In the chronicles of -what appears to be- a perpetual rivalry; 2016 was another year marked with tensions between the neighbours.
The start of 2017 saw an elusive recognition of the so called cold start doctrine by the Indian army chief- which has remained under speculation for several years now.
One of the reasons why this theory remained under doubts, was owing to the expensive equipment requirement- which the Indian army lacked.
Worldwide anxieties regarding this offense once again gained traction after the reported US$ 2billion purchase of the T-90 main battle tanks from Russia- to be deployed on India’s western border with Pakistan , along with the existing tanks that are mostly outdated.
The former year included several mega defence deals between India : US, France , Israel , Russia etc. aimed at expanding current capabilities and modernizing its military. This makeover is much needed because of the failure of indigenous programs and the past reliance on Russia.
The signing of the S-400 Triumf deal during the Brics conference – with Russia – adding on to its Akash missile defence system further raised concerns. Though, some believe an assortment of missile ranges, and multiple attacks from Pakistan could confuse these systems, options of similar procurements have been discussed— either way, adding to Pakistan’s economic strains.
And, once again triggering a new and potentially dangerous arms race.
Despite, the disadvantages to Pakistan in regards to its conventional arms and forces–which India continues to expand– several speculate such gaps would be filled with induction of more tactical nuclear weapons—but, despite the growing gaps; India perhaps realises that ‘at best’ such a conflict would lead to a mutually destructive stalemate.
Some say- often ample confusion leads to victory–India appears to be gearing up to create mass confusion. Pakistan likewise would have to be wary of multifaceted pressures. Some of which may be :
- The self assumed ‘cause of retaliation’ stipulated by the so called cold-start, and the new ‘external ‘ friends these claims have found.
- Global Impacts of such accusations on Pakistan’s arms industry and nuclear program, especially in the wake of the new broader definition of ‘terror’
- The economic pressures on Pakistan: in the wake of increased arms race, and its social impacts.
After instantaneously jumping on the bandwagon of war against terror in 2001, one of the first steps Pakistan carried out back then was– aspiring to mend ties with India and resume the composite dialogue process.
The goodwill gestures were short lived, and collapsed after the the Indian Parliament attacks in late 2001.
Once again, links to JeM and LeT- ‘with Pakistani backing’ were drawn, and India decided to take punitive measures. However, the 2002 military standoff– (part of India’s coercive strategy ignoring the fact that both were nuclear weapon states)–, was de-escalated by the mediation of the international community- heavy economic costs were still incurred by both countries.
The delays in mobilisation of Indian troops in that duration is apparently what led to the formulation of the cold start doctrine — which essentially “ aims to punish Pakistan -rapidly and effectively, before the international community can intervene- without crossing its “nuclear thresholds” — in case of an other Parliament-like attack on Indian soil which in India’s arbitrary determination has origins in Pakistan.
Pakistan and India decided to engage in bilateral talks again in 2004-2005, but peace collapsed post-Mumbai attacks in 2008, and LeT’s name surfaced…along with the inevitable ‘Pakistani support’ label.
Once again triggering another chain of skirmishes, assaults and violations along the borders.
The tensions witnessed in 2016-which are still ongoing- was also triggered after the dream like calm crafted in 2015 between two countries.
During the ongoing Indian violations in Kashmir, an attack was carried out on Pathankot in January 2016– which was blamed on JeM, though claimed by the United Jihad Council- a coalition of 13-15 militant groups focused on Kashmiri independence-(the state has banned several of these offshoots)
In the backdrop of loud allegations, the violations on Kashmiris continued as means to stub uprisings, however the death of a young boy during one of these stubbings, caused a massive backlash , compelling over 50,000 Kashmiris to stand in solidarity for liberation–
However, what Kashmiris recognise as ‘liberation’, India recognizes as ‘Pakistan sponsored terror’ while Pakistan recognizes it as ‘a call for liberation against oppression , which demands urgent International attention. Pakistan owing to its own history– has since its inception- extended vocal support to several countries aspiring some form of liberation, such as Algeria , Tunisia, Sudan, Palestinians , Mozambique etc.
Nonetheless, during the period of ongoing clashes between Indian forces and the people of Kashmir, an attack on Uri was carried out in September 2016, no one officially claimed the attacks, but the Indian media pounced with allegations of ‘confirmed’ links of JuD–(a.k.a Lashkar-e-Taiba by the Indian media)… along with” Pakistan’s support”–to the attacks.
Indian forces and officials apparently took matters into their own hands and launched the so-called surgical strikes as “punitive measures against the state of Pakistan. Since then, several violations have taken place across the LoC and the working border –each side labelling the other as an aggressor/instigator. Apart from the soldiers , several Pakistani civilian casualties have also been recorded. India’s surgical strikes claim was trashed by Pakistan and except for some Indians no one believes it. An uncomfortable looking DGMO was trotted out in front of the cameras to announce the so called ‘surgical strikes’.
