Pakistan’s Kashmir gambit
The recent firing on both the international border (IB) and line of control (LoC) sectors has been seen as an India-Pakistan standoff. This in many ways is a misrepresentation and misinterpretation of reality. The situation on the borders is a continuation of Pakistan’s attempt to change status quo, wherein it wants to seize Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of the means employed. This is evident both from its long-term strategy and the recent incidents.
The statement of Bilawal Bhutto on September 19, however naive it may sound, is symbolic of this deep-rooted manifestation amongst the Pakistani power brokers. Even as Pakistan pursues this agenda through state-sponsored terrorism, it wants to use talks to keep up the facade of congeniality. Conversely, India’s robust response on the borders and the decision to call the bluff on the inevitability of talks, despite provocations, indicates a shift in Government policy and security strategy.
PAKISTAN’S STRATEGIC CALCULUS
Pakistan’s failure to wrest J&K, despite three wars in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, underscored the futility of conventional conflicts as a means to gain territory. Worse, the defeat and division of Pakistan as a result of the 1971 war, left in its wake a deep sense of humiliation. The failure to occupy Siachen Glacier further aggravated the feeling of being dispossessed by India, of what was incorrectly seen as an area belonging to Pakistan. An attempt was made to snatch through proxy war what was lost as a result of popular sentiment and defeat on the battlefield. While this strategy did not achieve fruition in Punjab in the Eighties, J&K presented yet another opportunity for Pakistan. A twin objective was followed by keeping the LoC on the boil and the State unhinged through an endless series of terrorist strikes. This was accompanied by repeated calls for international intervention despite the bilateral nature of the issue in accordance with the Simla agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999. This strategy seemed to be succeeding until a revamp of defensive deployment limited the ability of terrorists to infiltrate through the LoC and the success of counter-terrorist operations contained terrorism within the State. And finally, the growing understanding of Pakistan’s status as the epicentre of transnational terrorism brought the international community face to face with long-neglected realities.
This frustrated the attempts of Pakistani backroom ISI agents and the army to control violence levels as was possible in the past. The only choice left for destabilising J&K and bring it back into international focus was to look for alternative areas which could be activated militarily along with simultaneous terrorist strikes. This manifested in the recent increase in ceasefire violations by Pakistan along the IB sector of J&K (called working boundary by Pakistan) and an increase in infiltration attempts by terrorists along with sensational strikes.
The attack on the army camp at Samba in September 2013 is a case in point as is the discovery of a tunnel in May 2014 in the same sector. Ceasefire violations along the IB sector in J&K also witnessed a sharp increase after the Narendra Modi Government took charge on May 26, as confirmed by the Defence Minister, as early as July 22 on the floor of Parliament, giving credence to this argument.
In order to understand the actions of the Pakistani state it is important to relate them to the status of its army and its linkage with Kashmir in particular and India in general. The raison d’être of the Pakistani army is the imagined existential threat from India and the unification of Kashmir with Pakistan. This dual bogey has ensured decades of exaggerated funding and the position and prestige that the establishment enjoys in the country.
Therefore, even if the Kashmir issue is resolved in future, the Pakistani army will ensure that India remains a credible threat in popular perception in order to retain its position of prominence. Despite an understanding of this reality amongst informed circles, the forces of democracy are not strong enough to redesignate the role and responsibility of the Pakistani army. This reinforces the inevitability of existing realities in the foreseeable future, making the expectation of rational thinking on Pakistan’s part nothing more than an illusion.
WHY THE GAMBIT IS LIKELY TO FAIL
Pakistan has misread the evolving situation in a number of ways. First, the Pakistan-sponsored proxy war in J&K is increasingly afflicted by the law of diminishing returns. There is increasing frustration amongst the people of the State, who can perceive the futility of violence and its impact on their daily lives. This has led to local cooperation in the provision of intelligence, dramatically bringing down the average lifespan of terrorists. Second, given the residual strength of terrorists, Pakistan is not in a position to calibrate the tempo of violence any longer. This has denuded their support base even amongst radical elements, which see with growing frustration the failure of Pakistani policy. Third, the drop in infiltration figures clearly points towards the increasing challenges of crossing the LoC. Despite a clear attempt to enhance the tempo of operations, as is evident from infiltration attempts, success has eluded terrorists. Fourth, attempts to flare up the LoC have also reached a plateau, short of abrogating the ceasefire. These futile violations have failed to cause expected casualties and worse, the retaliation has been severe, delivering calibrated punishment on each occasion. The army took adequate steps in the recent past to send a message in the manner and language that is best understood by an errant and incorrigible force. Fifth, the attempt of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to internationalise the Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly not only failed to gain traction, it was also brushed aside with the minimal attention and focus that it deserved.
