Peace Process De­void of Strat­egy

Our pol­icy-mak­ers and se­cu­rity ex­perts must first for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity strat­egy and there­after the diplo­mats and oth­ers should work out an en­tirely fresh ne­go­ti­at­ing plan.

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Lt Gen­eral (Retd) Vi­jay Oberoi

Our pol­icy-mak­ers and se­cu­rity ex­perts must first for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity strat­egy and there­after the diplo­mats and oth­ers should work out an en­tirely fresh ne­go­ti­at­ing plan.

THE SAV­AGE MU­TI­LA­TION OF two sol­diers of the In­dian Army on the line of con­trol (LoC) has brought to cen­tre-stage two cru­cial as­pects of our re­la­tions with Pak­istan. The first is the frag­ile na­ture of the so-called peace process with Pak­istan and the sec­ond is the lack of any long-term plans/poli­cies, with­out which knee jerk re­ac­tions are the norm and sev­eral dif­fer­ent voices add to the din. Re­sul­tantly, per­sons who have to im­ple­ment or take ac­tion are con­fused.

The first as­pect is the so-called peace process, which our suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have been pur­su­ing by bend­ing over back­wards for decades to ap­pease Pak­istan. The re­sults are that Pak­istan as well as other coun­tries per­ceives us as a soft state; a state that can be co­erced into giv­ing con­ces­sions with­out any quid pro quo, and a state that has no un­der­stand­ing of de­ter­rence. Our lead­ers and their ad­vi­sors also seem to have no com­pre­hen­sion of what ‘talk­ing from a po­si­tion of strength’ means. They need to un­der­stand that in re­la­tions be­tween na­tions, the phrase ‘the meek shall in­herit the earth’ does not ap­ply. It is de­ter­rent ca­pa­bil­ity that is the most im­por­tant. This trans­lates into a strong mil­i­tary and po­lit­i­cal will.

The sec­ond is­sue is also of ut­most im­por­tance. It is ob­vi­ous that the en­tire government ma­chin­ery was taken by sur­prise at this event, re­sult­ing in a num­ber of emo­tional out­bursts sug­gest­ing dif­fer­ent and var­ied re­sponses. Th­ese have ranged, some­what pre­dictably, from con­tin­u­ing the pol­icy of ap­pease­ment to im­me­di­ate mil­i­tary ac­tion. We will con­tinue to be sur­prised, shocked and at our wits’ end in this man­ner, till we for­mu­late well thought out se­cu­rity strate­gies for sit­u­a­tions that we are likely to face. It is un­for­tu­nate that even the Army, which car­ries out con­tin­u­ous con­tin­gency plan­ning, failed to an­tic­i­pate this type of Pak­istani at­tack af­ter the heavy shelling in the Uri Sec­tor two days ear­lier.

The con­tin­u­a­tion of the so-called peace process would ob­vi­ously be un­pro­duc­tive. It will fur­ther re­in­force the think­ing in Pak­istan that it can do what it likes, as the In­dian lead­er­ship will al­ways se­lect the soft op­tion, harp­ing on re­straint, not up­set­ting the ap­ple cart and sim­i­lar other clichés that in­di­cate nei­ther per­sonal nor na­tional pride.

Our pol­icy-mak­ers are so lack­ing in imag­i­na­tion that they seem to think that there are only two op­tions open to them, which are ei­ther di­a­logue or war. One of their main spokesper­son, who is seen at most dis­cus­sions, puts it across as “ei­ther ‘jaw-jaw’ or ‘war-war’.” How puerile can one be! Our lead­ers and their ad­vi­sors seem to be obliv­i­ous of how other na­tions han­dle their in­tran­si­gent neigh­bours or ad­ver­saries. It is high time the government un­der­stands that there are in­nu­mer­able op­tions avail­able be­tween ne­go­ti­a­tions and war, pro­vided it stops lis­ten­ing to only peaceniks and syco­phants and in­stead takes the ad­vice of pro­fes­sion­als.

The In­dia-Pak­istan Co­nun­drum

Pak­istan was carved out of In­dia on the spe­cious ground that Mus­lims are a sep­a­rate na­tion and that they will not get equal sta­tus in In­dia as a mi­nor­ity. His­tory has al­ready proved both as­sump­tions wrong. Soon af­ter its for­ma­tion, Pak­istan adopted a three-pronged strat­egy con­sist­ing of per­ma­nent alien­ation with In­dia; heavy re­liance

Dy­nam­ics of the LoC

on non-state ac­tors to act as the van­guards to their Army and want­ing con­ces­sions from In­dia ad in­fini­tum.

