ABC  of  Peace  &  Security

 

 

By

 

 

Lieutenant General Eric A. Vas  [Retired]  PVSM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Chapter 1    Democracy and Governance                                     3

Chapter 2    Role of the Armed Forces in a Democracy              20

Chapter 3    X- , Y-  &  Z-                                                                              34

Chapter 4    Exploits of a Mountain Brigade in Tank Territory                 43

Chapter 5    Expanding Military Roles, Internal Security & Morale          58

Chapter 6    Terrorism and Insurgency                                                       70

Chapter 7    Jammu and Kashmir                                                               97

Chapter 8    India’s Path to Nuclear Power                                                113

Chapter 9    South Asia’s Day After                                                            124

Chapter 10   Role & Functions of National Security Advisers                 130

Chapter 11   Afghanistan & Central Asia                                                   141

Chapter 12   Kargil: A Wider Perceptive                                                   153

Chapter 13   Nuclear Policy Options                                                          174

Chapter 14   The Break-up of Yugoslavia                                      185

Chapter 15   India’s Response to Globalisation                                        195

 

 

Map 1    The Sialkot Sector  [insert at page 44 of Chapter 4]

Map 2    North Eastern India [insert at page 75 of Chapter 6]

Map 3    Jammu and Kashmir [insert at page 98  of Chapter 7]

Map 4    Medieval West & Central Asia [insert at page 143 of Chapter 11]

Map 5    Modern Central Asia [insert at page 145 of Chapter 11]

Map 6    Kargil [insert at page 156 of Chapter 12]

Map 7    The Balkans [insert at page 186 of Chapter 14]    


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE

 

 

Values are the beliefs and rules, which govern our behaviour.  Values are derived from one’s parents, religion, society, profession and so on.  A group of values form a code of conduct.  Doctors, lawyers and military men all have their won professional codes of conduct.  At the national level we have framed a Constitution, which proclaims that India will be a secular democratic republic.  We have laid down a code of conduct in the form of various rights for each citizen.  These rights and values are not unique.  They have been framed, in somewhat different words, in a Charter by the United Nations and accepted by most countries as a universal code of human rights.  Those who seek peace and prosperity for themselves and their loved ones, should begin with an examination of these values and the roots of India’s democratic traditions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Democracy and Governance

 

“Power” is a human ability to act together in a group.  Power, unlike “love”, is never an individual quality.  It exists only so long as the group exists.  When we speak of a “powerful individual” we are in fact implying that the individual is empowered by a party to act in their name.  The moment the party disintegrates, the individual no longer remains a powerful individual.  When we speak of someone being a “powerful personality” we are probably referring to his strength, which may be derived from character or some other personal attribute.  “Strength” always refers to a personal quality of an individual, which may display itself in relation to other things or persons, but is essentially independent of them.  It is the nature of a group to abhor individuality or independence, which is the property of strength.  The strongest individual can always be overpowered by the group, which will often combine for no other purpose than to subdue a strong individual precisely because of his peculiar quality of independence.

“Authority” is another term, which is frequently misused.  Authority can be vested in individuals or in an office.  The personal authority between parent and child or teacher and pupil, is an example of the former.  Service officers who have to be saluted and obeyed even if they were inefficient exemplify authority vested in offices.  The hallmark of hierarchical authority is the unquestioning recognition by those who are asked to obey; neither coercion nor persuasion is needed to evoke obedience.  All that is required for one to remain in authority is respect for the person or the office.  The greatest enemy of authority is therefore, contempt and one of the surest ways to undermine authority is not violence but laughter.  All dictators, therefore, fear humour.

“Force” is often used as a synonym for “violence”, but it is best that the two terms be used separately.  Force indicates the energy released by physical or social actions, for example, “force of nature” or “the fore of circumstances”.   Force may or may not be violent.  Military forces may be deployed for coercion without violence; moral, economic or diplomatic force may be employed for coercion with or without the support of violence.  Strength and violence are closely related.  The former is natural and the latter is derived from instruments.  The instruments of violence, like all other tools, are used to multiply natural strength.  Since violence, as distinct from power, force or strength always needs implements; the technological revolution was specially marked in warfare.

In so far as power implies compulsion or a capacity to compulsion, “responsibility” suggests a control, whether moral or legal, that rationalises and regulates what might otherwise be irrational, immoral or amoral             “Do onto others as you would have others do onto you.”  The power and significance of these 11 words reside in the fact they represent a spiritual truth.  Democracy is founded on this basic Golden Rule which has been annunciated from the very earliest period of mankind’s history.  Buddha preached it to his disciples so did Christ.  It is written in Mosaic Law.  What follows from this self-evident truth is that the individual is the spiritual centre of society.

Nevertheless, some believe that the state, not the individual, is the spiritual centre of society.  According to this view, known as “statism”, government assumes a moral importance that outweighs individual claims.  Statists believe that government should make decisions for individuals.  Since individuals usually prefer to make their own decisions, coercion and compulsion become necessary correctives.  This is why the statist has no use for the Golden Rule. But Indian philosophers from earliest times have told us that, “each immoral action sows its own irrationality into the pattern of events.”  A government that breaks the moral law encoded in the Golden Rule will have a profound effect on all those living under it.  The genesis and genius of the Golden Rule is that it is a two-way street.  The Golden Rule teaches us that we are all brothers.  Statism teaches us that we are the children and the government is the parent.

Indians were leading exponents of the concepts of mediaeval democracy. Religious freedom, tolerance and the acceptance of unity in diversity formed part of our social and cultural heritage.  But we were not acquainted with the Industrial Revolution and the military force and political power that flowed from its consequences. . The East India Company’s aim was to expand its commercial operations in India.  When Moghul rule began to crumble, they attempted to safeguard their economic interests by raising mercenary forces and arranging alliances with co-operative Indian rulers.  The Great Indian Mutiny of 1856 was a joint Hindu-Muslim attempt to revive Moghul rule and fight against creeping political rule by foreigners.  The attempt failed.  But Britain’s parliament was forced to intervene, curb shameless commercial depredations, freeze the territorial boundaries between British India and the princely states, and establish formal governance over the Indian sub-continent under its jurisdiction.

            The Raj replaced commercial greed by the rule of law, appointed enlightened civil servants, provided tolerant governance and projected the prospect of preparing India for eventual self-rule.  Over the years, which followed the establishment of the Raj, India began to respect British administration and laws, admire its new educational systems, and welcome its inspiring political doctrines of democracy and liberty, and learn the English language.  Under British tutelage we came to learn that democracy in its modern version provides opportunities for effective participation by all adults, for equality in voting, for gaining enlightened understanding of key issues through a free press.  This implies representative government; party competition, the secret ballot, and all founded on guarantees of individual rights and freedoms.

Britain’s imperial rule in India was an example of organised statism.  To begin with this was acceptable to many as the best short-term alternative to anarchy; the people looked upon the government as their “ma-baap” (mother and father). Although democracy cannot be exported and must be grown from within; Indians came to realise that Britain’s modern political doctrines of democracy and liberty in many ways echoed India’s traditional values of tolerance, and unity in diversity. The gradual formation of elected local civic bodies; municipal corporations and provincial assemblies gave credibility and stability to the Raj.  This was a period of a bourgeois Indian Renaissance, which threw up a galaxy of outstanding Indian scientists, writers, politicians and leaders in every walk of life. Because of their early adoption of English and modern education, Hindus predominated in this outburst of talent.

   But imperial statism, no matter how benign, is a self-defeating system, which demeans both ruler and ruled.  Not surprisingly, over the years, British colonial rule deteriorated into a master-slave relationship.  After World War I, Indian leaders began demanding self-rule The Raj lost its reputation for impartial governance when it began encouraging religious differences in an attempt to divide and rule. It hoped that a British presence in India would be perpetuated as a neutral arbitrator between warring communal forces.   Anglo-Indian relations, which had been based on democratic ideals, began to lose its credibility and deteriorated into an imperial master-slave relationship. Indians resented this Imperial policy and fought for freedom from repressive rule. There was never a religious quarrel between Hindu India and Christian Britain.  It was, as always, a battle of values; arrogant autocratic rule versus democracy.

The Congress Party, a secular political organisation, spearheaded India’s freedom struggle.  Mr. M.A. Jinnah was a shrewd barrister and a staunch member of the Congress Party.  His personal values were secular.  He enjoyed eating pork and drinking wine. He was a strict disciplinarian who believed in the rule of law.  He resigned from the Congress because he disagreed with Gandhi’s mass disobedience movement. He joined the Muslim League to take advantage of Britain’s “divide and rule” policy.  He sided with the British and thereby hoped to gain a political edge over the Congress.  He tactics were to keep branding the Congress as a Hindu organisation during the freedom struggle and thus win Muslim support by playing on their fears of Hindu hegemony.  He appealed to the religious fervour of simple people in order to win his short term political objective.

Jinnah knew that religion was a poor foundation for statehood. He believed that once he came into power, he could control events to suit his larger purpose. . After partition, he tried to wipe the communal slate clean.  In his inaugural speech to the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, he publicly launched a plea for the values of secularism and pluralism when he said, “In course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities will vanish…..We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State…..I think we should keep that in front of us as an ideal, and you will find that in due course of time Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Hindus and Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”  But Pakistan’s feudal elite lacked his perception and did not share his values. Jinnah soon came to realise that he had awakened communal forces, which were beyond his control.  On his deathbed he confessed to his doctor that “the creation of Pakistan has been the greatest blunder of my life.”

Many forms of power can be exhibited in the name of state governments.  The one thing that they all have in common is that power is exercised by the few over the many.  When we say that voters “choose” their representatives, the truth is that the candidate’s friends are having him elected. The people are free to elect or reject him, but this freedom can only be exercised for a few minutes during an election.  As soon as they have elected their representative, “slavery” overtakes the electorate until the next election.  The voters, whose business is simply to give a freedom to take responsibility and then, pronounce a verdict at the next polls on how it has discharged its job, do not control parliament in its actions.

The whole history of politics is a record of the war between freedom and authority.  The problem of reconciling liberty with authority necessitates an examination of a power system from two separate points of view: those who exercise power [the elected leaders] and those who have power inflicted upon them [the electorate composed of ordinary citizens.]  In a democratic system, the members of a political party express their wishes and it is the duty o their representatives leaders to translate their wishes into political action.  This often entails careful reconciliation and manipulation by leaders who have not only to retain their hold over their followers but have also to curb the unduly prejudicial or over-ambitious desires of the electorate.

The ordinary citizen’s reaction to his rulers may or may not be voiced; this will depend on whether he lives in open or a closed society.  All governments eventually exist on public opinion.  Power is in direct proportion to the strength of public opinion.  All power decays as soon as the people cease to uphold a government.  Just as tyrants and dictators cannot exist exclusively on violence, so also there is always a price to be pad for freedom even for the most elementary ones under the most benign power.  The electorate or the ruled always pays the price.  The history of politics is therefore largely the struggle of the ruled to lower the price and of their rulers to raise it.   The only political freedom capable of enduring in the face of money-power, is one that is so balanced so as to keep the privileged from overwhelming the under-privileged by ability or cunning, and the under-privileged from robbing the privileged by violence and votes.   Hence, the secret of any political balancing act is to attack the privileged, defend the under-privileged and placate the middle classes.

. When the British withdrew from the sub-continent, India declared itself a Republic functioning under a Constitution that embodies all the essentials of a modern democracy.  However, many have come to realise that real democracy means more than simply drafting a constitution and holding elections. History warns us not to associate freedom with a written constitution. There are people who have been free without a written constitution; others who have had written guarantees have lived in slavery. No written constitution can ensure that a people acquire the capacity to balance the concepts of Equality, Justice and Liberty.  These three words encompass a major area of contemporary moral uncertainty in a world that faces the prospect of a no-growth economy, in which the inequalities of wealth are unlikely to be ameliorated by increased production except through significant social organisation.  No form of government needs good leaders so much as democracy.

There is a distinction between the principle that political power is best entrusted to a majority and the unacceptable claim that what the majority does with that power is beyond criticism, and must never be resisted. The right to dissent is fundamental in a democratic nation.  A democratic society therefore needs a clear and truthful account of events, of their background and causes, a forum of discussion and informed criticism and a means whereby individuals and groups can express a point of view, dissent or advocate a cause.  The responsibility for fulfilling these needs rests largely on the press, which discharges a vital democratic duty by functioning as the watchdog of public interest and in this role constantly reviews and criticises the government’s actions and policies.

 Ironically after Partition more Muslims remained in India than the number in Pakistan. Within India, Muslims now form 20 percent of the population, a substantial minority group, spread all over the country.  To begin with they were bewildered and felt that they had been abandoned by Muslims who had migrated to Pakistan.  Extremist Hindu organisations accused them of being Pakistani fifth columnists and told them they were not welcome in India and they should also migrate to Pakistan. To some extent this distrust of Indian Muslims at that time was understandable as it was based on the painful reality of partition. Muslims had failed to understand the Indian tradition that diversity cannot be resolved by separation but only through co-existence and co-operation.  They had refused to join the freedom struggle, sided with the British and abandoned centuries of Muslim heritage which is interwoven into India’s history.  Unfortunately this distrust persists even till today in some minds due to a mixture of facts, myths and misconceptions, which prevail, not only in India, but also throughout the Western World.  [This aspect is covered in Chapter 15.]

The wounds of Partition took some time to heal in India.  To begin with, hot headed Hindus and Muslims were quick to pick a quarrel.  If the police were slow to react, this would flare up into a major communal riot. However, the dust of those dark days slowly settled down.  India kept faith with its ancient philosophy that all religions lead to God, and with its tradition of tolerance. Over the years that followed, India was able to hold numerous fair and free elections to state and central assemblies, create an independent judiciary, uphold a free press, and effect a steady economic growth. The establishment of numerous independent democratic institutions strengthened Indian secularism and the concept of unity in diversity. During that time, Muslims in Indian learnt to exercise their electoral rights as free and equal citizens.  They have broken out of their “minority” complex.  Today, many have become Indian icons in the fields of art, the film world, literature, music, and sport. 

In the post-Cold War world, when the ideological tensions of the past no longer dominate, an international consensus on the need to promote sound governance as a foundation for development has emerged.  Sustainable development, it is now generally agreed, can only be achieved through a strengthening of democratic governance, institutions and processes that provide the necessary framework for social and economic progress.  This has led many to ask: why has economic progress been so slow in democratic India?  What is it that currently sours public opinion in India against our stumbling political process?  Is India doomed to face political instability and an increase in religious tensions and fundamentalism?   Has democracy a future?  How long can an increasingly interdependent world survive part democratic and part authoritarian? These and other related questions are discussed in the paragraphs, which follow.

Every human being has a need to believe and belong.  Traditionally, this impulse finds expression through religion.  In fact, statists are looking for far more than a maternal embrace in the arms of big government.  They are looking for nothing less than a new religion (actually, old religions in a modern garb,) literally for redemption through the state.  Georg Hegel attempted to marry God and state at the altar of philosophy.  He said, “The Universal is to be found in the State…and the State is the Divine idea as it exists on earth…We must therefore worship the State as the Manifestation of the Divine on earth.”   Half a century later, Marx picked up where Hegel left off, promising that socialism could become the “functional equivalent of religion”.  Religion, he said, was nothing more than “the sigh of a distressed creature…the spirit of spiritless conditions…the opium of the masses.”  Millions had faith in communism even though its system of governance violated the Golden Rule.

Just as there is an intimate relationship between democracy and the Golden Rule, so also is there an intricate and intimate relationship between civilization and administration.  Whenever any kind of civilization has arisen, society has divided itself into groups, whether as families, tribes, social clubs, public companies, trade unions or political parties.  Self-government by each individual member is possible only in very small group.  In larger groups, such self-government or democracy is not practicable.  In such circumstances, leaders are thrown up who have to function through a bureaucracy.  This is the Law of Oligarchy and it is of universal application, equally so to the club, a government or a giant corporation.  Oligarchies can never be truly democratic because sovereignty, by definition, is not transferable.  Thus it is not possible for the mass to delegate its sovereignty.  This inability to exercise true self-government in large groups does not condemn democracy but underlines its inevitable imperfections.

Administration has been an integral part of civilization and without the foundation and framework it supplied, civilization would not have developed.  No large-scale democracy can function without political institutions.  This implies elected officials, free, fair and frequent elections, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information, associational autonomy and inclusive citizenship.  With the steady expansion of rudimentary social systems into increasingly elaborate systems of governance, the notions of politics and political systems became increasingly linked with the concept of public administration designed to implement the policy decisions of ruling regimes or governments.  It is in this context that the aphorism ”politics is the lifeblood of administration” takes on a distinctive meaning and the relationship between politics and administration becomes just as intricate and intimate as that between civilization and administration.

            A healthy and satisfactory life for the individual can be obtained only through varied and extensive political, social and economic arrangements, and these arrangements are largely administrative in nature.  Thus, reciprocal relationships have to be developed between the administration and the citizenry to facilitate the exchange of information and to enhance the qualitative levels of a thinking government.  Some have called this kind of political society ‘the service state’ or ‘the administrative state’.  Whatever term we may give it, administration ultimately is education.  In the context of a positive, policy-oriented state, administration becomes the primary service-delivery system for democracy and in effect, the principal manager of democracy’s end products.

 One of the deepest and truest relationships that can exist between human beings is an extension of the Golden Rule.  It consists in the giving and receiving of knowledge about right conduct, in the formation of one’s character by another, and the acceptance of another’s guidance in one’s own growth.  Democracy is a political system that fosters a life of free and enriching communion.  It follows, then, that the realisation of a free and enriching communion becomes a basic responsibility of a viable and dynamic democratic administrative system committed to the humanistic imperative of an intelligent love.   Democracy perceived in terms of this ideal is essentially a moral system.

            A civil servant with a colonial mentality cannot administer a free people efficiently because he lacks a democratic code of ethics, which ought to be a significant part of his qualifications as a manager.   No amount of study of the ‘science’ of administration will provide him with this code.  Moral choice can be viewed alternately in positive and negative terms.  The old Indian Civil Service [ICS] provided a rigid steel frame within which moral choice was perceived in the constricted sense of a clearly defined code of ethics.  In this environment, a negative morality is bound to prevail in a manner thoroughly consistent with the characteristics of a negative, reactive, detached state.  To a very real extent, codes of ethics devised in this context become sets of procedural ethics as reflected in clearly defined rules, regulations and procedures.  On the other hand, a positive sense of ethical/moral consciousness demands that the basic responsibility of all public administrators is to insure that every moral choice is specifically intended to enhance the well-being of the citizenry.

In 1947, the British members of the ICS left India.  The remaining Indian members were slowly liquidated by time.  The service was substituted by the Indian Administrative Service [IAS].  Most of the Indian politicians distrusted the old ICS cadre.  This was not so much because they had supported their British rulers as because the new rulers suffered from an inferiority complex due to their lack of administrative experience, and had to depend a great deal on the ICS. When the IAS was formed, it was dinned into them that they must not imitate the ICS “brown sahibs” and must strive to be different from their predecessors; they were expected to be patriotic, dedicated, public spirited and democratic.  The young men who joined the IAS were soon to realise that the average politician’s interpretation of those high sounding words was not exactly the same as the administrators. Alas, the relationship between the ministers and civil servants has never been a healthy one. It was therefore not surprising that the politicians soon began complaining that though the British had left India, the ghost of the Raj still manifested itself in the souls of the IAS district officers. Some even began to compare the IAS nostalgically and unfavourably with the ICS; the IAS were incompetent, lazy and lacked spirit of service.

 In fact the IAS recruits some of the finest of our young men, who do not enjoy the same privileges, which the old ICS had, nor have the same power as they had.  Two factors weigh heavily against them; firstly, the social and economical expectations of rural India in a developing nation which wants quick results puts great pressure upon them, specially when over-ambitious targets are expected from them; secondly, the inexperience of local politicians, who lack the basic concepts of administration and management, makes it difficult for them to maintain a minimum competence in their district administration. Ministers keep interfering in the decision-making process and day-to-day work, ignore the rules at lower levels and illegally overrule the decisions made by police and civil servants.  

            Paradoxically, there is difficulty in developing a positive ethic and governing through the normative values of sincerity, authenticity, caring and communion. Viewed from an organisational perspective, the consequences of expressing genuine concern, or truly caring can be quite dysfunctional.  When an administrator makes a personal commitment either to a colleague or to a citizen, this might evoke a sense of moral obligation.  This can become a form of corruption if the sense of obligation runs counter to the rational decision- making required to ensure the proper functioning of the civil servant’s organisation.  It is for this reason, therefore, that one of the oldest traditions stemming from the most ancient civilizations is the concept of a detached and objective administrative impersonality. A good civil servant has to establish a balance between detachment and caring.

            To a scrupulous man, obedience to a commandment because it is commanded, becomes more important than love of neighbour or even love of God. This exactitude in observance is termed legalism.  It is the expression of negative dispassionate morality, which has also been described as an ethics of civility, or a morality of inertia.  In the dull daily world of an unimaginative bureaucracy moral choice is not an option.  Necessity alone dictates actions;  a necessity the administrator can neither refuse nor even imagine refusing.  Imposed by circumstances and maintained by habit, moral inertia negates any connection between administrative action and the purposefulness of democracy.  Indeed it negates any connection between the reality of the present and the hopes of the future.  Such a morality animates deeds performed without thought and without choice, but also, most certainly, without excitement and without love, and without compassion, or anger or enthusiasm.

Moral inertia may be displayed in every facet of governance. As  Reinhold Niebuhr has said, “Any justice which is only justice soon degenerates into something less than justice.”  The inertia of morality results in an ethical vacuum that is well reflected in one stanza from a poem by Dorothy Sayers:

                                    By lavish and progressive measures

                                 Our neighbour’s wants are all relieved;

                                    We are not called to share his pleasures,

                                    And in his grief we are grieved.

 After the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the near universal affirmation of the principles of democratic rule, new voices of dissent have emerged.  African dissenters maintain that the fundamental principles set forth by the UN in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do not reflect universal values, but rather Western values ill suited to meet the needs of the poor in countries in the developing world.  Kofi Annan addressed this issue in a speech to the Heads of State and Government of the  Organisation of African Unity (OAU).  Rejecting the characterisation of human rights as culturally biased, he asked:  “Do not African mothers weep when their sons or daughters are killed or maimed by agents of repressive rule?  Are not African fathers saddened when their children are unjustly jailed or tortured?  Is not Africa as a whole impoverished when even one of its brilliant voices is silenced?”

            Some Asian leaders, notably Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, contrast Asian discipline and stability with the disorder and decadence they witness in the individualistic West.  They suggest that the Asian tradition values the group more than the individual, order more than argument, authority more than liberty, solidarity more than freedom. They denounce attempts to impose Western democratic standards on Asian countries as a new form of Western imperialism.  If the claim that human rights are universal is proof of Western arrogance, then the restriction of those rights to Europe and America brands non-Western people as lesser breeds, incapable of appreciating personal liberty and self-government, and that attitude is surely Western arrogance too.

Both India and Japan are functioning democracies.  In fact, many Asians fight for human rights, and at the risk of their freedom and their lives.  Why must we assume that Lee Kuan Yew is the embodiment of Asian values rather than Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the courageous opposition leader who has been under prolonged house arrest in Burma?  A pre-Tiananmen Square wall poster in Beijing proclaimed:  “We cannot tolerate that human rights and democracy are only slogans of the Western bourgeoisie and the Eastern proletariat only needs dictatorship.”  The economist Amartya Sen said, “The so-called Asian Values that are invoked to justify authoritarianism are not especially Asian in any significant sense.”  Perhaps what Asian autocrats actually mean by traditional values is that “anyone who disagrees with us should shut up.”

History tells us that democracy produces many desirable consequences: it avoids tyranny, fosters essential rights and general freedom, it encourages self-determination, moral autonomy and human development, and it protects essential personal interests and produces political equality and prosperity.  It is true that short-term political stability and prosperity can be achieved through suppression of human rights. Yet 20th Century history teaches us that the spectacular economic growth sometimes attained in totalitarian or authoritarian regimes is always brought to an end by the very repression that it necessitates.  Freedom of the human spirit is indispensable to sustainable human development. But democracy provides no absolute guarantee for peace and stability.  Countries may experience numerous setbacks along the long road to democracy, as fragile government institutions risk falling victim to disorganisation , manipulation and corruption.

            Failure of a political system ostensibly representing the people can be most disturbing and disheartening to a nation.  We have seen examples in recent history of such political failure; followed by a popular search for identity in ethnic division, fundamentalism and intolerance that inevitably leads to discord and conflict.  It has become evident in recent years that economic development efforts in countries lacking sound governance structures and practices rarely lead to sustainable results.  India inherited a colonial administrative structure.  We are trying to convert the negative aspect of this administration and search for positive solutions to development challenges that are unique to our circumstances. But reform of an administrative system cannot be achieved solely through enacting better laws, establishing a more powerful government, or recruiting brilliant civil servants.  We have to also nurture democratic public forums and deliberative meetings among ordinary citizens and politicians.

            Good governance in India supports basic human rights and participatory forms of government.  This support is based on a conviction that our diversity can only be truly manifested through the mechanisms of democratic institutions, which enable people to freely express their views and participate in the political processes.  Good governance entails a vast set of democratic processes and institutions at every level of society, from the village panchayat, to the thesil and district councils, regional, national and international institutions.  These allow the voices of the people to be heard, conflicting interests to be peacefully resolved, and a forging of consensus towards greater social progress.  Good governance is based on a conviction that a system that places sovereignty in the hands of the people is more likely to invest in its people.

Upholding the rule of law, bringing security and predictability to social, political and economic affairs, is a cornerstone of good governance.  Unless there is legal certainty, commerce, savings and investments are generally discouraged or forced into the underground.  As democratic institutions are strengthened, so too is the demand for accountability in public affairs.  Efforts to promote greater transparency and openness in public affairs to increase public trust and route out abuses of power are increasingly implemented as a part of governance reforms.

            Although prevalent in most societies, corruption has a more debilitating impact on India [and other poor countries] by discouraging trade and investment, encouraging misappropriation of public resources and denying services to the poor.  It is frequently asserted that India needs to enhance governance institutions in order to attract foreign investment. Equally important will be the role of good governance in creating an environment conducive to domestic savings and investment.

Apart from inefficient administrators and poor governance, there are other factors, which can cause a crisis in democratic India. “Crisis” is a strong and often overused term.  It is only justified if it signifies a precarious systemic state in which a society hovers between decomposition and a rallying of collective energy.  Real political crises threaten civil war or dictatorship.    India has never experienced a real political crisis.  

The term “civic discontent” or even “moral crisis” best describes the malaise that currently assails Indian public opinion.  It is less conflictual, more rooted in civil society that has become deeply distrustful of the political system which seems to be flawed because it has failed to deliver results after 50 years of representative rule.  It is a manifestation of a crisis, not economic or political, but moral: a growing lack of public faith in the political system, and the issue of accommodating the religious rights of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and others, while preserving democracy.  India’s moral crisis is nurtured by growing inequalities of income, feverish and often conspicuous consumption and the frenzied pursuit of windfall gains in real estate and speculative finance.

