Mind Pakistan Officer Corps thought-process about Defence
Hamid Hussain explores the Pakistan military mind-set.
A general who advances without coveting fame and
retreats without fearing the disgrace, whose only thought is to protect
his country and do good service to his sovereign is the jewel of the
kingdom — Sun Tzu
Recent stand off between India and Pakistan has heightened tensions between the two countries again with a risk of war being a distinct possibility. International diplomatic flurry has calmed down the situation to some extent. In such alarming situation on the border, the general tendency of armed forces is toward trying to fill the gaps and address more acute problems. Long-term thinking and planning is not a priority in such an acute situation. In fact a sound long-term strategic planning based on a rational, realistic, well thought and debated defence plan is the pre-requisite to face such acute challenges appropriately and with minimum damage. Periodic evaluation of various strategic and tactical doctrines of the defence policies in view of changing circumstances and appropriate adjustment to achieve the nation’s goals of security is a fundamental concept. In the absence of that the policy becomes static, which means that the adversary has the initiative. Having said that any significant change or adoption of a new doctrine also needs a careful thinking and a marathon of mental exercise by various sections of the defence establishment to reach a rational conclusion. In this process, civilian input is crucial, due to inherent limitations of military mind. This work will discuss the thought process of the officer’s corps in general relating to defence. After analyzing Pakistani thought process, the defence policies relating to India (which centers around the Kashmir issue) will be discussed and in the end Pakistan’s experience regarding defence policies will be summarized.
Universal Officers’ Mind
Military training encourages cohesion and working in
an organized hierarchical way to achieve the results. Due to the nature of their job, soldiers consider themselves
as a select group. The
negative side of this process is that the proud consciousness of belonging
to this select profession results in a superiority complex with respect to
civilians.1 In addition to superior organization and sole reservoirs of
instruments of violence, the emotional and symbolic virtues of discipline,
bravery, patriotism and sacrifice (whether these qualities are actually
present in another matter) gives the officer corps a falsified sense of
moral superiority over their civilian counterparts. The soldiers while
considering themselves to be the soul of the nation and ultimate
guaranteers of its security are ambivalent in their relationship with rest
of the citizenry. Army
officers of any country, by nature of their profession are obsessed with
national security. Their view is naturally a limited one.
They neither have the training nor broad vision to encompass the
complete picture. The major deficiency of the military mind due to the
nature of its job is singular lack of analytical vision.
Intense indoctrination and ideological pre-occupation of army
officers can be very hazardous as they may not be unable to comprehend the
bigger picture and embark on a course which can have long-term negative
results. In societies where civilians have a firm control over the armed
forces, this is adequately balanced by interjection of civilian input in
overall decision-making process. The
balance is totally eschewed in favour of armed forces when they are in
direct control of the state. Traditionally,
the virtues of vision and intellectual brilliance are generally not
considered the assets of a soldier. The evolution of armed forces into
modern fighting machines has changed the old concepts radically and a
broader vision is must for senior staff of the armed forces.
In post-world war II international scene, there has been a dramatic
change in defence concepts. In
many developed countries, the promotion to senior ranks is significantly
tied to the educational excellence and broader vision of strategic
concepts. In addition,
civilian think tanks and academia play a significant role in policymaking
related to defence and national security. Military leadership gives its
input about defence but ultimately it is the civilians who formulate the
overall policy, armed forces simply implement the policy. The most
important aspect of this division is that moral responsibility of the
outcome of any armed encounter rests with the civilians.
If military leaders are in control of the state, both policy
formulation and execution about national security is done by the armed
forces. This not only affects
the professionalism of the soldiers especially of the higher ranks but
also have a negative long-term effect on population in general.
In case of both India and Pakistan, despite the introduction of
modern weaponry the thought-process is that of World War II era.
Pakistani Officers’ Mind
The defence establishment’s thought-process about security of Pakistan is as expected, only conceptualized in military terms as men in uniform have been mainly involved in development and execution of these policies with very little if any civilian input. In Pakistani senior military staff, the ‘intellectual tradition has never been strong .... intellectual brilliance being the exception not the norm’.2 Since independence, Pakistan’s dilemma has been a large hostile neighbour which is seen as threat to the very existence of the state. As there is no serious study of the society, culture, politics and defence doctrine of the adversary, Pakistani policy-makers tend to formulate their policy on the basis of acute events and rhetoric of Indian leaders. Even hawks such as George Fernandes at serious international forums acknowledge the issue of Kashmir. In his address to the Centre for International Affairs at Harvard University in October 1990, he stated that, “I do not believe that any foreign hand engineered the Kashmir problem. The problem was created by us, and if others decided to take advantage of it, I do not believe that one should make that an issue”.3 How the enemy is perceived by Pakistani officer? A retired Brigadier is of the view that, ‘India has set for itself a mission of re-establishing the Akhand Bharat with borders on Madagascar, Hindu Kush and Malacca straits’.4 Lt. General (r) Hameed Gul addressing a seminar stated that, ‘at present Pakistan has two enemies one physical — India and the other ideological — Israel.5 A Colonel states, “to mature Akhand Bharat dream, India is too inclined and capable to sacrifice the innocent civilian if it can bring damage to Pakistan’s interests’.6 A Lt. General advocates Pakistan’s improved relations with Iran and Afghanistan because of Indian threat not only to Pakistan but to entire Muslim world.7 A Lt. Colonel is of the view that India supported Northern Alliance during Afghan civil war because ‘she had long been seeking to thwart Pakistan’s ambition to create a defensive Islamic block stretching from Pakistan to Central Asia’.8 Genuine concerns about the motives of a large adversary and serious policy measures to counter that is one thing but what happens when extreme paranoia about a large adversary sets in the mind of the military leadership? It gives rise to two conflicting ideas. One, when the crisis escalates, the apprehension about the adversary’s motives reach exaggerated proportions causing frustration and a sense of helplessness or a doomsday scenario in the minds of the senior brass. Major General (r) Ghulam Omar (He was a close confidant of General Yahya Khan, secretary of National Security Council and a key member of the military regime in 1971) with all the hindsight in 1993 has this to say about 1971 crisis, “I swear by God that Pakistan was broken by Bhutto, Mujib, Indira, Soviet Union and America. It was a conspiracy hatched by all of them together”.9 Another example of such thought-process of extreme frustration is evident by Brigadier (r). Amanullah’s (He has served as ISI head of the Sindh province and currently secretary of Benazir Bhutto) statement. In an interview, while talking about nuclear strike against India, he stated, “They have acted so badly towards us; they have been so mean. We should teach them a lesson”. He went on to add that, “Believe me, if I were in charge, I would have already done it’. He then chillingly gives us his death wish that, “Before I die, I hope I should see it”.10 On the other hand, to boost the morale of the troops facing a large adversary, the leadership embarks on an exercise of highly exaggerating opinion of the self and minimizing the threat. A Lt. General and former Director General (DG) of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) pointing to Kashmir struggle stated, “This freedom struggle had resulted in the suction of very large-scale Indian regular and para-military forces, creating a major strategic imbalance in Indian groupings to such an extent where it is no longer remained possible for it to fight even a defensible battle, what to talk of any offensive across the international borders’.11 A defence analyst’s comments that, ‘when the Pakistan missiles were test-fired in early May, sheer panic swept through the Indian population at the belated realization that no Indian city was safe from a Pakistan counter-attack’.12 and General Musharraf’s statements after easing of recent tensions that we don’t care about the de-escalation and we will teach Indians a lesson fall into the second category. Both ideas, if not properly balanced with a wide-ranging grasp of the overall situation are fraught with danger.
