Category Archives: Indian Army

Modi breaks the backbone of terror deep inside Pakistan

Modi breaks the backbone of terror deep inside Pakistan

The Indian Air Force (IAF) strike in the early hours of 26th February 2019 on terror training bases deep inside Pakistan that killed over 350 terrorists has made us all speechless.

It has certainly made the Pakistanis speechless because not even in their wildest dreams did they imagine India would attempt this. The continuous stream of rattled mumblings – from the official spokesperson and their defense minister- all point to a stunned and confused Pakistani establishment.

For almost three decades now, they have been bluffing the world about their nuclear capabilities and by inference, held out a nuclear blackmail on India. The IAF just shattered this self-created glass firewall that Pakistan was touting as an unbreachable threshold. That blackmail is in tatters in the cratered remains of Balakot in Mansera district in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province of Pakistan.

For most Indians, the IAF precision strike executed with flawless perfection was too real to even comprehend initially. Like the Pakistanis, they too were expecting the Indian armed forces to conduct a surgical strike where a small special forces team would embark on a stealth mission to neutralize the terrorists. But the air strike was a different ball game altogether. No one expected the scale and dramatic results that looked too easy and perfect. But that betrayed the power and sophistication of a deadly air force that is arguably one of the best in the world.

Even as media reports flooded in with all the exhilarating details, some larger issues embedded in the air strike are worth noting.

It is not that India’s armed forces suddenly turned pro. The fact is that they were always a potent force to recon with, even before India got its Independence from Britain in 1947. No one doubted its capabilities. The fact that they have armed themselves to the teeth over the last decade only adds sheen to the valor and dignity of the forces.

As many have already pointed out, the deployment of the air force for the first time to neutralize terror camps deep inside Pakistan is a welcome change in the mindset of the mandarins in Delhi. Simultaneously, and more importantly, India seems to have called the nuclear bluff of Pakistan.

In many ways, India has de facto expounded a new doctrine in taking on cross border terrorism set against a nuclear blackmail. This will be hotly discussed and reviewed by military institutes the world over for some time to come.

More importantly, it has opened a window into the mind of Narendra Modi, a Prime Minister, the like of which India has not seen in seven decades. If anyone would have followed his speeches – even before he was elected to the high office in India – it would have been evident that he was determined to corral and defang Pakistan from day one. Hence it would indeed be juvenile to see the air strike as just a fallout and response to the killing of 40 soldiers in Pulwama on 14th of February 2019.

India’s armed forces have long warned the political leadership that it should adopt a punitive and proactive military strategy against Pakistan. But time and again this advice had fallen on the deaf ears, resulting in the deaths of thousands in the last two decades.

For decades the political leadership did not dare to confront the neighbor’s use of terror as a state policy head on. This pusillanimity in effect reduced the armed forces to being just a beat cop chasing the terrorists. In retrospect, India had voluntarily succumbed to the blackmail even without putting up a fight.

But Modi changed all this. In a very deliberate and studied evolution, he appears to have worked very hard, quietly and off the radar to evolve a strategy that will neuter Pakistan, and in effect also clear the biggest stumbling block in India’s road to rapid development.

Given Modi’s thoroughness and penchant for perfect execution, he must have indeed been at work for a very long time. He needed to have the right logistics in place so the right preparation can meet the right opportunity. From arming the forces with best he can get to the top in class satellite systems to keep a hawk’s eye on Pakistan, the task seemed to be done. He was only waiting for the right opportunity. The surgical strike carried out in September 2016 was but his first laboratory tests of the doctrine he had put together in his mind.

But then more needed to be done to prime the forces and logistics. The Armed forces must have been busy planning and exercising on the operational plans since then. The killing of the 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans provided the right opportunity for India. Diplomatically, the killing provided the right narrative to take on Pakistan.

The mission, for its sheer daredevilry and perfection in penetrating the defenses of a nuclear power and obliterating over 350 terrorists gives one the goosebumps. The ease with which the IAF befuddled the enemy’s radars and air defense systems to deploy a formation of at least 12 fighter jets to carry out its deadly mission and safely return to base in just 21 minutes will be discussed endlessly by military strategists all over the world.

But then, one must realize that an extremely capable force worked in perfect unison with Modi the strategist par excellence, who was willing to take risks to wipe out terror from South Asia. It certainly appears that India has broken its backbone, although the vestiges may linger on for more time to come.

