For decades, Pakistan has engaged in a proxy war against India. Much of that proxy war has been secretive, while many of those secrets have been exposed. At other times, Pakistan has made threats of taking war deep inside Indian territory, and Hamid Gul has openly voiced the disintegration of India. Pakistan’s proxy wars have extended from J&K and Punjab to the Northeast regions and the Maoist belt. Pakistani assistance for the Indian mujahedeen and homegrown Indian terrorists has arrived by way of Nepal, Burma, Bangladesh, infiltration across the LOC in J&K, and infiltration of the Punjab and Rajasthan borders. The smuggling of narcotics into Punjab is accompanied by small arms quickly stockpiled in sleeper cells and mosques across India. Pakistan is playing towards an endgame; in contrast, India reacts in knee-jerk fashion, rather than catching Pakistani action before the effect, and finds its own plays in Pakistan stymied by an ever-alert ISI.
Pakistan is playing towards an endgame; in contrast, India reacts in knee-jerk fashion, rather than catching Pakistani action before the effect…
For years, Pakistan has succeeded in suborning Indian military and government officers and politicians, while India has fallen flat in all such attempts. And even today, Pakistan finds sympathizers among a very large Indian population that would rather see Muslim and Pakistani rule in India rather than secular Indian rule. Given this internal shortcoming, India has enemies not only on its borders, but within, as well. This makes India’s task of maintaining its sovereignty all the more difficult. But fortunately for India, India’s massive population serves as a buffer to a lot of that action, thereby serving to mitigate and absorb the forces that would otherwise disintegrate India. But for India to bank on this strength alone would be unwise, for this bastion can easily break, just as it was broken for the past one thousand years before independence in 1947.
Pakistani has truly bled India by its proxy wars. Revenue income from J&K and the North East are much lower than potential. Narcotic distribution by Pakistan in Punjab has resulted in lackluster growth in Punjab’s GDP – for decades the most prosperous state in India. The Maoists have sucked revenue growth in nearly 40% of India’s land mass. That India should grow in real terms at 6% per year is simply amazing given these odds. What India could do if these hurdles and negative forces were absent would probably be nothing short of a miracle. It therefore seems appropriate to conclude that Pakistan is coming in the direct way of India’s miracle. Naturally, no rational Indian wants to see Pakistan continue to do so. Hence, the common Indian further concludes that Pakistan must either be stopped in its destructive actions against India by peaceful action, or be annihilated by force to cease and desist.
The former sees no chance of success: all the diplomacy over decades by the 800-strong Indian Foreign service has yielded nothing more than failures, four wars, and numerous smaller military actions, and daily incursions by Pakistan into India. This is not what can be called successful Indian diplomacy, no matter how smart the diplomats or what scores they earned in their IAS entrance exams. The real world of diplomacy consists of grenades and bullets, not roses and choice gardens. The real world offers injured and dead soldiers and widows, not posh bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi. The real world sees blood, sweat, heat, cold, and tears in guarding the borders, not air conditioned rooms of rich parliamentarians in central and south Delhi. It is time to come with the wave, to understand mainstream India, to think like the Indians who earn less than $2 a day – mainstream India – which doesn’t get three square meals a day, and is pained to access medical assistance, and dies prematurely largely because there is an enemy that sucks India’s resources and kills its people from within. For Pakistan, it is a very intelligent way to succeed against a larger India; for India, it is the lamb being led to the slaughterhouse. And because mainstream India continues to carry an ever-increasing yoke, they are slowly turning against the governments that are supposed to look after them. Long gone is the time when the poor looked upon the government as mai-baap. The increased alienation of mainstream India from Indian government is a direct threat to India’s security and sovereignty. Aadhar and other such programs are scarcely going to lift the sense of alienation, no matter which government or coalition is at the center.
…a proxy war by Pakistan in two Indian provinces merely affects less than 10% of all Indian provinces, a proxy war by India in two Pakistani provinces can affect 40% of Pakistan.
Thus, in this thesis, the actions that detract from Indian economic growth must be neutralized, and foremost among these is Pakistani proxy wars and interference in India. So, short of an invasion of Pakistan, an Indian proxy war inside Pakistan must be expanded. Whereas a proxy war by Pakistan in two Indian provinces merely affects less than 10% of all Indian provinces, a proxy war by India in two Pakistani provinces can affect 40% of Pakistan. By its sheer size, Pakistani resilience can be less, and Pakistani response to Indian proxy wars can be less effective. In addition, the effect of proxy wars on the Pakistani economy can be much more to Pakistan than a proxy war on India by Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan did not learn the lesson that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Pakistan never thought that two could play the game; or else, they thought they could disintegrate India before India woke up. Well, that was not the case. India plans to take proxy wars into Pakistani territory, and pay Pakistan back in its own coin. But let’s analyze how a proxy war may succeed within Pakistan.
Requisite Principles of Proxy Wars
As experience around the world has shown, a successful proxy war that is able to disaffiliate a part of a territory or initiate regime change in a country must consider four major parameters:
- The numerical size of the rebel army
- The volume of external aid and military assistance actually provided to the rebels
- The resolve and ability of the home army to resist the armed rebellion
- The physical presence of external military action by a foreign country.