            Apart from imperial and communist statists, there are other varieties of statists who challenge democratic India by attempting to compromise the constitutional and democratic process.  They adopt a threefold strategy to do this.  First, they preach the value of security over freedom.  Second, they manipulate the language.  Third, they use existing laws and the judicial process in ingenious ways to overcome public opinion.

            The first part of this strategy propagates the dream of political salvation by inducing visions of government-engineered utopia.  [Ram Raj in India; and Eelam in Sri Lanka.]  Ordinary people do not trust and even fear utopian solutions.  The French economist Frederick Bastiat derided the utopian approach when he said, “The State is that great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.”  In statist terms the nation is called “community”, and anyone who questions this equation is accused of opposing "shared values” and "the common good".  Social security is perhaps the strongest expression of community solidarity.  Social security is based on the premise that we all belong to one community with everyone sharing responsibility not only for contributing to their own and their family’s security, but also to the security of everyone else, present and future.

            In the early years of independence, large public sector projects and government sponsored schemes attracted public support. This was seen as a quick means of promoting industrial growth and enriching the community in India, even though vast empirical data demonstrates that privatization would produce better results, fuel economic growth, and make the system more competitive and fair.  Today, the government is quite rightly trying to close down unprofitable public sector units.  At the same time it is illogically reluctant to allow established Indian capitalists like Tata to invest in ventures such as an airline and an international airport.  When opponents attack privatization, because they fear it would weaken “community”, what they really fear is that such a plan would keep the government and bureaucrat out of the picture.  The point it would seem is not to expand the pie of benefits for each individual citizen;  the point is to keep the public pie-cutters employed. 

            Statism’s second means of trying to outwit democracy is through the manipulation of language.  We have entered an Orwellian era wherein words are twisted to express lofty sentiments and confuse the public.  Thus we find entitlement replacing responsibility;  coercion being described as compassion;  compulsory redistribution being called sharing;  caste, religious and linguistic quotas being substituted for diversity;  and suicide being prescribed as “death with dignity”.  The public debate on these issues has become completely corrupted.  The reason is that, if you tell the people directly that you want to raise their taxes, transfer their wealth, classify and count them by their castes, creeds and language, or let the doctors kill them, most will object.  Statists know this and therefore are obliged to obfuscate.  In such a world, notions of right and wrong which have contributed to civilization’s painstaking progress over thousands of years are completely stood on their head.  Without absolutes, what is right and what is wrong depend on your point of view.

 The third strategy employed by statists is to use our laws and our courts to overcome popular will.  The Constitution is conveniently referred to as a “living document”.  It is can be amended at will and reinterpreted as political expediency demands.  Legislative and judicial activism, is attempting to undermine the belief that the Constitution must be interpreted according to its original intent.  That is why the appointment of judges may become one of the fiercest political struggles in the coming years.

The framers of the Constitution saw the Centre as one island of power in a sea of states, each exercising its own liberties.  Over the years we have seen erosion of the federal concept with the Centre becoming a sea of power and the states striving to become islands of liberty.  Today, even those islands of liberty are being eroded.  We see the culmination of this trend in the spectacle of liberal politicians and citizen groups no longer being able to depend on legislative procedures and increasingly having to rely on Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and the judicial process to achieve its ends.

            After 1997, for the first time in history, more people on our planet live under democracy than dictatorship; 3.5 billion people live in democracies, 2.66 billion do not.  According to end-of-history doctrine as expounded by its prophet, the minority can look forward to “the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final forms of human government.”  This euphoric claim should ring a warning bell.  The same hopes were projected when the world moved from the 19th to the 20th Century. People of goodwill in 1900 believed in the inevitability of democracy, the invincibility of progress, the decency of human nature, and the coming reign of reason and peace.

            In fact the century has been marked by hate, irrationality and wars, which, at one time threatened the very survival of the human race.  The Great War (1914-18) unleashed angry energies of revolution, not for democracy but against it.  Bolshevism in Russia, Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, militarism in Japan all despised, denounced and wherever they could, destroyed individual rights and the processes of self-government.  A decade later the Great Depression exposed the pretension that democracy would guarantee prosperity.  A decade later contempt for democracy spread among elites and masses alike; contempt for parliamentary dithering, for liberties of expression and opposition, for bourgeois civility and cowardice, for pragmatic muddling through.   A decade later the Second World War found liberal society fighting for survival with its back to the wall. In 1941 less than a dozen democracies were left on the planet.  The political, economic and moral failures of democracy had handed the initiative to totalitarianism. Even after World War II, many believed that communism was the wave of the future.

 After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberal and authoritarian systems are almost equally poised, with the numerical edge in favour of the former.  But we should be warned.  If liberal democracy failed in the 20th Century to organise a humane, prosperous and peaceful world, that could well happen again in the 21st Century.  After all, democracy in its modern version is at most 200 years old.  A majority of the world’s inhabitants may be living under democracy in the year 2000, but democratic hegemony is a mere drop in the ocean of world history.  We should have no doubt that the failure of democracy could only invite some alternative creed, which will offer better security, but would tolerate less freedom and enforce more authority.    Apart from the threats and challenges outlined above, democratic systems must contend with tremendous inner stresses.  Modern democracy is the political offspring of technology and capitalism, the two most dynamic and destabilising forces loose in the world today.  Both are being driven onward by self-generated momentum that strains the bond of social control and political sovereignty.  Technology created innovations that laid the foundation for capitalism and that in time generated rationalism, individualism and democracy.  At first technological advance was unsystematic and intermittent.  Today it is institutionalised.

            In the 20th Century, scientific and technological innovation increased at an exponential rate.  This was a thousand times greater in 1900 than in 1800.  Since then this has doubled ten times over, and the speed has annihilated both space and time. The relentless law of acceleration now hurtles us into a new age.  The Industrial Revolution came to India as a second-hand colonial impact and extended over a period of 300 years.  This allowed time for human and institutional adjustment.  The Computer Revolution is far swifter, more concentrated, and more drastic in its impact.  It poses problems for democracy.         

            The Computer Revolution threatens to destroy more jobs than it creates.  It also threatens to erect new and rigid class barriers, especially between the computer-literate and the computer-illiterate. This crosses the barriers of the educated classes and the dalits.  This will create new areas of economic inequality.  [Economic inequality has already grown in the United States to the point where disparities are greater in egalitarian America than in the class-ridden societies of Europe.] The computer will also effect the procedures of democratic politics.  Democracy in its simplest form is termed “Pure democracy”;   the system in which citizens assemble and administer the government in person.  Pure democracy functions at the village and small town level.  At the state and national level, we have to have a system in which the majority expresses its will through a scheme of representation.  The interactivity introduced by the computer will soon make “pure democracy” feasible on a national scale.  Is the emergence of cyberdemocracy, under whatever name, a desirable prospect?

            While the onrush of technology creates long-term challenges and opportunities for a political system, the onrush of capitalism has more immediate and disruptive consequences.  Democracy is impossible without private ownership (capital) because private property (resources beyond the arbitrary reach of the state) provides the only secure basis for political opposition and intellectual freedom.  But the capital market is no guarantee of democracy, as Hitler, Mussolini, Deng Xiaoping and Lee Kuan Yew have amply demonstrated.  Democracy requires capitalism, but capitalism does not require democracy, at least in the short term.   .

            Capitalism has proved itself the supreme engine of innovation, production, and distribution.  But its method takes heed of little beyond its own profit.   In its economic theory, capitalism rests on the concept of equilibrium.  But stationary capitalism is a contradiction in terms.  In practice its virtues drive it toward disequilibrium.  This is the dilemma of all contemporary political systems, whether rightist or leftist. The unfettered market undermines the values of stability, morality, family, community, work, discipline, and delayed gratification.  The marketplace fosters greed, short-termism, exploitation of prurient appetites, easy fraud, and a selfish ethos.  All these are contrary to proclaimed conservative ideals.  Even leading capitalists are appalled by what runaway capitalism has wrought.  George Soros writes:  “Although I have made a fortune in the financial markets, I now fear that the untrammeled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society…uninhibited pursuit of self-interest [results in]…intolerable inequities and instability.”

Both the Computer Revolution and Capitalism are creatively destructive.  One aspect of capitalist creativity is the globalized economy.  One, unplanned outcome of capitalist destruction is the nation-state, the traditional site for democracy (and communism).  As Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. explains:  “The computer turns the untrammeled market into a global juggernaut crashing across frontiers, enfeebling national powers of taxation and regulation, undercutting national management of interest rates and exchange rates, widening disparities of wealth both within and between nations, dragging down labour standards, degrading the environment, denying nations the shaping of their own economic destiny, accountable to no one, creating a world economy without a world polity.  Cyberspace is beyond national control. No authorities exist to provide international control.  Where is democracy now?” 

Undoubtedly there will be significant pockets of resistance to the democratic idea.  These will not be confined to Asia alone.  Resistance will be reinforced by defensive reactions to relentless globalization, which drives people to seek refuge from its powerful forces that are beyond their control and comprehension.  They crave the politics of identity.  The faster the world integrates, the more people will huddle in their religious or ethnic or national enclaves.  These reactions are not confined to the Third World.  Many people lead lives of quiet desperation in modern societies.  They hunger for deeper spiritual meaning to their lives, and are turning to old religions and new cults for faith, solace and support.  Militant reaction to globalization is an upsurge of religious fundamentalism that is today being expressed in parts of the Islamic world. 

Fifty years of freedom have educated our people in democracy by providing for a continuous investment by the people in their society through their participation in the political processes that shape the national agenda.   Over the years, despite many flaws and hesitations, India has developed and established numerous, strong and separate government, quasi-government and non-government centres of democratic power.  Each of these institutions represents vested interests and independent centres of decision-making.  At the same time we have held a number of free and fair elections to parliament, state assemblies and local bodies. Each election has taught our citizens to cherish their constitutional rights. Despite resistance from those who see democracy as a threat to their power, the spread of democratic ideas throughout the world will continue, simultaneously with globalization.  Because of globalization, India, like all other nation states, will slowly decline as an effective power unit.  Despite this decline, nationalism will persist as the world’s most potent political emotion. There is therefore a national-based rationale for weaving the promotion of human rights and democracy into the fabric of Indian foreign policy as a whole.  At the same time, the Indian political system in the coming decade will have to learn to manage the pressures of technology and capitalism.

Until the use of computers becomes more wide spread, dealing with the Computer Revolution will remain a matter of education and sound management.  This is unlikely to disrupt India’s democratic politics in the coming decade.  Dealing with capitalism is our more immediate problem.  The growth of capitalism cannot be arrested.  Unbridled capitalism, with low wages, long hours, and exploited workers, excites social resentments and revives class warfare.  Even the capitalists and communists are agreed that there is only one 21st Century economic reality.  This is the ideology of economic growth, of full employment, of distributive justice and social welfare. Socialists, communists and capitalists no longer debate such issues.  Controversy hinges on the method of governance to curb unbridled capitalism; on how to strike a balance between too much authoritarianism and too much freedom. To move along constructive lines, capitalism must subordinate short-term plans and profits to such long-term social necessities as investment in education, research and development, environmental protection, the extension of health care, the rehabilitation of infrastructure, and the redemption of the city.  Capitalists are not likely to do this by themselves.  Long-term perspectives demand national leadership and affirmative government. 

Whilst dealing with the twin pressures of technology and capitalism, we must guard against the rise of tyrants and excessive government paternalism which stifles the development of individualism and self-reliance.  At the same time we must also cope with the spiritual frustrations and yearnings generated in the varied religious groups of Indian society.  Fanaticism is the mortal enemy of democracy.  Fanatics who believe that they are executing the will of the Almighty are notably harsh on unbelievers.  Today, fanaticism is under control in India but poses a challenge to Pakistani democracy.  This is an internal problem for the citizens of Pakistan to resolve in their own way.  However, our Armed Forces must be kept strong in order to safeguard our western borders against any fall-out of Pakistan’s internal struggle.  Whilst so doing, let us not forget that India’s strongest shield against any threats to its independence is not its security forces alone, but its democratic traditions.  As long as India maintains its democratic core values, it will retain its greatest strength: its capacity for self-correction through intelligent diagnosis.

The critics and champions of democracy find it equally difficult to define their subject matter.  Winston Churchill has said that “democracy is not based on violence and terrorism, but on reason, on fair-play, on freedom, on respecting the rights of other people.”  From an Indo-Aryan point of view, democracy is at once a political arrangement, an economic approach, and an ethical way of life.  To work it successfully, certain conditions are essential.  These may be enumerated as: concern for truth, aversion to violence, love of liberty, courage to resist oppression and tyranny, spirit of cooperation, preparedness to adjust self-interest to the larger interest, ability to voluntarily limit one’s economic wants, respect for other’s opinions, tolerance, readiness to take responsibility, belief in the fundamental equality of man, and faith in the educatability of human nature.

Democracy is not just an ideal or an objective.  It is a method and system of governance through which a country tries to manage its affairs.  No system is sacrosanct; no method can prevail permanently.  Procedures have to be changed to keep pace with changing conditions so that the system solves the problems of the people without loss of the ideal or objectives.  Thus, above all else, democracy is a dynamic evolutionary process, the greatest merit of which is that it contains a built-in mechanism for orderly and constitutional change.  In an autocracy, fundamental change can take place only by coup d’etat or palace revolution. 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWO

 

The concept of secession on the grounds of religion was a violation of a 5000-year old tradition, which has always attempted to absorb new races, religions and languages through a spirit of accommodation and cooperation.  The acceptance of pluralism, tolerance of diversity and the upholding of basic human rights are key values in our constitution.  Those who oppose these values must be treated as hostile. The two-nation concept and the creation of Pakistan violated Independent India’s values. Pakistan therefore became a hostile neighbour, This would have been so even if the Jammu and Kashmir problem had never arisen.  The primary role of the armed forces is to defend the borders against hostile external threats.  The role of the police is to maintain law and order within India.  When the police are unable to cope with a problem, the government can call upon the armed forces to perform its secondary role and aid civil governance. The army is composed of many old regiments, which have been in existence for over 200 year.  They are very familiar with both the primary as well as the secondary roles.  However, the nexus between elected leaders and senior military commanders was broken by imperial rule.  This had to be re-established after 1947.  In the process, political leaders, bureaucrats and military officers had to relearn many basic axioms on the management of military power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter  2

 

Role of the Armed Forces in a Democracy

 

Strategy, like any other discipline, has a rational foundation upon which logical doctrines and theories are discussed, conceived and implemented.  During the peak of our Agricultural Civilization, India had a well-established strategic tradition, which dealt with threats on five fronts: the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military fronts.  From antiquity, the basic law in India was dharma.  The true sovereign of the state was dharma and constitution enforced by the king was danda [stick].  Between dharma and danda the laws of peace and war developed.  War was never waged before peace efforts through diplomacy were completely exhausted.  This process followed four steps, [similar in many ways to the four levels of modern strategic control,] conciliation [sama], gifts [dama], sowing of dissension [bheda] and chastisement [danda].

During Imperial rule, Great Britain took over the military security of South Asia.  Indian leaders lost touch with the military aspects of strategy.  After World War I  [1914-18], our leaders began planning for freedom from colonial rule.  Because they lacked military power, they were forced to confine themselves to the non-military aspects of strategy.  Thus, the Freedom Movement adopted a non-violent satyagraha [insistence on truth] approach.  This strategy was able to confront British military power because of Mahatma Gandhi’s skillful moral leadership, and because our opponents were not ruthless barbarians; such a strategy would never have worked against a Stalin or a Hitler.

The freedom struggle involved four different and separate strands of society.  Firstly, there were the individual revolutionaries and martyrs who attacked pillars of the Raj and were hanged as criminals.  Then there was the Gandhi-inspired mass non-violent movement.  Thirdly, there was the Bose-inspired Indian National Army [INA].  Lastly, were millions of officers and men who joined the British Indian Armed Forces during World War II [1939-1945] and forced the Raj to realise that it could no longer prevent the rapid Indianisation of the Armed Forces and could not ignore the national sentiments of that force.  The Indian naval mutiny of 1946 drove home this point most painfully.  The British knew that they could no longer rely on the blind loyalty of their Indian army for Imperial tasks.  Regrettably, many politicians while discussion the contributions made by Freedom Fighters to the struggle for independence conveniently play down Bose’s role and totally ignore the indirect role of the Armed Forces.

Lawyers dominated the pre-1947 political scene.  They were well informed about the social, economic and cultural problems of the nation, but the majority was less familiar with politico-military issues.  Motilal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose were exceptions.  Jawaharlal Nehru, unlike his father, took little interest in the Indianisation of the armed force, recruitment policies and concepts of politico-military control.  However, some Indian leaders, even prior to 1947, did realise that the armed forces had a role to play in national and international relations.  They were keen to understand specific security issues.  They clandestinely sought advice from impressive-looking Indian military officers who unfortunately did not know the difference between strategy and tactics or between a rifle and a gun.  This inability of a civilian to assess military competence prevails till today.  Any smart-looking officer in uniform easily takes in the average layman.  Many are still ignorant of the profound difference between a general in the infantry/armoured corps, and general in the service corps.  Thus, time and time again, at critical moments in our history, our political higher command sought the advice of incompetents and was unable to correctly assess the realities of the global military scene.  A few competent military officers who did offer unpalatable advice were treated as British sycophants and their advice ignore.  The few politicians who were realists and opposed the party line on security matters found that their views were suppressed and they were threatened with expulsion form the party.

Nehru hoped to create a world where nations, instead of forming groups to act against each other, would learn to eschew conflict and settle their disputes in a peaceful manner.  He felt that India, with its philosophy and idealistic past, could provide a lead in this direction.  He placed his faith in the United Nations [UN].  Overlying his idealism was his hatred of war and of all things military.  Thus, his intellectual make-up lacked an important dimension; he gave no deep thought to politico-military matters.  This prevented him from making sound security decisions.

Apart from Nehru, millions of our people dislike violence and hesitate to kill a mad dog, what to speak of a ruthless terrorist.  Millions subscribe to a romantic belief that non-violent actions are a better [nobler] substitute for military action.  These detractors of force argued that if Gandhian tactics could confront and defeat powerful Imperial Britain, then non-violent non-cooperation can surely deal with internal violence and external aggression.  Thus, for different reasons millions accepted the armed forces as an unfortunate expense; a colonial residue which ought to have no place or role in a civilized democracy; an evil which would somehow disappear with time.  Till that happened, the armed forces must be tolerated; their role was to defend the borders; support the government in dealing with internal unrest, remain disciplined and obey the order of their elected leaders without question.

Nehru’s disinterest in military affairs was to have serious implications, because he, as Prime Minister [PM], played a key role in shaping India’s military command and strategic management structure.  His views indirectly reinforced the opinion of the detractors of military power and shaped the thoughts and prejudices of four decades of politicians, intellectuals and civil servants.  They took their cue from him, and failed to acquire an interest or adequate understanding of the legitimate role of military force in democratic governance.

The basic issues of national security planning, both internal and external, are a challenge to any society, whether democratic or totalitarian.  Security plans have to be evolved on five fronts [human activities]: the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military fronts.  This requires a willingness to accept that military professionals have a legitimate role in the formulation of national policies, which have a security content.

In a democracy, it is axiomatic that the military remains apolitical and always subordinate to elected political leaders.  It is also axiomatic that military force cannot be used to resolve some political issues.  It is also evident that some diplomatic decisions, which are not backed by force, may not be effective.  A false cloak of secrecy with which security issues are shrouded prevented a clear understanding of these basic issues.  So serious public discussion of vital matters, which should have been publicly debated never took place.  Thus vital concepts and axioms of democratic governance with regard to politico-military decision-making were systematically ignored.

After independence, the Government inherited an antiquated politico-military defence structure fashioned during the Kitchner-Curzon era; a system in which the army chief and the civil secretary who headed a small defence department operated in separate watertight compartments.  The army chief was supreme.  The navy and air force chiefs were junior officers and his subordinates.  Obviously changes had to be introduced to provide for the supremacy of an elected government, for the raising of air and naval headquarters, and for the proper coordination and functioning of the three service headquarters and the defence department.   Nehru left these important decisions to Lord Mountbatten.  At that time, because of Partition, each of the three services was being split into two and the residue army was deeply involved in the maintenance of law and order on the eastern and western borders.

 In view of the unstable internal situation prevailing, Mountbatten could not suggest many desirable changes.  Thus he did not recommend the integration of the defence department and the three service headquarters; an essential managerial step.  Such a structure had been functioning in Britain since 1920.  That step would have necessitated the creation of three separate councils, each headed by an elected politician who presides over an integrated civil-military council [staff], consisting of the chief of the service concerned, his principal staff officers and a civil servant. 

In this system, the three army, naval and air force councils would function very much on the lines of the Railway Board.  In this situation, service chiefs are redesignated as the Chief of the Staff.  The word “staff” in this context is synonymous with “board” or “council”. Above the three service councils would be the defence minister [an elected politician] and his secretariat consisting of an elected member [minister of defence production], a military member [the chief of defence staff], a defence secretary [a civil servant], and financial and scientific advisers.

Until it was timely to create such integrated councils, Mountbatten initially recommended that minimum reforms be carried out to the existing organisationsas an interim measure.  This would give time to the defence department, the air force and navy to establish their respective headquarters.  Till that happened, he recommended that the three service chiefs should continue to function as commanders-in-chief [C-in-C], and remain separated from the Defence Ministry.  Further reorganisation would have to await a more stable period.

Mountbatten recommended the setting up of a series of committees to effect coordination between politicians and the military, and between the civil service and the three services.  These interim recommendations gave clear recognition to the axioms that the armed forces in a democracy have a legitimate role in policy planning which involves a security content.  It indicated that the military has a duty to advise the elected government when its opinion is asked for; that political masters have the power and the privilege to reject the military’s advice; that the final authority is always that of the elected leader.

Mountbatten recommended that security issues would be reviewed and discussed at the highest level by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet [DCC], presided over by the PM.  The DCC was composed of selected ministers including the defence minister.  The service chiefs, defence secretary and financial adviser were to be in attendance at all meetings.  Working under this apex body was the Defence Minister’s Committee [DMC] presided over by the defence minister with the three service chiefs, the defence secretary and the financial adviser as members.  Apart from this were other committees with members composed exclusively of military officers.  The secretariat for the top-level committees was to be provided by a Military Wing to be set up in the Cabinet Secretariat.  The DCC and DMC were the only bodies where the service chiefs could discuss security issues with their elected masters formally.

The Cabinet approved Mountbatten’s proposals.  It is doubtful if Nehru appreciated that these were interim proposals pending final integration; he was uninterested in military detail.  Moreover, other important domestic and international issues demanded his attention at that time.  It must also be admitted that the service officers in 1947 were equally ignorant and totally inexperienced in the functioning of a military-political nexus at the highest level.  Because of the urgent tasks of consolidating India’s frontiers and military operations in Jammu & Kashmir [J&K], Hyderabad state, Junnagadh and the north-eastern region, it suited both the politician and military that they each be left alone at that time to work in separate compartments.  Thus, in the absence of integration, a bureaucratic screen, composed of the newly created Defence Ministry, began to operate between the politician and the armed forces.

For the first decade, the two top defence committees kept meeting as when required.  No controversial issues arose.  The armed forces cheerfully involved themselves in the territorial consolidation of India; a task which the young Indian Military Academy [IMA] trained officers performed with courage and enthusiasm.  The task of the senior military officers was to stabilise the truncated services, maintain discipline and provide sound administration.  Sandhurst trained officers did this with distinction. When Pakistani raiders were threatening Srinagar [J&K], our army and air force, led by dashing officers fought their first battle as free men to defend J&K against a planned aggression.  The elan, courage and initiative displayed by our swift air borne response, stunned British advisers who had assured Pakistan that it would face no serious military opposition as there was no land route between India and J&K.  While these exciting events were taking place, the Defence department expanded into a Parkinsonian Ministry manned by hundreds of civil servants and clerks whose sole task was to vet military proposals; they enjoyed power without accountability or responsibility.

The army’s role was defined in simple terms.  Its main role was to defend the borders against external threats.  Its secondary role was internal security: to support the government, when requested, and curb internal threats to the stability of the state.  The army’s first Indian Commander-in-Chief, General K.M. Cariappa was a stickler for discipline and insisted that every soldier in uniform will carry a printed copy of the “Role of the Army” in his pocket., along with his identity card.  Officers would be checked and punished if found without his copy.

During this period, the status which the service officer had enjoyed vis-à-vis his civilian counterparts was eroded.  Salaries of the Sandhurst-trained senior officers were protected, but the salary difference between the Indian Administrative Service [IAS] and the IMA-trained officers widened.  Some officers who resented these differences protested.  A harshly worded circular was issued by the then Chief whose salary was protected.  The circular stated that officers who were unhappy with the new pay code should resign.  A few very good senior IMA-trained officers did resign prematurely.  However, the vast majority of the service officers saw the logic of this change in precedence and accepted it as a necessary step in the democratic process.

Over the years, as the Sandhurst officers retired, the IMA ones began moving into positions of authority.  By now they had become experienced professionals who realised that the decision-making system was out of date; they resented the bureaucratic screen; the frustration of avoidable red tape and endless files and notes by civil servants who did not know what they were writing about.  Military officers began presenting well-reasoned papers on the need to reform the interim arrangement, merge the defence ministry and service headquarters, and adopt the Chief of Staff council system.  At that time, the naval and air force chiefs were not supporters of these proposals; they were still in the process of establishing themselves as separate entities and were afraid that the Council system would be dominated by the army and that this would swamp their growing identities. 

Civil servants enjoyed this division of opinion between the three services.  However, some Members of Parliament [MPs] took up the army’s proposal.  Nehru sensed the pressure for reform.  In March 1955, the PM announced in Parliament the change in the designation of the three service chiefs from commander-in-chief to chief of staff.  This was nothing more than a verbal smoke screen.  It is a misnomer to call our service heads chiefs of their respective service staffs without forming integrated service councils. However this ploy confused the issue and silenced the political critics.  While announcing this change of designation of the service chiefs, Nehru stated that as in other democratic countries, India too would be having a defence council.  The House loudly cheered this statement.  Few understood what was being promised.

At this time, Krishna Menon was appointed the Defence Minister.  Menon was a megalomaniac with a quarrelsome and irritable nature.  His ideologies, like Nehru’s, had been formed in England in the early 30s when Communism and its supposed embodiment, the Soviet Union, was accepted in certain intellectual circles as the wave of the future.  Menon had two pet obsessions: a dislike for capitalist America and a belief that Communist China would never attack India.  He had a Rasputin-like effect on our affairs in general and over Nehru in particular.  He seemed to enjoy deliberately insulting those who worked with him.

During Menon’s tenure of five years as High Commissioner in Britain, he quarrelled with a succession of deputy High Commissioners and civil servants.  Many felt that he was temperamentally unfit to hold any responsible administrative or public appointment in a democratic set up.  But the PM had blind confidence in him and despite every legitimate complaint of various kinds against him by innumerable people, Nehru remained his staunch supporter.  The reason for Menon’s offensive behaviour was probably a deep-seated source of insecurity; he had no kind of base in India- familial, linguistic or political.   His only base was Nehru and he was protective of that base.  When Menon was moved from London after a Jeep scandal, he was appointed as Defence Minister and General K.S.Thimayya took over as Chief of the Army Staff [COAS].  Their relations were cordial to begin with.  The Chinese were then consolidating their hold over Tibet. 

