its borders, merit limited concern to a democratic polity that often sees the needs of economic progress, infrastructural development and social progress, as far more important issues demanding their time and attention. The sheer compulsions of multi-party democracies, with the needs of political parties to stay in power, also often dominate the attention of the political leaders sometimes to the detriment of the larger security concerns of the nation.

Insidious threats as posed by proxy wars often escape the attention of the political leaders till the dangers manifest themselves in the form of violent actions and large losses of lives and property.

Responding across its borders, to strike at an enemy with conventional military force, calls for huge political sagacity and courage. The enemy is often unseen and unknown and the enemy state shall rarely acknowledge its support to the violence. The recent example of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and the huge embarrassment faced by President Bush within America is a pointer to the travails and confusion of democratic nations who chose to respond with its conventional military force across its borders to negate terrorist threats to its nationhood.

Pakistan’s Strategy

Deniability and Covert Nature of Military Operations

The underlying principle of the Pakistani strategy is the covert nature of its military operations against India by the way of proxies in the form of terrorists and the strength of deniability practiced so assiduously by the Pakistani foreign office.

The Pakistani establishment has been playing this dual game well before General Musharraf seized power. He must however, be credited with continuing the policy of successive Pakistani governments since President Zia ul Haq. In every international and national forum, the Pakistani position has been one of seeking peace with India. It makes a case of India’s unwillingness to resume a dialogue on Kashmir as a sign of India’s intransigence on the issue. It now states that it is non-state players who are calling the shots – and firing the shots – in their country!

Concurrently, the Pakistani establishment has recruited, trained and assisted terrorists to cross the borders into India. While all this is well known, what is less understood is the paralyzing effect on a suitable strategic response by India. The culture of deniability that the Pakistani establishment has perfected into an art form, of any direct involvement in the violence in Kashmir, has been responsible for this ineffectiveness. India has been forced to repeatedly show proof to the international community on Pakistani involvement in Kashmir, which the Pakistani government squarely denies. This has also led many in India too to distrust the contention of the establishment that cross border terrorism is what is fuelling the violence in Kashmir. Occasionally media reports in India too have questioned the government position and distort public opinion in the country. [3]

Economic and Military Advantages

Presently, Pakistan is spending well over 20% of its budget on defence while a major portion of the balance goes in debt servicing of its previous borrowings. Inspite of this huge allocation to defence, the Pakistani military leadership is conscious of India moving ahead in its conventional weapons parity. Fully aware that Pakistan will be economically ruined if it intends to keep up with conventional weapons parity with India; the Pakistani establishment has chosen to continue this indirect form of confrontation with India. Gen Musharrafs publicly stated doctrine of ‘Minimum Deterrence’ may well mean the integration of the conventional war responses along with the Jehadis, to help tie down the Indian Army and force India to expend a major portion of its defence budget on fighting this militancy rather than on military hardware and thereby limiting its conventional weapons superiority. The Jehadis, for the Pakistani military, are inventive modern avatars of the Special Forces operating clandestinely behind enemy lines. Gen Musharraf has surprisingly clearly admitted this strategy in his audacious book - In the Line Of Fire. From pages 90 to 92 he says “ with the forward movement of our troops we began to understand exactly what Pakistani freedom fighters had undertaken.. the freedom fighters occupied over 500 square miles of Indian occupied territory .. our field commanders were fully engaged in supporting them(freedom fighters) ….we wanted to dominate the areas held by the freedom fighters…we worked in close coordination with the freedom fighters..[4]

It is unlikely that there can be a clearer admission by a 21st Century Head of State on the subversive and insidious policies his government pursues! It must be noted that the Pakistani premier has called the jehadis, Pakistani freedom fighters!

Terrorism as a Strategic Tool

The Pakistani policy of using the dangerous cocktail of religious fundamentalism and terrorism to meet its strategic aims was formulated as early as the late seventies and has been well outlined by a Pakistani officer, Brigadier S K Malik in his 1979 book, The Quaranic Concept Of War;

In Islam, a war is fought for the cause of Allah and therefore all means are justified and righteous. Terrorism is the quintessence of the Islamic strategy for war: terror struck in the heart of the enemy is not only a means but is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent’s heart is obtained hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him..” [5]

Not only does this Pakistani strategy make good economic and military sense, but with the international community increasingly wary of the threat of conventional wars between two nuclear states as was evidenced by the considerable interest in the region during Operation Parakram – it makes good diplomatic sense too.

