By Dr Subhash Kapila
Pakistan’s military containment becomes an inescapable Indian security imperative in 2016. Despite, contemporary geopolitics heavily loaded against Pakistan, surge in Pakistan’s India-centric military confrontation is visible.
Pakistan should have been militarily contained decades back but then successive Indian Prime Ministers from Nehru to even present PM Modi until recently, adopted flawed policy of ‘Engagement with Pakistan’ through direct unilateral initiatives, Track II dialogues and Special Envoys.
Pakistan’s unrestrained conflict escalation with India has not matched India’s efforts for peace and reconciliation with Pakistan for the last seven decades. Geopolitically the time is now ripe for India to shed its enfeebling policy of ‘Strategic Restraint’ and ‘Risk Aversion’ when it comes to taming Pakistan’s strategic delinquencies arising from borrowed external strengths.
All along, Indian National Security Advisers have viewed the Pakistan Army challenge to India in political terms and not in stark military perspectives. There are no political options to tame the Pakistan Army. This has distorted the pace of India’s war preparedness and creation of appropriate military force structures.
Pakistan’s India-centric military confrontation during decades under United States strategic tutelage had a somewhat strong temperance factor imposed by America. The picture drastically changed since 2010 when Pakistan emerged as ‘Front Line State of China’ while still lingering with a double-timing of the United States. China cannot be expected to impose temperance on Pakistan when both have an anti-India strategic convergence.
In my SAAG Paper of 2010 the implications of China’s obtrusive footprints and presence in the Northern Areas and POK were strategically read and analysed as a forerunner of the military challenge that was in the making. In 2016 that stands fully crystallised as Pakistan has emerged as a full military ally of China as a willing and collusive partner of the China-Pakistan Axis which is primarily India-centric.
China’s relationship is not with the State and people of Pakistan but predominantly fixated on the Pakistan Army. In 2016, Pakistan is no longer a regional spoiler state acting at China’s behest but the Pakistan Army has evolved into China’s proxy tool of conflict escalation against India. The military contours of the China-Pakistan Axis are in full play when one notices that China opens up military stand-off in Demchok in Ladakh when the Pakistan Army was feeling the heat of Indian Army reprisals on the LOC in response to Pakistan Army’s conflict escalation.
Though the China-Pakistan Axis is not a global game changer but in the context of the Indian Subcontinent the military picture for India as outlined above becomes that more challenging calling for a drastic change in India’s existing policy approaches to Pakistan.
India’s past approaches of constructive political engagement and dialogues with Pakistan came to a naught because the Pakistan Army as the final arbiter derailed any peace initiative by India that was gaining traction in Pakistan with its civilian government.
Diplomatic and political containment of Pakistan attempted by PM Modi sine autumn of 2016 has not been able to rein-in Pakistan Army’s compulsive conflict escalation propensities on the LOC and the International Border. In reality, Pakistan Army has been in a surge mode of conflict escalation with India more pointedly from end of 2015 onwards.
Since geopolitical factors are heavily loaded against Pakistan, with exception of China, it was militarily illogical for the Pakistan Army to move in direction of conflict escalation on its borders with India.
That despite the above, the Pakistan Army is intent on conflict escalation indicates that Pakistan is counting heavily on China’s support to bail it out should its brinkmanship with India spill into a limited war or full-blown conflict. Within Pakistan calls stand recently made that China should formalise its military relationship into a formal military alliance treaty including mutual security implying military support in event of a war with India.
Strategic realism should finally dawn on the Indian policy establishment that in 2016 that the crux of the Pakistani challenges leaves India with the only realistic option of “Military Containment of Pakistan as an Inescapable Indian Security Imperative” since all other diplomatic and dialogues processes options have failed.
Pakistan’s military containment by India needs to target the Pakistan Army on two counts. One, in relation to its conflict escalation propensities against India and destroying the sources of Pakistan Army’s Jihadist terrorist affiliates that it spawns for terrorist attacks on India. Next, the denting of Pakistan Army’s domestic image within Pakistan focused on the stark reality that it is no longer the glue that holds Pakistan together but recessed once again to a pre-1971 mode of brutal suppression in Balochistan, Western Frontier tribal regions and in Gilgit and Skardu The last time that Pakistan Army behaved similarly led to secession of East Pakistan and its liberated emergence as the new State of Bangladesh.