The self assumptions of this so called ‘state sponsored terror’, lack of trust and inability to form constructive solutions, 1. Conveniently covers authentic grievances of people 2. Leads to a possibility of reciprocation by lowering standards of definitions from Pakistan’s side as well.
Pakistan maintains a first use policy But, despite that– it has enunciated a broad sequence of warnings, before -in the worst case- it carries out a nuclear attack.
Shrouded in secrecy, naturally the exact nature of strategies remains untold, but back in 2001 , Pakistan issued a broad, elusive, definition of its own nuclear thresholds.
Again, though such thresholds define nuclear retaliations in the worst case scenarios of : deep penetration into Pakistani territory, heavy destruction to PAF, naval blockade of Pakistani coastal cities, economic stagnation, water deprivation and political instability or disintegration of the country.
But, just as India lowers its standards of initiations of such offences based on mere allegations , it- at the same time, pushes Pakistan to give new meanings to these broad thresholds: which at its core do translate to : do not strain the military, do not threaten our air or sea space, do not drain us economically, do not destabilise us.
A direct confrontation may not be creating these various circumstances, but in a slow build up it appears to add up.
Thus, giving dangerous meanings to India’s “attack without giving justification for nuclear retaliations” stance and where it pushes Pakistan to redefine its own thresholds.
Quick pointing of fingers towards Pakistan is , primarily based on certain ‘statements’ members of these groups have given in the past– which in between the lines , sound highly dubious and anti-Pakistan in nature.
Nonetheless- such quick allegations reflect a poor method of conflict resolutions , because on the contrary several other opposing allegations stand, such as the the rift created within Hizb-ul Mujahideen, because certain members were being handled by RAW.
It is also imperative to note, that maintaining sources for information seeking purposes- with various groups is perhaps a natural trait of the covert world, and it doesn’t translate to ‘support’, because this would then make everyone across the globe a ‘supporter of terror’.
Pakistan has over the years called for collective investigations, but a dangerous deadlock is created after every such event, because a direct allegation is made on core security institutions of pakistan, the failure to differentiate between state and terror is both dangerous and absurd.
The sympathy for soldiery is almost a natural,global, timeless phenomenon. Therefore, such disinformation- of depicting terror groups and security forces -as one and the same– apart from significantly shaping worldviews, carries the danger of leaving Pakistanis perplexed. In Pakistani perception the atrocities on the Kashmiris by Indian security forces is state sponsored terror.
Though the ISPR often issues a counter narrative to this misguided stance, and publicises its counter-terror achievements, it is still a comparatively faint voice. The internal voices with significant traction over people’s minds, could perhaps place more focus on ‘what we think, and are doing’ instead of ‘what they think we are doing’; to clarify confusions that can stem from collisions of sympathies for soldiery, nationalism and religious sentiments.
Hafiz saeed’s name in the past has been portrayed as the sole cause of India’s ailments, but despite his current arrest and Pakistani requests of Indian cooperation — the response from India has been anything but positive.
So, what exactly is Pakistan expected to do? what then does this so called retaliation in response to ‘terror’ even mean…. Attack whenever we feel like it and blame it on the other state?
A review of Pakistan’s journey clearly indicates that it’s core institutions do not support terror. In the present international and regional security environment such a policy would not make sense.
Nukes and Rebukes:
A strange impasse to several constructive resolutions is also created as a result of these accusations. Because it appears that if: 1.Pakistan overplays the capabilities of its core institutions, even for purposes of deterrence– it automatically translates into their ability to fight terror –but a choice of not doing so.
2. If it accepts that a certain situation is beyond control , it draws risks of: foreign powers ‘taking care of matters’ and speculations over its ability to safeguard its nuclear assets– that separate journey on its own evidently displays the defensive nature of this agenda which appears to have served as an effective deterrent- for now.
Concerns over weapons getting into ‘wrong’ hands saw a shift in 2011 to — the guardians themselves are the wrong hands. Though, this absurd double negated logic would then imply that the weapons , just as they have been safe in the past, would continue to remain so, as if there never was a difference.
A single apparatus may not be capable of fighting all of the world’s demons, and neither should it be placed in an answerable situation for a global problem. But, it is highly capable of safeguarding objectives that fall under its domain.
As per the IRRS and views of several senior officers and analysts , the efficient structure of Pakistan’s nuclear program is in compliance to IAEA’s safety standards, and is safe.
Pakistan’s refusal to sign the NPT also stems from a demand of India’s simultaneous ratification, it has in the past offered proposals to mutually reduce stockpiles and engage in other CBM’s which- have been rejected.
The civil-nuclear deal between India and US in 2005 , added on to the anxieties of pakistan- which also hoped for a similar deal- owing to its own energy crises- but was denied.
