Wednesday, 21 August 2019

The Security Studies Seminar is a monthly seminar series that aims to comprehensively discuss a new piece of academic research on matters pertaining to Indian and international security, with the author.
Since independence, the Indian government has established a strong tradition of civilian control over military policy. However, the influence of politics over the military has come into sharp focus in the aftermath of the Balakot strikes carried out by the Indian Air Force against Pakistan, two weeks after the Pulwama attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, in February 2019.
Colonel Ali Ahmed, visiting professor at the Nelson Mandela Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, discussed his upcoming paper on the impact of politics on military professionalism in the Indian armed forces. The discussion was moderated by Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at Carnegie India. 


  • Pillars of a Professional Military: The Huntingtonian models of subjective and objective military control were discussed by the participants in order to establish the desired characteristics of a military that is subject to civilian control. Participants agreed that civil-military relations in India have been characterized by a strong tradition of civilian supremacy over military policy. The participants deliberated the political forces that could, potentially, impact the Indian military’s professional, apolitical, and secular characteristics.
  • Mechanism of Politicization: Participants explored the various mechanisms through which the military is influenced by political forces. First, they noted that the composition of the armed forces plays a crucial role in maintaining its secular tradition. Second, they discussed how a military that is dissatisfied with its budgetary outlays and perceives itself to be underappreciated by its nation may choose the route of political appeasement to have its needs met. Third, they pointed out that the retired fraternity of the armed forces could also have an influence over the armed forces’ apolitical nature—in the Indian context, particularly, political issues such as ‘One Rank One Pension’ tend to impact military professionalism. More recently, the participants also noted the politicization of the Balakot strikes, which soon became a topic of debate during the most recent election campaign cycle. Participants agreed that such manipulation of military symbols for political outcomes could seriously impact the military’s apolitical disposition.
  • The Influence of Technology: Some participants deliberated over the role that technological advancements play in affecting the apolitical nature of the military. They noted that, compared to previous ages where there were no mobile phones or social media, the military today is greatly exposed to the outside world, and possesses the ability to widely share information. Social media and messaging platforms allow the dissemination of political opinions, which are accessible like never before, said the participants. Other participants noted that the increased exposure to social media bypasses the previous ideal of separating the military from the rest of society, which is an essential component of preserving its apolitical character. 
This event summary was prepared by Medha Prasanna, a research intern at Carnegie India.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Articles on latest Kashmir crisis

Key Points
  • The BJP government’s motives for its recent moves in Kashmir lie less in the reasons professed – governance and development – than they do in the ideological direction it is taking the country.
  • The likelihood of war with Pakistan that is inherent in the Kashmiri situation will depend on India’s response to the civil unrest that is likely to break out in Kashmir when the restrictive conditions, such as curfews, are lifted.
  • The impending civilian unrest, prospects of renewed insurgency and Pakistan-sponsored asymmetrical warfare ended India’s hopes of returning stability to Kashmir soon. It appears that India’s constitutional initiative was based on a flawed security analysis.
  • The right-wing BJP government would not be averse to a deterioration in the security situation since that would enable it to continue its hardline policies of “Othering” that are part of its wider majoritarian project of embedding Hindutva into India’s polity.
Prime Minister Modi’s recent decision to scrap Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution, which gave Jammu and Kashmir special status, has stirred controversy across the political spectrum. While supporters of the initiative emphasise that the move fulfils a campaign promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was returned for a second term with an increased vote share of six per cent, critics see it as the prelude to a shift to majoritarianism. On the external front, the move is being commended for taking advantage of Pakistan’s focus on its western flank and the end game in Afghanistan, and for changing the issue of Kashmir from being a dispute with Pakistan to an internal matter. To critics, however, the reduction of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to the status of a union territory – truncated by the slicing off of Ladakh – does not end the issue of Kashmir being the source of an international dispute and that it is only a matter of time before Pakistan makes its presence felt, possibly through renewed conflict, either directly or through proxies.

