Engaging Pakistan - 2010 (2)

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Military Strategy

Military doctrinal formulations for the future focus on conventional wars with strategic missiles and other modern war fighting capabilities. The Indian military strategy however, must also be in consonance with the strategy of Pakistan. The possibility of two nuclear nations being allowed by the international community to engage in a conventional war which may spiral into a nuclear conflict is debatable. The present situation therefore does suit Pakistan. Paradoxically, while Indian opinion is that the situation in Kashmir is a proxy war, we have not thought of an effective military response to the threat across the Line of Control or the international border. The Americans or the Israelis have rarely hesitated to take on this invisible enemy even while the international community debated where the invisible threat to America was coming from or when Palestinian militants were holed up in civilian areas.

The theory of armed conflict revolves around imposing on the enemy forms of warfare and use of force in which one has an obvious advantage. The Indian advantage is in extending the military conflict to the conventional sphere beyond the Line of control. The intention must be to use the considerable superiority in mechanized forces, Air power and Naval power to secure a decisive victory. Even inflicting considerable damage to the Pakistani war waging potential in a short conventional war, shall substantially affect the psyche of the military leadership and also have a devastating effect on its delicate economy. One such war shall leave such psychological, military, diplomatic, scars on Pakistan that it will result in a reassessment of its current policy of engaging in the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.

Our Military strategy must be based on three principles:
  •  A declaratory policy on military responses.
  •  Un-conventional responses across the LOC.
  •  Building a resounding military superiority as a viable deterrence to Pakistan to cease cross border incursions and demonstrating the will to use this force.

Unconventional Responses Across the Border

Military responses must obviously be in consonance with military threats. While building a conventional military asymmetry has long term payoffs, it paradoxically could be the very reason forcing Pakistan to trigger an increase in the unconventional threat.

The strong dissuasion of Western Powers towards a conventional conflict developing in the region, must also be factored into our strategy to respond to Pakistan.

An alternative strategy would be to respond to the proxy war by carrying the threat across the borders. Covert operations must be met with covert military responses across the Line of Control. Neutralizing targets across the borders covertly by Special Forces is another significant military strategy that shall force Pakistan on the defensive and make it reconsider its current strategy. India has been prudish in considering and debating such a response. In fact stating it openly is considered sacrileges and an affront to civilized society. It underscores the problems of modern states that find it extremely difficult to deviate from the principles of civilized declared wars.

Pakistan is not militarily prepared to meet such a challenge and therefore will be forced on the defensive. In fact the disproportionate factor (the overwhelming military force required to combat much smaller groups) will work in reverse. The scale of effort involved in combating such military offensive action can be gauged by the massive costs to India over the last decade.

Building a Conventional Deterrence Capability

One 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 many years fighting terrorism must not deter the resolve of the Indian State in building strong conventional force superiority over Pakistan. Not only will this build a deterrent capability, but India must also demonstrate the will to use its Armed Forces across the LC or IB if provoked by Pakistan. The Declaratory Policy must state the possible military responses to terrorist strikes sponsored by other nations and the military must demonstrate this will for a credible deterrence capability.

The Role of the Media

The extraordinary proliferation of media networks over the last decade has given them huge influence over the shaping of public opinion without any corresponding accountability. Media stories on counter terrorism do not reflect any responsibility, as was seen during the Kandhahar hijacking. There is also little education on national security issues and the lack of maturity of the media is seen by the way the media dutifully hype terrorist actions – precisely what the terrorists intend. The media is often inadvertent agents of terrorists’ organizations. Media policy and education on coverage of sensitive national security issues must concern the government and there is a need to formalize such an arrangement with major media houses.

On the other hand, it is advisable for the military to give full information to the media for the odd bad incident. The media shall ferret out the story as it is, and in the absence of a response, the media and therefore the public, shall be forced to fill in the blanks of what is not stated. This is likely to lead to greater criticism and public mistrust which could be avoided by an outright acceptance of the mistake.

