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India-USA: Blow Hot, Blow Cold


Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
Just as you had not anticipated the size of this roundtable, I was not at all prepared for the kind of intervention that I may have to make. I thought it would be more in the nature of making some comments here and there. So I have no pretension of giving you any definitive discourse on how I see Indo-US relations. I must confess that I have not yet got my teeth fully into the subject. I have some ideas about our relationship, having served in Washington during an interesting period and in a sense perhaps, seeing the transformation of our relationship post the Gulf War, when the United States began to conceive for itself a global role, in what was rapidly becoming and has become a unipolar world.
And then again this subject is very sensitive, in the sense it is at the core in some ways, of our foreign policy. Any less than fully thought out remark on this subject could perhaps create misunderstandings or doubts, which may not be entirely necessary or warranted.
I am not fully in agreement with those who believe that in the past we had a relationship of deep distrust or animosity or antagonism towards the United States of America. We are not built that way. There may have been some people here and there, for ideological reasons, and may be it was the fashion of the times to take a certain view of United States and its role. But temperamentally, we have never been a very ideological country. Maybe in the case of some other countries like China, you can really talk about blowing hot & blowing cold.
At one moment, United States is the principal enemy of China and at another phase of their foreign policy, the United States was its strategic partner. So this kind of total change in thinking and approach has never been visible in terms of India’s relationship with the United States, or for that matter, any other country.
Yes, during the period when we were trying to create space for ourselves after our independence, to play an independent role as much as possible on the international scene, the United States because of the cold war and its policy of forging alliances with countries to combat the communist countries, tried to put constraints on this independence, and we reacted. It was more in the nature of India trying to carve out space for itself rather than any preconceived ideological opposition to the United States.I think what we are seeing today, which seems to appear to be a phase of blowing hot, is another version of the same thing. That, how does India carve out space for itself in a unipolar world? We can’t do it in opposition to the United States, so we do it in cooperation with the United States. We tried to find common ground. In a way this is a reflection of what some other allies of the United States are trying to do.
When countries like France or others speak about multi-polarity, what does that mean? It does not mean they are going to oppose the United States. Or become a part of another cold war crusade, this time directed against the United Sates. It just is that they don’t feel comfortable with the idea that United States has today, the kind of power and influence on the world scene and is willing to use that power and influence primarily to push it’s own view point and it’s own interest and in disregard not only of perhaps the interest of the European countries, but at times the larger consensus in the international community at large.
But this is a point of debate and discussion and engagement and pressure. The idea being to speak to the United States, discuss with them, assert your view point, try to steer them in the direction you want and try to build as much as possible a multi-polar world within a cooperative rather than an antagonistic concept. So our engagement today with the United States or, during this blow hot phase, is a part of our effort to adjust to the reality of the situation, look around and see what options we have and tailor our policy in accordance with those options.It is a fact, that in the past and to some extent even today, the policies of the United States, even if they have not been directed against the interest of India, have tended to adversely affect the interest of India.
The nuclear question is of course a big one. The refusal of India to sign the NPT and our nuclear test in 1974 was a starting point for a whole series of legislation that the United States introduced into the US Congress, which sought to constrain India, and beyond India, the ambitions of any other country. The United States by virtue of its size and its responsibility, thinks globally. So even if India per se may not have been such a major problem, the consequences of the actions India takes could have been reasonably seen by them as creating a problem for them in terms of shaping the global environment according to their priorities and their interests.
Post-Pokhran, the situation changed. Initially the international community led by the United States tried to build a consensus against India, but they did not succeed. Some countries, especially France, did not allow that consensus to be built and engaged us in strategic dialogue, in terms of trying to see how India could be made a partner progressively of the existing non – proliferation regime, knowing fully well that India could not become legally a member of the regime, but how in practical, de facto, terms this could be done.So that India’s perceived defiance is contained and does not set a bad example for others. And then of course, domestic politics in the United States and other events which we need not go into – the position that they took subsequently on CTBT, their own nuclear posture review lately, their desire, in fact, to develop new weapons, nuclear weapons, deep penetration, that can take care of the development of WMD by rogue states underground etc. I think to that extent they themselves have weakened their own non – proliferation posture and continuing pressure on India in this area would not have be consistent or logical. But there are others factors also which we need not go into.
Likewise, Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan. There is a long history to it as all of us know. Most of you know better than I as to how problems with Pakistan and the complication of the issue of Jammu and Kashmir has been due to a large measure, the policies pursued by some western countries, and in particular Britain and the United States. At the time when I was in the United States, this particular issue was even more complicated by the US State Department.
For the first time they started speaking about Jammu and Kashmir being a disputed territory. Though I must here perhaps correct Chidanand, because even at that time they were telling me that when they say it is disputed territory they are referring to the whole of Jammu Kashmir and not simply the part of Jammu Kashmir which is under our control. This being a core area of our own foreign policy and our national security and our national interest, it was inevitable there would be a conflict of interest between us and the United States.In that period, I think the United States initiated certain steps which made us feel uncomfortable with regard to what role they intended to play in Jammu and Kashmir. Their reference to the settlement of Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan taking into account the wishes of the people of Kashmir. What did that mean? How would those wishes of the people be ascertained? Who would represent those wishes? Hence came the idea of a third party to the dispute. Efforts to give shape to this third party, and support given to the Hurriyat, and attempts to try and build some kind of a group which would then encompass not only the people from this side, but also the people from the other side. At one time Kathmandu was being chosen as the spot where this vast congregation of Kashmiris from both sides of the LoC could take place.
We had to struggle against this, but that pressure point has remained. Today there is certainly a big change effectively, in the way United States looks at the issue, and I would agree that the Kargil episode was a watershed in terms on how the United States looks at it. Perhaps there is now a realisation that, come what may, the line of control should be sacrosanct and should not be violated. But, of course, there are a lot of study groups etc., directly or indirectly having the benediction of the State Department and others, which look at various formulae of how this issue can be resolved. After what has happened recently in terms of a real possibility of military conflict between India and Pakistan, perhaps the efforts to encourage some kind of a permanent solution based on the realities on the ground could become a viable solution which the international community led by the United States may wish to support. But that remains to be seen.
The blow hot phase can also be traced to the change of regime in the United States with the Republicans coming to power. We saw some very major developments, including on the defence side between India and United States. Now how does September 11 affect all this?
Interestingly, September 11 is all about combating international terrorism. If one were to logically go down this road together, that is India and United States, then it is very clear what our expectations are and what United States must do. They can’t separate one segment of international terrorism from another and say that they would deal firstly, and on a priority basis, and forcefully, with only that segment of International terrorism which potentially threatens their security. That the other segment, which they recognise does constitute some form of terrorism, would be given second priority. This is not an argument and a logic which is comfortable for us, nor do we accept it.
Our task would be to continue to pressure the United States to see this combat against international terrorism as an international combat, and directed against international terrorism as a whole. This is one issue on which the United States has itself pushed an international consensus and we have resolution 1373 which is very clear in terms of the obligations it imposes on all countries to combat international terrorism – not to give safe haven, not to actively or passively support international terrorism, to stop funding etc. But because the priorities of United States and India perhaps are not in phase, there is a little problem.
That problem we can see, because we would like Pakistan’s involvement in international terrorism, and what it is doing to India, to be dealt with in a particular way. There the progress we are achieving in convincing United States to go down that road has been substantial but not complete. We have to continue to press United States down that road. It is very important for the credibility of the international community, and the international community often today is the code word for the Americans and the British, that the commitments that General Musharraf has given must be honored by him.
These commitments we are told have been given to the International community, and to the Americans and to President Bush himself. So these commitments cannot be watered down. Now it cannot be said that, yes, he has promised that he would be completely end infiltration and take visible action on the training camps, but in reality he does not control all the infiltration. So, the best one can do is to put sustained pressure on him to control, not end, control at present levels, that part of Infiltration which is under his control. But that is not the commitment which was given.
If it is interpreted in this way, then it gives a lot of room to General Musharraf to play with ambiguities, to carve out for himself some room for maneuver, continue in some ways to pursue the policies he has been pursuing in the past, and then say that if there is something still happening, it is because of terrorism that is outside his control. In other words this would give him that alibi that he needs, that he wants.
The diplomatic exercise between us and the Americans on this point is not yet over and will continue. Though I must say that the statements that have been made by the American Government on the issue of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism, and the need to end terrorism, the need to act on training camps, need to do these things visibly, credibly, demonstratively, to India’s satisfaction – all these statements have come from the US leadership and are most welcome. That is what gives sustenance to the efforts that we will continue to make with them.
The Indian diaspora has been growing in size especially since the 70s. But it became a factor in our political and economic relationship only in the 90s. I think, the role that is played by the Indian-American community should not be under estimated. It was during my time that the India Caucus was established and from its initial modest proportions has grown to the size that it has acquired today. It was during that period that the India Interest group was established by some big American companies with a view to changing the perceptions of India in the US Congress.
We put the India Interest Group & India Caucus together, to see how they could combine their efforts together to advance our interests there. The Information Technology sector has been driven a great deal by this diaspora and this has had a major impact not only on our bilateral relations with the United States but even in a sense globally. This is something which we should cherish and this is something which has a bright future and we can work on it.
Our economic relationship in general also seems to have developed very well in the post liberalisation phase, post 1991. When I left the United States, our two-way bilateral trade was less than 8 billion dollars. Today it is over 13 billion dollars. It is a little less than what I thought. I thought the figure was higher but today our Ministry told me that it is a little under 14 billion dollars. That came as a bit of a disappointment. But I think this is a figure which can be improved upon.
The United States was the one country which reacted the most warmly and the most enthusiastically to India’s policy of liberalisation in the area of Investment. 33% of the cumulative investments in India are from the United States of America. This is an area in which more can be done and the responsibility for this lies not only on the United States but perhaps and even more on ourselves – in terms of putting our own house in order and taking certain initiatives that need to be taken, implementing what is called the second generation of reforms etc. We all know this, since we are speaking at the CII. I think they know exactly what needs to be done in order to invite greater American and foreign Investment in this country. If that happens, I think the blow hot phase could perhaps come to a boil and which is what one would hope for.
Finally, how do we look strategically at United States’ role in our larger region. Chidu has mentioned that we have had exercises with the United States and nobody has said a word. There is no criticism of whatever we are doing with the United States in terms of defence and other areas. I think this says a lot about the sense of pragmatism and realism of the Indian policy makers. There is clearly a community of interest that is growing between the United States’ strategy in this region and our own.
We have always said that there is no real conflict of interest between India and the United States. If there has been a conflict of interest, its largely because of Americas perception of it’s global role and it’s unwillingness, from our point of view, to give India a legitimate share of what we think should be our role. If the United States is willing to concede that and make us a partner, I think those areas where we have a certain conflict would begin to disappear progressively.
We are not averse to United States presence in Afghanistan, on the contrary we welcomed it. It was necessary to get rid of the Taliban, to get rid of international terrorism. If, for promoting stability in this region, their further presence is required, I don’t think the Indian policy makers are necessarily averse to that. If the United States can help in putting an end to the Pakistani-sponsored terrorism in India, we would welcome that. But of course, and I should make that clear, that does not necessarily mean that the policy of bilateralism has been given up. Not at all.
There is a difference between our willingness to work with the United States to combat international terrorism because there is an international consensus on this. But once that is achieved, then it will be we who will be discussing with Pakistan on how to resolve our outstanding issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. There are some fears that we are slipping down the road or giving up our policy of bilateralism. That is not necessarily the case. At least that’s how I see it.
Democracy is a very strong binding factor between India and the United States, though of course, it is quite easy to be cynical about it. The biggest friends of the United States, historically and today, are not necessarily the epitomes of democracies, and if you look at the relationship between United States and China, certainly it not driven by Chinese democracy. But yes, if one were to look at it philosophically, and even in the longer-term interest of the International community and United States’ own interest, I think the fact that India is a practicing democracy, is a vibrant democracy, helps the United States to globally advance its aims of promoting democracy everywhere.