This period saw the rise of Major General. B.M.Kaul, a man with a brisk military style who owed his advancement to his capacity for political accommodation rather than military knowledge or experience, of which he had almost none.  At that time, there was an acute shortage of married accommodation in all the army cantonments.  Officers and jawans after serving for several years in hard areas separated from their families, on returning for a peace tenure, would be forced to live with their families under canvas.  The obvious answer was for the government to release funds to the Military Engineering Service [MES] and initiate building projects in places, which required houses.  Kaul approached Menon directly and told him that the cheapest and quickest way to meet this shortage of accommodation was for soldiers to build their own houses.  Local MES resources should be placed under Kaul’s command and the required quantity of building material made available to him.  He would construct houses using troops as unskilled labour.  He promised to build 5000 houses at Ambala in one year at barely the cost of the building material.  The proposal was ideal bait for Menon who accepted at once, even though Kaul’s military superiors objected to the proposal as this would undermine the morale of troops, would eat into vital training time and would not be cost-effective as the salaries of the troops and wear and tear on operational transport were hidden costs which also affected operational readiness.  These objections were overruled.  4 Infantry Division launched Operation Amar, and built 5000 houses in the stipulated time. 

Major. General. S.H.F.K. Manekshaw was then General Officer Commanding of an infantry division in Jammu.  He was ordered by Menon, against the advice of the COAS, to visit Ambala, meet Kaul, study the system he had used, go back to Jammu and build 5000 houses by adopting the same methods.  So Sam visited Ambala where Kaul briefed him with his customary skill.  In conclusion he dramatically asked, “Are there any questions?”  Sam smiled and said, “Biji, I have a better proposal.  You go to Jammu and take over my division and build another 5000 houses there.  I will take over 4 Infantry Division and train it within six months to be fit to face a Pakistani attack."

By the early 60s it was evident that India and China had both opted for a forward policy along the disputed northern border.  Nehru’s forward policy was strategically pragmatic.  The Chinese could not be given a free run to do what they pleased on the northern border.  It was necessary that India fills the gaps and displays its presence wherever possible.  However, while Chinese border posts were backed by administrative bases on the Tibetan plateau and supported by road transport, Indian border posts were isolated detachments widely separated from one another and in some cases 10-days marching time away from the nearest road head.  Concerned field commanders pointed out the tactical dangers of this posture.

At every session of the DMC, the COAS accepted the forward policy but urged that our outposts be backed by minimum defences in depth; this was sound military advice.  The COAS was told that the Chinese would not attack India.  Civil servants and intelligence officers at the meeting agreed with the Minister. The COAS was overruled and told, “This is a political decision; don’t argue.  Obey orders.”  So vital; tactical decisions were made on a map by civil servants and politicians who were ignorant of realities on the ground and the basic axioms of military power.  The COAS’s dissent was recorded in the minutes of each meeting.

Tied up with our traditional neglect and ignorance of military power is a fear of the military.  This was understandable in the early years of independence because after World War II, the military frequently played a key role in revolutionary situations in newly liberated African and Asian colonies.  In a democracy, the armed forces are expected to remain apolitical.  After Partition, this tradition was shattered in South Asia in Pakistan in 1951 when a few leftists politicians, supported by some military officers, plotted to assassinate the PM and the C-in-C, a British officer.  This attempted coup, known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy, was a political coup and not a military one.  In fact, it was crushed by the military, which remained loyal to the elected government.  However, since then Pakistan has witnessed seven coup d'’etats of various kinds including the military variety.

All political systems, irrespective of whether these are democratic or otherwise, have to face the dual problem of developing and controlling military.  In India’s formative years, a military coup was very feasible; this would then have meant a simple matter of taking over six centres of power; North and South Blocks in New Delhi, All India Radio [AIR] and four international airports.  It was therefore prudent for the government to keep a close watch on the armed forces.

Thimayya was a charismatic and very popular leader; qualities which Menon lacked.  He feared that the General would sway Nehru and that this would undermine his position as Defence Minister.  B.K.Nehru, in his book Nice Guys Finish Second, writes that Menon concocted a story that the COAS was planning a military coup against Nehru.  If there was any officer wholly disinterested in politics it was Thimayya.  Menon’s action is explicable only on the theory that he did not want anybody other than himself to have the ear of the PM on defence matters.  Menon did not succeed in getting Thimayya dismissed but he destroyed the confidence of the PM in his military, and in the course of time undermined the morale and solidarity of the armed forces.

These events coincided with Kaul’s promotion and were a time that tested the character of the officer corps.  Many who saw that political power was on Kaul’s side craved for closeness to him.  It was sickening to see the effect this had on decent officers who were tempted or acted out of fear of an adverse posting or a bad career report which would effect their future.  The army was divided into Kaul boys, those who said, “There will be no war, so let us join the band wagon”, and those who stood up for professional values, no matter what the cost.

Thimayya’s resignation as COAS created a national furore.  Rumours circulated that he ha resigned in protest of the government’s forward policy.  But is clear that he resigned because the Defence Ministry kept overriding Army Headquarters on certain key appointments.  Nehru sent for Thimayya and persuaded him to withdraw his resignation, which he did.  Later, whilst answering questions on this issue in Parliament, he PM referred to Thimayya’s resignation and subsequent withdrawal as ‘childish gestures’ of no consequence.  Thimayya appeared to lose all influence thereafter and Kaul took over the key assignment of Chief of the General Staff: a vital operational staff appointment.  Field commanders who were not prepared to accept Kaul’s’ forward policy instructions were sidelined and willing sycophants were found to replace them.

The few times that the DMC met in Delhi, Thimayya continued to point out the dangers facing our forward posts and our precarious tactical posture. There was no rapport between the military and the Minister.   Menon ignored those warnings and assured the Committee that “the Chinese are playing a cartographic game. There would be no hostilities.”  The minutes of those meetings are on record.  Thimayya retired in early 1961 on completion of his tenure.  Many had expected that Lieutenant General S.P.P. Thorat, GOC-in-C Eastern Command , who was one of our few Sandhurst-trained battle-experienced officers, would take over as COAS.    However, General P.S. Thapar, who was his senior, was appointed COAS.

In September 1962, Kaul was appointed to command the Corps responsible for the defence of the North East Frontier Agency [NEFA] When our troops began moving forward onto Tagla ridge in Towang district of NEFA, the Chinese retaliated with force, overrunning a scattered brigade position and occupying the whole of Tawang.  They simultaneously attacked forward positions elsewhere in NEFA and Ladhak.  After a fortnight’s pause, they continued their assault and overran the whole of NEFA up to the Assam border. The army’s defeat was total; if they had wanted to, the Chinese could then have walked into Assam without any opposition.  In December 1962, China unilaterally withdrew from NEFA back across the McMahon Line.

Nehru, shocked by China’s success, admitted in Parliament that “we had lived in an artificial world of our own creation.”  He accepted that the debacle was due to his ignorance of military affairs.  To offset his political opponents, he proclaimed the formation of a National Defence Council composed of all the chief ministers, some retired service officers and others.  This was intended to pacify public opinion; such a body is incapable of exercising effective strategic control.  It subsequently died a natural death.  The COAS and Kaul resigned after the debacle.  B.K. Kaul in his book, Nice Guys Finish Second, has described how Menon’s hold over the PM was so strong that Nehru “remained unshakeable even when the Defence Minister’s criminal responsibility for our national disgrace by the Chinese was evident to the rest of the Country”.  When the Congress Party insisted that Menon be thrown out, the PM tried to save him; Nehru even threatened to resign if Menon was dismissed.  It was only when he was told to go ahead and do so, that Nehru agreed to get rid of his favourite.

Significantly, not a single IAS officer resigned.  After all why should they?  They had no responsibility and are never accountable.  General J.N.Chaudhri took over as COAS, and Y.B.Chavan as the Defence Minister.  The latter started holding regular morning meetings with the Defence Secretary and the three service chiefs; no agenda was issued nor were any formal papers asked for or discussed.  These meetings were useful in their own way but were no substitute for formal meetings of the DCC or the DMC, both of which were no longer held.  It seemed as if the politicians were afraid of a formal agenda, dissent and recorded minutes; all these could later become evidence for some future historian.

An inquiry under Lieutenant General Henderson-Brooks was undertaken by Army Headquarters to investigate the causes for the debacle.  This report has still not been made public.  But it requires no great imagination to list some of the reasons for the debacle.  The obvious ones are material: our army was equipped with World War I rifles , mortars and guns, the men lacked winter clothing and even boots; logistic support was lacking due to poor road communication.  The less obvious reasons were conceptual.  Firstly, political decisions, which have a security content, are worthless if they are not backed by military power.  Secondly, the armed forces were functioning with an antiquated politico-military decision-making system, which kept the military separated from politicians; key decisions were being influenced by civil servants who were ignorant of military realities.  Thirdly, our intelligence set-up was inefficient. 

The government did nothing about reforming the decision-making system.  On the contrary, it went a step backwards and stopped meetings of the DCC and the DMC, which were the only institutions giving the service chiefs an opportunity to met their political masters face to face, discuss security issues formally and record their opinions.  However, the intelligence set-up was divided into two parts.  A foreign intelligence wing, which was named the Research and Analysis Wing [RAW] and an internal wing, which continued to remain the Intelligence Bureau [IB].

There is confusion in come minds about the role of the IB and the Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI].  The IB is engaged in collecting, collating, assessing and distributing information, and denying sensitive information to foreign powers.  The CBI is an investigative agency, designed to deal with the detection and prosecution of criminals.  The CBI is a police agency, which works in conjunction with individual state’s Crime Investigation Departments [CID].  The CBI is best manned and headed by police officers.  Whereas the police can perform some of the IB’s tasks at the lower levels, it is debatable whether RAW and the IB ought to be headed by police officers as a matter of routine.  This observation is not a reflection on the character or ability of police officers.  Experience shows that police officers by their training, experience and environmental duties, develop a temperament, outlook and aptitude which is ideal for the CIB but not for intelligence duties.  In other democracies, the overall direction of intelligence work is left to distinguished citizens/civil servant/retired military officers, or even police officers that have a proven ability for this sort of work

After the 1962 debacle, it began to dawn on all concerned that India’s vital interests have to be faced on five fronts: the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military fronts.  These five fronts or human activities, do not operate in watertight compartments.  They merge into one another.  The diplomatic front is the concern of the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA]; the economic front involves the Finance, Industry and Commerce Ministries; the social and psychological fronts are the concern of the Home and Human Resources Ministries.  The Defence and Home Ministries deal with security issues arising from external and internal threats.  Thus, any national security plan entails the co-ordination and orchestration by the PM of these five fronts, which are controlled by several different ministries; all are influenced by rapid changes in science and technology.

The DCC states its threat perceptions and formulates a strategic policy on how India intends to meet this threat.  Each concerned ministry examines this policy and in conjunction with their respective civil or military advisers, make detailed plans on how to execute the national policy within the respective spheres of activity.  If strategy were a simple one-time process, then these detailed plans would be the end of the matter   Unfortunately, the factors effecting a strategic plan keep changing continually due to an opponent’s reactions, domestic and international pressures, technology and other reasons. The national strategic aim may remain constant but the conduct of strategic action has to be a flexible on-going process, requiring full-time attention.  In a crisis situation, action has to be controlled and implemented on a day-to-day basis on all five fronts

Strategic control is effected  at four levels by persuasion, hindrance, coercion and force.  The first three levels involve non-violent actions on all the five fronts.  Good strategic management entails moving from one level to another and mixing these three control elements on different fronts to achieve one’s aim without open hostilities taking place.  This is done by keeping in touch with an adversary so that he receives our messages, and so that we can respond to his reactions.  It is only when all these non-violent overtures fail to achieve the desired results that the last level, the use of force by open hostilities, is undertaken.

Thus there is need for close integration of several different ministerial plans, and for the requirement of continual control during a confrontation.  It is therefore desirable, purely from a managerial point of view, to have a group composed of full-time multi-disciplined advisers with the role of recommending control actions and responses to the DCC.  The DCC will only then be in a position to pass suitable instructions to the ministries and civil-military authorities concerned.  This group, call it a National Security Council [NSC] or whatever you wish, is not a decision-making body but a managerial tool, available to the DCC, which is the only legitimate body with constitutional authority and responsibility for making national security decisions.  [A detailed explanation of the role of a NSC is discussed in Chapter 10.]

At all stages of the Sino-Indian Conflict [1962], China displayed an impressive degree of strategic and tactical control.  It reacted to India’s forward policy with carefully orchestrated moves designed to persuade, hinder and coerce without using violent means.  New Delhi had no system to match this approach.  Not only were  Chinese signals misunderstood and countered by official bluster, but also they were sometime ignored.  Those who lacked military commonsense, persisted in the  romantic delusion that the Chinese were playing a cartographic game.  When non-violent actions failed, and the international situation favoured them, the Chinese used force. 

China’s initial aim must have been to overcome our forward posts, which were anyway not tactically sited .  When their initial attacks succeeded with impressive gains in Tagla, China realised that it faced no real opposition except in Ladhak.  It grabbed this opportunity and overran the whole of Tawang district.  When this worked, it went a step further and took over the whole of NEFA.  China’s tactical and strategic control was impressive at all stages.  Mrs Gandhi was a silent spectator of these tragic events and the impact of this on her father.  She was quick to learn.  She kept her thoughts to herself.

After 1962, the army set about rectifying its material deficiencies. New mountain divisions were raised, and self-loading rifles and better artillery were inducted.  However, confidence building is a long-term process and cannot be effected by the mere issue of good arms and snow clothing.  It takes half a decade to make a fighting army; a decade to raise an effective air force and three decades to fashion a strong navy.  There are no short cuts to professional excellence.

Pakistan had been closely watching events in India.  They assessed that the morale of our armed forces was low after the debacle.  New mountain divisions were being deployed on the northern frontier.  But on the western border, Pakistan had parity in infantry and superior artillery, tanks and aircraft.  India’s new PM, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was an unknown personality.  Pakistan saw this as an ideal opportunity to test India’s political and military will.

In April 1965, Pakistan moved a regiment of tanks into a disputed portion of the Rann of Kutch.  The Army Chief advised the government not to react militarily to this threat as we had no tanks in that area and our main military resources had to remain concentrated in Punjab.  The PM accepted this advice.  India agreed to take the Kutch issue for arbitration to the International Court where Pakistan won its case.  Pakistani leaders misread our reactions to the Kutch episode.  They took this as further proof that India lacked the political and military will for battle.  They began to prepare for another adventure in J & K.  The PM warmed Pakistan that any aggression in J & K would be treated as an attack on India.

In August, ignoring the PM’s warning, Pakistan infiltrated guerrillas lead by army officers into the Valley through a gap north of Poonch.  Indian forces, handled with skill, cut off the guerrillas by capturing their route of entry.  To counter this set back, Pakistan launched an armoured brigade against Chhamb in an attempt to threaten the Akhnur-Noashera road and cut off our forces located west of Akhnur.  The PM ordered our armed forces to cross the international border and attack Pakistan.  This order, reminiscent of Nehru’s fateful command in 1962, to “throw the Chinese out” of Tagla ridge, was unreal.  The armed forces barely had the capacity to defend our borders.  The Government, conscious of the 1962 debacle and the dangers of political interference, went to the other extreme and gave the armed forces a free hand to do what they pleased.  There was no coherent political or military strategy, nor any strategic control.

A ding dong battle took place along the western front when Pakistan’s crack armoured forces launched a massive attack in the Punjab.  This was a bold attempt to encircle our troops defending the western border.  It was due to the valiant efforts of 4 Infantry Division and the flooding of agricultural channels in the area that this attack was halted; this resulted in the loss of over 50 Patton tanks, which were abandoned in the area when a cease fire was imposed by the UN.  Pakistan had started the conflict with three main aims; to provoke an up-prising in the Valley, to open up the J&K issue in the UN, and to inflict a limited military defeat on India.  They failed in all three aims.  They not only lost the cream of their armour, but also suffered the humiliation of Indian forces occupying some of their territory across the international border, and vital areas in J&K.  This was an indirect victory for India.  This “defeat” weakened President Ayub’s political position.  He was forced to suspend individual rights and impose an Emergency, which lasted until 1987.

After the cease fire, our forces were pulled back across the international border, but continued to hold vital areas that had been captured in J&K.  As already pointed out, President Ayub’s political power had been undermined and Pakistan had lost the cream of its armoured forces. On the other hand, India was in a strong position in J&K.  It had no obligation to withdraw from the areas it had captured.  A meeting between the Indian PM and President Ayub was held in Tashkent under the aegis of the Soviet Union.  It is not known what pressure was brought to bear on our PM who signed the Tashkent Agreement in which India agreed to withdraw from territories occupied by us in J&K during the 1965 War.  Significantly, no responsible military adviser was in Tashkent.  Shastri, perhaps overwhelmed by this decision and the knowledge that he would face strong criticism on his return to Delhi, succumbed to a heart attack shortly after signing the Agreement.

Mrs Gandhi replaced Shastri as PM.  She had been a silent spectator of both the 1962 and 1965 conflicts.  She knew that the DCC lacked a suitable managerial tool to oversee strategic action and control.  She attempted to form an organisation designed to advise the DCC.  She termed this the Apex Body.  This was a progressive step but the Apex Body’s role was not clearly defined and the organisation never took shape.

Our set back in the Sino-Indian Conflict had been accepted as a debacle, was analysed and some measures taken to eradicate the obvious shortcomings, The intelligence set up has been separated into two parts: foreign and domestic.  A National Defence College for senior civil servants and officers of the armed forces was established in Delhi to educate them on the realities of the five fronts and their effect on national security planning.  The Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis [IDSA] was established in Delhi with the role of studying international and domestic events, and preparing papers ;and publishing journals on issues relevant to the security of India.  To improve the training of higher commanders, the government directed the three services to introduce appropriate courses to train suitable officers in strategic and administrative planning at a higher level.

But the outcome of the Indo-Pak War of 1965 was sufficiently ambiguous to deny the nation the benefit of a well-understood failure.  A few perspective officers were able to give a sober assessment of how lucky we had been in the tank battle in Punjab.  The system still lacked two essential provisions for a legitimate role for the military leaders in security decision-making: a revival of the DCC and the DMC; and reform [integration] of our antiquated defence ministry and service headquarters.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THREE

 

Military history is a record of wars and battles.  One learns of a battalion moved here, a brigade deployed there, actions fought and lost. and an eventual cease-fire. We are sometimes apt to forget that army units, naval ships and air force squadrons are composed of individual citizens dressed in uniforms.  Each one of them has his own private ambitions, personal fears and domestic problems.  In an ideal situation,  getting to know ones command and fostering morale as a prelude to battle, is one of the first and most important tasks of a military leader. Unfortunately, individuals are often launched into battle without the minimum necessary preparations for the ordeal they are about to face; and military commanders sometime never get enough time or opportunity to practice the ideal and get to know the men serving under them.  Perhaps a short account of the personal experiences of three officers who operated during the Indo-Pak War of 1965 may best illustrate how and why the ideal can sometimes never be achieved, and how everyone has to make the best of the situations facing them.  In order to preserve the anonymity of the three individuals involved, they have been named X,  Y  and  Z.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   why the Indians came walking confidently towards one of the most feared and dreaded elite Pakistani commando units, in drill-square formation led by an enormous havildar who was making no apparent effort to conceal himself or his men?  One cannot help sympathising with the paratroopers for their misreading of the situation.

The India platoon, on the other hand, was probably under the impression that this was but another of the numerous exaggerated false alarms that had been trickling in for the past two days.  The men were not expecting to find any live paratroopers.  Their feelings when they saw crack Pakistani paratroopers armed to the teeth may well be imagined.  It was indeed fortunate that the commando began surrendering in groups without much fuss. They were promptly disarmed.  Two officers and fifty other ranks with wireless sets, machine guns, automatic rifles and sophisticated demolition stores were rounded up that morning.

The staff officers at HQ 21 Communication Zone Sub Area were quite speechless when the havildar strutted into the officer to report his fifty-two prisoners of war. {The Pakistanis, too, had been marched back in threes.]  The havildar proudly followed up his report by requesting for one truck to collect the stores, arms and ammunition left lying in the fields under the guard of a solitary soldier who was being treated as a hero and lavishly entertained by the village.

By now reports of similar para-drops by Pakistanis near two other airfields in Punjab had been received.  Though all these paratroopers failed in their mission and were rounded up before they could cause much damage to any of our airfields, false rumours and the consequent threat of the presence of paratroops continued to prevail till the cessation of hostilities.  The paratroop scare caused considerable concern to all static installations.  This may have served to keep everybody alert, but it added to the administrative strain already prevailing.

Tired air force and service personnel at the end of a hard day’s work got little rest.  Most of them, in addition to carrying out vital night operations, had to perform extra guard duties at night.  Trigger-happy sentries kept everyone awake by their indiscriminate firing at the smallest provocation.  One had to walk about most carefully whilst carrying out one’s legitimate duties after dark for fear of being mistaken for a paratrooper and being shot out of hand.

None of this was then known to X-  who had commenced his journey by train on the morning of 6 September.  He was soon to learn from a wayside railway station that fighting had broken out on the Punjab border.  His train pulled into Delhi station on the evening of 8 September in total darkness.  A blackout had been imposed on major towns within range of the Pakistani Air Force [PIA].   After some searching around, he was able to contact the Military Transport Officer.  He was given a berth in a train crowded with young officers and jawans bound for Pathankot.  Rumours were rife but fortunately, because of the blackout, there was little scope for casual conversation and all one could do was crawl into one’s berth and fall asleep.

The train was scheduled to reach Pathankot by 8 o’clock the next morning.  Dawn revealed that they were running very late.  However, as the train moved through Punjab, it was heartening to see home guard volunteers and the National Cadet Corps protecting railway bridges.  Civilians of all ages and sexes were out on the railway platforms to greet each train and offer free food and liquid refreshment to those in uniform who wanted it.  This was so, all through Punjab at even the smallest of stations.  This was a great morale-raising factor.

It was about 6 pm on 9 September when the train neared Pathankot.  Indian Air Force [IAF] fighter aircraft could be seen circling overhead in pairs.  Apparently some Pakistani fighters had sneaked through on the immediate outbreak of hostilities, surprised our air defences and caused some damage on the airfield.  As a result of this and in order to protect vital rail and service depots at Pathankot, the IAF thereafter maintained almost a continuous protective fighter patrol throughout the day over the airfield and town.

X-  was told that the army had crossed the international border and entered Sialkot District that morning.  Confusion prevailed at the railway station with thousands of soldiers who had been recalled from leave, wanting to know the whereabouts of their units.  Harassed Movement Control  personnel were trying their best to function as an information centre and also organise transport for soldiers to move on to Jammu transit camp. The combined factors of security and battle moves made it difficult for the Movement staff to know where to send soldiers who had to join units which were part of the corps that had entered Pakistan.

X- was travelling light and managed to make his own way to HQ 21 Communication Zone Sub Area.  There he met Y-, an old acquaintance who was commanding the Sub Area.  X- was delighted to see a familiar face after his long boring rail journey.  He walked forward with a cheerful greeting and outstretched hand.  Y-, who had borne the brunt of one week’s intense pressure, had lost his voice in the process.  He was in no mood for niceties and responded less enthusiastically with a hoarse croak.

X- was then unaware of the rounding up of fifty-two commando and the prevailing paratroop scare.  He was keen to join his formation and wanted to move on as quickly as possible.  He began asking about his final destination and what arrangements could be made for some conveyance and a guide.  He was silenced with a glare of disapproval and put in the picture about the paratroop threat through hoarse whispers.  He was told that he would have to spend the night at Pathankot anyway, as no one knew the exact whereabouts of his formation.

Whilst X-  was digesting this information and considering what course of action he should take to quicken up his onward journey, he heard the sound of machine-gun fire and two pistol shots in the near vicinity fired by trigger-happy sentries.  This helped him to make up his mind.  The Sub Area staff were working and sleeping in their offices.  X- dumped his kit-bag and packs on the verandah and resigned himself to an enforced night’s halt.  Y-  invited X-  to share his slit trench and asked him if he would mind manning his telephone so that he could give his throat a rest.   X-  was only too glad to make himself useful.  He readily agreed to the request.  Little did he realise what he was letting himself in for.

Now that he had time on his hands, X- tried to turn the conversation into less professional channels.  He made inquiries about Mrs. Y- who had been living at Pathankot, which was a family station for troops located there.  He was told that she had been evacuated to the safety of Dharamsala before the outbreak of hostilities.  This conversation acted as a reminder to Y- who, because of his loss of voice, had not spoken to his wife since the commencement of hostilities.  He asked X- to book a telephone call to his wife at Dharamsala and requested him to talk to her on his behalf and confrim that all was well.  X-,  eager to earn his keep, promptly booked the call.  They settled back on their camp chairs on the verandah to await the connection.

The silence was shattered by the bark of anti aircraft guns.  Those that first opened fire were a few yards away from the Sub Area HQ.  X- who had no knowledge of their proximity, very nearly jumped out of his skin.  The others calmly walked across to their respective slit trenches.  X-  joined Y-  who had carried a field telephone with him whilst entering his slit trench.  Meanwhile other AA guns located all around Pathankot had joined in the chorus and a glowing stream of shells could be seen criss-crossing the sky.

“Ring up the Air Force Control room, number 31, and ask them what the hell is happening,” Y- whispered.  X- asked the telephone exchange for the required number.  After a short pause he was surprised to hear an indignant voice say, “Ah..there you are.  What the hell’s happening?”  After some confused conversation, it was learnt that air force radar had reported no enemy aircraft.  This information was relayed to Y-.

“Its those trigger-happy Territorial Army anti aircraft gunners firing at a bloody satellite.  They did that yesterday and were warned not to repeat their mistake.  Ring them up, number 29, and tell the battery commander that the defaulters should be put under arrest and dealt with tomorrow,” whispered Y-.  His hoarse voice trembled with penicillin repressed rage.

X- asked the exchange for the number 29 and spoke to a calm voice which interrupted him and  said, “I know that the Sub Area commander is annoyed; so am I.  I’m trying my best to stop my men….Imagine the court of inquiry we will have to face if we accidentally hit the  satellite.”  He rung off.  The sound of AA gun fire slowly died down.   Officers had begun to abandon their slit trenches.  X- joined them on the verandah with the telephone. It was now 8 pm, and the office orderlies brought the officers a light meal form the Transit Camp langar,  which was located across the road.   They had barely finished their meal when the air raid siren began wailing.

“This is the real thing,” whispered Y-  as they entered their slit trench.  The telephone began ringing and X-  picked up the receiver.  It was Air Force Control Room explaining that four Pakistani jet bombers had been detected flying towards Pathankot.  These were expected to be over their target within a few minutes.  X- relayed this information to Y-  who nodded an acknowledgement.  The minutes passed in dead silence, which was suddenly shattered by the pounding of AA guns.  A faint sound of high-flying jet aircraft could be heard through the din of the AA fire.  Then several bright flashes lit up the skyline.  This was followed by loud explosions, which appeared to be about half a mile away.  The volume of AA fire increased.  Every gun was now firing.  After a short interval another series of bright flashes were seen and this was followed by loud explosions from an area that seemed to be a little nearer.