This article makes the case that Pakistan, which has underplayed the changes effected by India, will, over time, reactivate the proxy war and upset India’s calculation that its move will end the problem of Kashmir. It argues that since this is a somewhat obvious conclusion, the sources of India’s action are not to be found in strategic calculus as much as in the current administration’s ideological underpinnings. The BJP’s strategy, informed as it is by Hindutva ideology, is not about restoring stability to Kashmir as it claims, but to heighten the instability inherent in the situation, thereby inducing Pakistan into a proxy war. If that were to happen, it could pay an internal political dividend by allowing the BJP to reshape secular India into its aspirational Hindutva-based form and, externally, place Pakistan in a corner, forcing it, once again, to prosecute a war.
A Situational Update
Kashmir is in lockdown at this time, with around fifty thousand additional paramilitary troops deployed to the union territory to prevent unrest. Communication networks have been disabled in order to mute anticipated adverse reactions of Kashmiris. The centrally-appointed authorities, in office since central rule began over a year ago, have correctly assessed that some Kashmiris are liable to revolt after being deprived of the limited autonomy they enjoyed until now. This is particularly the case as they were neither consulted on nor endorsed the political re-engineering of their relationship with the rest of India. Sensibly, the authorities have taken around five hundred mainstream political leaders and separatists into preventive custody, including three former chief ministers, who are being held incommunicado and without charge.
The authorities would be relieved that those measures have resulted in minor stray incidents of stone throwing after prayers on Friday. That resulted in a further clamp-down during the Eid festival, with the traditional prayers at the historic Jamia Mosque in Srinagar being disallowed in favour of prayers at smaller, local mosques. While information is scarce, there are reports of dozens of people being injured by pellet guns fired to put down incidents after prayers on both days.
The state has had a public run-in with international media, initially disputing its reporting on such incidents, but admitting later to one that involved around two thousand protestors at Soura, Srinagar. In a video of the incident, automatic gunfire can be heard in the background, indicating ham-handed, if not high-handed, crowd control measures being enacted. The government correctly anticipated the delicate situation would last until the end of the week, with the independence days of Pakistan, which Islamabad is observing as one of solidarity with Kashmiris, and India being observed on 14 and 15 August, respectively.
India’s Security Preparations
Those actions are indicative of the government’s security imperatives. Clearly, the government was aware of a possible backlash within Kashmir as also of a possible response from Pakistan. The manner in which the clampdown was organised indicates the government’s prior formulation of a realistic threat perception.
The government terminated a major pilgrimage, the Amarnath Yatra, at the beginning of August, citing the discovery of a terror plot to target Hindu pilgrims. It pointed to a burst of hostile Pakistani activity along the Line of Control (LoC), including an unsuccessful action in which five members of a Pakistani border action team were killed. That resulted in pilgrims, tourists and migrant workers leaving the then-state post haste, assisted by the government. To further control the information trickling out of the union territory, India increased the number of paramilitary troops in it. An infantry brigade had already been positioned there earlier. The increased strength of the security forces was over and above that already deployed in Kashmir for overseeing the national elections in early summer and for securing the pilgrimage. The build-up would suggest that India was well aware of the potential fall-out of its then-impending action in parliament.
The government’s caution is best evidenced by the fact that Mr Ajit Doval, the national security adviser, camped in Kashmir to oversee the security arrangements personally. Those arrangements have apparently succeeded, at least for the moment, since there has been no major incident with large scale loss of lives or injuries caused by pellet guns. That, however, could be the lull before the storm.
India has underlined the need for development and ending the insurgency as reason for ridding Kashmir of its special status. It holds that the special status allowed the state to be controlled by corrupt political parties, prevented its political integration with the rest of India and allowed an insurgent sentiment to proliferate in it. The special status included a separate constitution for the state, which has now been scrapped. The test of India’s success in Kashmir, therefore, would be in Kashmiris forging an emotional and political bond with the rest of the country and the degree of successful development in the union territory. India is liable to be surprised on both counts.
India’s Strategic Calculus
India’s surprising action, it may be inferred, was its response to regional developments, principally the emerging agreement between the Taliban, with Pakistan’s tacit support, and the Americans, which would enable the United States to withdraw from Afghanistan. In that event, India anticipated a strengthened Pakistan. Pakistan had been out of favour for most of the Trump presidency, with Mr Trump periodically belabouring Pakistan for its delay in implementing his Afghanistan policy. Islamabad’s influence over the Taliban and its positive response to US concerns more recently has resulted in the US opening up to Pakistan yet again. This turn of events has worried India all the more, since it was not part of the decision-making process on Afghanistan. Its action appears to have been stampeded, furthermore, by President Trump offering to mediate on the Kashmir issue during Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s end-July visit to the White House.
In Kashmir, India has been proactively engaged in countering the insurgency since its latest outbreak, which dates to the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. It has killed over seven hundred militants since then, with the proportion of Pakistani proxy fighters registering a decline lately, from a full third of those killed to less than a quarter. This indicates that Pakistan has been withholding its usual military support for the insurgency, hard pressed as it is on its alleged support of terrorism. It figures on the radar of the financial action task force, with a review from that body due in October. With heightened counter insurgency operations ongoing and with Pakistan on the back-foot temporarily, India perceived a window of political opportunity. The question is whether the window is wide enough for it to tide over the backlash from Pakistan and from within Kashmir.
The India-Pak Strategic Tryst
Pakistan has initiated diplomatic moves to counter India’s actions. It has written to the UN Secretary- General and drawn the attention of the Security Council to the events in Kashmir. It has downgraded its diplomatic ties to India, reduced bilateral trade and terminated train and bus services between the two countries. However, stowing away it’s tried and tested proxy war option now would be untimely.
Its Foreign Minister, returning from his trip to China, visited Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where he dampened expectations of any more vigorous Pakistani action, thereby hinting that the international environment was averse to harsher steps by Pakistan. Since Pakistan is compelled to be restrained in its reaction, it needs to divert the energy of anti-India proxy groups towards Kashmir. Pakistan cannot risk inaction, since the anger of the jihadi proxies, who are otherwise “good terrorists”, being anti-India, would likely be turned inwards. Pakistan would not like to reprise its operations against the “bad terrorists” since 2014. It would prefer to direct such energy outwards. While Indian troops are on the alert for now, how this situation will play out will be known by the onset of the northern winter.
