One can't even wage a war without getting it approved by Uncle Sam first. If India gets what it wants without having to fight for it then why initiate costly hostilities? India wants to convey a message. India wants to increase the cost to Pakistan of bleeding Indian forces in Kashmir by supporting various networks of freelance jihadis. India wants 'infiltration' to end. On top of it all, Vajpayee wants to lock in a lot of political mileage for elections due by the end of the year (or early next year).
Pakistan, on the other hand, has been adamant that Kashmiri jihadis are not the same as 'cross-border terrorists'. Our decision makers somehow decided to fire up Kashmir while America was immersed in the Taliban mess. That clearly was a serious miscalculation.
India won the propaganda war a long time ago. Hardly anyone from among the 189 UN members is convinced of what we stand for. Kashmiris, in the middle of it all, in the meanwhile, want all "guest warriors" to leave the Kashmir struggle to the Kashmiris before all the Kashmiris are killed by the Indian army.
V R Raghavan of The Hindustan Times has made some rational observations. Raghavan is convinced that "the government in New Delhi has driven itself into an unenviable dilemma on going to war. It is unclear if the war is against terrorists operating from Pakistan or against the military leadership of that country or for seizing territory from which a reign of terror is being operated against India" adding that "there are misplaced assertions about fighting a limited war. It is unclear if the war would be limited in duration, territory or the extent of victory visualised."
I learned a lot from Raja Menon's recent analysis in The Indian Express. Apparently, there is a wide gap between India's political needs and her military capability. Politically, the need is to undertake surgical strikes across the border. Militarily, neither the Indian army, nor the air force or the navy is structured to conduct surgical operations. Raja Menon states that the Indian "Air Force has not a single force multiplier and cannot transport commandos at low level on a dark night" adding that "the present Army is structured and trained to hold ground."
The whole world is telling us to shut down "cross-border terrorism". UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged President Musharraf to take "vigorous action" to implement his commitment to curb terrorism. Canada told Pakistan "it had to do more to stop guerrilla raids into Indian Kashmir." The real question now is whether President Musharraf is unwilling or unable to do what the world demands of him. There is a feeling in some Washington circles that the Bush Administration is yet to locate the "precise pressure point that would make the General fully change his ways."
Zaman Hamid who runs 'Advanced Threat Analysis and Security Management', a security consulting concern, is "convinced that there is going to be a small scale conflict in Kashmir, along LoC and working boundary." South of Kashmir whether in the "planes of Punjab" or "deserts of Sindh" the attacker would have to come out into the open making itself vulnerable to well dug-in Pakistani defences. Mr Hamid is, therefore, of the opinion that "a Kargil like small scale local war is expected. Normal life should go on in the country and there is no reason to panic....."
For India, a full-scale conventional war is neither desirable nor does it suit its political objectives of restraining "Pakistan-based infiltrators". As it is, the troop mobilisation is bleeding Pakistan financially. India will be more prone to a multi-prong strategy involving diplomacy, air strikes, threats of a tactical naval blockade in the Arabian Sea along with an economic squeeze.
According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, "India has 1,303,000 people in its armed forces, plus 535,000 reservists. Pakistan has about 612,000 troops and 513,000 reservists. India is believed to have about 60 nuclear warheads compared with Pakistan's 25. The Indian Air Force has 1,200 aircraft, including 132 helicopters, most of them armed. Pakistan's Air Force has 410 planes and 34 unarmed helicopters. No Pakistani warplane can carry nuclear weapons but ..... India has reconfigured an unspecified number of its deep-penetration Jaguar bombers to launch such weapons. India has one aircraft carrier to Pakistan's none, 19 submarines and 25 other ships besides a flotilla of 93 missile-carrying boats, troops carriers and assault craft."
The Indian Navy has long been a 'blue water navy' and is now the world's seventh largest. According to various sources, India's western naval fleet (homeport: Bombay) has a "force and capability ratio of seven-to-one in India's favour." India's eastern naval fleet (homeport: Visakhapatnam) has now been diverted to the west placing it under the overall command of the Commander-in-Chief Western Command.
It is unfortunate that we need ultimatums from outside of Pakistan to do what is in our own interest in the first place. America gave one and we abandoned the Taliban. We needed another one from India to change our policy on Kashmir.
How can India convey a message or increase the cost to Pakistan? How can India end infiltration? India's answer so far has been to amass half a million troops, send in 3,000 tanks, dispatch a Kashin class missile destroyer, a missile armed multi-purpose frigate and three missile Corvettes. The new arrangements at the border, sea and air must be costing India at least Rs10 billion a month. An expense of some Rs50 billion for India and at least half that much for us. Then came a diplomatic assault. There was a telephone call from General Powell telling us "not to run to Washington or Tashkent." That did it.
If Armitage and Rumsfeld are coming then Pakistan must have conceded to world demands (at least for now). Leaders on either side of the LoC now need to blow fire just to cover their mistakes in front of their respective domestic audience. Indians have to be told that their troop deployment was not in vain. Pakistan may have agreed to abandon its 'pro-militancy' Kashmir agenda but we must be told how powerful our nuclear-tipped missiles are.
If we have agreed to change then we must change internally as well. Economics would have to be emphasised over Kashmir. PTV's Kashmir recipe will be a taste of things to come. America may have yet again saved us form ourselves but its no time to open up champagne. For the nuclear truce to last, the UN must be brought in and Russia, with all her leverage over India, must play her role to resolve the underlying crux.
Are war clouds dissipating? Has Bush now located the "precise pressure point that would make the General fully change his ways?" It appears so. Washington remains convinced that promises made on January 12 were broken. The biggest casualty on our side of the LoC has so far been our president's credibility which has reached a point from where it cannot sink any further. India, however, has decided to wait out to determine on its own whether our president is unable or unwilling to change ways.
The truth remains that Ronald Reagan used jihad as an instrument of policy for eight years (to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan). Bush no longer accepts jihad as an instrument of policy -- whether in Afghanistan or in Kashmir. Is our president unable or unwilling to change ways? The truth is that it has been a little of both.
Published in Pakistan daily Jang dated June 02, 2002. The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist.