Showing posts with label Terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Terrorism. Show all posts

Monday 4 March 2019

The Pulwama-Balakot Affair: An Unqualified Disaster for India

The Pulwama-Balakot Affair: An Unqualified Disaster for India

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 04 March 2019


The Balakot airstrikes have been an unqualified disaster for India on every front. They have shown that we cannot defeat cross-border terror by military means; that we cannot intimidate Pakistan with our conventional military; that Pakistan will retaliate with attacks on our military facilities if we attack terror camps in Pakistan; that our military equipment is outdated; and that the Indian people do not have the stomach for a war. Further, they have given Pakistan a chance to take the high road and act magnanimous with the release of our Air Force pilot, thereby making this a PR victory for Pakistan and its President, Imran Khan.

Imran Khan’s Speech in the Pakistani Parliament

Some friends of mine are sharing a video of Pakistan PM Imran Khan's speech in the Pakistani Parliament on Facebook, citing it as an example of the statesmanship missing in our country.

I am not going to share it or provide a link to it.

The reason is that while it is a cleverly-written and well-delivered speech, it rests on a base of what I believe are lies.

What the speech illustrates beyond doubt is that the whole Balakot misadventure by India has led to one consequence: it has immeasurably raised Imran Khan's stature, both domestically and internationally.

What are the lies? Imran says that his government had nothing to do with Pulwama. That's a brazen lie. Hafez Saeed and Masood Azhar are both free in Pakistan to organize terrorist activities against India in Kashmir. Despite repeated complaints and dossiers, Pakistan has done nothing to stop them for decades. They keep lying that there is no evidence to convict them. Even when the links of the suicide bomber in Pulwama to the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) are clear, Pakistan has done nothing. They have no intention of doing anything.

Imran claims in the speech that they had taken a decision a while ago not to support any terror activities on their soil, whatever previous governments may have done. There is no evidence of this. To put it indelicately: Imran is lying.

Now that the dust has settled (or is settling) over the whole Pulwama-Balakot episode, we can take stock of what happened.

To put it mildly: the entire episode was a disaster for India.

Imran Khan's speech, in which he masquerades as the messiah of peace, the one rational voice in the subcontinent who wants to prevent nuclear annihilation, in the face of an irrational and warmongering India, is only the latest confirmation of why this is a disaster. Of course this projection of Pakistan is not true; Pakistan continues to support terrorist groups on its soil and claim that it is the victim. It is clear that Imran will do nothing to change this. He is continuing the tactic of demanding proofs when we have given mountains of evidence to Pakistan, which was perfected under Asif Ali Zardari during the 26/11 attacks. But anyone watching that speech of Imran will not guess any of this. It was a masterpiece of obfuscation and grandstanding.

Why Balakot Was a Disaster

What was achieved with the strikes? Let us look at the sequence of events.

  1. A JeM suicide bomber killed 49 CRPF jawans in Pulwama.
  2. We sent aircraft to bomb Balakot. At first there were reports that no damage had been caused and no lives lost; newer (unconfirmed) reports suggest that maybe some 35 militants died in the strike, which Pakistan covered up.
  3. But then Pakistan retaliated by attacking us at the LOC, and even downed one of our aircraft and took one of our airmen prisoner.
  4. Then Pakistan acted very magnanimous in releasing him.
  5. Now the hostilities are over. (There is the routine cross-border shelling that is a constant, of course.)

So, what was achieved?

Clearly, we have not destroyed the terror infrastructure. All we did at most was kill 35 JeM militants.

Some people say that we showed that we wouldn't take a terrorist attack lying down - that we could give it back. Yes, we did give it back but then so did they. So are we even or are they one up? I see it as Pulwama: Pak 1, India 0; Balakot: Pak 1, India 1; Pak retaliation: Pak 2, India 1. We lost. What Pakistan has told us (and Imran says it in his Parliament speech) is that if you strike us, we will strike you back. We have lost the advantage.

When they gave it back, one of our airmen was caught, and it became clear that we no longer had the stomach for war. Did that not expose a weakness in India? Now the Pakistanis know that one PoW and the game is over for India.

Our goal was to wipe out the JeM and to send such a strong message to Pakistan that they would stop cross-border terrorism, if government sources are to be believed. Was this realistic? What have we gained?

All we have now to show for our efforts is that the US, the UK, and France have sponsored a resolution in the UN calling for a ban on JeM.

