(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
How to counter Pakistan’s slow and steady “scorched earth strategy” is the key challenge for India?
Decision makers must learn from the key lesson of counter insurgency and terror campaigns!
‘Time is on their side’ and “if they do not lose, they win” is the key lesson of terrorist/militant campaigns. If they let go of the opportunity that favors them now in the valley, they will have wage a prolonged fight to realize dreams of liberation of J & K from India – Azadi or merger with Pakistan.
Peaceniks, particularly those belonging to the Congress Party and their sympathizers may do well to remember their top leader Indira Ghandy’s famous quote.
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” stated Indira Ghandy many decades ago.
Relevant it is even now with the obdurate agenda of Pakistan and its ‘puppets” in Kashmir valley.
For both India and Pakistan, it is a long drawn battle of brawn. Also, it will be conjointly a battle of wits. It will have to get still worse before once can look for significant normalization breakthrough.
After all, it is a long drawn extraordinarily complex crisis – civilization conflict. So, it will be business of blood spilling all around with no early end in sight.
The crisis situation is most unpredictable. If one side believes that they have gained the initiative and momentum at one time, it could also fade away with one wrong step.
In the ultimate, the side with greater punishment withstanding capability and resilience may emerge winner; but badly bruised, if not devastated. Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are classic examples.
What is vital to realize by political and military analysts and other onlookers is that both India and Pakistan have demonstrated awesome punishment withstanding capacity to endure the fight.
In particular, Pakistan has been experiencing its fury since entry in Afghanistan in late 1970s as strategic partner with the USA against the U.S.S.R during the Cold War era followed by the continuing full scale battle against the Taliban and al Qaeda thereafter until date. Add to them, the crises in Baluchistan and Karachi.
So also, India has been battling separatist forces in the Northeast, left extremism and crisis in J & K particularly after 1989.
The only solace for India is that by its geographic, economic and military size, it has the potential to outlast Pakistan.
However, China needs to be factored on Pakistan side. Pakistan will continue to prolong the crisis and conflict until China continues to lend moral, material and financial support. Even China needs to consider the larger and broader goals of Islamist radicals. They too need to overcome Islamist onslaught in their backyard in Xinjiang.
By simply following one-sided highly partisan coverage of events, unbiased geopolitical and intelligence analysis is not easy. If one wants to follow the events carefully, one must also view the Pakistan TV channels and follow the print media on daily basis to appreciate the views on “the other side of the Hill”.
In contrast with the high decibel cacophony and cantankerousness projecting different and divergent views in the Indian media, mostly confusing, Pakistan media appears more subdued.
Only one paper in Pakistan reported the summoning of India’s Deputy High Commissioner for the fourth time in just over a week and lodging a strong protest over alleged “unprovoked ceasefire violations” by Indian forces along the Line of Control that resulted in the death of its six civilians.
In contrast, almost all the media circuits have covered the news in India.
What does it imply? It is quite clear that Pakistan is not giving undue significance to casualties suffered by them on account of cross border/LoC fire exchanges except for gaining diplomatic advantage. For them, loss of few PoK Muslim civilian lives does not matter – martyrdom in pursuit of “Holy Jihad”.
As of now, Modi is following Indira Ghandy’s dictum: Talks cannot be held with a clenched fist”. Unless cross border state sponsored terrorism is stopped, the demand for peace talks by opposition political parties and the so called stake holders in J & K that includes separatist leaders and the two dynasty’s – Abdullah’s and Mufti’s – with no clear cut agenda enunciated should remain on hold.
Talks for the sake talks are futile exercises for photo opportunities only.
Also, war (even if limited to J & K) is a costly option that should not be attempted as some drawing room hawks pontificate. Of course, the talk of a full scale war is insane with both sides having nuclear weapon capability.
Viewed in such overall framework, options available for India are simple. Plan, prepare and conduct the ongoing “proxy war turned state sponsored active terrorism” battles with “eye-for-eye or tooth-for tooth” initiatives in all fields.
Apply the “scorched earth’ strategy on the other side of the LoC and the international border opposite Jammu region with more fury on the opposing side forcing the Pakistani civilians to flee into interior areas as refugees. Humanitarian moral approach will be viewed as a weakness and exploited by Pakistan.
Next, avoid ‘drum beating’ of destruction of Pakistan posts on daily basis without having definite clues of destruction and devastation.
The claims of destruction of 14 Pakistan posts during the past one week is a bogey.
Observation towers and posts may be vulnerable, but not concrete emplacements as part of defended localities in eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation. By such an effective counter, surely the entire defensive layout in eye-ball to eye-ball contact could be wiped out within a period of one month or so.
Having been involved in exchange of fire with Pakistani counterparts in my days in uniform, let me assure everyone alike that destruction of defensive emplacements (concrete bunkers with capability to withstand direct medium and heavy artillery) is not easy.
Hardly there is any contemplation of invoking strategy of decapitation of terrorist leaders operating on both sides of the LoC and the international border. Add to it, neutralization of separatist leaders rallying, mobilizing and inciting atrocities inside J & K.
Yet, the fire-fight must continue; but casualties on own side minimized by most effective tactical protective and security measures.
Furthermore, economic and diplomatic initiatives must be effectively enforced as part of “scorched earth” strategy, which includes withdrawal of MFN status, full utilization of waters inder the Indus Water Treaty, economic blockade, suspension of visa and transit facilities established as part of confidence building measures in the past.
How to wean away China from Pakistan is the real Himalayan strategic challenge on the diplomatic front? Unless it is done, “diplomatic isolation of Pakistan” is also a bogey. For most of African and Latin American nations vote in the UN supporting China’s views and moves.
At the same time, consolidate strategic partnership ties not only with the USA and its allies, but also Russia, SAARC and other nations.
Finally, technology advantage that India possesses must be effectively made use of in conducting the information war campaign particularly cyber warfare. The use of armed UAVs to carryout strategy of decapitation seems on limbo.
Unless a holistic and integrated strategy is evolved and implemented, it is not viable for India to tame the “Pakistan sponsored terrorism and separatism” in J & K.
The current Indian strategic and tactical postures, in retrospect, do not inspire confidence of a favorable outcome. Indian political class is divided over how to resolve the crisis situation.
The opposition parties are hell bent upon opposing whatever the ruling regime propose to do.
Unless there is unity at home, the fight against the foes cannot be fought to reach favorable conclusion. Let none suffer from illusions on the above count.