To comprehend the magnitude of what Pakistan has been up to during all these years since independence, one has to only glance through its dastardly acts against the Indian state and its people. What hurts most is that it has been able to get away with its nefarious designs with total impunity. Attack on India’s Red Fort, symbol of its military prowess in December 2000 followed by equally audacious attacks on Indian Parliament, its temple of democracy in December 2001 and Mumbai, the economic power house in November 2008 devastated the Indian psyche.
Pakistan’s nuclear capability not only neutralized India’s traditional conventional superiority but also limited its response options. This opened the flood gates wide for cross border terrorism.
The regularity with which Pakistan has continued to violate India’s sovereignty is of grave concern.
The shame of India is that Pakistan has invariably got away without any reprisal whatsoever. India’s response more often than not has been limited to mere political rhetoric and in some cases calling of ongoing talks, only to be resumed a little later.
How is it that a small country like Pakistan with less than one fourth of India’s size, one tenth of population, one seventh of defence budget and one ninth of its GDP continues to be a source of harassment, unmindful of its adverse reaction? Obviously, Pakistan has not come to terms with its geo-political realities and hankers after equivalence with its much larger and superior neighbor? It finds it hard to concede dominant status to India in south Asian context and has thus developed a marked propensity to always challenge it. That is why perhaps despite the common history, geography, culture and language, the relations are plagued by suspicion and hostility.
In pursuance of its objectives, Pakistan took a bold step in early fifties and walked into the US led western camp, purportedly to fight communism but primarily to secure political, economic and military support against India. Subsequent to having lost all the wars that it initiated, it realized the futility of taking on India militarily. It found the answer in going nuclear with “First Use” option. This changed the strategic equation in south Asia all to gather. Threat of “First Use” of nuclear weapons assured Pakistan almost total impunity against reprisal. Thus, Pakistan’s nuclear capability not only neutralized India’s traditional conventional superiority but also limited its response options. This opened the flood gates wide for cross border terrorism. Simultaneous adoption of a strategy of stubborn deniability put India further on the defensive.
India has not been able to respond to Pakistan at the strategic level despite the fact that so far nothing consequential has worked out at the tactical (political) level.
The only time India reacted boldly was in the case of attack on the Indian Parliament which ended in a failure. Pakistan’s prompt recourse to nuclear brinkmanship put India on the back foot. India has not found an answer to tackle Pakistan effectively so far. It is imperative that India evolves a comprehensive strategy for employing various components of National Power including the armed forces to convince Pakistan that the cost of aggression will outweigh the gains. Inability to evolve any worthwhile option to convey the risks involved in continuing with the policy of cross border terrorism has only encouraged Pakistan to indulge more freely in its bid to keep India under pressure. Somehow India has not been able to respond to Pakistan at the strategic level despite the fact that so far nothing consequential has worked out at the tactical (political) level.
The political leadership seems least inclined in matters military, a legacy that has its roots in Nehru_Krishna Menon era of early sixties. India’s first post independence Commander-in-Chief Gen. Lockhart was summarily dismissed by Nehru when he approached him on the question of threat perception. Then Army Commander, Eastern Command, Lt Gen Thorat’s threat assessment from across the northern borders went similarly unheeded by Krishna Menon. Later, Gen Thimayya’s experience with these very leaders was no different. They were not willing to listen to the advise from the military as was evident in 1947 and also 1962. This has unfortunately remained the pattern till date.
The government’s propensity to either bypasses the military or ignore its advise has resulted in significant strategic opportunities being lost in the past. Political leadership’s inability to comprehend the strategic nuances coupled with its lackadaisical attitude towards security matters tends it to rely on uninitiated bureaucracy rather than the professional military even on highly specialized issues like the defence and the National security. The political and the military leadership that ought to be largely responsible for working out the responses unfortunately stand hijacked by the bureaucratic interface.
Mired in the defensive mind set from centuries, India’s ability to take initiative remains highly curbed. Indian army on the other hand fights defensive wars with its hands tied.
The fear of the military amongst the political class which had gripped Nehru post newly emerging states falling to the dictators continues to pervade the corridors of north and south blocks even today. No wonder, it’s the civilian Defence Secretary, Ministry of Defence who is responsible for the defence of India and parts thereof and not the Chiefs of the armed forces as stated in “Allocation of business, Rules 1961”. It’s a unique arrangement without a parallel anywhere in the world. The unfounded fear of the military has gone to the extent of making it almost irrelevant in the functioning of the government. That’s how all powerful Chief of Defence Staff which could be of great help in evolving joint strategies and doctrines to tackle threats continues to be debated indefinitely without any effort on part of the government to push it through.
Pakistan army being a major player in government hierarchy that takes all important decisions has been able to continuously evolve strategies and the policies that suit its objectives vis-à-vis India. The Indian army on the other hand is largely constrained by devious factors including historical baggage that limit its initiative and the dynamic profile. Mired in the defensive mind set from centuries, India’s ability to take initiative remains highly curbed. Indian army on the other hand fights defensive wars with its hands tied. We fought the Kargil war with major restraints and “with whatever we had”, not the best way to achieve the desired results.
Declaring the thresh hold of forbearance beyond which India must act could well be a viable option. But for it to work, can India convince Pakistan of its ‘Will’ to act. Otherwise, to keep Pakistan engaged in talks however inconsequential may perhaps be the only alternative.