Disturbed internal conditions in most countries of South Asia can be attributed mainly to unabated terrorist activities and organised crime. India has been facing sporadic communal, ethnic and Maoist violence, which is socially and geographically more pervasive than crossborder terrorism from Pakistan and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K, which have presently disturbed peace in the subcontinent. Chinese intrusions into Indian territory both in eastern and western sectors of Sino- Indian boundary are posing new threats to peace in the region.
In the prevailing environment, the government and the opposition must adopt a common approach to deal with this new phase of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir. A long-term policy should be adopted instead of high-pitched speeches and knee-jerk reactions after every incident.
Regional Scenario India-Pakistan Face Off
Ceasefire violations along the LoC and infiltration by Pakistan sponsored terrorist groups have continued unabated in the past few months. In the first week of August, the Pakistan army, in collaboration with Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is Pakistan army’s jihadi wing, ambushed an army patrol in our own territory and crossed back into PoK unscathed – a disturbing factor. This incident was a part of a series of planned attacks along the LoC on our troops by mixed Pakistan army- terrorist groups; in another incident of this kind earlier, two of our jawans were beheaded. In retaliation, the Indian army has killed a large number of terrorists and Pakistani army personnel. The continued firing on the LoC seems to be an ongoing process of retaliation and counter retaliation. Overall, the Indian army seems to have an upper hand, and the apprehension expressed by some observers that our forces are demoralised or not properly equipped to deal with the situation is not based on facts. The impression that our army is held on a leash by the government has been strongly refuted by the government.
In September news of a daring terrorist foray in Samba army camp and Hiranagar police station in which we suffered twelve military and police/ civil fatal casualties and later news of an attempt by Pakistan to infiltrate a very large group of terrorist through Karen sector surfaced. These attacks proved two things, we are still ill prepared to ward off terrorist attacks and the enemy based in Pakistan has acquired new skills to attack security forces.
In the prevailing environment, the government and the opposition must adopt a common approach to deal with this new phase of Pakistani aggression in Kashmir. A long-term policy should be adopted instead of high-pitched speeches and knee-jerk reactions after every incident. On another level, the armed forces must rehash their action plans to deal with the new kind of Pakistani aggression along the LoC. Our army should be able to trap all terrorist and regular army personnel crossing the LoC instead of getting ambushed or killed within our own territory.
It seems there is no change in the policy of the Pakistan army in matters related to Kashmir. The top brass, along with a crop of retired generals, still believes that India should not be allowed to rest in peace till it agrees to accept a solution of the Kashmir problem as demanded by them. The Pakistan army, realising its inability to settle the problem by conventional military or diplomatic means, continues to wage an asymmetric conflict, hoping that India will finally relent.
Tactics and techniques of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists of using local people as a shield must be neutralised both in rear and forward areas as there are indications that a renewed and more vigorous assault by Pakistan irregulars coinciding with the American withdrawal from Afghanistan is in the offing. India must anticipate the pattern of the attacks it may face in the near future and reassess and review the basic concepts that underpin the doctrines of countering Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in J&K.
Pakistan may try to disrupt normal life of the people by organising civil disturbances spreading fear and despondency among the people and fomenting political and social unrest…
The new Pakistani offensive can pose multiple threats, ranging from persistent terror attacks to low-intensity conflicts waged through subnational ethnic or religious groups recruited within our own country. Operations by a large number of non-state actors operating at the behest of the Pakistan army may soon assume the shape of a prolonged conflict in Kashmir along with terrorist attacks on high-profile targets in other parts of India. The terrorist attacks, combined with internal disturbances, which aim to erode the economic, socio-cultural and political foundation of our society, along with subversion of loyalties of the vulnerable groups through religious indoctrination and efforts to polarise the society, must be countered vigorously as these may prove dangerous for India’s security in the long run.
Pakistan can pose multiple threats through non-state actors, fanatics and extremists supported by technology experts operating through secret networks based within the country. The potential of shadowy groups against security forces is underestimated at times, and non-state actors’ capability of conducting a prolonged and sustained conflict is often treated with disdain. Tactical pauses should not be mistaken for termination of hostilities or signs of victory. Pakistan’s chosen instruments of belligerence in the first phases of the covert war against India have by and large failed to achieve any worthwhile results. In the next phase, Pakistan may, therefore, try to disrupt normal life of the people by organising civil disturbances spreading fear and despondency among the people and fomenting political and social unrest along with the subversion of the administrative apparatus in Kashmir.
The exact nature, forms and contours which a covert war can take in the future in the developing security environments are still by and large obscure. The diverse forms and shapes of the new Pakistani covert war may hold many surprises. The current doctrinal concepts for combating Pakistan-sponsored terror and subversive activities may prove largely ineffective unless we are able to anticipate and pre-empt future Pakistani plans with some exactitude and evolve appropriate models for dealing with the challenges that a post-modern covert warfare may pose.
China’s aggressive postures and brazen military intrusions across the Indian borders have forced India into a hurried acquisition of advanced military hardware for achieving parity on the borders.
Border Intrusions by China
China, in the recent past, has been sending clear signals to India of a new assertive border policy to coerce India into settling the longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries. It is obvious that the growing economic and trade ties between the two countries have not translated into good relations. The stand-off that continued for over two weeks in April–May in Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) created serious doubts in India about China’s future intentions in the region. China’s assertive territorial ambitions were further confirmed when Chinese troops intruded across the well-defined McMahan line in Arunachal Pradesh on 13 August. The supposition of some observers in India that intrusions across the borders were carried out by belligerent Chinese generals and were not supported by the Chinese government seemed to ignore the realities of regional ambitions of China in South Asia.