Since the insurgency has been waning lately owing to India’s suppressive template, Pakistan would have to infuse it with both fighters and materiĆ©l soon if it is to be kept going. That may entail the creation of a crisis along the LoC, under cover of which Pakistan could infiltrate reinforcements. That manner of infiltration will likely prove expensive, if not altogether disastrous, since Indian counter-infiltration measures have been strengthened. The paramilitary forces that have been re-located to Kashmir have likely removed the protective tasks that were imposed on the Indian military, enabling its own redeployment forward. Therefore, an attempt to cast a lifeline to the insurgency may be in the offing.
Such a crisis could likely be created after the annual face-off between the two countries at the UN General Assembly meeting, that this year is being addressed by India’s Prime Minister. By then the financial action task force meeting would be behind it. Pakistan would also by then have the alibi of having tried the diplomatic route and found it wanting. In case the prospects of a return to peace in Afghanistan brighten, some of the jihadists released in anticipation of the return to peace could be redirected towards the worsening situation in Kashmir.
India’s Internal Security Challenge in Kashmir
The intervening period could well see outbreaks of unrest in Kashmir rival the period at the onset of the insurgency in the early 1990s. Such levels of disaffection were witnessed most recently in late 2016, when close to 100 rioters were killed. That figure was just short of the lower estimate reached in 2010, when Kashmiris agitated over the killings of three of their people by security forces at Machhil on the LoC. This time round the angst may be higher. The firmer the clamp-down by the state, the more anger would likely be visible on the street. The current curfews will have to be partially lifted some day and those held in preventive detention will have to be progressively released, whereupon it would be clearer as to whether India has bargained sensibly.
India has incentivised stability by promising a reversion to statehood in the future. The levels of distrust its action has generated will unlikely be placated by its promises of development and security. Although the Modi Administration was expected to trifurcate the state if it did anything at all in that regard, Kashmir has been yoked yet again with Jammu region, but without the autonomy it previously enjoyed. This has enabled the government to use the Jammu region and its Hindu majority to offset the political clout of the majority Kashmiris. The government is also looking to progress a delimitation of constituencies in order to rejig the assembly of the union territory in such a manner as to whittle the political power of the Kashmiris that derives from their numerical majority.
Anticipating the political fallout brought about by the setback to their political clout, Kashmiris are unlikely to acquiesce to New Delhi’s moves and would use agitation and insurgency against it. India would be hard put to organise elections, as announced by the Prime Minister. The resulting assembly would be dominated by Hindus from Jammu, with Kashmiris likely boycotting the vote. It is difficult to visualise how such an outcome could be described as a ‘political solution’. In other words, the ‘permanent solution’ – as the Defence Minister described it – foisted by the Indian Government on the Kashmiri people will hardly gain traction, and any new local government would lack legitimacy. The assumption that, as a union territory, better governance could replace the will of the people is questionable.
Even so, the attractiveness of the move would depend on development being successful. An investor summit has been announced for October. India’s largest corporate house has stepped up, offering to invest in Kashmir. An increase in investment in Kashmir is envisaged now that the land ownership, previously restricted to state subjects, has been thrown open. This is yet again wishful thinking, since no investment is likely in an insecure setting. Besides, India’s economic climate is deteriorating. The unrest and insurgency would need to be tackled first. Absent meaningful political action, development is no substitute. What has transpired so far in Kashmir cannot constitute a political solution since it serves more to aggravate than assuage.
Searching for the Wellsprings of the Indian Surprise
From the foregoing analysis, it is clear that instability will persist. On the other hand, the government is not self-delusional. It has surely arrived at its conclusions rationally. That, if correct, begs the question, what was the government’s intent? It would be naive to unquestioningly accept its word that a speedy end to insurgency in the union territory prompted its action. Its motives are, thus, open to conjecture. Since analysis does not vindicate the government’s decision as advertised, its ideology, Hindutva, must be its motive.
Hindutva is religious majoritarianism with “Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan” as its motif. Its ascent has seen an Othering of India’s Muslims and conflating them, along with Kashmiris, with Pakistan. A continuing insurgency – as the analysis indicates – is in the interest of Hindutva in order to turn secular India saffron. The action in Kashmir, lacking the strategic rationale put forward by the Modi Administration, instead has ideological underpinnings. Therefore, it cannot be rationally approached through a strategic lens alone, but requires factoring in the ideological project underway in India.
By that reasoning, the government would be well-prepared to countenance a renewed, if temporary, bout of insurgency for its internal political purposes and engage in a faceoff with Pakistan. It believes it has deterred Pakistan through its surgical strikes of late 2016 and its aerial strike of February 2019. With Pakistan suitably deterred, the insurgency levels in Kashmir appear to India’s security planners to be eminently manageable. The military engagement to India’s north will continue to provide domestic political dividend over the second term of this government, in which its Kashmir project is set to culminate.
Externally, unrest in Kashmir will force Pakistan’s hand, with attendant multiple benefits for India. It would enable New Delhi to corner Islamabad once again on its support for terror, provide India with a legitimate reason to involve itself in Afghanistan and strain Pakistan economically and make it weak. A continuing proxy war would give India an excuse not to address the Kashmir issue bilaterally with Pakistan, as it is committed to do.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has tweeted his suspicions that India’s motives are rooted in revivalism. He is apprehensive of the impact that a successful makeover of India in the Hindutva image could have for Pakistan, in particular, the implication of the doctrine of Akhand Bharat, which visualises a unified Indian subcontinent under a Hindu aegis. Consequently, Pakistan would be wary of India’s game-changing play in Kashmir. This may impel a preventive Pakistani counter, leading to a more energetic response. Even though Pakistan has settled for now on seeing the change as irrelevant to the disputed status of Kashmir, as the situation unfolds more nuance will manifest, potentially transforming the situation rapidly and comprehensively.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Manohar Parrikar having muddied the waters in venting his ‘personal’ thoughts on India’s signal pledge in the nuclear domain, of No First Use (NFU), it is now the turn of the latest incumbent in the game of musical chairs played with the defence minister portfolio, Rajnath Singh.