Managing Internal Policy

In the delicate security environment facing the nation, the internal policies and actions by the various governments have a profound impact on our external vulnerabilities. The impact, for example, of the destruction of the Babri Masjid has had huge international repercussions and has greatly affected our equation with Arab countries. In fact, a result of this one incident, coupled with the events of Gujarat in 2002, is the considerable monetary and emotional support from the Islamic brotherhood to the fundamentalist elements within and outside Kashmir. The groundswell of public support to the Kashmiri cause among Muslims all over the world, especially in Pakistan, and probably even in Bangladesh, due to such crude and un-secular actions, is a cost that has been ignored, but which cannot be disputed.

Internal policies and actions must therefore also factor the long-term security implication for the nation and not just consider the narrow needs of the politics of power.

Five major areas of concern which will indirectly impact national security of India in the future are; the growing disparities of income, rising unemployment among the less educated, divisive communalism, overpopulation especially among the relatively backward Muslim population, and the enormous influx of economically backward Bangladeshis into the country. Such unequal social development is resulting in the rapid spread of mass violent movements like the Maoists insurgencies. These are all extremely dangerous conditions, and in the present context, a clever enemy like Pakistan, can exploit each ruthlessly, without a bullet being fired across the borders.

There is an urgent need to redefine our response to the security threats encompassing the Indian nation and now the World. The ongoing peace initiatives must not cloud the reality that terrorist outfits cannot survive in a land locked region without covert support from the constitutional power in the country. The Pakistani establishment must be pushed to doing more.

There is a need also to develop a broad consensus on the response to such threats going beyond narrow nationalistic considerations. The world must get Pakistan to act.


  1. The indignation of the civilized world on the loss of lives of innocent civilians and portraying them as unfortunate victims in every terrorist attack is a pointer to the lack of comprehension on the nature of modern conflicts where the aggressor has ceased to differentiate between soldiers in uniform and civilians.
  2. Quoted from the United Nations official internet site,
  3. During the aftermath of “Op Sarp Vinash”, an Army action to eliminate militant camps on the Pir Panjal Range, considerable opinion was expressed by the media, particularly Frontline news magazine, questioning the govt claim of cross border terrorism. The report was apparently based on inadequate knowledge of facts.  
  4. Pp 90-92, Pervez Musharraf, In the Line Of Fire, Simon and Schuster.
  5. Bodansky, The Man who Declared War On America. Prima,2003, pp 15
  6. From
  7. Owen Bennet Jones, Pakistan Eye of the Storm, Picador 2003
  8. Further details of the Pakistani Armys deep rooted involvement in commercial enterprises and illegal purchase of land in Pakistan is outlined on the internet on the site
  9. For a more detailed account of the rabidly fundamentalist and anti India tirade in the school curricula in Pakistan, see Arun Shourie, Will the Hollow fence Save the Tree Hollowed by Termites, Rupa 2005.
  10. pp 332, Pervez Musharraf, In The Line Of Fire , Simon and Schuster.
  11. Times Of India, Oct 26, 2004 “UN asks nations to deny safe haven to terror.”
  12. Sashi Gupta, 
  13. Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, Unrestricted Warfare, PLA Literature and Arts Publishing House Feb 1999.
  14. The Wall Street Journal, 10 May 2004.
  15. Gen Parvez Mussharaf, in a televised live speech on PTV on the 13 of January 2002, after the Indian Army had mobilised on the Pakistani borders.
  16. Brian Cloughly, The Pakistani Army Today, Janes Defence Journal, May 2003
  17. Across the LOC”, NDTV, telecast on 9 Dec 2004
  18. Maj Gen Sajid Khan said in an article written in the Dawn of 03 Jul 2004, “If India had attacked Pakistan in 2002, we would have faced a catastrophic situation.
  19. The Dawn, internet edition, 05 Jan 2004.
  20. One such letter was given to the author while he was conducting a search in a village near Srinagar by the mother of a young boy who was forcibly taken across the Pir Panjal range into Pakistan. The letter bore the full address of the training camp for militants in Muzzaffarrabad POK. Further evidence is provided by the young people in Muzaffarabad who spoke publicly to the Indian media team from NDTV which visited the area in Dec 2004 and the program was telecast on the 10th of December. 

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More by :  Col. Gopal Karunakaran

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