Red Flag over Kabul
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Mar , 2020

As has been the practice over the years, attention of the entire Indian strategic community is focussed on the effect of US Taliban deal in terms of the threat the emboldened Taliban will pose to Kashmir. It must be clearly understood that guarantees if any, sought by the Americans will be entirely related to Taliban not supporting any anti American activity. It will be far-fetched to think that the US would seek to restrain Taliban vis-a-vis India.

With the current turmoil in India over the CAA (Citizenship amendment act) due to inept and ham handed handling, we have indeed handed over a golden opportunity to the Taliban and Pakistan to interfere in our affairs and claim moral high ground.

The threat is indeed real and it is time the government gets off its high horse, shed some of its arrogance and give a hearing to many of its supporters who have been appalled at the ineptitude of the Home Ministry in not anticipating and neutralizing potential opposition. By deft manoeuvre, without giving up its principled aim to provide succour to suffering minorities in the neighbourhood.

Fortunately for India, today we have the armed strength to deal with any potential Taliban/Pakistan proxy threat. The ineffectual leftist/human rights lobbies in the West and within the country will bark as usual but are not capable of a biting.

The greatest danger, according to this author is the likelihood of the Americans gifting the huge stockpile of conventional arms left in Afghanistan to Pakistan either directly or indirectly. Over last 18 years the American have build up a sizable inventory of guns, tanks, armoured personnel carriers and huge stockpile of ammunition.

With a hard -nosed businessman at helm in America, they may well calculate that it is not cost effective to transport all this hardware back to the US. The best option is to dispose it off in situ. It is certain that Pakistan must be lobbying hard to get this war booty as a reward to facilitating the deal and helping the Americans withdraw in good order. To an economically bankrupt Pakistan this will be a God sent opportunity.

To be sure, the clever Americans will then offer to ‘sell’ even better weapons to India to counter the ‘threat’ that they have themselves created! Seems fanciful at first sight. But let us take our minds back to the situation in 1960s. The Americans at that time gave the most advanced tank, the M-47 Patton to Pakistan.

To mollify India, the same Americans gave us the 106 Recoil less gun to shoot down the Patton tanks. I do remember the rumour widely circulating then, that the Americans had so sugared the HEAT ammunition that the Copper jet would disperse and not be effective. It was our own technologists who discovered this flaw and rectified it.

In the 1965 Indo-Pak war our 106 RCL did shoot down the Patton tanks notably by Havildar Abdul Hamid (PVC) of 4 Grenadiers and also my Paltan’s Havildar Yam Bahadur of 1/9 Gorkha Rifles, not known outside of our battalion.

The transfer of left-over weapons in Afghanistan to Pakistan will adversely affect the conventional arms balance in South Asia that will again turn in favour of Pakistan.

Our 70 year old history has shown that whenever Pakistan felt that it had an edge in military power, it has embarked on an adventure against India. This will also adversely affect our newly formulated strategy of responding to the terror attacks by launching punitive raids into Pakistan. It was our superiority in conventional arms that kept Pakistan from responding to our attacks. Once this situation changes, an escalation of conventional conflict is very likely.

Fortunately there is a way out of this dilemma. India must offer to ‘buy’ these leftover arms from the Americans. An opportunity to make a quick buck will not be missed by the business minded Yankees.

In addition India must give a serious thought as to how close it must go to the US in Indo-Pacific region. A corona virus hit China is a much-sobered superpower. By  refusing to become an American poodle in Asia we can send a powerful signal to China and Russia that we indeed have an ‘independent’ foreign and defence policy.

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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

Col Anil Athale

former Joint Director War History Division, Min of Defence. Currently co-ordinator of Pune based think tank 'Inpad' that is affiliated with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.  Also military historian and Kashmir watcher for last 28 years. He has authored book ‘Let the Jhelum Smile Again’ and ‘Nuclear Menace the Satyagraha Approach’ published in 1996, and ‘Quest for Peace: Studies in Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies' as a Chatrapati Shivaji fellow of the USI.

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