What surgical strikes mean for India-Pak relations
Gen JJ Singh | October 18, 2016
The time has come for India to announce to the world that India can no longer be transgressed or trespassed with impunity. And there couldn’t have been a more telling way of doing so than by unleashing the special mission operations, with the brilliance and precision of an experienced surgeon’s scalpel, and spread across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir. This retaliation to the unprovoked terror attack on administrative echelons of the army in Uri achieved total surprise as it was least expected.
Even after carrying out such heinous acts in the past, Pakistan had become accustomed to the pattern of India’s reaction – a lot of political noise, outbursts for revenge and whining by the people at large and hullabaloo in the media. However, things turned out to be different this time. Undoubtedly, the most stunning effect of these strikes was on the units of the Pakistani army guarding the LoC who were caught off-guard, the ISI and the jihadist organisations whose leadership (hukumraan) have now gone into hiding with their tails between their legs, instead of cockily and unabashedly moving around surrounded by their Kalashnikov-toting bodyguards.
Of course, the scale, secrecy and effectiveness of these primarily para-commando and infantry operations sent shock waves across the world that particularly jolted China, some elements belonging to the Arab and middle-eastern part of the globe. Almost all countries viewed India’s offensive-defence actions with a sense of appreciation albeit tacitly. India deserved the right to hit back after the provocative actions of Pakistani sponsored, aided, trained, guided and possibly led terrorist actions in Pathankot or Uri and in the past. As a matter of fact, after our attacks the Pakistan army disposed of the dead and the wounded by trucks with lightning speed and cleaned up the mess in a professional and time-tested manner so as to present a picture of normal existence between the two sides of the LoC! Later they brought in some journalists to show them that there were no casualties or evidence of a strike by the Indian commandos.
One is compelled to recall that at the height of the Kargil War of 1999, the bodies of some soldiers that could be retrieved by the Pakistanis were handed over to their families in the dead of the night with strict instructions that the bodies should be buried before daybreak. There were no honours or last post bugle calls nor citizens paying their homage to the fallen soldiers – all in the name of secrecy.
Musharraf’s is a classic case of the duplicitous and dichotomous conduct when on one hand he executes a coup d’etat and appoints himself as the chief administrator and on the other states in his book, ‘In the Line of Fire’, that “whenever the army gets involved with the imposition of martial law, it gets distracted from its vital military functions. Training and operational readiness suffer”. Perhaps the last word on him was pronounced by Murtaza Razvi, who wrote in the Indian Express on October 9, 2010, “The tragedy is not that he [Musharraf] ran a banana republic in his heyday, but that by the time he left his doomed republic it had run out of bananas.”
During his first state visit to India in November 2010, Barack Obama, the president of the USA, had stated that “India is not a rising power, it is a world power.” Taking cognisance of India’s growing relevance in world affairs the heads of all P5 countries have visited India in the past few years, some of them more than once, and a few were the chief guests on the occasion of our Republic Day. The Indian elephant with its gleaming tusks is taking confident strides into the 21st century with a rising economy, and is poised to make its impact in the global arena. No country can become an economic giant like China without the ability to safeguard its core values and deter aggression from adversaries. A unilateral desire for peace in itself cannot guarantee a secure environment is a lesson we have learnt from history, both ancient and recent.
India is unfortunately located in a turbulent and unstable region with the epicentre of global terrorism in the hinterland of Pakistan and in the nebulous and uncontrolled Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, also known as ‘Ilaqa Gair’ in jihadi lexicon. Notwithstanding that, we have to play a positive and proactive role to enhance security and stability in our neighbourhood. A vibrant democracy despite its warts and all, a robust economy and a power-packed and modernising military machine along with all other elements of a modern nation state in place are India’s hallmarks today. Our strategy that has worked to counter terrorism in Punjab, the northeast – Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur in particular – and in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir has been an ‘iron fist and a velvet glove’. The terrorists and their harbourers must be
delivered a sledgehammer blow, whereas the innocent citizens caught in the vortex of these strife-prone areas must be handled with a velvet glove so as to win their hearts and minds.