A recent study conducted by the US-based Centre for Contemporary Conflict, says that the Pakistani Army planned the Kargil operation to thwart the Indo-Pak peace process which led to the 1999 Lahore agreement signed by Premiers Sharif and Vajpayee. "The Pakistan Army had planned the Kargil operation in 1999 to scuttle the Indo-Pak peace process initiated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, which had led to the 1999 Lahore agreement between the two countries". This would suggest that the Pakistani military has considerable stakes in maintaining hostility with India.

Nuclear Power Status as Strategic Deterrence

The nuclear test by Pakistan in 1999 was a masterstroke by the military to ensure that the Indian Armed Forces are hemmed in by the limited space between the proxy war response of fighting the terrorist threat and the unthinkable choice of a nuclear war in the region. This has limited Indian strategic planners into believing that there is only a narrow band now available for conventional war with Pakistan – that too with only limited objectives – limited both in space and time. It is perceived that a large scale military offensive in the plains of Punjab or Rajasthan may invite a nuclear response from Pakistan. The international community too is perceived to be sensitive to such a war in a nuclear region and it is expected that they will step in to stop such a war which the western strategic experts see as “the most dangerous place in the world.”

Such a perception is ideal for Pakistan as in one stroke it has neutralized the one strength of India – that of its conventional military forces superiority, especially of its Air Force and Navy. That Pakistan is desperate to make the world believe this theory is evident from a Memorandum to the UN secretary General submitted by the Government in POK through the UN representative in Muzzafarabad in 2005;

That the continued occupation of Kashmir by India through its ruthless military might trigger major confrontation posing a serious threat to the peace in the region. The world cannot remain indifferent to the plight of the people in Kashmir and cannot ignore the nuclear confrontation that has emerged in South Asia after India’s nuclear tests in May 1998, which compelled Pakistan to respond.” [6]

The Pakistani military has much to gain by continuing this proxy war against India. Has India the courage to call this bluff?

Reasons for the Sustenance
of the Proxy War by Pakistan

There are significant reasons and pointers which suggest that the Pakistani establishment is unlikely to pull back its insidious Kashmir policy and its proxy war against India. The steady stream of peace proposals and suggested solutions to resolution of the Kashmir issue are methods of diplomatic gamesmanship by Pakistan to meet international pressures and therefore does not necessarily indicate a change of path by the military establishment.

Regime Sustenance by the Military

While Jehadisation of Pakistani society, revenge for the humiliating defeat by India in the 1971 war, and the moral right for Kashmir as an unfinished agenda of Partition and supportive of the two nation theory, are all commonly stated reasons for Pakistan’s antagonism against India – a major factor for the continuing conflict is the need for the ruling elite of Pakistan - the Pakistani military – to stay in power.

Why is the Pakistani Army reluctant to make way for a civilian administration? Or for that matter, strive for that elusive peace with India over Kashmir which every sagacious political analyst in Pakistan knows is unlikely to be ever a Pakistan. In fact, in Dec 2006 the Pakistan government spokesperson has publicly stated that Pakistan never claimed Kashmir!

The Pakistani Military establishment has constantly told the world that Pakistan needs a military government because Pakistan’s experiments with democracy have repeatedly thrown up corrupt and inefficient politicians. A lesser debated argument is the need for the all powerful Army to stay in power to protect their huge personal, commercial and power interests in the nation.

Owen Bennet Jones in his book, Pakistan – Eye of the Storm, states,

Besides ruling Pakistan and controlling its nuclear, defense and foreign policies, the military is also that country's largest and most profitable business conglomerate. This is mainly the reason why its stranglehold over the country's politics and its vested interests in the nation's continuous militarisation, will not cease. Pakistan, expends over a third of its annual budget on Defence, and its military has historically defined the country's direction and destiny through periods of both democratic and military rule, to the detriment of civil governance.