Elbowed out by a man from Gujarat from being number two in the Modi cabinet, he has not even made a trip to Kashmir where the military that supposedly reports to him is instead looking to the national security adviser camping out for orders.

Finally, Rajnath Singhh has got his foot into history’s door, with his bit on the NFU. Rajnath Singh had it that while currently NFU is the professed doctrine, it cannot be said that this would hold true in the future.

The timing of his intervention suggests this is part of the security orchestration surrounding the constitutional jiggery-pokery played by the ruling party over Kashmir. While there are prospects of an opening up of the nearly two week long lockdown in Kashmir, the situation may be about to unravel. If this happens, then it would open up space for Pakistani meddling. In order to deter Pakistan, India is baring its fangs.

The northern army commander chimed in timely on television screens warning of memorable retribution in case Pakistan fishes in troubled waters. From Pakistani reportage, the Line of Control (LC) appears at boiling point. Clearly, India, unconvinced by its own propaganda - that it has ridden out the storm in Kashmir - knows this was the lull before the storm. It therefore needs keeping Pakistan deterred.

Pakistani diplomacy has hit the high water mark in forcing a closed door informal session of the UN Security Council on Kashmir - the first in half century. It has decisively busted India’s aborted attempt at selling the line that Kashmir is an ‘internal matter’ and, therefore, there is nothing left to discuss.

Instead, Pakistani diplomatic agility has retrieved Kashmir’s status as a bilateral issue, best evidenced by India’s reiterating its usual line – ‘stop terror for talks’. Pakistan could carry its diplomatic offensive into the halls of the General Assembly that is to be addressed by both prime ministers, come September.

