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India the cornered the frustrated and helpless

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    India the cornered the frustrated and helpless

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    India losing the initiative
    By Ahmad Faruqui

    An Indian military strike against militant camps in Pakistani-administered Kashmir has failed to materialize. It has been imminent since the May 14 terrorist attack that killed 34 Indian soldiers and their relatives near Jammu inside Indian-administered Kashmir. The threat of such a strike has kindled fears of a full-scale conventional war with Pakistan that could escalate easily into a nuclear war within 72 hours. In an unprecedented act, the United States has decided to pull out more than 60,000 American citizens from India, prompting several other countries and the United Nations to do the same. (See separate story,

    There are several possible explanations for the delay in the Indian attack. The procession of foreign dignitaries traveling to Islamabad and New Delhi may have helped to cool off some of the pressure to attack, or at least resulted in its postponement until their departure. Other reasons include incomplete troop deployments, or simply a lack of intention to carry out an attack in the first place. That is, New Delhi may simply be carrying out an exercise in coercive diplomacy.

    India resorted to such a tactic in the wake of the December 13 attack on its parliament house in New Delhi. Seeking to apply the September 11 rules to itself, India moved more than half of its army to the border with Pakistan. It asked Islamabad to arrest thousands of militants, outlaw what it called terrorist organizations, and to hand over 20 specific individuals. Pakistan did ban several organizations and arrest thousands of people, but it did not hand over any of the 20 people. There is evidence that most of the arrested militants have been released or that they are minor players.

    To step up the pressure, India has now moved five warships from its eastern fleet in the Bay of Bengal to join the western fleet in the Arabian Sea, in an attempt to blockade the sea routes to the single Pakistani port of Karachi. The last time Indian threatened to blockade Pakistan's sea-lanes was in the spring of 1999, when the Kargil campaign was in full swing.

    While appearing to be a less costly venture than war, coercive diplomacy cannot be presumed to prevent war. Alexander George, a professor emeritus at Stanford University in California and one of the world's pre-eminent authorities on the subject, writes that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941 may have been provoked by the US threat the previous June to impose an oil embargo on Japan unless it withdrew its forces from China. Similarly, the US embargo on Iraqi imports and exports, designed to compel Iraq to vacate Kuwait, may have led to the Gulf War.

    With every passing day, the chances of India pulling off a surprise attack on Pakistan become weaker. One of the visiting American dignitaries is bringing high-tech satellite imagery with him to show both sides that deployments are heavy all along the Line of Control (LoC) that separates Kashmir and the international border between the countries, making a surprise attack a virtual impossibility. Any military action would soon become embroiled in a World War I style of trench warfare.

    In the meantime, Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has upped the ante beyond India's expectations. Speaking in Kashmir, the general was in his element when he said he would not yield "even an inch" of territory along the LoC. Any Indian attack would let loose a storm that would sweep the enemy off his feet, he thundered. He would take the battle into Indian territory, saying that Pakistan had always abided by the doctrine of an offensive defense. Earlier, in a major national address, the general had said that there was no activity along the LoC.

    The Indian foreign minister, Jaswant Singh, dismissed Musharraf's speech as dangerous. Singh, who retired as a major from the Indian army, added that he was all too familiar with the general's "military malapropisms" and that Musharraf, like Alice, seemed to be living in a Wonderland.

    If India thought it would find a weakened adversary in Musharraf, who was believed to be fighting a case of post-referendum blues, they were seriously mistaken. By speaking in apocryphal terms about "a decisive battle" to his troops in Indian-held Kashmir, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee immediately cured Musharraf of any blues that were weighing him down. Within a few days, Musharraf had made a decision to go on the offensive, not only in the war of words, but also in the arena of displaying firepower. While clearly denying any connection with the tension along the border, he launched a hat trick of ballistic missiles designed to illustrate the full range of Indian targets that were now within striking range. This is believed to have caused widespread panic in New Delhi, even though some Indian writers, such as the veteran K Subramanyam, continued to believe that the US had neutralized all Pakistani warheads.

    Musharraf had been waiting to play the hawk against India, given his sagging popularity on the home front. The religious parties, clearly unhappy with his about-turn on Afghanistan policy, had labeled him America's policemen, and pamphlets had begun to circulate in mosques calling for his overthrow. Thus, he took time to speak at a conference of religious scholars on the birth anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad. Saying that "God is Great" three times, he said Pakistan would never kowtow to Indian hegemony, and that once India attacked Pakistan, every Muslim (not just all Pakistanis) would be duty-bound to join in a war against the infidel enemy. These words almost mirrored word-for-word the declaration that Taliban leader Mullah Omar had issued to all Muslims prior to the US attack on Afghanistan.