Hundreds of serving and retired military officers - mostly from the Army - run a web of banks, transport, road building, communication and construction businesses worth billions of dollars, which comprise the Army's commercial empire. More specifically, the 'Fauji Foundation’ also own and operate a private airline, countrywide transport corporations, hundreds of educational institutions, power plants, steel, fertilizer and cement factories, and even produce consumer goods like sugar, electronic items and breakfast cereals. Some of these commercial operations have also been directly involved in gun-running and drug smuggling, generating huge hidden resources for Pakistan's campaigns of terrorism and subversion in Afghanistan and India.
” [7]

Personnel drawn from these organizations worked with the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) and the extremist Islamist organisations training, arming and motivating Mujahideen cadres to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan through the 1980's. A few years later they raised and installed the Taliban in Kabul, providing the Islamic militia financial and logistic support till it was displaced by the US in 2001. Analyst Satish Kumar who edits the National Security Annual Review, says the Pakistani Army is not only the largest real estate owner, but also the country's 'biggest' commercial player. "It is not just a defense force, but a ruling class oligarchy with substantial economic interests to safeguard" Kumar stated, adding that it is unlikely that the military will relinquish this role in the foreseeable future.

Jehadic Fervor of its Population

The Islamisation of Pakistani society, especially among the rural and economically backward population, has ensured that an unending stream of virulent Madrassa bred youth shall be available to the Pakistani establishment to continue its Jehad against India. What is also shocking is the virulent nature of anti-India and anti-Hindu statements running through every government school text book in Pakistan from class V to Class XII. [9]

It is also interesting that at no stage during the recent peace overtures, has Pakistan made any serious or even cosmetic gestures, to disown the Jehad in Kashmir, unlike its quick volte-face in disowning the Taliban. In fact General Musharraf who constantly speaks to the Indian media with various peace proposals, has said in his controversial book, “ the west rejects militant struggles too broadly ….. Pakistan’s position however becomes more difficult to sustain when the mujahedeen fighting for freedom in Kashmir are guilty of involvement in terrorists activities in other parts of India and around the World… " [10] This is again an incredible claim by the Pakistan President – by his admission the same man can be a freedom fighter if he triggers an explosion in Kashmir but he would be a terrorist if he does the same in Delhi!

In fact, it is also illustrative that during the debate preceding the UN resolution on international terrorism in Oct 2004, the only nation that had reservations on the passage of the resolution was Pakistan. The Pakistani representative wanted to differentiate between the practice of violence in a freedom struggle and the violence of terrorism, suggesting that the world must condone the terrorist violence in Kashmir. As not a single nation in the General Assembly supported this argument, the Pakistani representative reluctantly agreed to the passage of the Bill. [11]

Present Indian Response and its Weaknesses

The dilemma for India shall remain - how does the nation respond within the confines of internationally accepted laws and conventions keeping in mind the limitations of democracies, vote bank politics, media scrutiny and fragmented public opinion? Often, the wide polarity of opinions suggests to the government that maintaining status quo is the safest option. This is a dangerous situation and India would be falling into the Pakistani trap and shall continue to suffer.

Unlike totalitarian regimes as often seen in Pakistan, India has been tied down by the politics of democracies and the humanistic traditions of a liberal state in its response to this threat. In the absence of a strategic culture and without a clearly formulated national security establishment we have stumbled along and have shied away from a concerted response. We have amassed our military on the borders and inside Kashmir apparently pretending that it is only a military problem that the Indian Army would soon resolve. We have also projected ourselves at the international stage as unfortunate victims of cross-border terrorism and have repeatedly reiterated the legality of Kashmir within the Indian union and also as an inalienable part of India. This has been met with much sympathy from the international fraternity, but concrete support has been conspicuous by its absence.

In fact, the term proxy war suggests that India believes the Pak establishment is not waging the war directly but is using the jehadis to fight its battles. This inference itself is faulty, as the Pakistani military is actively involved in cross border activities as well as in training and equipping the terrorists as is clearly admitted by General Musharraf in his book. In the Kargil war, there was enough evidence of Pakistani soldiers in civilian clothes being involved in all the major battles. It would thus be seen that Pakistan has been at war with India for over a decade but India still does not consider it to be at War with Pakistan. Can there be a greater military paradox? It is obvious that the lines that demarcate wars, as the world has known them, are clearly hazy.

Since this Indian strategy of fighting the war from within its borders has had little effect on Pakistan, and the violence in Kashmir has spilt over into other parts of India, including the Parliament itself, there is an urgent need to revise our strategic response.