The confusion and ambiguity at the highest level is quite evident from the writings of some senior officers. This phenomenon is not restricted to the military leadership but Pakistani society in general (almost all strata of society) has some ambiguity about their destiny. Ayub Khan who advocated close defence ties with US and even provided air force base for spying mission lamented that US was not a friend but master. Another general who was involved at the highest level of close Pakistani defence and intelligence ties with US in 80s, in the post-retirement enlightment phase sees that Islamic world is ‘exploited and blackmailed by the developed countries’, ‘targeted countries are subjected to coercion, technological barriers, sanctions, media trial and economic hurdles’ and ‘attempts are also made to create political divisions within the Islamic Ummah’.13 A retired Air Marshal complains that Indian leadership ‘by crafty rope tricks have managed to convince the Bush and Blair administrations’ about their point of view on Kashmir and ‘Washington and London believe almost everything they say’.14 A Major General complains that , “Our allies have displayed no signs of helping Pakistan in solving our basic and most crucial problem”.15 One analyst a year after the Kargil adventure is of the view that as ‘the Pakistani military used forces already deployed in the area to occupy the heights along the LoC’ and ‘the move itself was simply an offensive-defence, which did not constitute crossing over to the Indian side of LoC — but simply along the LoC’. In the same article the author states that the forced disengagement ‘caused heavy loss of life for the Pakistan’s Northern Light Infantry’ which ‘led to inevitable frustration within the Armed Forces’.16 General Musharraf commenting on recent stand off with India stated, “Sanity demands avoidance of war but at the same time in the pursuit of peace you can’t compromise on honour and dignity so one has to strike a balance maintaining honour and dignity and going for peace also’.17 Such generalized and vague terms and statements without a concrete game plan show the underlying dilemma of ad hoc nature of the defence doctrines of Pakistani policy-makers. Policies are not changed due to a deliberate well-thought out plan, which suits the national interest in a pro-active manner but under immense pressure from the regional and international powers as Pakistan has repeatedly found itself in a dead end street. This in turn generates more anger and frustration not only among the ruling elites but also general population.
What is the current level of serious, comprehensive analysis of the changing events in the regional arena among the senior leadership? In 1998, when India detonated a nuclear device, there was a general consensus among all Pakistanis that it was in Pakistan’s interest to also go nuclear publicly. Different segments of the society were expressing their opinion about the subject mainly in favour of detonating the nuclear device. One would expect that senior officers of armed forces will give a detailed and well-thought out argument about their point of view on the issue and a road map of how to tackle the difficulties, which will arise from this decision. Two examples of senior officers will illustrate the lack of any in-depth knowledge even about their own society. Lt. General (r) Hameed Gul (Former DG ISI and Corps Commander) refuted the theory of isolation if Pakistan go nuclear by stating that, “Firstly, because it is self-sufficient in food and secondly, because Pakistan is a nuclear state. The difficulty will help Pakistan to unleash a socio-monetary revolution in the country”.18 Lt. General (r) Javed Nasir (Former DG ISI) while talking about the potential financial difficulties if nuclear tests were done stated, “what Pakistan will miss in terms of foreign loans? The expatriates and Pakistani nationals within the country will pile up billions of dollars without much problem”.19 A severe drought causing significant loss of life and livestock in Sindh and Balochistan and flight of capital causing government to freeze foreign currency accounts are a grim testimony to these esteemed generals’ flawed analysis. There is almost a consensus of opinion among the armed forces officers that the Indian airplane hijacking in 1999 was a conspiracy hatched by India to malign Pakistan. One Colonel stated that the hijacking was created by India herself.20 Another retired Colonel also is of opinion that, ‘India once again tried the same tactic to revenge her failure in Kargil’.21 We all very well know that ‘Black Operations’ to discredit the adversary are carried out by various countries. This fact should not cloud one’s judgment about careful analysis of such events. If one accepts the theory that the plane hijacking was engineered by India, then the culprits and people who were released from Indian jails should have been suspect in Pakistan. Contrary to that, the hijackers mysteriously disappeared after being dropped off at Pakistan-Afghanistan border by Taliban. Pakistan denied the presence of Omar Sheikh in Pakistan. We now know that he was running a business in Lahore, got married and living a happy life. Wall Street Journal correspondent, Daniel Pearl’s murder in 2002 has opened a Pandora box, which has embarrassed Pakistan internationally. A similar opinion exists about attacks on Kashmir assembly and Parliament in New Delhi.