‘India: A Country Wounded By Terrorism’


Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
I am delighted with this opportunity to share with you my views on the challenges facing India in the years ahead in the context of regional developments. I shall be speaking of international terrorism, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, China, Myanmar, South East Asia and Iraq.
Our political, security and economic interests span in particular the area from the Gulf to South East Asia. The world of course has shrunk in every possible way. Globalization and economic inter-dependence, the communication revolution, the revolution in military affairs, attempts to actively universalize certain norms and principles such as democracy, pluralism, good governance, the doctrine of the right to intervention, etc., have contributed to this. What this means is that regional developments and interests can be less and less insulated from the larger global picture, especially if big power interests are involved. What this also means is that the challenges India faces in our region are in many ways challenges that face the international community too.
India is a country wounded by terrorism. Virtually all our neighbours, by choice or default, by acts of commission or omission, compulsions of geography and the terrain, have been or are involved in receiving, sheltering, overlooking or tolerating terrorist activities from their soil directed against India.   We have very friendly relations with Nepal, but the open border with that country gives opportunities for foreign agencies to push in terrorists. Bangladesh has long been used as a sanctuary for insurgent groups engaged in violence against India, especially in the North East. Bangladesh effectively refuses to recognize that this problem exists, as some lobbies in that country want to use it as a pressure point against India. We have excellent relations with Bhutan, but Bhutanese soil is currently being used by three Indian insurgent groups for launching terrorist attacks against India. I need not mention the LTTE problem in Sri Lanka and the fact that the LTTE was responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The issue of terrorism therefore is of core importance to India. Our situation is quite unique because we are the victims of violence directed against us which has no organic link with, and is not a reaction to, any Indian policy of domination and control of economic resources of others, and backing of unpopular regimes or violence or terrorism directed by India against any other country. This is what distinguishes our situation from that of other countries which too are victims of terrorism.
The epicentre of terrorism in our region is Pakistan and the adjoining areas of Afghanistan. The international community, unfortunately, has been refusing to acknowledge earlier even the reality, and even today the dimension, of this problem, notwithstanding September 11. Pakistan has been the mainstay of the Taliban and the Al-Qaida operations, as without Pakistan’s complicity the Al-Qaida could not have become so potent. Even today, the principal Taliban and Al-Qaida cadres are in Pakistan. The ideology, the infrastructure, the mind-set that nourished this movement remains. Ironically, under the very nose of the Americans, who are physically present in the area and are militarily engaged there, the same very forces that supported the Taliban and Al-Qaida have re-emerged politically and have acquired legitimacy through an election process in Pakistan which the West has welcomed. Curiously, the ideology that was being denigrated for its links to outmoded and radical teachings in the Madrassas and propaganda in the Mosques can now claim some respectability as an expression of popular will! There is a lesson in this for western policy makers, about the need for a correct analysis of the situation in Pakistan and, therefore, the correct remedies to be applied. But we wonder whether this lesson is being learnt.   If international terrorism is now being presented as the most important problem facing the international community, and one that must be tackled on a priority basis, then those projecting this cannot be seen to be having double-standards or making distinctions between terrorism that must not be tolerated and that that can be. Action taken against regimes that support terrorism should not be measured by the yardstick of the regime in question being pro-West or anti-West. If this were to be accepted, then terrorism cannot be the concern of the international community, it should be the concern of the Western countries alone. By definition, there cannot, therefore, be a global consensus on the fight against international terrorism.   
The evolution of the situation in Afghanistan is a major political and security challenge for us. Afghanistan is more peaceful, but not stable as yet. The writ of the Afghan Interim Government does not extend to all parts of the country. The political vacuum in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan is particularly worrisome. The US military is operating in this political vacuum with no signs of emergence of a cohesive anti-Taliban Pashtun force. There is clearly a reticence to allow the Kabul Government, as presently configured and with the present distribution of military power, to extend its sway to the Pashtun areas. The danger in such a situation is that this vacuum could be filled once again by the pro-Taliban Pashtuns backed by Pakistan. With the taking over of power in North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan by fundamentalist pro-Pakistan Taliban parties in Pakistan, this danger has become more acute. Already, the US is showing receptivity to Pakistan’s interests and ambitions in south and eastern Afghanistan. With their attention distracted by Iraq – this will become even more the case if and when military action against Iraq starts – the temptation for Pakistan to play mischief once again in Afghanistan will increase and the willingness of US to counter Pakistan could be diminished.   The development and stablization of Central Asia poses a major challenge. We have close historical links with the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, this region has begun to figure significantly on the landscape of our geo-political and geo-economic interests. These countries are currently facing the menace of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. It is in the common interest of India and Central Asia that Pakistan evolves into a truly moderate State, as “secular” as an Islamist State can be. The golden opportunity provided to make Afghanistan such a State should equally not be lost. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, initially set up to settle the issue of borders between China and the Central Asian States, is now increasingly focussing on the issue of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. India has expressed an interest to become part of this organization because of the many common stakes we have.   
Iran is geo-politically placed to play a key role in Central Asia and the Gulf region. Its Islamic role and its oil and gas give the country much political and economic significance. India and Iran are taking steps to expand and deepen their relationship. We cooperated well in developments that led to the eventual ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan. However ironical it may sound to some, Iran is worried about the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan. We are looking closely at transit arrangements through Iran to Afghanistan, Central Asia and to Russia as part of a strategic relationship we want to build with that country. The other element of this strategic relationship would be energy security. We look upon Iran as a worthwhile partner and not as a country belonging to an “axis of evil”.
With Iraq, India has had historical interaction going back to the early centuries of Islam’s penetration into our country. With Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, until the Gulf War changed the situation, India enjoyed a very friendly and productive relationship. 30% of India’s oil was sourced from Iraq before the Gulf War, Indian companies were engaged in several projects there and India had about 90,000 expatriates working in the country. Whatever the judgement one makes about the harshness of the Iraqi regime, from our point of view it was most important that it was secular. Iraq has traditionally taken an objective view of Indo-Pak differences on Kashmir, without being coloured by religious considerations. In the context of the current situation, we support Iraq’s compliance with the UN Resolutions and elimination of weapons of mass destruction from that country, but we do maintain, unlike many other countries, and we have said so publicly repeatedly, that if Iraq complies with UN Resolutions then sanctions should be lifted in tandem for humanitarian reasons. 
We do not favour military action against Iraq as it would have several negative consequences, including the radicalization of Islamic opinion in the middle-east and worldwide. Notwithstanding the more optimistic analyses being made about the viability of a regime change imposed from outside, the democratisation of Iraq and short-lived and containable reaction of the Arab street, it is entirely possible to argue that more bitterness and hatred will follow and the seeds of a more vicious cycle of violence may be sown. We have also to be sensitive to the fact that we have over 140 million Muslims in our own country. On more practical basis, we cannot overlook the fact that we have almost 3 million expatriates in the Gulf whose services impart a certain stability and functional efficiency to these societies, besides the sizeable flow of remittances back to India.
I began with our neighbours, and moved my attention westwards, quite contrary to the eastwards thrust of our current policy. India is an Asian country, the second largest both demographically and geographically. Yet, as a result of the distortions of the Cold War, India is still not considered in some respects as an Asian country. We were and are excluded from APEC and we continue to be excluded from ASEM, the Asia-Europe Meeting. We have, however, assiduously worked to develop a ‘look East policy’ which has yielded fruit.
India has become a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum and now a summit partner with ASEAN, the first India-ASEAN Summit having been held in Cambodia very recently. The ASEAN countries themselves have realized the value of engaging India more for better political, security and economic balance in that region in which China looms large and will loom larger as it grows in economic and military strength. At the recent Indo-Asean summit, we have announced our intention to move towards a free trade area with ASEAN in the next ten years. We are already discussing free trade arrangements with Singapore and Thailand.
As part of strengthening our linkages towards the East, we are developing a stronger relationship with Myanmar, which is our direct geographical neighbour. Myanmar is contiguous with the North Eastern part of the country which is unstable and riven with insurgencies. In order to stabilize the North-East and our frontier areas with Myanmar, strike at the root of the insurgencies festering there, both India and Myanmar see the need for developing our transport linkages so that border trade too can be encouraged. Several projects are already under consideration, which include hydro-electric schemes and multi-modal transport corridors through Myanmar and beyond to Thailand and potentially up to Vietnam. The first project of this kind would be the trilateral highway project between India, Myanmar and Thailand.
This ‘Look East policy’ also fills the gap created by the failure of SAARC to develop into a meaningful regional organization. The root cause of this is Pakistan’s unwillingness to give SAARC any meaningful economic content because of its obsession with the Kashmir issue. The real possibility that SAARC would have provided the framework for overcoming problems within South Asia through the economic and commercial route, in the same way as the European Economic Community brought about a resolution of intra-European problems, especially between France and Germany, has been belied. India, in any case, has very special arrangements with Nepal and Bhutan, which in many ways go beyond a free trade area. With Sri Lanka, India already has a free trade arrangement. India is ready to move in that direction with Bangladesh too. Meanwhile, India supports sub-regional organizations like BIMSTEC and the Growth Qaudrangle which can compensate for the deficiencies of SAARC as a vehicle of strong trade ties within our region.
The challenge India faces vis-à-vis China is to support the progressive expansion and strengthening of our relationship in diverse fields while addressing the unresolved border issue. India and China are, objectively, two major Asian powers with the actual or potential capacity to dominate the Asian landscape. While they could be seen as rivals, it is also true that there is enough political and economic room for other major players, whether Japan and the ASEAN bloc from within the region, and the US from the outside.
The challenge would be to balance the legitimate interests of all these countries in a cooperative framework. Our bilateral trade with China this year will climb to four-and half-billion dollars. If we compare this figure with the one-and-half billion dollars trade with Russia or the 2.5 billion dollars trade we have with France, it will show how much the process of normalization of our relations with China has progressed. But there are many aspects of China’s internal and external policies: the rising profile of China, how its growing strength will impact on the region and beyond, how and to what extent its economic success will make its system more democratic, transparent and comprehensible, all these are of interest and a challenge not only to India but to the international community as a whole.
Let me end with what I began with, our neighbours. A few words about Nepal and Sri Lanka which are facing difficult internal situations with implications for India, would be in order.
Nepal is faced with an internal Maoist insurgency and its political system is under pressure. We believe that both the constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy are crucial pillars for Nepal’s stability and neither should be weakened at the expense of the other. The role of political parties in Nepal should not be marginalised in efforts to find a solution to Nepal’s problems, as seems to be happening at present. Western countries should also be careful about extending excessive military assistance to Nepal in order to avoid increase in the lethality of the internal conflict and leakage of arms to the Maoists.
In Sri Lanka, the peace process should be encouraged but there are imponderables ahead, both with respect to the difficult relationship between the President and the Prime Minister and the questions raised about LTTE’s real intentions and the respect by this organization of democracy and pluralism and the political rights of non-LTTE Tamils and the Muslims. India is playing as constructive a role as possible in helping Nepal and Sri Lanka deal with their internal conflicts, without intereference.