Weaknesses and Restraints of Indian Responses

The Indian leadership needs to make a radical shift from its conventional responses of the last few decades if it is to bring about a reduction in the violence in Kashmir and ward the threat of Islamic fundamentalism and Pakistani strategic inventiveness.

Belief In a Political Solution to Kashmir

The incongruence of negotiating a peaceful solution with a neighboring nation which has clearly been foisting a war on our country is often lost on our policy formulators. The belief that there is a political solution to the Kashmir problem with Pakistan as a legitimate party to the dispute is a myth that India too is propagating with our periodic willingness to negotiate with the Pakistani establishment. The state of Kashmir constitutes Ladakh, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, the Northern Areas, the Valley of Kashmir and the Jammu region. It has Muslims both - Shias and Sunnis - as well as Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. It is impossible to arrive at any solution that shall even reasonably satisfy every constituent of this diverse region and religiosity. In fact, it is unlikely that given Pakistan’s record of its intolerance of its minorities like the Shias, Christians and even the Muhajirs, and with very visible sectarian violence and the dangerously polarized state of its society, any sane Kashmiri from the Valley has sympathy for the Pakistani stand on Kashmir - or would consider it as a viable alternative for the Kashmiri people. How the Pakistani leadership is often allowed to be the voice of the Kashmiri people in international forums is a reflection of the nature of our defensive approach in policy formulations. India’s stand that Kashmir is a bilateral issue is itself questionable as it should be seen as a unilateral issue; we should only be negotiating with the Indian Kashmiris just as the Indian State negotiates with Nagas, Manipuris etc. A political solution involving Pakistan therefore only gives Pakistani leadership leverage in internal and international environment and allows legitimacy to its claims.

Lack of a Credible Conventional Military Capability

By the Indian nation’s inability to strike across the borders at viable military targets during the Kargil conflict, at terrorist camps in the aftermath of the Kaluchak massacre, and also during Op Parakram, the opportunity to demonstrate the willingness to use military force when the nation’s security was threatened, was lost. Military strength will only be seen as credible security deterrence if a nation demonstrates its willingness to use it in times of need.

Excessive Belief in the US
as a Power Broker in the Region

Indian leadership has often believed that the US will use its leverage over Pakistan to eliminate its export of terror into Kashmir. Such a belief is due to misunderstanding of US interests in South Asia. There are strategic experts who do believe that the US interests could be to contain India via Pakistan.

“ ……behind US strategic interests in India, lies this facile idea: That India must be "contained" and only Pakistan is vituperative, and foolish enough, to try to do that openly. The US are supportive of the Pakistani Army precisely because it knows that it is the only institution in Pakistan capable of maintaining it's "hate-India" rage decade after decade. The US pro-Pakistani leanings are simply part of the balancing act required to ensure that the US has leverage over India. Or as Pakistan's General Aslam Beg has so eloquently put it: Pakistan is simply a condom that the US uses and discards at will. To maintain the viability of Pakistan as a counter-weight to India requires the Americans to constantly massage the fragile Pakistani ego….” [12]

This theory, incredulous as it may sound, bears attention when you consider how the US, as the champions of the free world, have so openly supported a nation that has seen more dictatorial regimes, since the birth of the nation, than probably any other modern nation. It is a misconception that the US, or any Western nation, has any long term interests in peace and prosperity in South Asia. Indian policy makers must chart its own course and not depend on other powers to change the security scenario in the region favorably towards India.

Belief in International Laws and Conventions

Indian leadership believes in conventional and time honored international laws as enunciated by UN resolutions and international conventions like the Geneva conventions and is a signatory to a large number of security related Treaties. Today’s threats may call for responses which may not be entirely in line with these laws and the government may need to revise its position on imposing restrains on the methods of fighting wars. This again may be a call which liberal democratic nations will be averse to even consider, but it is revealing that the Chinese Military is thinking on these lines. In a fascinating book, titled Unrestricted Warfare published in 1999 under the PLA banner, the two Senior Colonels of the PLA who have authored the book have clearly outlined the many facets of the new forms of Warfare which nation States may need to consider in the future. [13]

Concerns about International Opinion

Belonging to the civilized world, India believes that it is necessary to harness international opinion in its favor before a military response across the border. Reluctance to go to war under adverse international opinion was visible in the aftermath of the mobilization of the military subsequent to the attack on India’s Parliament in Dec 2001. The security threats to the nation must be the foremost factor in taking the decision to use military force regardless of whether a broad consensus exists internationally on the justification of war. Procrastination today may lead to debilitating damage to the interests of the nation tomorrow. A case in point is the inability of the Indian nation to respond when 18 of its BSF soldiers were killed by the Bangladesh border Rifles in 2000. It can be debated if the sheltering of most of the insurgent leaders of the Northeast region by Bangladesh today, is a result of such a demonstration of weakness by India.

