Proxy war

Violations at LoC and Pakistan’s game plan

Even as a larger geopolitical game plan to drag in foreign interlocutors into the Kashmir issue is being played out, the issue of better management of the Indian defence perimeter along both the international border and the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China has begun to engage the Indian political establishment with greater urgency.

After resurrecting the Kashmir cell within the Inter-Services Intelligence when the earlier one run by Ghulam Nabi Fai in Europe and America was ended with the arrest of Fai, Nawaz Sharif has moved his game plan to second gear.

Fai’s admission of siphoning huge sums to select US Congressmen to be frontsmen for the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence for perception management and propaganda in support of the Pakistan stand on Kashmir on Capitol Hill in the US, in Britain and within the European Union in Brussels severely damaged the Pakistan case. It is becoming increasingly clear that Mian Nawaz Sharif has not learned a thing from the misadventures perpetrated during his second tenure as Prime Minister.

In hindsight it has become clear that Sharif was party to the Kargil invasion and that he denied it through Staff General Pervez Musharraf to overthrow him and put him in jail in preparation for the hangman’s noose a la Zulfikar Bhutto but for Saudi intervention on his behalf.

Old tactics

This prognosis is borne out by the manner he has used the same tactics this time too to give a free hand to the Pakistan Army in Kashmir as is apparent in the series of ceasefire violations and infiltrations not just in Jammu and Kashmir but also along the international border in Punjab.

This has been accompanied by a familiar chant of the Indo-Pak salient being a “nuclear flashpoint”-a pill that former President George Bush swallowed with gusto and used it to curb India and prevent it from rocking the boat because of Pakistan’s so-called involvement in the War on Terror in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attack on the US.

The gambit does not appear to have worked this time with President Barack Obama who has made it clear that there is not an iota of change in US policy thereby indicating that the US would not become embroiled in what is essentially a bilateral issue.

This time, given that the US is fully aware of the Pakistani involvement in that attack the US administration is wary about allowing Pakistan to use nuclear blackmail to gain territorial advantage over India. It is clear that Pakistan is not going to let the US rebuff stop it from trying to influence the European Union and those involved in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan that want Pakistani assistance to pull their troops out without the Taliban/Al Qaeda terrorists  disrupting the process.         

The well-orchestrated violations of the ceasefire along the international border as well as on the Line of Control has been followed by the ploy to threaten the world with the likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons has become a case of crying Wolf without any justification.

India has done well to match Pakistan’s every move towards the attainment of nuclear weapons and was always prepared to deal with the collusive proliferation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems with evil intent by Pakistan and China. It is, therefore, well prepared to deal with any Pakistani threat to use nuclear weapons.

As for the flashpoint theory it has worn thin and it will not be long before the world says: ‘Try using them and see what happens’. In some ways President Barack Obama has already tacitly said it when he made it clear that the US would not be bamboozled again into falling in line with Pakistani nuclear blackmail tactics.

Having stymied Pakistan’s nuclear gambit, India needs to shore up its conventional defences all along the International Border, the maritime boundary as well was along the Line of Control where about a platoon-sized group of terrorists managed to infiltrate through the barbed wire fence not long ago.

Government’s insistence on a probe into the incidents in the Karen sector where serious intrusions have taken place that have found the Indian Army ill-prepared to deal with them is indicative of the alarm it has caused. The intruders’ ability to create a long standoff raised comparisons with Kargil.

Kargil was a saga of raw courage, grit and determination and the fighting spirit of the Indian soldier and there is no doubt in any Indian’s mind that, given instructions, the Indian armed forces will do to the Pakistan armed forces and their terrorist companions what they have done before.

Nonetheless this is an unconventional war (also described as sub-conventional or proxy war) and there is always the possibility that the attacker chooses the time and place to his advantage. That there is collusion between the Pakistan Army and the terrorists is as obvious as day and night because the terrorists cannot infiltrate through Pakistani lines without the Pakistani troops knowledge and collusion.

Static defence syndrome

It appears that the Indian Army is suffering from what is known as the ‘static defence syndrome’ which is complacency induced by  the presence of static defences be it ditch-cum-bund or barbed wire fence or, as in the Maginot Line in France of metalized battlements serviced by underground passages and narrow-guage railway lines to facilitate transport of weapons and ammunition.

There is a basic flaw in the barbed wire fence system since it was erected in the 90s  around cantonment areas in Jammu and Kashmir. At that time, at a cost of Rs 750 crore the Army set up such fences with embellishment at the top with empty bottles and cans just as used to be done to sound an early warning of the presence of someone at the fence during World War II .

Knowing that everything depended on that early warning sounded by the clangour of the tin cans and bottles sentries would attune them to the slightest sound even when taking forty winks on a dreary job. Not any more. Events along the Line of Control recently show that Indian troops were fast asleep when they were attacked and five soldiers killed. This was not even an ambush.

Many years before the recent Samba incident where a group of terrorists shot their way into a camp of the Cavalry regiment and killed the second-in-command and tanks had to be used to liquidate them, something similar had happened and Indian troops had to use rocket launchers to destroy their own barracks to get at the enemy.

It is obvious that the Pakistanis have studied the fence and have developed ways of breaching it to allow not just infiltration but also extrication with dead bodies and weapons. It seems that the fence is not electrified in a manner that would ring an alarm bell if there is a break or cut at any point. This should be basic to any barbed wire fence set up against an enemy like Pakistan.

Using military dogs

Another element of active defence that STRATEGIC AFFAIRS has advocated over the years is an adequate number of military dogs. A military manual prepared by the Army in the 50s extols the virtues of sight and smell of dogs.

Unfortunately, the Army itself has been extremely tardy in deploying sufficient number of dogs in both defence and offence. That there were no dogs available when the Pakistanis cut off the head of an Indian soldier is very obvious as also in Karen and Samba. A dog would have done better where tanks had to be used. Clearly, the Cavalry regiment was remiss in its standard operating procedures in not having an adequate number of armed sentries when the tanks are bivouacked and under maintenance drill.

The Army itself needs to review the manner in which it deploys dogs. The one-dog, one-handler is an outdated and cumbersome procedure. The dogs should be deployed in packs of at least two (as the Army has done by introducing the “buddy system” where two soldiers operate as a team).

In keeping the long stretches of the barbed wire fence where the patrolling is made difficult because of dense forest and foliage, the sight and smell of a dog is an added advantage even for a soldier equipped with night vision devices. The dogs should be free-ranging instead of on a leash so that they can give chase immediately they detect an intruder.

Commands by the handler should be verbal or through a range of whistles indicating a particular action. It requires a high degree of training of both man and animal but the end result can be very gratifying.

Finally, and this is a danger where very little attention is being paid even while the general drift of Pakistani ceasefire violations point to a larger game plan. One sure way of surprising Indian defenders is by digging tunnels as the Taliban did to rescue their comrades from a prison in Kandahar.

India discovered one such tunnel by sheer chance (only because the tunnel collapsed revealing a gaping hole) in the Punjab sector. There will be more, and scientific methods like those being employed by the Archeological Survey of India and the Geological Survey of India to look for gold in UP need to be deployed to ensure failsafe national security and perimeter defence.