The sound of AA gunfire slowly died down and again there was silence, which was broken by the clanging of a fire alarm bell and the sound of a truck being driven at high speed.  It was reassuring to hear noises of organised activity, which indicated that the military routine was working; the Sub Area fire fighting party were doing their stuff.

.X-  was informed by telephone hat no major damage had been caused by the bombing.  A direct hit had been scored on an MES stock yard.  This had started a small fire in a wood stack, which was being dealt with by the station fire fighting party.  This information was relayed to Y-  and provoked an inaudible whisper, which sounded suspiciously as if he was purring with pleasure at this choice of target..  No sound of aircraft had been heard for some time, yet the “all clear” had not been sounded. No one had emerged from the trenches.   X-  was asked to ring up number 31 and find out what was happening.

Air Force Control Room acknowledged that no enemy aircraft were in the immediate vicinity.  “However,” the air force officer went on, “originally four jets had been tracked by us.  One of these was seen flying off in a north-easterly direction and only three aircraft pressed home their attack.  These have since withdrawn, but we are suspicious about this fourth kite.  This may be a ruse to wait for us to stand-down and then come in from the north for a surprise attack at low level.  If nothing happens we will sound the all clear in another five minutes.”

Nothing happened for five minutes.  The “all clear” was sounded and X- joined Y- on the verandah.  It had been a very hot day, but September nights are cool in Punjab.  Their bedrolls had been spread out in the open, near their slit trench.  They were sitting on the verandah, smoking their last cigarette before going to bed, when the telephone rang.  The exchange operator told X- to stand by for a long distance call from Dharamsala.  This news perked up Y- who was expecting this to be his long-awaited call to his wife.

When the call did come through, an excited Station Staff Officer, Dharamsala, spoke to X-.  He reported that a single Pakistani jet bomber had flown over Dharamsala and bombed the outskirts.  The missing bomber had been traced.  One can only assume that the pilot of this aircraft, un-nerved by the volume of AA fire over Pathankot, had turned off course.  Then seeing the bright lights of Dharamsala on the hills in the distance, he decided to drop his load of bombs there before returning to base.  Fortunately no damage was caused.  The officials of Dharamsala are believed to have experienced no difficulties in enforcing a vigorous blackout for the remaining period of the conflict.

Y-  had been expecting his wife to be calling.  He had not been able to over-hear what was being transmitted from Dharamsala.  He had been listening intently to X’s- responses with growing alarm.  When he was told about the bombing he sighed resignedly and whispered, “I moved my wife there in the belief that it would be the safest place.  I suppose there’s not much point in moving her again.”   X- agreed and suggested they turn in for the night.

X- crawled into bed and placed the telephone on the ground near him.  He was about to drop off to sleep when the telephone rang.  He picked up the handset and said, “X- speaking.”  A ghostly voice whispered softly, “Z-  speaking.”  X-  was sleepy and tired and in no mood for social exchanges.  He exasperatedly shouted, “Why are you whispering? Don’t tell me you’ve also lost your voice.”   The ghostly voice continued with a desperate whisper, “Shhhh…..I am surrounded by paratroopers.  Send help.”

X- was fully awakened by the impact of this astounding piece of information but was not quite sure if he had heard correctly the first time.  He asked the caller to repeat his message.  He heard the ghostly voice repeat its announcement of doom in the same desperate whisper.  X-  was glaring disbelievingly at the receiver when the others asked him who was calling.  X-  told them and there was a snort of anger from Y-.  “That idiot Z-  has been imagining paratroops for the past forty-eight hours.  Ignore his message.  He did the same sort of thing last night.”

X-  was still pondering over this incredible situation when one of the others who had overheard the conversation cheerfully said, ”Don’t worry about that call.  I’ve sent Z’s-  outfit a special guard tonight.  They were late getting to their destination because of the air raid.  They are probably only now moving into position and have no doubt been mistaken for enemy paratroopers.  I’ll sort that out…You may have a hard day ahead of you tomorrow.  You should try and get some sleep.”

X- lay back on his bed roll feeling very much like the Chinese philosopher-poet who wrote: “I, Chuang Chou, once dreamed that I was a butterfly flitting about.  I did whatever I wished.  I knew nothing about any Chuang Chou.  Then I suddenly awakened a Chuang Chou with all his normal trappings.  Now I don’t know whether Chuang Chou dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly is dreaming that he is Chuang Chou.”

X- was saved from further philosophical distractions by the irrepressible ring of the telephone.  He wearily lifted off the hand set, gave his name, and was relieved to hear a pleasant voice announce itself and go on, “I have been sent to receive you.  I should have reached you early this evening.  But what with the air raid and trigger- happy sentries, I’ve been forced to halt outside Pathankot for the night.  Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been able to trace you.  I suggest that I come and pick you up first thing tomorrow morning.”

X-  agreed without reservations and bid his caller goodnight.  He replaced the handset and settled back on his bedroll.  Now that he knew he was on his way, his weariness seemed to have vanished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOUR

 

 

 

Battles are fought by soldiers, sailors and airmen who are wedded together into battalions, air squadrons, flotillas and so on.  Team work depends on a combination of individual professional skills, group drills, routine procedures and rigorous training.  Each man must know his weapon and his designated role in the team.  This is the ideal which, alas, often never happens in real life.  Senior military commanders are forever putting up plans to modernize their respective services.  These proposals cost a lot of money.  These are seldom implemented in full or in time. Thus, in every war that India has fought from 1947 to Kargil, the armed forces have faced critical shortages of one kind or the other.  What this implies may best be understood by recounting an episode that occurred in the Indo-Pak War of 1965, when a brigade was launched into operations minus one battalion and under a new commander, with unit’s short of officers, maps and weapons, with mis-matching wireless equipment and vintage guns which were inferior to what the Pakistanis were using.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

Exploits of a Mountain Brigade  in Tank Territory

 

By the first week of September 1965, it was learnt that Pakistan’s 7 Infantry Division was defending Sialkot. [To avoid confusion in the narrative, all Pakistan formations will hereafter be marked with P after their designations.]  It was estimated that 15 Infantry Division [P] and 6 Armoured Division [P] were located somewhere in the general area of Pasrur and to its west.  It was elements of those formations, which had attacked across the cease-fire in Jammu and Kashmir [J&K], to capture Chhamb and threaten Akhnur.

Against this we had 26 Infantry Division earmarked for the defence of Jammu.  In addition to this, 1 Armoured Division and 6 Mountain Division, less one mountain brigade, were expected to concentrate in the area of J&K to the east of Sialkot by 5 September.  14 Infantry Division was expected to concentrate in the same area only by 14 September at the very earliest.  Thus, on 7 September, we were actually inferior in overall strength in this sector. 

Nevertheless the army planned to enter Pakistan on 7 September through J&K on a front of about 15 miles, to the east of Sialkot.  This was necessary as a defensive measure in order to ease Pakistani pressure on the Chhamb sector.  The country chosen for the break-in was flat and tankable everywhere except for Aik Nadi, which runs from east to west and lies immediately to the south of Sialkot; this is a partial tank obstacle.

Sialkot district is heavily cultivated and small villages exist at approximately every 1000 yards.  The chief crops are rice, wheat, bajra, cotton and sugar cane.  In September, the rice fields were already green with the crops planted in July.  However, these fields were not flooded and presented no obstacle to the movement of vehicles.  The sugar cane and bajra fields had standing crops, which were over 6 feet high.

All the roads in the area were dirt tracks, except the main tarmac road from Pasrur to Sialkot. Wheeled vehicles could move cross-country anywhere without much difficulty.  Observation from the top of a tree was very good and generally possible till as far as the horizon provided intervening obstacles did not obscure vision.  However, the sugar cane and bajra fields, and numerous sisal groves provided ideal concealment for rocket-launcher jeeps.  Every village served as a screen behind which armour could be concealed.

On the night of 7/8 September, 6 Mountain Division crossed the international boundary and secured Maharajke and Charwa.  By last light on 8 September this salient had been extended to Cross Road.  Pakistani screen positions composed of regular infantry soldiers along with an Engineer Company [P] were captured in these preliminary actions.  Several trucks loaded with anti-tank mines and other material for the construction of defensive works were also captured.  The Pakistanis had had no time to lay mines. On the western flank of this salient, 26 Infantry Division had secured the area Bahragarhi.

On 9 September, 1 Armoured Division pushed outwards from the salient.  This stage of the fighting was intense and though Pakistan threw in all available resources of armour, artillery and air into the battle, they were forced to fall back into Phillora were a series of close-quarter tank battles were fought and casualties inflicted on both sides.  By 11 September, Phillora had been secured.  To the east of this armoured thrust, our forces had secured Kangre and infantry patrols had entered Zafarwala located some four miles south east of Kangre.  The village was deserted.. However, events were less successful to the west.  43 Lorried Brigade, composed of a mixed force of infantry and tanks, had tried to advance beyond Pagowal.  This force was thrown back by a fierce counter attack of Patton tanks, operating from the area of Kalarawanda.  43 Lorried Brigade had fallen back to the area Kaloi.

The estimated locations of hostile forces at last light 11 September were as follows-.

 

One infantry brigade {ex-7 Infantry Division[P]} with a mixed regiment of Sherman and Patton tanks in Ura with the task of  denying the eastern and southern approaches to Sialkot

 

On infantry brigade {ex-15 Infantry Division [P]} with a regiment of Patton tanks in area Badhiana with the task of denying the eastern approaches to Badhiana and the southern approaches to Sialkot.

 

6 Armoured Division [P] and 15 Infantry Division [P] less one brigade, in the area Pasrur and Chawinda. This force had had at least one squadron of armour and one battalion of infantry mauled in the fighting at Phillora.

 

The location of our forces at first light 12 September were as follows-

 

168 Infantry Brigade [ex- 26 Infantry Division] area Bajragarhi.

69 Mountain Brigade [ex-6 Mountain Division] area Maharajke.

99 Mountain Brigade [ex-6 Mountain Division] area Charwa..

35 Infantry Brigade [ex-14 Infanntry Division] area Cross Road

116 Infantry Brigade [ex-14 Infanntry Division] area Kangre.

43 Lorried Brigade [ex-1 Armoured Division] area Kaloi being relieved by a battalion 99Mountain Brigade to enable it to join 1 Armoured Division.

1 Armoured Division less 43 Lorried Brigade  in harbour north of Phillora.

 

Commander 69 Mountain Brigade had been relieved of his command on 5 September.  His relief only reached the brigade on 10 September. The new brigade commander had never worked or trained with the units of the brigade; a desirable prerequisite before battle.  His first task was to meet his subordinate unit commanders and at least get to know their names.  At that time, plans were being discussed for a major thrust towards Chawinda.  It was necessary that Pagowal be secured before this operation could be launched.

The village of Pagowal [spelt as Bhagowal on Pakistani maps] is situated six miles to the west of Maharajke and almost the same distance to the southeast of Sialkot.  Securing the area Pagowal would ensure the safety of the western flank of our forces operating  ahead of Phillora.  It would also widen our scope of operations and control the roads leading from the southeast to Sialkot and the road leading to Badiana, which cuts across the railway and road links between Pasrur and Sialkot.

The new Brigade Commander, who had been anticipating orders for an advance to Pagowal, had visited the area Kaloi on the morning of 12 September. At 1700 hours on 12 September, the General Officer Commanding  [GOC] 6 Mountain Division ordered Commander 69 Mountain Brigade to form an infantry-armour combat group and secure Pagowal by first light 13 September. [The meteorological data for 13 September showed first light as 0632 hours and last light 1800 hours.  There was a full moon rising on 12 September at 1950 hours and setting on 13 September at 0901 hours.] The troops allotted to 69 Mountain Brigade for this task were as follows-

 

62 Cavalry less one squadron.  This consisted of 24 Sherman tanks of which 6 tanks were fitted with 75mm guns and the remainder with 76 mm guns.

 

9 Kumaon [approximately 800 men]

 

3 Madras   [  ditto ]

 

One company 4 Madras [approximately 100 men]

 

93 Mountain Composite Regiment [Towed] less one battery.  This consisted of eight 3.7 howitzer guns [of World War I vintage] and four 120 mm mortars.

 

An Air Contact Team which enables the brigade to contact support aircraft

 

Two medium regiments and one field regiment of artillery were located within support range of the brigade, but these guns were on priority call to 1 Armoured Division.

 

A warning order was issued almost immediately. for all the concerned commanding officers to assemble at Headquarters [HQ] 69 Mountain Brigade for orders.  However all were only able to get together by 2100 hours, at which time final orders were issued.

6 Mountain Division had been located in the hills on the northern border.  It was neither organised nor equipped to operate in the plains along with armour.  Ninety per cent of the men had never trained with tanks.  The infantry battalions had been issued with 106 mm recoil-less guns the week before and gun-crews had not yet fired this weapon.  Luckily, in their first attack at Maharajke, 69 Mountain Brigade had captured several Pakistani recoil-less guns with some ammunition.  A hurried field-firing practice had been conducted on 9 September by 3 Madras and 9 Kumaon to teach  gun-crews the basic essentials.

Only a few maps of the area were available.  Major units had been issued with about three maps each.  This meant that most of the infantry company commanders, tank squadron and troop commanders, and artillery battery and forward observation officers had no maps and were working with hastily prepared sketch maps.  No radio communications could be arranged between tanks and infantry, as their respective wireless sets were incompatible.  It was not even possible to establish radio communications between the Brigade Commander and CO 62 Cavalry.  The CO was therefore ordered to stay near at hand so that he could receive orders and relay his advice by voice.  Ad hoc hand signals were devised for communications between individual tanks and infantry platoons.  The 3.7 howitzer guns, which had been allotted in direct support had a very limited range, so plans had to be made for them to accompany advancing troops. Considering all these factors, the brigade commander appreciated that time for briefing and “marrying up” at all levels was essential.  After consulting unit commanders he decided that 0400 hours 13 September was the very earliest time they could launch this operation

No precise information of enemy locations in the area of Pagowal was available.  All that CO 62 Cavalry could say with any certainty was that Patton tanks were operating there on 11 September.  He sounded unnecessarily emotional as he added, “I should know.  On squadron of them attacked me yesterday and knocked out three of my tanks; their burnt out hulks are now lying outside Pagowal.”  Very little infantry had been seen but at least one heavy artillery regiment [155mm] located in Sialkot and one medium artillery regiment [105 mm] located at Badiana had supported the Patton tanks on 11 September.

The Brigade Commander, with calculated optimism, assured his unit commanders that the main Pakistani defences were at Ura and Badiana.  All that they should  expect in the area of Pagowal was a light screen position composed of some infantry and tanks.  It was imperative that we by-pass this position and do not attempt to enter Pagowal.  The defenders will run away once they know that they have been cut off.  We can then clear Pagowal at leisure by daylight.  The operation would be conducted as a night advance with infantry leading the advance. The Brigadier emphasised that no attempt must be made to clear small villages en route.  These will be skirted. The walking time from Kaloi to Pagowal was two hours, and if they started at 0400 hours, and all went well, they would be in the vicinity of their respective objectives [open fields located between Pagowal and Kalawaranda] just before first light. Every effort must then be made to dig down on the objective as fast as possible in order to be ready to face a tank counter attack and observed artillery fire after first light.

Kaloi was selected as the starting point and 3 Madras was detailed as the Advanced Guard.  This would be closely followed by 62 Cavalry, 9 Kumaon, Tactical Headquarters 69 Mountain Brigade and the Gun Group, in that order of march.  Company 4 Madras and the main Brigade Headquarters would not move from Kaloi till they received further orders.   The final bounds were to be treated as the Brigade defended sector.  These were given out as follows-

 

3 Madras: West of Pagowal to secure the road leading from Pagowal to Ura. [This is the Sialkot Cantonment road.]  Defences must keep at least 2000 yards away from Kalarawanda.

9 Kumaon: Southwest of Pagowal to secure the road leading from Phillora to Sialkot [This is the Sialkot City road.]

Gun Area would be located east of Pagowal.. Tanks will be prepared to harbour at night in that area. Company 4 Madras will be prepared to provide protection to that area when called up

 

Commanders at all levels appreciated the fact that the ideal would have been for troops to be dug down by before first light, but they were also aware that the start time could not be made earlier than 0400 hours for the reasons already explained.  The Brigade Commander warned his unit commanders that they should expect un-aimed small arms fire from the villages en route.  This should be ignored.  On no account must anyone open fire in retaliation. The tanks would be making enough noise to wake up the dead; so this was not a matter of maintaining surprise.  Firing at night is seldom effective.  It only creates confusion and usually results in own troops firing at one another with consequent loss of control.  If they physically contacted an enemy patrol, they would deal with it with the bayonet.  Every effort will be made to maintain close contact with one another and press on at full sped so as to reach the area of the final bounds by before first light.  After this, they should be prepared to face observed artillery and tank fire, and be ready to meet a counter-attack, probably from the direction of Kalarawanda, by Patton tanks supported by fighter aircraft.  It was essential that they dig down as fast as possible after reaching their final bounds.

The Brigade Commander ended his orders by cheerfully reminding his listeners that “Pakistani armour, like ours, has never moved out of their cantonments for the past 18 years.  I have no doubt that they will have withdrawn to safe night harbours.  So you don’t have to worry about enemy tanks till after breakfast, by which time we should be well dug in.”  Whereas the Brigade Commander was wrong in his first assessment, he was correct about the second, but for reasons other than he anticipated.

The leading rifle company of 3 Madras crossed the starting point at Kaloi at 0400 hours on 13 September and set out along the Kaloi-Pagowal track at a fast pace.  It was a bright moon lit night. The company was followed by 62 Cavalry tank column moving in single file.  The tanks moved with a deafening noise and were flanked on  either side and to the rear by the remaining  three rifle companies of 3 Madras, all in close order. Maintaining this formation, the advanced guard reached the area of the track junction some two miles short of Pagowal at 0530 hours from where the men got their first glimpse of Pagowal, silhouetted against the skyline in the half-light preceding dawn.

Pagowal village consists of about 300 adobe and brick houses, which must have housed a population of about 1500 persons.  Like most ancient villages, Pagowal stands on a high mound about 100 feet above the general ground level; the mound being the creation of centuries of village debris.  The other villages immediately surrounding Pagowal are smaller and consist of clusters of about 50 to 100 houses.

From the track junction, the advanced guard moved cross country in a north westerly direction, through thick sugar cane fields skirting several small villages from which the sound of automatic fire was heard and ignored.  By 0630 hours the leading elements were astride the Sialkot Cantonment road.  3 Madras began coordinating their defences and digging down astride the road.  62 Cavalry moved a little ahead of the battalion to screen their position.  Meanwhile 9 Kumaon moving westwards between 3 Madras and Pagowal, had still to reach the Sialkot City road. The noise of our tanks, moving about in the area, was deafening. Some civilians and a few personnel in khaki uniforms were seen running southwards from Pagowal,  through  thick bajra fields.  No attempt was made to apprehend them or enter Pagowal. The guns were moving into their allotted area.  Not a shot had been fired by our men till now.  All were busy reaching their respective objectives or digging down for all they were worth.

Pakistan’s main defences were located at Badiana.  In the first week of September, strong covering positions had been prepared on the general line Kalarwanda, Pagowal and Phillora. Two miles to the south of Pagowal, on the road leading to Badiana, is located the village of Wadianwala, which is the next biggest village in the area.  This consists of about 250 houses and is also situated on a 100 feet high mound from where it dominates the road to  Badiana, and the Sialkot City road and railway line.. Behind the forward covering position, a second line of defences had been prepared at Wadianwala and Chawinda....

At  the three forward covering positions,  Kalarwanda, Pagowal and Phillora, the defenders had prepared dug-down positions for their tanks, which were supported by mobile infantry, heavy mortars and artillery forward observers who operated from wireless fitted jeeps. This line of defence was first penetrated by our forces when Phillora was secured by 1 Armoued Division on 11 September. The defenders at Phillora had fallen back and joined the defenders at Chawinda.

By first light 13 September, when Pagowal was being by-passed by 69 Mountain Brigade, the Pakistan commander in the sector Pagowal must have been subjected to conflicting emotions.  At 0400 hours he would have received reports from his forward patrols that a large force was moving towards Pagowal. At about 0500 hours he would have heard the deafening noise of out tanks. At 0600 hours, though they could see nothing clearly, the Pakistanis were sure that a tank force was by-passing Pagowal from the west.  Fearing that their only line of withdrawal to Badiana was being cut off, they withdrew in a hurry. They joined the defenders at Wadianwala.  In their haste to get away, they abandoned one Patton tank and a wireless-fitted jeep in the sugar cane fields to the immediate east of Pagowal.  Both vehicles were brand new and in perfect working condition.  The jeep contained an artillery pamphlet entitled, “Duties of an Artillery OP”.  [This pamphlet was rather inappropriately flagged at the chapter entitled “Static Ops”.]  Of the three original covering position, only Kalarwanda still remained in their hands

At 0700 hrs, one Pakistani air observation aircraft flew low over Pagowal.  This was an unarmed propeller driven two-seater plane. It began slowly circling over our troops.  The brigade had no anti-aircraft guns or fighter aircraft in support. It could nothing about this. The Pakistani observers were primarily in search of our 1 Armoured Brigade, which till then lay concealed in their night harbours north of Phillora..  The Pakistanis wanted to assess in which direction our next main thrust was to be launched.  One can picture the scene that presented itself to the Pakistani observers.  Twenty-four tanks were edging their way under every copse or sugar cane clump about 1500 yards east of the railway line in anticipation of a Pakistani armour and air strike, which was expected at any time after first light.   About 15 small and medium-sized vehicles carrying ammunition and defence stores were being unloaded in the 3 Madras defended area where the men were busy digging their positions.

9 Kumaon were still milling around, coordinating a defensive position astride the Sialkot City road.  Moving along the track from Kaloi and skirting Pagowal was a column of 15 vehicles, shrouded in a dust haze, carrying essential stores and ammunition for 9 Kumaon. [This unit was short of military vehicles, their transport column therefore  included six civilian load carriers.  In the dust haze. the wooden rectangular bodies of the civil trucks must have resembled brigade and divisional  command vehicles.]  Behind this were about 20 vehicles of the gun group, each vehicle represented by a small cloud of dust as it moved forward to the gun area.  One can well imagine the confused thoughts of the Pakistani air observers as they looked down at the scene below them. One can further imagine the uncertainty prevailing at the higher HQ [P] located at Badiana, which was receiving alarming reports, firstly, from those who had fallen back from Pagowal to Wadianwala, and now from the air observers.   It was not surprising that a second air observation aircraft, which was flying over Phillora, was ordered to join the first aircraft and both planes began apprehensively circling over Pagowal.

At 0715 hours, Pakistani guns opened artillery fire on 69 Mountain Brigade defences from three widely dispersed gun area; one heavy regiment [P] and one field regiment [P] from Sialkot, one medium regiment [P] and one field regiment [P] from Badiana and one medium regiment [P] and one field regiment [P] from Chawinda.  Some heavy mortars [P] also opened fire on the brigade from west of the railway line.  These kept continually changing their positions.  It was appreciated that these were mounted on carriers and were being employed in a mobile role.

By now the Brigade’s 3.7 howitzers had been deployed in the gun area; our “pea shooters” reported that they were ready to fire and were available for direct support. They were ordered to stand by.  When 69 Mountain Brigade tactical HQ reached about 1000 yards short of Pagowal, the Brigade Commander intended to halt and establish himself there.  However, CO 62 Cavalry, forgetful of the order to always position himself alongside the Brigade Commander, chose that moment to follow Napoleon’s injunction of “marching to the sound of the guns”.  He suddenly left the brigade tactical HQ and drove off towards the gap between 3 Madras and 9 Kumaon defensive areas in a cloud of dust.  The Brigade was reluctant to move his tactical HQ further forward .as this was unnecessary and would place it in a dangerous position.  However, he did go forward to eventually establish himself north of Pagowal, to the immediate rear of the gap  between the two battalions’  defensive positions.

By 0800 hours the Pakistanis had fired about 1000 rounds of artillery ammunition of all types.  The heaviest concentrations of Pakistani artillery fire kept landing along the road junction to the south of Pagowal on the road to Wadianwala. The defenders at Wadianwala were apparently convinced that an attack was about to be mounted on them. They began vacating their defences and withdrawing to Badiana.

The two spotter aircraft kept returning to their airstrips for re-fuelling in relays, At 0800 hours, 1 Armoured Brigade broke out of their night harbours.   The defenders at Badiana were alarmed to observe Centurion tanks operating in the area of Alhar railway station. [The Centurion tank is of British origin. Its tank gun is slightly inferior to the gun of the American Patton tank. However, the tank crews of 1 Armoured Brigade were confident that the Centurion’s superior silhouette and track performance made it more than a match for the Patton in tank battle.]  On receiving this news, one of the air observation aircraft flew off in the direction Chawinda.  Now both Pagowal and Phillora were being kept under continual observation. The spotter pilots and defenders at Badiana and Chawinda were apparently still confused about the location of 1 Armoured Brigade and the direction of the main thrust.    Had the tanks which were observed near Alhar Railway Station come from the area Phillora or Pagowal ?  Those who were defending Badiana were probably convinced that the main thrust would be across the railway line, west of Alhar.  Those defending Chawinda expected this to be across the railway line between Alhar Railway Station and Chawinda  or from the east of Chawinda.

Perhaps it was only by about 0900 hours that they were fairly certain that the main armour threat was from Phillora and not Pagowal.  By then they had fired about 2000 rounds of precious artillery ammunition all around Pagowal. [Pakistan had a marked superiority in heavy artillery and their tanks were equipped with superior guns, but they were extremely short of ammunition for both these types of weapons.] Thereafter, hostile guns in the area of Chawinda and Badiana confined their attentions to the activities of 1 Armoured Brigade.  It was only the guns from the Sialkot area, which continued to engage targets around Pagowal.

By 1130 hours on 13 September, fighting patrols from 3 Madras and 9 Kumaon had cleared the villages and copses up to about 1000 yards short of the railway line.    Sounds of tank movement could be heard west of the railway line.  Forward movement by our infantry or tanks immediately attracted tank gun and mortar fire.  The Brigade Commander was quite please with the progress of the operations.  He decided to visit the two battalions.  At 1200 hours whilst he was at HQ 9 Kumaon, a red smoke flare landed on one of our tanks, which was located nearby.  The flare appeared to have fired from one of the copses east of the railway line.

Anticipating that this was some signal for an attack, the Brigade Commander began walking back towards his command post.  He was half way back when a second flare was fired from the same area.  This landed near  another one of our tanks.  This was followed almost immediately by low level rocketting and straffing of our positions by four Sabre jet aircraft.  The flares had been fired to indicate targets and a safe bomb line to their aircraft.  If the forward troops had reacted quickly at the first instance and fired a few red smoke flares anywhere near the railway line, Pakistani fighter pilots would have been thoroughly confused.  They may have even been fooled into attacking their own tanks.  But it was now too late for such a ruse.

Each Pakistani jet made six strikes on the two marked areas.  Fortunately they missed hitting any tanks.  Unfortunately the Brigade Commander, who was then lying flat on his face, was in the zone of likely misses.  It has been accepted by all those who were within earshot that the Brigadier’s language on that occasion, whilst reflecting little credit to his rank or service, was quite the most lurid ever heard.