Subsequent attempts after the recent incidents of firing to seek international intervention too have been rejected, with re-emphasis on the option of bilateral negotiations. Sixth, Pakistan’s decision to shift focus from the LoC to the IB, in a bid to regain moral ascendency, has not only been blunted but also accompanied by a clear indication of the approach to violations in future. The response has been cohesive and has simultaneously emanated from all quarters within the Government and security forces. It best reflects the sentiment of the country, which is no longer willing to sacrifice lives for what seems to be elusive peace.
MODI GOVERNMENT’S POLICY
The Modi Government has attempted to de-hyphenate a number of linkages, which were artificially created to obfuscate reality. First, there have been voices demanding that India and Pakistan work together against the scrooge of terrorism that affects both countries. This is a misconception since terrorism in Pakistan is its own creation, while India is afflicted by a proxy war from across the border. Second, the fallacy of the need for India and Pakistan to work together to bring peace on the border too has been rejected. It is Pakistan that wants to alter status quo by a combination of terrorism in India and adventurism on the borders. Therefore, the question of India reducing tension is irrelevant.
At the strategic level, the overall policy of the Government is following a dual track initiative. While on one hand, lasting and permanent peace with a united and strong Pakistan is a desirable end state; on the other is the challenge to maintain a delicate balance which ensures that the pursuit of peace will not be at the cost of sacrificing immediate national security objectives. The initiative to pursue proactive bilateralism, witnessed in the invitations to neighbouring heads of state during the Prime Minister’s swearing-in ceremony, indicates the willingness to take the first step towards lasting peace. However, there is an equally resolute policy which will not allow Pakistan and its proxies to undermine the seriousness of this initiative through repeated pin pricks aimed at testing this resolve.
This was reiterated by the Prime Minister during his UN General Assembly address, where he said that talks can only be conducted “in a peaceful atmosphere without the shadow of terrorism”. The policy of the Government has also clearly indicated that deterrence will be practised on the basis of calibrated but robust punishment. It is this policy which Defence Minister Arun Jaitley termed as making “the cost of military adventurism unaffordable”.
These objectives have translated into actions, which are unfolding in a series of tactical responses. The actions of the army on the LoC and Border Security Force (BSF) on the IB sector are indicative of these guidelines. The freedom of action witnessed, guided by reasonable escalation control measures, is already reflecting in greater unity of effort and cohesion at all levels. Over a period of time, improved responses will be accompanied by better capacities on the basis of faster induction of weapons and equipment, force multipliers and arterial networks to support mobility.
The domestic response is also likely to get international support for the fight against terrorism, of which the ongoing proxy war is an integral part. According to the joint statement during the Prime Minister’s visit to the US, for the first time both India and the US agreed to jointly fight terrorist groups like the Haqqani network, besides Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Dawood network, indicating the desire to raise the level of partnership to fight Pakistan-based and supported groups.
The present exchanges have only reinforced that Pakistan is not only the epicentre of terrorism, but also an immature nuclear armed country, which will indulge in nuclear blackmail to cover its military inadequacies. This was yet again evident from the statement of Pakistani Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on October 9.
The Government has repeatedly brought this to light during bilateral and multilateral exchanges with foreign Governments, since both threats have a transnational character. In addition, it is likely that this bluff will be called through a policy of robust response to cross-border adventurism.
Last, while India is committed to peace, this cannot be treated as a sign of weakness. There are likely to be a larger set of policy options on the table which can further explore the doctrine of deterrence by punishment unless Pakistan rejects violence and terrorism and follows the path of negotiations in the spirit of the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration.
India should take forward the agenda of the Modi Government with care and caution. Every policy decision must serve as an intermediate step in the pursuit of a considered and deliberated end state. Therefore, the decision to suspend talks or a robust stand on the LoC should be accompanied by contingencies at various steps of the escalation ladder, including sensational strikes at emotive targets in the Indian hinterland by Pakistan-supported groups. Each tactical step taken by India must be a part of a larger strategic game plan. This will be strengthened by collective decision-making, including all political parties, which must resolve to put aside their differences on is-sues of national security.