Pakistan’s Vulnerabilities Today

There is a need to understand and analyze Pakistani vulnerabilities so that these may be kept in mind by Indian political, diplomatic and military leadership in its counter moves against the Pakistani leadership. Pakistan has effectively managed to mask its problems and in fact, has projected some of these as strengths.

Delicate US – Pak Relationship

While America provides overwhelming support to Pakistan today in terms of diplomatic ties, economic aid and military hardware, the relationship between the two nations is uneasy on many levels. American military leadership is known to be unhappy and have complained that even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against Al Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and sending them into Afghanistan to attack American and Afghan forces. Pakistani officials have rejected the allegations, saying they are unaware of such training camps.

Relationship with America has also resulted in two major concerns for the Pakistani state, a dependent economy and an anti-American backlash. In the words of a retired Pakistani General, quoted from the Dawn newspaper, “As we strive to rebuild our economy and rethink our relations with the United States, we should be wary of the sort of quick-fix-solutions that have brought us to this pass… in this case there is clearly an opportunity to set many things right – but let us not get carried away into believing that a "strategic realignment" with the US along the old client-state parameters is either necessary or possible in our own best interests.

Nothing signifies the delicate nature of the US – Pak relationship than the handling of the Mohammed Sheikh affair. The Wall Street Journal, whose journalist Daniel Pearl was murdered by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, exposed the extraordinary connection between the ISI and the 9/11 WTC attack. [14]  It covered how Sheikh, on the instructions of General Mahmood Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), wired $100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. It is extraordinary that neither Ahmed nor Sheikh have been charged and brought to trial on this count. Ahmed, the ISI chief and the paymaster for the hijackers, was actually in Washington on 9/11, and had a series of pre-9/11 top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the national security council, and with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. When Ahmed was exposed by the Wall Street Journal as having sent the money to the hijackers, he was forced to "retire" by President Pervez Musharraf. The fact that the US hasn’t demanded that Ahmed be questioned and tried in court so far is reflective of the fragile relationship of the two nations. The US needs Pakistan currently or till Osama and his cahoots are nabbed or killed. The US interest in Pakistan, after that momentous event, is a matter of much concern in Pakistan too.

Increasing Jehadisation of Society and the Military

The “Islamisation" of Pakistani society has planted the seeds of recurring instability in Pakistan. The assertion of such fundamentalist impulses has fueled violent sectarianism and created economic confusion, it has revived the notion of jihad across geographical boundaries of the nation spilling into China and Afghanistan, apart from India, and pitted Pakistan against other nation-states. As President Musharraf himself stated in his landmark speech in January 2002, post the WTC attack, “we are all Muslims … but let us not retreat into a raging clash with all the infidels of the world.”.  [15]

Sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis have hardly been quelled since President Musharraf assumed office and the rise of the Baluchi separatist movement too is gaining in momentum inspite of the killing of Sardar Bugti by the Pakistani military.

Anti –Americanism in the Military and Society

In an article in Jane’s Defence Journal [16], Brian Cloughly, who has written an authoritative history on the Pakistan Armed Forces, has brought out the heightened anti-Americanism in all services, but mainly and markedly, amongst junior Army officers. Such sentiments, he says, is spilling-over into general anti-Western sentiment among the power elite in Pakistan, which is essentially the military.

Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

It is strange phenomenon that while the world focuses on Indian Kashmir – there is little awareness, even in India, that a substantial part of the disputed region is occupied by Pakistan. Pakistan has also gone against the spirit of the UN resolution of 1949, often quoted by Pakistan, by allowing a large number of non-Kashmiris to settle in the region thereby changing the demographic profile of the disputed area. In fact India has yet not allowed non Kashmiris from purchasing land in Indian Kashmir. This is an issue that needs to be raised repeatedly by India every time Pakistan wants to raise the so called “core” issue of Kashmir.

