Coming soon, more trouble in our neighbourhood

BSF Jawans at Border Out Post (BOP) Daoke in Amritsar.
Surgical move: The latest ‘surgical strike’ has added to the mistrust and bitterness between India and Pakistan

  Many neighbours have petty jealousies and quarrel over trivial issues resulting in ugly fights. Sometimes their extreme hatred for each other leads them even to long- drawn court cases. Such people may shift their homes if they wish to, however nations have no choice in selecting their neighbours. GK Chesterton (1874-1936) said, “We make our friends, we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbours.” Though neighbours cannot be selected yet they must make peace with each other to live happily despite many irritants they may have. It is It is India’s misfortune to have a neighbour like Pakistan which refuses to see reason in anything and is bent upon waging a proxy war with it inviting ‘retribution’.

India and Pakistan have had a violent relationship since the Partition of 1947. Pakistan has remained unhappy with the territorial arrangements and continues to view the division of Kashmir as ‘illegitimate’. This has resulted in both the countries fighting four wars, in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and 1999 Kargil war. The mistrust and bitterness between the two neighbours has in no way reduced since then. In fact, it has increased manifold since Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing on Indian troops resulting in recent operations across LoC by India which some people call ‘surgical strike’. Possession of nuclear technology by both the countries since 1998 and rapidly growing economy of India in recent times makes South Asia a major player in international affairs. After the US used nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, such weapons became the first category of weapons that appeared non-usable and the concept of ‘nuclear deterrence’ was introduced, which made war obsolete. Nuclear weapons are today seen more of a ‘means to deter’ than means ‘to achieve victory’. Countries with nuclear weapons realized that victory in war was too dangerous to fight for.

The fear of irreparable damage prevented war and the escalation of conflict in the Cold War period. Presently, all available analysis of nuclear proliferation anywhere is coloured with the experience of Cold War history. Defence experts have been debating the two different points of views related with the impact of nuclear weapons on South Asia’s past, present and future. Such approach is likely to help develop a more pragmatic and balanced understanding of the issue. However, the entire debate about
nuclear stability in South Asia must be seen in the background of how the term ‘deterrence’ is understood and interpreted. Assured destruction is the essence of the whole deterrence concept, as massive retaliation raises the cost of war which outweighs the gains from aggression.

The belief that nuclear weapons have helped stabilise the security environment between India and Pakistan is no more valid and the latest tensions between the two countries have created an atmosphere of mistrust about the use of nuclear weapons. India being a responsible state is concerned about the tactical use of such weapons by a rogue state like Pakistan. Former National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon has warned that the likelihood of Pakistan using the tactical nuclear weapons against India has increased and along with it the possibility of an all out nuclear war. When the focus of Pakistan should be fighting terrorism, poverty and ignorance, it is focusing on development of more nuclear weapons.

The well-known link between Taliban and Pakistan and many other terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and its parent organisation Jama-ud-Dawa (JuD) operating in Pakistan has led to the growing fear of the bomb falling in wrong hands in future. This possibility has given a severe bolt to US, a major player in the complex game, particularly after 9/11. In our case, perhaps the best course is to understand deterrence essentially in terms of discouraging Pakistan from taking military action using nuclear weapons by posing to him the prospect of cost and risk that outweighs its prospective gains. We should also try to reduce our own prospective costs and risks in the event of that deterrence failing.

Growing instability with Nawaz Sharif battling the Panama leaks and other corruption charges and Pakistan Army Chief retiring on 29 November, has made the situation in Pakistan complex and unstable. Pakistan refuses to learn any lessons from history and is speeding towards self-destruction. This is dangerous for India with whom it will continue the policy of proxy war at all costs.

During the 1990s, western aid poured into Pakistan to aid anti-narcotics efforts. Islamabad was pressurised to do something to reduce the massive quantities of drugs moving through its territory.

There seemed a nexus between the drug smugglers from Afghanistan and Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. In fact, Afghan guerrillas and ISI agents protected and participated in heroin trafficking. Many experts believe that Pakistan has been deliberately encouraging terrorism so that it can milk US and China for more aid which it can use against India. When the US was supporting Afghanistan, it found that the Taliban fighters were using the small arms and ammunition which had the distinctive stamps of US suppliers in California and the Czech Republic. Pentagon has confirmed that America-supplied arms were being used to kill US troops in Afghanistan. Some of those weapons are, in fact, finding their way into the hands of Pakistani Rangers and soldiers who supply them to terrorist organisations fighting India at the Line of Control (LoC).

Pakistan’s direct support for Taliban and al Qaeda has been exposed by George W Bush who served as the president of United States during eight of the most consequential years in American history, in his autobiography Decision Points. For most of his presidency, Pakistan was led by Musharraf. He writes while describing USA’s offensive against Afghanistan, “The most pivotal nation we recruited was Pakistan. No country yielded more influence in Afghanistan than its eastern neighbor. On 9/11, Pakistan was one of the only three countries that recognised the Taliban. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were the other two. As per the book, when he asked Musharraf’s help in countering terrorism, he said, “I give you our assurance that we will cooperate with you against terrorism”.

But the then Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai was certain that Pakistan was harbouring the Taliban and repeatedly accused Musharraf of the same in Bush’s presence. Bush provided money, training and equipment to Pakistan and proposed even joint counterterrorism operations hoping to increase its capabilities to fight terrorism. Bush further writes, “Over time, it became clear that Musharrraf either would not or could not fulfill all his promises. Part of the problem was Pakistan’s obsession with India…As a result , the Pakistani military spent most of its resources preparing for war with India…The fight against the extremists came second.”

Menacing presence: Masked militants of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba

Let us review the scene in Asia where a massive arms build-up is taking place with China leading the pack. India has to contend with a rising China in the north, it has also to take all possible precautions against a nuclear Pakistan which is being armed by China at hugely subsidised rates. It is unfortunate that China’s quest for great power status has led to its expansionist approach. It has entered Pakistan in a big way and many members of Pakistan Parliament are debating whether China’s ultimate aim is to increase trade with India and annex Pakistan.

Joffe Ellis writes in his seminal essay, “China undoubtedly wants the Asian countries to acknowledge its paramount position by virtue of its economic strength and political influence and to act accordingly.”

China is not happy being equated with India as the two largest and fastest growing economies and wants to check it with the help of Pakistan. China’s dramatic rise in military power is a matter of concern for the entire world, particularly for India because of its love for Pakistan and increasingly assertive approach. Its exaggerated territorial claims and aggressive behaviour is a problem many nations are facing. Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement, “The Chinese revolution has upset the balance of power and the centre of gravity has shifted from Europe to Asia, thereby directly affecting India”, is truer
today than ever before.

Methods of warfare and conduct of military operations must be subjected to international laws so that armed forces of enemy countries don’t resort to brutal and cowardly acts not befitting the dignity of soldiers on both sides. Admittedly, in war the opposing forces kill each other for the honour of their own country, but it must be appreciated that both have a just cause as far as they are concerned; they are not fighting a personal battle and their bravery and sacrifice must not be undermined by the enemy forces. In situation of international armed conflicts as it exists between India and Pakistan, international scrutiny by the four Geneva Conventions must apply. Basic principles that need to be followed in such situations are principles of humanity, military necessity, proportionality and distinction between military targets and civilian objects. The body of international laws governing the conduct in military operations is also referred to as, ‘international humanitarian law’.

Pakistan’s record of human rights violations and non-compliance of Geneva Convention makes it truly a rogue state, in any case. Beheading adversary force soldiers and not giving a decent burial to its own is something which only a country like Pakistan can do. Its record of human rights abuse, condemnable acts of mass genocide, murders and rapes by its soldiers in the erstwhile East Pakistan put any civilised nation to shame. It was perhaps for the first time in history that women were targeted and raped by Pakistani soldiers in hundreds of thousands. Women were tied to trees, gangraped and buried in mass graves. Piles of bodies of rape victims indicate that rape was consciously applied as a weapon of war.

Big Chief: The new army chief Bajwa

Of course, the Indian army created history when it penetrated East Pakistan territory, overthrew a brutal regime and hoisted the flag of Bangladesh. Many experts feel that the liberation of Bangladesh is an unparalleled military achievement of the post World War-II era, and one that was accomplished by India’s armed forces with professionalism, courage and honourable conduct. However, it remains a thorn in the flesh of Pakistan which can never forget the humiliation it faced.

Pakistan fares poorly on all international laws and conventions. A case in point is Pakistan’s record as far as Geneva Conventions (adopted and continuously expanded from1864 to 1949) that represent the legal basis and framework for the conduct of war. The first and the third Conventions specify conditions of the wounded and sick armed forces in the field and treatment of Prisoners of War (PoWs) respectively. The fourth Convention is about the protection of civilian personnel in the times of war. The world knows the treatment Pakistan has been giving to Indian soldiers and PoWs. Recent incidents of bombing of civilians in J&K, causing many deaths and destruction of property of innocent civilians, speak volumes about Pakistan’s concern for international laws. China, Pakistan’s all-weather friend, too has a poor record of human rights compliance.