Talks are a priority and a desirable option. However, these must not be conducted under any compulsions or pressure. The honourable option of strengthening pro-democracy forces in Pakistan cannot be exercised at the cost of repeatedly condoning its army’s military adventurism. An Indian proverb aptly says that for the friendship of two, the patience of one is required.
The reality of present times clearly indicates that Pakistan, given the influence of its army, is in no position to pursue long-term peace. It should be India’s strategic choice to patiently manage its security in this environment in the interim even as it focuses on strengthening its economy. In doing so, first, the Government must retain the option to diversify the sub-conventional canvas as and when the voice of reason displays its inherent limitations. This should be accompanied by a national endeavour to build capacities, hitherto fore neither contemplated nor employed. Second, India needs to spearhead a coalition of the willing amongst like-minded countries against Pakistan in order to restrain its policy of using terrorism as state policy. Third, India should cater to future triggers both on the borders and within the country along with options to act with justifiable force.
Even as India tackles Pakistan as a short-term irritant, the focus must not shift from long-term threats and objectives, which can constrain India within the South Asian context. This includes building the county’s economic strength, delivery of its benefits to a large cross-section of population and enhancing the capacity of state structures, including the armed forces.
It is abundantly clear that India is in a position to manage status quo. It is also evident that Pakistan is in no position to alter it. Therefore, the policy of employing terrorism as state policy, firing on the borders and terrorism in the hinterland will only further weaken and isolate Pakistan. Its status is likely to slip from that of an irritant to a pariah. Therefore, the ball is in Pakistan’s court, if it desires an equitable solution to existing disputes.
The writer is a Research Fellow at Institute For Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)
India, China to set up military hotlines
Beijing, October 20
India and China have agreed to step up engagements between their militaries by setting up hotlines between the army headquarters and establish new border meeting posts to address incidents of incursions, Chinese Foreign Ministry said today.
During the last week’s Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) held in New Delhi, both side held “candid, amicable and constructive” consultations and reached the broad consensus on measures safeguarding peace and stability of the border area, Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
“Both sides agreed to establish regular meeting mechanism between the two military headquarters of neighbouring military areas and border troops, to set up new border meeting posts in the border areas between the two countries, set up hotlines between military headquarters of two sides,” she said.
The consensus fully demonstrates strong willingness and positive attitude between two countries in properly dealing with the differences and safeguarding stability of border through cooperation, Hua told mediapersons.
“We also believe these measures will help build communication and connections between two militaries especially the two border troops and will help the two sides to properly deal with border affairs,” she said.
“The stable and sound development of China and India relations serves the fundamental interests of the two countries. We would like to make efforts to properly deal with border related affairs through consultations and maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas,” she said.
Hua said during two-day meeting from October 16, officials of foreign and defence ministries of the two sides spoke highly of the proper settlement through friendly consultations the stalemate in the western section of the China-India border, indirectly referring to the standoff at Chumar in Ladakh region coinciding with the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. — PTI
Safeguarding border peace
* The two sides met in New Delhi last week as part of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC)
* They decided to set up hotlines between the army headquarters and establish new border meeting posts to address incidents of incursions
* Both agreed to proceed from overall interests in safeguarding peace and tranquility in the borders between the two countries.
India concerned over snooping by China along Kinnaur border
Tribune News Service
Shimla, October 20
The installation of surveillance equipment by China close to Shipkila along the India-China border in Kinnuar district has become a cause of major concern for the security and intelligence agencies. The issue is likely to be raised with China.
The matter was discussed at length at the meeting of all security and intelligence agencies held here today. Officials from the Police, Army, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) attended the meeting which discussed issues concerning International Border, internal security, counterfeit
currency and narcotics and drug trafficking.
“The surveillance equipment has been installed by China inside Tibet at a distance of about 3 km from Shipkila in Lahaul Spiti at an elevated point,” confirmed a senior official. “India will register its strong objection to the installation of this tracking device at the next flag meeting between security forces of the two countries,” he said. The Indo-China trade is carried along the Shipkila Pass in Kinnaur district every year from May to November.