How this thought-process has evolved in Pakistani officer? In the formative phases of Pakistan army development under the guidance of United States had significant effect on the thinking of young officers. In 50s and 60s due to the ‘cold war’ mentality, the dominant national security concept was of a total war between communist and non-communist blocks. Officers of not only Pakistan but many third world countries who were trained in United States and their own institutions grew up on the strategy of not only fighting against the external enemy but internal enemies also. In addition to external foe, modern soldier was to be able to counter the ‘internal enemy on military, social, economic and political fronts’.22 This thinking invariably lowered the threshold of senior army brass to interfere in domestic political arena. The second generation of officers who are mainly trained inside Pakistan are less influenced by international ideologies and more pragmatic and nationalist. Just like their predecessors, these military officers also have dangerously self-exaggerated opinion of their capacities both in terms of defence of the country’s frontiers and their ability as an organized body to fix all problems of the society. Confidence in one’s abilities, pride and constant struggle to excel professionally are essential elements of a good officer’s corps. The problem starts when these positive traits are stretched to unrealistic limits, which now enter the zone of grandiose ideas and self-righteousness. This is a very dangerous trend and if not adequately balanced with a more in-depth analysis of issues and widening of the intellectual horizon of senior military leadership, it can lend Pakistan into more troubles of its own making. In May 2002, when close to a million troops are on alert on Indo-Pakistan border amidst a very volatile situation, a comprehensive and well-balanced strategy is pre-requisite. It seems that military hierarchy instead of thoroughly evaluating the situation is falling prey to previous experiences of highly self-exaggerated and somewhat unrealistic perceptions (In 1965 and during Kargil adventure). Some are thinking that any adventure by India across the line of control will ‘trap the Indian army in a Vietnam or Afghanistan-like situation and hasten the freedom process for the Kashmiri Muslims’. The Russian offer of mediation between India and Pakistan is seen as an “implicit Indian desire to extricate itself from an untenable diplomatic and military posture”. One senior official commented that, ‘In such a situation when the much awaited phase of international diplomacy is just beginning, how can we give India a head start’. A special forces officer was seeing the gathering of Indian troops as a ‘Himalayan blunder by India leadership’ as he was seeing the rising tensions in a different perspective. He stated that, ‘The freedom struggle in Kashmir has primed to a point where the final push for liberation seems to be the logical next phase’.23 Morale boosting statements and some exaggeration is universally used to convey the message to the adversary that one is ready. But this exercise is left to some mid-level government functionary. If such things creep into the higher decision-making bodies, they can seriously hamper the long-term policy issues. Messages such as seriousness of the use of nuclear weapons as first strike are conveyed quietly and politely through behind the scene channels. Rhetorical public statements and hyperbole about such critical issues have only caused further isolation of Pakistan and portrayed it in a negative light.
Religion is an important factor in motivation of soldiers of different armies of the world. It can be a great force multiplier but to replace professionalism of armed forces with religious zeal will be detrimental not only to the army but also society at large. Religious symbols and zeal in appropriate doses can boost the fighting abilities of rank and file and battlefield commanders (Platoon, Company and Battalion commanders). Religious zeal replacing professional competence can become a slippery slope severely limiting the abilities at higher level of decision-making. Overall, the officers corps has remained professional but there are few aberrations. Brigadier Gulzar Ahmad explaining the role of celestial powers to lessen his troop casualties in 1965 war stated, “There was a hidden hand deflecting the rounds which would otherwise have taken a heavy toll of the advancing troops”.24 Thirty five years later in 2000, ISI chief Lt. General Mahmud Ahmad during Pakistani ambassador’s conference ‘reprimanded the ambassadors for not relying ‘on the intercession of Providence’ while analyzing Pakistan’s Afghan policy’.25 A former army chief considers the training of thousands of fighters from different countries by United States during 80s as a ‘Divine Will’.26 Another compelling reason to be very cautious about overuse of religion is to avoid seeping of sectarian tendencies into the armed forces.
Whenever military takes control over the state, the situation becomes more complex. The perception of officer corps also changes in this changed environment. One factor is the underlying apprehension and suspicion about the civilian leaders. The patriotism of the senior military brass is never in question. (Ayub Khan and Zia’s close ties with US, offers of no war pacts to India by all military rulers and current drastic change in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy are few examples. Even half of such efforts by any civilian ruler would be enough for his or her crucifixion by the armed forces). The result of this suspicion and apprehension is that when a civil government is in charge, armed forces blame them for the weakness shown at the international and diplomatic level but when a military ruler adopts the same policies, he is applauded as a peacemaker. The reason for this course of action is that when civilians are running the state, all negative fall out from the policies of the government have to be faced by the civilian rulers. Once military takes over, now there is no civilian cushion. They realize now the limitations under which even a superpower has to work, obviously for a developing country the challenge is tremendous. External diplomatic and economic pressures and internal debate about the policies severely limits any government’s manoeuvrability and a military government is no exception. In addition, the civilians who are replaced by the officers will use every opportunity to show the fallacies of the policies adopted by the military regime. One retired Colonel while commenting on Nawaz Sharif’s attempts to improve relations with India is of the opinion that ‘Our Sharif’s remained more busy in secret sugar deals with Vajpayee’.27 One defence commentator chastising civilians stated that, ‘the response of successive governments in Pakistan, to escape the label of ‘terrorist state’, they have shown themselves weak-kneed in reaction, sometimes downright apologetic’.28 Another defence analyst stated that, “the military success of Kargil was totally undermined by the Sharif government’s confused and panicked approach from beginning to end’ and that ‘The pro-US lobby within the Pakistan government panicked Sharif into undertaking a meaningless flight to Washington — leaving everything on the ground in a state of confusion’.29 One commentator in 2000 states, “The attitude of Sharif’s government was most dubious right from the very beginning. He was concerned more to divide and weaken the Armed Forces”.30 Most people conveniently forget that most dramatic offers regarding defence matters made by Pakistan to India were by military rulers. In 1959, Ayub Khan offered Nehru a no war pact. In April 1959, after Chinese take over of Tibet, he suggested to Nehru about joint defence of the subcontinent. General Zia offered India a no war pact on September 15, 1981. He also visited Jaipur without a formal invitation. General Arif calls Zia attending the funeral of Indira Gandhi ‘an act of considerable diplomatic acumen and foresight’.31 General Musharraf before his meeting with Vajpayee on July 5, 2001 proposed a no war pact with India.32 All these offers were made by the army chiefs who were directly controlling the state. There has been no detailed discussion and a well-organized plan about these offers. When Pakistan itself is not clear about all these offers, how can one expect that the adversary will seriously consider these overtures. The result of this undermining of each other by civilian and military leaders have not only severely damaged Pakistan’s credibility but also have contributed to overall confusion about vital national interests.
