India will prefer covert operations over open war
Making an assessment of the Pakistan’s obtaining internal and external environment, it will not be wrong to say that the situation is far more critical than what it had been in 1970-71. At that time it was only eastern wing which was in turmoil. Rebellious Mukti Bahinis were in league with India and Soviet Union was in backup support. But now Pakistan is up against Indo-US-Israel-UK-Afghan nexus and both eastern and western fronts are hostile posing a twin threat. Internally, while the political forces are deeply polarized and there is inter-provincial disharmony, economic hub centre of Karachi is on fire and so are FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Poverty stricken Southern Punjab is simmering with discontent and vested interests are demanding creation of Bahawalpur-Southern Punjab as a new province at a time when elections are round the corner.
TTP aligned with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in the northwest, and BLA, BRA, BLF in Balochistan duly supported by foreign powers are up in arms against the state. 40,000 people have died in this insane war. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is under extreme threat of either being destroyed or hijacked. The ruling regime installed by USA and UK has systematically destroyed all the public sector enterprises and ruined Pakistan’s economy. While there is acute energy crisis because of acute shortage of electricity and gas, railway is almost grounded. This will adversely impact movement of Army in case of war. 150,000 Army troops fighting the senseless war since 2003 are fatigued while their weapons and equipment have suffered wear and tear. Reserve stocks are depleting. USA has an uncanny history of blocking military supplies at critical times. This time it would undoubtedly do so since it is a strategic partner of India and has lots of complaints against Pakistan. India and USA have been making concerted efforts to provoke Gen Kayani to commit additional forces for launching an operation in North Waziristan, or in Balochistan, or in Karachi, to not only imbalance the Army on the eastern front but also to allow the detractors to demonize and defame Pak Army that it is involved in human rights violations. Gen Kayani was also enticed to take over the reins of power so as to give the two natural allies an excuse and a cogent reason to invade Pakistan under military ruler. Kayani has sensibly maintained his composure and hasn’t lost his cool. It may be recalled that with the help of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, India had succeeded in provoking Gen Yahya Khan to launch a military operation on 25 March 1971 to save Pakistan but it proved to be the beginning of breakup of united Pakistan. Provocation is one of the tools employed by India to achieve its ends.
GHQ is now on guards after the US exposed its true-self as a consequence to series of offensive acts it undertook in 2011 and unearthing of secret CIA network in Pakistan. British historian Levin Anatole says in his book ‘Pakistan, A Hard Country’, ‘all explosions and attacks are being planned and carried out by CIA and its agents in the name of Taliban’. Revelation of these anti-Pakistan activities has steeled Pak Army and ISI and the two institutions are determined not to get bullied any further. Gen Kayani and his team deserve tributes for having kept monumental external and internal threats faced by Pakistan in check. He frustrated US aggressive designs hidden behind Af-Pak policy, deceptive Kerry-Lugar Bill, OBL venture linked with memo case, and incessant pressure to mount an operation in North Waziristan. An answer to Pakistan specific Cold Start doctrine of India has been found by conducting series of Army level Azm-e-Nau exercises. Pakistan’s strategic assets have been steadfastly defended and Army attuned to both conventional war and low intensity conflict. Today all ranks of the Army are far better battle inoculated and motivated than they were ever before to take on compound challenges.
But for Army’s stance, NATO supplies couldn’t be stopped for over seven months and Shamsi airbase cleared of US presence. Bold and imaginative offensives in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan recaptured lost spaces and snatched the initiative from TTP and restored the image of Army. His policy of winning hearts and minds of people in FATA and interior Balochistan is bearing fruit. Above all, despite the extraordinary heavy strains of war, political pressures and scathing media war, he has kept the morale of all ranks high. Thoroughly professional and upright, he knows his job but is neither a braggadocio nor a show off. No Army chief had to put up with such enormous multifaceted pressures. Unlike his predecessors, he didn’t have any time to enjoy his command. When I compare him with Indian Army chiefs and US-NATO Generals in Afghanistan, I find him taller than all of them.
India wearing the mask of friendship and duly glamorized by actors of Aman ki Asha (Quest for peace), SAFMA and types of Asma Jahangir and Najam Sethi, also got exposed after her ugly response to Mumbai attacks. She again managed to deceive our India-loving leadership when she agreed to renew stalled composite dialogue and also offered to enhance bilateral trade. Our leaders eager to regain confidence and friendship of India hastened to offer Most Favored Nation status and to open up border for free trade. Preachers of Aman ki Asha are now feeling embarrassed after the recent change of colors of India for the hype created over a trumped up beheading incident along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Indian Army chief, air force chief, Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders as well as Hindu extremist groups had all started jumping rhythmically like clowns trying to scare Pakistan but couldn’t befool the world quite used to their theatrics.
India twice came very close to initiating a war against Pakistan, once in 2002 after the fabricated terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in December 2001, and then in 2009 after another engineered terrorist attack in Mumbai on November, 26, 2008. In between this period, Indian military operationalized its Pak-specific Cold Start doctrine. India has, however, so far not applied the military instrument despite having sufficiently weakened Pakistan from within because the conventional and unconventional strength of Pak armed forces is still robust. The military is capable of making foreign aggression very costly. While the socio-politico-economic fabric has become fragile because of weak and inept political leadership, the military trunk is strong and nuclear deterrence is credible. India has the intention as well as capability to attack Pakistan, but her cautious nature comes in her way. Unless Pak nuclear bombs are disabled, and military’s will to fight slackened, India will not opt for an open war, but would prefer to achieve her objectives covertly. India will not risk military adventure unless it gets 100% guarantee of success.
Since the government, political parties, institutions, NGOs and civil society are all engrossed in internal wrangling and political manipulations, Pakistan has not been able to suitably respond to India’s uncalled for belligerence. Although Pakistan is going through most critical time of its history, however in a way Pakistan is fortunate that both the US and India are also going through testing times and not in a position to overtly harm Pakistan. Departure date of ISAF from Afghanistan is getting closer and both are in need of Pakistan’s cooperation. Pakistan’s health will improve substantially if we elect honest, truthful and efficient legislators in the coming elections. But that is possible only if electoral machinery is reformed and screening of candidates by Election Commission is done strictly in accordance with the Constitution. So far, signs are not very encouraging.
The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst. Email: email@example.com