Shooting ourselves in the foot

Experience and government statistics show that machismo has never worked as a plan against Pakistan.

Written by Praveen Swami | Updated: October 21, 2014 9:10 am
Fighting inside J&K went into a year-on-year decline. Modi’s advisers know why this happened: Musharraf came to the conclusion the war against India was bleeding Pakistan,  not the other way round. In 1997, there were 1,116 attacks on Indian forces — the lowest since 1990.

Experience and government statistics show that machismo has never worked as a plan against Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seemed to have vengeance on his mind that morning, the fires lit on 26/11 still raging in Mumbai, as he met with top intelligence and military officials: “The people of India will never forgive us if we do nothing,” a senior intelligence official recalls him saying. Yet, it became clear at the November 29, 2008 meeting, doing something wasn’t easy: the army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, couldn’t promise special forces’ strikes across the Line of Control (LoC), while Air Chief Marshal Fali Major complained he didn’t have adequate targeting data.

“They did nothing,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during his election campaign, “Indians died and they did — nothing.” “Talk to Pakistan in Pakistan’s language,” he went on, “because it won’t learn lessons until then.”

For the last eight weeks, Indian troops have been acting on his words: replying shell for shell and bullet for bullet for the shots Pakistani forces have been firing across the LoC. The prime minister has said Pakistan has been taught a lesson, with the Indian army “shutting their mouth”. Yet, the firing goes on, on both the LoC and the international border: as late as Monday, Pakistani troops fired on farmers in fields around the Pargwal and Jaurian areas of Akhnoor, and over 30,000 people from 110 hamlets continue to live in refugee camps.

This tells us that the problem isn’t one machismo is going to end. Facing a crisis within, Pakistan’s army has sought to bring the Islamist constituency back into its fold by reviving the state-authorised war in Kashmir. Kashmir is thus seeing an uptick in violence, with infiltration across the LoC rising. Tensions with India serve this project well, giving the army the halo of patriotism. Put simply, India is shooting itself in the foot on the LoC.

Experience tells us this: Indian firing on the LoC, however ferocious, will not deter Pakistan’s pursuit of its proxy war. From 1998 to 2003, Pakistan’s use of border fire to facilitate a surge in infiltration across the LoC led to no-holds-barred artillery duels — ferocious exchanges that levelled entire villages in the Neelam valley and destroyed hundreds of homes in Poonch, Uri and Kargil. Thousands of such cross-border exchanges took place each year, in contrast with the 100-odd seen since 2003 — and yet, each year, violence in Kashmir rose.

From the summer of 1998, secure in the belief its demonstrated nuclear-weapons capability would now deter a conventional Indian military strike, Pakistan’s army ratcheted up infiltration to bolster the flagging insurgency in Kashmir.

In 1997, there were 1,116 attacks on Indian forces — the lowest since 1990. These rose inexorably, in the following years, to 1,211, 1,390, 1,560, 1,994, and 1,654. Fatalities suffered by Indian forces also rose, from 203 in 1997, to 230, 387, 499, 577 and 457 — the highest numbers ever recorded during the long jihad in Kashmir.

To push enhanced numbers of jihadists into Kashmir, Pakistan needed to engage Indian defences on the LoC — creating gaps infiltrators could exploit. India responded with a strategy that sought to punish Pakistan’s military, using its superior 155 mm artillery.

From government statistics, it’s clear the plan didn’t work. In 1998, there were 4,117 clashes on the LoC in which 78 soldiers and another 78 civilians were killed on the Indian side alone. The numbers went up and up until 2002, when 81 soldiers and 74 civilians were killed in 5,767 border clashes. The guns fell silent at the end of that year, with the LoC ceasefire coming into place, but by that time, it was clear both sides could sustain these duels indefinitely.

The lesson from the data is simple: firing on the LoC helps Pakistan pursue an escalatory strategy; quiet makes it harder. In 2003, the ceasefire went into place — and with it, India was able to complete fencing and enhance aggressive counter-infiltration measures. Fighting inside Jammu and Kashmir went into a year-on-year decline.

PM Modi’s advisers know why this happened: General Pervez Musharraf came to the conclusion the war against India was bleeding Pakistan, not the other way round. The near-war that began after the terrorist attack on Parliament House in New Delhi showed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons did indeed deter India from attacking — but the price of crisis was too high. In addition, the United States — knowing that an India-Pakistan crisis would complicate its own position in Afghanistan — cracked the whip.

