Going forward, India needs battle pigs not elephants to tame Pakistan

From a record low of just 17 in 2012, Indian security force fatalities in Kashmir have inched up steadily in Kashmir to 87 this year, the worst since 2008.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: December 31, 2016 4:40 pm
narendra modi, india pakistan relations, india pakistan war, india pakistan ties, pakistan terrorism, LoC, line of control, kashmir infiltration, kashmir terrorism, modi kashmir policy, pakistan kashmir interference Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI Photo by Shashank Parade

Thus wrote the Macedonian historian and rhetorician Polyaenus, in his masterpiece Strategems of War, written around 161 CE, and dedicated to the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius: “At the siege of Megara, Antigonus brought his elephants into the attack; but the Megarians daubed some swine with pitch, set fire to it, and let them loose among the elephants. The pigs grunted and shrieked under the torture of the fire, and sprang forwards as hard as they could among the elephants, who broke their ranks in confusion and fright, and ran off in different directions”.

For generations of military history students, the story of how the humble pig defeated the Indian elephants of the King of Macedonia, Antigonos II Gonatas, has had a simple lesson: in war, it’s often the smarter side, not the stronger one, that wins.

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi’s national security advisors could do worse than spending some time contemplating that lesson over the New Year weekend, as they consider the course of events during what has been an extraordinarily fraught twelve months for India-Pakistan relations. Frustrated by Pakistan’s continued patronage of jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba, India struck across the Line of Control in September.

Even though many Indians were euphoric, the strikes failed to deter Pakistan: in November and December, jihadists operating from Pakistan struck back repeatedly, notably hitting the XVI Corps’ headquarters in Nagrota.

More worrying, the short-term impact of the cross-Line of Control strikes was to blow apart the ceasefire that India and Pakistan put in place in 2003. Should Pakistan escalate cross-Line of Control firing come the spring, it will be hard for India to rebuild its fencing, 75% of which is brought down by snowfall each winter. That, in turn, will mean more terrorist infiltration—and more violence.

From a record low of just 17 in 2012, Indian security force fatalities in Kashmir have inched up steadily in Kashmir to 87 this year, the worst since 2008. Killings of terrorists have risen, too, to 165, the highest since 2010, and a sign of steadily increasing infiltration.

Thus, Prime Minister Modi could soon face a tough decision: should he resort to more attempts to coerce Pakistan, like the cross-Line of Control strikes—to use his elephants, as it were—or instead look for creative battle-pigs?

FOR an answer, India’s national security strategists might begin by taking a clear-eyed look at what the country’s interests. Though the word “strategic” has been is routinely used in public debates, almost as a magical incantation, there is little understanding of what it actually means. Lawrence Freedman, in his magisterial work on strategy, defines it as being thus: “identifying objectives; and about the resources and methods for meeting such objectives”.

In Pakistan’s case, the objectives are clear. Though some Western analysts lament what they claim is a lack of rationality to Pakistan’s use of covert warfare against India, it is in fact entirely strategic. Hostility with India legitimises the army’s primacy in Pakistan’s political life, and unites the population behind the Generals. The alliance with anti-India jihadists, moreover, beats back jihadists who are seeking to overthrow the Pakistani state.

Thus, jihadist violence in Kashmir, calibrated to avoid full-scale war—something Pakistan cannot afford, both economically and for fear of defeat—is a low-cost method to secure the Pakistan army’s strategic goal.

India, though, has very different ends—key among them, economic growth that will allow it to secure its position as an Asian power secure in the face of China’s rising might.

Full-scale war could scare away the investment India desperately needs to secure this end; as the richer state, it has more assets to lose, moreover, in a substantial conventional or nuclear war with Pakistan, no matter who might be the notional winner.

How, then, might India address continued jihadist warfare by Pakistan?

THE first step is in assigning proportion to the threat Pakistan-backed terrorism actually poses, so that Indian thinking is not coloured by either rage or panic. This year, violence in Kashmir cost a total of 266 combatant and non-combatant lives; by way of contrast, Maoist violence claimed 428 lives (and traffic accidents over 150,000 lives). India has not faced a major urban terror strike in years. This is not to trivialise terrorism; just underline the need for a calm response to something that is not an existential threat.

Secondly, India needs to substantially enhance its domestic counter-terrorism capacity, so as to be able to preempt and contain threats—lessening the need for risk-enhancing strategies like the cross-border strikes. Little noticed, central government support for police modernisation has been cut off since Prime Minister Modi’s government took office; state after state has also slashed hiring and budgets. Police training and human resource standards remain abysmal: constables, across India, are hired and paid on par with unskilled labour.