Appreciating that it was unlikely that there would be another air attack the Brigade Commander ordered  main Brigade HQ to move forward from Kaloi and join  Tactical HQ.  Telephone lines were laid to both battalions and the gun area.  Line communications to Divisional HQ were still not through.  The rest of the day was spent consolidating the defences and searching every village within the area, including Paghowal.  3 Madras reported that a very old lady, age estimated to be over 90 years, was resident in one of the small villages ..She had apparently been abandoned by her relatives because she could not walk.  The battalion was told to look after her till arrangements could be made to evacuate her.

At 1500 hours, artillery and mortar fire once again opened up on the brigafe position  from two gun areas around Sialkot and one gun area near Badiana.  This was being directed by the two spotter aircraft, which had resumed circling our positions.  The guns appeared to be registering targets.   CO 93 Mountain Regiment warned the Brigadier that this pattern of artillery fire indicated that an attack was imminent.

At 1530 hours, an intense bombardment was started with rates of fire varying from normal to rapid.  Over 1000 rounds of artillery and mortar ammunition were fired on our positions.  At 1600 hours the shelling ceased and long-range tank gun fire opened up on us.  Twelve Patton tanks were observed advancing from the west of Kalarawanda.  The tanks moved forward slowly in a line abreast formation with about 80 yards gap between the eight forward tanks.  Four tanks were located further back in depth.  About six infantrymen followed each of the forward tanks.  Groups of infantrymen  were also reported to have been seen well to the rear, readily available in case of success.  Heavy tank gun fire and small arms automatic fire also opened up from the copses located immediately to the east of the Railway line.

This was the Brigade’s lucky day.  Radio communications had been behaving indifferently till then.  But at that moment, CO 93 Mountain Regiment got through to the Commander Artillery Brigade located at  HQ 6 Mountain Division and,  through him,to the Commander Artillery Brigade located with  HQ 1 Armoured Division.  69 Mountain Brigade was assured of the fire support of every gun within range.  Commander 1 Corps Artillery, who happened to then be through on line communications with HQ 6 Mountain Division, at once offered and provided the fire support of all the Medium Regiments located in Jammu sector.

Pakistani tanks had reached 1200 yards away from our forward troops when our guns opened fire.  This was perhaps one of the heaviest concentrations of artillery fired in 1 Corps Sector.  After 10 minutes, when the dust settled down, Pakistani tanks were seen to be scattered and halted.  Two enemy tanks appeared to have been damaged by artillery fire.  No hostile infantry were in sight.  They must have suffered casualties during this engagement.  But the Brigade was then not able to follow up withdrawing enemy troops because the four Patton tanks, which had been located in depth, continued to stand off about 1500 yards away from our forward positions.  From here they engaged any movement that attracted their attention whilst the remainder slowly withdrew.

During this engagement, one squadron of our Sherman tanks had remained carefully camouflaged in dug down positions within the infantry defended localities in a static role.  These tanks had not opened fire or moved because for them to attempt to do so would have been fatal.  Their orders were to wait till Pakistani tanks closed up to within 800 yards and only then to open fire for a kill.  The Patton tank has a telescopic range finder graduated and coupled to their gun for ranges up to 4000 yards, at which range their armour piercing shot could kill a Sherman if it struck home.  It was know, and tested, that the Sherman’s 75 mm gun could barely penetrate the weakest parts of a Patton tank at 1000 yards.  Thus the odds were most unfavourable and our tanks and recoilless gun crews who were deployed in a static role in the open shouldered a very grim and unenviable task.

However, at the start of this action, our second armoured squadron, which was in a mobile role, had been moved between and to the rear of the two battalions.  This gave flexibility to the defences.  It also confused the attacker of the actual extent of our defences and our flanks.  Whenever the dust cleared, the tanks of this squadron kept up a slow long-range tank fire on the Pattons with high explosive ammunition.  These shells could do little damage to the Pattons but it increased the dust and smoke in their vicinity, thereby making it difficult for their tank gunners to take effective aim.  This also made it difficult for Pakistani tank commanders to stick their heads out of the tank copula and exercise effective control. It certainly disconcerted the accompanying infantry. Hostile tanks remained in position till 1800 hours when they withdrew towards Sialkot.

Despite these efforts to confuse their armour, Pakistani tanks gunners were able to score three hits on our Shermans.  It is fortunate that none of these three tanks brewed up.  However, all three tanks were put out of action.  Two of these were back into use within 48 hours; the third took a little longer but was back in use within four days.  Artillery forward observation officers were deployed on trees from where they directed artillery concentrations.  CO 62 Cavalry, who had learnt how necessary it was for him to stay near the Brigade Commander, was also able to relay individual tank requests for artillery fire support through CO 93 Mountain Regiment.  These arrangements were far from ideal but they worked.

It is advisable for non-participants to keep their heads down when tanks are firing at one another.  A Patton tank’s gun, if elevated, can lob a shell over 15 miles. The gun has a high muzzle velocity and its shot has a flat trajectory for the first 4000 yards. If a tank gunner misses his target, the shell will keep going, eventually hit the ground and plough in, or ricochet with a terrifying screech and keep bouncing and skipping through the fields till it hits something solid or loses its momentum.  Soldiers as far away as 10 miles from the scene of actions have been killed by stray tank shells. Over seventy officers and other ranks were killed or wounded throughout the first day’s action.  Twenty-five per cent of the casualties were due to tank gun and small arms fire and the remainder due to artillery shelling.  But morale was high and the brigade was in full possession of its objectives.  Medical teams worked well forward and it was heartening to have the senior medical officer of HQ 6 Mountain Division as the brigade’s very first visitor that day.

 The territory situated between two opposing forces is termed “no-man’s-land” as it is unoccupied.  The aim of the two opposing forces should be to dominate no-man’s-land.  Whoever dominates no-man’s-land, dominates the battlefield. This is done by vigorous patrolling.  Fighting patrols for the night were planned and orders given out.  Meanwhile, tanks were withdrawn to a harbour west of Pagowal where one company 4 Madras had already been moved for their protection.  During the night, stray sniping and random bursts of tracer ammunition were fired towards the defences from the copses and villages that fringed the Railway line.  Several Pakistani jitter parties crept close to the defences and attempted to draw fire of our forward posts but the men behaved like veterans and held their fire.

At first light 14 September, our tanks broke night harbour and were once again in position to meet any eventuality.  Our fighting patrols had returned from their night’s tasks and were being debriefed.  None of the patrols had succeeded in making aggressive contact with suspected Pakistani tank night harbours west of the railway line as planned and ordered.  The performance of patrols had been unimpressive but this had not disappointed the Brigade Commander.  He advised the COs not to be over ambitious. Patrolling is one of the most exacting of all infantry tasks.  It would be unreal to expect outstanding results on the first night.   “Battle inoculation is very much like losing one’s virginity.  Green troops require to be introduced to violence by a series of successful small-scale  actions.”

 Reports from our eastern flank indicated 43 Lorried Brigade was holding a firm base in the area Phillora, with elements accompanying 1 Armoured Brigade in a close protection role. Wadianwala was reported clear of hostile troops; its defenders had fallen back to Chawinda.  1 Armoured Division dominated the areas Alhar Railway Station, cross roads east of Chawinda  and  Kangre. An armoured division dominates by maneuver; it does not have the capacity to hold ground.  Two infantry brigades ex-14 Infantry Division had been  made available to 1 Armoured Division for the role of holding ground overrun by it.  These were deployed at Cross Road and Kangre. Unfortunately, 1 Corps lacked further infantry resources.  The third infantry brigade of 14 Infantry Division was moving into the Corps area, but it would only be available for operations after 15 September.  Patrols from 1 Armoured Brigade reported that Zafarwala, south of Kangre, which had been reported deserted on 10 September, had since been reoccupied by a Pakistani soldiers.  No attempt was made to clear that town

Reports from our western flank indicated that 26 Infantry Division , which was holding Bajragarhi, would attempt a night attack on Kalarawanda.

Reports from Punjab indicated that a major tank battle was taking place west of Amritsar.  None of us had any doubt that the outcome of that battle would be decisive.

The Brigade Commander visited 3 Madras on the evening of 14 September and was with them during the battalion “stand to”.  This is standard routine in a defensive position.  All ranks take up their battle positions, site their weapons, and famliarise themselves with their arcs of observations and fire.  This is done repeatedly twice a day, at first light and last light.  Thus in an emergency, whether at night on in the day, everyone knows exactly where to go and what to do.  Forward troops reported that a small boy, about ten years old, had emerged from a copse ahead of the position and fearlessly walked towards the defences.  He was carrying a food container and said that he had brought food for his grandmother; the old lady who was in the battalion’s custody.

3 Madras was having quite a problem feeding the old lady. The boy was taken to meet his grandmother. He opened the food container, which was filled with a soft gooey rice preparation.  He explained that his grandmother had no teeth and needed soft food. The unit’s overzealous cooks, little realising that the lady had no teeth, had gone out their way to prepare a special Punjabi diet of parathas [flat fried wheat pancakes] and vegetables for her.  She had been refusing the meal because she could not masticate the parathas . The boy was reassured that his grandmother was being looked after.  She would shortly be handed over to the Red Cross and sent to Pakistan. The boy was sent back across no-man’s-land.  He was warned not to return as it was dangerous and he could be shot by accident.  3 Madras, having learnt about the lady’s dental problem, thereafter began preparing familiar south Indian rice delicacies, which she apparently enjoyed eating. [She was visited by the unit’s medical officer every day and was returned through the Red Cross after the cease-fire.]

Soon after last light, one company of infantry from 26 Infantry Division  attacked and captured Kalarawanda.  They were immediately counter attacked by a mixed force of tanks and infantry and were thrown back after fierce fighting.  The situation was retrieved by a battalion attack, which recaptured Kalarawanda by first light 15 September.  Our guns and mortars provided fire support during this phase of the action. Two Pakistani Sherman tanks were knocked out in those battles.  With Kalarawanda in our hands, the northern flank was secure and 1 Corps could devote its full attention to the west and south. The company of 4 Madras was removed from the command of 69 Mountain Brigade and ordered to rejoin its parent unit for operations elsewhere.

On 15 September, the third infantry brigade from in-coming 14 Infantry Division was placed under command of 6 Mountain Division.  The brigade was moved to occupy the area Wadianwala and Alhar Railway Station, and was warned to be prepared for an assault on Chawinda.

The movement of tanks each evening and morning into and out of their night harbour is really meaningless whilst tanks are deployed in a defensive role.  This results in the cutting of telephone lines laid along the ground, raises unnecessary dust and creates too much noise at a time when silence is essential so that our forward patrols and listening posts can pick up the sounds of Pakistani tanks moving into and out of their night harbours.  Tanks only need to withdraw into a night harbour after a long day’s mobile action, when they need infantry protection so that the tank crew can rest, and also require time for re-fuelling and re-arming.  In defence, those requirements can seldom assume any degree of urgency.  We therefore decided to modify our night harbour traditions.  Dug down positions were prepared for the second tank squadron. The Brigade Commander ordered that 62 Cavalry would not move into night harbour each day, but would continue to occupy their dug down positions after last light. Meanwhile, 69 Mountain Brigade continued to improve its defensive positions.   On the afternoon of 15 September, the brigade defended area was engaged by intermittent artillery fire and two air attacks which did no major damage.

Patrolling on each successive night after 15 September showed a marked increase in aggressiveness.  By 16 September, patrols lead by young officers were confidently crossing the railway line and attacking transport moving on the main Sialkot-Pasrur Road.  Several clashes took place between our fighting patrols and  enemy parties.  Our soldiers came out on top in every action, asserting our supremacy over no-man’s-land.  Fighting patrols from the brigade at Alhar Railway Station dominated the area soouth of the railway line and west of Chawinda.  The area  east of Chawinda was being dominated by 1 Armed Division.

Chawinda, situated on a mound dominated the roads leading to Badiana and Pasrur was a tempting objective.  Its capture would unhinge Pakistani defences.  But Chawinda was not an easy target.  It was a well defended locality, which had been reinforced by troops that had fallen back from Pagowal, Phillora and Wadianwala. Professionals know that the firepower of modern weapons has given the defender an over-whelming advantage over an attacker.  World War I had proved that disciplined and well-entrenched soldiers, with ample ammunition and supplies, cannot be dislodged by attacking infantry.  This factor brought stagnation to the battlefield.  This situation was broken by the invention of the tank which restored mobility and  offensive action and showed that there is no reliable static defence against a well planned armoured offensive.

Because Chawinda “mound” was a tank obstacle, it could not be overrun by tanks.  The situation was very similar to what faced 43 Lorried Brigade at Pagowal.  69 Mountain Brigade avoided a frontal attack on Pagowal and thereby succeeded in forcing the defenders of Pagowal  to withdraw because they were being cut off.  Chawinda’s western and eastern approaches were already being cut off. An ideal tactical plan would be to impose two further tactical blocks, one on the track Badiana-Chawainda, and another on the track Chawinda-Pasrur.  Once these were in place, Pakistan’s military highher command would be faced with only two options: either counter-attack and eliminate one of these “blocks” and thereby keep a route of supply open to the defenders; or order the withdrawal of their troops from Chawinda.

Unfortunately, 1 Corps did not have enough resources to hold on to what it had already captured, and at the same time establish two strong “blocks” as suggested, and to thereafter also maintain a strong reserve force to deal with an anticipated counter attack by armour supported by air cover.  GOC 1 Corps therefore decided to attack Chawinda from the Alhar Railway Station.  He knew that the tactical odds favoured the defender.  He planned to overcome this by heavy artillery and tank fire support.  He hoped that the low morale of the Pakistanis, who had been retreating over the past week, would favour the attacker.  He ordered that attack to be mounted on the night 16/17 September.  The attack was launched as ordered and pressed home with great courage.  Indian infantrymen were thrown back after suffering heavy losses.  It would be unfair to attribute this failure to lack of leadership or will.  This was a gamble that failed.

The gloom created by this set back was diminished by new received from  Punjab that attacking Pakistani forces had suffered a severe defeat and lost the cream of their armour at Khem Karan.  By this time it was evident that neither Pakistan nor India had the material resources to continue any offensives in any sector.  Patrol actions became the sole activity on the battle field thereafter till a cease-fire was brought into effect on the night 22/23 September.  As if to leave no doubts in the Brigade Commander’s mind that the fighting had indeed stopped, he was immediately informed that though 62 Cavalry would continue to be located with 69 Mountain Brigade to perform its allotted role, but it would now be under command 1 Armoured Division.  Things were obviously returning to normal. 

69 Mountain Brigade’s total casualties from 13 September till the cease-fire were 108 all ranks killed, wounded or missing.  The breakdown of this total by rank and category of casualty, was: killed, three officers, 2 junior commissioned officers [JCO], 36 other ranks; wounded, 7 officers, 4 JCOs and 65 other ranks; and missing 1 other rank.

Later, a team of military “experts” composed of serious-looking officers from Army HQ, New Delhi visited the Brigade HQ.  During a post-battle discussion, the visitors expressed surprise that the Commander had chosen to move a mixed group of infantry and tanks at night, without night-driving devices.  “Thank heaven your tactical gamble paid off”. The Brigadier pointed out that he really had no other choice.  An infantry night attack on Pagowal would have been suicidal; a day attack would have been suicidal for  both  tanks and the infantry. The night move was not a gamble but a good example of the KISS principle. His interrogators were puzzled. “Kiss?”, they asked.  They were told that KISS meant “ Keep It Simple Stupid”

The Brigade Commander was next asked to explain why he had established his HQ so far forward, in a dangerously exposed position.  The Brigadier laughed and said, “I did not have my third battalion.  I wanted to give the defence some depth and maintain some degree of symmetry.  I also wished to regain visual communications, if nothing else.”  He was then asked what he had learnt from these operations.  He said that four factors had probably contributed to the success of the brigade: good COs, competent  non-commissioned officers [NCOs], disciplined courageous jawans, and a fair amount of luck. [The Brigade Commander was being modest. His subordinates claimed that the success of the brigade was largely due to cool professional planning by the Brigade Commander and his unfailing sense of humour.]  His interrogators were not happy with generalities and asked him to compile the customary list of lessons learnt. The Brigade Commander felt  that it would be far wiser to write a factual account of what happened. Sensible readers who read this would learn their own lessons depending on their individual points of view.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE

 

Soldiers do not like to deal with an internal law and order situation for three reasons.  Firstly, it is his secondary role and is always carried out at the expense of training and preparing for his primary role. Secondly, a soldier dislikes having to shoot at misguided fellow citizens.  Lastly, soldiers resent being involved in internal problems, which they believe could have been resolved by timely action on the part of hesitant civil servants and police.  The situation becomes acute when requests for aid to civil governance is followed by orders for the armed forces to proceed to Sri Lanka and Maldives to “further India’s vital interests”  These oversea commitments, which are undertaken without a debate in Parliament on what constitutes “vital national interests”,  not only imposes a strain on the armed forces but also establishes dangerous precedents for the nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

Expanding Military Roles, Internal Security & Morale

 

During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, Mrs Gandhi’s strategic perception and control on the five fronts was superb.  She used persuasion, hindrance and coercion on all the five fronts without opening hostilities.  Military force was only used as a last resort when Pakistan launched an air attack on the western front.  Men of the three services rose to the occasion and displayed tactical initiative and skill of a high order.  The War was a triumph for individuals who transcended an out-of-date institutional politico-military decision-making system.

Initially, India had a modest aim of establishing an enclave in East Pakistan where the Bangladesh flag of freedom could be raised.  Then the aim was widened to embrace the capture of several major towns.  It soon became clear that the peripheral towns were heavily defended and overcoming Pakistani military strongholds would have been too costly.  Then because opportunity arose in the eastern regions to by pass major strongholds, the aim snowballed into a race for Dhaka.  The surrender of the capital before any major military strongholds or city had fallen, resulted in the creation of Bangladesh. The War culminated in the capture of 92,000 Pakistani prisoners and a unilateral declaration of a cease fire by India after our ground forces had made minor incursions into West Pakistan.  Subsequently, a meeting between the two PMs resulted in the Simla Accord.  Once again, policy decision involving vital security aspects were taken without dequate military inputs. 

There was widespread concern and anxiety in Pakistan over the prisoners of war [POW] in India’s hands.  There were unanimous demands in the press and National Assembly for their early repatriation.  Some members of parliament [MP] said, “Pakistanis are prepared to sacrifice their country for the sake of the prisoners…it is better to have the POW returned than to have the land back.”  At the same time there were carefully orchestrated false complaints about mistreatment of POW.  In fact, India earned high praise from the International Committee of the Red Cross for its adherence to the letter and spirit of the Geneva Convention in the treatment of POW.  Pakistan’s propaganda about their ill treatment by India stood neutralised.

However, Pakistan’s PM Bhutto kept blowing hot and cold, and under-took two hurricane tours of a number of countries where, in joint communiqués issued from those capitals, calls were made for the speedy withdrawal of Indian troops from West Pakistani territory and for the immediate release and repatriation of POW.  Mr Bhutto spoke with two voices.  In Pakistan he said, “ Your  [POW’s] humiliation is our humiliation and we will bend backwards to see to \it that no a moment is wasted for correct results [release]”.  Yet with India, Bhutto would show no great concern for their early return.  In these circumstances, there was nothing immoral or illegal about using the POW issue as leverage to ensure a just and durable peace.  It appears that India wanted to do this but lacked the resolution to carry this out.  If we had no intention to use the POW as a bargaining counter, where was the need to hold them in custody for so long, earn the disapproval of the world community on their extended detention, and at the same time bear such a high financial burden?

It was nobody’s case to demand war indemnity from Pakistan, or to hold on to territory across the international border forever.   However, the issue of repatriation of POW, Bangladesh’s insistence on the trial of war criminals [about 1500 POW were charged with genocide and serious violations of human rights], the climate of public opinion in Pakistan for their early return, the elimination of the army as a factor in the formulation of Pakistan’s policies, and the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory could all have served as levers to put pressure on Pakistan to accept a no nonsense fair and just solution to the Kashmir problem.  Foreign observers, basing their views on those close to Bhutto, have pointed out “that Bhutto was willing to forsake the Indian-held two-thirds of Kashmir and agree that the Cease Fire Line, to be negotiated, would gradually become the border between the two countries.”

However, India seems to have been confused about its war aim.  The Simla Accord was never linked to the issue of POW and the withdrawal of Indian troops from Pakistani territory.  This was a major blunder on the part of Mrs Gandhi. When Mr D.P.Dhar went to Pakistan for a pre-summit dialogue with Pakistani leaders, he was more concerned with the issue of recognition of Bangladesh by Pakistan than the core issue of finding a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem.  While India held all the cards at Simla, it was Bhutto who called all the shots.  It was then being propagated that the greatest merit of the Accord was that the two countries decided to renounce the use of force against each other.  But that commitment was jettisoned when Bhutto talked of a 1000-year war, and later when Pakistan breached the Accord  by launching cross-border terrorism in J&K.

Some career diplomats and commentators on foreign affairs have tried to sell the line that after the 1971 war, India was faced with only two courses of action: either the Simla Accord or something on the lines of the Treaty of Versailles.  They gave an erroneous impression that between these two extremes there was a complete vacuum.  In fact there were many other possibilities, shades and gradations for a solution to some of the more vexatious problems between the two countries.  The International Herald Tribune pointed out that “the Simla Conference apparently could reach agreement on none of the substantive issues dividing the two sides” It was obvious that Indian negotiators never seriously linked those issues with the Simla Accord.

The plain truth is that India’s political leaders and bureaucrats failed to assess Pakistan’s predicament correctly, did not have a clear national aim, and were ignorant of the basic axioms shaping the role of the armed forces in democratic governance.  Our negotiators lacked the realisation that diplomatic treaties, which are not backed by military power are as worthless as a cheque issued on a dead account.  They did not involve our military leaders in security policy planning.  After winning a stunning victory, Indian leaders behaved as if the armed forces had done something immoral or committed a sin.

The Simla Accord differed from the Tashkent Agreement on two counts.  Bi-lateralism was introduced; the issue of a final settlement of the J&K problem at some future date was brought in.  The former was never honoured by Pakistan, which at every opportunity tries to internationalise the Kashmir issue.  Anyway, of what use is bi-lateralism when both parties have completely closed their minds on the issue.  The ink of the Simla Accord had not even dried when Pakistani leaders began claiming that by mentioning in the Accord that it would be settled at a future date, India had thereby recognised Kashmir as “disputed territory”.  Thus, in 1971, India lost an opportunity to move towards a lasting solution in J&K.

Throughout the period from 1947 onwards, rebels in the north-eastern states had been keeping the army engaged in low intensity operations. [This aspect is discussed in detail in Chapter 6.]  It was clear that these rebels were being supported by arms and training from East Pakistan and China.  With the creation of Bangladesh, Pakistani and Chinese interference in the north-east diminished.  But elsewhere in India there was political and social unrest.  Our victory in the Indo-Pak War of 1971 could not conceal that we were faced with serious internal law and order problems.  Between 1951 and 1970, the armed forces had been summoned to aid civil governance on 476 occasions.

From 1972 onwards, there was a further increase of internal unrest and violent dissent.  Whilst carrying out their primary task of defending the borders against external aggression, the army began getting drawn into messy internal turmoil whenever the administration and police threw up their hands and asked for military aid.  Poor governance was allowing relatively minor problems to deteriorate to the point where the army had to called out to bail out state governments.  By this time, the number of armed police and para-military forces deployed on internal security duties exceeded the army’s total infantry strength.  Co-ordinating this mixture of forces and different ministries, Home and Defence, and Centre and State governments, posed managerial problems.  The PM formed a Policy Advisory Group for that task.  Unfortunately, this body’s role was not clearly defined nor was it properly manned.  This second attempt to form some national security advisory body never really functioned.

Whilst making heavy demands on the army for assistance in internal governance it was apparent that the government was still reluctant to reform the system or  even revive meetings of the two top defence committees: the DCC and DMC.  The only reason why this was not being done was probably the politician’s distrust of the military.  We have discussed in Chapter 2 how fears of a military coup d’etat in the early years of our independence were perhaps justified.  However to persist in those fears forty years after attaining freedom displayed an abject lack of political self-confidence, which was preventing the healthy growth of military power under responsible political control.  It is not being claimed that military officers had now become transformed into democratic saints, but only to emphasise that Indian democracy had matured.

Over the years, India had developed and established numerous strong separate centres of government, quasi-government and non-government democratic power: state assemblies, many radio and TV stations, the press, trade-industrial-commercial confederations and agencies, the judiciary, educational centres, labour unions, municipal corporations, district, taluka and village panchayaats, police and para-military forces; the list is endless.  Each of these institutions represent vested interests and are independent centres of decision-making.  At the same time, we have held a number of free and fair elections to parliament, state assemblies and local bodies.  The people have learnt to cherish their constitutional rights.  Today, it would be difficult if not impossible for any single military or political dictator to control each one of these centres of power without the consent of the people.  India is not unique in this respect; it is the same in the USA, France, Britain or any other mature democracy.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Gandhi, in her desire to cling to power, overlooked this political reality, and decided to use harsh methods to deal with dissent and a detorating law and order situation. The PM declared an Emergency in 1975.  This was a political coup, which resulted in totalitarian rule. The military was never directly involved in the Emergency.  The armed forces, throughout the Emergency, upheld their apolitical traditions.  The COAS, General T.N.Raina and senior officers located at various key commands, withstood any interference with, or misuse of the army.  When a few imprudent orders trickled down on matters such as providing escorts for VIPs, compulsory birth-control measures and attendance by troops at public functions to boost the PM’s son’s political aspirations, the orders were scotched in no uncertain manner.  Mrs. Gandhi soon realised that India could not be ruled for very long by dictates alone.  When she suddenly released all political detainees and called for a general election, the people showed that they cared a great deal about freedom by throwing out the PM and her Party.

Pakistani strategists were watching the Indian scene closely.  Three wars had made them realise that direct military  confrontation with India did not pay.  They decided to engage India indirectly; they would arm and train dissident elements in Punjab and J&K.  They wold foster unrest and terrorism elsewhere whenever possible.  This long-term plan was set into motion by their Inter Services Intelligence [ISI].

After the Simla Accord, India pulled back from all incursions across the international border.  The Cease Fire Line in J&K was renamed as the Line of  Control [LOC].  This was physically demarcated on the ground by a joint Indo-Pak military team.  The process commenced in the south and moved northwards upto a point about 3000m above sea level.  Beyond that point lay the Siachen glacier and the permanent snow-line of the Karakoram range.  This could not be physically demarcated because of the formidable nature of the terrain.  So the agreement stated that the LOC extended northwards beyond the last demarcated point to the Tibetan border. The dispute about whether Siachen belongs to India or Pakistan arises because of a difference of interpretation of that un-demarcated portion of the LOC

Whilst the ISI plans were being hatched, to train and launch terrorists across the LOC into J&K and across the international boundary into Punjab, Pakistani mountaineers, apparently unconnected with any military plans, began organising international expeditions into the Siachen glacier region, which comprises about 2000 sq km of barren snow and ice. These peaceful unarmed activities only came to our notice when reports of expeditions with photographs were published in western mountaineering magazines.  Indian mountaineers were indignant because they had earlier applied for permission to take adventure expeditions to Siachen, and had been banned form going there for security reasons. Local Indian military commanders knew that the glacier has no strategic significance.  However, on their marked maps, this is clearly shown as Indian territory.  If Pakistani excursions were permitted to continue unabated, this could eventually lead to the world’s acceptance that this was Pakistani territory.

