The argument for covert action
In a Hindu Op-Ed today, Praveen Swami comments on Narendra Modi's explicit statement that he would authorize the use of covert force against our enemies across the border (Dawood, Jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, et al). Swami takes a dovish view of Mr. Modi's statement - he believes that India should not retaliate with covert action because of the fear of retaliation.
In my opinion, this view is what has emboldened our enemies over the past 60 years of our independence.
We have to moderate our policies in keeping with the neighbors and adversaries we have. The Israelis retaliated with overwhelming force whenever they were attacked, and that is the way the Arabs surrounding them stopped troubling them or sheltering terrorists who used their soil to launch attacks.
These high-fangled Western liberal notions of not using force will work very well in a geo-political environment that respects it. Unfortunately, we have a neighbor that constantly provides aid and succor to forces against us, and we have done little other than complain like a little whining child. This has emboldened the ISI, The Pakistani Army, and even democratically elected governments there to conclude that India will never take action. With impunity they incite, recruit, train and then send terrorists over the border. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is home to many terrorists training camps where jihadists are brainwashed, trained, and then infiltrated across the border.
Like the Arab countries ringing Israel, Pakistan understands only the language of force. If we do not retaliate with force, they will continue to view us as as a weak, spineless debating society, and continue to take potshots at us. We must launch targeted covert strikes, take out leaders of any organizations that are inimical to us, and even launch missile strikes against terrorist training camps in Kashmir. Only then will we put some fear into them, and get them to stop. Even if that means there's a risk of retaliation, we must be prepared to run that risk, and raise our internal vigilance.
"Speak softly but carry a big stick," said US president Teddy Roosevelt. All we've been doing is speaking loudly, and never showing our stick. In the nuclear-armed subcontinent we now live in, open all-out war is almost an impossibility. Therefore, low-intensity, localized conflict done using non-state proxies will be the way Pakistan will mount a war of attrition. If we don't stop them by retaliating with force, we will be the only losers.
Anza missiles in action at Tololing top!
Thank you, Dr. Anita Gupta, for sharing this video! Fascinating account of how the Indian Air Force "softened" up Tololing top before the ground assault. Interestingly, the Pakistanis used the Anza Mark II missile on the helicopters!!
Two disparate but important elements of the Anza Deception come to life in this animation!
Here's a scary one: the scenario in Chapter 1 of The Anza Deception actually seems to be coming to life. From today's Times of India:
The modernization budget of thearmed forces has been slashed by around Rs 10,000 crore in a major jolt to them in the New Year. The cut is contrary to defence minister A K Antony's earlier promise of a hike in the defence budget to cater for the threat of the expansive China-Pakistan military nexus.
The parallels are eerie. The Anza Deception has the defence budget being slashed despite concerns about the Pakistan-China nexus.
Here is the link to the full article (page opens in a new window).
Caught this gem in a Tehelka article on the recent judgments by the Pakistani Supreme Court concerning the 16-year-old case of Air Mashal Ashgar Khan:
Gen Kayani [warned] the stakeholders to keep well within their constitutional limits. He talked about the army making mistakes in the past, but also reminded the people of being thoughtful at a time when the army was facing tough conditions vis-àvis national security.
Wow. Talk about causing a chilling effect on the national dialogue. The case is a fascinating one: The Supreme Court has found a former army chief guilty of extorting money from a businessman, and then routing it through the ISI to rig the elections against Benazir Bhutto.
The depth to which the tentacles of the army reach within Pakistani civil society just boggles the mind. But it begs another question: the Pakistani Army and the Indian Army were born from the same entity - the British Army in India. Why did that country take such a different path, whereas in India the Armed Forces have remained completely apolitical? Love to hear your thoughts.
President Obama has authorized several small, focused commando strikes during the past few years. His doctrine has focused on changing the orientation of the US military from large, conventional battles to small special-forces action against non-state actors. National Public Radio has an excellent analysis here.
This is a luxury the US has, because in general, they have the ability to choose the time and place of battle. They do not need a large defensive force to defend their homeland, and most of their wars have been fought in foreign lands. (Sidenote: The US has an organization called "Veterans of Foreign Wars". Question: Which war did the US fight that wasn't a "foreign war"?).
India and Pakistan, on the other hand, have large, conventional standing forces to fight conventional battles against each other. These units are typically ill prepared for civilian law-and-order duties, or for counter-insurgency operations. Their training, arms and equipment, manuals of warfare are all designed for an environment where the enemy is well known and the restrictions on engagement limited.
Deploy these same units into a situation where they face a non-state actor (a terrorist group like the LTTE or the Maoist Guerillas) and they will take some time to adjust. Add restrictive rules of engagement because of the presence of a large local population of innocents, and the situation becomes double difficult.
An then there's the personnel side to consider. The typical Indian army foot soldier has been drilled till he learns how to take orders and act immediately without questioning or thinking. Put him in a situation where things are ambiguous and he has to improvise, and you're asking for too much.
A force capable of operating effectively against non-state actors such as Maoists or Kashmiri or Assamese terrorists needs to be developed from the ground up. The type of men it recruits, how it trains them, their mental attitude, doctrine of operation -- all these things need to be designed so that they are suited to the mission at hand. These things don't happen overnight.
Gilani and Kayani face-off
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan is in the midst of a face-off with his Army Generals. The spat began when a memo from the Pakistani Ambassador to Washington was leaked to the press, in which the Ambassador warned of the possibility of an Army coup. Army Generals, the memo alleges, plotted to overthrow the civilian government in the days following the embarrassing incident where American helicopters flew into Islamabad and killed Osama Bin Laden.
Pakistan's Army has ruled the country for more than half its post-independence history. Besides enjoying the rush that comes with wielding power, the military's top brass has enriched itself by getting involved in many businesses, directly or indirectly, through front companies. Retired Generals hold key positions in the country, often in fields far from their areas of expertise. There is no way they are going to give up power easily.
Gilani is an unlikely Don Quixote, a Prime Minister without the strong grassroots political backing of a Benazir or Nawaz Sharif. The chance that he can make a dent in their hold on the country's institutions is bleak, to say the least. It could be that he's counting on the support of the middle class, hoping against hope that the wave of anger sweeping the Arab street will blow Eastwards into Pakistan. He could be hoping that the anger that ejected Gen. Parvez Musharaff from power is still lurking below the surface, and will stay Gen. Kayani's hand.
We will have to wait and watch, and hope that his calculations are correct.
Executive, entrepreneur, investor and mentor to social entrepreneurs, golf and squash addict, author of thrillers... In short, an amateur dabbler in new experiences, and provoker of thoughts.