Constant vigil and accountability is another important aspect to maintain the professionalism of armed forces so that defence policies adopted by the government are carried through efficiently. Every effort should be made to curb the delusions of ‘glory’ in the minds of young officers. Lack of accountability is one of the major factors that senior leadership has repeatedly embarked on faulty operations with significant damage to the professionalism of the armed forces in long-term. Personal relationship and being on the ‘right’ side has prevented the accountability of several officers. In 1965, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) led by Brigadier Riaz Hussain had a very poor performance. In less than 48 hours after the launching of Operation Gibraltar, ISI lost all its contacts. Instead of any accountability, Brigadier Riaz was promoted to the rank of Major General. Similarly, Director of Military Intelligence, Brigadier Irshad had very little information about the whole exercise let alone a comprehensive strategy. He admitted to then information minister when asked about the nature and purpose of operation so that ministry could project it. He innocently admitted that the beauty of the operation is that ‘even I know very little about the operation’.33 He rose up the ranks to become Lt. General and lead a Corps. A senior retired Lt. General while commenting about 1965 war is of the view that ‘the reputation of many senior commanders was tarnished and many others would have come to the limelight but intense personal lobbying prevented any meaningful change’.34 Similarly, no serious detailed analysis of Kargil Operations have been carried out to learn the positive and negative lessons of this exercise. Due to the nature of the institution they belong to, when the military leadership is in charge of the country any meaningful accountability is almost impossible. A defence analyst after the Kargil debacle gave credit to Nawaz Sharif ‘to pull someone else’s chestnuts out of fire’, ‘even to the peril of his reputation and political career’. He advocated an enquiry of the fiasco but at the same time stated that ‘Let us not do a witch-hunt, I believe that the Army’s hierarchy has been generally blameless’ and advocated that the committee be headed by three soldiers and its findings be ‘kept secret in the national interest and the interest of the Army’.35
A defence analyst has summed up the overall attitude of Pakistani military leadership in these words, “...although most of generals have learned how to “play politics” both within the military and in dealing with politicians and bureaucrats, they are often lacking in speculative or conceptual skills, let alone the ability to articulate their ideas in such a way that a mass public would find them intelligible”.36 ‘The major problem of confusion in the minds of senior military leadership is the fact that these officers are unable to adjust to the lower power status of the state they serve. This results in the ambition of doing something through a single feat of defiance that would offset the weakness of the state’.37 The direct involvement of military leadership in civilian affairs inevitably involves them in politics. This means that not only their political but also defence policies will be critically scrutinized by the politicians. After retirement, it is a right of any officer to enter the politics but in case of Pakistan, a disproportionately high number of senior officers jumping into political arena has a very negative effect on the defence and national security. The ideas and policies of soldier-politicians including their policies about defence become the focus of political rivalries. The result is that rather than a rational and intelligent discussion about difference of opinion the fight boils down to allegations and mud slinging. This in turn severely degrades the position of senior officers among junior officers thus affecting the cohesion of armed forces.
They demand Azadi but it is a concept, which has not been choreographed — Brigadier Arjun Ray
The same malaise of ambiguity, which affects all other areas of national life, also affects the Kashmir policy of Pakistan. A former army chief sees the Kashmir issue being historically linked to Chechnya, Palestine and Afghanistan. He calls this a ‘wave of Islamic revival’ and ‘core of the global resistance’. In the same article, he then takes the position that Kashmir issue ‘demands a different approach to solve it with means, other than force of arms’.38 General (r) K. M. Arif is now suggesting that ‘it is a folly to use military means for settling political disputes’.39 A retired Lt. Colonel sees the solution of Kashmir problem in ‘physical and financial thrashing to India as a consequence of Kargil operation and not the Indian ploy of Lahore Declaration’.40
1965 war between India and Pakistan was a direct result of the Operation Gibraltar. How Pakistani military leadership reached that decision? There was a general consensus among officers’ corps that they have missed a golden opportunity to settle Kashmir issue in 1962, when India was involved in a border dispute with China. Regarding India, they thought that it had not yet achieved the indigenous arm manufacturing capacity and in near future with rapid expansion of its armed forces, the military option will be impossible. The general despise of Hindus and doubting their capacity of able to give a good fight was almost universal. General Ayub Khan in his letter to C-in-C General Muhammad Musa stated, “as a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows delivered at the right time and place. Such opportunities should, therefore, be sought and exploited”.41 Ayub Khan was of the view that Indian army had expanded too rapidly and lacked disciplined leadership.42 The limited clash of Indian and Pakistani forces in April 1965 at Runn of Kutch was blown out of proportion by Pakistani leadership. Rather than analyzing the situation professionally, they became victim of their own propaganda of invincibility. On international front, they perceived that US may not like the action but in view of its involvement in Vietnam, it will not be a position to influence the situation much. In April 1965, Ayub Khan had visited Moscow where he was warmly welcomed. From this reception they wrongly concluded that in any encounter with India, Soviet Union will remain neutral and will not support India. In 1965, on his visit to Pakistan, Chou-en-Lai gave a statement of support for the Muslim Liberation Front of Kashmir. This was somehow seen as a proof that China will support Pakistan’s adventure. In this background, what was the defence establishment’s planning? The senior military leadership was seriously divided. General Headquarters (GHQ) opposed the operation as it had rightly concluded that it will result in war with India for which Pakistan was not prepared. Chief of General Staff (CGS), Major General Sher Bahadur viewed this operation as ‘a bastard child born of the liaison between foreign office and HQ 12 Division’.43 It was this lack of strategy for consideration of all possible scenarios at highest level in defence establishment which did not yield the desired results. In a military organization, surely some will differ with the plan but once a decision is made by the high command, there are only two choices for an upright and professional soldier. If he sees the operation seriously flawed with extreme