Local commanders ordered patrols to move into key passes to dissuade Pakistani mountaineers from entering the area.  There appears to have been no Central government or Army Headquarters directive for these local initiatives.  Pakistan army reacted hastily to our activities and attempted to throw out our patrols; this resulted in a military disaster for them.  In response to this, our troops were reinforced and proper defences built at very high altitudes. Operations in Siachen are a good example of how local conflicts can escalate into a major national confrontation when no proper politico-military decision-making system is functioning, and when no effective strategic controls and contacts are established between India and Pakistan.  Today, an uneasy peace prevails in the area.  Living conditions are harsh for the troops deployed at there.  Men suffer regular casualties because of the climate. To maintain even a limited force in that area is costing India a crore of rupees every day.

Meanwhile ISI plans of sponsored terrorism elsewhere in J&K and in Punjab began unfolding.  .Operation Blue Star [1987], undertaken by the army to clear the Golden Temple of murderers and terrorists, was a tragic internal security task arising from a failure of timely governance. Pakistan also began inducting trained foreign mercenaries into J&K with the task of carrying out systematic acts of terrorism

Operations in Sri Lanka, which were undertaken at that time were a failure of political judgement and intelligence.  Our armed forces ended up fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE] and suffered heavy casualties.  They were able to get a difficult situation under control, and facilitate a fair and free election in Sri Lanka.  However they were then asked to withdraw at the request of the Sri Lankan government.  This was followed by a successful joint operation conducted at short notice by the three ser4vices against rebels who attempted to carry out a coup d’etat in Maldives.

The conduct of military operations in Sri Lanka and Maldives indicated a strategic shift in the traditional role of the armed forces.  They were now being ordered to defend India’s interests beyond our geographical borders.  This radical change of role was decided without even a debate in parliament.  The Policy Advisory Group that had been formed by Mrs. Gandhi to advise her on strategic management had been disbanded by Mr.Rajiv Gandhi.  As PM, he  now relied upon the advice of friends and cronies.  It was individual whims or the perceptions of bureaucrats, which apparently decided what were to be India’s vital interests abroad.  The views of the military were not recorded.  The Defence Committee of the Cabinet never discussed these matters with the Service chiefs in attendance.

Thus in 1987 our armed forces were dangerously over-extended and involved in several widely separated operational areas: in Siachen, elsewhere in J&K, Punjab, the north-eastern states, Sri Lanka and Maldives.  Admittedly the government was purchasing expensive modern aircraft, ships and arms, as requested by the services to meet these threats.  But it made no sense to do this and not modernise the system, which had to manage and conduct those operations.  Concrete proposals were made by the military to reform the system In brief these proposed the integration of the military and civil ministry into three separate service councils each headed by an elected politician as already discussed in Chapter 2.  These proposals were neither revolutionary nor original.  Such a system exists in other democracies and has been functioning in Britain since 1920 onwards.  These reforms will not cost money.  On the contrary, it will save the exchequer crores of rupees every year, reduce manpower, accommodation, paper work and will enhance political control.

Reforms are not being adopted because of a mixture of reasons: misguided fears of a military coup and a misunderstanding of the legitimate role of the military in decision-making on security issues.   Political instability at the Centre also prevents any government from initiating such reforms.  Bureaucrats presently occupy key positions in the defence system, functioning as a “wall” between harassed politicians and impatient military officers.  Politicians prefer this arrangement as it leaves them free to indulge in their first preoccupation: to cling onto their seats in parliament.  Keeping their respective constituencies happy is their first priority.  They have no time to worry about reforming a military system, which is apparently working fairly satisfactorily.

It is interesting to note that there has at last been general acceptance by all national parties of the need to have some sort of body to facilitate security management.  This is because successive cabinet ministers have personally had to face the practical problems arising from the need to co-ordinate various security agencies from different ministries in complex situations on five fronts.  On the other hand, only the defence minister deals personally with the military system, and then too indirectly.  He prefers to leave things as they are; reforms are not a vote catching event.  The military, which is the only direct sufferer of a flawed system, has no political constituency.  Thus the reforms become no one’s specific concern.

A counter argument often made by those who oppose reforms is that the armed forces are like any other public sector unit [PSU].   None of India’s many PSUs have a specific political constituency.  Why does the military imagine that they are different?  Workers in a PSU are seldom worried whether their unit runs at a loss or profit.  They represent a vote bank and have the backing of their union, the media and politicians in whose area the PSU is located.  All these agencies are only too ready to air a worker’s grievance and organise a strike to gain political advantage or increase their newspaper’s circulation.   The armed forces are a disciplined body which can only put up its  proposals through proper channels to the minister through the civil servant who is experienced at confusing an issue with counter arguments and has a vested interest in perpetuating the system. Subtle hints are made to play on a politician’s fears of military dominance.  You will often find civil servants proclaiming that the system exemplifies the democratic principle of the predominance of civilian rule over the military, and how this must be maintained at all cost.  These misleading statements confuse the issue and obscure the constitutional truth that democratic civilian rule implies rule by elected politicians and not rule by bureaucrats who are not responsible or accountable to anyone.

Some bureaucrats blatantly say that the armed forces should accept “that in India, civil control of the armed forces implies joint control by the civil servant and the politician.  It is only the civil servant who understands the politician’s mind, in whom the political boss confides and who has access to all other ministries and departments of the Government at the Centre and in the States.”   This arrogant pronouncement has two implications: that politicians cannot trust military officers and therefore will not confide in them; and the military men are incapable of understanding or interacting with politicians.  Such false beliefs will easily be dispelled when the bureaucratic “wall” between the politicians and the military high command is broken down and an integrated council system established.  It is only the politician who can break down the “wall”.  But the political system seems helpless and, as Nirad  Chaudhuri puts it, “flaps its wings against the bars of the cage in which the bureaucracy has placed it.”

All political systems, whether democratic or totalitarian, are faced with the problem of balancing political and military power, of building a strong and confident military high command, and effective armed forces yet at the same time keeping these forces under strict political control.  This cannot be done by building bureaucratic wills but only by good governance: establishing modern managerial institutions and fostering trust and mutual confidence in the politico-military system.

The devious methods employed by bureaucrats to down the services at every opportunity are particularly apparent in the succession of orders issued on the Warrant of Precedence. The Committee of Secretaries, which decides the Warrant of Precedence, recorded that “military officers have been placed unduly high in the old Warrant of Precedence, presumably as it was considered essential for officers of the army of occupation to be given special status and authority.”  So, after the Indo-Pak War [1947-48] the service chiefs were made junior to the Supreme Court judges.  They further dropped in status after the 1962  Sino-Indian Conflict and became junior to the Cabinet Secretary.  Their decline continued unabated and they were made junior to the Attorney General after the Indo-Pak War of 1965.  Yet again, after the 1971 Indo-Pak War, they were put next to the Comptroller and Auditor General.  General O.P.Malhotra, as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, in a note to the Defence Ministry in 1981, expressed concern about this and highlighted the fact that the lowering of status of Service officers seemed to coincide with the end of wars fought in 1948,62,65 and 1971

What should concern every citizen is the timing and the motive behind changes made in the status and emoluments of service officer.  Are these changes a genuine attempt to erase the colonial past?  The outcome of inter-departmental inferiority complexes and rivalries?  Some bureaucrats, glued to their desks and involved in dull, boring officer routine, envy the serviceman’s outdoor activities, espirit-de-corps ;and quality of life.  [The police also envy the services and try to copy their drills, uniforms, insignia, ceremonials and organisations.  This is an indirect form of flattery and is very much like the watchmen at luxury flats and industrial estates who dress like soldiers in the hope that they will thereby frighten away prospective burglars.]  Responsible politicians must begin asking themselves: are these changes in the Warrant of Precedence justified?  Is the Committee of Secretaries motivated by envy to keep the services down?  Is a message being sent to the nation that the armed forces are being cut down to size? What is the impact of this on the military rank and file?

Today, traditional indifference to the armed forces and a conceptual ignorance of the role of the armed forces results in a general lack of whole-hearted social acceptance of the military.  Some argue that in other democracies, even if service salaries are low, the military officer enjoys many other privileges.  In western countries, the USA and Japan, senior military officers are automatically accepted in the best of clubs and enjoy social prestige.  At no time is his honour allowed to be lowered in the eyes of the nation.  It is this kind of attitude and not money that attracts the right kind of officer material. No doubt this is so.  But we must remember that it is natural for that to happen in those countries because so many of their citizens, civil servants, politicians, and their fathers and their sons, have fought in wars as conscripts or volunteers.  Those nations know the character qualities required to lead men in battle and the key role that military power plays in democratic governance.  They therefore understand the need to nuture and develop an efficient military command.  However, it would be unreal to expect the same degree of public acceptance from one and all under Indian social conditions.  Happily, there has been a marked wave of sympathy and enthusiasm for the armed forces after India fought its first TV war in Kargil in 1999.

Military officers and jawans ask for no special privileges.  But they can see that their seniors are helpless in the face of the system.  A commanding officer’s qualities of integrity, courage, professional skill and discipline are admirable leadership requirements for battle against an external enemy.  But these qualities are of little consequence in dealing with simple domestic problems on their home front, in the absence of the rule of law at the village level. Many soldiers find that even the fulfillment of basic administration and justice is sometime denied to his family while he is away from home.  In the old days, when an absent jawan had a problem effecting his home, a letter to the District Commissioner or the police would elicit prompt action.  Today, it is rare to get even an acknowledgement from the concerned authorities.  The jawan, if he has not lost his case by default, has to deal with the problem when he comes home on leave.  He then often finds that his whole period of leave is spent running from one office to another.  He sometime has to return to his unit with half his work incomplete.

Soldiers can see how absentee police personnel of the Border Security Force or the para-military forces do not face the same problem because of their police contacts.  He knows that in the absence of the rule of law, very often a local dada and his gang are the real power in a locality; they dominate even the local administration and police.  The soldier has no "constituency" to plead his case.  In those circumstances, he will invariably lose to a local rival who has the support of the dada. The government is aware of this problem.  Army commands have been instructed to hold regular civil-military liaison conferences with chief secretaries and senior police officers in the states in which they are located, to discuss service grievances and mutual problems.  This helps in specific cases.

Socio-military problems should not blind us to the many good things, which have evolved in India over the past 50 years.  Today, recruitment to the armed forces is open to any Indian and all-class units have raised in  the army.  We have a strong well-led apolitical military force.  India could not have survived and prospered over these years were it not for hundreds of dedicated politicians and bureaucrats, thousands of brave and disciplined military and police personnel; and millions of honest hardworking jawans, farmers, clerks and workers who faithfully carried out their allotted duties.  They maintained the fabric of the nation, enabling India to build up a large number of democratic institutions and centres of responsible power.  This is India'’s success story for which we should justly be proud.

However, whilst congratulating ourselves about these achievements, we cannot deny that our democratic system is being eaten away by corruption and criminals.  This results in poor governance, which undermines internal security.  History tells us that we cannot have secure borders without internal security.  We cannot have internal security without social stability. We cannot have social stability without economic justice and the rule of law.  All these taken together constitute good governance.  Stability does not mean tranquility.  In a free and lively democracy, the rule of law will prevail, but there will always be the din and noise of dissent, a conflict of opinion and debate. There will be a struggle for leadership as new areas of empowerment are opened up.  Good governance ensures that all this takes place and yet is not allowed to get out of hand.  Let us not confuse legitimate dissent with violence and terrorism, the burning of public property and the coercion and killing of innocent citizens.  Let us not confuse a desire for the creation of new states with demands for secession and insurgency.

India faces many old and complex problems.  History will forgive our leaders if they take time to solve these problems.  But they will not be forgiven if they do not recognize that a rotten political and administrative system is a greater threat to the security of India than Pakistani or Chinese soldiers.  A crooked minister, judge, civil servant or military officer is more anti-national than a Dawood or Mir Jjaffar.  Let us face it.  There has been a slow erosion of the sanctity of constitutional provisions through bureaucratic, political and legal collusion.  Political instability gives rise to manipulative politics into which the Constitution, the President and the Supreme Court are willy nilly dragged.  There has been a rise of extra-constitutional practices.  We should not underestimate the extent of the criminal network, which grows on sex, the sale of drugs, smuggling, extortion and a vast black-money economy.  The mafia sponsors political aspirants who, if given a ticket and elected, enjoy sanctuary and immunity within honourable legislatures.

In August 1997, the Election Commission released statistics which listed over 40 members of parliament and 700 members of legislative assemblies who face criminal charges including murder, dacoity, rape, theft or extortion.  Add to this as many as 166 requests by the Central Bureau of Investigation for official concurrence to either start a probe or sanction prosecution of public servants, which are pending with ministries and departments of the Central Government for years.  This data is the tip of the corruption iceberg and does not include the list of those who are involved in scams and other white collar offences, and who may not figure in police criminal records.  These statistics give a picture of the nexus of criminality and politics and may explain why India is classified as the eighth most corrupt nation in the world.

These statistics make faint-hearted Indians ask, what sort of democracy are we creating?  They look at the state of Bihar and bemoan its violence, corruption and lethargy.  All criticism is directed at Bihar’s shortcomings; complaints of something missing or something pathological, which explains Bihar’s backwardness and India’s inability to run a parliamentary democracy. 

Some pessimistic observers claim that Bihar, because it is backward and populist, displays the declining pattern of India’s future democracy.  This statement may make some readers sit up and add to their sense of tragedy.  They fail to see that the din and noise of Bihar is the din and noise of democratic empowerment of people who have never before tasted political power.  Mr. Z.A.Bhutto, the ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, recognised this. In his autobiography If I am Assassinated, composed whilst reflecting in jail on the eve of his execution by the Military Government that had over-thrown him, he wrote, “India is more heterogeneous than Pakistan but India has been kept in one piece by the nose and chaos of her democracy.”

Perhaps the best way to understand this whole business of empowerment accompanied by chaos, one should examine the Rabelesian figure of Bihar’s charismatic leader, Laloo Prasad Yadav, and his re-invention of democracy.  Laloo’s concept of democracy is very different from that of, say, the Andhra Pradesh leader Chandrababu Naidu’s cyberspace. Laloo’s democracy does not require vision. It does not insist on betterment of human condition.  It does not need law and order.  It does not distinguish between the law-abiding and the criminal.  It does not ask for transformation and progress.  All that Laloo’s democracy implies is that a large fraction of the electorate has a right to choose for themselves.  To do what?  Only to wield power. [And surely that is what the political elite of India, in every other state is attempting to do, but are reluctant to admit that they cannot do it as well as Laloo does.] Laloo has created populism as a political spectacle.  It has nothing to do with governance or development. Many are afraid that Laloo’s over-populism and froth will catch on in other states.  Too many Laloos coould shatter the dreams of Indian democracy.  Many pray and hope that Laloo is a unique phenomenon.

Let us face it, Laloo’s view is realistic and inventive.  It tells us what democracy is about in its crudest, most populist form. Laloo has transformed Indian politics with his dramatic display of dignity and self-confidence.  Here is a new entrant who, having been empowered, enjoys the celebration of politics as politics. Laloo enthralls his listeners when he exclaims, “What is this IT – YT?   Can it give every village drinking water?”  Laloo does not believe in setting an example and practicing birth control; he has nine children.  [His wife and female members of the family have been named after sell-known Indian sweetmeats- rabri, jalebi and so on.]  When Laloo scorns sociological tracts and World Bank reports, he does not mince his words or lose his sense of humour.  He makes those worthy documents seem irrelevant and boring.  When Laloo was faced with alleged corruption charges, he had to step down as Chief Minister.  Unfazed by that he termed was a “conspiracy” to oust him, he promptly appointed his wife Rabri Devi as Chief Minister, and ensured that she was duly elected to a vacant assembly seat. 

Of course Laloo’s  form of populism cannot survive for long; it  has to give way to planned rational governance and the realities of central rule and economics.  Laloo knows the value of a good education. [Soon after becoming the Chief Minister of Bihar, he had one of his daughters admitted to an expensive English-medium boarding school in Rajasthan.]  There are indications that his party, having gained a popular mandate, is now attempting to disprove its critics and produce results in such basic matters as education, uplifting the lot of the down-trodden, curbing corruption and promoting economic development.   It will be a boost for Indian democracy and Bihar if he succeeds. But if he fails, let us hope that Laloo has set a pattern for empowerment of underdogs in other states.  Indian politics is overpopulated with a secession of sanctimonious fuddy-duddies.  The system needs newcomers with Laloo’s kind of self-confidence, fizz and humour, and hopefully they will be good managers.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SIX

 

Open any newspaper in India and you will read some account or article about a terrorist or an insurgent attack.  A great deal has been written on the subject.  Most of this requires no repetition.  However, some myths; and misconception about terrorism and insurgency still prevail in the minds of the layman.  These matters need to be clarified.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Terrorism and Insurgency

 

It is often said that there is no difference between terrorism and insurgency, “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom –fighter: it all depends on the viewpoint.”  Admittedly, violence is a common factor to both terrorism and insurgency, but the difference between these two terms is more than a question of semantics.  It is evident that all violence will rouse terror and fear; yet all violent acts cannot be defined as terrorism.  All extremists and insurgents do not adopt the weapon of terrorism to achieve their ends.  We should also draw a distinction between acts of cruelty, violent crimes, dacoities and communal riots on the one hand, and acts of terrorism on the other.

Although terrorists may argue that they are revolutionaries seeking to overthrow an unrepresentative government, terrorism has always been distinguished from other forms of political violence associated with the conduct of a legitimate campaign against a repressive regime, usually of a despotic military or fascist type.  The resort of violence against innocent unarmed citizens by terrorist groups for achieving political ends in a democracy where free and fair elections prevail, is an illegitimate and unjustifiable use of violence.  We must guard against confusing the crucial difference between these two kinds of violence.  One kind is that of patriots at war.  Another kind is that of murderers.  The terrorist attacks innocent unarmed citizens and avoids the ballot box; the insurgent attacks a tyrant’s security forces and administrative apparatus because he cannot avail of free elections.

Terrorism is manipulative.  It seeks to turn India’s strength against itself.  For example it can exploit India’s cultural diversity and legal infrastructure against India’s own interests.  This type of exploitation is particularly successful in cultures with a strong tradition of personal freedom and limitations of executive power.  India already endures a high degree of disorder as the price of democracy and is less able than others to respond uncompromisingly to terrorist’s threats.  By contrast terrorism is relatively ineffective in totalitarian societies, because it is easily denied an environment for existence as a matter of state prerogative.  To be successful in a totalitarian state, terrorists must form part of a full-scale revolution.  On the other hand, there is hardly a major democratic country that has entirely escaped terrorism.

Terrorism is an attempt to destablise democratic societies and to show that their governments are impotent.  Terrorist groups in India realise that public support for democratic values and institutions is a major obstacle to their schemes.  Hence, the democratic process becomes a key target of the terrorist. Terrorism is not an ideology but a tactical weapon, which can be by people of different political convictions Terrorism is not an ideology but a tactical weapon, which can be by people of different political convictions. Terrorism is the use of cruelty and fraud for political ends, and conspiracy is necessary for this to happen. The thing that is clear about terrorism is that it is always just to condemn it, even if we lack an understanding of its nature. Liberal democracies view terrorism as a criminal rather than a political offence. Terrorism is therefore treated as a law and order problem to be tackled by the police.

Today, an agreed international definition of terrorism does not exist, and the concept has been given different meanings by various authors.  The UN Committee on International Terrorism proclaims that, “murder, sabotage and subversion, the destruction of public records, the spreading of rumours, the closing of churches, the sequestration of property, the breakdown of criminal law enforcement, the prostitution of courts, the narcosis of the press- all these contribute to a common end and constitute terror.”  However, from India’s point of view, terrorism may be defined as an act or the threat of an act, aimed to create extreme anxiety and fear-inducing effects in a target group, larger than the immediate innocent victims. The purpose of such terrorism is to coerce that group into acceding to the religious, political or administrative demands of the perpetrators.

The first task for the government whilst responding to terrorism is on the Psychological Front; in the realm of discipline, law and order, values and tradition, so that the semantic battle is won. The public must be made to realise that terrorist, whether they call themselves freedom fighters or guerrillas, intend to intimidate and kill innocent citizens and then rule by fear and violence.  Intellectuals, journalists, judges and politicians who romanticise terrorists must be made to individually face the infliction of suffering which their statements sometimes encourage.  Few will be prepared to undergo the experience, but it should at least be made clear to them what it is.

The historical roots of violence may help us to recognise the difference between terrorism and other forms of violent protest.  When one group challenges another, this may be done non-violently or violently.  If the latter course is adopted then a fight ensues. Whether it is a riot or a war, the participants will use any weapon available to them: sticks, stones, spears and guns.  Early man soon learnt that the voice and physical appearance of a combatant could be used to bring psychological pressures on an opponent, create fear in others and build up discipline and morale among one’s own kind.  This is the reason for the adoption of battle cries; this is one of the reasons for the Tenth Guru making it obligatory in 1699 for his followers to wear their hair and beard unshorn.

Apart from non-violent measures designed to instill fear in an opponent’s mind, combatants also adopt violent measures calculated to terrorise an opponent.  Historically, the Assyrians were the first recorded practitioners of the tactics of calculated terror.  They would skin prisoners alive and impale them on stakes.  To begin with, these tactics were effective.  West Asia trembled with the knowledge of what the Assyrians did to those who resisted them.  The mere blast of their trumpets was sufficient to open the city gates.  Other armies quickly followed Assyria’s example and were soon developing refined methods of dealing with their defeated opponents; children were thrown off towers or roasted alive over a slow fire.

Early Turks and Mongols were no less sadistic than the Assyrians.  But whilst terrorism can be used as a weapon in war, it can never substitute for the other weapons of war.  Thus, it is not surprising that the tactics of calculated terror began to rebound to one’s disadvantage when pitted against disciplined and well led soldiers who refused to be intimidated and adopted better tactics to beat his terrorist opponent on the battlefield.  It was probably partly because of their reputation for mercy to the conquered that Alexander and Caesar undermined the morale of their opponents and conquered the Mediterranean world so easily.

During the Middle Ages, Machiavelli kept alive the doctrine of political terrorism in his teachings, which proclaimed the use of cruelty, fraud and conspiracy for political ends.  The planned use of terrorism a weapon in war seems to have died out till after the Second World War.  Its reappearance thereafter is evident from the practice of modern terrorists who preach the transformation of the Machiavellian vices of cruelty, fraud and conspiracy into political virtues

After World War II, even though old colonial masters no longer occupy lands, the borders they drew and institutions they established still inspire conflicts within and between newly liberated colonies. But the cost of waging even a short limited war with tanks, aircraft and ships has risen astronomically. Lesser powers began to realise that it was no longer cost effective to wage even a small war. Thus the emphasis shifted to guerrilla tactics. Guerrilla war is as old as the history of man.  It goes by several names: low intensity war, people’s war, revolutionary war, insurgency or wars of national liberation.  Such conflicts are asymmetrical that is one side employs guerrilla tactics and small arms out of necessity while the other employs a fuller range of modern weapons. 

Factors, which favour a guerrilla movement are geographic contiguity with a foreign country that affords sanctuary to insurgents, a sources of money and arms, a cause, support of at least five percent of the locals, areas within the victim state which could provide a secure base, and young men ready to take up arms and fight.  During the Cold War, the bipolar ideological and anti-colonial aspects of the international scene encouraged the intervention of third parties in ostensibly intrastate conflicts: so the US fought in Vietnam and the Soviets in Afghanistan.

A Guerrilla War is the small man’s attempt to negate the scientists and the technocrat.  The war in Vietnam should clearly have meant that the better-supported and armed South ought to win in a straight fight with the North.  But the North avoided a show down.  The same situation prevailed in Afghanistan where a Soviet supported regime could not subdue a rag-tag and disunited guerrilla force for eight years.  Though some insurgencies have been known to adopt terrorist tactics, successful insurgencies avoid the weapon of terrorism. Historically, there are many examples of insurgency movements, which have defeated the forces opposing them, but it is difficult to find a case in which terrorism has had any lasting effect.

Insurgency, being a form of warfare, is best tackled by the armed forces and not by the police. The first rule of insurgency is to avoid indiscriminate terror tactics and adopt tactics, which ensures that the enemy is initially half-drowned in a sea of public hostility, and only then tackle the opponent’s military force.  In essence, a Guerrilla War is a struggle to win the hearts and minds of the people and gain the allegiance of those who inhabit the battlefield.

When governments begin to realise that they are losing the allegiance of their people they attempt to induce this by military success and propaganda, or hope to compel obedience by a campaign of calculated terror.  Pakistan’s crack down on Sheikh Majibur Rehman and his supporters on 23 March 1971 was a deliberate attempt to terrorise the public by dealing ruthlessly with selected victims.  The Pakistani army killed over 50000 unarmed citizens in the hope that the remainder would be cowed down by terror.  This failed and Bengali freedom fighters struck back. In the Peoples War, which ensued, guerrillas had the total allegiance of their people who did not need any propaganda or inducements to hate their opponents.  Here again was an example of the tactics of terror rebounding to the disadvantage of the executant.

Current discussions of guerrilla war use the terms “quantitative” and “qualitative” violence.  The former is essentially indiscriminate and can be measured in quantitative terms, for example: the number of rounds fired, tons of bombs dropped and body count.  In contrast, qualitative violence discriminates; it only targets particular victims so as to minimize collateral damage while maximising political impact. A guerrilla war is primarily a theatre of qualitative violence.  The contestants struggle to win power within a community and they therefore need to be selective about their use of force.  Every casualty inflicted can increase hatred against the perpetrator, since kinsmen and friends of the victims turn against him. This factor, along with the end of the Cold War, has restricted third party intervention in intra-state conflicts for two reasons.  Lack of restraint by a third party force can undermine the very legitimacy of the side it wishes to aid.  Secondly, indiscriminate violence by a third party can erode support for the intervention back home. Thus, apart from the question of high costs, today great powers are no longer keen to intervene in intrastate wars.  The international system seeks concert of joint action rather than promoting unilateral belligerence.  International pressures attempt to moderate conflicts.  Military forces of many nations take part in peacekeeping and peace-making operations under the auspices of the UN.

Having noted the difference between terrorism and insurgency in general terms, we can now examine how these two phenomena have evolved in India.  Revolutionary terrorism emerged as a highly romantic and admired strand of the Freedom Movement in India at the turn of the 20th Century.  This threw up its own legends and heroes.  To begin with, terrorist organisations were centred in and around Bengal.  The Ghadar [rebellion] Party [1912-1925] was the Punjabi complement to Bengali terrorists.  However, Indian revolutionaries were unable to outwit British intelligence agencies and were overwhelmed within a decade after World War I.  Thereafter the Freedom Movement confined its struggle to non-violent action.  Independence brought in its wake the adoption of an insurrectionary line by the Communist Party of India [CPI] at its congress in Calcutta in 1948.   This resulted in the intensification of violent peasant movements using terror tactics in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.  These were crushed before the CPI sponsored movements were finally withdrawn in 1951.