    Despite manipulating the referendum in which he contrived to give himself another five years in power, Musharraf has begun to establish himself as Pakistan's undisputed leader. Calls from former premier Benazir Bhutto for him to step down are not resonating with the public. The situation has parallels with that faced by a prior military ruler, Ayub Khan (1962-69). His weak electoral performance in 1965 against Fatima Jinnah, sister of the founder of the nation, had sullied his standing in the nation. India's three-pronged Corps-level attack on Lahore in the early morning hours of September 6 changed Ayub into a war hero. It also gave a young second lieutenant, Pervez Musharraf, a chance to make a mark for himself. During Pakistan's counteroffensive at Khem Karan he won an award for gallantry.

    Musharraf has telegraphed very clearly to Vajpayee that he cannot do to him what Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon did to chairman Yasser Arafat. Unlike the Palestinian Authority, Pakistan is a sovereign nation that will respond to an attack anywhere along the LoC with its full military might.

    In January, the Indian army chief, General S Padmanabhan, declared that a limited war was a truism and went on to say "there is scope for a limited conventional war" between India and Pakistan. Later on, the ever-pugnacious defense minister, George Fernandes, declared that India was even in a position to take on a Pakistani nuclear strike. "We could take a strike, survive and then hit back, but Pakistan would be finished." Now, a much more muted Fernandes, clearly alarmed at the mass exodus of foreign nationals from India, and concerned at what that bodes for the climate for foreign investment in his country, stated in Singapore at a security conference that India was not threatening Pakistan's territorial integrity nor did it have anything against the people of Pakistan. It is only asking that Pakistan desist from supporting terrorists operating from its territory.

    What has caused this change in Indian attitude? One reason is contained in a report published in the current issue of Outlook India. This indicates that Indian generals are convinced that Pakistan has deployed tactical nuclear weapons in its forward battalions. Such weapons can be used to kill advancing tank formations instantly, causing thousands of casualties. The new thinking in the Indian army headquarters, so the report says, is that Pakistan will not hesitate to use these weapons if its "value objectives" are threatened. These include either Pakistan's strategic North-South Highway (running from Peshawar to Karachi) or any of its key cities.

    Pakistan has always felt threatened by India, especially in the area around the desert town of Rahimyar Khan in southern Punjab, where all major rail and land arteries run close to the border with India. Unlike the terrain in northern Punjab, there are no waterways to block an advancing Indian army near Rahimyar Khan. In the mid-1980s, General K Sunderji, a flamboyant former chief of the Indian army, who had just returned from advanced training in the US, raised a new Strike Corps centered on a new type of mechanized division, called Plains. He then proceeded to demonstrate the workings of this Strike Corps in a major war game, Brass Tacks, and located the war game within 160 kilometers of the border with Pakistan. Given the magnitude of the war game, Pakistan puts its troop formations through a war game of is own, called the Arm of the Believer. The resulting crisis brought the two nations to the brink of war. It was defused when Pakistan's General Zia ul-Haq invited himself to India to see a cricket match between the two countries. Ever since that crisis, Pakistan has sent a clear message to India that it would recognize an advance into its soft belly area as a threat to its territorial integrity.

    Another reason India has called off (or delayed) its advance its that the LoC in Kashmir is heavily mined by both sides all through its 725km length. About 80,000 Pakistani troops are deployed along the line, and India would require substantial numerical superiority to break through their defenses. An estimated 200,000 Indian troops are deployed on the Indian side, and such a number is believed to be insufficient to achieve a breakthrough.

    India could airlift commandos by helicopter into the Pakistani side of the LoC, but these would encounter stiff resistance from the highly trained troops of Pakistan's Northern Light Infantry. The Pakistan air force would also subject the commandos to interdiction strikes.

    A final option is to launch air strikes. However, the Indian air force is not capable of mounting surgical strikes since it does not have the technology, know-how or weaponry to do so. Its planes would have to swoop in low to make contact with a highly mobile and almost invisible enemy, and the Pakistanis would pick off the planes one by one, as they did during the Kargil crisis. Intruding fighter aircraft would also encounter the highly regarded interceptors of the Pakistani air force. As retired US general Charles Horner noted in his memoirs, the Indian military regards the Pakistani air force as its greatest threat.