‘There Has Been No US Pressure’


Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
We all know that collective pooling of our experiences and expertise, a sharing of our perceptions and perspectives in the different wings of the government, is a sine qua non for the successful management of critical issues of national interest, especially issues of war and peace.
India is among the longest serving and the largest troop contributors to UN peacekeeping activities. Our credentials in this regard are second to none. We have a formidable track record of having more than 67,000 personnel who have participated in 37 out of the 56 U.N. peacekeeping missions established so far. We have emerged as one of the most dependable and sought-after troop contributing countries in the world.
What is more, we have taken up difficult challenges. Starting with Korea in 1950, we have been participating in difficult missions such as in Cambodia, Angola, Rwanda, Somalia etc and now, once again the IAF is in Congo. None of this is without risks. Only two weeks ago, Shri Satish Menon, the Deputy Commandant in the BSF tragically laid down his life while serving in the U.N. Mission in Kosovo. We solemnly salute this brave officer and also 108 others before him who have made this supreme sacrifice under the U.N. flag.
Apart from being a leading troop contributor, we have also been an energetic and influential participant in the U.N. debates on peacekeeping, and have helped in shaping current thinking on many conceptual issues. India has played an important role in the deliberations in the UN on the recommendations of the Brahimi Report, and supported efforts to make the UN more efficient and effective in its peacekeeping functions.It is eminently appropriate therefore that this National Seminar has as its theme the contemporary issue under the title “Complex Peace Operations – Traditional Premises and New Realities”. Let me express some thoughts on the theme, in the light of our recent preoccupations and experiences.
I would like to emphasize that this is no longer an innocuous, theoretical debate, confined to academic circles. It is a timely issue for discussion also in the public domain. This became abundantly clear during the extensive and animated national debate that took place recently on the question of deploying our troops in Iraq. The debate involved practically all sections of people: parliamentarians, policy makers, analysts, defence forces and the general public.
While the advantages and disadvantages of sending our troops to Iraq as a part of the stabilization force were hotly debated, there were some who sought to see the whole issue only in terms of so-called “U.S. pressure” on India. There has been no US pressure on India. US would, of course, like India to contribute to the stabilization force but to say that a request amounts to pressure would be a reflection of an undue sense of vulnerability. We value our relations with the US and whenever possible we should explore issues on which we can work together.I would like to emphasize, however, that to see India as bending to pressure is not to do justice to ourselves. The strength and stature of our country has been demonstrated time and again in the independent stance we have adopted on important global issues and the independent decisions we have taken in matters that concern us. We cannot be pushed into taking any decision that is not of our own making. Our decisions will always be arrived at after careful consideration of all relevant aspects of issues under examination, and will be guided, in the final analysis, solely by our national interests. So was it in this case.
Let me share some reflections on the broader theme: “traditional premises and new realities”. Our standard approach to ‘peacekeeping’ is well known to most of you and can be summarized briefly. We believe that the UN has a major responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and that peacekeeping continues to be one of the key tools or instruments available to the UN.We view peacekeeping in the traditional sense of the term as an effort to assist in ‘keeping peace’ and facilitating a return to normalcy, preferably within a finite, well defined timeframe. We have believed that peacekeeping follows a ‘peace accord’ between parties to a conflict and a commitment by them for a peaceful settlement. Peacekeeping operations should strictly adhere to the principles of the UN Charter, in particular, the principles of full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and non-intervention in their internal affairs.
We have also insisted that peacekeeping operations should be considered only at the request of the Member States involved, and should be under the command and control of the UN. It is also our belief that Chapter VI operations, based on consent of the parties are more likely to succeed and Chapter VII operations which are in the nature of an enforcement operation should be viewed as exceptions.
While the above has constituted our approach to peacekeeping, we are nevertheless fully alive and sensitive to the reality of the changing nature of peacekeeping, and the growing complexity and scale of these operations. In the last ten years the principles and practices in peacekeeping have undergone something of a revolution. These changes have been described and commented upon variously. Let me merely identify a few elements:

  • Peace keeping, an operation relevant to keeping peace between two or more states has also moved to keeping peace within a state. There is involvement of the UN not only in situations of inter-state conflict but also in the intra-State conflicts.
  • The objectives pursued in operations have enlarged from assisting in the maintenance of ceasefire to the increasingly detailed stabilization, humanitarian, and civilian police components. UN operations have widened and peace keeping is seen as one element in a larger process of managing a ‘post-conflict’ situation. Examples: East Timor or Afghanistan.The nature of ‘Peace operations’, itself a new term instead of the conventional ‘Peacekeeping Operations’ has therefore changed from being uni-dimensional to multi-dimensional involving a wide spectrum of activities – humanitarian assistance, refugee returns, provision of interim State services, establishment of rule of law, assistance to international criminal tribunals, facilitation of political process, monitoring of elections, and even establishment of transitional governments, etc.
  • The use of civil police and other civilians is increasing in these operations. We ourselves are getting more and more requests for policemen and have had police contingents in Bosnia and Kosovo.
  • There are also varying mandates under the UN: from classical UN peacekeeping operations, to UN-authorised multinational operations as in the case of Afghanistan and operations outside the ambit of the UN such as the coalition forces in Iraq.
  • Another significant evolution is the UN’s reliance on regional and sub-regional organizations to support and even carry out missions on its behalf. The recent example is of ECOWAS in Liberia.

This is not an exhaustive but an indicative listing of some of the changes that we see around us today. It is clear that there are new realities. Indeed it is bound to be so since the structure and features of international relations have undeniably changed since the 1990s. India recognizes the changes and the new realities. The question then is how do we respond to them?
For a country like India – with its size, population, resources, a rich and successful experience of handling internal dissensions and problems, well established institutions, a proud record of independence of judgment and action – some of these precepts and practices amounting to erosion of sovereignty and dependence on others for even the essential tasks of governance cannot be but a matter of concern.
Our basic approach has been to uphold the principle of sovereignty and of supporting assistance from outside, including the UN, only at the explicit request and consent of the State. Having said this, nevertheless we cannot shut our eyes to the reality around us and of the needs, the vulnerabilities and even the demands of weaker or smaller states which may seek international involvement in the resolution of their conflicts or in the protection of civilian populations.
In some cases the government is simply not functional, in others the institutions have collapsed or are non-existent: in other words the sovereignty cannot be exercised effectively at all. I would not name examples, but these should be clear to you. It is in such cases and only in such cases that we can countenance the question of the role of the international community including the UN, in peace operations in its larger sense as a component of nation-building.
In recent months we have pondered on some of these issues as we have looked at the situations in Afghanistan, in Congo, in Liberia and in Iraq. All these are different situations and let me say that India’s interests are also different. Let me identify a few points, which in our view are relevant in determining India’s response for requests for assistance.

  • To start, India’s policy on involvement in peace keeping operations continues to be shaped by a commitment to UN, its objectives and a commitment to Peace. The involvement of the UN implies a certain legitimacy, an international recognition and acceptability. In saying this, I am not implying that all decisions of the Security Council are necessarily objective or wise or fair. In the real world we are well aware that the decisions of the Security Council could also be a product of the power politics. Nevertheless, they do confer a certain international legitimacy as distinct form adhoc or unilateral decisions.
  • We also are influenced by both the goodwill of the countries served by our peacekeepers and by the prospect of minimizing the civilian suffering which is a concomitant to peace.
  • We should however be failing in recognizing the realities that I described, if each and every of our decisions on peacekeeping is an automatic response to a UN request (and only to a U.N. request). There are too many conflict situations, too many requests and too few resources for India to so respond. Therefore, the bilateral relations and the regional equations and an assessment of India’s interests broadly defined have to be a part in determining our response.
  • The perception about India’s involvement in a country or in a region where our troops might go, the public sentiments about the role that India would play and the national sentiment in India about such involvement are also undoubtedly factors which would influence a decision.
  • Operational questions such as the issue of command and control, the resources for meeting the costs, the nature of the risk and the functions that the peacekeepers are expected to carry out are all relevant factors.
  • The professionalism of our armed forces, the international exposure and experience that they would get by successfully carrying out a peacekeeping assignment in different parts of the world is no doubt also an input in the Government’s decision making.
  • Therefore, an assessment of India’s overall national interests in a given situation has to be undoubtedly the major determinant in deciding on our response.


