BY RSN SINGH
Was the attack in Keran Sector initiated by Pakistan to garner international attention on Kashmir during the recent UN General Assembly meeting? Was the Indian Army compelled to call this attack an infiltration attempt so as not to derail talks between Manmohan Singh and Nawaz Sharif? Is the Indian Army’s operational freedom being circumscribed for diplomatic and political reasons?
Any Commander, who suggests a time frame which goes beyond a day in defeating infiltration by 30-40 infiltrators would otherwise be ridiculed and chastised for being preposterous and irresolute in any professional forum. Fundamentally, what has evoked this incredulity amongst military professionals is that the operations against infiltrators on the LoC in Keran sector are now into the 14th day.
If just 30-40 infiltrators can tie-down the Indian Army for two weeks then it puts a big question-mark on the nation’s resolve to secure India and certainly shrivels the confidence of the citizens.
Attack, not infiltration
There is absolutely no doubt that the Indian Army will restore the situation at whatever cost. The concern, however, is the untruth being bandied about the nature of attack by Pakistan. In his interaction with the media, the Army Chief said that there was prior intelligence about the infiltration bid and appropriate actions have been taken. It is therefore intriguing that why have the operations taken so long. Infiltration once detected is defeated as the infiltrators will preserve themselves for another opportune time or day.
On the very first day, i.e. 23 September 2013 of the so-called infiltration attempt, it was reported that 12 infiltrators had been killed. Their dead bodies have so far not been recovered. About a week later, this author received message from a very reliable source that Pakistani militants/army had occupied two villages. Having served in that area, I treated this message as exaggerated and with the contempt it deserved. I also elicited the views of some retired Generals, who at various times were operationally responsible in that sector. They too dismissed it outright rather in the tenor of rebuke.
A few days later, sans the capture of ‘two villages’ bit, the information seemed to be partially right, as the situation had not abated. The Corps Commander addressed the media to assuage apprehensions regarding any loss of territory to the enemy. He did admit that the fight was on and the situation would be overcome. This was on the 12th day following the ‘infiltration attempt’!
It became very obvious that the so-called infiltrators had entrenched themselves. It was also revealed that they were being provided covering fire. The very fact that these infiltrators have taken defensive positions and continue to fight betrays the involvement of Pakistan Army. No infiltrating body of irregulars or regulars can sustain for so long without a logistics supply line. Infiltrators are generally lightly equipped, and at best carry small arms, limited ammunition and grenades. Thus they pose small challenge, even if in their foolhardiness they decide to fight a defensive battle on the ground of their choosing. As per conventional wisdom in the army, such operations against a platoon size force should not take more than few hours. Reports of reinforcements and use of Special Forces further debunk the infiltration theory.
All indicators and reports therefore conclusively prove that the enemy action in the Keran Sector was not an infiltration bid, but a calibrated and selective attack by Pakistan, probably to bolster Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda at the UN.
Operations: Hostage to diplomacy
The enormity of the situation began to unravel only when the Prime Minister was on his way back from New York. It is impossible that the Prime Minister was not apprised of it while he was in the US. Significantly, his delegation also comprised the National Security Advisor, Shiv Shankar Menon.
The attack in the Keran Sector from across the LoC was in coordination with the attack on the armoured unit in Samba, in close proximity to the International Border. While the latter terrorist attack was widely publicized, the attack across the LoC was down-played as infiltration attempt. Talks with Nawaz Sharif took primacy above the security of the country. Was it on the volition of the Prime Minister or was he prodded by other international quarters? The same question continues to exercise the feelings of the Indians regarding the outrageous position of India vis-à-vis Balochistan at Sharm-el-Sheikh in 2009. This sell out was at a time when the Indian blood spilled in 26/11 had not even dried. In one stroke, the Prime Minister had made India into a perpetrator of terror rather than its victim.
The series of terrorist attacks across India emanating from Pakistan should have incrementally led to ‘zero tolerance’. Instead, the entire government machinery presided over by the Prime Minister has been engaged to inure Indians to treat terror as ‘routine’. It has done this by politicizing terror. Resolute and patriotic officials in states are being hunted through some unsavory and notorious central agencies. Some unabashed leaders close to the establishment labelled 26/11 as an act of so-called ‘Hindu Terror’. This very year in April, there were blasts in Boston in the US in which three persons were killed. In the same period, there were blasts in near the BJP office in Bengaluru, 16 persons including 8 policemen were injured. Leaders of the establishment tried their best to give the Bengaluru blast a political colour. The Prime Minister conveyed his deep felt condolence to President Obama on the Boston blast, but the casualties in Bengaluru in his consideration did not deserve such gesture. One did not expect such abominable politics from a selected prime minister. The perpetrators of Bengaluru blast have been finally identified and belong to the Islamic Liberation Force.
2611: The tipping point
In the Pakistani establishment, prior to 2611, there was some trepidation of possible retaliation by India to terrorist attacks emanating from its soil. There is a perceptible attitudinal and behavioral change now. Personal experience and interactions with the large number of security personnel in the army, the police and the intelligence agencies, unambiguously substantiate that the tipping point was 2611 beyond which Pakistan began to view Indian security establishment with disdain. The disdain and nonchalance is apparent on the borders, in the aftermath of terrorist strikes, as well as television debates. The sneer and brazenness of Pakistani participants in such debates conducted after every terrorist attack is unmistakable and borders on slur.