Conflict escalation propensities of the Pakistan Army can be contained and curtailed by India by “Inflicting an Arms Race on Pakistan” which the Pakistan Army can ill-afford to match even if it devours disproportionate share of the Budget. Even China with all its financial resources will not be able to ‘subsidise’ the Pakistan Army attempts to match India’s growing military might in an arms race should India opt for that course. Geopolitically, it will not be cost-effective for China to do so. In fact India has to inflict on Pakistan what the United States inflicted on the Former Soviet Union to bring about its demise.
Short of war, the switch by India to the above advocated strategy would whittle down Pakistan Army’s military capabilities and strength to militarily challenge India and invite Pakistan Army’s self-destruction. Should the Pakistan Army so frustrated by India’s rising military profile be tempted to start a war with India, it should be welcomed to do so. Pakistan’s nuclear war threats bluff needs to called-off. As it is it is nothing more than a bluff and bluster. Pakistan Army very well knows that the Indian nuclear counter-strikes would make Pakistan extinct.
Jihadi terrorist affiliates of the Pakistan Army, nurtured, trained and financed by it need to be crippled by India militarily, whatever the cost. The international community is disgusted with States using Islamic Jihadi terrorism as an instrument of state policy. No global condemnation of India awaits here if and when India resorts to nip terrorism in its bud.
In this venture force multiplication can be achieved by enlisting support of Pakistan’s neighbouring Islamic states similarly affected by Pakistan terrorist attacks. In this case, diplomacy could have a major role in garnering such support to supplement the overall military containment of the Pakistan Army.
Pakistan’s domestic scene is in disarray but unlike in the past there are no strong domestic calls for the Pakistan Army to intervene and take over the Government. Missed by the Indian strategic community and the Indian media were calls within Pakistan for restoration of ‘full democracy’ and massive civilian protest movements that first visibly surfaced back in 2007 and brought about end of General Musharraf’s rule.
Pakistan Army’s domestic image went into a steep nose-dive following liquidation by United States of Osama bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan Army’s most important garrison town. So far did the image go down within Pakistan that in the following Carps Commanders Conference the Pakistan Army made a call on the civilian government to arrest the public ridicule of the Pakistan Army.
The Pakistani masses longing for full democracy in Pakistan are an undeniable truth. Pakistan has an entirely new young generation unlike the post-Zia generation. This new Pakistani generation wants Pakistan to advance on the economic front and which they know is not possible until true democracy emerges in Pakistan and the Pakistan Army is made to submit to civilian rule. India’s efforts to promote such an upsurge should be a logical supplement to the overall containment of the Pakistan Army.
Twice in the last decade two SAAG Papers of mine specifically entitled “Pakistan’s Democracy is an Indian Security Imperative” examined these imperatives both at the Indian official level and the media levels.
Geopolitically, the global major powers expect that India should truly behave and act as an ‘Emerging Power’ having the guts and conviction to re-order its neighbourhood into a stable one. No scope of dithering exists for India under pressure from Indians who persist in believing that Pakistan can be brought around to peaceful relations with India. Such a proposition is only a fig-leaf for individuals seeking sojourns abroad, ostensibly for Track II events.
The brutal reality is that Pakistan Army cannot be brought around to discard its obsessive anti-Indian mindsets that lie at the core of Pakistan Army’s military confrontation with India. Pakistan Army has a vested corporate interest in prolonging Pakistan’s enmity with India, a strategic impulse that now resonates and synergises with China’s similar obsession.
In conclusion it needs to be highlighted that having exhausted all reasonable peaceful options with Pakistan which have consistently stood nullified by the obduracy of the Pakistan Army to impede any peace with India, the alternative for India now is to resort to “Military Containment of the Pakistan Army as an Inescapable Security Imperative” There are tides in the history of nations when nations are called upon by the inexorable march of geopolitics to resort to military containment of its military adversary for the longer good of peace and stability. That moment of truth has now arrived for India.