India must hold her horses.
The trajectory of Indo-Pak relations has been pretty simple: a collision course has been followed by both these neighbors over the past 66 years. Let’s not go into the main conflict and the crises that emanated from that. The piece will shed light on a few sardonic antics shown by the Indian defense forces and government/opposition off-late. In the process this piece will deride some hollow arguments made by the ever-growing clique of liberals in Pakistan.
Civilian supremacy is something that many of us covet; often Indian Army is given credit for being truly professional, for they haven’t as yet subverted the government. Yes indeed, it is something creditable however; we need not compare the milieus of both the countries. The difference was there for all to see. Had Nehru appointed General P N Thappar as defense minister, for instance sake , things might have been very different. One can disagree with many of the assertions made by General Ved Prakash Malik in his book “Kargil: from surprise to victory, but one remark is striking and thought-provoking as regards the Indian Army being apolitical . “The credit goes not only to the military and its traditions , but also to the political leadership …….. The political leaders or the party members did not make any attempt to politicize the armed forces.” This is what our liberals and Army bashers should understand. However , the Indian military has out of her own accord sabotaged the peace process on a few occasions , be it putting their foot down over the Siachen Accords or Brasstacks or even Cold Start for that matter. For instance, in December, 2012, the then commander of the Northern Command, Lt Gen K T Parnaik disparaged Kayani on his overture of withdrawing from the Siachen Glacier. Things took shape for the worse amidst façade of peace-building and conflict-resolution efforts.
It was 4th January, 2013 when the green shirts under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq defeated a formidable Indian side in the 2nd ODI to take an unassailable lead in the ODI series. Just after a few hours the Indian Army resorted to unprovoked firing on the Line of Control (LOC), which resulted in the martyrdom of Naik Aslam of the Pakistan Army. However, it was seldom reported in our otherwise-vibrant media. Probably, they were showing too much fidelity to the cause of Aman Ki Asha. However, on the 8th the Pakistani troops allegedly beheaded an Indian soldier in the Meander sector. The Indian media known for its war mongering , launched a virulent attack on Pakistan day-in day-out. Is it conceivable that troops from any side can cross the LOC and behead a soldier, given the fact that there are bunkers and barbed wires on both sides of the LOC? If the alleged beheading turns out to be true then it is not only barbaric, but shows the ineptitude of India’s Northern Command, which was then commanded by Lt- Gen K T Parnaik. As expected, things conflagrated with a hostile statement from the Indian Air Chief, Browne; a 2-hour long press conference of General Bikram Singh. However, the General cleverly dubbed these issues as “tactical in nature”. But talks of effective vigil and dress down of local formation commanders meant that India was up to something. The leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj demanded 10 Pakistani heads. Sense prevailed on our side, as we did not see our military counterparts giving such statements. Politicians from our side were seemingly not concerned! The low-profile response from Pakistan was a good move, for statements carry weight in the Indo-Pak theatre. A localized skirmish at the LOC has every likelihood to escalate to the international border, especially keeping in view India’s Cold Start Doctrine, something which merits another write-up. The scuffle of January showed that Indians were utterly aggressive and Pakistan was acting gingerly.
Fast-forward to May, Nawaz Sharif even before becoming PM for the third time made his intentions clear as regards his India policy. Not only he invited his Indian counterpart on his oath-taking ceremony, but also decided to institute an inquiry commission on the infamous Kargil face-off. Many critics raised eyebrows over these benign overtures made by Sharif, since India had again shown that how much they value a proven terrorist: Sarabjeet Singh was given a grand funeral. Nonetheless, the border spats in Ladakh kept the Indian establishment busy for some time and moreover, both PM’s agreed to meet during next month’s General Assembly Session of the UN.
Now, finally let’s delve on the current and ever-increasing crisis. Pakistani Army allegedly crossed the LOC and 5 miles inside Indian Poonch ambushed an Indian Army patrol and killed 5 soldiers. The Indian Defense Minister oscillated at the whims of hawkish elements of the Indian opposition and media. His initial statement called the attackers as terrorists, dressed in army uniform. Within 48 hours Antony took a 360 degree turn against Pakistan. In other words he played to the gallery. He said “It is now clear that the specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in this attack when a group from Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) side crossed the LoC and killed our brave jawans,” Furthermore, he said that these acts will alter their approach and posture on the LOC. “"We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan side of LoC without support, assistance, facilitation and often, direct involvement of Pakistan Army," Antony said. The visit of the Indian Army Chief to the LOC with a mandate for a calibrated tactical response is showing its effects. The Indian Army and BSF resorts to unprovoked firing daily . It is not about the LOC only, but over the past few weeks the BSF have been violating the sanctity of the Working Boundary in Sialkot and Shakhargarh, injuring innocent Pakistani citizens. What will India gain from these skirmishes, recriminations; vandalizing PIA offices; attacking the High Commission in Delhi and blocking the “Dosti Bus”? India’s overall strategic designs are beyond the scope of this article. However, the fact is that these aggressive signals would not be a boon for South Asia’s strategic stability. Pakistan has been far more cautious in its approach and rightly so. As nuclear powers both country’s should act responsibly. It does not mean that we will reach a nuclear threshold over this hyped and spiced-up LOC ingresses, but the fog of war is a reality, to say the least.
A quote for all commanders, especially those of the Indian Army.
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Helmuth von Moltke.
Hawkish plans will be countered with more hawkish ones.