But we have seen what happens in these cases. Even if the resolution is passed and the ban goes into effect, Masood Azhar will go underground and continue to control his organization, which will change its name. They will say JeM no longer exists. It will just come back to life under a different name and a different nominal leader. Nothing will have been achieved. There are some unsubstantiated rumours about Azhar having been killed, but these have only been circulated by supporters of Mr. Modi so that they have something to show for this disastrous misadventure. Even if that were true, these organizations will not collapse after the death of a single person. The terror will go on. And now, knowing that we targeted them, they will be looking for an opportunity to prove that they can still strike at us. We should be ready and on high alert for a huge terror strike by the JeM in the near future somewhere on Indian soil as they seek revenge on us.

So, the bottomline is that the whole Pulwama-Balakot episode is a disaster. It has achieved nothing for India, and allowed Pakistan to take the high ground as the responsible party which tried hard to de-escalate the situation. From every angle - militarily, politically, the attempt to end terrorism, and public relations - the whole episode has been a debacle for India.

The Unwritten Maxim of War

There is an unwritten maxim of war that has been in force in the US ever since Vietnam, but which still continues to be violated by foolish US Presidents. That maxim is: one must only initiate war when one is sure of a comprehensive victory.

President George HW Bush followed this policy in Desert Storm. The objective of that war was not to unseat Saddam Hussein, but to remove him from Kuwait. The US had overwhelming military superiority on land, at sea, and in the air, and reduced Saddam’s vaunted Republican Guard to a pulp.

His son, President George W Bush, did not follow this maxim, and the results have been inconclusive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is actually a comprehensive defeat for the US, and Iraq too is going to be a defeat. In Afghanistan, the contours of the post-war settlement are being made without even consulting the present government that has been supported by the US, telling us how bad the American situation in that country is. That has happened because America went into Afghanistan without a clear idea of what they were doing. They could never finish off the Taliban and the al-Qaeda. To be sure, they killed a lot of important Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, but these organizations are not crippled if one or two leaders are killed. That should have been a lesson to India, but who is listening?

What went wrong in Afghanistan? Sure, the US had overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons, but they could not possibly examine every mountain cave. In fact, this is something known to India from our knowledge of Maratha history. The Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had superiority in conventional forces, but the Marathas defeated him through guerilla warfare and by hiding in the hills.

All this knowledge should have informed India that it was impossible to defeat terrorism or even reduce it with a single “surgical strike” in the mountainous areas of Pakistan. You need a prolonged war, and you need the assistance of the Pakistanis, to defeat the terrorists. And that is not likely to happen anytime soon, considering that it is the Pakistani military and the ISI themselves who enable the terrorists in the first place.

So Why Balakot?

Were the Indian defence forces unaware of all this? Highly unlikely. So why were the Balakot attacks carried out?

One word: Optics. The Indian government wanted to send a message that it could retaliate, to satisfy the anger of the people who were outraged about the Pulwama attack. Unfortunately for us, the Pakistanis retaliated, and now it is clear that this course of action cannot be repeated in the future. This is like the story of the warrior Karna in the Mahabharata, who could use his irresistible Indra Shakti only once. Our Indra Shakti was military retaliation using air strikes. We have used our Indra Shakti, and it is now impotent. We now know that a military attack on Pakistan or on terror camps will not solve the terror problem in Kashmir.

Balakot has failed to achieve any useful strategic or tactical objective. It has been a failure in military terms. It has only exposed our weaknesses, which is a good thing. It has shown us that our military equipment is outdated and that the common people do not have the stomach for a war. And that last fact may be the most useful lesson from this charade, because it will discourage any future administration from embarking on a similar course of action, knowing that the capture of a single PoW can drastically diminish the apettite of the populace for war.

What this tells us is that the hardline policy of the present government on Kashmir is a failure. Kashmir cannot have a military solution: it needs a political solution. Whether that political solution can happen will depend on the willingness of both India and Pakistan to make concessions. Until that day comes, peace in Kashmir is a distant dream.

Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Why War With Pakistan Is Not The Answer to Pulwama

Why War With Pakistan Is Not The Answer to Pulwama

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 16 February, 2019


In the wake of the terrible attack on CRPF personnel by a suicide car bomber affiliated to the Pakistan-based terrorist organization, Jaish-e-Muhammad, in Pulwama in Kashmir on 14 February, 2019, many people are raising the spectre of war against Pakistan as the correct response. However, this is motivated more by politics and emotions than hard realities. I discuss the reasons why war at any scale, whether a full-scale war or a “surgical strike,” is simply not a viable option.

This is the time for all Indians to be extremely vigilant. Think carefully about whatever you read or see.


What you, I, and most of the country feel about the Pulwama attack:

It is a terrible, tragic day that has resulted in 41 of our servicemen losing their lives.