We can study a few examples to illustrate that all the above four must be present in appropriate proportions for the rebellion to succeed. Requisites 1, 2, and 4 should be as high as possible, while requisite 3 should be as low as possible.
In 1971, the Mukti Bahini had rebels in large numbers, and received a large volume of Indian military supplies, advisors, and Bengali soldiers from the Indian army, thus fulfilling requisites 1 and 2 above. However, Pakistan had about one corps plus two divisions spread over all parts of Bangladesh to suppress all uprisings in all parts of East Pakistan, thereby demonstrating Pakistani resolve to hold on to East Pakistan, thereby fulfilling requisite 3 above. But then, as anyone can understand, without Indian military action that invaded East Pakistan, no one thinks that Bangladesh would have been created. Hence, Mukti Bahini resistance would have been resisted by Pakistani forces till doomsday, even if it meant that the economy would go to ruin and all East Pakistanis would die. Therefore, the liberation of Bangladesh would have been impossible without direct Indian military intervention.
…the effect of proxy wars on the Pakistani economy can be much more to Pakistan than a proxy war on India by Pakistan.
Look now at how the Americans fought off the Russians in Afghanistan. The Americans benefitted from a very large numerical rebel force in the shape of the mujahedeen, supplied effective firepower to them, such as the stinger missiles that succeeded in bringing down the vast majority of the Russian helicopter and air fighting fleet, and supplied military and CIA advisors on the ground. These fulfilled requisites 1 and 2 above. Russian resolve began to weaken after American weaponry began to take a toll on their military, thereby assuring that requisite 3 did not continue as a major criterion in the rebel action. Finally, Pakistani forces were lined up along the entire Durand line to offer physical support to the mujahidin, impart physical training and logistics in executing rebel action, and stood as a solid front to dissuade a Russian invasion of Pakistan, while standing as a threat of possibly intervening in Afghanistan should the situation call for it with American blessings. This requisite 4 was present in this long drawn battle that eventually saw success by the rebels.
Later, in Kosovo, NATO bombing was so devastating and overwhelming that internal resolve to resist was wiped out. But, even with a small numerical size of the rebel army, the out-of-proportion external military intervention via aerial bombing carried the day, and Kosovo was set on the path of independence.
Look next at Libya: a large rebel base, especially in East Libya, was granted weapons by NATO while CIA advisors guided strategy and tactics on the ground. American army teams provided clandestine field medical facilities. The Libyan army had already been reduced to ineffectiveness by Gaddafi because he feared they may launch a coup against him just as he did against King Idris, so the ability of the Libyan army to resist was reduced. Gaddafi had to procure mercenaries from neighboring Male who had mixed loyalties and so took Gaddafi’s money till the going was good, but then abandoned him when the going got tough. Finally, NATO warplanes such as the Eurofighter and Rafale delivered the coup d’etat to Libyan forces for over weeks of prolonged fighting. Again, we see that all four requisites in our criteria were present to favorable degrees for the regime change to succeed through a proxy war.
Now look at Syria: Whereas the Free Syrian Army has a large numerical size, the arms it receives are limited as America refuses to arm them, while Europe is a reluctant supplier. The resolve of Bashar Assad to resist knows no end; and external intervention is all but missing, with only one or two Israeli air raids into Syria, but that also only to target fissile nuclear material and movement of trucks and machinery required for Syria’s clandestine nuclear program. Hence, it can be observed that Syria’s civil war is dragging on slowly and painfully at a rotten pace. The external ingredient is convincingly missing in the right proportion for the rebel action to succeed convincingly. Thus, the lesser the external supply and physical action on the ground, the longer the rebel action can be expected to take; if external assistance is stepped up, the Assad regime is likely to crumble faster.
India has sent in up to 500,000 troops at one time to control Kashmir. Moreover, any military action that Pakistan initiates across the Line of Control (LOC) is not sufficient to overpower Indian forces.
The applications of the requisites are applicable and relevant everywhere. The Chechen and Sinkiang rebellions have been unsuccessful because there is no external physical action present. The only armaments they get are from other Islamic groups in Asia, which is of an insufficient and meager amount. Sinkiang rebels have been trained second hand by mujahidin in Afghanistan and madrasas in Pakistan, a poor substitute for the real training. Similarly, the Mindanao rebels have failed to severe from the Philippines because internal resolve to resist them is high and external actions to intervene are absent. Gaddafi funded the Mindanao rebels for a long time in the 1990s and 2000s, and their rebel attacks were aggressive during those days, but the situation is apparently contained now because the necessary requisites have further diminished.
In 1979, we saw that the Cambodian populace, unable to overthrow a blood-sucking Pol-Pot, required an actual Vietnamese invasion to overthrow the brutal regime, since no amount of earlier Vietnamese weapon assistance to the rebel armies seemed to suffice. Overall, it can be noticed all over the world that the principle of the four requisites is applicable and relevant in every proxy war that anyone seeks to fight.