Lieutenant-General Moinuddin Haider, Musharraf’s interior minister, told the scholar George Perkovich that he had said, “Mr president, your economic plan will not work, people will not invest, if you don’t get rid of extremists.” The president, albeit reluctantly, listened.

From mid-2002, an extraordinary series of secret meetings and contacts began to explore how future crises might be averted. The two governments worked out the terms of a ceasefire along the LoC. Lieutenant-General Ehsan-ul-Haq, the then-Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, met with his Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) counterpart, C.D. Sahay, to discuss cross-border terrorism.

From unsigned notes revealed in 2009, we also know that secret envoys working for Singh and Musharraf came close to a final-status deal on Kashmir.

Ever since 2008, though, it’s been evident that the peace process set in motion in 2003 has all but unravelled. Former Pakistan army chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani sought a rapprochement with the jihadists his predecessor had alienated — and that meant rolling back the peace process. Kayani initiated the first renewed fighting on the LoC in 2008, and escalated steadily.

Modi has many coercive options: threatening full-blown war, as PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee did; engaging in limited skirmishes targeting the Pakistan army on the LoC, to punish it militarily; air-strikes against jihadi camps; even assassinating top jihadi leaders inside Pakistan, as Afghanistan and the US now do.

Each of these problems, though, comes with very substantial risks. Limited fighting on the LoC can easily escalate into war. Killing terrorist leaders could lead to retaliatory bombings, and thus more violence, rather than less. The record of air strikes, similarly, isn’t luminous; the US tried and failed to degrade al-Qaeda using these in 1998. It is also possible such action will engender instability, scaring investors and defeating India’s pursuit of its real strategic objective — as high as possible economic growth.

How to resolve this conundrum isn’t obvious — which is precisely why so many governments have struggled, unsuccessfully, with the same problem. Modi may well succeed where others didn’t, but it won’t be with showy, made-for-television fireworks on the Line of Control.

