Dangers of sabre rattling

India is a country with superpower ambitions without presently having the wherewithal that the status requires. It is meanwhile trying hard to acquire and develop the capabilities needed. A report published in the Times of India early this week reveals New Delhi is revising its five-year-old military doctrine to meet challenges of a possible ‘two front war’ with Pakistan and China.

This comes amidst additional reports of the 1.13 million strong Indian army having tested, through several wargames over the last five years, its ‘proactive’ war strategy to mobilise fast and strike hard to pulverise the enemy. This ‘cold start strategy’, under an NCB (nuclear-chemical-biological) overhang, has supposedly been formulated on the basis of lessons learnt during Operation Parakram, generally described as a disaster, where it took army’s strike formations almost a month to mobilise at the border launch-pads in the wake of the December 2001 terrorist attack on Indian Parliament.

This, India thinks, provided sufficient opportunity to Pakistan to shore up its defences as well as enough time to the international community to intervene. Similarly Indian leadership could not proceed beyond giving vent to impotent rage after the Mumbai attacks, which caused a lot of chagrin to those who had developed a perception of India as a mini US.

The Indian army thinks that the lack of clear directives from the Indian government on both occasions only made matters worse. Speaking at a closed-door seminar on Tuesday General Deepak Kapoor summed up the issue in these words: “A major leap in our approach to conduct of operations (since then) has been the successful firming-up of the cold start strategy (to be able to go to war promptly).

According to the report the plan now is to launch self-contained and highly-mobile ‘battle groups’, with Russian-origin T-90S tanks and upgraded T-72 M1 tanks at their core, adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into enemy territory within 96 hours. Indian plans envisage the ending of the war decisively in New Delhi’s favour within the first 96 hours forcing the other sides into a fast submission of cease-fire.

India is also unhappy about Pak-China military co-operation and has presumably factored in the element in its strategy. Pakistan government has already blamed India for using its consulates, established in a number of small Afghan towns along the Durand Line where there was no real need to set them up, for encouraging, financing and training terrorists to operate inside Pakistan.

Sophisticated weapons, laptops, imported medical supplies like plastic bags with fresh blood plasma for transfusion and canned food items found in areas in Swat liberated by the army from the Taliban also point to the Indian connection. Islamabad has also blamed New Delhi for involvement in the destabilisation of Balochistan.

It is maintained that New Delhi is unhappy with the Gwadar deep-sea port for it gives Pakistan an alternate port out of reach of most Indian bombers. It is also presumably unhappy with the Chinese, who made a major investment in the construction of the port, making use of the facility to access the Middle East markets. Threat perceptions of the type have led General Kayani to respond strongly to the Indian moves.

Maintaining that peace and stability in South Asia and beyond was the logical and fundamental principle underlining the security paradigm of Pakistan, he warned any proponent of adventurism of the dire consequences arising out of it. On Friday he told senior army officers at the GHQ that the army was alive to the full spectrum of threats that continued to exist both in conventional and unconventional domains.

“Proponents of conventional application of military forces, in a nuclear overhang, are charting an adventurous and dangerous path, the consequences of which could be both unintended and uncontrollable,” he said. A day later, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Tariq Majid came up with a tough reaction to the reported remarks from the Indian army chief that Indian military is ready to battle China and Pakistan at the same time.

In his statement, General Tariq expressed his doubts over the veracity of Indian media report attributed to General Deepak Kapoor, stating that “he [General Kapoor] could not be so outlandish in strategic postulations to fix China on a self destruct mechanism”. General Majid also said: “But if the news report is correct, the uncalled for rhetoric only betrays a lack of strategic acumen”.

While it is not unusual for militaries to review and modify their strategies from time to time, to leak out their details is likely to be interpreted as an attempt at sabre rattling, which is rife with dangerous implications. Both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and the required delivery systems capable of being launched from land, sea and air.

Any of the two countries fearful of a strategic and irretrievable set back can be tempted to take recourse to this deadly arsenal with catastrophic effects on both sides. There is a need therefore to seriously undertake the measures required to end all possible causes of confrontation. India has to stop its agencies from supporting terrorists in Fata and Balochistan. It also needs to reciprocate to Pakistan’s continuous overtures to initiate the composite dialogue to resolve mutual disputes particularly the core issue of Kashmir.

—Business Recorder


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