Will Any Strategy Work With Pakistan?

Will Any Strategy Work With Pakistan?

by Lt Gen J.S Bajwa - Thursday, January 14, 2016 06:41 PM IST
Will Any Strategy Work With Pakistan?

We must understand the nature of war with Pakistan and prepare accordingly, otherwise the ‘three witches’ – the Pak Army, the ISI, and Jihadis, will continue their death dance.

The three witches – “Macbeth”.


When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?


When the hurly-burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.


That will be ere the set of sun.


Fair is foul, and foul is fair,
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

Over the last ten odd days, a lot has been said, commented, countered, argued and trashed with regard to the operation in Pathankot, that to add another piece would be a deliberate act of provocation or a deft act of summing up of the situation before moving over to another topic. However, in all this major debate a large number of experts and political party spokespersons talked of the absence of a long-term strategy in dealing with Pakistan. But none of the worthy experts and those of the Party in charge for a decade even shared a word of wisdom of what they had done about in their heydays. Evidently a decade was not enough time to formulate one! One is reminded of Chairman’s Mao’s response to the question on the impact of the Industrial Revolution– “it’s too early to say”– our time frames, apparently, seem to be stretching on the Chinese lines!

What has India not done in all these years? India has tried all measures to sustain a dialogue. In a random run, the list has included track 1, 1.5, 2, art and cultural exchanges, trade expos, sports fixtures, student exchanges, BSF and Rangers meetings to the DG level, hotline between DGMO’s as also visit by them besides a whole string of measures in the diplomatic arena under the aegis of the MEA. To the extent even allowing Hurriyat  anti-national elements to visit Pakistan and even meet with the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi. These efforts were surely directed to create an environment conducive to take forward the dialogue in a systematic manner to finally deal with the most sensitive issues of Sir Creek, Indus Water issue and Kashmir in all its manifestations (Siachen, Shaksgam, Gilgit-Baltistan, POK).

Will Any Strategy Work With Pakistan?

Often these efforts were sabotaged by timed terrorist actions. Many believe, and have stated through various media that the planning for these terrorist actions are planned months in advance and were therefore in the pipeline for being executed and not planned and executed at short notice. I hold a contrary view to this belief. It is more likely that ISI has systematically worked with the Pak Army and Jihadis to prepare different independent teams to target near border installations at short notice. Detailed information of such installations would have been gathered over a period and regularly updated. A practice any military engaged in conflict undertakes. Sleeper cells would have also been created in the vicinity of such targets. These cells would be activated to give the final day information and coordinate guidance to the selected target. The whole process should not take more than one week. And that is the time that elapsed from the PM Modi’s meeting and launching of the operations. Earlier terrorist actions as a reaction to a visit or meeting also followed the same format and have always been nearer the border area or Line of Control.

Negotiation, as the dictionary explains, is a process – to “try” to reach an agreement by “discussion”. The words “try” and “discussion” are noteworthy since these clearly indicate that the outcome of the effort is not a foregone conclusion. In article 33.1 of Chapter VI of the Charter of the United Nations, concerning the ‘Pacific Settlement of Disputes’, negotiation is mentioned as the first instrument of seven methods to be used in cases of conflict: ‘The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice’. Since in the India-Pakistan case the contentious issues have run so deep into the public bloodstream and DNA that both sides see any “giving” as a major diplomatic failure enough to bring down any government. The general awareness through print and visual media and the impact of social media adds to the vulnerability of any talks.

With the situation as complex as this, any strategy will fail. If those talking of no strategy are shying of being branded as “hawks” actually mean a “war” or “hot pursuit”, it is axiomatic that we should see it from a realist’s view. If the object of a war is the elimination of terrorism then the military objectives would entail capture of large swathes of territory and destruction of military forces to the extent of 1971 operations in East Pakistan – since terrorism is a ‘way of life’ in much of northern and eastern Pakistan. Unviable, in the current circumstances. However, in manoeuvre warfare, the concept of warfighting is that if the object of an attack is the enemy then why should the objective of the attack be a piece of ground? So in manoeuvre warfare, the effort is directed at the mind of the enemy and ground is used to facilitate this. It is best achieved by small teams of special operation forces carrying out surgical missions close behind enemy forward deployment and deep in enemy territory. (Something that Pak army has outsourced to Jihadis on lightly defended or non-military objectives). Regular forces can exploit the gains made by such teams. Our forces, due to political weakness and also internal command weakness, have been restrained in executing such missions. There is the option of targeting the terrorist leadership by precision strikes from the air. Unfortunately, we have not created the electronic infrastructure ecosystem to monitor such targets round the clock for punitive retaliation.

Will Any Strategy Work With Pakistan?

For any kinetic action across the border, there will be a counter-reaction by Pakistan. To contain and limit it while retaining an upper hand would call for the government to mobilise all the requisite elements of national power. The international community has to be turned around to not look at Pak as the underdog and draw sympathy from the world while at the same time asking India to exercise restraint. Internally we have to set our house in order. We must have an institutionalised response mechanisms that should get activated every time the situation demands – not be personality driven. In an earlier article I had pointed out the need for an “Operations Room” (similar to that in the Director General of Military Operations (DGMO)) in the Cabinet Secretariat answerable to National Security Advisor (NSA) and manned 24×7, 365 days by personnel from NIA, R&AW, IB, National Technical Reseach Organisation (NTRO), CERN etc. This shop will not close at 6 pm daily. Monitoring outstations for electronic signatures in the border areas be set up. Internet surveillance is of national security interest and needs to be implemented, freedom has a price – privacy laws have to be subordinate to national interests. When any operation is in progress except those frequencies being used by security forces, the rest should be effectively jammed in a radius of 10 km from the periphery of the scene of the actual encounter.

We should understand the nature of future wars and equip and prepare our forces with suitable affordable technologies (hopefully indigenous). CAPF’s are police forces; don’t create a parallel military force – to do so would be a misuse of scarce national resources.  PM Modi’s impromptu stop-over drew a lot of flak. The difference between expert opinion and political action is that the former is ruled by the head while the latter has a lot to do with thinking from the heart. Expert predictions invariably fail and fall by the wayside but experts don’t stop trying. On the other hand, history is a narration of human follies ruled by the heart these stories survive as legends long into time.

Reading of the ground situation is that till we prepare ourselves,  these “three witches”, the Pak Army, ISI and Jihadis, will continue their death dance in thunder, lightning and in rain, to plot another hurly-burly as soon as an opportunity presents – be warned – this is from the head and heart.

This piece was first published in Indian Defence Review.

Lt-Gen. J.S Bajwa has been Chief of Staff, Eastern Command; Commandant, OTA, as also the Infantry School and Director General, Infantry. Currently, he is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi and Editor of the quarterly journal, Indian Defence Review.
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