Sending Out Confounding Signals
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 28 May , 2018

Just the other day the Raksha Mantri, in response to the Pakistani Army Chief’s overture for peace is reported to have made a statement to the press wherein she stated that “any comment from Pakistan on wanting peace will be taken seriously.”

…while vocalising the desire or a need for peace by the Pakistan Army Chief, he has not substantiated his intent by way of curbing infiltration across the LoC nor has he ordered to ceasefire at civilian habitation along the IB in the Jammu sector.

The very next day the Home Minister addressing a congregation at the 16th BSF Investiture function stated that – “It is India that gave the message of peace to the world and we always aspire to maintain peace with our neighbouring countries but one of our neighbours (hint towards Pakistan!) does everything to disturb peace”.  He further stated that “a particular country (again a hint towards Pakistan!!) was not mending its ways”. Earlier, the Home Ministry had promulgated a unilateral ceasefire in J&K during the period of Ramzan.

Surprisingly, there has been no comment or statement from the Ministry of External Affairs!!

The situation could not be more confounding than this.

There are some issues that need to be looked at.

First, is the MoD going to initiate the peace process between India and Pakistan by talking to the Pakistan Army Headquarters? Can the Army Chief or Defence Secretary speak to General Bajwa directly? Or will the Director General of Military Operations speak to his counterpart giving a hint of willingness for peace? A rather quaint state of affairs to say the least! From the responses of the MoD and MHA as noted in the preceding paragraph, while the MoD is prepared to take the “overtures” seriously, MHA is of the view that the Pakistan is “not mending its ways” and “does everything to disturb peace”.  Consequent to these divergent inputs available to the Cabinet, it is reason enough not to make any overt response on the issue.

Second, while vocalising the desire or a need for peace by the Pakistan Army Chief, he has not substantiated his intent by way of curbing infiltration across the Line of Control (LC) nor has he ordered to cease fire at civilian habitation along the International Boundary (IB) in the Jammu sector.

Third, why has the Pakistani Ministry of External Affairs not echoed a similar sentiment? Have the tables turned? It will be recalled that in the Nawaz Sharif’s era, any of the civilian Government’s initiatives for peace talks with India were resolutely scuttled by the Army. Is there now a role reversal? Rather intriguing!!

…the MHA’s decision of a “unilateral ceasefire” in J&K for the duration of the Islamic month of Ramzan.  The Army, other Security Forces as well as the Intelligence Agencies were not in favour of such a cease fire…

Interestingly, in the address of the Home Minster at the BSF Investiture function a couple of points mentioned by him warrant elaboration. The first was that the BSF “was not the first line of defence by first wall of defence”. From a motivational point of view the statement is a big hit. Factually, however, it is misleading. As is known, the BSF is guarding the IB to prevent smuggling of drugs, contraband trade and infiltration/exfiltration of illegal immigrants and such like border policing actions.  These actions pertain to its largely non-military role. As a matter of fact, if there are any battle indicators of an impending military threat, the Army immediately deploys and takes the BSF under its command.

Consequently, in a defensive posture adopted for ‘hot war’ the BSF is redeployed to guard a less threatened sector in the rear areas but continues to remain under command of the Army for all operations.  As regards the deployment of BSF in the area of J&K along the LC, the BSF is, abinitio, deployed in company groups under the Army infantry battalions deployed for conventional operations and for counter-infiltration tasks.

Therefore, a situation where the BSF will be the “first line/wall of defence” would only arise if there is a complete failure of intelligence anywhere along the IB and the Indians Army is totally surprised by a major enemy offensive hurtling across the IB. Hopefully, such an eventuality is not what the HM is contemplating!

Second issue pertains to the MHA’s decision of a “unilateral ceasefire” in J&K for the duration of the Islamic month of Ramzan.  The Army, other Security Forces as well as the Intelligence Agencies were not in favour of such a cease fire having learnt from past experience that such gestures do not “win hearts or minds” but give the terrorist time to regroup and strategise actions for the future, which could even been during the month of Ramzan.

To confound it further, the Army Chief is contemplating extending the “unilateral ceasefire” beyond the month of Ramzan. That’s making the situation as complex as it can get – a “buggers muddle” as it was said in old time military parlance. Interestingly, no such amnesty is extended to terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan or even in Xinjiang by China.

To arm and equip armed police forces to the level of the military forces is unnecessary and tantamount to economic felony against the nation.

Patently, the larger question is that of who is directing counter-terrorist operations in J&K, particularly in the Kashmir Valley? Are Counter Insurgency/Counter Terrorist operations in the J&K directed by the MHA? Does the MHA equate it the same as anti-Maoist operations by the CRPF in Central India? Does imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in a State or a limited region make the situation any different from that of anti-Maoist operations? Or is the offer of a “unilateral ceasefire” a purely political gesture to placate a supposedly aggrieved population? Apparently this would be the thirtieth such ceasefire and by any reckoning, will not melt the “hearts or minds” of those whom this gesture was meant to placate. Evidently, it’s another political sop which will end up as an effort wasted.

As India grows in economic strength it would be required to assert its hard power to protect its interests in the region and globally. The powers that be at the helm in the country will need to clearly understand the role of the military vis-a-vis the armed police forces. The Police forces are policemen with weapons authorised to police the border areas to prevent anti-national non-military activities and also deal with deteriorating internal security situations that unarmed police forces cannot deal with.

To arm and equip armed police forces to the level of the military forces is unnecessary and tantamount to economic felony against the nation. An issue that has been raised umpteen times in the past is that there is a need to have a system of lateral absorption from the Army to the Armed Police Forces. But it is always quashed by the ‘might’ of the administrative and police services combine. Though the Civilian authority rests with the political masters, they are kept in glorious obfuscation on the subject.

To illustrate, no one from any of the subordinate Services like the Armed Forces Headquarters Cadre, Defence Estates or Defence Accounts (those who serve their entire career in the Service Headquarters and in the MoD) have ever opted to service in the Territorial Army (TA), where they would be mustered for military training for just two months in a year!!! In fact, it must be mandatory for the personnel of this cadre to sign up in the TA. Further, there is need for a holistic approach on this subject wherein every Central Civil Service probationer should be required to serve in the Army for a varying duration of 2-4 years (two years for IAS, other Central Services and four years for IPS) before reverting to their respective Service to which they are appointed. By this measure the present Military-Civil divide and animosity will be wiped out once and for all for the good of this Country.

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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

Lt Gen (Dr) JS Bajwa

is Editor Indian Defence Review and former Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Director General Infantry.  He has authored two books Modernisation of the People's Liberation Army and  Modernisation of the Chinese PLA

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2 thoughts on “Sending Out Confounding Signals

  1. Gen JS Bajwa has highlighted the contradictions in government functioning irrespective of party/parties in power without mincing any words. Why do such contradictions exist? Luytens mandarins fuel and thrive on these contradictions and presstitutes of English variety relish it, being their staple.
    Politicians of all hues and colours are smug in the belief that these contradictions does not matter to their vote banks and to those it matters do not vote anyway. Where are the energies of politicians focused? Just look at the election calendar of states, bypolls, local governing bodies, panchayats, University unions to name a few and discerning will get the larger picture. Whatever little time is left from elections, it goes into disrupting the parliament or legislative functioning. Who benefits from all this? The manipulative babus!!! Bend it like Beckham to remain on gravy train while political masters fight for their present and future survival in elections, elections and elections.
    Jai Hind

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