New Threats between Pakistan and India
Just a couple of days after Pakistan’s army brought radical change in its military doctrine by replacing its enemy number one – India – with the terrorists along Afghan border and inside the country, an attack by the Indian army on a Pakistani military post in Islamabad-controlled Kashmir left one soldier killed and another wounded.
Both the armies have been engaged in such skirmishes on the control line dividing the Muslim majority disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir between the two countries over the last couple of years despite having a ceasefire agreement. However, regardless of continuous hostilities in Kashmir and fighting four wars against India, the Pakistani army subjected its 66-year-old military doctrine to drastic changes, shifting the focus of its security operations away from eastern borders with India to the western borders with Afghanistan and the internal threats of terrorism.
The new military doctrine has been declared by incorporating a new chapter titled ‘sub-conventional warfare’ in the Pakistani army’s ‘Green Book’ which spells out operational preparedness, capacities and objectives of the armed forces. According to the new doctrine, the guerrilla actions from the tribal areas along Afghan border and bomb attacks on armed forces and civilians by certain groups have been identified as the “biggest threat” to national security.
According to the known history of contemporary armies, such a radical change in military doctrine is found only in Turkey during Kamal Ataturk era when Turkish army shifted its guns from European enemies and turned towards Muslim fundamentalists inside the country who resisted secularization of the society.
Change of heart
The timing of the new military doctrine is also vital since it has been announced as U.S.-led coalition forces were about to leave from Afghanistan and forced to holding talks with Taliban
The “change of heart” among Pakistan army is brought about by the U.S. and NATO allies who had finally succeeded in convincing Islamabad that the biggest danger facing country is not from India but the terrorists resisting its post 9-11 policy of joining the U.S.-led coalition engaged in a 12-year war against terror in Afghanistan. Washington has been urging Islamabad not to give up its military preparedness against India, and instead focus its defense strategies against eliminating the threat of terrorism completely.
It is under the same perspective that Islamabad gradually moved towards promoting friendly, trade and cultural relations with India, and awarding New Delhi the MFN (most favored nation) status, ignoring strong protests inside the country by Islamists and moderate political groups. The opponents of friendship with India had warned against the dual policy of U.S.-led coalition which had allowed India a stronghold in Afghanistan by engaging in training of Afghan army and launching joint strategic projects which posed open threats to the interests and security concerns of Pakistan. On many occasions, Islamabad expressed strong concerns over 24 Indian consulates established in cities and towns along 2200 kilometer Pakistan-Afghan border, alleging they were engaged in providing training and arms to anti-Pakistan elements that were carrying out terrorism in Pakistani territories.
Several top security officials admitted in the past that Islamabad was in possession of concrete proofs of involvement of foreign elements, especially from neighboring countries, in the subversion and other acts of terrorism specially aiding the separatist elements in eastern province of Baluchistan; blasts and massacres in other parts of country like Karachi, terrorism-hit Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Punjab. But strangely, no logical action was taken in regard to those proofs. Pakistani territories remained a battle-ground of proxy wars due to the presence of large number of foreign agents.
‘Enemy number one’
India, conversely, has never been in any sort of illusion about its nuclear neighbor and became the second largest arms buyer from U.S., Russia, Israel, France and UK over the last four decades. India has always declared Pakistan its enemy number one for the last 66 years. If certain fundamentalist groups vowing to raise Islamabad’s flag on Delhi’s Red Fort exist on Pakistani territories, perhaps a bigger number of Hindu extremists groups are working across India to materialize the dream of ‘Greater India’ by annexing Pakistan and other small neighboring states.
After the Indian army crossed into East Pakistan in 1971 to support the separatist militants fighting against Pakistani army, causing the dismembering of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, the Indian army had assembled in strong war-like build-up along Pakistani borders at least three times since then, but always refrained from another war, presumably because of Islamabad’s nuclear deterrence.
The U.S. bias towards India has always been visible as Washington entered into nuclear partnership with India in 2006 providing Delhi a wide range of nuclear assets ‘for civilian use,’ but ignored requests of its front-line ally in war on terror -Pakistan- for providing the same in view of severe energy crisis forcing the country to excessive power and gas load-shedding. Following Mumbai attacks of 2008, Delhi openly threatened surgical strikes inside Pakistani territory on the pattern of U.S. drone attacks and declared it reserved right to U.S.-like pre-emptive strikes against threats to its interests and citizens.
In view of the long list of Indian hostilities, the majority of Pakistanis were asked if India is no longer their enemy number one? It is also true that western borders with Afghanistan also pose security threats as admitted by former chief of Pakistan Air Force, saying that the reason security apparatus failed in timely alerting against the choppers that crossed from Afghanistan for hunting Osama Bin Laden was because of our primary focus on eastern borders and absence of any real threat from the western border.
The timing of the new military doctrine is also vital since it has been announced as U.S.-led coalition forces were about to leave from Afghanistan and forced to holding talks with Taliban, allowing them return in Kandahar and significant control on the southern Afghanistan. With the U.S. gone, India will no longer be a real threat to Pakistan from Afghan territory, and relieving considerable pressure from western borders looks possible.
The new military doctrine would become ineffective after Taliban re-establish control in Afghanistan, said retired Lt. General Hameed Gul, former chief of Pakistan’s premier spy agency Inter Services Intelligence [ISI]. Some military quarters opine that the change in Pakistan army’s operational priorities should not be on permanent basis, but for a specified period and subjected to its endorsement from the parliament. Otherwise, international community would continue to believe Islamabad’s foreign policy is not designed by elected parliament but comes from military headquarters.
(Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based at Islamabad. He can be reached through email: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @mansoorjafar)