1967 saw an uprising of peasants in the small north Bengal village of Naxalbari in north Bengal.  This left-extremist movement came to be called the Naxalite Movement.  It was Marxist inspired and its non-allegiance to the Indian Constitution freed it from the inhibitions, which prevent the CPI, whose offshoot it is, from adopting violent means to achieve its end.  The Naxalite Movement spread to the tribal areas and cities elsewhere, but degenerated into a senseless vendetta based on terrorism and urban violence, and collapsed after a heavy loss of young lives.  Some Naxalite leaders returned to their parent states, where they laid low.  But elsewhere the movement continued though the tactics have changed.  It activities show a tendency of being more open, legal and mass-based, and thus present a challenge to local politicians rather than a law and order problem for the police.

Violent insurrection broke out in Nagaland in the early 50s.  To understand why that happened requires a brief analysis of the geography and history of the region.  Northeastern India consists of the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya, sometimes referred to as the Seven Sisters.  The region constitutes 12 per cent of India’s land mass bearing 80 per cent of its tea, a high percentage of its forests, on-shore hydrocarbons, uranium and hydroelectric power potential. Yet the rest of India has neglected the region economically, historically and psychologically.  The external and internal threats to the region take many forms, which are the direct consequence of geographical, social, demographic, psychological and economic factors.

If we examine a map of the area, we will see that the Seven Sisters are linked to India by a narrow 70-km stretch between Bhutan and Bangladesh.  At the western end of this link, which is flanked by Nepal and Bangladesh, lies West Bengal.  Through this bottleneck which is also referred to as the Siliguri Corridor, runs the rail and road communications that serve the region.  In striking contrast to this constrained geographic link, the Seven Sisters share an uninterrupted international border of over 3700-km with Bhutan, China, Burma and Bangladesh.  Assam occupies a key position in the region; it is the fulcrum of the northeast, the only state that is physically linked to every one of the other six states, and the rest of India.  These geographical factors exert an influence over all the other factors.

The region is populated by a number of ethnic groups, which spill over the border into Bhutan, China, Burma and Bangladesh.  This is a common phenomenon in the border regions of parts of China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Burma, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, where hill people of a specific ethnic group inhabit both sides of an international border.  During the colonial period, set boundaries were imposed on these relatively remote regions which till recently continued to enjoy the benefits of free cross-border movement and a loose dual citizenship.

Northeastern India is under-populated when compared to some of the areas that adjoin it.  For example, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have a population of 20 million to 153,000 sq. km against Bangladesh with more that 100 million people to 144,020 sq. km.  Demographic distribution when combined with attractive economic prospects that the region offers, results in six distinct categories of infiltration taking place into north-eastern India. First are those of comparable ethnic types who migrate to join a relative’s family. Next is the large Indian work force, mostly from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which was inducted as labour to the tea gardens in the 19th Century.  Their descendants constitute a sizeable number in Assam.  Their constitutional right to be there cannot be disputed.

Third are the citizens from elsewhere in India who continue to come as traders, labourers or entrepreneurs.  Their movement into some of the frontier regions is restricted by regulations.  But elsewhere, such movement is unhindered.  Theoretically, free movement is a constitutional right, which cannot be banned.  Nevertheless, some locals resent the presence of “outsiders”. Like others elsewhere in India, they have become vociferous supporters of an economic “sons-of-the-soil” policy, which faces the Centre and the state with a familiar dilemma.  To begin with the people blame the government for their backwardness due to a lack of development plans.  Attempts to ally those resentments by initiating plans inevitably entail the influx of Indians from elsewhere.  This fuels accusations that non-residents should quit the area.  Thus a viscous circle begins and leads to resentments and violence.  This adversely effects long term planning and the stability of the region.

            A fourth category of migrant is the Hindu and Buddhist refugee from Bangladesh.  The 1947 Partition arrangement did not lay down any time limit for the exchange of population. There can be no cut-off date for non-Muslim migration from West Pakistan or erstwhile East Pakistan.  In 1947 the migration of a fair number of Hindus from East Pakistan into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura did take place, and was not resented.  But a slow trickle of migrants has been continuing thereafter for political, economic, religious, linguistic and ethnic reasons, and this provokes resentment.

The fifth category of migrant is the Muslim of Bangladesh who has never had the constitutional right to migrate to India as an outcome of Partition.  These migrants come purely for economic reasons.  Relatives and friends living in the region facilitate their movement.  This infiltration causes resentment, which may have nothing to do with communalism but is certainly economic in nature and is backed by constitutional law.

Lastly there are the Nepalese who originally formed the major element in the Assam Rifles which policed the region.  After retirement the men usually settled down wherever convenient, and sometimes under regimental arrangements.  The locals did not resent this.  But over the years, there has been a steady influx of migrants from over-populated and economically backward regions of Nepal, either to join their compatriots who are already well established in a region, or independently as cheap labour.

The three border regions of Nagaland, Manipur ande Mizoram have many similarities.  All three have wooded hills with an average of altitude of about 350 m above sea level.  All have numerous rivers flowing through them, yet a shortage of food is endemic in the area.  All are bordered by Burma.  Bangladesh also border Mizoram.  The people are Mongoloid and of tribal origin but are not related to one another nor speak a common language.  All three have common ethnic and linguistic groups living across the border in Burma and Bangladesh.  Most of the area adjoining India in those two countries is thickly wooded and undeveloped.  Burmese and Bangladeshi civil servants and police patrols find it difficult to visit the area, which for all purposes therefore remains unadministered.  These become a natural haven for smugglers and guerrilla gangs.  The terrain hampers the movement of security forces and this adds to the other factors, which make these states ideal for guerrilla warfare.

The tribes inhabiting these states have been influenced by Christian missions since 1872.  Yet it would be wrong to blame foreign missionaries for de-nationalising the tribals, because in the first place, they had never been nationalised either by Aryan Hindus, Muslim Moghuls or the Christian British.  Ethnically and linguistically, the various tribes of the northeast are different not only from the Assamese but also from each other. The Baptist Mission, far from being a cause for unrest, has proved to be a major factor in fostering peace in the region

In 1857, the British established an administrative centre at Kohima.  This led to several uprisings.  The British formed the Naga Club to help the Deputy Commissioner [DC] understand the problems of the Nagas.  This later became the Naga Tribal Council, which in 1946 changed its name to the Naga National Council [NNC].  At that time portions of the Naga Hill District were being administered as part of the North East Frontier Agency [NEFA] which was later renamed Arunchal Pradesh, and portions were under Assam.  In early 1947, the NNC issued an ultimatum that the Naga Hills should cease to be a part of India after August 1947.

After India achieved independence, Assam was a large sprawling state with peripheral districts, which included Meghalaya, Mizoram and portions of Nagaland.  The governor of Assam, who was also the Governor of Manipur and Tripura, worked out a nine-point Agreement with Naga leaders.  This recognised the right of Nagas to develop according to their own wishes. In 1950, the Nagas boycotted the elections to district councils.  In 1951, Mr. Z.A. Phizo organised a plebiscite in which almost all adult males voted for independence.  The Nagas also boycotted the 1952 general elections.  In 1953 Phizo organised a rebel government and several armed groups openly revolted.  This revolt was quelled and the rebels fled to Burma.  On 22 March 1956, Phizo proclaimed a Naga Federal Government [NFG] and unilateral independence. This was followed by an armed revolt, which was brought under control by the army. Phizo moved to East Pakistan and from there to London.  The next year, after negotiations with a Peoples Convention at Kohima, the Naga districts of Assam and NEFA were amalgamated and placed under central administration. A Naga Baptist Convention formed a peace movement and a Reforming Committee.

Naga rebel traffic to East Pakistan commenced in March 1962.  Some 2000 Nagas were trained there and returned with arms. Nagaland was granted statehood on 1 December 1963.  But extremists continued their movement for independence and hostilities by armed groups persisted.   In 1964, the Naga Baptist Convention revived its peace mission and an agreement to suspend operations was arranged between the underground and the Government.  A series of peace talks took place over the next ten years whilst minor violations by extremists continued.

Rebel traffic to China commenced in November 1966.  About 300 Nagas infiltrated to China through northern Burma where Burmese rebels were themselves revolting against the Rangoon government. Collusion with Pakistan and China was only stopped after the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.   In 1973, about 1600 armed rebels surrendered.  Most of these men were absorbed in the Border Security Force [BSF] and Naga Armed Police.  But an equal number continued to operate along Nagaland’s eastern border from bases located in Burma. Whilst peace talks with Naga rebels through the Baptist Convention continued, military pressure was maintained against those who broke the agreed cease fire agreement.  In 1974 about 1500 rebels surrendered with arms. It may be noted that throughout this period of unrest, Naga rebels never resorted to acts of terrorism

In 1975 rebel leaders opened a dialogue with the Government and signed a peace agreement, which has been termed as the Shillong Accord. After this all military operations were suspended and rebels were given complete freedom of movement.  Since then, there have been no major hostile activities within Nagaland.  However, rebel groups continue to live in camps across the border with Burmese Nagas.  Locals in Nagaland are not supporting these insurgents.  Their activities are therefore confined to trans-border raids.  Nagas now participate in state and general elections; the aspirations of the people have been politicised and are now expressed by legitimate democratic activities.

Whilst all this was happening, security forces also found themselves involved in insurgency operations in Mizoram.  Again, we must turn to history to understand why this happened.  The area was annexed by the British in 1891 and named the Lushai Hill District, which was administered by a chief commissioner.  After Independence the area was renamed the Mizo Hill District and placed under the jurisdiction of Assam.  The population is mainly Christian with a small number of Buddhists and animists that live in the southern and western fringes of the district.  The region remained isolated from the main stream of Indian life and was neglected during the British period except for education.  Thus, the people had a high percentage of literacy and political awareness but remained economically backward. 

The local political party prior to 15 August 1947 was the Mizo Union, which stood for a separate Mizo state within the Indian Union.  The protracted nature of the armed revolt of the Nagas cast its shadow on the Mizos.  In 1960, the Mizo National Front [MNF] was formed.  This stood for complete independence and was dominated by extremists.  As there were few economic opportunities and the people were frustrated, the MNF gained popularity.  Mr. Laldenga, President of the MNF, contacted the authorities in East Pakistan and was given money and arms.  On 28 February 1966, the MNF broke into open revolt.  The situation was handed over to the army, which quickly restored order. The MNF continued to wage a guerrilla war and for the next two years kept ambushing military transport columns but scrupulously avoided attacking unarmed detachments of the Border Road Organisation  [BRO], which was developing the state’s infrastructure.  The Army kept constant pressure on the rebels and by 1968 was able to break the movement.  Its leaders escaped to East Pakistan, which provided rebel gangs with sanctuaries.

In 1972, the district was given the status of a Union Territory and renamed Mizoram.  Consequent to the creation of Bangladesh, the MNF were denied safe sanctuaries. Some moved into Burma from where at least two groups of about 75 each went to China in 1973 and 1975.  There they were trained and armed.  They returned to find that their people had been politicised and no longer supported a violent uprising.  The state elections in 1978 threw up a regional party, which further split the MNF.  In desperation, extremists in 1980 let loose a reign of terror, killing innocent non-Mizo civilians and attacking unarmed BRO engineers.  These acts of terrorism were widely denounced by Mizo pastors and by the vast majority of the Mizo people.  Terrorism tactics were soon discontinued. No major hostile incidents have occurred since then.

Manipur, sandwiched between Nagaland and Mizoram, consists of three main ethnic groups.  The population consists of various tribes, which may be grouped into three ethnic categories.  In the northern hills are Nagas who are Christians allied to their brethren in Nagaland.  The southern hills are inhabited by Kukis and other Christian tribes allied to the Mizos.  In between these two hill tracts is Imphal valley whose population, though Mongoloid, has over the years absorbed the influence of early Brahmin missionaries who Hinduised the valley.  These people are mainly Hindus and are known as Meitei. 

For centuries, the Meiteis have been the dominant political and economic power in Manipur.  They controlled the agricultural based economy of the region.  A Meitei raja had always ruled the State of Manipur.  With advent of Christianity and after a Kuki tribal uprising in 1917, though the Raja continued to rule as a figurehead, the area was divided into three sub-divisions to correspond to the ethnic sub-division; each was headed by an officer from the government of Assam.  In 1947, the political authority exercised by Assam was abolished and the Raja ruled through a durbar [council].  In 1949, Manipur was declared as a Union Territory.

Over the next two decades, the Meiteis watched the activities of their northern and southern neighbours with growing concern. Some Meiteis began to argue that they were being ignored both by Delhi and the other hill people because they were Hindus and peace-loving citizens; the best way to overcome these handicaps would be to reject Hinduism, revert to their tribal past and resort to violence.  An organisation was founded with the object of reviving the Meitei animist religion and exploiting anti-outsider feelings by propagating that it is the plainsmen from India who are the root cause for the continuing social and economic ills of Manipur.  By 1968, other dissident groups had joined the movement, which named itself the Revolutionary Government of Manipur [RGM].  However the situation remained fairly peaceful.

Manipur became a full-fledged state in 1972.  To begin with the Meiteis dominated the state assembly.  But over time the hill tribes began to assert their influence and this brought instability to Manipur politics. In 1979 the RGM sent a group to contact the Chinese.  Unlike Naga and Mizo rebels, this group avoided the tedious footpaths through northern Burma and traveled by train and bus to Nepal and then crossed over into Tibet.  They were well received in China but were given no weapons.  Instead they were trained on how to ambush police patrols and steal their weapons.  They returned to Manipur and promptly began to put into practice what they had been taught.  Within a short time they had purloined over 50 weapons and their leader had acquired a romantic reputation with young Meiteis. In October 1980, because of a deteriorating law and order situation, Manipur was declared a disturbed area and handed over to the army.  Counter-insurgency operations were conducted with skill and yielded quick results.  The leader of the RGM was captured and rebel gangs fled to Burma where they joined rebel Nagas who were camping in Burma.

By now it was evident that Naga and other rebels located in Burma are facing serious problems. Ironically, Burmese tribes living along India’s eastern border yearn to be part of India.  They reside in areas, which have been neglected by Rangoon for centuries.  They can see the political and economic development taking place in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram; they wish to be reunited with their brethren.  This demand was voiced even before 1947. Burmese have begun to resent the presence of rebel Nagas in their area; they have to provide them with recruits, free labour and bear the brunt of “taxes” collected by the rebels.  Moreover, these bases have to continually guard against the stray Burmese military patrol, which may suddenly descend on them, forcing the rebels to flee and exposing the locals to the danger of reprisals. Today, the number of armed insurgents operating along India’s eastern border from bases in Burma and Bangladesh are not large.  None of them can survive without financial aid, which is no longer readily available from foreign sources; and there is a limit to the imposition of unpopular local taxes.  Insurgents are now being sustained by the control of the overland contraband trade, particularly of narcotics and opium which is cultivated in northern Burma and Thailand.

Tripura, the smallest of the Seven Sisters, is bordered on the north, west and south by Bangladesh and on the east by Assam and Mizoram.  Tripura was a Hindu kingdom more than 1000 years before it became a part of the Moghul Empire.  The Raja has always been of tribal origin with a pronounced Bengali cultural tradition.  Prior to 1947, the Raja ruled with the familiar British political agent in the background.  At that time, the population was 5 lakh tribals; most of who were animists mixed with a few Christians.  There were about an equal number of non-tribals, mostly Bengali Hindus, with a sprinkling of Muslims and Buddhists.

During Partition, there was an influx of about 5 lakh Hindus from East Pakistan.  Local Congress party workers welcomed the refugees and took pains to rehabilitate them.   In 1956 the state was declared a Union Territory.  The Congress Party was swept into power in the ensuing elections because of the non-tribal vote.  In 1971, during the creation of Bangladesh, there was a further influx of about 5 lakh refugees; these were mostly Hindus but there were also some Muslims.  This time local Communist Party workers who took pains to rehabilitate them welcomed the newcomers.  The next elections saw the Communists come into power.  By now the population had increased to 20 lakhs.  The number of tribals had remained a little over 5 lakhs whilst the non-tribal vote-bank had tripled. Within Tripura, two regional parties began organising themselves on tribal and non-tribal lines.  The tribals knew that they had lost the game of electoral numbers.  They were determined not to lose tribal lands to outsiders.  Tripura’s predicament was widely discussed all over northeastern India and increased the common man’s apprehension and distrust of the Indian plainsman and unprincipled opportunists of the national political parties.

No matter what racial, linguistic, religious, economic or social reasons we may attribute for a riot, the fact is that mal-administration and poor governance is invariably the root cause of the break-down of law and order.  Once this happens, extremists will foster violence and terrorism may result.  Then, if the other prerequisites of insurgency are prevalent, we can be sure that insurgency will follow.  One saw this happening in Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur, and could see this pattern unfolding in Tripura with textbook precision. In 1981 the tribals went on the offensive and one night slaughtered some 600 Bengalis.  The non-tribals retaliated, killing some 200 tribals.

It is not surprising that the tribals have thrown up a group of extremists who style themselves as the Tripura National Volunteers [TNV] with the proclaimed aim of an independent tribal homeland.  TNV leaders were quick to establish contact with MNF hard liners located in jungle bases in Bangladesh.  Though security forces were able to keep the situation under control, it was soon evident that arms were being supplied to the TNV.  There was also evidence that extremists from Manipur were infiltrating through Assam into Tripura to support the TNV.

Events in Tripura, and the other states had not escaped the notice of the people inhabiting the hill districts of Assam.  Their leaders joined together and demanded separate statehood.  So in due course the hill districts were detached from Assam and renamed Meghalaya, which was granted statehood in 1972.  This brought a degree of stability to Assam.  Recently, the Bodo people, who inhabit the Brahmaputra valley, have begun demanding a separate homeland and indulging in stray acts of violence to support their demands. Moreover, the problem of infiltration still agitates the locals

The northern-most and largest of the Seven Sisters is Arunchal Pradesh, formerly the Union Territory called the North East Frontier Agency [NEFA].  Its 880-km-long northern border, known as a McMahon Line, has been in dispute between India and China.  During the brief Sino-Indian Border Conflict [1962], the Chinese army overran small Indian army outposts and occupied the whole of Arunachal Pradesh.  After a few weeks, they withdrew unilaterally.  Thereafter, the area continues to be administered up to the crest line by India. Arunachal Pradesh was granted full statehood in 1987.  The State has a tribal population of 557,000 of which 50,000 are Buddhist.  The remainder is animist with a sprinkling of Christians.

.  Those who blame Christianity for the troubles of the northeast divert attention from identifying the real factors responsible and absolve the administration’s failure in solving the region’s problems.  Christianity serves as a defence mechanism for tribal interest and identity against the threat of domination and absorption into the large Hindu society of the plains.  The separatist tendencies amongst some hill tribes are an attempt on their part to defend their socio-political-cultural identity in the new circumstances of modernization.

 Arunachal Pradeesh and Tripura are both a good illustration of the religious pressures at work.  The Christian element of the animist tribal population of Tripura has been gradually increasing over the past decade.  Yet for over two decades no foreign missionary has been allowed into that area.  Today’s missionary is not a white clergyman but a jean-clad Naga or Mizo teenager who carries a Bible in his hand, identifies with the locals and speaks their language. On the other hand, Arunachal Pradesh is still largely animist and is trouble free.  Some fear that Christianity will make the neutral tribals hostile by converting them first and indoctrinating them later.  In the past, tribal societies have displayed a strong sense of community without class distinctions.  The faithful have given the Church the maximum of the little they possess, making the northeastern Churches amazingly self-supporting. We should also not forget the key role played by the Churches in bringing peace to Nagaland and Mizoram.

  Everyone has the right to follow any path or religion and even change it.  The acceptance of this right does not authorise any establishment or individual tp resort to organised proselytisation which creates tension and conflict between religiours communities, and impairs inter-faith goodwill. It is distasteful and unacceptable for anyone to attempt mass conversions of poor tribals through the attraction of food, clothing and shelter.  However, any long-term plan for the region must take into consideration the fact that the Christian church has become a significant reality in the northeast. [And elsewhere in the animist belts of India.]  When an animist is educated beyond a certain point, he begins to ask the basic questions which all thinking people ask: Why am in this world? Where do I go after death?  He can only turn to the traditional religions for answers to such questions. It is difficult for him to convert to Hinduism where no caste would accept him.  Buddhism does not proselytize.  Islam does not attract him.  He falls back on the tribal Christian pastor as the most convenient choice.

Events in the northeast have had repercussions in West Bengal, Sikkim and elsewhere in India. The Gorkhaland movement in West Bengal has gained impetus from the eviction of Nepalese from Assam who are forced to take shelter in north Bengal where agitators have been fomenting discontent among the Nepalese-speaking people for years.  To begin with the demand was for greater recognition of the Nepali language and regional autonomy for the northern district of West Bengal. The agitators won substantial support among the youth and extremists who soon pushed the moderates into the background.  In May 1986, the Gorkha National Liberation Front [GNLF] in furtherance of its demand for the establishment of Gorkhaland, a homeland for the Nepali-speaking people living in north Bengal and Sikkim, called for the abrogation of the Indo-Nepal Treaty and organised a bandh which resulted in widespread violence.  There is little doubt that the Nepali-speaking people are being influenced by the general situation in northeastern India.

The GNLF’s struggle for the abrogation of the Indo-Nepal Treaty is aimed at securing an identity for Nepalese settlers.  The Treaty permits Nepalese citizens to migrate to India in search of work.  They have all the privilege of Indian citizenship except the right to vote; their families and Nepal’s economy benefit immensely by their remittances.  Indians in Nepal are similarly deprived of franchise.  Neither Kathmandu nor Delhi wishes to upset the status quo so long as they are both able to enjoy the advantages brought by the Treaty without facing its wider implications.  But the time has come when the two governments have to review all the arrangements of their Treaty in the light of the last four decades of experience.  This is not going to be an easy task as an estimated six million Nepalese national are in India without any valid documents.  Many of these have been here for a long time; their children are now in a position to claim Indian citizenship.  The Treaty also involves the recruitment of Gorkhas into the Indian Army, and other far-reaching social, economic, political and security implications. But whilst this is being worked out, let there be no doubt that the first priority is northeastern India.

At the national level, the question of dealing with the northeast’s dilemmas has till now been ambivalent or indifferent.  The problem has been to modernize the region without losing ethnic or cultural identity.  Cultural integrity has been ill served by encouraging the notion that tribals must be preserved as museum exhibits.  Change is everywhere and is relentless.  Attempts to regulate it have been undermined by the steady influx of outsiders; legal and illegal.  The tribals fear that they will be reduced to hewers of wood and drawers of water, while the outsider becomes the overlord.  Law and order cannot be bought with money nor won with weapons.  It will have to be earned by good governance, sound administration and economic development.  The first step is to get our priorities right.

The two key problems facing the region are infiltration of foreigners and communications. The administration should give up trying to solve in filtration by gimmicks; and the biggest of all is the proposed fence along the entire border with Bangladesh.  This will cost over Rs500 crores with an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 100 crores.  Even then the project will be a dud.  There are too many riverine routes that the fence cannot span; the fenced are is too overgrown with jungle and scrub to be patrolled effectively; pachyderms and the jungle itself will knock down the fence; barbed wire can be cut down and sold.  Anyway a man wanting to enter Assam illegally can first cross into West Bengal legally, take a train to Assam, join his patrons there and then “disappear”.  Why take the trouble to cross a fence?  There is no better protection and safeguard against illegal immigrants than a loyal and patriotic people, a well organised network at the village level to keep track of all movements; ration cards and land records; an identity card system and vigilant police outposts.

In the past, the quickest and cheapest approach to Silchar from Calcutta was via the rivers of Bangladesh.  The rivers still exist and we must revive this traffic and inland water transport systems to the mutual advantage of both Bangladesh and India.  There is no reason why this should not only be revived but also modernised.  A fleet of relatively inexpensive heavy-duty hovercraft should augment the traditional fleet of riverboats.  These would not only save time but also enable the forward distribution o9f stores to South Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram along shallow river routes without the need to off-load the hovercraft or build expensive roads and bridges, which require costly and constant maintenance.  Hovercraft could also function in the lower reaches of Arunachal  Pradesh and in Assam.

Punjab was the next entrant into the fold of organised terrorism, which was mixed with revolutionary insurgency. To understand how and why this has come about requires one to go back into history.  Sikhism is a unique phenomenon in the history of faiths.  It derives its inspiration and liberal mystic outlook from the Vedas and Upanishads, and was constructed as a simplified form of Vedanta in the language spoken by the people. Thus, the dividing line between Hindu and Sikh remained blurred.  Sikhs visited Hindu places of pilgrimage, observed Hindu festivals and fasts, and continue to marry Hindus of their own sub-castes.

From the very beginning, Guru Nanak faced serious challenges in the spread of his religious philosophy.  Hindus and Muslims tried to diminish the growing influence of Sikhism, the Third Faith as it was called.  He was arrested by Emperor Babar and put behind bars.  He was jeered at by orthodox Hindus for keeping Muslims in his entourage.  The second, third and fourth Gurus too faced difficulties with temporal and religious authorities, which reached a crisis point with the roasting alive of the fifth guru Arjun.  This started a prolonged war with Moghul rulers in Delhi.

 Sikhism was considered a non-violent religion till the Sikhs took up arms against the Moghuls under the sixth Guru Hargobind who built the Akal Takht at Amritsar in 1606.  In 1699, Guru Gobind Sing decided to institute the Khalsa [fraternity of the pure].  He also decided to suffix the names of Keshadhari [baptised] Sikhs with “Singh”, meaning lion. From its inception, Sikhism sought to establish an egalitarian society where all men and women would be equal and share their resources collectively.  Sikhism never believed in casteism. The ten Gurus have left no consolidated code of conduct for the Sikhs; not even a definition of who is a Sikh except that “he who is pure of heart, compassionate, devotee of the one God, shorn of superstitions of all kinds and who treats humanity as one, is a Khalsa.”  Nor did any Guru create or fight for a religious state. The letter of protest that Guru Gobind Singh wrote to Aurangzeb clearly states that the Gurus’s fight was for religious liberty for all, and against the irreligious and un-Islamic conduct of Aurangzeb.

When Ranjit Singh [1790-1839] created a sovereign State, he made is a secular and not a Sikh State, though he himself was a devout Sikh.  Ranjit Singh’s Cabinet was a composite one; his Prime Minister was a Hindu Dogra, and his Home Minister was a Muslim.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh symbolised in his person some of the confusion resulting from the difficulty of drawing a dividing line between the Sikh and Hindu.  He observed the keshadhari external symbols and insisted that his European and Hindu courtiers did likewise.  Although he had the Granth read to him every day, he often worshipped in Hindu temples and revered Brahman priests.  When he realised he was dying, he wished that the diamond Koh-I-Noor be gifted away, not to the Har Mandir [Golden Temple] in Amritsar but to the Jagannath Temple at Puri.  When he died seven of his wives and concubines committed sati on his funeral pyre, a practice forbidden by the Sikh Gurus but accepted by Hindu tradition.