In a revealing and exclusive TV story,[17]  Nidhi Razdhan of NDTV showed how the people across the LOC in POK, were extremely unhappy with the affairs in the region and how there was little freedom, infrastructure or development as compared to Indian Kashmir. In fact, opening the Uri – Muzzaffarabad highway and allowing free movement of Kashmiris on both side has considerably disillusioned Kashmiris in India on the commitment of Pakistan towards the so called Kashmir cause. Interestingly Pakistan has not allowed our TV channels to venture again into POK since that revealing – and damaging - story.

Delicate Economic Situation

While the Pakistani economy has pulled itself up over the last two years, much of the strength is due to US economic support due to its ally status in the US war on terror. The fundamentals of the Pakistani economy are far from stable, and it shall be catastrophic to the economy if it needs to support its military in the event of a conventional or unconventional war from across its eastern borders.

Pakistan’s Relations with Afghanistan

The present delicate relations with the current regime in Afghanistan are due to the interventionist attitude of Pakistan all these years. Afghanistan was seen more as a client state by Pakistan in the last decade - they supported favorites, the pro Pakistan Pashtoon Taliban, engineered civil strife, made enemies of Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities, and drove them into the lap of neighboring powers in Central Asia and Iran. With the Post 9/11 volte-face of its pro Taliban policy in the face of President Bush’s – “You are with them or with us” ultimatum – the Pakistani establishment has lost face with the Afghanis and are seen as untrustworthy allies, and with that have also lost the moral authority to talk for the Pashtoons of Afghanistan. The unhappy Pastoons, who straddle either side of the border is a cause of concern in Pakistan especially in FATA (Federally Administered tribal Areas). A cause for alarm is also the close ties India and Afghanistan are forging since Mr Karzai’s elevation as the President of Afghanistan.

Conventional Military Capability

Continued attention of the Pakistani military on fuelling the proxy war in Kashmir, its involvement in the affairs of the State, along with budgetary restrictions, have affected the conventional military preparedness and capability of Pakistan. A senior Pakistani Air Force officer recently commented in The Nation,

Unfortunately for the Pakistani Army and the PAF, budget restrictions have cut the number of exercises that are necessary to practice and refine procedures to the required degree, although computer and dry training is conducted.”

Another retired officer [18] went as far as to say that in case there was a War in 2002, it would have led to a disaster for Pakistan.

The Indian Response

India has for long expected the international community to exert major influence over the Pakistanis hoping that this will force them to radically change their covert operations in Kashmir. However, it is extremely unlikely that Pakistan will shy away from its present policy of keeping India on the defensive and the Pakistani establishment shall continue to bleed India by a thousand cuts – unless India too makes a radical shift from its current response. There is a need therefore for India to have a fresh look at the political, diplomatic, military and internal strategy in relation to Pakistan.

Political Strategy

Due to the nature of vote bank politics in our fledging democracy, there is rarely unanimity on major issues among political parties. However, it is to the nations peril if such a situation persists on issues that threaten national security as well. A well drawn out national security doctrine which has the consensus of the major political parties, is necessary for the government in power to take bold decisions. Often there is a visible strategic paralysis due to concerns of adverse reactions of opposition parties and the consequent political repercussions.

One aspect that must be clearly accepted, and a fact that the political leadership shies away from, is that there is no obvious political solution to the Kashmir problem. One suggestion commonly spoken of in diplomatic circles on both sides of the border, is to remove all solutions unacceptable to both sides and then consider and negotiate the other options. This is a mythical solution, as after discarding the solutions that are not acceptable to each party to the dispute, there will be nothing left to discuss. In fact, the time has come to state unequivocally that the Line of Control in Kashmir is not negotiable and therefore it must be converted as an International border. The continued position of Kashmir being a disputed region needs to be put to rest. This shall send clear messages to Pakistan, the International community, the Kashmiri separatist groups and marginal power blocs like the Hurriyat Conference.

Another major decision that the political leadership needs to take is to outline a clearly enunciated declaratory military response policy in the event of violence against the State of India. The response to violent incidents, if a linkage is established to another country, must be made public and it would then be binding on the current leadership to execute bold military action when the situation arises.