In Pakistan’s concerns such a move provides India with a cover to expand its nuclear stockpiles, as several military nuclear sites would continue to remain restricted ; which is also why Pakistan refused to ratify the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty in 2011, as long as mutual verification of sites and stockpiles was out of question.
In the name of terror:
As the propaganda machine spins, the attachment of names such as Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed etc, find themselves solely attached to the identity of Pakistan. But, it is crucial to turn back the pages and look at the origins of such men and groups.Perhaps, the erroneous move of the state is taking way too much credit for a diverse agenda.
Several concerns for Pakistan, regarding, carrying out anti-terror ops also emanate from : the widespread and inter-related nature of such groups which operate transborders, the backlashes , costs and the international pressures.
Apart from the diverse 61 organisations-the state has banned; a war was waged against several transnational groups who have sowed their ideological roots due to continuous overall regional instability.
Pakistan has suffered a loss of approximately 118 billion USD due to economic and social setbacks since 2002 till date, costs of Zarb-E-Azb amount to over 1.9 billion dollars so far, several thousands Pakistanis lost their lives( civilians and armed men) — these sacrifices are priceless, worst of all- the fears of backlashes and spurs of terror attempts made by various groups has terrorized Pakistanis- the most.
Pakistan is said to have received 14 billion USD under the Coalition support fund, since 2002 which is to be replaced with Pakistan Security Enhancement funds– more focused on Pakistan’s internal counter-terror measures as opposed to those in Afghanistan.
The concerns over allocation of these funds has been a debated area— primarily due to demands to take stern actions against certain groups.
Given the diversity of such groups, a blowback will continue to remain a concern, therefore considering the option of negotiations with one or two out of the several hundred such groups- does not mean support for terror, the war against terror is also not being fought on the assumption that the socio-economic wellbeing of 180 million Pakistanis is non-existent, institutions also face internal pressure over the ever growing defence budgets(due to anti-terror ops and India’s military expansions) and at the same time a crumbling pressure from within- if foreign forces are given a freehand in operating on Pakistani soil — there is little doubt that the US has provided development aid to Pakistan through various channels, however those “mismanagements” stem from a completely different set of crises.
Certain distinctions need to be made, a stronger trust and clearer communication needs to exist between the allies on war against terror.
The reduction in terror, the elimination of several groups from the regions -Pakistan is legally allowed to operate within and responsible for – requires more recognition and certain minor strains/delays due to various internal dynamics should also be considered.
The policy of amplifying pressure – in form of decreasing reimbursements, blocking arms sales etc – brings little good, assuming the goal is to eliminate terror.
Nearly 60 worldwide forces offered various services to support the Afghan Operation, yet the notion of a ‘complete victory’ appears to be nowhere near. And there is little doubt that Pakistan has stood on the frontline for this cause, at the cost of hindering its socio-economic well being- which needs to be recognised.
In conclusion , it appears that in the context of China and unclear stance on defining forces of terror; steroids would most likely be induced in the Indian forces.
Pakistan- on the opposite side- might find itself with a diminishing voice on its stance regarding Kashmir and water disputes and other issues. Pressures on its conventional arms and nuclear assets might also increase; it may have to prepare itself for economic strains and strains on its troops as a result of India’s military modernisation and aggressive stances.
The subversive activities propagated via its western and northern delicate borders may also remain a point of concern. So far, There also appears to be little strategic value which would bind India and Pakistan to coexist in peace. Ways to create long term binding interdependency could be looked into, keeping in view how Russia defines its partnership with China and its role in Central Asia.
In the context of war against terror and also how the new administration decides to manage the Afghan issue and its regional presence would also play a significant role for Pakistan- India dynamics. Pakistan could engage in dialogue with the US in relation to its role in the war against terror and rejuvenate its strategic partnership- since the new admin looks eager to fight terror.
As per the text of the national internal security policy , no single institution can bear the strain or is capable of dealing with the ongoing crises alone. Therefore responsibilities need to be divided amongst various relevant institutions—consequences of internal dissensions on the future of Pakistan and in form of global backlashes needs to be visualised , a healthy collaboration between various institutions is required.
Apart from advantages to India in context of China or vague war on terror, its economic growth has also been a key reason for brokering of several defence deals too, including the relaxations on civil nuclear energy, and though several factors have –since day one– been disadvantageous to Pakistan’s economic growth, a focus needs to be maintained on carving out a sustainable development path, –with opportunities in sight– in order to meet future challenges.
Though China stands as a trusted ally, Pakistan could look into expanding its diplomatic outreaches in order to form long term strategic ties– one such, rather applaudable deal carved out by Modi was– cooperation in combined manufacturing of defence equipment, and in turn UAE stores up strategic oil reserves in India for safeguarding India’s energy security- and for UAE to further establish downstream sector ties in India… discussions on several other infrastructure related deals then followed suit.
The alliance with China too- provides enormous opportunities to carve out a path of true modernisation and industrialisation- which needs to be carefully worked out.