Thursday 14 November 2019, 01:23 AM
PAKISTAN’S WAR THREATS – RHETORIC OR REALITY
By Lt. General Vinod Bhatia (Retd.) | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 10/5/2019 4:01:47 PM
PAKISTAN’S WAR THREATS – RHETORIC OR REALITY

In a bold, unprecedented and unexpected move Prime Minister Modi’s  government abrogated  the special provisions of Article 370 and 35A as applicable to Jammu and Kashmir on 05 Aug 2019.  The long overdue proposal to abrogate Article 370 and 35A  was approved by an overwhelming  majority  by the Indian Parliament, taking not only Indians but  the world and Pakistan in particular by surprise, creating a political and strategic decision dilemma for Pakistan.

India’s plan to change the hithertofore unsuccessful status quo on J&K was well planned and executed in all dimensions and domains, be it internal or external, in the political, diplomatic and economic domain. India went on an immediate diplomatic offensive whereas  Pakistan on the other hand sent out confused signals mostly for domestic consumption.  Fresh from a self perceived successful visit to USA by the Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan duly accompanied by the  real power of  Pakistan  Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and his DG ISI , the last thing that Pakistan expected was a paradigm shift in  India’s position on J&K. 

A surprised and uncertain Pakistan reacted as best as it could by  threatening war and first use of its nuclear arsenal. To analyse and understand Pakistan’s reaction, rhetoric and reality it is essential to factor the positional shift in India’s Pakistan Policy and the ensuing narrative of the last three years.For far too long Pakistan’s strategy of ‘Low Cost High Effect’ low intensity conflict aimed at  bleeding India with a thousand cuts has been an uncontested success for nearly three decades.

Pakistan, India’s Western neighbour has waged a successful proxy war in perpetuity and with impunity, comfortable in the belief that a nuclear weapon state with a declared ‘first use doctrine’ is secure from an otherwise militarily stronger India. The State Policy of terrorism backed by the Pakistan Army was an unparalleled and unprecedented success, wherein Pakistan  sponsored terrorist organisations perpetuated terror attacks not only in Kashmir but all over India including major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad and others. 

Major terror strikes by Pakistan like Mumbai 26/11, the Indian Parliament 13/12, Mumbai serial blasts, Kaluchak, the Kashmir Assembly and Pathankot went without any meaningful response thus emboldening Pakistan. The year long war deployment OP PARAKRAM  by India, post the attack on parliament was the only response which was never taken to its logical conclusion, further strengthened Pakistan’s belief that war was not an option for India. Pakistan, however, failed to recognise the winds of change.

A resurgent, risen, responsible India under PM Modi surged ahead in the emerging world order to play a predominant leadership role. The strategic patience of a hitherto-fore benign  Indian  public had been  put to test in the terrorist attack on an Army camp at Uri resulting in 19 fatal casualties of soldiers. The first military response by India  in the  effectively  executed surgical strikes  post the Uri terror attacks in Sep 2016 took Pakistan and the world by surprise.  Pakistan was least prepared for a response and as usual went into denial mode.  India  had  for once demonstrated  a political  resolve in raising  the cost of Pakistan sponsored proxy war. 

The surgical strikes ignited the interest and imagination of all Indians making it incumbent on the government to respond appropriately in the military domain to future high profile terror attacks emanating from Pakistan.The surgical strikes, the first of its kind, were also backed by a synergized initiative in the political and diplomatic domain.  Pakistan for once felt the pain  and cost of its  proxy war rise to an extent.  However, to assume that one surgical strike would force Pakistan to review a successful  policy of sate sposored terrorism would have been foolish. The need is a constant and continuous threat and a shift in the counter terror strategy of carrying out ‘Pre-emptive and Punitive operations’.  It should be noted that the nuclear rhetoric which usually  emanated from Pakistan was silent  post Uri, there were only veiled threats of a nuclear armed Pakistan.  The goal posts had shifted and ground rules changed.

Pakistan perpetuated  terror again crossed the ‘Red Line’ or ‘Lakshman Rekha’  in the dastardly  Pulwama suicide attack  on 18 Feb 2019 leading to 40 fatal casualties of CRPF personnel. This time Pakistan was seemingly prepared for a cross Line Of Control ( LoC) military response. India once again demonstrated to the world that preemptive and punitive actions against state sponsored terror is the new normal, executing a precision strike by IAF Mirages on 26 Feb  at the JeM’s mother   terrorist training camp at Jabba Top approximately 20 Kms from the town of Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. A rattled Pakistan made an attempt to retaliate by PAF along the LoC in Naushera - Rajouri sector on the morning of 27 Feb.  This did lead to heightened tensions especially along the LoC as expected and the usual Pak rhetoric of being a nuclear armed state.

Taken by complete surprise on 05 Aug by the decision of the Indain Parliament to abrogate the provisions of article 370, Pak Army Chief Gen Bajwa convened  the ‘ Corps Commanders Conference’ presumably the highest decision making body the very next day on 06 Aug to chart out the war plans, asking the army to be fully prepared to support the  cause of Kashmir. The Pakistan army has learned from its past mistakes and now wields authority without any direct accountability.  A so called democratically elected government headed by PM Imran Khan has been installed at the behest and support of the army. The paradigm shift in the Indian position on Kashmir created decision dilemmas for Pakistan. Indian stance is clear the issue is not Kashmir but Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Pakistan took the tried and tested narrative, one of nuclear rhetoric and second of internationalising  Kashmir.