India shares a boundary of more than 200 km with China along Tibet in the tribal district of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti. “The installation of the surveillance equipment in this sector is a new development about which the Centre has been informed and this has been done by China probably to monitor the developments taking place along the Indian side,” said an official.
China has strengthened its infrastructure along the border areas falling in Tibet along with building up its communication network like installing mobile towers.
Though the Indo-China border in Himachal is not as active as the North East sector but of late there have been instances where objections were raised by China over installation of electricity poles by India along the border near Namgya.
At the meeting it was decided that another police post at Khab would be created later.
To lodge protest
Surveillance equipment has been installed by China inside Tibet at a distance of about three km from Shipkila. India will register its strong objection to installing of this tracking device — Govt spokesman.
Hearing in case against Tejinder Singh on Dec 6
New Delhi, October 20
A Delhi court today fixed December 6 for hearing a case in which the CBI has charge-sheeted Lt General Tejinder Singh (retd) for allegedly offering Rs 14 crore bribe to then Army Chief General VK Singh (retd) for clearing Tatra vehicles file.
Special CBI Judge Madhu Jain posted the matter for hearing on December 6 after the counsel appearing for Tejinder Singh moved a plea seeking documents related to the case which were filed by the agency along with its charge sheet.
The court on September 1 had dismissed the Tejinder’s bail plea after he had appeared before it in pursuance to the summons issued against him. He was send to jail under judicial custody.
He, however, was granted bail by the Delhi High Court on September 5.
The CBI had filed a charge-sheet against Tejinder alleging that he had offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) VK Singh for clearing the file pertaining to procurement of 1,676 heavy mobility Tatra vehicles.
The court had taken cognisance of the CBI’s charge-sheet on August 28 after relying upon statements of former Defence Minister AK Antony, VK Singh and other prosecution witnesses whose testimonies were recorded by the agency during probe.
Five more ITBP battalions for anti-Maoist ops
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, October 20
The Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) is expected to deploy five additional battalions to combat Left wing extremism in central India. At present four of its battalions are already deployed in Chhattisgarh for such operations.
Sources in the ITBP said deliberations are under way in the Ministry of Home Affairs to chalk out the operational and administrative modalities for additional deployment of the border guarding force on internal security duties in Maoist-infested areas.
The ITBP is expected to replace the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the Dantewara region adjoining the border with Maharashtra in southern Chhattisgarh. The CRPF has about 40 companies deployed for anti-Maoist operations in that area.
Consequent to five more battalions being moved to Chhattisgarh, virtually the entire ITBP force would end up being deployed in an operational environment, including its primary task of manning the Indo-China border.
Close to 60 per cent of the force is deployed along the 3,844 km-long Himalayan frontier from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal Pradesh, barring stretches of borders with Nepal and Bhutan.
With another 15 per cent of the force being earmarked for anti-Maoist operations and remaining battalions being utilised for administrative duties, manning depots and training centers, there is little likelihood of a battalion being sent to a peace station for rest and recuperation.
Following a review of the security environment, the Ministry of Home Affairs had evolved a restructuring and upgrade plan for all central armed police forces a few years ago, under which the ITBP raised 15 new battalions and increased its manpower from about 45,000 to over 80,000.
India, China likely to hold joint army exercise next month
New Delhi: India and China are likely to hold a joint "Hand-in-Hand" army exercise next month in Pune that will focus on counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism tactics, weeks after a stand-off between their troops in along the border in Ladakh region.
"Hand-in-Hand" is an exercise aimed at exploring useful experiences, advancing pragmatic cooperation and promoting a friendly environment between the two armies.
The first such annual exercise was held at Kunming in China in December 2007 while the second was held at Belgaum in December 2008.
However, there was a gap of five years till an exercise was held in China's Chengdu area last year.
While final dates for the exercise are yet to finalised, Army sources say it could be held mid-next month in Pune.
Last year, a group of 160 personnel from Indian Army's 16 Sikh Light Infantry had visited China.
The exercise comes just weeks after a stand-off between its forces at the border.