This operation indeed is a cause for celebration for every Indian. It is indeed the beginning of the unraveling of a rouge nation that has with gay abandon used terror as a state policy. For Pakistan, the writing on the wall is clear. It will face more audacious strikes from India in the coming days. It is difficult to see how Pakistan as a country, in its current geographical bounds will last beyond a few years at best.

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Posted by on March 1, 2019 in Indian Army


India Changes Tack in Dealing with China

India Changes Tack in Dealing with China

Relations between India and China can best be described as tenuous, beset with mutual suspicion and distrust. A quick review of the relations between the two countries over the last six decades or so shows that India had been contending with an ever-increasing trajectory of belligerence and threats to its economic interests and territorial integrity. China has always perceived India as a potential competitor and a threat. Hence it has used every trick in the book to erect roadblocks in India’s path either directly or indirectly through its proxies.

India has long been aware of China’s support to Pakistan – from building nuclear weapons to tacit encouragement of terrorism against it. Its intelligence agencies have also long been aware of Chinese involvement inside India – from funding communists to maintaining a bevy of friendly journalists on its payroll to promote its point of view. But that is par for the course in today’s pernicious international ecosystem and India has no reason to complain but rather realign its own strategic policy responses that safeguard its interests.

Of course, there have definitely been several individual instances of India standing up to China – in military responses to border incidents prior to Dokhlam (2017) or while negotiating border disputes. But overall, it conspicuously lacked the sting to deter China. That would explain the condescending attitude and a second class treatment towards India.

This has largely been attributed to the fact that India for over three decades had coalition governments that were by definition weak. Hence in international affairs, more so with regards to its neighbors, India continued to punch below its weight. But that explanation is not convincing, given that many countries with far more unstable governments have stood up to their aggressive neighbors.

All that seem to have slowly but surely changed under Prime Minister Modi. After an initial but short-lived honeymoon with both Pakistan and China, India has displayed a nuanced ratcheting up of assertiveness. There are ample pieces of evidence that point in this direction. This piece will highlight three recent reports that have attracted immense interest that attest to India’s emerging assertiveness.

Firstly, the political crisis in Maldives brought the navies of India and China to a near confrontation in the Indian Ocean. In what is seen as blatant gunboat diplomacy, China had dispatched a flotilla of several vessels (some reports have said eleven) including missile destroyers to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). But the Indian Navy threatened action and fired warning shots that stopped the flotilla and forced the Chinese Navy (PLAN) to retreat. (Nikkei Asian Review 3/23/2018)

Secondly, India has beefed up its military along the Chinese border in the north from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh in the north east (Times of India 3/31/2018). Not only has the density of troops been increased in these sectors, but also a comprehensive upgrade in defense infrastructure is evident – roads, bridges, advanced landing ground (ALG), military hospitals, etc.

Thirdly, in an apparent reversal of its earlier stand and much to the annoyance of the Chinese, a government minister and a senior BJP functionary attended the 60th anniversary of Dalai Lama’s arrival in India (Economic Times 3/31/2018).

These diplomatic incidents or updates to its statecraft, if you will, should be seen as outcomes of an inner overhaul of the operating guidelines for handling China under the Modi dispensation. Clearly a confident India has come up with its own answers to the management of a pernicious neighborhood. India is now seen as able and willing to match the belligerence from Beijing in equal measure.

It must be noted in this context that China’s rise as a global power has been punctuated by bulldozing   civil societies, grabbing others territories, defying judgements of the International court of Justice (ICJ) among others. In the same breadth it has diabolically quoted historical treaties and international law to justify its land grab frustrating many of its neighbors. Unlike India, its rise has hardly been peaceful.

With several countries bristling against China – Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, India, and Japan and of course the US, the writing on the wall is self-evident. China’s belligerence and open defiance of international law – as demonstrated in the case of the South China Sea dispute – is the raison d’etre for the formation of a loose coalition-of-the-aggrieved against it. If China continues to pursue its current course, this loose coalition could solidify into a formidable alliance that would only bode ill and spell disaster for China even in the span of a decade.

For a dictatorial and authoritarian state, where hundreds of millions of people continue to be denied basic civil liberties, the domestic situation in China is indeed fragile at best. For any nation this is a veritable internal time bomb. Any misstep or social crises like the “Arab Spring Uprising” could be irretrievable and have disastrous consequences for that country.