PM Imran Khan in his address on Pakistan's August 14 Independence Day accused India of  military action in Kashmir, threatening to "teach Delhi a lesson" reaffirming that the army was prepared to respond to an Indian aggression in POk. "The Pakistani army has solid information that [India] are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response," PM Khan stated. He also  warned the world that the deteriorating condition in South Asia over the Jammu and Kashmir issue could mean a nuclear war but at the same time  declared that Pakistan would not be the first to use nuclear weapons. Imran Khan’s  threats of war with or by  India are for both domestic consumption as also for  the mega states  to intervene in Kashmir to an unaffordable nuclear  holocaust. It is another matter that the world at large including the Islamic countries and even China to a great extent has not supported Pakistan.

The key question remains what are pragmatic options for Pakistan from a Pakistani perspective:-


•    Calibrate and fuel violence levels in J&K.
•    Perpetuate a high profile terrorist attack either in J&K and/or in a city possibly during the upcoming festival    season.
•    Raise the Kashmir Issue in various international forums, especially the UN - target the UNGA scheduled on   27   Sep as also in Bilateral and multilateral meets.
•    Nuclear rhetoric - to force the major powers to intervene in Kashmir.
•    Heightened  tensions along the LoC , proliferation of high calibre weapons .
•    Up the war ante, mobilising forces.
•    Incite the people of POK to cross the LOC enmasse and force the Indian Army to either open fire or start firing at the crowd from their side blaming India for civilian casualties.
•    Orchestrate attacks on Chinese nationals and assets in POK/ Pakistan apportioning the blame on India, force  an intervention  by China.
•     Continue to conduct a relentless  Information war .

 
A nuclear war is not an option despite rhetoric and the capability to employ ‘Tactical Nuclear Weapons’ (TNWs) with a declared first strike doctrine.  India’s declared nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use (NFU)’ and massive retaliation with second strike is an effective deterrence against any Pakistan designs of employing nuclear weapons. In any case as the Indian Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh stated that the NFU can be reviewed under certain situations.  In conventional war domain Indian military is far superior with the so called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine which in effect is a  ‘Proactive’ strategy, deterring Pak from starting a misadventure.  Having stated this, the nefarious designs by a desperate Pakistan cannot be ruled out and hence it is important that India is prepared to safeguard and defend its territories and interests.

Pakistan will continue to try and calibrate the violence levels in Kashmir, waiting for the restrictions to be lifted.  This constant threat needs to be countered and that is exactly the reason that restrictions on the internet and mobile phones have been placed. Special and sensitive situations need special protective measures. The present restrictions placed have been implemented as  some of the lessons learnt from 2008, 2010 and 2016 disturbances wherein Pakistan propaganda based on a fabricated narrative exploited the sentiments of Kashmiris and  orchestrated civil disturbances.
        
Pakistan seeks parity with India.  The diplomatic initiatives by India are hurting Pakistan who has been unable to garner any meaningful support to internationalize Kashmir. Pakistan’s economy is under severe stress making it unaffordable for him to wage a war.  India, however, should not be lulled by logic and should well remember that Pakistan in a desperate bid and for domestic compulsions exploit the present situation and force a war on India orchestrating it in a manner that the world believes that  India has initiated the war. A high profile terror strike on an Indian city especially during the upcoming festival season, or an attack on a place of worship may  force India to carry out punitive operations thus giving  a raison d'etat to Pakistan  to escalate  to a conventional war. 

Two main factors that will drive Pakistan to force a war will be to firstly force the international community to intervene in Kashmir and secondly and equally important is to seek public support within.  An anti-India stance is a rallying force for the people and regions of Pakistan fuelling pseudo patriotism.  In a major shift the Army Chief Gen Bajwa taking advantage of the prevalent situation granted himself, a three year extension of tenure duly sanctioned by a pliant and grateful Prime Minister,  something Gen Raheel Sharif his predecessor failed to do. This will also help Pakistan Army to further consolidate its position, hold and relevance among the people.

Hence a high profile terror attack becomes the most probable course of action for Pakistan.  India is well poised to defeat any military threat from Pakistan in the conventional domain having an advantage in assessed combat ratios of the two militaries. On the positive side  the violence levels in Kashmir have been the lowest in many years in the last six weeks thus giving a semblance of peace to the people of Kashmir. There are apprehensions and a pent up anger among the Kashmiris but the silent majority supports the government decision well realizing as to how Pakistan has exploited them for their own ends. The now famous Trump Tweet of 07 Sep morning rejecting  the Pakistan backed  Taliban’s Afghanistan solution has further eroded  leverages which Pakistan possibly had  with US.

It is imperative for India now to ensure a long term peace, stability and development in Kashmir.  The people of Kashmir not only need a healing touch but more importantly look forward to economic  development, employment generation, education avenues and more importantly empathy.  Having suffered three decades of violence Kashmiris have been exploited by Pakistan for their agenda of bleeding India with a thousand cuts.  Now that the position, narrative and the constitution provisions have changed, it is time to work towards fully integrating not only the whole of J&K but Kashmiris. Pakistan will continue with its rhetoric but India should never ever let its guard down ensuring an effective military posture to deter any misadventure.

Lt. General Vinod Bhatia (Retd.)

(The author Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd) is Director Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS) and former DGMO of Indian Army)

Tags:

Article 370,35A,Jammu,Kashmir,Imran Khan,Qamar,Javed Bajwa,PARAKRAM,Mumbai,Uri,terrorist

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