Pakistan’s direct support for Taliban and Al Qaeda was exposed by George W Bush during his tenure as the US president for 8 years

Pakistan’s Parliament passed a constitutional amendment bill allowing secret military courts to try terrorism suspects. How it is being misused by the military is anybody’s guess. It is no secret that Pakistan’s military muzzles dissenting and critical voices of non-government organisations and the media in particular. Government decided to end an unofficial moratorium on judicial executions and death penalty was carried out in 296 cases only in 2015. The situation of religious minorities in Pakistan is extremely bad to say the least. They face violent attacks from Sunni extremist groups. Government uses blasphemy laws to instiutionalise discrimination against religious minorities. There is hardly any freedom of expression. Many newspapers and journalist have increasingly practice self-censorship fearing retribution from security forces and militant groups. Pakistan has failed to pass a legislation authorising a National Commission on Rights of the Children, which any developing nation that swears by democracy must have.

Religious extremism and fundamentalism are the essential ingredients of nation state of Pakistan. There has been a timeless nexus between the military junta and those who want democracy to survive; unfortunately this minority has been a puppet in the hands of the military junta. Many decades were spent by civilians under military rule of Ayub Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf. General Zia was the one who was responsible for impetus to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

There is no accurate barometer to measure what is a ‘failed state’. However, since 2005, the US think-tank, the Fund for Peace and the magazine Foreign Policy, has been publishing an annual Failed States Index of sovereign entities. A few social, economic and political indicators have been ascribed to the failed states, wherein the notion of poor governance is predominant. In the table of 38 states, Pakistan finds its place very high on the list at 10 only below countries like Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Chad ( Source: Fund for Peace Organisation). Political instability, vortex of violence in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir( POK) and in the regions of Gilgit, Baltistan and Balochistan should be causes of concern for the international community. Pakistan has always been a major threat to the stability, solidarity and prosperity in the Indian sub-continent and this threat is on the increase because of China’s tacit help to its policy of support to terrorist organisations operating from its soil. Pakistan is an unstable trouble spot and it is unfortunate that it is India’s neighbour.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the two flashpoints and endanger not only South Asia but the entire world as a whole. Pakistan, fast turning into a failed state due to its religious fundamentalism and the army’s dubious role in its governance, is the worry of every nation. Its intelligence agencies support the scourge of insurgency and terrorism which act as an ‘asymmetrical internal security threat’ as well as a threat to the entire world community. It must be remembered that terrorism of any kind is against the spirit of utopia, i.e. ‘the good society’ and equality and principles of hope being the central value of human existence. All nations in this region which want to become all-powerful, unfortunately remain only vulnerable because of the threats of communalism, regionalism and ‘casteism’ which must be taken as segmented threats to national and internal security.

Ceasefire violations have increased since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014. Since 29 September, Pakistan has carried out more than 200 ceasefire violations killing 18 soldiers and 16 civilians, causing displacement of thousands of our citizens and beheading two soldiers. It is high time India went to international tribunals/community to punish Pakistan for its brutal war crimes. We must give a calibrated and befitting response to these cowardly acts to make Pakistan realise that the cost of such misadventures will be very high for it. No one wants to advocate an all-out war but we must be prepared for war by developing capabilities to pay back in the same coin and remove the impressions Pakistan has about India being a soft state, once for all.

Pakistan fares poorly on all international laws and conventions. A case in point is its record on Geneva Conventions

However, Indian armed forces don’t have to play to the gallery and carry out operations across LoC to please the public. Any actions carried out to satisfy the political and emotional demands of people are bound to raise further levels of expectations. Of course, we don’t want to be pushed to war. What we need to do is to make up our tactical and strategic deficiencies. But we must take such punitive actions which stop the killing of our soldiers on daily basis President-elect Donald Trump must get tougher with Pakistan and threaten it to hold aid if it does not put an end to its double-dealing; telling the world that they are the worst sufferers from terror and yet keep nurturing various terrorist groups at the same time.

US administration must take stock of the fact that by even a conservative estimate its military cannot account for at least 90,000 weapons supplied to Afghanistan security forces. These weapons have been finding their way to the terrorist groups in Pakistan and it is easy to know how and why. On Pakistan’s part, it will do well to remember what Franklin D Roosevelt, one of the greatest Americans of the last century commented, “You cannot organize civilization around the core of militarism and at the same time expect reason to control human destinies.”

No one wants to advocate an all-out war but India must be prepared for war by developing capacity to pay back in the same coin