China’s troubles are not limited to its immediate neighborhood. As China and the US are continue to  engage` in a war of words and slapping sanctions and counter sanctions at each other, it is difficult to read the tea leaves to determine if an early rapprochement is in the horizon. But whatever be the outcome of this incipient trade war, it does provide India a window of opportunity to expand and deepen its relations with likeminded countries that perforce have to counter and stand up to China.

The regular military exercises by India’s armed forces with their counterparts in other friendly countries designed to expand its influence appear to be paying dividend. Inviting the ten heads of states from ASEAN to Delhi for Republic Day celebrations in January 2018 is another initiative designed to contain China. Although it is anybody’s guess as to how ASEAN nations will reciprocate, India has made the right moves.

In hindsight, India’s refusal to back down in heights of Dohklam in 2017 is indeed an inflection point. The rout of 1962 or the sense of inferiority perceived by the Indian political establishment vis-a-vis China are now buried in history. For now, India seems to be energized and arming itself to its teeth and flexing its muscles.

However, there will be more Dokhlam type “salami slicing” situations for India to encounter – be it in the heights of the Himalayas or the depths of the Indian Ocean – but the response will be unprecedented and definitely not to China’s liking.


Post Dokhlam Roadmap for India

Post Dokhlam Roadmap for India

In an earlier piece the reasons for India’s firm stand on the Dokhlam standoff were explored. It must be acknowledged that this misadventure by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has created an atmosphere of suspicion and enormous distrust between China and India. The million dollar question that lingers on is the impact of the standoff on the complete spectrum of ties between two as well as other countries in Southeast Asia. The potential diplomatic as well as economic fallout will be watched closely.

Firstly, the diplomatic fallout. There is no doubt that the élan and sophistication displayed by the Government of India in the handling of the standoff has yielded a big diplomatic dividend for India, not seen in decades. It must be stressed that this windfall is short-lived and India must strain every bit of its political and professional foreign policy expertise to consolidate this into concrete long term benefits. A business as usual or a fatalistic approach would certainly fritter away the gains.

The US and Japan definitely see India as the wronged party in the dispute and have commended it on its refusal to buckle under PLA pressure. India must cash in on this new respect it has gained from these two key nations and recast its foreign policy doctrines and take a fresh look at military and strategic alliances.

Soon after the standoff, the second trilateral meeting between US, India and Japan issued a statement on September 19th 2017, reiterating their resolve to keep “the free flow of lawful commerce in the region and around the globe, including the South China Sea”. India must use this anti-China posturing of this group to its favor and garner wider support of friendly powers against an expansionist China.

Further, the trilateral meet in an apparent reference to China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) and China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), called for respecting “international norms and sovereignty and territorial integrity on connectivity initiatives”. This again is in India’s favor given that the bulk of the CPEC runs through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), which is a disputed territory. India must prepare an action plan to counter CPEC and brief world capitals to gain their support for India’s position.

India’s foreign policy establishment must also labor to translate this windfall into powerful levers for negotiation at the decades-old border / Line of Actual Control (LAC) talks with China. India must negotiate from a position of renewed strength and extract the most in its favor, at least in the Dokhlam sector.

The annual naval exercise MALABAR could be expanded to include new members or a conduct a new set of similar naval exercises with participation from more countries. India should specifically invite ASEAN members to join the exercises. This will enhance the reach of India’s blue water navy by providing greater global operability, reach and enhanced maritime expeditionary capabilities. Most importantly it will get India the concurrence of Southeast Asian countries in building a powerful deterrence against China.

The US, long aware of the prowess of the Indian military, has been actively persuading the political leadership to espouse a more pro-active policy that involves sending Indian troops on combat missions outside India. It will not be a surprise if India reviews its current stand on sending its troops to join other countries in combat roles.

Post Dokhlam, Indian troops may be fighting alongside other friendly powers, particularly the USA in Afghanistan. If India agrees, then it could not only help restore order in that war torn country, but also help keep watch on Chinese and Pakistani forces in POK along the CPEC. This will also open up a new dimension in India’s counter terror operations by monitoring the western and northern borders of Pakistan.

The Dokhlam standoff has left its ugly scars on bilateral trade between the two countries. India and China, over the years, have built a huge trade relationship.  Currently India has   running deficit of over $60 billion. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar recently attributed this ‘alarming’ trade deficit to restrictions on trade and market access in China for Indian companies.

Similar complaints have been heard from the US and other large economies.  China has a mammoth trade relationship with the US – with the latter holding a huge deficit of nearly $350 billion (2016). Recently, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer called China an “unprecedented threat to the world trading system”. So the US will definitely be empathetic to India’s travails against dumping of Chinese goods.