The other major issue worth analyzing is the conventional wisdom normally expressed by the Pakistani establishment, that Kashmir is the core issue in moving forward towards resolving Indo-Pak tensions. The true nature of the Pakistani position is however not pertaining to Kashmir, but the unacceptability of India as a secular state. Since the fundamental reason for the birth of Pakistan was the two nation theory – Muslim leadership of Pakistan and their Muslim clergy refuses to accept that Indian nationhood is built on secular beliefs where Muslims are equal partners. To disprove this position, they will support a Jehad against the Kafirs of India. It is therefore improbable that there will be a material change in this stand, even in the unlikely event of a political solution to Kashmir emerging. The leadership in our country must be alive to this reality and not succumb to believing that a forward movement on peace proposals on Kashmir shall result in any reduction in the violence engineered by Pakistan.

Building Public Opinion

There is a need to build public opinion for a possible military action against Pakistan by sensitizing the nation to the sinister designs of the Pakistani ruling establishment.

Pakistani TV and radio stations have clearly been doing this over the last two decades with repeated coverage of the violence in Kashmir by twisting facts to gain sympathy of a population whose beliefs are founded in religion and not on nationalism or humanism. There seems to be therefore, complete support in Pakistan today towards what they see as the Kashmir cause.

Evidence of Pakistan’s hand in this insidious war needs to be repeatedly highlighted at every opportune moment. Some of this evidence is irrefutable, especially when the sources are Pakistani. Here are just a few examples:

  •  The former Pakistani foreign minister Sartaz Aziz was quoted in The Dawn, [19] admitting that, “ …for every ten militants who are trained here in Pakistan to fight in Kashmir, one goes and the rest stay in Pakistan to cause trouble…

  • Nearly every militant killed on the Line of Control carries evidence of Pakistani involvement; currency, telephone numbers, addresses, Pakistani food packets and cigarettes; somehow our media does not seem to pick this up effectively.

  •  Letters are received by families of boys picked up by militants for training in Pakistan, with activities and addresses of the training camps in POK. [20]

Such irrefutable evidence, of which there is plenty, must be highlighted regularly through the media. Building public opinion is a constant round the year process. The Americans, in spite of the horrific attack on the WTC, have found that they have to constantly harp on the need for internal and international support in their war against terror. Fighting an invisible enemy, who is noticed only when the next horrific attack occurs, is a difficult job and needs concerted, deliberate action.

The political leadership also has a responsibility to prepare the nation and its people for a possible future conventional or unconventional conflict with Pakistan.

Foreign Policy

The lack of a strategic culture has prevented us from formulating effective policies with sensitive neighbors. We have been seen as reacting to Pakistani policies and moves rather than initiating any of our own. A policy, which is once spelt out as, “no negotiations with a nation fomenting cross-border terrorism,” is quickly backtracked with various peace proposals. While this sometimes does keep the Pakistani establishment on the defensive, it often gives mixed signals, internally and internationally, to India’s discomfort.

While international relations are not inflexible, and past enemies can become friends of the future, the viability of such optimism must not be an emotive issue as seems currently the case within India.

The ongoing process of pushing for people to people contacts, sporting and cultural ties, and strong attempts at renewing trade relations before even beginning a dialogue on Kashmir, is an undoubtedly an effective strategy to marginalize the hardliners within the Pakistani establishment, most of whom are in the military. How successful this approach is, will depend on how willing President Musharraf is to carry this process forward without a visible solution to Kashmir preceding it. It is unlikely that this strategy shall succeed beyond a point as the Pakistan leadership will raise enough objections to stymie the process.

Relations with Afghanistan

The diplomatic strength of the current relationship must be further strengthened by a growing Indian military relationship with Afghanistan. The new nation shall require military training and support especially since the UN and US troops shall not be there forever. This should be seen as a precursor to future military liaison with a nation on the very sensitive western borders of Pakistan to complement our presence on its eastern borders.


It is interesting to observe that none of the three wars that India and Pakistan have fought have occured when a democratic government was in power in Pakistan. In the larger security interests of India we must be vocal and uncompromising on the sustenance of true multi party democracy in Pakistan. Two liberal democracies rarely engage in military resolution of their disputes and India must play on American and European sensitivities of supporting dictatorships and their double - edged support to Pakistan must be appropriately and periodically highlighted, both publicly and in private diplomatic parleys, to keep Pakistan on the defensive at key moments.



More by :  Col. Gopal Karunakaran

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