The Chinese have been rapidly improving their military capability in Tibet and all along the Indian border for the past few years, while India has been extremely slow in creating the required defence infrastructure on the disputed borders. China’s latest proposal on border management that neither side should patrol within a certain distance of the LAC or build new border defences simply aims to limit India’s military build on the borders. These proposals are meant to freeze India’s defence preparations and place China in a position of permanent military advantage on the borders.
China’s aggressive postures and brazen military intrusions across the Indian borders have forced India into a hurried acquisition of advanced military hardware for achieving parity on the borders. India, however, is still not in a position to eliminate the possibility of a military thrust by China in the Ladakh region. Although India has refrained from adopting an aggressive posture on the borders, it has made it clear to China at the diplomatic level that continued incursions may lead to a change in India’s strategic posture. Unlike in the past, India has stopped declaring that it considers Tibet an integral part of China.
The borders with China in the western sector have never been mutually agreed upon or defined either on the ground or on the maps. India had decided the boundary with Tibet unilaterally in 1950, which was never accepted by China. China occupied large areas in Ladakh during the 1962 War and indicated a line (the LAC) as the Chinese territory in the western sector. Subsequently, the Chinese army withdrew unilaterally from some areas but continued to assert that the area up to the LAC was China’s territory. India obviously does not accept this claim. Hence, the border problem remains unresolved. However, both India and China have agreed to maintain peace on the borders regardless of their differences on the border question. The terms of settlement are still under discussion, but the tension on disputed borders has increased because of the repeated forays of Chinese troops across the LAC.
It is now time for India to fine-tune its military capabilities and improve its overall strategic posture in South Asia to counter the Chinese moves.
The talks between special representatives of India and China have so far not come to any substantive conclusions on resolving the boundary problem. However, the proposed Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) is one of the key issues on which India and China have already exchanged drafts. The BDCA may not be helpful in maintaining peace on borders if border intrusions by China continue unabated. Incidents like the Depsang plateau stand-off from 21 April to 5 May and the deep Chinese intrusion into Arunachal Pradesh on 13 August can vitiate the atmosphere, rendering BDCA ineffective.
China’s other activities that pose a permanent strategic challenge to India in South Asia are its expanded strategic ties with Pakistan, deployment of troops in northern areas of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and its plans to build a railway line linking Xinjiang with Gwadar port. Chinese activities have also increased in Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. Moreover, the Chinese have been negotiating with several countries in the Indian Ocean region for base facilities for their navy. In these circumstances, the Chinese intentions to up the ante for India in South Asian region are obvious. It is now time for India to fine-tune its military capabilities and improve its overall strategic posture in South Asia to counter the Chinese moves.
Afghanistan: The New Battleground
The turmoil in Afghanistan is likely to intensify after the withdrawal of the US-led forces in 2014, and the next arena of conflict between Pakistan and India could well be Afghanistan as there is no change in the aggressive and intrusive policy of the Pakistani army towards India. The Pakistan army, in collaboration with the Taliban, is likely to make all efforts to oust India from Afghanistan after the withdrawal US troops from there.
Robert Blackwill, former US ambassador to India, is reported to have said, “Afghanistan is going to be in mess after we leave. India’s equity are now deeply engaged in Afghanistan and danger is that the next frontier of India-Pak conflict is going to be in Afghanistan.”
Pakistan has repeatedly planned and executed attacks on the Indian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. Such attacks are bound to intensify in 2014.
Blackwill further added, “There is no evidence that Pakistan military has changed its view” that its primary role is to prevent the rise of the Indian nation.3
The Pakistan army has a perennial fear of strategic encirclement by India and Afghanistan, and the Pakistan army believes that a pliant, pro- Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan is necessary to ward off this danger. According to strategic thinkers in Pakistan, any regime with close ties to India should not be allowed to continue in Afghanistan as it may pose danger to the very existence of Pakistan. Pakistan’s military establishment believes Afghanistan provides vital “strategic depth” to Pakistan where it could relocate armament and crucial bases out of India’s military reach. In any case, a friendly regime in Afghanistan would provide support and enormous resources to Pakistan. India, on the other hand, would want a secular India-friendly regime in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces in 2014. Pakistan would attempt to bring India’s ongoing development programmes in Afghanistan to a standstill. India has provided around $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2002 for highways, roads and government buildings, health clinics and doctors and education.
In October 2011, India and Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership agreement, the first that Afghanistan signed with any country. India has been training some Afghan military forces for some time and is now considering an Afghan request to provide its security forces heavy arms and equipment. Pakistan has repeatedly planned and executed attacks on the Indian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan with the help of the Taliban. Such attacks are bound to intensify in 2014. India would obviously resist all such attempts by Pakistan to dislodge it from Afghanistan, and this may lead to a new military confrontation between the two countries.
Notes and References
- Barana Waidyatilaka, Programme Officer, Regional Centre for Strategic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka. Peace and Conflict database articles, #4018. 2 July 2013.
- Ghanizada. “Afghanistan, Next Frontier of Conflict for Pakistan and India.” 12 July 2013. <http://www.khaama.com/afghanistan-next-frontier-of-conflict-forpakistan- and-india-2231>