General Musharraf is a tough commando and a brilliant tactician, but he appears to be a poor strategist like most Pakistani Generals. During the 1971 Bangladesh war his own performance and that of many a junior officers of that time was high class but Pakistan lost the war in too short a time due to poor strategy. Even during the 1965 war, which Pakistan could have won, the lack of strategic vision prevented them from visualising many a situations resulting in a stalemate with they getting the shorter end of the stick.
General Musharraf is said to have come for praise when he commanded the tough special group commandos? brigade on the Pakistan side of Siachen when he was a Brigadier. Nevertheless, their basic strategy in Siachen being faulty, by and large, they have suffered heavy casualties there with no gains to show in any skirmish.
General Musharraf went on to become the Chief Of the Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan out of turn on account of the excellence of tactics played with the politicians, particularly the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief.
His exceptional military tactical skills came to limelight when he planned and executed the Kargil intrusions occupying the Indian border posts during winter season giving a surprise of a lifetime to the then complacent Indian army and the intelligence community. As the summer approached the Indian army went to man their posts, but found them occupied by Pakistani regulars. Worse, the casualty rate suffered both in Pakistani ambushes and in initial attempts to recapture the posts was far beyond acceptable limits. Pakistan added magnificence to their victories by shooting down, as they claim, two Indian MIG fighters and one attack helicopter. General Musharraf'stactics showed great promise but the India air force changed tactics to take on the offensive air support role seriously, the resolute Indian top political leadership that didn'tpanic and the Indian army stood up to take the challenge. Musharraf had failed to visualise that. The Indian infantry struck deadly blows up the steep, near vertical mountain-slides displaying unparalleled daredevilry, the IAF destroyed their well-entrenched positions on the cliff-tops and the Pakistani misadventure ended in ignoble military and diplomatic defeat with such worldwide embarrassment that it prompted one of their own journalists to write: ?Our hour of glory has turned into an eternal shame.? So again, brilliant tactics but poor strategy!
Nevertheless, General Musharraf undauntedly went on to conquer the pinnacle of glory when he turned the tables on his own patron, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, who had cleverly planned to oust him when he was out of the country and in the air, his aircraft low on fuel and not permitted to land in Pakistan. Deft politician that he is, Nawaz Sharief had plans ready to expose General Musharraf as the one who had betrayed the civilian government by secretly planning a risky military action against India and eventually putting the nation to shame by suffering a military setback. Sacrificing Musharraf as a scapegoat, Nawaz Sharief hoped to ride the trough and get away with his own share in the conspiracy. A masterstroke indeed that had little chances of failure, but Nawaz Sharief didn'tknow that he was up against a master tactician and that cost him dear! Musharraf surprised all concerned by staging a successful bloodless coup while he was still in the air, an impossible situation, with an ease that would be an envy of many a dictator,
General Musharraf was now the Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan in addition to his post as the COAS. Having refused to salute the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee who had come to Lahore on peace mission while he was still only the COAS and also treacherously planned the Kargil intrusions at his back while the peace mission was still in progress, he got the same adversary to honourably invite him to India for, interestingly, taking part in even a more advanced peace mission.
The master tactician came to Agra and his crowning glory was when he made the all powerful Indian Editors? Guild along with the cr?me de la cr?me of Indian media, both print and electronic, eat from his hands in the breakfast meet at Agra. Eventually, however, the press accused him of scoring points rather than solving problems. That is the trouble when one emphasises more on tactics ignoring strategy.
The world in general and the Western countries in particular, had turned a Nelson'seye to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism on the Indian soil, but the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US changed that and suddenly the Americans made the battle against Islamic terrorism a world commitment. Pakistan was brought into it under duress with a threat ?Either you are with us or against us? and made the key ally in their fight against terrorism. The impossible had happened. Pakistan, the very creator and breeder of Islamic terrorism, had paradoxically become the key fighter against it. Be as it may, Musharraf, the tactician, must be admired for earning the post of a reliable and critical ally of the West in the fight against terrorism despite damning evidence to the contrary.
No doubt, making a show of fighting the Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other Islamic terrorist organisations while keeping his own Islamic hardliners at bay, as also the doublespeak which is a part of the very game is a tight rope walk, but fooling the West has always been a child'splay for Musharraf and he has been doing it with a finesse few are capable of.
Then come his memoirs. He wrote a third-rate book, full of lies and amazing contradictions and yet succeeded in getting the President of the only super power in the world, to act as a book promoter using White House, the seat of the greatest power on the earth as the high publicity launching pad. Scintillating indeed!
All the while the architect of Kargil aggression has cleverly kept the ?Kashmir Peace Initiative? in his own hands coming up with one peace proposal or the other. He never fails to frustrate the Indian diplomatic community by letting his proposals get to the press before them by using one trick or the other, thus keeping them unsettled and himself a step ahead. He also appears to have successfully cultivated many useful people to build him up as a hero in our media and plead his case deriding our own diplomats and leaders, going by their writings. Perhaps Musharraf'ssuperb hospitality works magic.
Without the complete stoppage of terrorist activities, Musharraf's?Four-Point Formula?, the latest to hit the peace-proposal stand, amounts to nothing more than the old wine in a new bottle: 1) Identify geographical regions of both sides of J&K that need resolution and the type of resolution with special conditions, if any. 2) Demilitarize the identified regions. 3) Introduce self-governance or self-rule in the identified regions. 4) Introduce tri-partite joint management mechanism that oversees ?self-rule? by the Kashmiris.
Demilitarization will permit total freedom to infiltrators. Self-rule under gun culture is no self-rule. Pakistan'srecord of treachery and going back on word doesn'tinduce much confidence. Therefore Musharraf'sproposal amounts to: ?What we have won in 1947-48 (by treachery and force) remains our own. Present negotiations are meant to bargain for the rest of Jammu and Kashmir. Are you playing ball? You better, in the interest of peace and secularism that you stand for, or be damned as an obstinate and inflexible State, ?oppressing?(?) the ?innocents?(??) of Kashmir while we, the perpetrators of terror on your soil, laugh all the way! Naivety, stupidity and being taken for a ride during negotiations have always been your destiny. So, grin and suffer it!? That is the only message that comes out loud and clear from him.
To our good fortune, our diplomatic corps are standing up to all the Pakistani tricks this time and the Foreign Minister has played trump for a trump and an ace for an ace during the recent visit. CBMs, which are nothing but bubbles, have been played long enough. They will become less and less effective with time. Time has now come to convey to Pakistan in absolute terms to talk business and that negotiations are possible only if terror mechanism is brought to an absolute halt and to General Musharraf that while your wizardry at tactics might win you a lot many battles, following a wrong strategy will eventually make you to lose the war.
(The writer is Director, Centre for Strategic Studies, Nerul, Navi Mumbai and can be contacted at [email protected])