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.
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.