The standoff in Bhutan has only incentivized India to openly join hands with the US and Japan to seek punitive corrections and protectionists relief against China. It will be no surprise to see India use this as a powerful instrument of its trade & economic diplomacy against China.

It must be mentioned that these diplomatic and trade offensives by themselves may not help India stop Chinese intrusion into its territory or stop dumping of cheap Chinese goods. But they will certainly ensure that it is not business as usual for the Chinese or the PLA.  India must strive to build a “loose coalition” that will help in the UN or impose economic sanctions against a self-acclaimed world power.

However, India must understand that it has to fight its battle by itself. It cannot count on other countries to fight by its side, notwithstanding the rhetoric we hear today. From that perspective, India must continue to pack power into its military since the world – and China in particular – only respects military power. History shows that authoritarian states behave themselves when the adversary is equally strong.  The recent conciliatory stand by China, no doubt shows that it is respectful of Indian military might.

But this is not to say that every intrusion or challenge should be resolved by the military. There is a time and place for military operations, so too for diplomacy and negotiations in international affairs.

In balance however, it would be prudent to choose diplomacy and negotiated settlements over military solutions. This is well understood by the PM Modi and President Xi Jinping. Hence reaching out to China and charting a course of mutual growth and prosperity would be the common sense yet pragmatic approach. This is precisely what India had pursued, albeit with the backing of the iron fist of its military.

If China chooses to accept India’s friendly gestures, it will be the dawn of a new era. But whatever measures the two countries take to rebuild bilateral relations, the scar of Doklam will remain for a long time to come. It is now incumbent on China, not India, to rebuild its trust and reputation that lay in tatters in the heights of Dokhlam in Bhutan.

Indians will remember the Dokhlam stand off for a long time to come.

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Posted by on September 25, 2017 in China, Economics, India, Indian Army, Modi


Dokhlam – India stands up to China

Dokhlam – India stands up to China

India’s tough stand comes from a confident military

The Dokhlam standoff between China and India in the remote mountain heights of Bhutan had been under media attention for several weeks. It threatened to escalate into a full scale war between the two Asian giants

The dispute was triggered by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chinese army personnel who moved into Bhutanese territory to build a road on a thin slice of land which forms a tri junction between China, Bhutan and India. The road that the Chinese were attempting to build for movement of their armed forces was well inside Bhutan. India wasted no time and moved its forces into the area and stopped the Chinese on their track and refused to back down. By virtue of a decades old friendship treaty, India is obliged to protect the safety and integrity of the Bhutanese state. Hence the Indian military intervention in Bhutan.

For India, this encroachment was mortally close to the Siliguri Corridor or “Chicken’s Neck” – a 30 KM wide tract of Indian land that connects the north eastern states with mainland India. India had pretty much no option other than stop the Chinese from coming anywhere near the chicken’s neck. Hence it stood its ground, irrespective of the consequences.

The standoff lasted over two months and gave the world a unique perspective into the power play between the two countries. From the start, China took to an offensive media strategy, obfuscating the real issue of “salami slicing”– illegal grabbing of neighboring country’s land – and hoping India would be pressured to withdrawing its objections. The shrill language and open threats of war with India – something unprecedented in its crassness and lack of diplomatic finesse – stood out and stunned observers and diplomatic circles in world capitals.

India’s response on the other hand– as seen by the External Affairs Minister’s statement in Parliament – was well calibrated and dignified and stressed on diplomatic resolution of the standoff while simultaneously refusing to withdraw.

China had insisted on India’s unilaterally withdrawal to resolve the standoff. However, when the disengagement was officially announced, both countries had agreed to withdraw simultaneously, albeit 150 meters from the disputed area and on the same day. Most importantly, India had its way and had stopped China’s road building activity. A tame retreat by China, after all the bullying, huffing and puffing.

Whichever way the standoff is looked at, India seems to have the upper hand. For China, on the other hand, it has proved to be a major diplomatic and military embarrassment. Most importantly, it has spawned a reassessment by its other neighbors with whom there are current border disputes. For example, since the Dokhlam standoff, Indonesia has now openly challenged China on the South China Sea dispute.

The Dokhlam standoff has important consequences that will determine the future course of relations between the two countries. It will also greatly influence India’s relations with other nations that are wary of China, for India is the first power in recent times to standup to China’s bullying.  Thirdly, the standoff will be a new benchmark for negotiations on bilateral relations and border dispute, given that now India has an upper hand and has demonstrated it is politically willing and capable of considering the use of its military, if needed, to resolve border issues.

