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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2583

Combined arms warfare vs terrorism

By Vinod Vedi - Syndicate Features

The series of killings by terrorists before and during the roundtable conference called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Jammu and Kashmir and the military exercises conducted by the Indian armed forces to hone combined operations techniques and the concept of “cold start” have together once again drawn attention to the efficacy of conventional warfare when confronted by the asymmetrical method of guerrilla warfare which led to the launch of Operation Parakram, the year-long eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament.

At the same time came conformation from a former head of Pakistan Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence that Pakistan’s doctrine since the moment its nuclear warhead became operational was that Pakistan would launch its nukes against India irrespective of whether Israel or any other nation made a pre-emptive strike against it nuclear assets. Such is the hare-brained nature of the security scenario in our neighbourhood.

In essence, India has been engaged in a two-front war with Pakistan since the beginning of the Pak-instigated Khalistan movement in the in the 1970s. It won that war decisively when it defeated the Khalistani insurgency by using its superior conventional military weaponry as a deterrent to full-scale warfare of the Bangladesh type even while taking care of the Khalistanis.

Having lost two wars in quick succession Pakistan accelerated its nuclear weapons programme begging, borrowing and stealing nuclear secrets from around the globe to achieve nuclear weapons capability by 1987. Its hope since then has been that under the threat of an immediate escalation of hostilities to the first use of nuclear weapons India would be cowed into conceding territory in Jammu and Kashmir.

This background needed to be reiterated to be able to cogently explain why Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s unequivocal rejection of any demilitarization in any portion of Jammu and Kashmir as demanded by President General Pervez Musharraf and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference makes complete sense in the midst of “confidence-building measures”.

In fact the series of terrorist attacks preparatory to the roundtable conference including the genocide of Hindu families in Doda and the attack on a bus carrying tourists underscore the tenuous nature of “confidence building measures” in Jammu and Kashmir. If one had been taken in by General Pervez Musharraf’s protestations of good neighbourly behaviour India would have found itself rushing in troops back into the Valley to confront the terrorists who suddenly became hyperactive to try and demonstrate that they are so strong as to dictate demands.

It needs to be made abundantly clear in the face of a naive acceptance by a section of the Indian public on promises by Gen Pervez Musharraf given his penchant for denying any involvement in everything. Counter-terrorism is a manpower-intensive operation and terrorist attacks would have been more horrendous if there were fewer security forces in Jammu and Kashmir.

What happened in the series of spectacular attacks in Doda and the Valley are operations that can happen because the terrorists have the advantage of choosing their targets according to their own convenience. A thinning out of the Indian Army would have resulted in the consolidation of control by the terrorists of significant portions of territory in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a risk best not taken.

It is best to retain the Indian army in adequate numbers in Jammu and Kashmir to nip all mischief in the bud till there are verifiable ways of ensuring that Pakistan has stopped cross-border terrorism.

It is not without significance that the Defence Minister was constrained to state that there is no evidence to suggest that Pakistan has ended its involvement in cross border terrorism. The Kargil experience remains relevant in that both the Army and the Indian Air Force need to be ready at very short notice to act jointly to achieve politico-military objectives on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, even the Indian Navy had a major role to play in posing a seaward threat that contributed to dramatic de-escalation by a Pakistan that was wont to frequently hold out the threat of “nuclear flashpoint” to give credibility to its nuclear arsenal.

Given what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir demilitarization is out of the question. And, in the face of repeatedly stated threats of first use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan it is best to refine the conventional military capabilities in a manner in which it is possible to make optimal utilization of every kind of conventional military capability to achieve quick politico-military objectives.

In this context, Operation Parakram –the nearly one year standoff in which the Indian armed forces were deployed all along the western border with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament – has given rise to the doctrine of “cold start” whereby the Indian armed forces would execute pre-determined operations into Pakistan precluding any hesitation as happened with Op. Parakram. However, the fault in Op Parakram lay in the manner it was begun and not in how it was ended. The series of mishaps that occurred, from the explosions in the trucks carrying ammunition towards the border in Rajasthan to the many deaths that occurred on account of mishandling of landmines, did have the effect of diverting the war effort from a clinically precise operation into a fire fighting operation behind our own lines.

“Cold start” will need to ensure that logistics and re-supply are not held hostage to accidents and other manmade disasters that tend to be a drag on the entire military effort. This is all the more true if the concept itself triggers a nuclear response by a nation which knows that its first defence – the use of terrorists as proxy warriors in Jammu and Kashmir have failed to achieve the objective of pinning down the Indian army.

The swift thrust by the Indian mechanized forces (one stated objective of which is reported to be to “cut Pakistan in half” could make it imperative for the Pakistan military to launch nuclear strikes to prevent India from coming in too deep into an already slim “strategic depth”. That would, indeed, be catastrophic because it would invite an Indian nuclear response.

Therefore, even while practicing this new doctrine of “cold start” to optimum efficiency the Indian armed forces, especially the army acting in close cooperation with the paramilitary forces and the Jammu and Kashmir police, should by systematic cordon and search operations undercut and destroy terrorist cells of the kind that are currently carrying out strike operations against unarmed civilians in what are clearly genocidal attacks. A gradual degradation of the capabilities of the terrorist groups, coupled as it already is with the alertness along the Line of Control that has decimated the numbers of those who were able to cross over to fulfil their nefarious objectives, will free the local population of the threat from terrorist guns.

The pivot will remain India’s superior conventional military capability which would neutralize any Kargil-type ambitions in the bud and thus make it difficult for Pakistan to replenish the terrorists it has over the years managed to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir.

In this context the recent terrorist attacks in Doda and the Kashmir Valley only tend to underscore how unreliable would be any assurances by Pakistan on the Siachen Glacier once the Indian Army is withdrawn. Demilitarisation of Siachen even after Pakistan agrees to pinpoint the Actual Position on the Ground Line of troops of both countries will also remain a dicey proposition if arrangements for immediate redeployment are not put in place.

- Syndicate Features -

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