Opening Statement


Kanwal Sibal

IFS (Retd.) & Advisory Council
We will begin with the Prime Minister’s visit to the Russian Federation. This will be the second visit by our Prime Minister to Russia this year, from 11th to 13th November. You would recall that in May this year he had attended the Tercentenary Celebrations of St. Petersburg at the invitation of President Putin. During that visit the two leaders had had a bilateral meeting and they had later met in New York, on the sidelines of the 58th Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Since President Putin’s visit to India last year in December 2003, the forthcoming Summit between the two leaders in Moscow will be their fourth meeting within a space of twelve months. This regular interaction at the highest level is symptomatic of our close contacts and regular exchanges with Russia at all levels, which is in keeping with the Strategic Partnership between our two countries.
On this visit, Prime Minister will be accompanied by the External Affairs Minister and other senior officials from concerned Ministries and Departments as well as business and media delegations. A strong business delegation comprising of up to 90 businessmen from various sectors of our industry and trade has been put together by FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM and All India Association of Industries. The heads of CII and FICCI are part of the business delegation.
In terms of the programme, upon his arrival the Prime Minister has been invited for a quiet one-to-one dinner with President Putin in a dacha. This would be on 11th evening. On 12th Prime Minister will have delegation-level talks with President Putin. That evening there will be a banquet in his honour by the Russian President. The Deputy Prime Minister Ilyushin will be the accompanying Minister for our Prime Minister. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov will be calling on our Prime Minister. Prime Minister will also visit the Russian Academy of Sciences and deliver an address there. He is also slated to meet members of the Indian community in Moscow and address a special business event involving major representatives of Indian and Russian businesses on 13th November. He will leave Moscow for Tajikistan on 13th November.
Several bilateral documents are expected to be signed during the visit. It is a very significant number; ten in all in terms of documents and eleven if you include the Joint Statement. So, in all eleven documents will be issued or signed during the visit. These cover the areas of scientific cooperation, space cooperation, industry, establishment of an Indo-Russian Centre for Earthquake Research. Another agreement is on Joint Publication of Bilateral Archive Documents. Some interbanking agreements are there.
As you know, Russia especially is focusing a great deal on global challenges and threats to world security and stability which is currently one of the important areas of focus of their diplomacy. We intend to issue a declaration on this. More details will be naturally given to you in Moscow.
It is clear from the number of documents that will be signed that this will be a substantive visit. The focus will be on giving greater thrust to bilateral trade and investment. There is urgent need to boost the stagnant bilateral trade and promote new investments. A number of steps in this regard are being taken which include: intensification of exchange and contacts between entrepreneurs of the two countries. The Joint Business Council has been revived this year and it met in Moscow in February this year when a senior Indian business delegation participated in an Indian Exhibition. The response was encouraging. There has also been an increase in visas issued to Russians traveling for business and leisure to India. FICCI has also invited its counterpart, the RFCCI, to visit India to coincide with the India International Trade Fair 2003. CII is resuming its operations in Russia.
These steps need to be supported by development of inter-banking relations and other steps. We expect that the SBI-Canara Bank joint venture in Moscow will soon get the necessary approval and start its commercial operations. ECG will sign an MoU on cooperation with Vneshtorgbank of Russia during the visit. It is also expected that the Joint Task Force constituted to look into issues of utilization of remainder of Rupee-Rouble Debt Repayment Fund – the balance with RBI is Rs.2792 crore as on 12th September this year – and outstanding mutual financial obligations will meet at the earliest to address the issues.
We are aware of the need to facilitate travel by businesspersons by putting in place a more conducive visa regime. Discussions on this issue will be on the agenda of a Working Group, which will meet in India in January 2004.
The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC) has continued to oversee and guide our bilateral economic cooperation.
The Indo-Russian defence cooperation has transcended a buyer-seller relationship. The recent successful testing of the jointly developed Brahmos missile, which is the world’s first supersonic cruise missile, is an example of this. In the past few months the ongoing contracts have continued to be implemented. The Indian Navy has acquired three state-of-the-art frigates, built on order in St. Petersburg. The two sides held joint naval exercises in the Arabian Sea, as you may recall, in May this year. Prime Minister’s visit will naturally provide an opportunity to review defence cooperation at the highest level.
Our cooperation in atomic energy and space for peaceful purposes has been progressing satisfactorily and will also be reviewed. I mentioned to you that we are going to sign some important documents in the area of science and technology which will take our cooperation in high technology forward.

India and Russia share a rich legacy of cultural relations. The success and popularity of the ongoing Days of Russian Culture in India from 1 to 8 November in three India cities – Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai – is an example of this. Days of Indian Culture will be held in Russia next year.
India and Russia have an extensive and deep dialogue and cooperation in meeting the challenges which the world is faced with today, most importantly – terrorism, drug trafficking, illicit arms trade and related phenomena. There is a very strong governmental framework for such cooperation under the aegis of Joint Working Groups on Combating International Terrorism and Global Challenges, the first meeting of which was held very recently and which is chaired by Mr. Drubnikov on the Russian side and by me on the Indian side. The forthcoming Summit will also provide the two leaders an opportunity to discuss Indo-Russian cooperation in this regard both bilaterally and at multilateral fora.
To sum up, Indo-Russian relations have acquired a new dimension and significance while preserving and enhancing their traditional warmth, friendliness and mutual trust, understanding and concern for each other’s interests. We share a very wide range of cooperative activity and there is a great deal of identity of views with Russia. The thrust of the visit of our Prime Minister will be to reinforce the mutually beneficial nature of this relationship by focusing on potential for further development in key areas. This will contribute to further strengthening and consolidating of the Indo-Russian Strategic Partnership.
Following his visit to Russia, Prime Minister will go to Tajikistan from November 13 to 14. This would be the first visit by the Prime Minister of India to independent Tajikistan which became independent as of September 9, 1991.
In terms of calls, Prime Minister will be calling on the President of Tajikistan Emomali Sharifovich Rakhmanov and will hold restricted and delegation level talks with him. He will also be meeting the Prime Minister of Tajikistan, Mr. Akil Gaibullaevich Akilov. President Rakhmanov will be hosting a luncheon in honour of the Prime Minister on November 14.
Prime Minister would be unveiling a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Dushanbe. He will also be visiting a ‘Made in India’ exhibition, specially put up by the CII.
Two agreements are expected to be signed during the visit. One is an agreement between the two Governments on cooperation in the field of terrorism and the second is a protocol on exchange of instruments of ratification on the agreement between the two Governments on encouragement and protection of investment. From the map you will see that Tajikistan is our closest neighbour geographically in Central Asia. The country is secular and democratic, those again are values we share with them.
Earlier this year in February, Tajik Airlines started direct flights between Dushanbe and New Delhi which is an indication of stepping up of the relationship and general contacts between the two countries. As a further step in that direction, just before our Prime Minister’s visit, Tajikistan has opened its Embassy in New Delhi in October. With this starting of the direct flights between Dushanbe and New Delhi, India is now connected for the first time with every country in Central Asia by air. It also has, for the first time, diplomatic representation both ways with every Central Asian country.
Following his visit to Tajikistan, Prime Minister will be visiting Syria which will be a 3-day State visit beginning on November 14. I have already mentioned to you his accompanying delegation. The State visit would be the first VVIP visit exchanged since Shri Rajiv Gandhi visited Syria in 1988. So there has been a long gap. Prime Minister was scheduled to visit Syria in March 2003 but because of the precarious situation in the region at that time and possibility of war in Iraq this visit was postponed. Prime Minister did visit Syria but as External Affairs Minister in 1979. This would be the first meeting that our Prime Minister will have with President Dr. Bashar al-Assad, who took office in the year 2000. The Syrian President has been invited to India and the visit is likely to take place in early 2004.
During the visit, Prime Minister will naturally hold discussions with the Syrian President Dr. Assad. He will also have a meeting with the Syrian Prime Minister Engineer Mohammad Naji al-Otari. A number of bilateral Memoranda of Understanding, etc., are expected to be signed in such sectors as science and technology, IT, BT, agriculture, technical cooperation, education, culture, small-scale industries, etc. Our Prime Minister and the Syrian President will jointly inaugurate the Syrian National Biotechnology Centre in Damascus. Before returning to India, Prime Minister is also likely to visit historic sites like the Omayed Mosque in Damascus and Roman ruins in Palmyra.

The visit would provide a useful opportunity to re-emphasise our bilateral ties and is likely to give a fillip to India’s economic profile in the region. India’s exports to Syria have gone up in recent years to reach Rs.586 crore, i.e., US$ 122 million, in 2002-03. Imports from Syria during the same period are not very high – Rs.43 crore which amounts to not a very impressive figure of US$ 9 million. The composition of our export basket to Syria has become more varied and comprises of more finished goods. Syria also acts as an entrepot to the Iraqi market. The visit should give a fillip to these developments. Opportunities we feel exist for export of Indian projects in areas such as railways, steel, cement, software, etc. ONGC Videsh Ltd has recently been awarded its first oilfield exploration and prospecting block in Syria and a contract is likely to be signed soon.
Syria would be interested in the Indian experience in upgrading its industrial and economic infrastructure. We can offer them expertise in high tech areas of Information Technology and Biotechnology for peaceful purposes. Similar possibilities exist for promotion of mutual investments, services and transfer of technology.
The political context of the visit naturally is very significant with Syria – a frontline State with both Israel and Iraq – as the key regional player. The visit would enable us to discuss our perspectives on both these volatile issues with the Syrian leadership. In its capacity as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Syria has been useful for us with regard to a number of our concerns. We must also keep in mind Syria’s influence in the OIC and, of course, its role in the Non-Aligned Movement.
Syria and India have many similarities. Both are ancient civilizations and yet modern countries. We achieved independence in the forties from colonialism. We have common interests in both United Nations and NAM and we do share perceptions on several regional and international issues. The secular orientation of Syria is, of course, important to us. The commonality of perception and background has contributed to understanding between the two countries and this is renewed by high level visits that we exchange regularly with this country.
That is it insofar as my prepared brief is concerned. If you have any questions to ask, do please ask them. The Joint Secretary from WANA Region is with me and he can add to what I am not able to clarify to you with regard to the visit to Syria.

Kupwara encounter: Why the army is watching the LoC

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Bar)
Former Military Secretary

While we may not be able to confirm the rumor that Pakistan was attempting to push COVID-19 afflicted people into Pakistan occupied Kashmir and thence possibly into India through Kashmir, no one could have doubted that the threat from COVID-19 would in no way dilute Pakistan’s obsession with Kashmir.

In fact, a cursory glance at some curated recent Pakistani media output confirms that the Kashmir obsession continues unabated.
This was evident too from Pakistan’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza’s attempt to flag Kashmir during the SAARC video conference on COVID-19 on March 15, 2020.

The reported long encounter between the Indian Army and terrorists on the Shamshabari range north of Kupwara in the first week of April 2020 stands testimony to what was anticipated this season.