One Pakistani retired Admiral invariably mocks at the Indian participants by saying that If India is convinced about Pakistan’s involvement in terrorist attacks, why it does not do something. He could not be more correct. He is also unapologetic in suggesting that if India is convinced about state sponsored terrorism from Pakistan, it should severe all relations. Where does the retired Admiral, also a former diplomat draw his confidence from. His confidence probably flows out from his conviction that there is the US factor which is decisive in deciding the broad contours of India –Pak relations. It is also intriguing as to how the Indian television channels seek out these participants in Pakistan. Are they brought as a part of some fixed match to dilute India’s resolve in fighting terrorism?
Pakistan’s journey from trepidation to disdain becomes increasingly pronounced with the arrival of 2014, the year of drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan and China’s strategic territorial embrace of Pakistan by way of economic corridor. India did not gain for its unstinted support to the US in fight against terrorism. Even when US led coalition was at the climax of ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, India’s parliament was attacked leading to ‘Operation Parakaram’. Even as the hunt for Osama bin Laden was on, Hafiz Saeed unfolded 26/11, all with the key collusion of David Headley, the CIA operative. Our inaction rather strategic paralysis after 26/11 has rendered the country weak and vulnerable to Pakistan and other neighbours. The paralysis inflicted by China by incursion in the DBO sector has only compounded the vulnerability. Consequently Indian influence in the region is rapidly shrinking.
Undermining security apparatus
Mysteriously, the Indian establishment has not only willfully conceded much diplomatic space to Pakistan but also consciously undermined the security apparatus after 26/11. Most security agencies have been targeted. The IB, the ATS and the police of some states, the Army and the Air Force have never been targeted the manner in which it is being done now. Elements in IB and the Army have been put under the scanner for carrying out counter-terror dutifully. Individuals serving in the IB and Military Intelligence are being hounded so as to drive fear among other security officials. In effect, a deleterious message has been conveyed that intelligence personnel should not infiltrate into terrorist organizations and terrorists should not be killed. Terrorists’ network are not to be busted and the complicity of certain mainstream politicians is not to be unraveled and that is why the inquiry on Technical Support Division, the continued incarceration of Col Purohit and harassment of the senior IB officer Rajendra Kumar. It is therefore not at all surprising that terrorists have escaped or made to escape from Mumbai Court and Khandwa Jail in Madhya Pradesh. That these escapes coincide with Home Minister’s communication to give preferential treatment to members of one community under investigation for acts of terror, could be purely incidental!
There appears to be some vested interests or inimical forces orchestrating the ascendance of Pakistan and downgrading of India. Never in the history of India have so many leaks of top secret documents of vital security concerns taken place. In the US and many other democracies, one such leak can claim the head of the President or the Prime Minister. The exultation of the politicians in the ruling dispensation over such leaks smacks of connivance. The Prime Minister may be reminded that the man (James Reston) to whom Henry Kissinger leaked White House secrets had remarked “the ship of state is the only known vessel that leaks from the top” (read Blights of the General by R Prasanan in The Week, October 6, 2013).
The US factor
Without the notion of ascendency, Nawaz Shariff could not have been brazen enough to allegedly make the ‘dehati aurat’ remark. This remark also signifies the servant-master relationship between India and US in the Pakistani perception.
Readers must reflect on the time trajectory since which Pakistan’s audacity and brazenness, diplomatically and militarily, has been on the rise. They must also reflect on the US factor, a factor which Pakistan strategically is more adept in dealing with. For India ,the US presence in Af-Pak region has never been a restraining factor on state sponsored terrorism by Pakistan. Pakistan’s brazenness was in fact discernible after forging of US-India strategic partnership, especially after the initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom. This partnership hardly bothered Pakistan. On the contrary Pakistan was convinced about its geo-strategic indispensability for the US and was thus assured that it could ratchet terror against India with impunity under the shadow of US presence. The Indo-US strategic partnership necessitated re-configuring of operational parameters of India’s intelligence and security agencies to cater to the US geopolitical exigencies in the region. A ‘Zero Terror’ Indian policy against Pakistan does not serve US interests because of its imperatives in Afghanistan.
Significantly, this Indo-US strategic partnership in defence, security and nuclear spheres engendered a major shift in India’s pattern of sourcing arms. The sheer magnitude of arms market running into hundreds of billion dollars allures predators which begin to manipulate institutions in the buyer country. It is this shift in sourcing that the terminology ‘succession plan’, a sure invitation to attempted subversion, came into vogue in the Indian Army. It is probably this shift that is responsible for the ignominy of the former Air Chief in VVIP Helicopter deal while the other major recipients continue to be politically blackmailed into silence and for future indulgence.
The much touted convergence of geo-strategic and geo-economics interest between India and US has brought no benefit to India. Rather American geopolitical interests in the region have restricted Indian options in dealing with Pakistan sponsored terrorism. The politicization and debilitation of the Indian security agencies appears to be devised by external powers through their agents within.
The Pakistani dispensation is only too aware of the US geopolitical script in the region and its own perceived indispensability. It has John Kerry’s and China to fall back upon. Pakistan knows that the current Indian dispensation is too beholden to the US and too mindful of China to retaliate to attacks terrorist or otherwise in any substantial manner. It is this knowledge that makes Pakistan court Hafiz Saeed and his likes brazenly and lavishly. It is this knowledge that makes them disdainful and dismissive of India’s military prowess.
(RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research & Analysis Wing. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also a Guest Blogger with Canary Trap)