Friday, January 16, 2009

It's not a war game by Shamim-ur-Rahman.

It's not a war game by Shamim-ur-Rahman [Senior Correspondent of Daily Dawn]

Shamim-ur-Rahman is a senior Pakistani Journalist.

[Published in New Age Dhaka on Jan 15, 2009 New Age Dhaka]

INDIA'S blow-hot-blow-cold diplomacy continues, raising the cost of conflict with Pakistan, without firing a bullet. Despite hectic international diplomacy to prevent outbreak of a catastrophic India-Pakistan war, raising the cost of conflict as a consequence of New Delhi's display of hyper-belligerency towards Pakistan in the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attack, war clouds are still hovering and both the countries are taking adequate steps to deal with the unfolding situation. But war gaming is becoming a bit itchy as both the countries are sticking to their respective positions, though moderating a little due to proactive indulgence of the external actors.

India demonstrated an unprecedented and unexpected belligerence towards a nuclear Pakistan after the Mumbai incident which was used by the Indian media, advocates of Hindutva and hawkish elements in Congress led by Pranab Mukherjee himself trying for the top slot after the upcoming Indian elections. The Indian attitude was understandable because of the nexus between New Delhi and Washington following their strategic alliance.

On the other hand, it has put Pakistan in an awkward defensive mode because its defences on the eastern borders had been depleted and exposed, thanks to questionable deployment of Pakistani troops on the western borders with Afghanistan to fight what was initially the American war on terror that has divided the country from within horizontally and vertically. The Indian threat has escalated while the country is under grave economic stress and political leadership, both in the government and in the opposition, had no comprehension of the gravity of the situation. Their attitude is making the Indian game plan easier to implement because of the mounting cleavage between them amid smear campaign against each on narrow agenda.

It will be a wonderful thing if the world community succeeded in averting a military showdown in South Asia, otherwise the world will have to have cost of conflict, and for a longer time. Since the tension shot up to the danger level, Pakistan has insisted that India should deactivate its forward air bases and withdraw troops to their peacetime bases. It should also provide proof of Indian charge sheet. Pakistan is also advocating inclusion of China and Iran in the war against terrorism. India maintains that it had not mobilised troops so there was no question of withdrawing it.

On the other hand, Pakistan was very late in comprehending that Indian attitude was dictated also by its strong economy and integrated Pakistan-centric offensive strike capability which was gradually beefed up since 2004 under a new cold start war doctrine which envisages a blitzkrieg type strategy involving joint operations by the army, navy and the air force. Indian leadership came up with this doctrine particularly after the Kargil incident.

Perhaps this time interests of India and the west have converged because of the rising militancy and terrorism in Pakistan. Surgical strikes attempts to hold on some territory will be the main objective – to bring down the government, disintegrate the military and disintegrate the country. It might also be part of the plan to enable the west to come in militarily as arbiter and deny Pakistan of nukes as a fait accompli. But surgical strike will not remain contained and controlled operation.

According to reports, India has, to a great extent, created infrastructure of integrated forward deployment of its combat command close to Pakistan's border during peacetime that is why the ISPR chief had recently said there was no significant forward movement of the Indian troops close to our borders. The so-called violation of Pakistan's air space was definitely a probing mission to test Pakistan's reaction time to the violation of the agreement on no fly zone by military aircraft close to the borders.

Analysts believe India might have reconstituted its strike corps and may have reinforced it to provide offensive elements for the battle groups to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan involving air force, and navy in the southern sector. It also means that the strike corps no longer requires the long-haul mobilisation. Since the most significant aim of the new war doctrine is to strike offensively without giving away battle indicators of mobilisation. Hence reports about deployment in the Barmer-Jaisalmer-Bikaner-Suratgarh sector. India has pushed the temperature on the high as it maintained the element of surprise necessary to prevent crossing of the nuclear threshold by either side. But can it prevent that, given the India-Pakistan disparity in conventional weapons?

The cold start war doctrine based on NATO's strategy has provided India greater element of surprise in terms of when, where and how it would launch its attack. Many analysts believe India might have lost that element of surprise because of the lingering on of diplomatic activity to cool off the situation. But that is perhaps to the advantage of New Delhi be which wants to keep Islamabad guessing and come under tremendous economic and psychological pressure due to mobilisation of troops.

Perhaps the initial Pakistani response to the Indian threat of a surgical attack was correct and also provided it the time to redeploy its formations, reinforce its reserve corps and devising strategy for fighting a war in an environment where the Indian air force has a significant numerical air superiority and for countering India's long range missile through a credible anti-ballistic missile defence, and making it impossible for the Indian navy to impose a blockade of Pakistan's sea lanes.

The war doctrine represent growing power of the Indian military to compel the political leadership to give political approval 'ab initio' and thereby free the armed forces to generate their full combat potential from the outset, shift from capturing bits of Pakistan territory in small-scale multiple offensives to be used as bargaining chips after the ceasefire; and focus on the destruction of the Pakistani army and its military machine. The objective is to deny Pakistan any opportunity to muster global community's indulgence in defusing the situation. The Indian government seems to be under increasing pressure of the hawkish elements who want it to use offensive military power through pre-emptive strategies.

Pakistan cannot remain oblivious of the fact that much before the cold start doctrine was unfolded, Indian military writers have been writing about 'reconstructing' Pakistan through a stable democratic order brought on by unmanageable civil unrest forcing the army back into the barracks, mandated by the global community in the face of increasing global threat from radical Islamist groups. They have also been trying to solicit global community's support, 'after military intervention by India'. They had not ruled out the possibility of a full-scale civil war, leading to breakaway of one or more of the provinces of Pakistan.

The Indian diplomacy has been focused on the western sensitivity that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Pakistan was the epicentre of terrorism and that 'no lasting solution for peace in Afghanistan can be found without some restructuring in Pakistan.' The Indian attitude since Mumbai terrorist attack and its charges against the so-called terrorist outfit in Pakistan is reflective of that mindset.

Pakistan cannot also not ignore the fact that India is being sucked into the so-called peacekeeping role in Afghanistan by the US-led coalition and has been using this territory to foment terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. It has sent its mountain-trained paramilitary force tasked with guarding the border with China, under the garb of guarding its workers. India has gained a strategic depth vis-à-vis Pakistan in Afghanistan and the establishment of Indian military airbase in Farkhor, Tajikistan which is first Indian military airbase overseas, and is convenient for transportation of men and material to and from Afghanistan.

Pakistan needs to revisit its economic and security policy and more than that improve its governance for ensuring sustainable democratic dispensation. The country cannot be sure of its destiny by always looking for external players to bail it out of difficulties. We have to remove the cause of horizontal and vertical divide within.

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