Praveen.swami@expressindia.com

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  1. R
    Rahul
    Jan 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm
    Anshul - You didn't get it, he meant by evaporating India - as you know water evaporates at its vapour pressure becoming equal to atmospheric pressure or by heating it to its boiling temperature so he will do that same thing for India but poor chap doesn't know the boiling temperature and vapour pressure of molten land surface so that may never happen.As you know these things are taught in Science subject in school which they clearly don't have in stan.See, the irony they don't even have a online news site and hence they have to read Indian Express in order to comment.
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    1. C
      Concerned
      Oct 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm
      You can't have a carrot alone strategy to deal with a difficult neighbour, it doesn't work, won't work. & what you think is a stick, cancelling talks, trade embargo, may not be what your neighbour thinks is a stick, but unless there is two pronged approach of a stick and a carrot, we can never imagine a permanent solution to this problem.
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      1. I
        IndianWellWisher
        Oct 21, 2014 at 7:38 pm
        Excellent points - at a minimum we should work towards no more Indians fatalities - somehow we treat 'jawans' as disposables - the public are not aware of the immense sacrifices made by the defense folks, maimed for life, widowed/orphaned families all because of the stupidity of Pak Army. Engage US/China/Europe such that entry into Indian market only if they do not deal with Pak in any form - no aid, investments, no arms.Allow outsiders to settle in Kashmir as long as they are investing to bring about economic prosperity - American or Canadian model.
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        1. I
          IndianWellWisher
          Oct 21, 2014 at 7:39 pm
          Par Excellence!
          Reply
          1. P
            Paul
            Oct 21, 2014 at 2:05 pm
            This is absolutely stupid suggestion. Why not lie naked in front of them so that they can beat the $hit out of you. What is his plan?
            Reply
            1. V
              Vidya
              Oct 21, 2014 at 10:08 am
              Here is a foot-in-mouth theory being postulated by the defeatist that is surely going to please stan which is clutching straws after being dealt an unprecedented blow. A blow that has shattered its India India bleed and scoot plans - which has worked so well all these years.
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              1. V
                Vidya
                Oct 21, 2014 at 3:55 am
                Here is a foot-in-mouth theory being postulated by the defeatist that is surely going to please stan which is clutching straws after being dealt an unprecedented blow. A blow that has shattered its India bleed and scoot plans - which has worked so well all these years.
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                1. A
                  abdul
                  Oct 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm
                  Praveen Swami that is exactly what India has been doing for the last 67 years. Whats the result.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    abdul
                    Oct 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm
                    Praveen Swami that is exactly what India has been doing for the last 67 years. Whats the result.
                    Reply
                    1. R
                      realist
                      Oct 21, 2014 at 4:48 am
                      Here comes another peacenik.
                      Reply
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                        ajay
                        Oct 21, 2014 at 6:21 am
                        mr swami why does your last line say modi may succed where others didnot. why cant you clearly tell people that this man's boasting and for PR atude did cost hundreds of Indian lives. this man like AK 49 was a creation of media which made a mountain from a mole hill
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          speakmymind
                          Oct 21, 2014 at 5:44 am
                          I must admit that I failed to understand what the author is trying to conclude in this article.As everything failed so far, we should do nothing? That doesnt make any sense whatsoever.Seriously... we dont know how to handle stan? That is what the most intelligent brains in India are telling to the rest of citizenry?Wow... this is something i havent expected..
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                          1. S
                            speakmymind
                            Oct 21, 2014 at 4:50 am
                            Ok.. I have to say, I failed to understand what the Author suggests in his article.Everything failed so far, so we should do nothing? That doesnt make any sense, whatsoever.Seriously, we dont know how to handle stan? That is what the best brains in India telling the rest of citizens?Wow!! Now, this is something i really havent expected...
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              Ameer Paul
                              Oct 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm
                              India will only come to terms once stan will make it’s firing power so intense which becomes unbearable for India. Basically Indians are very coward by nature, but are also very wicked, as usually the coward people are. Hence more than a being reply is necessary in India’s case.NO MERCY IS NECESSARY IN ORDER TO TAME INDIA.
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                                Ameer Paul
                                Oct 24, 2014 at 4:45 pm
                                MODI, ADVANI, RSS, VHP, BJP? stan is aware about all your SHEVAJI MARHATAS who on the surface say RAM RAM but have dagger in their ARM PIT. stan is waiting for a misadventure from Indian side and then will spill all it's wrath on India.
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                                  Ameer Paul
                                  Oct 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm
                                  stanis are waiting for MOODI or MOOZI to start HOT PURSUIT in stan as he promissed. Your generations after generations will remember the HAVOC stan will spill on you, if any of generation will even survive.IF MOOZI IS THE SON OF ONE FATHER, HE WILL FULFILL HIS PROMISE, OTHERWISE NOT.
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                                    Ameer Paul
                                    Oct 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm
                                    The time has come for stan to develop HYDROGEN and NEUTRON BOMBS.Currently stan is powerful enough to give India a very tough time, but with THERMONUCLEAR BOMBS stan will have the capability to EVAPORATE INDIA not with the use of an nal, rather with few FUSION BOMBS from its naldia has no choice but to sit with stan and resolve J&K issue peacefully, otherwise India should be ready to be chopped out piece by piece from head to toe.stan though should not start a full fledged war against India, rather should bleed India to death, a slow and very, very painful death.
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                                      Amol
                                      Oct 21, 2014 at 12:04 pm
                                      An article which starts with the decisive Manmohan Singh words on Mumbai. I have to pinch myself here...like seriosly...what was his Pak strategy all about anyway?
                                      Reply
                                      1. D
                                        DwivediAnoop
                                        Oct 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm
                                        stan had the nuclear capability in the Kargil War; didn't it? But yeah, any step taken by the BJP government; especially Modi has to be opposed. This paper has become the mouthpiece of Congress & sympathisers. What a fall for a paper once ociated with someone as fiercely neutral as Mr. Shourie & Mr. Goenka. From the Copu story to this column, you guys have lost it totally. While the other respectable paper The Hindu did not even care to apologise for printing that rubbish news of Ramdev inventing cure for Ebola. Such is the brazen bias & when this is called out; they cry themselves se. Good thing is, hardly anyone cares for your opinions. Just look at the comments & you'd see this is not the India you think it is!
                                        Reply
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                                          Ashu
                                          Oct 21, 2014 at 7:51 am
                                          It would have been better if Mr Swamy would have provided some real alternative or solution or else he should just shut up.....if neither peace nor retaliation work then what...should we go & simply give what they are demanding...huh what an useless article...
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                                            AssalUttar
                                            Nov 1, 2014 at 10:05 pm
                                            The greatest cowards in the history of the world are the degenerate and asuric nastanis who attack innocent civilians and especially women and called themselves brave. Attack from the back, lie to yourself and the world, yourself out to your own slavemasters, disgusting creatures should be sent to a zoo. The jackal calls himself a lion. Joke! Ja run to your arab masters, pathetic losers.If you hijras want to play with fire, you will get burned forever by Agni. Give us a reason to wipe you off the map...
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