The reasons for India standings its ground against China are worth examining. Detailed review and analysis of the nearly 72 days eye-ball to eye-ball confrontation is indeed revealing. Three important tracks – military, diplomatic and economic – worked 24/7 to stitch together the disengagement agreement.

Unlike the Chinese media bluster and rude foreign ministry press briefings, India’s responses were mostly below the radar and off press, yet dignified.  India worked its diplomatic offensive by quietly briefing key world capitals and in return sought their support. Japan’s decision to openly support India was a big win for India, as the efforts of three years of hard diplomacy was paying dividends now. India even hinted economic sanctions – something that terrified the Chinese. Notably, permissions were denied for Chinese investments in Pharma sector.

While all these measures helped, it must be reiterated that it was the confidant Indian military that gave the political leadership the strength and guts to call China’s bluff. Sadly, the Indian and international press seemed to have ignored it.

It is well known that India has been ramping up its military capabilities over the last decade or so. But the pace has accelerated after PM Modi took office. The northern borders have received a fair share of the new investments in military assets. The refurbished Indian military is now light years ahead and among the top fighting forces in the world.

Secondly, given the vulnerability of the Siliguri Corridor, India has long shored up its military and strategic assets in the area and is well entrenched. Countless exercises conducted over the years have kept the forces on their toes to expect the unexpected. So this border intrusion was by no means a surprise to the Indian Army which was well equipped and exercised to take on the adversary.

Thirdly, at the tactical level, the terrain in the Dokhlam valley itself was not in favor of the Chinese. The Indian Army, occupying the heights, had unhindered view of more than 30 KM into the valley into China. Any troop movement would not only be devoid of the surprise element, but also be an easy target of the Indian army.

Fourthly, India quietly and swiftly put its troops on operational alert all along the northern border. It moved its C-130 J Super Hercules strategic aircrafts to bolster its existing strategic fleet based at the Air Force Station in Panagarh, northwest of Kolkata. This put the 17 Strike Corps as well as high altitude acclimatized divisions (59 Division) in readiness and within few minutes of flying from the standoff scene.

Militarily, it was sending unmistakable signals to China that it was no easy push over and that unlike 1962, it would have no hesitation in using its Air Force and other strategic assets if the circumstances warranted. Politically, this was a clear departure and demonstrated a new assertiveness that would brook no threat to the country’s integrity.

For India, the Dokhlam standoff has ended on a high note, but the problem of “salami slicing” by the PLA elsewhere is an ever present threat.  It would be foolhardy for India to let its guard down and drown itself in self-glory. For the PLA to venture into Dokhlam is nothing short of a glaring miscalculation and sheer stupidity. Round one to India.

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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in China, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Army


India’s Surgical Strike – Calling Pakistan’s nuclear bluff


A lot has been written about the surgical strike carried out by the Indian army deep inside Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK) on September 29th. Media reports have indicated that India is likely to share more details of this daring operation. But first things first. India needs to be congratulated on the planning, flawless execution, post-strike information and media management of a surgical strike that changed everything about India forever. It was a retribution for the attack on the Indian Army Brigade Headquarters at Uri in which 19 soldiers were killed. It was a punishment that a resurgent India handed out that Pakistan will not forget for a long time to come. Experts believe the strikes are only a preface to more such operations that India will impose on Pakistan.

Concern has been raised in the media about Pakistani response. There are justified apprehensions about possible tactical nuclear strikes. While nothing can be taken for granted, there are reasonable grounds to believe that a possible retaliatory nuclear strike would have been factored into India’s strategic calculations. India’s readiness to respond would be a given.

How Pakistan reacts, and suffers the consequences of its response will be seen in the coming days. For now, they clearly seem to have been severely whipped. It has also left the door wide open for future cross border strikes by India.

A central piece to this episode is the message it has delivered. The optics of the strike itself have unambiguously broadcast India’s larger strategic intent to the world – Pakistan in particular and through it, China.

Some analysts have expressed the view that India has turned a new leaf only after the dastardly attack in Uri. A closer observation of available pointers paints a different picture. In fact, the writings were on the wall soon after Prime Minister Modi took office. Many may not even recall that Modi’s first visit outside Delhi in June 2014 was to the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. He also spent Diwali with the Indian troops in the rarefied heights of Siachen Glacier.