danger for national security, he informs his superiors about his reservations and then resigns. If he does not agree with the plan completely but decides to go along then it is his duty to give his best efforts to make the operation successful. Those who disagreed simply let the events happen and did not vigorously helped to tie up the loose ends. When the plan did not yield the desired results, they conveniently joined the group of ‘see I told you’. ‘The near successful initial Pakistani military thrust into the Chamb-Jurian sector of Jammu nearly decapitated Kashmir from the rest of India. It was only Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s decision to internationalize the war across the boundaries of Indian and Pakistani Punjab, and Rajasthan and Sindh, that prevented what appeared to be the Indian loss of Kashmir’.44 The most tragic effect of 1965 war was not military but political which military mind was unable to comprehend. The remarks of an East Pakistani summarize the feelings of Bengalis about 1965 war, “while the West Pakistan was using its American tanks and American planes to fight India for the precious five million Kashmiris, 65 million Bengalis were left to fight with their bare hands if the Indians had attacked us”.45
In late 80s, Pakistan policy about Kashmir saw a new direction. The cornerstone of this policy was that ‘Pakistan could only protect itself from India by encouraging its dissolution’.46 This change was brought due to the heavy influence of the intelligence community of the armed forces. ISI was the main architect of the policy. They were flushed with their recent victory in Afghanistan. Surely, a large number of mid-level officers performed their task in Afghanistan professionally and efficiently which was one of the factors of Soviet withdrawal. They argued that if a superpower can be defeated by guerrillas and then why not India? They didn’t fully evaluated Afghan experience and didn’t learn the lessons of Afghanistan. This lack of detailed analysis resulted in replication of Afghan experience in Kashmir with significant negative fall out both for Kashmir struggle and Pakistan itself. The strategy was two pronged. ‘One, it sought to maximize the cost of occupation for the Indian army in Kashmir and, in the process, bleed it white. Two, it thought it could keep the cost of its own offensive to pittance by sending religiously swayed armed volunteers across the Line of Control’.47 This ‘privatization of Jehad’ would be the blunder which would come back to haunt them a decade later. Majority of Kashmiri population of Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK) is thoroughly alienated from India. For Pakistani policy makers, this fact of hatred of India was enough proof that Kashmiris want merger with Pakistan. They failed to critically analyze the society in ICK.
In the early part of the struggle, Pakistan was careful and only Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC were involved in operations and logistics. They drew wrong conclusions from earlier success stories not fully analyzing the ground situation. In early nineties, the policy-makers also failed to analyze the situation in Kashmir comprehensively. The initial success of the armed rebellion was perceived as the inferiority of Indian Armed Forces. They failed to take the account of the fact that initially, it was the Kashmir state police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which were responsible for security of the state. These two organizations were poorly armed, corrupt, and inefficient and had no clue about the counter insurgency operations. They were armed with old rifles and their only experience had been dispersing unruly unarmed mobs for the control of law and order. Later, Border Security Force (BSF) became increasingly involved in operations. In addition, another critical factor was ignored. There was a general political chaos in India and the state of Kashmir and constant bickering among various political parties prevented a coordinated and effective response from the Indian government. Once Indian army was given the task with full authority, the situation began to change. Lt. General Muhammad Ahmad Zaki, Corps Commander of 15th Corps stationed in Srinagar was a decisive factor in reasserting the state authority in Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK).48 This re-assertion of Indian state came with a heavy price tag as violence against civilians reached an unprecedented level having long-term effects on Kashmiri society.
When dealing with Kashmir struggle, ISI fell back on their only recent experience of Afghanistan. Initially, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) under Amanullah Khan was favoured. JKLF had a strong popular support in Srinagar area and it was the only group, which deliberately made the decision of armed struggle. The major drawback was that they were pro-independence. Despite their pro-independence stance, Pakistan went along with JKLF as it was the only organized group who could start the armed struggle. In less than three years, Pakistan organized groups, which openly opted the policy of accession to Pakistan. A dejected Amanullah complained that he was disillusioned with Pakistani government because it first supported his organization and then raised other militant organizations to counter it physically and ideologically.49 Pakistan took a page from the recent experience of Afghanistan covert operations without bothering to make necessary changes, which will suit the Kashmir situation. Every guerrilla group have to maintain a office in Muzaffarabad to be eligible for money and weapons from ISI. ISI also tried to arrange a forced marriage of various groups, each one with a total different vision about Kashmir. A political umbrella organization called Tehreek-e-Hurriyat-e-Kashmir (This included both secular and religious groups and included Jamaat-e-Islami, People’s League, Muslim League, Muslim Conference, Jamiat-e-Ahle-Hadith) and a military umbrella organization called Muttahida Jihad Council (Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al Jihad — groups which advocated Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan were included in this organization) were hastily set up. As one ISI operative put it that ‘the indigenous Kashmiri leadership had no choice but to eat out of ISI’s hand’.50 Surely, the introduction of battle-hardened and ideologically motivated ‘guest’ Mujahideen and improved quality of operations inside ICK due to well trained guerrillas and improved quality of weapons and communications (Initially AK-47, pistols and other small arms were used but later machine guns, advanced sniper rifles, rocket propelled grenades, launchers and sophisticated communication systems with frequency hopping and digital burst were gradually introduced) took a great toll on Indian armed forces. By 1998-99, Pakistan finally realized that their expectation of India disintegrating with Kashmir guerrilla warfare was not realistic. They now forwarded another theory. Some senior officers were now of the view that, “As long as India is busy in Kashmir, it cannot have a 3:1 ratio which is needed for any aggressive force. This situation should continue until there is a resolution of the Kashmir issue. We will have to pay a price, but then, there is no other way out of it”.51 Pakistani policy-makers have run out of new ideas and found themselves in a dead end.
