The LOC Wars

Spearhead Analysis – 03.10.2016

indian-held-kashmirImmediately after the URI attack India blamed the state of Pakistan for the attack. So far this arbitrary and premature determination has not been substantiated by any real evidence. Items with “Pakistani markings” are not evidence because nobody would send attackers with such items and it is very easy to plant such items to blame Pakistan. In no time at all a media and public hype was created in India with mounting pressure to retaliate and soon retaliation became a political compulsion –thanks to the hardliners in Mr Modi’s team. Then came India’s orchestrated announcement that it had committed aggression against Pakistan with attacks labeled ‘surgical strikes’ across the LOC (Line of Control) in Kashmir. It was said that the strikes were at five or six locations (surely the exact figure would be known) at ‘launch pads’ from where ‘terrorists’ were about to be launched into IHK (Indian Held Kashmir) in support of the Indian atrocities driven revolt by the Kashmiri people struggling for freedom. The specific locations were not indicated neither was there any information on the spatial separation between the locations. There was vague talk of ‘heliborne troop’ and ‘paradrops’ but no details of exactly how the strikers went in and came back across a mined, fenced and fortified line manned by Pakistani troops in a state of high alert — nothing was said about casualties suffered or inflicted. There was no description of the so called ‘launch pads’ and no explanation as to why such ‘pads’ would be created at all so close to the LOC and why ‘terrorists’ would be lined up there as targets in a number of locations. Pakistan denied any such ‘surgical strikes’ but did admit that Indians had resorted to unprovoked artillery and mortar fire and that Pakistan had retaliated with fire for deadly effect.

So here we have a situation where the aggressor who should be denying having committed aggression is actually proclaiming it from the rooftops with new embellishments at every chance and a defender who should be screaming blue murder at unprovoked aggression is denying that any such activity ever took place. The Indian stand is understandable because it needed to respond to the pressure for retaliation that was reaching boiling point — pressure that they had created by an immediate blame on Pakistan for URI. Pakistan has to state the truth as so many raids cannot be covered up if they had actually taken place — nor could it hide casualties. UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan) personnel based in Kashmir neither saw nor received any reports of attacks so they could not confirm the Indian claim. Neither could the US with its vast surveillance and intelligence capability. So the matter could rest with India satisfied that it had retaliated and Pakistan satisfied that the Indians could not and did not. The two sides could then proceed to take positive steps. There is, however, a sinister side to the Indian strike claim.

After the attack on the Indian Parliament the Indian military had come up with the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine that would enable rapid retaliation. This triggered counter responses by Pakistan — a hardening of defenses, air and naval forces readiness and a redeployment of forces and assets to destroy any such venture. As a deterrent Pakistan also came up with short range low yield weapon systems that would destroy aggressor forces decisively leaving further escalation options to the aggressor. Cold Start thus bit the dust. Now it seems that India has acted or saying it acted in order to lay the basis for what can be called LOC warfare — it is seeking to create a  justification for cross LOC and on LOC actions against targets it identifies as suitable for preemptive and surgical strikes; some kind of broad counter-proliferation strategy. It seeks to deter support to the Kashmiri youth struggling to free themselves from the Indian yoke and the atrocities being committed against them. Together with an orchestrated campaign to isolate Pakistan regionally and internationally and with the no longer covert operations in Baluchistan, Sind and elsewhere the Indian strategy is to divert attention from Kashmir to Pakistan by blaming it for terrorism and the dangers of an escalatory situation between nuclear weapon states. The Indian strategy is flawed and has within it the germs of its own failure. Pakistan will not be deterred — in fact it will be forced into actually doing what it is being accused of doing but is not doing. The regional countries, especially Afghanistan, that have opted to join India in undercutting SAARC to isolate Pakistan need to rethink this short term expedient decision that can have far reaching implications for them if they also fall in line with India’s other actions against Pakistan. Contrary to Indian assessment Pakistan is not, and will not be, internationally isolated — the trends are there to discern if the blinkers are removed.

Pakistan has to develop its military and foreign policy responses to the emerging future threat from India. Its first priority has to be internal cohesion and security — the ongoing efforts need a surge with a dedicated implementation team. Its second priority has to be economic viability and strength — the CPEC offers this opportunity and management teams need to be put in place and the third priority has to be a planned reset of foreign policy. And for all this there is the need for a review of the conditions and circumstances that must change to give Pakistan’s image a makeover and its narrative acceptable internationally.

(Spearhead Analyses are collaborative efforts and not attributable to a single individual)