Third, no significant investments have been made in modernising the intelligence services. Both the Research and Analysis Wing, and the Intelligence Bureau, continue to suffer from staff deficits of over 30%—this based on staffing levels decided in the 1980s. Language and technical staff, as well as executive personnel, are in particularly short supply; Indian electronic intelligence capabilities lag decades behind the state of the art.

Finally, India is yet to invest in the capacities needed to strike at the jihadist leadership across the border. Though the Air Force and Army both have assets that allow for limited, and relatively crude, attacks on training camps and logistics facilities, there is no capacity for targetted strikes on key leaders and operatives—a fact that India’s failure to eliminate key 26/11 perpetrators roaming free in Pakistan underlines. In addition, India needs to think hard on the economic and military tools in needs to inflict costs on the Pakistan Army, without risking war.

Last, India is yet to enhance its counter-insurgency apparatus in the theatres where it operates. That almost half of Indian police and army fatalities this year in Kashmir were caused because of lapses in perimeter security or poor training speaks ill of capacity; so, too, does the crude and brutal means used to control crowds, which have generated ill-will that will last generations.

These issues may not be as glamorous as high-profile cross-border actions, or diplomatic summits: they involve granular attention to long-festering problems in India’s national-security apparatus that will take years to address and resolve. The gains of action, however, will be lasting.

Failure to begin now, though, will ensure Prime Ministers years, even decades from today will continue to flail in the face of crisis.

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App

  1. M
    Mukesh singh
    Jan 1, 2017 at 3:58 am
    All the solution discussed here are good but out of box thinking is required to solve inherited problems,kasmir needs non suni Muslim dominated political party,vajpayee created PDP it's time for modi to create such party of right thinking non Sunni Muslims party,the religious angle to Kashmir should be cut to size
    Reply
    1. R
      Raj
      Jan 1, 2017 at 5:36 am
      Any terrorist killed , must not be buried. They must be cremated so that the dream of going to heaven with a body to enjoy 73 virgins is shattered . Or else their pen$and must be cut off before burial
      Reply
      1. A
        ANUBHAV
        Jan 1, 2017 at 1:03 am
        LAPTOP 10P
        Reply
        1. A
          aslam
          Jan 1, 2017 at 10:31 am
          The mystery of twin towers attack in america is not yet cleared by the american government, despite of severe safety measures how did it happen. It is a lesson to all the countries. But modi government is not keen in the matter of safety measurements and this government interested only in communal politics like encouraging their followers to give some hatred statements. They are not even ready to tell some condolence to those who last their lives in front of ATM/Banks. They hiding their mistakes and try to prove that they are perfect. They are showing wrong numbers of statistical/ economical figures to the citizens. They manite judiciary, military, economy, Banking and fundamental rights of our country. The Biggest danger we are now facing is maniting Media. Hiding the real stories from the people is a part of modi government policies. Demonitisation manited India's Currency strategy i.e. more and more devalue of rupee will happen as per fiscal deficit in currency. Over all it leads to destruction instead of construction.
          Reply
          1. F
            FrankOpinion
            Jan 1, 2017 at 12:39 am
            Author should get Ajit Doval's job - remember, " p i m p" media like IE again will ask for "proof" of these humble pigs
            Reply
            1. L
              lafanga
              Jan 1, 2017 at 9:42 am
              Here is another brilliant idea ... sit down with stan and discuss all issues including Kashmir. Kashmir can be resolved where both sides are happy and so are Kashmiris.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;But brilliance is not something in abundance in Modi and his cabinet. Think about it ... Maoists killed 428 but 99% Indian focus is on Kashmir and stan. This proves one point ... Indian lives dont matter to these politicians and media ... they are just obsessed with stan.
              Reply
              1. S
                Sriniwasan
                Jan 1, 2017 at 7:28 am
                An incisive analysis which the Mody Government should seriously introspect.Merely having a James Bond NSA will not suffice,unless the Bond creates a force and strategy to strike Counter Terror at the very heart of the Jihadists.lt;br/gt;At the same,the domestic political situation unfolding in JandK needs to be closely monitored by creating a special Cabinet post in the government who will be solely responsible to manage the JandK affairs reporting directly to the PM.
                Reply
                1. R
                  RW911
                  Mar 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm
                  If so, then In one such year, your coward ancestor converted to culture-less Arab death cult, while my brave ancestors remained true to their motherland.
                  Reply
                  1. Load More Comments