There is no need for Pakistan for reviving the proxy war just yet, when India has set alight a prospective civilian uprising and an insurgency on its very own. The civilian angst at being subject to constitutional violence upfront and undeclared Emergency measures will likely be registered on Kashmir’s streets in a replay of 1990 soon.

Under the circumstance there are two scenarios of escalation. One - more familiar - originates in Pakistan and the other - arguably more germane - in India.

The Pakistan-origin possibility of down-slide is one brought about by pressures within Pakistan from its ‘good terrorists’ to profit from India’s discomfiture. The army may not wish to sit out a tempting opportunity of turmoil across the LC. Not only would Pakistan’s army not want to be outflanked by its jihadi affiliates, it would also not want its civilian side stealing a march internally over it through an efficacious diplomatic showing. It has in any case to cast a lifeline to the insurgency, which is otherwise liable to whither without an influx of warlike material for the fresh set of youth who are likely to take to the gun.

General Bajwa, though identified with the quiescent Bajwa doctrine, has an extension coming up. Seeing lack of reciprocation on India’s part for his overtures over the past two years as a failure of his doctrine, he may have to reinvent himself. Depending on how the developments in Afghanistan shape up, he could take up cudgels. This would make him indispensable, enabling an extension for continuity and implementation.

This would be of a piece with Imran Khan’s framing of the Indian regime as fascist. The abiding lesson of history is that Nazism cannot be appeased. Pakistan may believe it needs preventive measures militarily, using the tried and tested proxy war strategy. Counter intuitively, a preventive war - otherwise unaffordable due to dire financial straits - has dividend. It will timely bring the Kashmir issue to a head, before the gap between India and Pakistan becomes unbridgeable.

In a second scenario, of triumphalism duly deflated by the onrush of events in Kashmir, India may look to scapegoat Pakistan. This is where Imran Khan’s apprehension of a ‘black operation’ and a Pulwama 2.0 kicks in. India needs a diversion from its predicament in Kashmir. Pakistan and its renewed interest in Kashmir would come handy. A war would enable Modi to kill yet another bird with one stone, enabling a projection onto Pakistan of blame for a mismanaged economy, reportedly heading south.

This explains the coincidence in timing of India’s creation of a chief of defence staff - to wage war jointly - and Rajnath Singh’s drawing attention to India’s nuclear options, since such a war can go nuclear.

Essentially, he has said that India is bound by NFU only in peace time. The draft nuclear doctrine, on which India’s official nuclear doctrine is based, first made the fine distinction of ‘peace time’, presumably from a contrasting time of war.

Its NFU has been downplayed ever since, with a national security adviser of a predecessor government, in a literal interpretation of the draft, holding that even the ‘initiation’ of a nuclear strike by an adversary could automatically result in India not being bound by the pledge.

Rajnath Singh is only being candid on the NFU being a bit of a subterfuge, to make Indians feel good as responsible custodians of the Bomb and to allow the nuclear bazaar a loosening up of controls on nuclear material and technology traffic to India.

A reference to the nuclear domain at this juncture then warns of India keeping a military-conventional route open to bail itself out in Kashmir. This makes for the plausibility of the latter scenario.

A deterrence rationale hardly serves to legitimise India’s signalling. Modi’s ‘New India’ may yet have war as its midwife.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Rewarding Army Chief for Political Assistance?