New dimensions of security
External security has been a principal concern for Pakistan. Two recent security issues have acquired salience and require a new approach in the current regional context: the ongoing armed conflict between India and Pakistan on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and the Working Boundary between Kashmir and Pakistani territory in the Sialkot area; and the withdrawal of American and Nato troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new government has adopted a tough line towards Pakistan. It seems that India’s new national security and army establishment and the hardliners in the BJP have decided to apply military pressure on Pakistan. For this purpose, India has escalated violence on the LoC and on the Working Boundary as a punitive measure against Pakistan, with a firm belief that Pakistan would not escalate it to a full-fledged war. This calculation is based on the assumption that given Pakistan Army’s heavy entanglement in North Waziristan and security pressures on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Pakistan would not escalate the skirmishes on the LoC or the Working Boundary.
The Indian Army and security experts, since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November 2008, have explored the option of taking some punitive military action against Pakistan that would not cause a major war. They thought of carrying out a limited war, surgical airstrikes or punitive military action. They also toyed with the idea of what they described as the ‘Cold Start’ strategy, which called for creating a fast-moving joint ground and other services action to capture limited Pakistani territory. These suggestions were meant to punish Pakistan. However India, under Manmohan Singh, did not resort to these military actions because of the risk of escalation by Pakistan.
Now, the Indian Army and Modi’s national security establishment decided to take a limited risk by striking on Pakistani territory from the Jammu area, which is not separated by the international boundary but by the LoC or the Working Boundary. In this way, India is using the cover of Kashmir to target Pakistani territory. This cannot be viewed as a violation of the international border.
India’s army and its national security establishment is now experimenting with a new strategy to deal with Pakistan. Refusing to subscribe to the well-known argument that a stable Pakistan is in the interest of India, the new thinking in India’s official circles is that it should be more active in supporting dissident and separatist groups in Pakistan and helping militant groups that challenge the Pakistani state. For this reason, relations with, and presence in, Afghanistan is important. This provides India with access to Pakistan’s Baloch dissident elements and some Taliban groups. India is expected increase support to these groups. What these groups need is funding, which can be provided by India and other states that want to take advantage of Pakistan’s internal problems.
Another set of security challenges is arising on Pakistan’s northwestern borders with Afghanistan. The withdrawal of American and Nato troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 needs to be examined in a dispassionate manner in order to cope with the security situation in Afghanistan in 2015 and onwards. If the internal conflict in Afghanistan escalates and the Afghan Taliban become entrenched in Afghan areas adjoining Pakistan, this will have a negative impact on Pakistan’s tribal areas. It is, therefore, important that Pakistan helps the Afghan government to cope with its internal problems. This serves Pakistan’s interests because if the Afghan Taliban become strong, it will embolden the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.
This calls for paying attention to the control of the tribal areas by Pakistan’s security forces. The current military operation in North Waziristan holds the key to asserting Pakistan’s primacy in the tribal areas. The successes in this operation, so far, create the hope that the Pakistan Army will be able to establish control over the whole of North Waziristan. It should also assert its primacy in other tribal agencies so that the Taliban and other militant elements should not have any territory under their exclusive control. A lack of control of territory by militant groups undermines their capacity to threaten the Pakistani state. This will also make it difficult for foreign fighters to find sanctuary in Pakistan.
Pakistan should also adopt effective measures to strengthen security arrangements on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This should be done even if Afghanistan is not willing to cooperate. The surveillance of the border by electronic and human means should be done. This can be reinforced by strengthening border security posts for controlling the unauthorised movement of people, especially that of militants. If the tribal areas and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are secured, it will be possible to control the negative fallout of the increased internal strife in Afghanistan.
Further, Pakistan must take the initiative to cultivate the new Afghan government so that it discards Hamid Karzai’s anti-Pakistan posture. President Ashraf Ghani and the Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah should be invited to Islamabad or Lahore.
Pakistan should project its new counter-terrorism policy in the tribal areas and on the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders at the international level. This will help build a positive image for Pakistan at the global level. Pakistan’s diplomacy must also expose India’s new aggressive agenda towards it, to all friendly countries, especially the states that have good relations with India.
Pakistan should let the international community know that the armed conflicts on the LoC are not local or accidental incidents. Rather, these are well-planned actions by India against Pakistan. India’s aggressive policy towards Pakistan is not going to fade away. It will continue to build military pressure on Pakistan from time to time. Therefore, while responding to India’s military action in military terms, Pakistan must also resort to preventive diplomacy so that it does not have to shift its troops to the LoC or to the international border with India from the tribal areas and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.