Modi’s top priority was to focus on India’s military strengths and vulnerabilities that play a pivotal role in his grand vision to transform India, particularly the economic transformation. As the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he became painfully aware that any such vision would be susceptible to terror campaigns from across the border.

It was no surprise then that Modi upped defense spending making India the world’s largest defense buyer. The massive arms purchases have yielded important diplomatic dividends – a huge leverage with major powers that came in handy in pursuing India’s regional and global strategic agenda. The recent US smack down of Pakistan, for voicing a nuclear threat against India was no accident. It was a well-deserved end result of two and a half years of dogged diplomacy.

In retrospect, the twin focus – building military competence and refurbishing diplomatic ties with key nations and international institutions – was a deeply thought out strategy that became a keystone to Modi’s pet initiatives.

Many only see Modi’s focus on rapid economic growth and miss the underlying twin focus. But a sufficient and necessary condition for India’s economic transformation is military might and relief from cross border terror.

While the painstaking preparations were afoot over two and a half years, the killing of Indian soldiers on Myanmar border in the east created an opportunity for India to test its new doctrine. The much acclaimed ‘defensive offense’ mandated a new normal involving hot pursuits and strikes on foreign soil. But Pakistan failed to see the writing on the wall and continued to live in a la-la land of bogus nuclear deterrence. They even mocked India retorting that “Pakistan was no Myanmar”.

The Uri attack provided a perfect opportunity for India to execute an already fine-tuned and tested doctrine on its western front. It was ripe and ready for whipping Pakistan and calling its nuclear bluff. However, it has to be mentioned that the Uri brigade camp had shown surprising incompetence in allowing the attack – given that post-Pathankot, there was sufficient intelligence to up the vigil.

On another front, India’s self-imposed taboo on mentioning Balochistan, POK, Gilgit, Pashtun etc. together with the lobby of peaceniks, Aman ki Asha types, et al had succeeded in holding back the country. But Modi’s Independence Day speech on August 15th this year actually broke this shackle. It succeeded in opening the flood gates of discontent in the local population in those areas, encouraging them to rise against an oppressive state. It has provided India a new set of levers against Pakistan.

The optics of the surgical strike referred to earlier, as well as the Independence Day speech, have helped launch the country into a new international orbit. This molting of India has provided three key visuals for Pakistan, China and the West, in that order.

First, India has called Pakistan’s nuclear bluff. Any future terror attacks on the country will invite retribution that will impose high costs on Pakistan. However, there is no guarantee that Pakistan will cease and desist its cross border terror. But there is no doubt that there will be a befitting retaliatory strike deep inside its territory.

Secondly, it had a powerful message for China. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) runs through territory over which India has legitimate claim. China is investing over US $46 billion in the project and has been concerned about the constant security threats from unrest in Balochistan and POK. By raising the Balochistan issue, India has successfully put a spoke in China’s wheel. It has raised serious doubts about the security and hence the very viability of the project. It is a warning for China not to fish in troubled waters. Again, it has opened new bargaining positions for India against China.

Striking deep into enemy or foreign territory is a capability that currently only the US and Israel are known to possess. The surgical strike into POK announced India’s entry into this elite club. India can execute hot pursuits or deep strikes in enemy territory to enforce its regional agenda and achieve strategic objectives.

India’s surgical strike shows a new and assertive paradigm where terror attacks will no longer be business as usual, notwithstanding Pakistan’s nuclear fig leaf. Burying the now dead self-imposed ‘strategic restraint’, India seems determined to act upon safeguard its strategic interests.


Pathankot -Quelling the terror from across the border

The recent attack on the air force base at Pathankot has come as a shocker. That the terrorists were neutralized before they could cause mayhem and destroy air force assets is no consolation. Fact remains that a strategic and offensive forward airbase was brought to its knees by handful of terrorists is a shame for India. pathankot

Prime Minister Modi spoke for millions of Indians when he repeatedly expressed surprise over how a small band of terrorists could even breach the security at a strategic forward air force base.

As if this was not enough, there was legitimate angst over rushing NSG forces from far away Delhi when more than sufficient battle ready army special forces units were on hand in Pathankot itself to neutralize the terrorists.

The attack only followed a familiar and predictable pattern. Every time India has reached out to Pakistan and an overly eager Indian leader visited Pakistan, the response has been a high profile attack on India.