The chapter on reduction of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to a Union Territory is not quite closed, considering the extent of suppression of an impending revolt by Kashmiris. There could even be a fifth Indo-Pak war and there is already brinkmanship over the nuclear status, evident in the remarks of defence minister Rajnath Singh on the No First Use (NFU) policy. The possibility of nuclear involvement grows if war breaks out first.
In short, there are no guarantees. Around 45,000 paramilitary troops were pushed into Kashmir post haste, before the Constitution was trampled upon earlier this month. These troops are unlikely to feel any affinity or affiliation with the Kashmiris. They would, in fact, blame the Kashmiris for their inconveniences during deployment.
Despite the media blackout, ominous reports have come of young boys blinded by pellet guns and arbitrary detentions. A video clip of a crowd being dispersed while automatic weapons are heard being fired has gone viral. That all possibilities exist is confirmed by the fact that the National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval was camping out in Kashmir.
Eventually, the emergency measures taken in Kashmir will need to be loosened. There is talk of phone lines being reopened (some landlines were opened today). Thereafter, the security analysis that preceded this clampdown will be put to its real test. The analysis had concluded that India could handle the aftermath of its meddling with the Constitution. This is the advice that the military, which is in charge of security, can be expected to have given the political establishment. This is what would have emboldened the political apparatus to politically demolish J&K.
Immediately after its J&K adventure, the Army seems to be getting an ‘appropriate’ reward for its politically useful inputs regarding the state. Media accounts say that the Army Chief is the front-runner for the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) position that the Prime Minister said would soon be cleared, from the ramparts of Red Fort during his Independence Day speech.
It is likely that the military advice to the government covered all its bases: The action and reaction, the expected immediate aftermath in which a civilian uprising could not be ruled out and the potential for a long-term insurgency to be inevitably sparked off after an initial phase of unrest.
It would have dealt with the ongoing proxy war waged by Pakistan in the region and chances that it will intensify. But, more significantly, it would have had to allay any fears of a military reaction against India from Pakistan. On all these counts, it is clear from the decision taken by the government in J&K and the manner in which it was executed—the template of suppression across the Valley—that the Army’s input indicated that it felt capable of dealing with the situation.
This goes back to the basic question of whether the Army provided an input the political level wished to hear; and if the CDS post is indeed a kind of reward for it. The other question is whether the possibility of such a post finally being created influenced the Army’s position on the threat perception that would naturally inform any decision-making on Article 370.
Neither is an idle question. The post of CDS finally clearing all hurdles of the past is such that makes these questions inescapable. In the coming weeks and months, it will become clear whether the Army was right in its assessment that the security forces—under its operational control—are up to the task of handling a renewed insurgency and proxy war alongside the threat of war, even nuclear escalation.
For the moment, things do appear under control. But this is no cause for self-congratulation. Already Pakistan has claimed an incident on the Line of Control (LoC). Even if such claims are tailored to influence the United Nations Security Council into holding a closed-door meeting on Kashmir, as requested by Pakistan and backed by China, it may take the military route. If Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive does not gain traction, it would consider that route open.
Military action would have the advantage of getting the UN Security Council to refocus on Kashmir. The top body to deal with threats to peace and international security would quite possibly regard a face-off between two nuclear armed neighbours as a call for its attention.
Pakistan will also use the opportunity of a flare up on the LoC to pump in its ‘good terrorists’ to give its proxy war a fresh boost. Of late Pakistan has been relatively reticent. This has given the Indian military an indubitably upper hand. Now, the changed political conditions—after the scrapping of J&K’s special status—would make Pakistan consider the proxy war ripe for rejuvenation.
No doubt India’s Army can handle the insurgency, the proxy war and military action by Pakistan. It is on the alert in any case, and the paramilitary is already in position in the Valley in case it confronts a conventional threat. India also has deterrence measures in place—having replied with a Balakot to a Pulwama.
Nevertheless, a military capability is not the sole criteria worth considering. It remains to be speculated whether the worsening of the situation in J&K and along the LoC, for the next few years, should also have been emphasised. The situation created in the Valley after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s killing in 2016 had somewhat stabilised. After the Kargil War, during which Pakistan had sneaked in militants trained in the new tactic of fidayeen attacks, took some four years to wrap up. This included the continuous operational deployment after Operation Parakram. Now, one wonders—did the Army sufficiently sensitise the government to the heightened security threat that arise from its moves in J&K?
Now that the government has rationalised and attempted to legitimise its actions in J&K by making promises of better governance and more development in the region, it would appear that this was not the case. It does not require military expertise to comprehend that good governance and development are impossible in an aggravated security situation. The early nineties are India’s precedent. Even Central control exercised over the region over large phases of this period did little to aid progress in Kashmir.
Even the possibility of handling the military threat posed by Pakistan can prove to be wishful thinking. So far, the conundrum posed by Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons has not been answered doctrinally. There have been test-bed exercises this year of integrated battle groups that—presumably small but lethal—would be able to operate under the nuclear threshold. However, these have not been operationalised so far. Only two will be on road by the end of the year; one defensive and one offensive and only covering the Sialkot Bulge.
For this reason, there is no guarantee that war with Pakistan would not go nuclear. Pakistan has every reason to project its nuclear deterrence in order to cover its conventional inferiority and crystallise external political intervention. It is with reason the defence minister made his intervention on the NFU policy on Friday.
In light of these self-evident factors that surely ought to figure in any threat analysis, how did the Army’s inputs ignore these in its advice? If the advice it tendered was to not proceed with the political re-engineering of Kashmir’s status, why has no one resigned? Consequently, the question arises of the government considering the elevation to CDS as a reward for the Army Chief for his politically astute advice.  
The situation is a fait accompli: there are no calls for reticence in the manner in which support for the Army and the military as a whole are being expressed. The military, perhaps, needs all the support it can get since a challenging series of events loom in the distance. It would likely serve as the bastion, as it always has. However, once the dust settles, any post- mortem done in the future must place these questions on the table. The starting point should be who will shoulder the responsibility for any civilian deaths that take place as events unfold, one way or another.