Failure to recognize changing ground realities and taking appropriate steps forced Pakistan to use ‘foreign’ or ‘guest’ guerrillas especially in 1992-93 to give a boost to the morale of the fighters. Surely, they were very effective and conducted some daredevil operations and inflicted significant casualties on Indian forces but it further complicated the situation. Not only Pakistanis but also Afghans, Saudis, Sudanese and Yemenis ended up in ICK. Pakistani and other foreign volunteers fighting in Kashmir followed the Afghan model and ‘became a destabilizing force, rather than melding with the indigenous resistance into a force of cohesion’.52 While Pakistan made a deliberate operational decision, the guerrilla groups started to play this factor to media. In interviews published in newspapers in ICK, one fighter Ibn-e-Masud of Sudan boasted that about 6,000 foreign Mujahideen were preparing to enter the valley. Similarly, when four ‘guest’ Mujahideen (Abu Khalid, Abu Muhammad Sharif, Malik Ali and Abu Muhammad) died in an encounter, Al Barq ran an advertisement in Srinagar Times, to show efficiency of foreign fighters, stated that the four fighters had wiped out an entire platoon of Indian army.53 In Pakistan, the publications of various guerrilla groups flashed the success of Pakistani and other foreign fighters. In their euphoria, the guerrillas gave India an excellent opportunity in a changed world to prove to the world that insurgency inside ICK was foreign instigated. Diplomatically, Pakistan repeatedly found itself in an embarrassing position and its official stance of ‘only moral and diplomatic’ support to Kashmir cause became a laughing matter even among its allies. In 2002, General Musharraf would regretfully state that, “the objectives of various Jehadi outfits are individually selfish rather than for the community good, they grandstand for primetime TV”.54 Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan now is of the view that presence of foreign militants in Kashmir is detrimental to Kashmir struggle.55
In 2000, in changed international situation and almost total isolation of the military regime forced it to re-think its Kashmir policy. The government tried to control a complex situation without alienating guerrillas. While decreasing its support to guerrillas, it appealed to international community to help resolve the issue. A former DG ISI embarked on nuclear scare factor. Instead of forwarding a rational plan, he stated, “USA, G-8 and the rest must act, and act quickly, before it is too late, if they want to save the billion plus of South Asia and the rest of the world from a nuclear holocaust”.56 Such rhetoric had opposite effect. In a changed international environment of post-September 11 world, going became tough for Pakistan despite its cooperation with US in Afghanistan. Pakistan have to shut down many offices of guerrilla groups. The leaders of two most active groups (Maulana Masud Azhar of Jaish-e-Muhammad and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed of Lashkar-e-Taiba) were detained while Maulana Fazlur Rahman of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Bakht Zamin of Al Badr went underground. In April-May 2002, India decided to climb up the escalation ladder. The alarmed international community put all its weight on Pakistan forcing General Musharraf to almost completely halt passage of guerrillas from Pakistani Controlled Kashmir (PCK) to ICK. A senior member of a militant group confirmed that, ‘Pakistan has told us to suspend our activities’ and another leader admitted that Pakistan army was turning militants back from control line.57 It is too early to predict the outcome of such efforts. One of the senior members of a militant organization said, “We feel very betrayed”.58 An educated young Pakistani who had gone through the guerrilla training stated that Pakistan army had used us and now dumping us under international pressure. He stated that we were used as cheap and dispensable commodity. If one Pakistani soldier dies in combat, government have to pay the pension to the family. On the other hand hundreds of us can die and they don’t have to worry.59 This also illustrates the failed methodology of Afghan adventure. In Afghanistan, Pakistan also used different leaders and groups to forward their agenda and when they were unable to deliver they were dumped unceremoniously. In case of Afghanistan, this exercise has earned Pakistan almost universal hostility from each group. The so-called masters of covert operations fail to recognize one simple fact that human beings are not robots which can be switched on and off according to wishes of anybody. (Every country has learned this painful lesson — when pawns become strong enough they refuse to go back into the box. There are several examples of that, Israel in case of Hamas, India in case of Jarnel Singh Bhindrawale and US in case of radical Islamists). The question is not whether intensification of armed struggle was right or wrong decision, the most important thing is the methodology of planning and execution of an agreed policy. It is the haphazard and ad hoc nature of some serious ventures, which had long-term effects on country’s security, which need to be studied dispassionately.