    India may yet decide to carry out a military strike because not to do so would be a tremendous letdown in the domestic standing of the coalition Bharatiya Janata Party government. It may, however, not do that any time soon. Reports indicate that Indian armored troops are experiencing unbelievably hot conditions in their T-72 Soviet tanks. Temperatures inside these machines, which are not air-conditioned, are registering above 60 degrees Celsius. The weather in September or October would be more conducive to an armored assault into Pakistan.

    Much to India's chagrin, Musharraf has succeeded in internationalizing the dispute between India and Pakistan. He has repeated once again his offer to meet with Vajpayee, or any other Indian official, "any time and any place". The US, the Russians, and now the Chinese are exerting strong pressure on Vajpayee to meet with Musharraf at the Asian Security Summit in Kazakhstan, but he has shown no interest in sitting down with a man who he feels upstaged him at the Agra summit in India last July. Vajpayee has also refused to entertain Pakistan's proposal to post United Nations observers along the LoC, saying that they would not be able to detect the movement of highly trained militants. And, like all prior Indian premiers, he has steadfastly refused to invite international mediation on the Kashmir issue. More than 60,000 people have been killed in political violence since the largely homegrown insurgency began in 1989.

    Vajpayee may find that saying "no" to Pakistan three times in a row, while threatening to strike at militant camps inside of Pakistan, will cause him to lose the initiative to his Pakistani nemesis, just as much as Musharraf found in the spring of 1999 that a military solution to the Kashmir problem was not within his reach.

    (2002 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact [email protected] for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

    [This message has been edited by Abdali (edited June 04, 2002).]

    Abdali Thanks for sharing the article



      yup, Veggiepie expected Mush to back down like Sharif, now that he hasn't, Veggipie is going in circles trying to find a face saving solution.

      I personally hope the corner they have backed themselves in , becomes too tight, and they are forced to attack, so we can whoop their Hindoo butts and shut them up!

      Pakistan is losing patience with continous Hindoo threats!


        Originally posted by RealDeal:
        yup, Veggiepie expected Mush to back down like Sharif, now that he hasn't, Veggipie is going in circles trying to find a face saving solution.

        I personally hope the corner they have backed themselves in , becomes too tight, and they are forced to attack, so we can whoop their Hindoo butts and shut them up!

        Pakistan is losing patience with continous Hindoo threats!
        why musharuff wants unconditional talks
        is it pr job?

        Musharraf ready for unconditional talks with India: Almaty conference begins today


          further pressure on musharuff

          Musharraf's triple bind


            If any damage is done to the BJP by Musharraf's verbal posturing, that would be the best, most productive victory. When the extreme climb down from the fences and join the mainstream or they are marginalized, then progress forward may resume. The enemy are the Muslim and Hindu fanatics. Pride of religion, ethnicity and country are expected but their perilous dimensions should be acknowledged. There is the need for a moderate, cultural revolution bringing equal justice to the oppressed in both states. This is something the wise statesmen of the 40's would have espoused.


              I found this article a good representation of the chronology of events as they were visible to public. I also think many of the 'plausible reasonings' the author draws are things I would too.

              What I don't understand are following:

              1. The spirit of the article is to, in my opinion, rightly point out that if India was planning to "teach Pakistan a lesson" with the military build up and coercive diplomacy, they failed in that. This is partially true that India has not scored a 'simple' victory as it has in the past. That's squarely ofcourse due to the nuclear arms.

              2. But it has had a very desirable effect and that is for Pakistan itself to stop the militant trainings camps in POK. I am reading contradictory news reports on whether this has happened or not. But I read a report that said Musharraf has ordered these camps destroyed and insurgency stopped. I also read another one where George Fernandes says that "Pakistan has started cracking down on terrorists". But then after these two statements I read a quote from Azis (I think that was the name - the Musharraf deputy travelling with him to Kazakstan) that "India is using the terrorist card and blaming Pakistan unfairly for belligerent purposes" contradicting his boss. And the Vajpayee says "cross-border terrorism is still going on and so I won't talk to Musharraf", contradicting his deputy.

              Do any of you understand this mess? Mush and his deputy are contradicting each other. Vajpayee and his deputy - same thing.