Friday, 16 August 2019

The Chief of Defence Staff appointment: An inauspicious beginning

Since several committees have recommended the creation of the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) or equivalent position, here issue is not taken with the government finally getting round to creating the post. The problem is the maneuvering – amounting to musical chairs – attending the naming of its first incumbent.
That the creation of the position has been on the national security adviser’s plate has been known for some time. Apparently the scope of the job is being worked on even as the prime minister in his independence day address has given a go-ahead for the appointment in principle.
In the main, there are two candidates for the job, the air chief, who is currently the first among equals as chairman of the chiefs committee, and who retires earlier, and the army chief. Clearly, there is no stopping the government from choosing from a wider range of candidates that can include the whole batch of commanders-in-chief. When Colin Powell landed the job in the United States he stepped over the hopes of over a score of compatriots.
However, for the moment, the army chief appears to be ahead in the race, or at least his media minders are doing a better job than that of the others. Most news items carrying the announcement have his mug shot accompanying. One media outlet helpfully informed that since the job description of the appointment is still being worked out, it may well happen that the air chief retires in the interim, enabling the army chief to step up timely.
The precedence set by the Modi government of deep selection for apex appointments and its adoption of this as policy throws open career paths. This is a bane that requires streamlining over time as the organization adapts to the new system.
For instance, even as the file of the next air chief is in an advanced stage of consideration, his potential successor, the next in line as per the traditional system of seniority, has already fired off a preemptive salvo indicating that he worries of being pipped at the post by someone junior.
The situation is grimmer in the army and therein lies the tale.
The army commander northern command has been rather zealous in doing his duty, best explained by his not topping the seniority table. At the top is the eastern army commander. Unfortunately for the eastern army commander, ever since India burnt its fingers at Doklam by standing up to China somewhat prematurely, the Wuhan spirit – resulting from a Xi-Modi informal summit held at India’s request – has been invoked to keep things quiet on his front. This is best evidenced by the mountain strike corps – the conventional deterrent being shaped for that front – being finally benched, citing lack of resources.
This has brightened the chances of the northern army commander, who does not seem to have wasted any time cashing in. He was up front in dismissing the case of his predecessor in his chair – the hero of the surgical strikes after the Uri incident – that the army is no stranger to surgical strikes. According to the northern army commander the first surgical strikes were the ones he announced in his prior capacity as director general military operations. Charitably it can be said that this may be a problem of defining surgical strike.
Equally, uncharitably – and perhaps more accurately – it can be taken as a way for the army commander to cotton up with the political powers-that-be, since the mantle for intiation of surgical strikes then is not one that the Modi-Doval combine need share with the Congress. Recall, the background to the exchange was in the Congress making a counter claim that it was no less doughty than the Modi-Doval duo, having presided over some six such strikes in its time.
The positioning of the northern army commander now appears unassailable. He is currently overseeing the largest lockdown witnessed in Kashmir over its thirty years of troubles. Clearly, his input for the decision that has led to this clampdown has been that the security forces can manage the aftermath of the constitutional jiggery-pokery on the special status of Kashmir. He is now delivering on his promise. The jury is still out on whether he will succeed, unblemished by civilians being killed as collateral damage.
Of consequence here is that he provided the input – one mediated by his higher headquarters – that amounts to music to the political master’s ears. That the army headquarters – headed by General Bipin Rawat – has amplified this music is easier explained.
What this suggests is that the policy of deep selection of military ranks has an unacceptable underside. It is very much possible that in this case the generals in question have provided a professional view. The problem is that their intrinsic personal interests cannot be overlooked.
Persisting with the example, it can easily be seen that an input that suggests security forces can handle the immediate aftermath of a loosening of the lockdown; the heightened insurgency thereafter; an intensified Pakistani proxy war; and a possible escalation in an India-Pakistan war can only be a rather glib input.
It is certain that the claims of governance and development being reached to Kashmir by ending of its special status will have to wait till the military first manages to return stability to Kashmir. The preceding thirty years of troubles suggests this will likely take a lot longer than the Modi-Shah-Doval tenure at the helm, howsoever stretched by successive election wins.
It almost seems as though that the CDS appointment is thus more as a reward to those whose input has oiled the government’s unconscionable decision – specifically the army chief and the northern army commander, both of whom stand to be elevated as a result. That would be an unfortunate start for the appointment.
Even so, it is not impossible that both are left standing by the wayside if their input is disproved by the onrush of events.