Pak­istan latched on to Kash­mir within two months of the par­ti­tion of In­dia by send­ing so-called raiders led by Pak­istani Army per­son­nel and since then it evokes Kash­mir as the causes belli be­tween the two coun­tries. Its sec­ond gam­bit was to cre­ate a strong army by telling its peo­ple that In­dia was the vil­lain who was out to grab Pak­istan! The re­sult was that the Army soon be­came the big­gest and at times only pow­er­centre in the coun­try, us­ing re­sources at the cost of the peo­ple. De­spite this, the Pak­istani Army has yet to de­liver in any fight against the In­dian Army, but this is hid­den from the peo­ple of Pak­istan by the spin doc­tors telling out­right lies.

The third im­por­tant as­pect is that while the In­dian Army has re­mained apo­lit­i­cal and pro­fes­sional, the Pak­istani Army soon started top­pling elected gov­ern­ments and be­came the ul­ti­mate power-cen­tre of the coun­try. In the process it lost its mil­i­tary qual­i­ties and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. It is this that gets re­flected so glar­ingly in this in­ci­dent of be­head­ing an In­dian sol­dier and mu­ti­lat­ing the body of the other. The present LoC is the sec­ond avatar of the erst­while Cease Fire Line (CFL), which had come into be­ing on Jan­uary 1, 1949. Af­ter the 1971 war with Pak­istan, a fresh line was de­mar­cated, which is the present LoC. A fact not well known is that when the LoC came into be­ing, the role of UN Ob­servers in Jammu and Kash­mir (J&K) be­came re­dun­dant and In­dia told the UN that they could with­draw. How­ever, in its ef­forts to in­ter­na­tion­alise the Kash­mir is­sue, Pak­istan asked the UN Ob­servers to con­tinue. Pak­istan again at­tempted to drag in the UN as this event un­folded, but was in­formed in no un­cer­tain terms that In­dia would not rise to the bait.

De­spite the for­mal de­mar­ca­tion, the Pak­istani Army did not hon­our the sanc­tity of the CFL, from its very in­cep­tion. They com­menced en­croach­ing and nib­bling on our side of the CFL, hop­ing to ei­ther gain tac­ti­cally ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tions or merely to in­cor­po­rate ad­di­tional real es­tate. This was nat­u­rally re­sisted by our troops. There­after, eye­ball to eye­ball de­ploy­ment, ex­change of fire, raids across the lines and sim­i­lar ac­tivi- ties be­came the norm. The re­sult was that the CFL be­came an ac­tive and live bor­der, ex­cept when a cease­fire was in ef­fect. This state of af­fairs con­tin­ued even af­ter the CFL be­came the LoC.

When­ever a new in­fantry bat­tal­ion is in­ducted on their por­tion of the LoC, the en­emy unit op­po­site them as­sesses by ini­ti­at­ing ac­tion. Units that re­spond with guts and vigour then dom­i­nate and as­sume mo­ral as­cen­dency on the unit op­po­site. Sub­se­quent ac­tions on ei­ther side there­after con­form to this re­la­tion­ship. One ex­am­ple should suf­fice. On the first night af­ter a Maratha Light In­fantry bat­tal­ion as­sumed con­trol of their area, the Pak­istani unit sub­jected its for­ward posts to heavy shelling. The next morn­ing, the of­fi­cer at the Maratha post climbed a tree with a rocket launcher and blasted two bunkers of the en­emy post. There­after, not one bul­let was fired by the Pak­ista­nis on the Marathas dur­ing their en­tire ten­ure!

The present cease­fire has been in force since 2003, the long­est among many. Even though an ac­tive LoC favours our troops, we had agreed to the cease­fire, so that Pak­istan could with­draw troops for con­duct­ing op­er­a­tions against the Tal­iban and other in­sur­gents. How­ever, Pak­istan chose not to do so and in­stead con­tin­ued to nur­ture those ter­ror­ists. It also con­tin­ued push­ing in­fil­tra­tors across the LoC.

