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Will We? Should We?

New Delhi’s Military Posturing for Domestic consumption works to India’s Disadvantage!

Dr Nitin Pandey

28-Dec-2008
It took just a few weeks for Dr Man Mohan Singh’s government to squander away all the advantages India had gained after the Mumbai attacks.

These attacks had woken the International Community from its slumber and made it empathize with India’s suffering from cross border terrorism. United States and other world powers for the first time focused their energies on pressurizing the Pakistani Government to control the “non – State” actors inside Pakistan and the ISI and gradually bring latter under Civilian control. The “just born” tottering Civilian Government of Pakistan was trying to stand up on its own feet. It had disbanded the Political Wing of ISI about two weeks before the Mumbai Attack and was trying to secure its grip over the country. It had given a green signal for continued American Drone attacks on its North Western Borders and intensified its Army Offensive against the Taliban.

Immediately after the Mumbai Attacks, the Zardari Government came out in India’s support and pledged assistance in fighting terrorism. It was probably an indication of his naïve over assessment of his own powers that he immediately agreed to send the ISI Chief to India to help in investigations; an offer which later he retracted under Pakistani Army’s pressure. Even though it is true that historically successive Pakistani Governments have shed crocodile tears over terrorist attacks in India while at the same time providing active support to the Kashmiri terrorists operating from POK, yet this time because of American and World pressure and focus, could this Civilian Pakistani Government be behaving in a different way? Going by his speeches and the article in the New York Times, Zardari seems to be a different Pakistani President. After all, no other President before him had dared to dismantle the political wing of ISI.

Unfortunately things changed after New Delhi tried to play the Military Card. Full scale war against Pakistan will achieve nothing as we are not trying to increase India’s land mass. Limited Air Strikes are best done quietly and quickly, taking the enemy by surprise. Warning your enemy about surgical air strikes defeats the very purpose of surprise attacks as it gives it them time to disperse their assets and prepare defenses. Numerous such strikes been carried out by Israel and have always preceded by absolute secrecy. Pakistan has already activated its Air Force by deploying it in forward Air Bases, thus now making strikes by Indian Air Force risky. Further it has had ample time to fashion its response to such a strike and weigh all the consequences. Now if India does go in for surgical Air Strikes, what it may hit will be empty buildings and its losses are likely to be high. Further, there is little either nation can then do to prevent things from escalating and going out of control.

The Military threat has also severely undermined the Civilian Government in Pakistan. Prior to these events, it was trying to tame the Army, unfortunately now the military pressure from India has forced its hands and the Pakistani Army has now been given the drivers seat and controls the Pakistan Governments response. The tone and tenor of Zardari’s and Nawaz Sharief’s statements have suddenly changed. Offers of help, even if we presume they were false before, have suddenly dried up. The mood of Pakistani people has changed from one of sympathy for India to open hostility. Pakistani Army’s actions against Taliban in the Western Border have distinctly been toned down if not outright discontinued and there are now talks that the “misunderstanding” between them should be resolved by talks. A resurgent Taliban is detrimental to India’s strategic interests.

This Military Muscle Flexing also has the potential of forcing the hands of the Indian Government in the event of a second major terrorist attack in India, in near future. Having scaled up the military stakes, the Indian Government will find it very difficult not to go to war in such a situation, thus limiting its options in handling any evolving situations.

The most important consequence of our muscle flexing has been that foreign governments including US and the European Union have started focusing more on preventing an Indo – Pak war rather than investigating the Mumbai attacks or pressurizing Pakistan to clean up its terror camps. The pressure is now more on India rather than Pakistan, a fact recently acknowledged by our PM Man Mohan Singh.

Therefore Military Muscle Flexing by India is both premature and counter productive. The time for pre-emptive surgical attacks has gone, simply because the surprise element is no longer there. War with Pakistan will only increase India’s problems, not solve them and therefore should not be considered by any rationally thinking person. The threatening tone by India should be toned down so that the Civilian Government of Pakistan gets back on its feet and own government does not getting entangled in its own words in case of another major terrorist attack on India. War with Pakistan is no substitute for hard decisions which need to be taken by India to enhance its own security.


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