On the other hand, Pakistan has had an adversarial relationship with India over a host of issues, the least of them ‘sledging’ on the cricket field. On a serious note, Pakistan has never been able to reconcile itself to the fact that the state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. Right from the inception of Pakistan that nation’s military has embraced a utopian and Sheikh-Chilli-like objective of liberating Jammu and Kashmir because it is a predominantly Muslim state. They have never truly grasped the fact that J&K comprises, besides the Valley, regions such as Ladakh, Kargil, Doda, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu which have distinct cultural, religious and geographical features and, to top it all, many ideological differences. The Valley with about one-fifth the size of the state does not represent the whole of Kashmir.
Pakistan initiated three ill-planned and poorly executed military campaigns using soldiers as infiltrators in disguise and subterfuge to snatch Kashmir, in 1947, 1965 and 1999, and failed miserably in each of them. These costly misadventures have taken both countries back by a couple of decades with regard to our struggle to eradicate poverty. However, India with its larger size, resources, youthful population and a democratic polity has weathered many a storm and is forging ahead to take its place as a major player in the world. Pakistan seems to be bogged down by poor governance and leadership with the military controlling the destiny of the nation for most of their history as a nation. Besides that the idea of Pakistan as conjured by the founding fathers of that nation, Jinnah in particular, did not envision an Islamic state, but a progressive and modern Muslim nation which would guarantee her minorities the right to freely practise their religious beliefs and prosper as proud citizens of Pakistan. Events prove that the path taken by the Pakistani establishment took the country into a totally different direction.
Unfortunately, the history of Pakistan during the past seven decades has thrown up serious fundamental schisms and fault-lines that have now assumed critical proportions. There are first of all the haves and the have-nots, the latter category getting overly radicalised and providing the cannon fodder for most jihadi and terrorist activities. The second serious schism is the Sunni-Shia divide which further extends to all other strains of Islam such as Ahmediyas and so on. Thirdly, there is the Punjabi versus the rest, and the resentful dominance of the Punjabis in all segments of Pakistani society. Fourthly, the mohajir community is still ostracised to a fair extent even though most of the present generation were born and brought up in independent Pakistan. Their grandchildren would possibly also be called mohajirs. In contrast, Hindu and Sikh families like mine who lost everything in Pakistan, their lands and property, and migrated to India have resurrected themselves admirably. Mercifully after a few initial years, we Punjabis dare say that we have never been permanently given the appellation of ‘refugees’. We have merged into the Indian social milieu seamlessly and are prospering.
The people of Pakistan today are standing at the crossroads because of the disastrous consequences of the inherent schisms and deep-rooted contradictions within their polity. The uncontrolled activities of the jihadi Frankenstein they raised, which has come home to roost, has turned Pakistan into the fountainhead of Islamic extremism and terror, and spawned the national strategy of ‘deniability and lies’! However, it is high time they realised that they cannot continue to run with the hares and at the same time hunt with the hounds. This policy is bound to misfire sooner than later. They may like to remember the advice of their own Jamaat-e-Islami which said in their mouthpiece ‘Jasarat’ during the Kargil war that “Jihad cannot be conducted on the edifice of lies”.
I had written in my book, ‘A Soldier’s General’, first published in 2012, that “despite the wishes of the US, India, China or the rest of the world to see a stable and prosperous Pakistan it might still implode. In fact I went to the extent of telling Stephen Cohen that the button for self-destruction might have already been pressed. Only the people of Pakistan could save their country by snapping the already-lit fuse cord before it reached the detonator, and arrest the downward slide into chaos and destruction.”
Fortunately, there are some signs of that taking place – Pakistan people have started raising their voice, and it’s not too late to take this vitally important step even at this stage. It would be in Pakistan’s national interest to eliminate all terrorist organisations that have flourished till recently in their hinterland and Af-Pak border areas and accept the reality. We have to learn to live in peace with each other and thereby win the war against poverty as espoused by our hon’ble prime minister Narendra Modi.
Gen Singh is a former army chief.
(The column appears in the October 16-31, 2016 issue)