Five terrorists probably owing allegiance to the Jaish e Mohammad and infiltrating across the LoC from Dudhnial were killed, but five Indian Army Special Forces personnel too were martyred in the bargain.
Before any further analysis, a word on the nature of this operation is important to put at rest any speculation about the professionalism displayed by the Special Forces personnel during the encounter.
The area of contact lies high up on the Shamshabari range where levels of snow can exceed 10 to 15 feet with soft snow from recent snowfall being over 3 to 4 feet deep.
Movement is greatly restricted and the LoC fence, which is the anti-infiltration obstacle system, lies buried deep under the ice during this season.
This is the most opportune time for infiltration attempts as another month from now efforts by the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers to refurbish the anti-infiltration obstacle system would be underway on a war footing just like they have been each year for the last 15 years; an earlier effort to refurbish is not possible due to the presence of ice and snow.

Terrorist groups know this well enough and risk large scale attempts to get through at any cost.

The degree of difficulty in counter infiltration is high even though telltale signs of terrorist movement on soft snow are a sure giveaway.
The challenge is response since covering even a kilometer on foot in such conditions may take a couple of hours.
Thus, when the infiltrating JeM track managed to get through the gaps between deployments of the infantry unit, patrols discovered the trail on soft snow.
Search elements from adjoining posts responded too, but movement constraints prevented completing an early contact with the terrorist group which descended into a deep gorge.
The troops who the group had managed to bypass then also deployed to prevent its exfiltration after being discovered.
To overcome inevitable movement delays Special Forces squads were dropped by helicopter closer to the gorge area.
One of the squads while moving along a cliff at night to establish contact unrealizing stepped on an ice cornice and fell into the gorge and onto the terrorists.
A virtual close quarter battle ensued in which all five terrorists were killed and the six-man squad lost five of its members.
There are bizarre and unpredictable contingencies that arise in such terrain, climatic conditions, and operational environment.
This was one of those contingencies, but the grit and valor displayed by the Special Forces troops are indeed praiseworthy.

Reports suggest some more terror groups are awaiting an opportunity to infiltrate.

Perhaps the snow levels may daunt them, thus forcing attempts to lower altitude areas.
Troops along the LoC in Kashmir can never discount any part of the LoC to be outside the ambit of infiltration attempts.
The level of desperation in Pakistan is now palpable. It is important to get seasoned terrorists back into Kashmir, reorganize the militancy to deliver body blows, and hope like hell that the comprehensive measures being undertaken by India to stabilize do not gel with the population.
Two of the eliminated infiltrators were Kashmiris from Shopian who had exfiltrated to PoK in 2016-2017.
Their level of training as seen in the encounter appeared to be high and their return was imperative to add substance to the flagging South Kashmir militancy. More such return should be expected.

One of the important factors in the future strategy will be to ensure that terrorist numbers are kept under manageable limits through detailed surveillance of youth vulnerable to recruitment.

In addition, traditional hot spots of Tral, Shopian, and Kulgam must be kept under constant pressure to prevent new concentrations and fresh hideouts.
But the most important factor will remain to counter infiltration from PoK since there is surety about that and vast scope exists along the over 300 kilometer-long LoC in Kashmir itself.
Considerable scope for infiltration exists in Jammu too with efforts to subsequently reach the Kashmir valley by transport arranged through the network of over-ground workers.
What is certain is that the use of technology by the army is becoming a force multiplier and more of this should be integrated from the plethora of startups in India that are doing some yeoman work.

It may seem surprising that under such intense pressure from the FATF Pakistan continues to pursue a policy of sponsored terror in Kashmir unmindful of the economic impact of the misdemeanor it pursues.

If in the worst of times that the world is passing through Pakistan perceives its national interest to be the pursuit of a kinetic campaign in Kashmir through acts of terror, there is little else that India can do except to redouble its capacity to neutralize this and undertake every offensive measure to compel Pakistan to withdraw from the calamitous path it is pursuing.
In the post-COVID-19 period, Pakistan’s deep state may further throw caution to the winds expecting India to be deeply committed to the recovery process and thus less prepared for the response.

A high visibility act in Kashmir or elsewhere could be on the cards. The module for this too could come from PoK and would depend upon successful infiltration for that.

Among other options, spectacular acts need not be aimed at the hinterland where it could be difficult to reach.
The model of 2015-2016 stands out for its potential for adoption. This model focused on shallow infiltration to target installations in the near vicinity of the LoC discounting deep movement to the hinterland.
The Uri and Mohra attacks in the Jhelum valley were a result of this. It was simply an adaptation of the normal pattern of infiltration.

The LoC remains quiet for the present, but the possibility of forcing a change in deployment pattern through actions by Pakistani border action teams against Indian patrols remains live.

These can be offset by swift counters across or proactive measures as per the strategy adopted by field commanders.
The first flush of the season for infiltration has witnessed as much desperation as visible in the political stance taken by Pakistan’s leadership.

Even as India battles the COVID-19 threat on a war footing it cannot lose sight of the threat building up in Kashmir.

What you must know about Handwara anti-terror operation

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Bar)
Former Military Secretary

This starts with deep regret at the loss of five valuable Indian lives in the Handwara anti-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir which went on for the last 36 hours or so.

The late Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, Commanding Officer, 21 Rashtriya Rifles, and his brave officers and men need the nation’s salute for their courage and their sense of commitment.
It is also a good time to set a lot of perceptions and ideas in order, from the disorder which prevails in the information domain dominated by social media. The kind of questions arising from an ill-informed public is downright damning and extremely demotivating for frontline soldiers.

A few facts first. Some terrorists (number indeterminate) probably infiltrated across the LoC (something always possible especially in this season) and reached the traditional reception areas in the Rajwar forest adjoining Handwara, the fairly notorious North Kashmir town.

This is the season for infiltration because April-May is the time when Pakistan attempts to infiltrate maximum terrorists across the LoC.
The ice and snow covering the anti-infiltration obstacle system (AIOS) during winter is beginning to thaw and the fence beneath is in a derelict state facilitating terrorists to walk across it.
There are ambushes to prevent such movement, but gaps can always be exploited.
The Pakistani terrorist group successfully reached the Rajwar forest and moved into the urban zone to access potential safe houses.

An intelligence alert about their presence sent the local 21 Rashtriya Rifles (21 RR) unit into a response. What happened thereafter is unclear.

The terrorists reportedly attempted to seek shelter by hostage-taking. The RR troops reached and undertook operations, two terrorists were killed.
The CO and company commander probably entered a house or a cluster of houses with a small team and then things went wrong, resulting in the loss of communication with them.
What finally happened is best known to the troops of 21 RR and their officers and there is no need to do a post-mortem in the public domain.
In due course, an inquiry will establish the chain of events as close to the actual as possible by piecing together the narrative from versions of the soldiers who were participants in the operation.
It needs to be known that this unit is one of the most experienced units in the Kashmir valley and has some of the highest achievements.
It has battled hardcore foreign terrorists, especially Pakistanis who are most attracted to the routes into the Rajwar forest and thence to Handwara and Sopore.

There are other connected issues that are being raised. After eight months of stability post-August 5, 2019 there is an eruption of violence in the terrorist domain in Kashmir. Mobs and street turbulence are not anywhere on the horizon.

Since April 1, 2020, almost 30 plus terrorists have been neutralized near the LoC and the hinterland.
The Indian Army has lost nine soldiers plus two more from shelling in the Uri sector.
While the achievements are good, the losses are upsetting and the statistics do not appear professionally very comfortable.
However, anyone who studies Kashmir would know that taking ratios in short brackets of time is indicative of nothing.
Casualty ratios are always seen as averages over time. In early 2017, the ratio had come down to par with a soldier lost to every terrorist killed. To casual observers that is terrible.
15 Corps restored these to approximately 1:5 (own: terrorists) in 2017 and 2018. Usually, it is seen when the strength of the terrorists drops to a low the averages usually go more in their favor. There are various reasons for this outside the current scope of discussion.

People wonder why such an emergence of violence has occurred when all was under control for eight months. The answer is not difficult. Any further absence of violence will contribute to the idea of normalcy which works in India’s favor.

For Pakistan that is like placing more nails in its own coffin after it found its options running out.
A desperate attempt is on to enhance the strength of terrorists through infiltration into North Kashmir explained in this
Much more is likely to follow as the season opens up even as attempts to balance South and North Kashmir are going on in terms of terrorist strength and violence.
The system of ‘infiltration by attrition’ followed by the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba’s Muhammed Sayeed believes in sending hundreds of terrorists across the LoC in repeated attempts to get across with many dying in the bargain, but a handful succeeding in getting through.
Life is of no consequence to these cadres and their leadership. That is where the major challenge for the Indian Army lies this summer; the prevention or minimization of infiltration.

The other issue that is being spoken about by an increasingly vocal younger segment on social media is about the availability of technology to troops in Kashmir and the standard operating procedures that are followed for such activities as hostage negotiations, house clearance, and surveillance.

No doubt the viewing of popular Israeli serials such as Fauda on Netflix has enhanced knowledge of people about such operations. It augurs well on the future of strategic culture but tends to be extremely critical and unnecessarily negative about our own operations.
It needs to be known to people that Israel will not project its failed operations or those in which it suffered large scale reverses but rather only successful ones with some slick camera work.
Israeli technology is legendary and there is no dispute on the need for more technology for operations in the Kashmir valley. However, I am aware that in the last ten years since my time in the Kashmir valley things have improved many times over.
Yet technology will always be less than required to be deployed unless funding and procedures are both eased. Post COVID-19 this is unlikely.

The standard operating procedures of units such as 21 RR are outstanding, but they can be as good as the matching they have with the situations that arise.

There is no tailor-made SOP for each contingency because that is humanly impossible. Experience tells us how to adopt these SOPs to the situation.
In spite of these, an odd occasion will arise where no SOP exists and improvisation resorts on the spot. That is what leadership is all about.
Most times it will succeed, but at the odd times, it will fail. There is no recipe for a hundred percent success; the faster people understand it, the less will they focus unfair criticism against troops and their leadership.

There is much questioning about the forward presence of the CO for an operation involving 4 or 5 terrorists. This issue has come up many times in the past and the Indian Army has never believed in interference in the concept of unit command nor will it do so now.