The military mind acting on its own ideas with no input from any other segment of the society has natural limitations. They cannot comprehend the complex nature of the world they are living in. They are unable to calculate the cost of Pakistan’s military adventurism in Kashmir. The issue of denial of Pakistan’s involvement in Kashmir is a tricky one. When things are so obvious and both domestic and international media has ample proof of that, no diplomat can defend this policy. When certain policies cannot be effectively kept secret, then it is imperative to think of a strategy of how to present the case to domestic and international audience. One can use the argument that Kashmir is a disputed territory and LoC is not an international boundary, therefore, Pakistan is not obliged according to international laws to give same status to LoC as of a recognized international boundary between two sovereign countries. Regardless of any country’s position on Kashmir issue, one thing is sure, outside world is not blind. Key policy- makers and academics have repeatedly ‘express disgust over Pakistan’s assumption that no one knows the reality’.60 Some Pakistani defence commentators then lament that the foreign office ‘seem to have been caught unprepared to deal with world opinion in understanding our point of view’.61 Regarding the role of Pakistani troops across LoC during Kargil crisis, one retired Vice Admiral stated, “The sad part is, that practically the whole of the Pakistani intelligentsia fell prey to this Indian propaganda of infiltration by Pakistanis across the LoC just because a superpower found it convenient to support the Indian canard for good reasons of its own”.62 Even a common man on the street in Pakistan was aware of the fact that Pakistan is directly involved in the affair. As one commentator has put it rightly that all government official media is still busy in an exercise, which is nothing but ‘a desperate attempt to justify failed policies’. He also correctly points that ‘in such circumstances it is futile, rather counter-productive to send delegations to convey the same old message’.63
India tried to get advantage of the changed international scene and after the initial operations in Afghanistan quite down, it decided to climb one step up on escalation ladder. In early 2002, India started to mobilize troops along international border. An astute Pakistani defence analyst correctly pointed in early March 2002 about the stand off between India and Pakistan. She pointed that, ‘through a combination of actual military mobilization, diplomatic and psychological manoeuvres, New Delhi could force Islamabad to change its policy regarding the militants that would ultimately have an effect on the struggle in Kashmir’.64 This is what actually happened in June 2002, when Pakistan effectively curtailed the movement of armed guerrillas across the line of control to ICK. In contrast to that, a former army chief is of the view that, “The implicit irony is in the fact that Vajpayee’s brinkmanship has bestowed upon Pakistan, phenomenal advantages confidence and strength”. This he attributes to the assertion of ‘Divine Will’.65 Pakistani policy makers have yet to catch up on the rapidly changing situation in Kashmir. India is banking on the idea that once the flow of guerrillas is markedly decreased, it can effectively wipe out the remaining guerrillas inside Kashmir (India is confidant of its previous experience in Mezoram, Nagaland and Punjab). This stick of overwhelming force will be matched by the carrot of opening dialogue with the Kashmiris, elections and an economic package. The problem for India is that Kashmir has undergone a radical change. It is not possible to go back to the status quo of pre-1989 Kashmir. The situation is very complex and will need significant concessions from India. Pakistan’s sudden reversal of stance about armed struggle under duress is seen as a signal by Kashmiri political leadership to assert their control. In ICK, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity by different countries. (Former Swedish ambassador Kasu Inglap, First Secretary of French embassy and three US diplomats have met several Kashmiri leaders including Shabbir Ahmad Shah (Chief of Democratic Freedom Party) and Abdul Ghani Bhat (Chairman of Hurriyat).66 Shabir has also held discussions with A. S. Dulat, officer on special duty in Prime Minister Office and also met delegates of European Union in New Delhi.67 The most significant change which has gone unnoticed in Pakistan is assertion of Kashmiri leadership that Kashmiris being the primary party have to be included in any dialogue process. This means that the role of Pakistan will be significantly decreased. In an unprecedented move, Hurriyet has asked Indian government to allow them to go to PCK to ask militants to agree to a ceasefire.
The decision of Pakistan in Spring of 1999 to occupy the positions on hills in Kargil area has resulted in a confusing intense debate both about the nature of the operation and its outcome. Lets briefly review what was the thought-process of the officer corps about the operation. A former army chief during the Kargil crisis was of the view that, “India could never venture a war with Pakistan with more than half of its ground forces committed in Kashmir, and if it did, it would do so at its own peril, and Kashmir could be liberated earlier than one could anticipate’.68 A defence commentator stated, ‘In all our history there will not be more golden opportunity than at present time to settle the Kashmir issue once and for all”.69 Some were of the opinion that ‘about 75,000-100,000 well trained battle hardened volunteer Afghan Mujahideen are only a day or two’s drive away from the LoC’.70 while others dwelled on dangerous ideas that, “India knows it well, that in case of an all out war, China, Afghanistan and Iran, will support Pakistan meaningfully and particularly Afghanistan who may be directly involved in Pakistan’s war against India”.71 He confidently announced that, “They have occupied Kargil, Daras and batalik heights. Tomorrow they shall move forward to hold Zojilla pass, and Srinagar, and force India to negotiate peace”.72
In the first few weeks Pakistan was euphoric about mounting Indian casualties. Pakistani leadership saw the initial Indian offer of safe passage to guerrillas as a sign of weakness and refused. One defence commentator saw this as a panic reaction and claimed that ‘considerable military, diplomatic, political and psychological damage has already been inflicted on Delhi’.73 A former Vice Admiral saw, “Indian military actions were replete with signs of panic”.74 A former army chief was re-assuring the apprehensive nation that, “Between China and Pakistan there exists strategic consensus on issues having bearing on peace and stability of the region, Pakistan, therefore, is not isolated and vulnerable”.75 The real situation on ground was that when Nawaz Sharif dashed to China, Chinese in their usual polite and non-belligerent manners plainly told him to ‘cool down’ the temperature which essentially meant that back off from Kargil. In June 1999, when India decided to climb up the escalation ladder, it shocked Pakistani policy-makers. Pakistani high command had exaggerated the nuclear deterrent factor. They never anticipated such a forceful reaction from India especially use of air force. ‘The military hierarchy was confident that unlike what had happened in 1965, India would not go to war this time as it was heavily committed in Kashmir and in other areas, where a large number of troops were engaged in putting down secessionist movements’.76 A Wing Commander aware of the dangers commented, “A point to be highlighted is the unprecedented Indian action of using air-power to bomb out Kashmiri insurgents that is the cause of present escalation, this campaign must stop as a first step towards de-escalation tensions”.77 Prime Minister Sharif telephoned Vajpayee and told him that, ‘Sending planes will only make matters worse’.78 Off course, Vajpayee was not going to take the advice of his adversary.