What Modi and the BJP think about the Pulwama attack:

It is a golden opportunity that has fallen into their lap, considering how Modi has his back to the wall because of his failures in every aspect of governance — the economy, jobs, foreign affairs, corruption — nothing is going well for Modi, and people are losing their faith in him. So they will not hesitate to milk this tragedy for every drop of political advantage by pressing people’s buttons and appealing to their patriotic outrage. And your life and mine are the last things on their mind as they relentlessly exploit this. This is not unique to the Modi government — every government, anywhere in the world, has used this tactic when their backs are against the wall (think of Clinton’s attack on Bosnia and the Hollywood movie “Wag the Dog”.)

This incident offers them a great way to divert the people’s attention from the failures of Modi’s government. The display of the coffins on TV yesterday was very disturbing and will further inflame passions, which is probably what this government wants. So too talk by the PM about how “people’s blood is boiling.” Notice that no one is now talking about Rafale or demonetization. Instead, the Hindus of Jammu went into a violent frenzy yesterday and attacked Kashmiris who were living in Jammu. This can easily become a Hindu-Muslim fireball that will consume the country — unless we are extremely vigilant.

Understand that a war — even a limited one — even “surgical strikes” — are extremely destructive. They result in the death of innocents; they destroy our economy and set back economic growth. You or I will not lose our lives — our brave soldiers will die, and their families will grieve. We have no business asking them to die for us when we are not ready to die for the country ourselves. For the government, especially the PM, it offers a chance to posture as a “strong leader,” but the consequences for the country from any war can only be negative.

Let there be no illusions. We cannot win a war with Pakistan as long as China, the superpower in our area, is firmly backing them. Painful as it is, we cannot defeat them, and we cannot do anything to retaliate at a military level. And Pakistan has strong financial backing from the wealthy kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Realize also that we do not have the advantage of surprise now. The Pakistani armed forces will be on high alert, and they will be expecting an attack from us. No war can be won without the element of surprise.

We even have very limited leverage over them in a commercial sense because we do not trade very much with them. Our removal of MFN status of Pakistan, which Mr. Jaitley announced yesterday, will have negligible impact. We can stop their musicians and actors from working in India, and we can stop cricket matches. None of this will matter much. China is there to provide everything the Pakistanis need.

I know this is frustrating for us all, but the only thing we can do is prevent another incident like this by being alert — by focusing on our true enemies outside India than froth at the mouth about some imaginary “tukde tukde gang.” After 4.5 years, at least now the Modi Sarkar can focus on real national security than go after actors, writers, and intellectuals, and brand them as anti-nationals — people whose only crime was to criticize the government and the PM. Today we know who the real anti-nationals are — they sit outside our borders and plot our downfall. If we are alert to intelligence inputs; if we take the local population into confidence and try to build a positive relationship with them instead of constantly threatening them, then we will get useful ground-level intelligence that will prevent a recurrence of Pulwama.

War is never the answer.

Do not fall into the attempts of those who try to suck us into a vortex of hatred and a dangerous conflagration for political gains.

Be also aware of the propaganda being spread that in this hour of crisis, we should not disagree with or criticize the government. This is, of course, what the government would like. But should we agree to any decision? I have just explained why war of any kind would be catastrophic. We would lose lives; property worth tens of thousands of crores will be destroyed in cross-border bombing raids (and never discount the possibility that the other side might use a nuke when they are facing defeat); and the economic damage due to disruption of the economy will be huge.

So no, I do not agree with “whatever the government decides” - which some of my friends have said, and which Mr. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress President, has also said. In particular, I would disagree if the government’s decision is war of any kind. And that is what any patriot should do. It is not patriotic to root for a destructive war that will set us back in our growth.

We are a growing country with great ambitions for the future. We want to be a superpower someday. A war sets us back in this trajectory.

Pakistan is a failed state with no real ambitions. A war would make little difference to their terminal decline. They have nothing to lose in a war — in fact, their leaders would welcome it as a relief from having to answer their citizens on why their country is a failed state.

Some people are comparing our situation to that of America when it took out Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, or of Israel as it deals with Palestinian or Hezbollah terrorists with strong-arm tactics. But we do not have the same situation. America does not share a border with Pakistan, and Pakistan is dependent on American cash. Israel has overwhelming military superiority over the Palestinians. Our situation with Pakistan is very different. We are essentially at parity in every respect — in conventional as well as nuclear weapons. A war will only mean bloodshed and economic loss.

Let us not fall into this trap. Let us not agree to everything.

It is not patriotic to agree with bad decisions. It is patriotic to support what is right for the country.

Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.