The troops de­ployed on the LoC have an oner­ous task as they have to con­stantly strike a bal­ance be­tween stop­ping in­fil­tra­tion and ob­serv­ing cease­fire norms. The government keeps in­sist­ing that the troops must show re­straint with­out re­al­is­ing that to carry out their twin tasks of main­tain­ing the sanc­tity of the LoC and not per­mit­ting in­fil­tra­tion, some force has to be used. The com­mand­ing of­fi­cers know how to main­tain a cor­rect bal­ance be­tween keep­ing mo­ti­va­tional and mo­rale lev­els of troops high and also im­ple­ment­ing the ef­fects of po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions as they per­tain at their lev­els. They must be given a free hand.

Se­cu­rity Strate­gies

The dire need for a se­cu­rity strat­egy that de­fines the pa­ram­e­ters of our re­la­tion­ship with neigh­bours, as well as with other na­tions is an ob­vi­ous la­cuna in our coun­try. Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have talked about for­mu­lat­ing se­cu­rity strate­gies that would cover an­tic­i­pated se­cu­rity is­sues but have al­ways baulked at is­su­ing for­mal writ­ten poli­cies or even guide­lines. The re­sult is that we seem to be caught lit­er­ally with our pants down when an event with se­cu­rity con­no­ta­tions oc­curs. We then re­sort to tak­ing ‘fire­fight­ing’ ac­tions in an ad hoc man­ner.

All stake­hold­ers need to be on the same grid and must be clear as to what ex­actly is our pol­icy or strat­egy and what we want to achieve. This will re­sult in co­or­di­nated re­sponses and not what we nor­mally do, with in­di­vid­u­als and even agen­cies/in­sti­tu­tions speak­ing out of turn and at vari­ance with each other. This as­pect clearly stood out in the present case when all kinds of state­ments were is­sued by dif­fer­ent in­di­vid­u­als, rang­ing from no dis­rup­tion of the peace process on the one hand to mil­i­tary re­sponse on the other. Con­se­quently, it is im­per­a­tive to spell out our poli­cies and stances in for­malised doc­u­ments so that lead­ers and of­fi­cials deal­ing with the sub­ject are cor­rectly pre­pared with their re­sponses. The se­cu­rity strate­gies must clearly bring out ‘red lines’ and ac­tion to be taken if the other side crosses one or more in­ten­tion­ally or by de­fault.

The Peace Process

In­dia has been mak­ing over­tures for peace for decades, yet all we have re­ceived in re­turn from Pak­istan is vi­o­lence of many types, in­clud­ing wars and ter­ror­ism; hedg­ing and de­nials; im­pos­si­ble de­mands; and sub­terfuges. It is un­for­tu­nate that our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have taken a some­what rigid view that the process should con­tinue, come what may. This has ap­par­ently been done at the in­stance of a few peaceniks and syco­phants who have their own agen­das, as well as in­ter­na­tional (read USA) pres­sure. Un­for­tu­nately, our lead­ers have failed to con­sult those or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als who are au fait with and un­der­stand Pak­istan’s in­tran­si­gence fully and are clear about how far one must go in try­ing to be­friend this coun­try that is con­stantly drum­ming up an­tag­o­nism against our na­tion and loses no op­por­tu­nity to take re­course to vi­o­lence to achieve its ends.

Our ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to even dis­cern who really is in power in Pak­istan is baf­fling in­deed. Although there is an elected government in Pak­istan, it is the Pak­istani Army that makes pol­icy and strate­gic de­ci­sions in that coun­try and it would be damned if it makes peace with In­dia, then why bother and waste time, money and ef­fort in try­ing some­thing un­achiev­able? What we need to do is to have rou­tine re­la­tions with Pak­istan and deal with it on the ba­sis of rec­i­proc­ity and on a case to case ba­sis. It is only this ap­proach and not the pol­icy of ap­pease­ment that may bear fruit over time.


It is no­body's case that we should not live peace­fully with our neigh­bours and re­solve all prob­lems and dis­putes by dis­cus­sion, but this needs give and take on both sides. So far, it has been a one-sided af­fair and there are no in­di­ca­tors that the fu­ture would be any dif­fer­ent.

The least what we can do is to ap­ply a brake on the peace process, jet­ti­son the “com­pos­ite di­a­logue” and wait for a more con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment. Our pol­icy-mak­ers and se­cu­rity ex­perts must first for­mu­late a com­pre­hen­sive se­cu­rity strat­egy and there­after the diplo­mats and oth­ers should work out an en­tirely fresh ne­go­ti­at­ing plan. The writer is a former Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS).

Bri­gadier level of­fi­cers from In­dia and Pak­istan at a flag meet­ing, at Chakan-da-Bagh, in Poonch

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