Strategy and after

 

 

Source: By Brijesh D. Jayal: The Telegraph

 

 

It speaks volumes of our national security consciousness that at a moment of significant strategic shift in the national security policy of the country, the debate should degenerate to the level of a municipal election slugfest between warring political parties. It is too early to judge the longer- term adverse national security consequences of this, but three aspects of concern need to be flagged to limit any further damage. The first of these is the diversion of the focus of debate from the likely costs and benefits of burying the long- held mantra of strategic restraint and opting for a more robust offensive response, which is being termed a policy of offensive defence.

 

Had an informed debate shorn of partisan politics indeed ensued, it would have become apparent that one successful offensive action is no cause for celebration, as the war we face is a long- drawn one and along the way there will be ups and downs. Equally, it would also have provided national security managers with a reasoned feedback that would assist them in moving forward to meet evolving challenges. The next is the drawing of the armed forces into partisan political discourse, the longer- term effects of which on the apolitical armed forces can only be severely damaging.

 

Worse still, in the enthusiasm to score political points, contentious issues which have been cause of serious concern to the rank and file of the armed forces and their leaderships, but which have no bearing on this strategic policy shift, were brought into the debate. Clearly here was a case of our democratic institutions, including the media, crossing an invisible barrier that they have so far voluntarily respected. And the last is giving the ' deep state' in Pakistan an insight into how trivialized our attitude to a serious national security threat is and what the fault lines within both our political and security systems are.

 

Having mastered the art of proxy war, such insights will undoubtedly be exploited by them in furtherance of their strategic aim. To steer the debate back to the core issue of national security, a cursory look at recent history in the neighbourhood will perhaps serve as a useful backdrop. The humiliation that the Pakistan army received at the hands of the Indian armed forces in 1971, resulting in the loss of East Pakistan and of some 90,000 of it officers and men who were held as prisoners of war in India, has left a deep scar in its psyche. Considering also that the Pakistan army has controlled the country's foreign, nuclear and India policies through either direct military rule or through proxy civil rule, their strategic mission of bleeding India through a thousand cuts also carries an element of brutal revenge.

 

The Pakistan army recognizes that disparity in size of economies and the military makes direct confrontation with India unequal. So they embarked on their nuclear weaponization programme. In his book Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb , retired Brigadier Firoz Khan of the Pakistan army mentions that 1971 and the ' never again' paradigm that emerged after the army's humiliating defeat and loss of East Pakistan proved pivotal in their decision to build the nuclear bomb.

 

Lieutenant General (retired) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, who headed Pakistan's strategic plans division for many years, whilst speaking at the 2015 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, confirmed that Pakistan's tactical nuclear weapons are an extension of the country's conventional deterrent capabilities to deter India's Cold Start doctrine. He further said that tactical nuclear weapons were developed " in response to concerns that India's larger military could still wage a conventional war against the country, thinking Pakistan would not risk retaliation with a bigger nuclear weapon". In his words, “having tactical nuclear weapons would make war less likely." The Soviet Afghan War between 1979 and 1989 is considered by military historians to have been part of the Cold War. One feature of the Cold War was the belief that a direct conflict between the two super powers would result in a nuclear conflict and hence proxy wars were a safer way of exercising hostilities. Pakistan was quick to recognize that this calculus of a proxy war under a nuclear umbrella was a good strategy to pursue against a stronger India.

 

To hone its skills in such clandestine warfare, it became a willing tool and proxy to the United States of America. According to the National Security Archive, the " the Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA) played a significant role in asserting U. S. influence in Afghanistan by funding military operations designed to frustrate the Soviet invasion of that country. CIA covert action worked through Pakistani intelligence services to reach Afghani rebel groups". So, unknown to Indian security planners of the time, this link between the Pakistan intelligence services and the mujahideen was to be the beginning of a partnership that would grow to serve the long term strategic dream of Pakistan to bleed the Indian security forces and wrest the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India. As part of this future proxy war strategy and to prepare fertile ground in the Kashmir Valley, the Pakistan intelligence services simultaneously began to cultivate forces within the state inimical to Indian national interests. That sometimes our politics and institutions within the state failed to live up to the democratic moral values expected of them only made the task of agents of Pakistan easier.

 

Ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in 1990 was just one part of this strategy. It is not altogether a coincidence that by the time the Soviets were withdrawing from Afghanistan, the first signs of unrest in the Kashmir Valley were beginning to appear. Today there is formal acceptance by the international community of a clear connection between Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence and three major militant outfits, the Lashkar e- Toiba, the Jaish- e- Mohammed, and the Harkat ul- Mujahideen operating in the Jammu and Kashmir. Whilst it may not be politically correct to admit it, and indeed our parroting of the long dead Kashmiriyat mantra indicates so, those who have served in Kashmir have no hesitation in admitting to ghettoization and the revival of the two- nation theory in the Kashmir Valley. That along with Pakistani flags those of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are being seen now merely indicates that ' seeing no evil' is no more an option for the Indian State.

 

This background tells us that the Pakistan army has for decades worked assiduously to a long- term strategic plan to avenge both the 1971 humiliation and to wrest the state of Jammu and Kashmir from India for what it believes to be the unfinished agenda of Partition. Having established semi- military protocols and processes to use militant groups as their sword arms in Afghanistan against the Soviets with generous US support, they have since nurtured and adapted some of them as their proxy arm for Kashmir. That the US now finds itself at the receiving end of this in Afghanistan may be poetic justice, but the US is not unaware of the double games that Pakistan is playing.

 

It safeguards its own national interest, as getting Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad Cantonment so aptly demonstrated. The international security chessboard with its proxy interests and wars is no place for soft states to preach morality or strategic restraint. India's hesitant shift of policy from strategic restraint to offensive defence may indicate the first signs that India appears to be learning this lesson. These then are the dynamics that are shaping the security climate in our neighbourhood aimed at India's national security interests.

 

In a sense, we are at war, albeit not one covered by international law, which is declared by sovereign states. Instead, we are victims of a war Pakistan has strategically and with patience planned for decades. A war that is being fought by militants standing as proxy for the Pakistan army. A war for which the Pakistan army has trained and battle- hardened them. A war that is one- sided, because India does not consider itself to be at war. And because such a war is neither declared nor covered under international law, Pakistan proxies can choose both civil and military targets and even indulge in brutalities of mutilating and beheading our soldiers at will.

 

This is the backdrop against which the director general of military operations, accompanied by the spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs, announced that the Indian army had carried out surgical strikes against launch pads from where terrorists were planning to target Jammu and Kashmir. He further said that the strikes were since over and he had informed his counterpart in the Pakistan army of the same. Since these were clearly special operations, and part of the ongoing proxy war that Pakistan is waging against India, one can only guess that by naming them surgical strikes the army wanted to underplay the action, knowing full well that the intended message to the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi had well and truly gone home.

With hindsight, one only wishes that the DGMO had used the correct technical terminology of special operations, as these are carried out by dedicated Special Forces using unconventional methods and resources with the primary aim of achieving a political or military objective, usually implemented through specific tailored intelligence. This is indeed what transpired that night. Since by their very nature such operations are sensitive and for operational and security reasons must always be kept under wraps, there would have been ample justification for the army, the ministry of defence, the government and all political parties to put a lid on any further discussion on the subject. The nation would have saved itself the embarrassment of a political self- goal so soon after a military success.