We have lost COs in the past and the late Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, twice a recipient of the Sena Medal, is the second CO of 21 RR to be killed in action; the first was the late Colonel Rajender Chauhan, Sena Medal, in August 2000.
Inoffensive operations in conventional war the CO may direct his forward companies from the firm base and move up only if there is an imminent failure staring a unit in the face.
In defensive operations, he may move to one of the sub-units under attack and yet remain at the depth platoon to direct operations.
However, the Kashmir hinterland is all about irregular operations as part of a hybrid war; there is no front and no rear here, and terrorist contacts can take place at the HQ itself.

The CO’s presence is therefore necessary at the point of contact or just in its vicinity. The vicinity can be converted into the point of contact in a matter of seconds due to the rapidity of operations.

Company commanders launch operations based on the inputs they acquire and the success of that is ensured by the presence of the CO to back up and retrieve in case of contingencies.
If located at his headquarters he will anyway have to move up should there be contingencies. It is old-world thinking to imagine a CO sitting far away and directing.
The Indian Army boasts of the leadership qualities of its officer cadre and the concern for the safety of its soldiers. The CO’s forward presence always ensures that. Nothing is going to stop this basic value system of the Indian Army.

We are at the beginning of a fresh campaign by Pakistan to up the ante in Kashmir. The Pakistan campaign cannot succeed in the light of many proactive measures taken by the Indian security system and will once again wear itself out.

In the process, there will be many successes gained by India’s security forces, but an odd reverse too. This was one of them.

India-China Row: Unmonitored Social Media Won’t Help India’s Cause

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Bar)
Former Military Secretary

The attraction of Twitter as a social media public platform is that in a limited space, users can place comments as they wish. In an instant, an informed or an absolutely wayward, abusive, and ignorant comment, enters cyberspace, to be read by anyone and everyone.
These comments do not have to be authenticated in any way. Twitter, of course, monitors the information space for any downright libelous and indecent tweets, but the task of doing this effectively is simply too enormous.
When longstanding differences of opinion between nations emerge and deteriorate to border standoffs or simply a one-off incident of clashes, it generates two things.
First, is an informed expression of serious analysis to get to the causation, present options, and find ways of maximizing the outcome for the home nation using the information space provided by platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp. This is done by strategic experts with domain knowledge. A number of commentaries are put out in the video and textual format to educate the public, justify or criticize actions by the government and the armed forces in a constructive way, and cultivate the home narrative internationally.

Second is flurry of abusive, unrelated and mostly ill-informed comments that unwittingly do more harm to the same cause. 

The target of ire may be the enemy, or the home political and military leadership, and various segments of media itself. All this is within the ambit of freedom of speech, a right we enjoy in a democratic society such as India – but should that right be misused?

Chinese Army’s ‘War Under Informationised Conditions’ & Strategy of ‘Three Warfares’

The context we are referring to here is the run of standoffs at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. In public memory, this goes back to April 2013 at Raki Nala near Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) and then September 2014, when a more dangerous standoff occurred at Chumar, 250 km to the south. But armed standoff at the LAC has been a recurring issue for 15 years or more, ever since the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) achieved a threshold modernization. We had a long standoff at Sumdorongchu in Arunachal in 1986, and of course a bloody one at Nathula in August 1967.
Except for the latter, all such engagements have been without any shooting but jostling, stone-throwing, and lately, prepared assault with iron rods and truncheons has been common. The specialty of China’s concept of involvement in such engagements is threefold. First, an attempted ‘moral ascendancy’, (that the PLA is a better-equipped, trained, and more capable force) to physically cow down and dominate the Indian side. Second, are allegations of Indian aggression and encroachment, accompanied by transgression into areas where overlapping claim lines exist; primarily intended to cause confusion in the public mind of the target state.

Third, and forming an out-of-proportion effort, is the employment of information operations through State media and institutionalised social media.

This domain is a part of the PLA’s doctrine of 1993 termed as ‘war under informationist conditions’ (based upon the study of the First Gulf War 1990), and also of the 2003 strategy of ‘Three Warfares’ (legal, media, and psychological (with cyber often added to it).
The strategy focuses on causing a blurring in the adversary’s thought process, and confusion in the international community. It is accompanied by bouts of diplomatic bonhomie such as diplomatic summits, exchange of senior official’s visits, border talks, and trade and economic delegations in the interim periods between coercion. In many ways, it’s a progression of the old world Communist propaganda, which was considered an essential instrument of the State.

Perception of China’s Supposedly Incomparable Might

It is the domain of information that forms an equal, and in fact, many times dominant arm of the strategy, along with limited kinetic posturing to achieve the aim. The information domain includes a splurge of digital media with images of the PLA, its soldiers, equipment, and leadership. During Doklam 2017, this was supplemented by fire and maneuver demonstrations in Tibet and carried in-depth by digital media. This time, China is using video grabs of fistfights between the PLA and Indian Army soldiers, showing injured Indian soldiers, along with references and photographs of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962 which India lost.

Its aim is to bolster in the minds of the Indian population, leadership and the army, perceptions of China’s supposedly incomparable might, and an inevitable fate of defeat; ‘the ten feet tall PLA soldier’ syndrome.

To multiply this effect, it is also employing Pakistan’s ISPR whose presence in Indian social media space is fairly high and language skills of a better order. The strategy on Twitter is to create multiple fake accounts and put out tweets on India’s failure in 1962 and how PLA defended the motherland against Indian aggression. Allegations of Indian Army encroachment are made in halting and flawed English, in the hope of creating nationalistic fervor, and divert attention from Hong Kong and allegations of China’s role in the spread of the pandemic.

Chinese Manipulation & Suppression of Facts

China does not permit Twitter in the mainland and has Weibo instead. Content is accordingly manipulated with fake news for internal and foreign audiences. In the print media, the two mouthpieces are Global Times and People’s Daily which mirror exactly what is put out by digital and social media with attempted authentication by using scholars of the National Defence University and other strategic experts. Stung by international criticism of the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese information warfare appears less thought-through and more defensive this time. It is using the LAC standoff as a means of diversion to enhance nationalism.
Referring to China’s efforts to expand the scope of its narrative into the international environment, The Guardian wrote in 2018 – “Beijing is buying up media outlets and training scores of foreign journalists to ‘tell China’s story well’ – as part of a worldwide propaganda campaign of astonishing scope and ambition”. Obviously, the manifestation of that is telling.

How should India handle this?

In 2017, during the Doklam standoff, the Indian electronic media, probably under guidance, did a fine job of avoiding provocation; the print media was mature and had a balanced approach.

The Current Standoff Might Be An Attempt to Restore the Chinese Army’s Image

It was social media which for the first time tasted the freedom of individual expression against an adversary such as China. The efforts of many analysts to explain the situation and call for greater restraint were sometimes overshadowed by the mass hysteria of emerging nationalism.

Nothing wrong with feeling and expressing for your nation, but when this becomes provocative and does not fall in sync with government policy, it works against national interest.

This time, in 2020, it is once again being experienced. Videos of alleged clashes and brawls were posted by Twitter warriors from both sides, commencing with the Chinese since the early videos showed Indian troops on the defensive. The Chinese effort seemed to be an attempt to counter the image created during Doklam 2017 by burly Indian soldiers who were seen to be stopping the Chinese from moving ahead in road construction. It apparently peeved the PLA, with the creation of a perceived image deficit. The current standoff is actually being considered by some analysts as an attempt to restore the PLA’s image.

Social Media Being Used to Heckle Govt & Army Does Not Make For ‘National Interest’

The intent of the Government of India and the Indian Army is clear – that they wish to exercise restraint and prevent unnecessary provocation even as ways and means of engagement with the Chinese side are sought and exercised. The Chinese aim is no different, but it wishes to end the standoff with an ‘image recovery’. On the ground, the Indian Army is working towards Indian interests, which will mean measured offensive and defensive measures. Demands for transparency in policy are fine, but it is up to the government to decide what is in the national interest.

Social media being utilised for heckling the government and the army, and instigating the public through unauthenticated videos, does not make for national interest.

Perhaps what is important is to put out the right text with unprovocative content to create a positive Indian narrative in the international environment. China’s refusal over the last 27 years, to even discuss the delineation of a provisional LAC, is not sufficiently known to the world. Scholarly pieces on the Sino-Pakistan collusion to strengthen China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) is the other domain that needs to be projected to the world.
Controlling informal and unmonitored social media will reflect and bolster India’s international image. This can be done through advisories placed by the government in traditional ways using eminent personalities to convey the message of national interest. India’s nationalism can well be used most positively with deliberation rather than provocation.


Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM (Bar)
Former Military Secretary
My first ever exposure to coercion as a means of psychological warfare was in 1990. Freshly returned from Sri Lanka my unit, brigade, and division were all moved from East India to Punjab awaiting a possible launch into Pakistan across the Sutlej River as part of Operation Rakshak I. We remained camped at all kinds of locations in Punjab. On one occasion the Corps Commander addressed all officers and described our formation as a sharp screw with its every movement being akin to the turn of its threads that conveyed a message to the enemy. The continuous demonstration of a reserve formation’s reinforcing presence projected India’s concern and its willingness to defend its interests and beyond.
Since the beginning of May 2020, we are witnessing something similar on the virtually nonexistent Sino Indian border. It has come to be almost an annual event with a focus in different theatres each year; from Arunachal Pradesh to Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Ladakh. This year the combination of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and Ladakh is taking place. Why does this happen so frequently and is there a difference this year? These are two issues which need an answer.
First, why does it happen every other year? As a highly populous nation with tremendous but yet unrealized potential, India is considered a competitor by China. While seeking India’s cooperation in the economic domain and having tremendous scope for trade in its own favor China wishes to pursue a policy by which India’s comprehensive national power and standing as a middle power remain limited to a threshold. One of its biggest fears about India is the geostrategic location which renders its a great advantage in dominating the crucial sea lanes of communication (SLOC) east to west and vice versa, through the Indian Ocean. China’s entire rise and economic strength today is due to its ability to freely navigate the Indian Ocean for its massive energy needs from the Middle East and move of its container traffic to the markets in Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. A strong Indian Navy will always be a threat especially since the PLA Navy is yet to come of age. India as a part of any strategic alliance with nations inimical to China’s interests will also be a potential thorn. US, Japan, and Vietnam fit into this mold. China’s strategy against India is therefore essentially threefold. It wishes to maintain a threshold relationship by fully exploiting the economic linkages which give it a major advantage. Coupled with this it aims to keep India away from potential anti-China strategic partnerships by pressurizing it militarily in such a way that India’s potential rise remains limited. In doing that it wants to peg India’s focus on the Himalayan front by limited military coercion from time to time such that India is prevented from realizing the true potential of its maritime front which poses a threat to Chinese interests. It is India’s maritime front which offers China’s detractors all the attraction (the expanded Indo Pacific theatre of the US). When the above concept is applied to the Sino Indian relationship it becomes clear that China considers the unresolved border disputes with India as a domain of great advantage which must remain at the same status instead of being resolved. Despite diplomatic agreements and protocols on consultation, it refuses to take even the first step towards such resolution which is the delineation of a Line of Actual Control (LAC) that can help stabilize the border and assist in further positive negotiations. The dispute and the non-existence of even a LAC provide the scope for coercion through allegations of breaches by India and annual transgressions which lead to long standoffs. These offer further opportunity to carry out large scale propaganda. In all this the availability of Pakistan on the western flank offers further advantage creating the perception of dual fronts in India’s military threat appreciation.
A further appreciation of the strategic picture reveals China’s obsession in overcoming the Malacca dilemma (an inherent fear of Indian capability to block the Malacca Straits in conjunction with other inimical nations – the Quad concept being one of them). Expansion of its foothold in the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh by the capture of the Shyok and Nubra Valleys and giving itself greater depth in the Karakoram tract North of the River Indus will provide it a large swathe of territory that would offer it greater scope for the expansion of the fragile China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Gilgit Baltistan; in the form of a maze of routes, much like the Old Silk Route. It is an ambition that will need a border war to be fought and won against India, something which offers no certainty. This strategy is obviously not short term and the various annual standoffs over the last few years have been feelers, recce in force, and partial messaging to achieve the overall aim of keeping India coerced, diverted from the maritime theatre, and threatened by the ‘dual front’.
So, is it any different this year when we find the oft-repeated story once again being played out? It is different to the extent that it is not limited to a single front as was in the Doklam standoff. Sikkim, Central Sector, and Ladakh have been simultaneously activated with graded coercion and Nepal has been harnessed on the politico-diplomatic front. Ladakh appears to be the main theatre of China’s choice. The international strategic environment is probably giving China a perception of insecurity. Under pressure with allegations relating to the Coronavirus pandemic, China has set courses to write its own narratives for the post-Covid 19 periods. It needs to be viewed as the same strong dominant nation rather than a cowering giant afraid of the allegations which it perceives dilute its international image. Then there are simultaneous issues of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and in the case of India denial of direct investment.
All the above comes at a time when India’s strategic infrastructural development is maturing. The Darbuka-DBO road floundering in the past has emerged successfully adding to the value of the DBO airfield and Indian capability to develop operations at the Karakoram. China is therefore hedging its bets with coercion, messaging, and calibrating. India has done the right thing by refusing to be bullied and responding with matching troop deployment. It is a game of nerves that remains so until the first shot gets fired. That will change it all, but it is unlikely to happen. China can ill afford a world order in which it is perceived as both the initiator of the pandemic and instigator of the war. None of the deployment of its troops is for warfighting; battles are not fought by establishing camps with vehicles and tents in straight lines. They are fought with tactically deployed troops. We have not seen any of the latter so far.
While maintaining its military deployment India must ensure careful calibration of diplomacy but even more so its communication strategy disallowing loose statements by leadership and media. A crumbling of resolve is what China is seeking and therefore coercion may be of a higher order and could cross the threshold into a calibrated military engagement. Continuous reading of China’s intent, matching it in the limited engagements, and most importantly retaining nerve is the strategy India must employ.

The Edge of The Sword

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War
For seven decades, there has been a systematic and institutionalized humiliation of the armed forces of India. It started with Nehru and the then ruling elite wondering why we needed an armed force, to begin with. The police was all that was needed to maintain law and order, they argued. After all, hadn’t our forefathers conceived of the unique concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”? Yes, the world would live like one happy family, mutual respect firmly ensconced in the deepest recesses of everyone’s heart, and everyone’s moral compass pointing north.
The Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in 1947 and the subsequent wars in 1962 and 1965 did nothing to convince our benighted rulers that we lived in an extremely dangerous neighborhood. And that if we were to survive as a nation, we needed a well-equipped and motivated army.
In 1971 we defeated Pakistan and there were two factors responsible, the Indian Army and geography. General Sam Manekshaw was a great general and he attacked when he thought it was prudent to do so. He waited out the monsoons and made preparations. When he attacked, the Army, Navy and Air Force played havoc with Pakistan in perfect symphony. The London Philharmonic Orchestra would have been proud. Geography was the villain for Pakistan. East Pakistan was just too far and geographically disconnected. It could not be supplied easily. India cut off lines of communications and supply. Pakistan was a headless chicken in less than two weeks.
In 1999, Pakistan broke trust and attacked us in Kargil. We were unprepared in more ways than one. We had no intelligence of the impending attack. We should have asked ourselves why Pakistan was suddenly buying massive quantities of high-altitude clothing from Switzerland. We must also ask ourselves today why we chose to trust Pakistan. After 1971, every winter both the Indian and Pakistani armies would vacate their respective bunkers and climb down, only to come up again in summer. In the winter of 1998, some Pakistani soldiers moved down. Just some. And while Vajpayee was embracing Nawaz Sharif at Lahore, the Northern Light Infantry of the Pakistan Army, led by high-altitude warfare specialists of the Special Services Group were slowly making their way up to Dras, Kaksar and Mushkoh. Names like Tiger Hill, Batalik and Point 5060 became part of Indian folklore.
But we should have known. It is unforgivable not to know. War is dirty business. Information is life, and death.
India did not realize that it had lost 527 brave hearts. They fought with rifles that jammed in the extreme cold, lack of high-altitude equipment and basic facilities that any modern army takes for granted.
Its young officers and jawans have saved India’s honor many a time. It is the young Captain who will put his foot in a minefield. It is the young major who will kick down that door knowing fully well that there are terrorists waiting for him on the other side of the door. Jawans will risk their lives to accomplish missions that seem impossible on paper. They will charge headlong into machine gun fire, knowing well that their chances of survival are next to zero.
For too long the Indian Army has depended on the blood and guts of its very young. This must change. We are fighting modern wars now and we must realize that “The Charge of the Light Brigade” is an excellent poem. That’s all.
We are trained to kill the enemy. Ek Goli Ek Dushman. Across Indian Army firing ranges, you will see this written on walls and on metal. Shoot to kill, without mercy and without remorse. This is drummed into every officer and jawan, again and again.
It is the infantryman who wins wars. This truth cannot be contested. After the attack heptors have gone back to their bases, the tank engines are silent and the big artillery guns have stopped booming, it is the infantryman who wades ankle deep in blood. When he thrusts his bayonet into the stomach of the enemy, he is looking at him in the eye. For him, war is up close and personal.
It is this infantryman who has no bulletproof jacket, works with sub-standard equipment, wears a helmet that affords minimum protection and uses a rifle, of which the lesser said the better. Our NVDs (Night Vision Devices) are 2nd generation. Our ammunition/ equipment reserves (War Wastage Reserves) should ideally cater for 40 days of intense war. Currently, we are at about 20 day’s reserves, maybe less.
As I write these lines, I understand that there is frantic movement to make up for shortages. The Government is cranking up the machine and factories have been told to make up for lost time. And they will. But Indians must know that the last few decades have been terrible on our defence preparedness.
Artillery is an extremely important and vital arm of the army. Without it, infantry almost stands decimated. India gave the order for 145 artillery guns just last year. For over 30 years, we had not inducted artillery. While 145 new guns are a big shot in the arm, can you imagine the criminal neglect that had been going on for the past 30 years? There are hundreds of such cases that require immediate attention.
I would have understood if India did not have the money. But not having had the intent is unfathomable and unforgivable.
What we need is possibly a smaller army, but highly advanced technologically. Numbers don’t count for much in modern wars, but technology does. We need broad-based satellite interface. We need modern equipment. We need a more mobile army to fight wars of the future. These things cost money, I know. And they will happen over a period of time.
There are emergency purchases underway. There is certain urgency in the air, to fill in the vacuum, and our ports and airfields are receiving critical material as fast as we can write cheques. We are also building indigenous capability rapidly. While this can stave off the immediate threat, we need a long-term vision for material and weapons technology procurement. When a nation that puts a satellite into the Mars orbit cant make a decent assault rifle, it points towards a dangerous malaise of mala fide intent, not capability. We simply don’t have the attitude of a warrior nation.
What we can do immediately is appoint a Chief of Defence Staff, a five star ranking general officer to whom all the three Chiefs (Army, Navy and Air Force) will report. Let the CDS advise the Prime Minister on all matters military. There will be dissonance within the services regarding this, and that’s all right. We win wars when the Army, Navy and Air Force fight together. The office of the CDS must have teeth. It cannot be a ceremonial appointment.
Another improvement could also be to actually have defence people in the Defence Ministry. The Defence Ministry is virtually run by faceless bureaucrats and their whims.
We must realize that our real long-term enemy is China, the smiling China that is ever so polite and proper, and blocks our efforts to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist. That same China that stands between India and the NSG membership. China will never fight us directly, but it has the capability to cause us tremendous pain. It will continue to increase bilateral trade with us. For fighting, it has Pakistan, a country that is always available to the highest bidder. For Pakistan, it was the Americans earlier. It is the Chinese today.
Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry recently released a study in which they stated that by 2048, the Baloch would be in a minority in Balochistan. The majority population would be Chinese. And today they are teaching Mandarin to children of Class 6, in Sindh. Pakistan is already a Chinese colony. It’s just that they don’t know it yet.
CPEC is not just about trade. China is using CPEC to expand its geographical frontiers. And Pakistan, blinded by greed and savage ambition to somehow appear to be equal to India, does not see what is so obvious to the rest of the world. China is nothing but the East India Company on steroids.
We have always had China to the East and Pakistan to the West. In the next 20 years, we will have China to the East and China to the West. The encirclement of India will be complete. This is the underlying logic of the two-front war. And if it not, it should be.
War will come to our doorstep, if not today than in a decade. But it will come. It will be multi-pronged and lightening fast. That is what the Chinese have been learning for 2500 years. We Indians may have forgotten Chanakya, but the Chinese remember Sun Tzu.
Wars are fought in the mind much before they are fought on the battlefield.

A Red Motorcycle and A Country

Major Gaurav Arya

Indian Army (Retd.)