A Lt. General while commenting on Kargil retreat gave extreme rhetorical statement stating that, “India was considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the heights of Kargil to offset the Mujahideen’s tactical superiority... It was Pakistan’s initiative to start dialogue to de-escalate the Kargil situation by sending the Foreign Minister Mr. Sartaj Aziz to Delhi”.79 To date, there has been no evidence that in that limited operation, India had any thought of use of nuclear weapons. Despite immense pressure from the military hierarchy, Indian political leadership plainly told the military leaders that LoC should not be crossed. They were not evaluating only the military situation but keeping view of the overall scenario. Despite initial shock and significant casualties, India recovered from the fumble quickly and went on a multi-faceted response. Military operations were on the Indian side of LoC, therefore India could raise the heat by using artillery and air force. On the other hand, by not crossing the LoC, India got the credit from international community of a responsible party, which was showing restraint.
Under immense international pressure, when Pakistan had to pull back, the mood went from euphoric to depressive. How was retreat assessed? Same ambiguity and confusion was written everywhere. A former army chief while commenting on Kargil withdrawal stated, “Withdrawal, however was imposed on the Kashmiri Mujahideen, through the 4th July 1999 Washington Declaration, and Pakistan was overawed by the diplomatic pressures to manage a victory for India, which otherwise was not possible militarily”.80 A former Vice Admiral saw it as, ‘part of the overall strategy of the Indian government to frighten the world into forcing Pakistan to do, what all of India’s military might could not have achieved in the time frame available” and ‘The best solution for India, therefore, was to use USA and the rest of the world to do for India what its Armed Forces were unable to do i.e. force out the Mujahideen in time to relieve the Indian troops caught in the Sack’.81 One retired Colonel while commenting on Kargil retreat states that, “It can be said that India compelled Pakistan’s political leadership appeal to Mujahideens, because of India’s media victory and Pakistan’s media defeat”.82 A defence analyst is of the view that, “India was able to turn a military defeat into a diplomatic victory” and ‘Pakistan was unable to translate a tremendous military success into a politico-diplomatic victory’. She also states that the reason United States got involved was because ‘it saw success for Pakistan and sidelining of the Americans’.83 A former Lt. Colonel considers Kargil as a victory for Pakistan because ‘The explosive nature of Kashmir problem has been highlighted internationally in an unprecedented manner’ and in future ‘inflated defence will have devastating fall out on Indian economy’.84 A retired Lt. General also is of opinion that ‘The Mujahideen explosion in Kargil certainly brought the problem of Kashmir to the world’s attention’.85
There was almost a general consensus among most senior officers that Pakistan was close to a complete military victory against India in Kashmir during Kargil adventure. This was partly due to the unavailability of any information about the operation and self-exaggerated opinion of self. Some were of the view (highly exaggerated and misleading) that within six weeks, about three divisions of Indian army will either surrender or abandon the territory up to Siachin glacier. After the nuclear detonation in 1998, a new wave of thinking quickly swept the defence establishment without any serious study or debate. Everybody mistakenly convinced themselves that a conventional war was out of question due to the nuclear factor. On psychological level, this was the single most important factor, which resulted in the Pakistani decision of embarking on raising the entente at Kargil in 1999. The clandestine nature of the whole exercise and complete silence afterwards had caused significant disturbance in armed forces and have left the whole nation bewildered.
In the last few years, repeated military stand-offs have proven that Pakistani defence policy-makers have no long-term strategy. Most of their actions have been reactionary in response to some event whether September 11 or initiatives from India. This has also proved that ‘once India demonstrated its willingness to climb up the escalation ladder, Islamabad backed down to defuse the crisis’.86 Even in defence establishment, the decision making process is highly personalized. There is no broad discussion and appraisal of views of others, which may not conform to the official line.87 While arguing for acquisition of nuclear capability, military leadership advocated that Pakistan cannot compete India in conventional arm race, therefore, it has to acquire nuclear capability. Once the nuclear capability was achieved but Pakistan still faced many reverses, the argument also changed. The doctrine of ‘changing threat perception’ was forwarded. According to this doctrine, as conventional war was out due to nuclear factor, the era of ‘Low Intensity Conflict (LIC)’ has started. To meet this challenge, the present number of troops needed to be maintained. They argued that looking after the internal threat, which is an extension of external threat, is a military job.88 In 1999, during Kargil Operation when the threat of conventional war became real, the argument also changed. A former air chief states that, ‘Nuclear weapons only deter a nuclear attack, but are no guarantee against a conventional onslaught which must also be resisted with conventional weapons’.89 On the eve of twenty first century, Pakistan’s defence establishment took a page from the desperate measures adopted by last of the Roman emperors who used ethnic groups led by their warlords and chiefs. Pakistan is currently facing the negative fallout of this experiment of using private militias to advance country’s security policy.
Since its independence in 1947, Pakistan has always viewed India as a major threat to its survival. Instead of rationally evaluating the threat and devise a multi-pronged strategy to counter it, unfortunately Pakistani policy-makers have fallen victim to paranoia. The outcome of this attitude is that the country’s strategy about all problems has been made inflexible. For a practical, long-term defence planning, Pakistani defence establishment has to come out of the box. The entrenched notion that state of the art military hardware can bail out Pakistan at times of crisis is a flawed one. (The role of expensive state of the art military hardware in 50s, F-16 aircraft in 80s and nuclear weapons and now missiles need to be thoroughly studied). Weapons and equipment are one of the means to achieve the objects of national security and do not automatically translate into success. It is the comprehensive defence policy in the framework of which a particular defensive or offensive weapon works. It is critically important that at higher ranks, research, discussion and debate be encouraged in an institutionalized form. In addition, input from different strata of society regarding national security should be encouraged to evolve not only a practical policy but also a policy, which has some degree of approval from the society in general. The question is not whether a confrontational and aggressive or an accommodative policy is adopted
vis-a-vis India, the important thing is the thought-process and methodology of this exercise to achieve the desired results.
One who is confused in purpose cannot respond to his enemy — Sun Tzu
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