Homeland Security

Disclosing Operation Kabbadi (September, 2001): An Immature Idea
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Jan , 2019

Disclosing Indian Army’s aborted plan to launch “Operation Kabaddi” in September 2001 with an objective to end cross border infiltration in India’s premier national daily (The Hindu, 22 January) was perhaps an immature idea[1].

Based on Professor Happymon Jacob’s book titled “Line of Fire: Ceasefire Violations and India-Pakistan Escalation Dynamics”, the report highlights quotes from two officers involved in the planning of the operation [Lt.Gen. Rustom K.Nanavati, (Northern Army Commander, 2001-2003), and Lt.Gen. H.S. Panag, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC in C) of the Army’s Northern Command and Central Command 2006-2008]. The report further mentions that then Army Chief Sundararajan Padmanabhan failed to comment on the subject citing poor memory of the period. The Indian Army chose not to respond to queries by The Hindu, while another military leader’s now retired did not specifically admit the near execution of such a plan and mentioned that such a plan would be beyond the Army’s decision-making loop.

The rationale for highlighting this 17-year-old fact in his book [Prof.Jacob – a Ph.D. graduate of Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University] – seems to be the frightening rise in incidents amongst Indian and Pakistan Army under the “nuclear umbrella” and the chance of its escalation into something bigger. According to Prof. Jacob – who owns dedicated research and desirable exposure and publications within academia – “it is necessary to reveal such sensitive details in order to enforce a formal ceasefire”.

Well Intended, Wrongly Timed:

The problem is not the research based on primary sources and intentions formalizing ceasefire, the problem is Pakistan Army – it does not want a ceasefire with India. In her presentation to Observers Research Foundation (Mumbai, 2014) Professor (Security Studies Program, Georgetown University) C. Christine Fair argues that even a resolution of Kashmir dispute will have no impact on Pakistan Army to seek peace with India. Normalizing relations with India defeats the very purpose of the Pakistan Army and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan given that;

  • Pakistan Army’s main aim is to preserve the idea of “two nation theory”. Reconciliation with India irrespective of the associated costs questions the very existence of Pakistan and its Army.
  • India is inconsistent with Pakistan in civilizational terms and such inconsistencies must remain.
  • The grand strategic objective of Pakistan Army is to retard India’s rise in the sub-continent and challenge its hegemonic status.

Furthermore, according to Professor Christine Fair Pakistan has remained consistent in its policy towards India despite low-level yields of the success of such policies. The threat perception for India in Pakistan has been very well crafted to enable it to pursue its grand strategy. An outline of this threat perception has been articulated by Mohammed Ayub Khan (Foreign Affairs, 1964) and has met reality in 1971 and 2001. Citing threat from India, Pakistan has rationalized its military engagement in Afghanistan since the Soviet invasion and continues to do so in shaping the future security situation of Afghanistan. The revelations by Professor Jacob reported in The Hindu, is exactly the kind of bone that Pakistan would like to chew deriving psychological pleasure. Equality with India is the key objective of Pakistan’s Army and this revelation (Operation Kabaddi – 2001) allows Pakistan to feel so. Had Operation Kabaddi been conducted as it is claimed to be planned by Indian Army, it would have gone down in military history as a calibrated response to Pakistan’s military aggression in 1998 Kargil war. Revealing it at this point in time is immature. The success of surgical strike was the ability of the Indian Army to achieve total surprise.

First, this news report will work in favor of Pakistan’s rationale to strengthen its India threat theory which forms the basis of its position on ongoing peace talks over the future of Afghanistan’s security. Pakistan at a significant cost to its social fabric stands vindicated in its support to Taliban since 1994 both within and without Pakistan in Afghanistan. Pakistan has emerged as the key power to broker a peace deal with the Taliban and has been successful in radicalizing the Kashmir Valley by rechristening the terrorists as martyrs and heroes. A peace deal with Taliban will leave the keys to peace and stability of Afghanistan in Rawalpindi. The importance of ceasefire as advocated by Prof.Jacob due to fears escalations under nuclear umbrella works against Pakistan’s first use nuclear doctrine and tactical nuclear weapons designed to be used against an invading force within its territory. Professor Jacob’s suggestion to seek ceasefire admits the deterrence in favor of Pakistan. Pakistan never considered nuclear weapons during the 1998 Kargil war, but began moving it around in response to India’s tri-service response. Pakistan according to former Ambassador G Parasarthy is not irrational and certainly unprepared for self-destruction. For the US, the threat to international peace and security does not emanate from the state of Pakistan, but from the possible takeover of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons by non-state actors.


The idea to seek formal ceasefire for fear of escalation (nuclear) is typical of Track II mentality, without which recurring invitations to such forums is not possible. The idea of peace with Pakistan is a growing illusion amongst academics invited as participants to diplomatic initiatives at the Track II level and despite its desirability remains impossible. Ceasefire works if it is a necessity and established by force. It endures only when an unbearable cost to its violation is guaranteed. The cost of long-term ceasefire existing in-between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is measurable in terms of economic development; however, this logic does not apply to Line of Control (LoC).

With the successful completion of “Deterrence Patrol” by INS Arihant last year, Indian Prime Minister claimed to have ended the nuclear blackmail in the sub-continent. Near completion of nuclear triad allows India to control and manage escalation while executing plans such as “Operation Kabbadi”. The discipline of military science takes a low priority in Indian universities, most certainly at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi) and other universities with specialized departments dedicated to defense-related education keeping a very low profile for unknown reasons. The present generation of academics at JNU with a fair degree of an acquaintance of military history and science are all progeny of Retd Air Commodore Jasjit Singh [Former Director of IDSA and CAPS], which is otherwise dominated by imported schools of thought – Marxism. The logic of politics and logic of military science vary with each other – formal ceasefire is last priority while dealing with Pakistan and not the very first. Fearing defeat in East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh war, Pakistan leadership did not want risk the security of West Pakistan for short, dark, skinny and poor Bengali’s.

From a perspective of military logic, appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive.

[1]Suhasini Haidar and Dinakar Peri (2019), “9/11 Derailed Army Plan to Capture Pakistani Posts along LOC” The Hindu, 21 January, 2019.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Rajasimman Sundaram

teaches history, politics, and culture and a member of the Institute of BRICS Studies and College of Multi-Languages at Sichuan International Studies University [四川外国语大学] (The People’s Republic of China)". 

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One thought on “Disclosing Operation Kabbadi (September, 2001): An Immature Idea

  1. The irony lies in the fact that India propagates that Pakistan is destabilizing it through proxies but reality, as presented by Happymon Jacob, is something else. India is the real culprit behind overt and covert operations against Pakistan. India has never accepted a prosperous Pakistan. Thanks to the author for bringing real face of India into lime light.

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