General Sam Manekshaw paced up and down his office, his furrowed brow almost touching the center of his forehead. His lean frame was ramrod straight, his gait long and striding, typical of infantrymen who spend their lifetime walking over harsh terrain. He knew that his army was plunging headlong into war. It was only a matter of time.
It had all started a year back in 1970, when Pakistan refused to accept its own election results. The Awami League had won 167 out of 169 seats in East Pakistan, making it the largest party in the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament). Its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rehman staked his claim to form the government. The claim was made, as per procedure, in the presence of the President of Pakistan, General Yahya Khan. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto refused to give up power to a Bengali.
Tempers in East Pakistan were frayed. On 1 March 1971, Yahya Khan refused to convene the National Assembly. Local Bengalis ran amok, killing Bihari settlers, who were loyal to West Pakistan. In Chittagong alone, 300 Biharis were murdered. The Government of Pakistan used these killings to justify deployment of the Pakistan Army, which was, and remains to date, an overwhelmingly Punjabi and Pashtun army.
Things were spiraling out of control and to get a grip on the situation, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight on 21 March. The aim of the operation was simple – locate, engage and eliminate all “troublemakers”.
The Indian Cabinet wasn’t making things any easier for the Indian Army. With hundreds of thousands of East Pakistani refugees streaming into India every month, the strain on India’s fledgling economy was beginning to show. Tempers were frayed and Indira Gandhi demanded immediate action.
It was in April 1971 that Gen. Sam Manekshaw; Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that it was tactically not feasible to attack. The monsoons would arrive anytime now and that would make movement extremely tough. The Indian Army was not immediately ready for a task of such magnitude. It would need time. And when it was ready, they would deliver. If this were not acceptable to the Prime Minister, the General would be pleased to resign.
Indira Gandhi refused to accept Manekshaw’s resignation. She gave him a free hand to choose the time and place of the attack.
What was it that the Prime Minister exactly wanted, Manekshaw asked?
Indira Gandhi said that she wanted Pakistan cut into half and a new country called Bangladesh created. Manekshaw said that he would deliver Bangladesh, but how he did it was up to him.
Gen. Manekshaw was affectionately called Sam Bahadur by the Gurkha troops he had spent a lifetime commanding. A Parsee who had served with Gurkhas; well, Mrs. Gandhi had one headstrong general to deal with. There are stories of conversations between Sam Manekshaw and Indira Gandhi, most of them hilarious. They shared tremendous mutual respect.
Across the border in Pakistan, the government and the army were building up war hysteria. In Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad it was common to see cars with “CRUSH INDIA” stickers. And Pakistan Radio started playing patriotic songs of Madam Noor Jehan. Whenever Pakistan Radio plays patriotic songs of Madam Noor Jehan, it means either of the two; war or coup.
The generals at GHQ Rawalpindi were worried. Something had to be done to arrest East Pakistan’s slide into chaos. It never occurred to them to talk to the Bengalis. They did what they had always done. They sent a general to do a politicians job. And then they committed an even more grievous mistake; they sent General Tikka Khan, the Butcher of Baluchistan.
On the night intervening 25-26 March 1971, Tikka Khan declared war on the sleeping and hapless Bengali population of East Pakistan. He let loose a reign of terror. Kill-and-dump operations, mass rapes by Pakistan Army soldiers, bayoneting of pregnant women, disappearances and torture chambers were tools of Tikka Khan’s trade.
The Butcher of Baluchistan became The Butcher of Bengal.
On 26 March 1971, Major Zia-ur Rehman, an influential Bengali major in the Pakistan Army declared Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan. He did so on behalf on Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. On 27 March 1971, Indira Gandhi declared India’s support for the freedom movement of Bangladesh.
On 17 April 1971, the Bangladesh Government in Exile made a Proclamation of Independence at Village Baidyanathtola of District Meherpur (East Pakistan). A provisional government was set up under Tajuddin Ahmad. As word spread, Pakistan Army’s atrocities went into overdrive. There was no time or energy to bury all the dead separately. So, the Pakistan Army got Bengali labor to start digging mass graves.
More than 10 million East Pakistanis had come into India and were housed in refugee camps in Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Bihar and Meghalaya. These camps were home to intelligent youth who were motivated by Bengali nationalism. They became breeding grounds of rabid discontent against Pakistan and its army.
These refugee camps has interesting visitors; Indian Bengali speaking civilians who would talk for hours on end to these youth, always watching and evaluating. These Indians would speak about armed struggle and Bengali nationalism.
Those were heady days. The youth who believed in violent struggle became part of the Mukti Bahini. Unknown to them, the soft-spoken Bengali Indian visitors were watching every move. Initially, the young men did not know who the Indians were. They would later find out that these men were field operatives of an innocuously named Indian organization called the Research and Analysis Wing.
Much before the Indian Army entered Pakistan to cleave it into half, RAW had already launched covert operations on East Pakistan’s soil.
The Mukti Bahini comprised of Bengalis who had deserted from the Pakistan Army, elements of the paramilitary forces, police and civilians. It was a guerrilla outfit that attacked, harassed and cut of lines of communication and supply of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan.
The monsoons were upon the subcontinent. Manekshaw worked like a man possessed, getting manpower, material and equipment in place. He travelled to various formations personally supervising preparations for war. The pace was feverish.
Pakistan was watching closely. On 23 November 1971, Pakistan blinked. President Gen. Yahya Khan declared a state of emergency and asked his people to prepare for war with India.
On the eve of 3 December 1971 at about 5:40 pm, Pakistan Air Force launched Operation Changez Khan. 50 fighter jets were used to target 11 locations across North Western India, including Agra. That evening Prime Minister Indira Gandhi addressed the nation. She said that Pakistan had attacked without provocation and retaliation was only to be expected.
India was now officially at war with Pakistan. That very night, the Indian Air Force responded by launching Operation Cactus Lily. It started aggressive operations inside Pakistani territory. In the morning, the IAF moved into top gear.
While the Indian Air Force was flying sorties day and night into Pakistan, the RAW operatives inside Pakistan were getting the Bengali maintenance technicians of the Pakistan Air Force to defect. The IAF flew over 4000 sorties between 3rd and 16th December 1971 in West Pakistan. The PAF could not keep up. The number of sorties flown by PAF decreased day by day. There was simply very little staff to maintain the aircrafts. RAW had delivered.
General Sam Manekshaw was now ready. He had planned every move and counter move in the minutest detail. He had all the men, material and training that he wanted for a successful operation against the enemy. He gave the orders.
The Indian Army invaded Pakistan.
Simultaneously, the Indian Navy launched Operation Trident. On the night of 4th and 5th December, it attacked the Karachi harbor using missile boats. Pakistani destroyer PNS Khyber and minesweeper PNS Muhafiz were sunk, and PNS Shah Jahan was irreparably damaged.
The Indian Navy did not lose momentum. On the night of 8th and 9th December, they launched Operation Python. The entire fuel reserves of the Pakistan Navy at Karachi were blown up. Indian Navy also sank 3 merchant ships off Karachi Harbor.
In the Eastern Theater, the Indian Navy deployed its aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Vikrant launched air strikes deep inside East Pakistan. It also enforced a naval blockade of East Pakistan, rendering the enemy navy ineffective. Pakistan sent its submarine PNS Ghazi to attack Indian ships, but it sank under unexplained and mysterious circumstances off the coast of Vishakhapatnam.
On 9 December the Indian Navy suffered its biggest loss when Pakistani Navy submarine PNS Hangor sank Indian Navy’s frigate INS Khukri. 18 Officers and 176 sailors embraced martyrdom. While the ship was burning and sinking and evacuation was underway, Navy Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla who was commanding INS Khukri gave his own lifejacket to a junior officer, asking him to escape.
There is a tradition in the Indian Navy that the Captain does not abandon his ship, come what may. Captain Mahendra Nath Mulla, in the highest traditions of the Indian Navy, sank with his burning ship. He was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, for courage beyond the call of duty.
By 12-13 December 1971, much of Pakistan’s Navy was on paper. And its Air Force was on ground.
The Indian Air Force flew 1978 sorties in the East and about 4000 sorties in West Pakistan.
The Pakistan Army attacked at various locations on the Western front. The Indian Army responded and pushed deep inside Pakistan, capturing some 15,000 square kilometers of territory in Sindh and Pakistani Punjab. The Government of India later returned this captured territory to Pakistan, after the war.
In the Eastern sector, the Indian Army’s successes were stunning. Rather than replicate the “set piece” movements of 1965, the 1971 war was one that was reminiscent of the German ‘Blitzkrieg’ attacks. Nine Infantry Divisions were employed in a three-pronged attack, supported by armor, artillery and close air support. The Indian Army did not stop until it had entered Dhaka.
Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora employed classic fast moving Blitzkrieg techniques, choosing weak enemy defenses and bypassing held positions. The pace of attack was blistering. While Lt. Gen. Aurora was attacking, the Indian Air Force wiped out the remaining fighter aircraft, achieving absolute air superiority. The Dhaka airfield was no longer an operational airfield. It was just a plot of land.
So ferocious was the assault by Lt. Gen. Aurora, and such was the masterful planning by General Sam Manekshaw, that in less than two weeks, Pakistan was brought to its knees.
On 16 December, Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora and Lt. Gen. AAK Niazi, Commander of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan met at the Ramna Race Course Ground in Dhaka. AAK Niazi formally signed the Instrument of Surrender at 4:31 pm. 92,000 Pakistani soldiers, policemen and paramilitary staff including civilians surrendered to the Indian Army. Bangladesh was created.
Pakistan’s landmass and population was reduced to half. Its international reputation was reduced to zero. Pakistan’s humiliation was complete.
Sam Manekshaw was a legend. If anyone was responsible for the complete victory of the Indian Army in 1971, it was he. There are stories about Sam Manekshaw, but none more humorous than this.
Before partition of India, Manekshaw and Yahya Khan (President of Pakistan during 1971 war) were friends and on the staff of Field Marshall Sir Claude Auchinleck. Sam Manekshaw owned a red James motorcycle, which Yahya had an eye on. He offered to buy the motorcycle for Rs. 1000. Manekshaw agreed to sell the motorcycle. Partition happened and Yahya took the motorcycle to Pakistan, never paying the thousand rupees he owned to Sam Manekshaw.
After the Instrument of Surrender was signed on 16 December 1971, Gen. Sam Manekshaw was heard saying, “Yahya never paid me the Rs. 1,000 for my motorbike, but now he has paid with half his country.”
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
Disclaimer: There was a lot more to the 1971 war than what I have written here. The US, USSR, China, Jordan etc were actively involved. Richard Nixon and Harry Kissinger did their best to support Pakistan. USSR supported India throughout. Sam Manekshaw deliberately attacked Pakistan in December 1971, when all the passes on the Chinese border were closed. Indian Army’s mountains divisions faced China, at top alert. China backed off, refusing to help its best friend, Pakistan. But all this is too vast and needs another article. Maybe, at a later date.

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