The American illegal unilateral strikes in Abbottabad had given chance to the Indian leaders to play their gruesome games against Pakistan. Soon after the Abbottabad incident Indian Army Chief General VK Singh claimed that Indian military is capable enough to carry out US-like operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He said “We have the capability…..If situation arises; all the three wings (army, navy and air force) are competent in carrying out such an operation”. Pakistan’s response was timely and adequate. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani warned against any misadventure, saying it would invite a catastrophic response.
India has always claimed that Pakistan is running about 42 terror camps in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Indian army’s Major General Ravi Thodge, General-officer-commanding of the counter-insurgency Kilo Force in the Indian Held Kashmir said that “Guerrilla training camps are still active across the Line of Control (LOC) in the Pakistan-administered part of Jammu and Kashmir”. Such allegations are based on false notions. Hundreds of insurgency movements are going on in India, according to different estimates Maoists control forty per cent of the Indian territory and the insurgents in the border states have influence in another ten per cent; but India had been failed to surmount those insurgencies. India must put its own house in order instead of blaming and accusing Pakistan.
Few questions arise in mind; whether India possesses capability to carry out such operations in Pakistan or not? What will be Pakistan’s response, will it remain idle to such attacks? Will these strikes lead to escalation of conflict? And how strategic stability in South Asia will unfold?
As far as Indian military’s capability is concern, it is very limited. India does not possess such Stealth helicopters which can evade Pakistani Radars. Other important factor is of taking risk to send Special Forces inside enemy territory. If Indian commandos are captured or killed by the Pakistani forces, then it would be embarrassing for the Indian military and Government. It would be a difficult choice to make. Another hurdle which India might be facing is the lack of human intelligence on ground, which America already had in Pakistan. America and Pakistan are on friendly terms and the American military and air force have permission and mutual understanding to operate in Pakistani territory and air space, but as far India is concerned it does not enjoy such leverage. So it would be difficult for the Indian military to carry out such strikes inside Pakistan.
In addition to that according to Lt Gen (retd) H.S Panag, who commanded the Indian army’s Northern Command in J&K, “There are 10 Special Forces battalions apart from NSG and there is also a Special Frontier Force, but there is no Special Forces command. Moreover, our training and equipment are 50% that of US special forces and we can strike only 50-70 km into Pakistan. Our SF is only used for tactical purposes during war, never strategically for special operations.” It is obvious from this statement that Indian military is constrained by technological impediment to carry out such sensitive operations.
According to Former Research and Analysis Wing Chief A. S. Dulat, India’s intelligence capabilities are limited. He said “We must accept we are no match for the CIA to undertake such an operation.” The MH-60 Blackhawk that the US crashed in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was modified by the Joint Special Forces Command’s technology division to be a stealth chopper. Brigadier Gurmeet Kanwal, Director of Army think-tank Centre for Land Warfare Studies, said that “We virtually have the same capability as the US SEALs,’ he said Indian army itself has over half-a-dozen special forces battalions trained to carry out such attacks on strategic targets. But What India lacks is the technological advantage that the Americans enjoy in the form of stealth helicopters, electronic and aerial surveillance through their drones and spy satellites, apart from their air defence counter-measures.
Indian Military currently lack such capability but it is a huge economy and it can afford this helicopter which is worth of 60 million USD. Such amount is not an issue for India military. If India can get access to global nuclear energy market, it can easily get access to MH-60 stealth helicopters. India has its air base in Ayni, Tajikistan which could be used for such operations in AJK or in other parts of Pakistan. It is imperative for Pakistan army to revisit its strategic calculations and revamp its security structure against any eventuality from eastern or western border.
The Indian Air Force is developing at rapid pace; it has the strategic lift capability for long distance operations. It has recently acquired American aircraft C-130Js for its special forces. India has already launched Cartosat-II satellite that can be put to military use, while the armed forces will have their dedicated satellites soon beginning next year. All these capabilities are essential for any Abbottabad like covert operation. It has improved its reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in last five years and it is also working hard to overcome shortage in its military’s weapon and equipment.
In addition to that a massive multi billion dollar acquisition programme is underway, the Indian military plans to induct more than 1,000 indigenous and foreign helicopters for attack, transport and utility operations by the end of this decade. The choppers to be inducted into the Army, Navy and Air Force include around 450 light utility, 12 VVIP, over 200 attacks, 139 Mi-17 transport and 15 heavy-lift helicopters and over 50 multi-role helicopters for the Navy. Such a capability would give Indian military confidence to carry out heliborne operations inside Pakistan. Indian military has also been practicing heliborne operations in their military exercises from last seven years. It is necessary for Pakistan military to shore up its capabilities to meet such challenges in future. Pakistan military has to improve its human intelligence, air defence system, and Special Forces to meet such threats in future. It is essential for India to abstain from any such act which might lead to destruction and instability of both countries. Both should work together for the strategic stability of south Asia, only then we can attain long term peace and stability in Pakistan and India.
Originally published in weekly pulse magazine, also available at http://www.weeklypulse.org/details.aspx?contentID=672&storylist=10