The Prime Minister’s speech this Independence Day from ramparts of the Red Fort reaffirmed to the world that India continues to be a ‘soft state’ ruled by mice. Despite all that has happened in recent past with rogue Pakistan and an equally belligerent China, the Prime Minister failed to make any mention of these two countries, not that he had bothered to address the nation when these incidents happened causing loss of lives of our soldiers on the borders and humiliation to India and its patriotic citizenry.
Thumping tables in Parliament that J&K is an integral part of India amongst display of periodic hooliganism and slogan shouting does not send any message to China and Pakistan.
More damaging was the failure to pay homage to our martyrs on the borders that explicitly conveys the politico-bureaucratic intransigence towards all things military. Thumping tables in Parliament that J&K is an integral part of India amongst display of periodic hooliganism and slogan shouting does not send any message to China and Pakistan. It is more like primary school children reciting their mathematical versus. On the contrary, both China and Pakistan would be wholly amused at our sterile foreign policy of ‘business as usual’ despite the gravest of provocations that would fire national sentiments of even the squeamish of nations. They would indeed marvel at the uniqueness of India’s gutless hierarchy – but then mice can hardly roar. Witness the President of USA whenever there is any loss of life be it a terrorist act, shooting in a school or disaster – he addresses the nation immediately. In the recent case of shooting involving killings of small school children, he even visited the scene of the incident and met the grieving parents the very next day. In sharp contrast, a grave incident like beheading of soldiers through cross-border raid neither evoked the President or the Prime Minister to address the nation, even while the President ostensibly enjoys the title of ‘Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces’.
When Government of India deputes an Under Secretary to represent them at the funeral of a Field Marshal, it shocks the world but certainly not our polity.
But then the military has always been held in disdain in India. Witness the ever falling order of preference of the Service Chiefs, soldiers approaching civil courts to get their authorized pay and allowances and what have you. When Government of India deputes an Under Secretary to represent them at the funeral of a Field Marshal, it shocks the world but certainly not our polity. Our paid media is busy building public opinion to facilitate the Prime Minister to visit Pakistan to electrify his native village despite grave provocations even while Obama canceled his summit with Putin because Russia accorded temporary asylum to Snowden.
Yes, Nawaz Sharif wants to talk to India after all that Pakistan has done in recent months. He has all the good intentions as he had during the Kargil intrusions. He has nothing to fear because he, like Musharraf, denies any anti-India activity by his military. No Sir, no cross border raids, no trans-border infiltration, not even any breach of the 2003 ceasefire agreement – just like China made absolutely no intrusions. On the contrary, India has been breaching the ceasefire and acting aggressor. Unlike India, Pakistan is a free democracy. In a true democracy, anyone and everyone can do whatever they want – become terrorists, spread hate and so what is new about the polity and military in Pakistan adopting Hafiz Saeed as their chief mascot. If the government of Pakistan’s Punjab wants to dole millions to terrorist out fits, well why not. Hasn’t India’s National Investigation Agency disclosed that in the last 10 years, Rupees 600 crores has been pumped in for terror operations from the J&K state of India through donations and relief funds, the Jammu and Kashmir Affectees Relief Fund Trust topping the list having transferred 95 crores? Pakistan has already passed a resolution pledging support to the people of Kashmir after India deputed and facilitated visit of our brothers in Hurriyat to discuss how to expand the band of brothers. India’s foreign office has been and continues to be of great help. After all if you withdraw from Siachen and hand over Sir Creek, would it not seal the affection between brothers?
How long are we going to be a ‘retaliatory’ nation? Isn’t time more than past to do something pro-active for a change?
Following media uproar, the Defence Minister has said that forces have a free hand in retaliating against Pakistan. Is that all that the Defence Minister of the fourth most powerful military in the world is capable of – graduating from a squeak to a geek? How long are we going to be a ‘retaliatory’ nation? Isn’t time more than past to do something pro-active for a change? It is no secret that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has no institutionalized set up even for strategic thinking. So why interfere at the ground level? Let the commanders take their decisions and don’t bind their hands behind their backs with this ‘retaliatory’ diktat. No war is going to start. The US has war-gamed and drummed it into the Pakistanis from the CENTO days they will lose any conventional war. Incidentally, the Defence Minister may have not even noticed that the Pakistani Military has not won one single war. Their only strength is terror that needs a befitting response. Despite the hype, even the US knows Pakistan’s nuclear bogey. Didn’t Gen Padmanabhan as Army Chief clarify to Pakistan the implications of nuclear exchange? Perhaps we need to review our nuclear policy as well notwithstanding the fact that second strike capability does not imply one has to wait for a physical nuclear strike.
There is also the need to review measures on ground along the Line of Control with Pakistan – beefing up surveillance, obstacles, establishment of a no-man’s zone, the works!
The BDCA proposal came from China in the first place. Recent media reports indicate that fresh proposals include that patrols will not be shadowed or interfered with by the opposite side.
Then witness the Defence Minister says nothing about the gag order on the military not to say anything about China. China’s BDCA Trap has already been written about in these columns. The fact is that India has never been pro-active even in terms of taking the lead in proposing draft agreements in terms of border management or border settlement. It is always China and Pakistan who take the lead. The BDCA proposal came from China in the first place. Recent media reports indicate that fresh proposals include that patrols will not be shadowed or interfered with by the opposite side. This is an even more dangerous and ambiguous trap under which China will move into all the areas she wants to undeterred and unopposed. As it is, the failure of the Government to place the ITBP responsible for the LAC in areas being intruded by the Chinese smells of a larger conspiracy and the Defence Minister’s failure to take up the issue strongly with the Prime Minister makes him party to it since constitutionally he is responsible for external defence of the country as Defence Minister, aside from the stony silence of the Prime Minister himself.
With the current dispensation and environment in the country, if the military really wants to make itself heard then the only solution is to ensure that every military man exercise his vote. The Election Commission of India has mandated that every soldier posted anywhere for six months and more can vote in the concerned state where he is posted both in the State and Municipal elections. This is applicable to the whole of India. The Service Chiefs need to ensure that all soldiers exercise their democratic right of voting. Mere issue of policy letter that all soldiers must get their voting cards made is not enough. The Adjutant General and equivalents in Navy and Air Force need to go pro-active on this.
Solutions are available to overcome civilian administration projected inability to produce that many numbers of voter cards in the required time. This has been done in the past, as may be read in the article ‘Empowering the Military’ in these columns. At the national level, we need to develop a deterrent to asymmetric and fourth generation war and the ability to demonstrate it when required, in the absence of which, we will keep getting bled and humiliated unconventionally. The book ‘India’s Special Forces – History and Future of Indian Special Forces’ published by Vij Books India Ltd suggests how to go about creating such deterrence.