All this have only raised doubts over India’s operational capabilities and spawned a sense of temporary disbelief in its ability to fight terror. The questions in minds of millions of Indians seems to be – Will we ever learn? Can we ever put an end to this cross border terror?

In one sense, the Pathankot attack has forced India once again to revamp its counter terror strategy and put in place new deterrents that will keep Pakistan at bay forever.

Economically, Pakistan is a basket case and has no hope in hell for several generations to come to provide for its hungry millions. Hence it has willingly become a front client state and an errand boy for western powers and other paymasters in their global strategic designs and power projections. More importantly, it has played the convenient role of a proxy to these powers in their covert operations.

Pakistan has been immensely rewarded for this –financially, militarily and politically by these powers. Most importantly they have turned a blind eye towards its terror strategies directed at India. It had also repeatedly earned the mileage with the West to admonish India periodically and pressured it to start talks with Pakistan.

But the unfolding strategic realignment in Middle East is an important development that India should carefully exploit. The lifting of sanctions on Iran and the Russian pounding of Saudi proxies in Syria have contributed to souring US-Saudi relations. Further the fall in oil prices and continued budgetary deficits have not only enervated Saudi Arabia but have reduced its ability to fund and reward its friends and allies including Pakistan.

It is important for India to note that the US has successfully sidestepped powerful diplomatic lobbies – Israel, Saudi Arabia and internal lobbies – and has negotiated a deal with Iran. This is a very significant, yet understated, strategic development with long term consequences that will definitely impact the world including India.

While only time can tell what US intentions are, many observers feel the Iranian deal is more to usher a ‘balance’ in the Middle East region. If a long term ally Saudi Arabia can be sidelined, Pakistan may not be far down in the list, given that it has far outlived its utility in helping the US war in Afghanistan. The lesson for India is that US can jettison decades long relationships to take care of its interests. In this context, President Obama’s pointed reference to terror camps in his last State of the Union address should be a source of serious concern for Pakistan.

India should step up its diplomatic offensive to exploit this “new balance”. India surely understands these ground realities and the broader context of the very survival of Pakistan as a sovereign state in the long term. For over six decades unfavorable headwinds had tied its hands in using its superior armed forces and punishing Pakistan for its wanton acts of terror. However, there may be a window of opportunity now for India as we see a broader strategic realignment of US foreign policy in Middle east.

But India has to step up rapidly and prepare the ground for a new strategy to counter terror. India’s new policy should strengthen three key pillars – economic sanctions, covert operations and revamping internal security apparatus to make it leak proof. Needless to say the operational efficiency of its multifarious forces and agencies have to be reviewed and stepped up.

Firstly, as mentioned the aforementioned strategic realignment provides new opportunity for India to impose a de facto regional economic sanctions regime against Pakistan. There cannot be trade with a neighbor that uses terror as a state policy. Period. India must fully and forcefully exercise its options to impose economic & trade sanctions.

Economic sanctions against Pakistan have never been taken seriously by India. On the other hand, the subcontinent is witness to churlish and even puerile efforts to grant a MFN trade status to Pakistan. India must take a clear and resolute stand that it does not support the economic revival of Pakistan. It is plain naiveté to support and foster an economy that ultimately seeks to wound India.

Economic sanctions cannot be administered if the required investment and infrastructure are not in place.India must invest money and relevant resources to build the infrastructure to administer and monitor such sanctions. Like the border fence this will be an invaluable investment and will be a forceful deterrent against terror from Pakistan.

India, which is a water starved country, has been more than generous in sharing the waters of its rivers in the Himalayas with Pakistan. Playing Cricket with India brings in huge financial benefits to Pakistan. India must stop playing cricket with Pakistan until every terror camp is closed. Water, trade, Bollywood films and cricket must be brought under the purview of economic sanctions.

The second pillar of the strategy is covert operations. There is no need to elaborate on what India should do. It has the wherewithal – resources and logistics to make this happen. The political leadership has to make this leap.

The third pillar of the policy is operational efficiency. Much has been already said about gearing up the security agencies. Post Pathankot, India is already working on this and needs no elaboration.

Pathankot attack may have been an embarrassment for India, but the evolving international political scenario provides the Modi administration a new window of opportunity to contain Pakistan. Defense Minister Parikkar has to be lauded for taking a forceful stand. Prime Minister Modi has to be given credit for building diplomatic relations with countries India can count on.

However, it is time the political leadership changed its mindset and gave the professionals the go ahead to quell the terror from across the border. In the interim, talks with Pakistan must continue, but no concessions should be given on anything.

