Intro: Giving a befitting reply to Pakistan, India responded maturely and like a responsible nation. At the tactical and operational level the policy of “Graduated Response” has been replaced by “Intense Response”. But acknowledging that a pariah state does not follow rules and conventions, Pakistan is not going to be quiet for long. Its Army would react after regrouping, and keeping this in mind, India cannot afford to lower its guard.
Pakistan is a complex nation with several centres of power-the Army, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the extremists, the religious groups and the beleaguered civilian establishment. From a “failed state” it is soon becoming a “pariah state”.
Amidst its status quo, one thing is certain that there has been a “silent coup” in the country wherein Pakis-tan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been overpowered by his name sake Chief of the Army Staff. The former has not only been tamed but has been made a lame-duck prime minister. The Army is calling the shots, it is writing the script, it is dictating terms and the civilian government is merely complying. In other words the power is anchored in the Army, whose past record as far as stability in the country is concerned has been dubious. With the reins firmly in the hands of
the army, of course without accountability, it is back to its old games vis-a-vis India.
Pakistan is in turmoil and is on the verge of an implosion. The jihadist monster it nurtured for many decades in the past has now turned on the state. The Army has its hands full combating the jihadists. It also has been infiltrated by these elements thus threatening it from within as well as bringing terrorist culture among its rank and file. As a consequence, Pakistani Army is fast losing its sheen and the pride of place it once enjoyed.
Unable to control the jihadists at home the Pakistan Army has finally decided to once again play the “K” (Kashmir) card. The first attempt was made in the beginning of the year when the Chief of Army Staff reminded the nation and the international community that Kashmir is its “Jugular Vein”. However, it did not find much favour since the civilian establishment under Nawaz Sharif had a different agenda including peace with India. The Army was hurt and preparations began to force the Prime Minister to toe its line. Subsequent manoeuvres by the Army to pressurise the civilian government leading to the siege of the capital city by the two army-backed politicians that forced the premier to negotiate need no
India’s decision to call off the Foreign Secretary level talks acted as the knockout punch in the fight for supremacy between the Army and the civilian establishment in favour of the Army. The Army was over joyed because from here on they would have a free hand in exploiting the “K” card for mustering anti-India sentiments in Pakistan because they consider Kashmir Issue as its raison d’etre. Infact, the Pakistan Army understands that the only glue that can galvanise and unite the whole nation is the bogey of Kashmir. Thus, their plan to internationalise the Kashmir issue formulated at GHQ, Rawalpindi began to unfold.
Nawaz Sharif was handed over a script to be read at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The establishment was shocked at the total neglect by the international community of the speech made by the Pakistan’s Prime Minister in which he unsuccessfully tried to internationalise the Kashmir issue. It was further shocked when the Indian Prime Minister completely ignored the issues raised by his Pakistani counterpart and instead drew the world’s attention to the tragic disaster that had struck the state. Furthermore, no mention was made of Kashmir in the bilateral summit between the US President and Indian Prime Minister. It was a clear signal that USA is committed to bilateral resolution of issues between the two neighbours. Having got a beating at the UNGA, the Pakistan Army returned to the home turf once again and thus followed a series of statements by disgruntled and disgraced politicians and a former dictator claiming Kashmir to be a disputed territory and a legal issue. This attempt also failed to provoke the Indian Government that once again ignored the Pakistani rhetoric acerbating their Army’s frustration.
On the other hand the Indian government was seriously addressing the issue of “gaps in defence preparedness” that had resulted in India losing its conventional superiority over its arch rival Pakistan. The Indian Defence Minister had given a “go ahead’ and cleared the purchase of many crucial long pending projects. The thrust given by the new government to defence preparedness through new raisings, modernisation and re-equipping of its Armed Forces badly rattled the Pakistan Army.
The security establishment concluded that once India regains its conventional superiority the “K” card could become a non-issue. The Pakistani Army could not afford to allow this to happen. Its frustration translated into its compulsion, and once again it decided to provoke India and draw international attention towards Kashmir. Afraid of the adverse publicity it would attract in case it activated the Line of Control because of the havoc caused by the flood and the ongoing festive season of Eid, the Pakistani Army decided to activate the International Border (IB) this time (Pakistan does not recognise the settled status of IB but refers to it as a “Working Boundary” emphasising the disputed status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.)
The intense shelling of the civilian settlements close to the border resulting in loss of valuable human lives, cattle and standing paddy crop was a most barbaric act which any civilised and professional army should never do. It was simply an act of terror from across the border. Pakistan Army disgraced itself and behaved like a terror army. To justify its misadventure and internationalise the issue, it blamed Indian forces for initiating the ceasefire violations and demanded monitoring of the violations by United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) that has become irrelevant after the Shimla Accord.
The reasons for the timing are obvious-Impending winters, dwindling strength of the terrorists in Kashmir, and a large number waiting to be infiltrated are adding to the frustration of Pakistan’s Army. It also intends to divert the jihadists from Afghanistan into Kashmir. All this is intended to keep the pot boiling even during the winters so that Kashmir continues to draw international attention.
Giving a befitting reply to Pakistan, India this time has responded maturely and like a responsible nation. At the tactical and operational level the policy of “Graduated Response” has been replaced by “Intense Response” that paid dividend. The statements of top Indian leadership also indicate a shift in strategy from “Deterrence” to “Compellence.”This time India has made bilateralism and no terror as a plank of its strategy, and has refused to succumb to Pakistan’s pressure tactics to force India to the table.
On the other side we also know that a pariah state does not follow rules and conventions. Pakistan is not going to be quiet for long. Its Army would react after regrouping, and keeping this in mind, India cannot afford to lower its guard. The Indian Armed Forces would have to remain alert and use the intervening period for further “Capacity Building.” Our intelligence apparatus would have to be on its toes. The damages caused to the fence, DCB and other structures on the border and Line of Control will need focussed attention, and the channels for negotiations will have to be
Brig Anil Gupta (The writer is a Jammu based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. The views of the writer are personal)