Kashmir | India has prepared well, but Pakistan is unlikely to remain quiet

How Pakistan reacts to the change wrought by the reductionof Jammu and Kashmir from its special status to a Union Territory is dependent on how India manages the storm after the ongoing lull in Kashmir.
Pakistan has taken the diplomatic route to reaffirm the disputed status of Kashmir and has upped the rhetoric for domestic consumption purposes. The last corps commanders’ conference at Rawalpindiconcluded that the constitutional re-engineering in India was of no significance as Article 370 was a ‘sham’ anyway.
Pakistan cannot for now be accused of over-reaction. Indian army chief, General Bipin Rawat, confirms that the movement India’s sensors have picked up appeared to be precautionary in nature.
For its part, India appears to have prepared well. The additional paramilitary troops pumped in help keep the Valley from turmoil, while relieving the army to look outwards. Such preparedness deters.
India’s heightened readiness explains Pakistan’s projection of nonchalance. It can at best use the interim as the diplomatic moves play out for covert preparations of its own. Reports are of its readying to give ‘good terrorists’ a loose rope.
Pakistan shot off a pre-emptive salvo on August 1 hoping to drag the UN secretary general in. In his press statement on India’s move, the secretary general urged the two sides to stick with the status quo.
Currently, petitioned by Pakistan, the chair of the UN Security Council — held by Poland this month — is considering a closed door meeting of the council. China, meeting with Pakistan’s foreign minister during his lightening visit to Beijing, has indicated that it would back Pakistan’s case.
However, at a subsequent pre-planned visit of India’s foreign minister, China has been reassured that the move has no significance for either the Line of Actual Control or Line of Control. In any case, with Russianvoicing of its support, India will not be without friends at the UNSC.
Since India has kept the situation under control so far, the UNSC will be hard put to step in, using a threat to international security as excuse — even if it hypothetically wished to.
Thus, the scene will shift from the council to the General Assembly late next month. The assembly is to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a long gap. The usual India-Pakistan joust in its chambers can be expected, fire and fury signifying little.
Diplomatically, Pakistan hopes for a UN endorsement and reiteration of the disputed nature of Kashmir in order to keep its foot in the door into the future. India, for its part, not having rescinded either the Simla Agreement or the Lahore Declaration, will project that bilateral solution is held up by Pakistan sticking to proxy war.
Will this bit of a diplomatic offensive be enough to keep Pakistan from harsher steps?
Pakistan’s next steps will depend on how India manages its loosening up of its ongoing strict restrictions in Kashmir. Should India manage to keep the lid in Kashmir wherein the angst against the Centre’s decision is exhausted in wisely-handled agitations, India would be over the hump.
In such a case, Pakistan will have an alibi to stand down. Its ‘good terrorists’ too would not have much to impel them. Even so, to divert them, Pakistan may seek to pump in enough cannon fodder and material to extend the life of the insurgency considerably whittled by India’s Operation All Out over the past three years.
Self-restraint has dividend for Pakistan. Having delivered Taliban to the negotiation table, Pakistan is back at supping with the Americans. After stabilising its western front over the winter, Pakistan could revert in good time to proxy war towards its east. The spotlight of the financial action task force on it till October over terrorism would also have shifted by then.
However, in case of India’s reaction to impending agitations in Kashmir going awry, pressures on Pakistan’s army from its terror proxies would be considerable.
Pakistan PM Imran Khan has provided the political framing for an ensuing conflict, comparing India’s regime with Nazism. This foregrounds preventive war over appeasement as appropriate strategy. Besides, he has drawn attention to war by inadvertent escalation from a Pulwama 2.0.
Pakistan could seek diplomatic gains by focusing on Kashmir as a (nuclear) flash point, looking to US President Donald Trump to intervene. Though Trump’s offer of mediation during his late July meeting with Khan was dismissed by India as fantasy, he will prioritise his Afghanistan-exit strategy.
The ball is therefore in India’s court. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval’s camping in Kashmir has helped ride out the lull before the storm. India has done well to prepare also for the ‘worst case’ by creating the post of a chief of defence staff timely.
Nevertheless, the final word on the constitutional initiative awaits creation of conditions for the promised governance and development. It has had a relatively stable start. However, the jury remains out and its verdict could yet be jerry-rigged by Pakistan.