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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in India, Indian Army, Indian Economy, Terrorism


Stand Up and Be Counted – The Indian Army Head Count Fiasco

Many have written and condemned the recent head count of Muslims in the Indian Army. Ostensibly, the government of India wanted to provide better/equal economic opportunities to the Muslims in India. To many, this was another low in appeasing the minority, aka vote-bank politics. Others saw this as another audacious attempt to violate and destroy a respected institution. But millions of Indians saw this as another attempt to undo India. The government finally had to call off the head count after facing unprecedented protests.

The Army, Navy and the Air Force in India are truly apolitical institutions. Unlike the civil and police services, they are highly respected for their professional excellence Not that the civil and police services are less capable – only their pathetic track record has shown them to be more pliable to the political masters than the armed forces. The controversy itself was not surprising because this is not the first time the Indian Army or any of the Services, for that matter, faced such actions. Several talented senior officers have been denied the top job because they were upright and would not allow themselves to be cowed down.

There is nothing wrong in seeking data on the number of Muslims and their job profiles in the Army. But in a country where Hindu-Muslim relations are at best sensitive, such a move was unwise. Coming in the wake of a host of measures that were playing to the minority gallery like declaring Aligarh Muslim University a minority institution, reservation for Muslims in Andhra Pradesh, etc, many saw this as the proverbial last straw. General J.J Singh, the Chief of the Army needs to be commended for his guts and will to stand up to a political leadership that was hell bent on creating divisions even in an institution that was admired and respected by all Indians. Generations of Indians will remember this act.

This fiasco in many ways was unique and unprecedented. Many, particularly the political class, are oblivious to the powerful undercurrents to this sad episode. Notice that the General was one of the first to speak out on the issue. He stuck to his guns even when the defense minister told the press that there was nothing wrong with the head count. Then there was this volley of protests from retired generals like Gen.Sinha, Gen. Raghavan, and Gen Kadiyan. Many ex-servicemen took to the streets to protest. This opened the flood gates and every opinion maker – big and small – raised his/her voice. It served as a powerful catalyst to mould public opinion. All over the country, people started expressing disgust. Also notice the absence of stone throwing or burning of buses and rasta-rokos.

In a free society the will of the people is respected. But in practice this rarely happens. Whose will? Power brokers and lobbies or select constituencies of political interest groups!! More so in a fractured polity like today’s India. With a wafer thin majority in Parliament and coalition partners waiting to pull the government down, India today probably has the one of the weakest government ever. Such instability has engendered feverish partisan and short sighted gambles by interest groups within the government. They only know too well their tenure is limited. So who cares for long term interests?

The lack of good political leadership is too obvious to repeat. Their myopia has blinded the impact of opinion makers standing up and voicing their protests. With the electronic and print media having unprecedented reach in India, these opinion makers have made waves – nay tsunamis of public opinion. Remember 700 million Indians are below the age of 35 and a huge portion of this young India is still impressionable; most are better educated, better informed and have better jobs than their parents. These stand up opinion makers – from armchair editorialists to bloggers to internet news portals – themselves have not fully gauged their impact. They are impacting this new India. The result was a huge wave of public discontent and anger at these moves. This is a phenomenon that future politicians have to keep in mind. Gone are the days where you could, by artful word play, obfuscate real issues. Information has empowered even the poorest of poor citizens in remote India. Granted huge areas remain outside the reach of this new information age. But my bet is that it will be increasingly difficult for the politicians to continue to dupe their constituencies. This is to be seen in the regional elections that are coming up in the next few months.

Public opinion has suddenly taken the centre stage in India. One would expect this to happen in a healthy democracy. It has been late to arrive; but arrive it did with a bang. The government called off the head count because of stand up public anger. Witness the national outrage at the Jessica Lal case; Stand up scientists protested against what they feared was against India’s interest in the nuclear deal with the U.S. Well, these scientists were not fired. They were heard by the Prime Minister and that probably forced him to take a tough stand. Stand up scientists in India is a new phenomenon. Stand up public opinion has suddenly added new inputs and variables in the political calculations. This is distinctly different from the stone-throwing bus-burning variety. They live side by side in India; but we have a new kid on the block and we all need to watch and hear what this kid has to say. There are many who do want to have their say and the free flow of information has made this possible – cheap and easy!!! Either way, they have found a way to be heard. At last!!!

March 26, 2006

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Posted by on January 20, 2007 in Indian Army

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