After the death of Ranjit Singh and the subsequent defeat of the Sikhs by the British, the former had to surrender their arms in a humiliating ceremony.  The British appointed their own custodians for the Golden Temple and other gurudwaras.  Disbanded Sikh soldiers sulked for a while, but it was soon evident that a revival of the old Khalsa spirit was no longer possible under British rule.  A British report of 1851-52 observed that: “The sacred tank at Umritsar is less thronged than formerly….the initiatory ceremony for adults is now rarely performed….[people leave the khalsa] and join the ranks of Hinduism whence they originally came, and bring up their children as Hindus.”  Far-sighted Imperial administrators were concerned by this trend and made determined efforts to win over the Sikh community, specially the keshadhari soldiers whose fighting elan they respected.

Till now, it was the Bengal Army of the East India Company, overwhelmingly comprised of people from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, which had helped the British, conquer India.  These people had claims to martial traditions dating back to the Magadha Empire.  It was with these troops that the British had defeated the valiant Sikh Armies.  After 1857, because elements of the Bengal Army had mutinied against their British masters, they ceased to be recruited into the army.  In a matter of one generation they were classified as non-martial.   On the other hand, those who had fought for the British, the Sikhs and the Gorkhas in particular were eulogised as martial races.

The exodus of Sikhs to Hinduism disturbed the British. The Government of the day admitted, “modern Sikhism was little more than a political association formed exclusively from among Hindus, which men join or quit according to the circumstances of the day.”  This development in accord with Indian reality was not liked by the British.  They considered it something “to be deeply deplored, as destroying the bulwark of our rule.” The political aim was to use the Sikh to offset both the Muslim and the Hindu.  Imperialism thrives on divisions, and even sows them where they do not exist.  From then onwards, “Sikhism is in danger” became the cry of British scholar-administrators.  Every effort was made to emphasise the external marks of the Sikh, which separated him from the Hindu, as once these were lost, a Sikh relapsed into Hinduism.  Sikhs were encouraged to regard themselves as a totally distinct and separate nation.  Khalsa activists who called themselves Akalis [belonging to the immortals] moved from place to place and occupied different gurudwaras.

The British also worked on a political level.  Singh Sabhas were started.  These were manned mostly by ex-soldiers and worked under two Khalsa Diwans at Lahore and Amritsar; their badge was loyalty to the British.  In 1872,the Singh Sabhas spearheaded the suppression of the Namadhari Sikhs who had started a Swadeshi [homemade] Movement.  In 1902, the two Diwans were amalgamated into one body, the Chief Khalsa Diwan, which provided political leadership to the Sikhs.  Steps were taken to separate various ceremonies and rituals, which were the same as the Hindus.  In 1909, the Ananda Marriage Act was passed.

That same year the Morley-Minto reforms were promulgated to provide separate electorates and reservations for Muslims.  By this measure, the British were on one side of a triangle, the other side being controlled by nationalists of all communities who began to consider themselves Indians.  The Muslim League was on the third side.  Within this triangle, pliable Princes, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis and others were readily available to play the Imperial game whenever it suited the Government. This arrangement spelt a diffusion of power.  Any one side, which did not wish to cooperate, could neutralise the other to hold anyone to ransom.

It was not long before British officials were found complaining that their policy of “glorifying” the Sikhs in order to separate them from the Hindus had its disadvantages as it tended to give the Sikhs a “wind in the head”. Sikh nationalism once stimulated, refused British guidance and developed its own ambitions in which “there was no place for the British officers.”  Sikh nationalism, which had been fostered to undermine Indian nationalism, in fact began to hurt the British, for what nourished Sikh nationalism also nourished Indian nationalism.  Thus, even during the heyday of Sikh loyalty to the British, there were many rebellious Sikh voices.

In 1920, the Akali movement demanded the liberation of the gurudwaras.  British appointed custodians were replaced. by Akali appointees.  In 1925, all gurudwaras were placed under the control of an elected body called the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee [SGPC].  The SGPC institutionalised the urges and aspirations of the Sikhs and gave them a semblance of independent power in religious and social matters.  The formation of the Akali Party gave them a political voice.  From then onwards we can see the mixing of religion and politics, and the misuse of gurudwaras for political purposes.  The records show that there is not a single political party or personage who has not addressed gatherings there and harangued them on political themes.

Historically, the Akalis were not an independent Sikh component of the larger freedom movement as the [Pathan] Khudai Khidmatgars in the North Western Frontier Province were a Muslim component of it.  They could not be, for they were the products of a British-inspired movement among the Sikhs, which emphasised their separateness from the Hindus.  Nevertheless, Sikhs had been at the forefront of the freedom movement. So complete was the understanding between the Akali Dal and the Congress that in the 30s, one could be a member of both organisations simultaneously.  Up to 1946, the Akali representatives remained an unalienable part of the opposition Congress Party in Punjab as well as in the Central Assembly in New Delhi.  But by then, things had already begun to sour between the Sikhs and Hindus.  The blame for this must rest squarely on the Hindu zealots and was perhaps an unavoidable consequence of the history of those times.

A Hindu revival had begun at the end of the 19th Century, mainly to counter the onslaught of Christian missionaries on idolatry and Hindu mythology.  But this soon degenerated into polemics with the Muslims and Sikhs.  Guru Nanak was called a dambhi [pretender] because he did not know Sanskrit; shudhi [a purification ceremony] was performed on the Sikhs at Lahore.  Few Hindu institutions, schools, colleges, banks or hospitals would recruit a Sikh, let alone a Muslim.  Even Punjab University after 100 years, was controlled by revivalists elements which had never permitted a Sikh vice-chancellor, or even a Sikh professor till fairly lately.  The Punjab language was classified a ganwaroo basha [language of the rustic] even though it was the mother tongue of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who conversed in it with zest.

Sikh zealots, faced by these realities, began to fight for their political rights on communal lines, as was happening with the other religious communities, elsewhere in India before Partition. This made the Sikhs a separate political entity as much as a religious entity.  The Akali Party began demanding a separate Khalistan from 1942 onwards when the British first began serious negotiations to reach a settlement about India’s freedom.  When the Cabinet Mission came to India in 1942, an Akali delegation presented a demand for “a separate independent state with the right to federate with Hindustan or Pakistan.”  But they found that they were in a majority only in two tehsils and the idea of a separate state was not viable.  Nevertheless, some Akalis kept reiterating their demand for Khalistan in the name of the Sikhs, and maintained this position up to the transfer of power.

Partition brought about cataclysmic changes in the fortunes of the Sikhs.  The separate electorates and special privileges they had enjoyed were abolished and the most prosperous Sikhs were uprooted.  The community's separate identity had to be reasserted in a secular state in which they formed less than two per cent of the population. It must be appreciated that the Sikhs accepted joint electorates without demur, merged their communal identity with the political identity of the nation, rolled up their sleeves and made their half of Punjab the granary of India.  We should therefore not be dismayed that the Akalis wanted that the same status be given to the Punjabi language as had been given to other languages elsewhere; this, and not secession, was the motivating force behind the Punjabi Suba movement.  But nor must the Sikhs be surprised that Punjabi Hindus feared Sikh fundamentalism and its penchant for violence.

Khalistan was never a campaign slogan during an election in Punjab.  Sikh demands centred on increased water rights, the status of Chandigarh as the sole capital of Punjab and other local religious, cultural and linguistic issues.  Khalistan is the demand of think tanks outside India.  Since 1933,”the Sikh movement has been controlled from every side by British and American universities”.  However, whereas moderate Sikhs may have wanted a secular state in which Khalsa traditions could be maintained, and where they could wield political power, behind these legitimate and non-violent aspirations lurked a hardcore of separatists and extremists.  Nevertheless, terrorism in support of the Khalistani cause was never demonstrated at that time.  The other distressing circumstances, which prevailed on both Hindu and Sikh refugees before, during and after the greater common terrors of Partition, absorbed everyone's attention.  Survival and personal rehabilitation became of greater importance than Khalistan.

But the Punjabi Suba Movement gained in strength over the years.  After prolonged agitation, the Government agreed to the creation of a Punjabi-speaking state.  In any fair division of Punjab on a linguistic basis, it should have been a Hindu majority state with Punjabi as its language of administration and medium of instruction.  But the problem of carving out a linguistic state in the Punjab was not one of language but of script.  Both Hindu and Sikh spoke Punjabi; the former disowned the Gurumukhi script.  Sikhs must therefore not be surprised or dismayed that those who were charged with the task of demarcating the boundaries of Punjab, saw to it that the Sikhs, who may have wanted a Punjabi-speaking state, ended up with a Sikh-majority state.  The Punjabi-speaking Hindus of Himachal Pradesh and Harayana refused to identify themselves with the new Punjab.  This hurt the moderate Akalis who were further frustrated when they tried to win power democratically in the new Punjab where the Sikhs were at least in the majority.  They were soon to realise that the Congress continued to dominate the political scene through a combination of the secular Sikh and Hindu vote.

Apart from the linguistic and political struggle, Punjab saw an intense clash between the influence of modernisation and the guardians of Khalsa orthodoxy.  They identified the Congress with modernisation, and saw both as not only a threat to their power over Sikh society, but to the very survival of the Sikh religion.  The Sikh author Khuswant Singh in the preface of his book The Sikhs, published in 1955, wrote: “The chief reason for my writing an account of my people is the melancholy thought that contemporary with my labours are being written the last chapters of the story of the Sikhs.  By the end of the century, the Sikhs themselves will have passed into oblivion.”   There was an immediate reaction to this, and uproar among the Sikhs whose fears of the Congress and modernisation mounted.

Once the underlying Sikh fear of survival of his religion is recognised, it appears logical that the comprehensive control over gurudwaras becomes a central factor.  So does the use of the Golden Temple as a general headquarters, the communalisation of Sikh politics and the Akali stand over protecting the sanctity of the Temple’s surroundings.  The rise of fundamentalism, as spearheaded by Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, must be understood as an attempt to preserve the separate identity of the Khalsa Panth.  The Sikhs have always combined religion with politics, along with a tradition of authoritarianism sprinkled with an exaggerated belief in the martial qualities of their principal actors.

The Anandpur Sahib Resolution of 1973 claimed to be made, not in the name of the Akalis but in that of all the Sikhs.  It smacked of the pre-independence manifesto of the Muslim League for the creation of Pakistan.  The strategy was to couch the separatist demand in terms that were open to a variety of interpretation; this gave flexibiliy to the Akali leadership in negotiating a new constitution and brought into one fold not only those Sikhs committed to Khalistan but also those who entertained grave doubts about separation.

At that time, Dr Jagit Singh Chauhan, a former Punjab finance minister, established his headquarters at Khalistan House in Reading, England, and proclaimed himself “president in exile” of the non-existent Sikh separatist state.  London was the “capital” of Khalistan but most of Dr Chauhan’s supporters lived in Canada and USA.  This period saw the rise of several Sikh terrorist organisations with links to the Naxalites.  We have seen how socio-economic factors including neglect; isolation and poverty may explain aspects, which supported insurgency in the northeast.  But those factors do not apply in Punjab where terrorists conform to a typical sociological profile of European terrorist groups; single, male, aged 25-35 years, having a partial university education with an affluent middle-class family background and deriving much of his motivation from frustration and anarchist or nihilist notions. In 1978, Naxalites swelled the ranks of the All-India Sikh Student Federation, the most fanatic supporters of Sant Bhindranwale, and the recruiting ground for the terrorist groups

By this time, the SGPC had become a state within a state with an annual income of Rs 12 crores and activities which encompassed schools, colleges, hospitals and missions spread throughout India and the world.  Once he had gained influence as a religious leader, Sant Bhindranwale began his odyssey in Sikh politics by putting up 30 candidates for the SGPC elections against Akali candidates.  The struggle between these two forces may be seen varying points of view: haves versus the have-nots, moderates versus the extremists, rural versus urban, Jats versus Khattri.  But whatever one’s opinion, this battle for the source of Sikh money-power increased tensions. The situation became overcharged when frustrated Akali leaders also moved their headquarters into the Golden Temple and coalesced their political and economic agitation with religious demands; a massive public response was generated under the rallying call: the panth is in danger.

Meanwhile, proclaimed criminals, murderers and terrorists, when pursued by the police also sought refuge in the Golden Temple.  Visitors witnessed the astonishing scene of arrogant criminals and militant Sikhs strolling in and out of the Temple complex openly carrying loaded sub-machine guns and mingling with the pilgrims without any hindrance or even apprehension of arrest. Punjab presented the perfect example of the entwining of terrorism and insurgency, mixed with religious and political grievances.  It was now e evident that the military strategists across the border in Pakistan were taking a keen interest in Punjab’s affairs and were busy cultivating expatriate Sikhs in the USA, UK and Canada.

 The separatist movement enjoyed outside support of arms and money from across the border and from Sikhs abroad.  It preached the cause of Khalistan and many young men were ready to fight for the cause.  But it lacked important ingredients necessary to fight a sustained guerrilla war.  Punjab provides no jungles or mountains for a secure guerrilla base. Terrorists therefore attempted to convert every gurudwara into a safe sanctuary.  Some Sikhs resented this.  They became the targets of terrorists who attempted to cow down all opposition.  This alienated public support for the cause.

Terrorism, like most diseases, has unpleasant symptoms, which if neglected can develop dangerous consequences. Law and order in Punjab were allowed to drift due to a mixture of reasons: primarily, poor governance, a lack of coordination between the police and the armed forces who had to deal with the two separate problems of terrorism and insurgency, and the absence of adequate laws to deal with the situation.  The period from 1980 till mid-1984 provides a gruesome record of terrorism in Punjab: murder, hi-jacking, arson and loot were a frequent occurrence.  Hundreds of innocent victims were killed in cold blood.  God-fearing Sikhs knew that by giving refuge to killer in gurudwaras, their religious and political leaders were guilty of being accessories before and after the crime, and of obstructing the course of justice.  But it required courage to dissent under the fear of being put on a hit list. Up to January 1984, of the 220 people killed by terrorists, 190 were Sikhs. 

Contrary to popular misconceptions, terrorism in Punjab was not the outcome of spontaneous anger because of religious or political grievances.  It was carefully planned and organised violence for effect, not on the actual victims of the terrorists but aimed at Sikh and non-Sikh onlookers.  Fear was the intended effect and not the by-product of terrorism.  The aim was to destroy the confidence which the people had in the government by provoking it to act outside the law; to bring about the moral alienation of the Sikh masses from the government until its isolation becomes total and irreversible, to make life unbearable for the free press and a democratic administration so long as the terrorists: demands remain unsatisfied. Security forces knew that they had a difficult task on their hands. State administrators and the judiciary seemed helpless in the face of the twin strands of terrorism and insurgency.  Fear and apprehension spread through Punjab and from there, throughout India.

Many began demanding that the security forces be given a free hand to deal with the situation.  Those with experience in counter-insurgency operations knew that the problem was how to deal with internal violence without infringing human rights, and in this case without offending religious sentiments. One of the terrorist’s tactics is to provoke a political over-reaction and force the state to drop its democratic constitutional mask. They were aware of the dangers of “terrorism” being practiced by government agencies, which act to curb or eliminate dissent. It was clearly understood that security forces must function under strict supervision in accordance with the laws of the land. Democratic nations therefore have stringent laws and Special Forces trained to distinguish between insurgents, misguided dissenters and terrorists. Israeli Commando earned fame after their spectacular Entebbe Raid when hostages were rescued from Uganda.  The Germans have their Grennzschutzgruppe 9 [GSG-9] and the French their Groupe d’intervention di la Gendarmerie Nationale [GIGN].  The US have Rangers and Green Berets, and Great Britain its Special Air Services [SAS] which has the reputation of being the world’s finest counter-terrorist unit and a trend-setter for the others.  India had no such special force.

Apart from the lack of specially trained forces, there was a legal lacuna facing the challenge of organised terrorism.  Indian laws and the Penal Code made no real provision for terrorism, so action had to be limited to the use of criminal laws whilst employing a mixture of police and military force.  President’s Rule was imposed and several new laws were proclaimed but the overall system had flaws.  Two examples may explain the problem.  It is difficult to fight a mixture of terrorism and insurgency unless all the five fronts [the economic, social, psychological, political and military aspects] are coordinated and functioning under a unified command.  Our procedures lack a unified system.  This results in various agencies pulling in different and sometimes contrary directions.  Apart from this, the legal system is unable to deliver prompt punishments or justice.  The security forces find it difficult to convict  murderers who get bail or are freed, and then terrorise witnesses.  So all concerned had to re-learn the lessons that had already been learnt the hard way in eastern India, that terrorism cannot be legislated out of existence by laws alone.  There is no substitute for firm governance and sound professionalism.

By April 1984, a point was reached when terrorism, as emanating from agencies lodged in the Golden Temple, Amritsar, became so blatant and the para-militay forces so ineffective, that the question for the Government was not only of self-assertion but of self-preservation; its existence was challenged to act and show what it is. The authorities had considered laying siege to the Temple and cutting off supplies to the terrorists.  They were advised, with justification, that an extended siege would result in greater loss of life, as the security forces would have to prevent Sikhs from the surrounding countryside defying the curfew and converging on Amritsar.

In June 1984, the Army was ordered to launch Operation Blue Star and clear the Golden Temple complex, where an intricate maze of passage-ways was being heavily defended by fanatical extremists armed with machine-guns, rocket launchers and semi-automatic weapons deployed behind sand-bagged entrenchments.  The Army was ordered to operate so that minimum damage was inflicted on the Akal Takht.  This restraint perhaps accounts for the high casualties it suffered; over 90 officers and men were killed.  The defenders fought determinedly and about 2000 of them died.  The body of Sant Bhindranwale was identified among the dead.

After Operation Blue Star, many expressed disapproval “of the increasing involvement of the armed forces in the management of affairs in what is tantamount to a breakdown of civil power.”   There is truth in the criticism that the army should not be used where the police can suffice.  But we must guard against the false belief that the various tools available to a government to counter threats to its survival are alternatives.  On the contrary, the diplomatic, social, psychological, economic and military fronts are not alternative but complimentary tools which have to be orchestrated simultaneously to achieve success.  Similarly, on the military front, the armed forces, para-military forces and police are not alternative tools but form part of one front, which has to be coordinated skillfully to ensure victory. Admittedly there are some anti-terrorist tasks, which are best performed by the police, and some best executed by the military.  An experienced leader will know when to use one or the other or both, but will guard against attempting to draw a firm line between the two.

The public seemed unaware that the army, in conjunction with the para-military forces and police had been involved in counter-insurgency operation the northeast, on and off, for the past thirty years.  Apparently, few bothered about stray killings in isolated jungles on a remote northeastern border.  But Punjab is close to Delhi and the horror of the Battle of the Golden Temple could not be hidden from the press, TV cameras and the public.  The nation was shocked.  There were many Sikh units and individual Sikhs who were members of other units that served with distinction in the operations in Punjab.  However there was unrest in four Sikh army units [out of a total of about 100 Sikh units] located in far away states.  The men were carried away by false rumours of what was really happening in Punjab. Some mutinied or absented themselves.  All were rounded up and dealt with by military courts.  Their trials were open to the public.  The majority was dismissed from service; some were given prison sentences.

Three days after Operation Blue Star, the British Broadcasting Corporation [BBC] broadcast a statement by Dr Chauhan calling upon loyal Sikhs to rise up and assassinate Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, her son, and the high-level military officers who led the army assault on the Golden Temple.  Chauhan’s Khalistan government-in-exile founded the World Sikh Organisation [WSO], an international organisation spanning several countries. The founding convention of WSO was held in July 1984 in Madison Square Garden, New York.  Present were representatives of the Kashmir Liberation Front, Tamil Separatist terror organisations of Sri Lanka and Afghan mujahideen. WSO was given the task of building a fresh terrorist capability.

It was evident that the Prime Minister would be the target of Sikh extremists. But Mrs. Gandhi had shown the Sikh members of her personal guard to some foreign journalists as a symbol of trust saying, “You see him; what could I possibly fear from some one like him?”  On 30 October 1984, Mrs Gandhi was gunned down by those very same Sikh members of her bodyguard whilst walking from her residence to her office.  Her assassination, at one stroke, did what the murder of by terrorists of hundreds of Hindus in Punjab had failed to do; it provoked communal riots and drove a wedge between the Sikhs and other communities.  There was a violent Hindu backlash in various parts of India and hundreds of innocent Sikhs were killed.

It was not difficult to establish the complicity of Pakistan’s military regime in the conspiracy to destabilise India by supporting Sikh terrorism.  Pakistanis had been infiltrating into Sikh and Indian organisation in the UK, USA and Canada.  Nearer home, the interrogation of captured terrorists had clearly revealed Pakistan’s involvement with Sikh extremists who were being given sanctuary in Pakistan where they are paid, trained, armed and infiltrated across the border to Punjab.  Indian currency was smuggled into Pakistan in exchange for sophisticated weapons and drugs.  The last item is funneled to the West at a profit, which is added to the terrorist’s funds

In the general elections, which followed Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination, her son Rajiv Gandhi secured a massive mandate.  One of the Prime Minister’s first moves was to conclude an accord with the Akali leader Sant Harchand Singh Longowal.  This comprehensive document dealt with compensation to innocent persons, army recruitment, rehabilitation of those discharged from the army, the formation of an all-India Gurudwara Act, centre-state relations, sharing of river waters and promotion of the Punjabi language.  Those who were masterminding the secessionist strategy were determined to teach a public lesson to anyone who had enabled this settlement.  In January 1985, the head priest of the Akal Takht, Giani Kirpal Singh was attacked in broad daylight.  He suffered serious injuries but survived.  A little later Sant Longowal was assassinated.  Mr. Surjit Singh Barnala assumed Akali Dal leadership.  He fought and won the state elections held in October 1985.  This brought the Akali Party into power for the first time in Punjab.

In 1985, the extremists switched their offensive to targets abroad.  In June, Air India flight-182 exploded over the North Atlantic killing all 300 passengers and crew.  The explosive device had been planted by Sikh terrorists operating from Canada.  Other bombings and assassinations were reported in Japan, the USA, UK and Canada. Meanwhile at home, unarmed extremists occupied the Golden Temple and began dismantling portions of the Akal Takht and the surrounding complex, which had been re-built at a great cost by the Centre.  Extremists, lodged within the Temple, finding that the authorities were ignoring them, began publicly espousing the secessionist platform and announced a programme of establishing “Khalistan with Delhi as the Capital”.  Mr. Barnala ordered the police to clear the complex of extremists.  This was done without any loss of life.

In November 1985, Giani Sahib Singh, the head granthi of the Golden Temple was shot within the precincts of the Temple on the morning of Guru Nanak’s birthday.  Mercifully he escaped with non-lethal wounds but his bodyguard was killed on the spot.  In June 1986, a large number of militants armed with swords swooped on the Golden Temple attacking members of the SGPC security force, killing one person and injuring many.  The police were sent in to disperse the mob and arrest ringleaders.  Contrary to concern expressed by some administrators of hurting Sikh psyche, it became evident that the Sikhs were fed up with the antics of the extremists; they wanted peace and were ashamed that their holy shrines were being misused by anti-social elements.

Frustrated in their efforts to win over the Sikh masses, the terrorists shifted their target and began attacking Hindus; murdering individuals and busloads of innocent passengers.  Some Hindus began to leave Punjab.  The authorities were aware that if an exodus of Hindus assumed unmanageable proportions, it could lead to a backlash.  Hindu fanatics in their zeal to settle scores could start murdering innocent Sikhs residing outside Punjab.  This could eventually lead to an exchange of population and fulfil the dreams of  pro-Khalistani terrorists.  In fact, tensions did rise between Hindus and Sikhs in a few cities but this was promptly controlled by alert administrators.

It is often argued that there is no defence against extremists willing to sacrifice their lives and that arresting or shooting them cannot solve the problem because the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Historical experience does not confirm such wisdom.  The number of potential terrorists inside India is limited.  A recent study reaches the obvious conclusion that “the more terrorists in prison, the lower the violence level.”  Terrorism has been stamped out with ease not only be modern states by also by governments that are anything but modern.  In 1981, the mujahideen and other terrorist groups turned on the newly established Ayatollah Khomeini government in Iran.  The terrorists were many and experienced; within three months they succeeded in killing the prime minister, many chiefs of police, half the government and the executive committee of the ruling party, not to mention dozens of members of parliament.  Never before had a terrorist onslaught been so massive and so successful.  Yet, the Khomeini government counter-attacked with great brutality; it killed without discrimination; it extracted information by means of torture; it refused as a matter of principle to extend medical help to injured terrorists.  And it broke the back of the terrorist movement.  Within another three months, the terrorists were either dead or had escaped abroad.

The power of a state is infinitely greater than any terrorist group, and it will always prevail provided there is the determination and ruthlessness to do so.  The question invariably boils down to whether a democratic Indian society can subdue terrorism without surrendering the values central to our system.  Again, history shows that this can be done.  The Italian authorities defeated the Red Brigades while acting strictly within the law by a mixture of political reforms, penetration of the terrorist ranks and promise of substantial reduction in prison terms to the penitents.  Indian society is vulnerable to attack, but it is also amazingly resilient.  On the other hand, terrorist movements have a limited life span.  When terrorists realise that the murder of a few politicians and officials [and many innocents] is not bringing them any nearer their goal, their confidence is undermined and their resolve weakens.

Admittedly a terrorist movement, which is entwined with an insurgency separatist movement can be long lived, specially when this enjoys an open border with a hostile Pakistan and outside aid.  But the overwhelming majority of Sikhs in India do not support the Khalistani concept.  They know that they are not an oppressed minority and also realise that Khalistan is an impractical non-viable state.  That is why Sikh terrorists no longer attract public support.  They now survived only because of financial aid from abroad, a limited number of “safe houses” within Punjab, and sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

Faced with this situation, India has three broad options. The first is to retaliate overtly across the international border with military force.  Israel has for long used overt combined action by its ground forces and air force to strike at suspected terrorist’s bases.  This option can only be exercised effectively by states, which have an efficient C3I system and also possess the strength to offset or contain hostile reactions that could arise from such offensive responses.  This option involves several other risks.  Innocent people are likely to get killed, and India would then be blamed for creating and new dangerous situation.  India could be branded as “aggressors” and its actions could attract international condemnation. India cannot resort to such a course or action lightly.  It will only do so when it has good reason to believe that refraining from offensive counter-action would have fateful consequences and cannot be ignored.

India’s second option is to retaliate covertly.  As an experienced anti-terrorism fighter put it: to catch a mouse one uses a cat and not a tank or an aircraft.  An effective cat ought to have a covert James-Bond-capability.  Then it would be possible for India to pay back the external sponsors of Khalistan in their own coin by killing specific targets abroad.  However, even if India trained such agents, would it be willing to authorise them to covertly kill people residing in friendly countries such as Canada, the USA or UK?

India’s third option is defensive:to accept casualties and take internal measures to deal with the situation as best it can.  At the same time adopt non-military measures to deter Pakistan from sponsoring cross-border terrorism and attempt to diminish its influence on Sikh organisations abroad.  This was the option adopted by India in the 50s and 60s when both Pakistan and China were supporting extremists operating in northeastern India.

To begin with there was some loose talk of building a fence and even a wall to seal off the Indo-Pak border.  Fortunately, good sense prevailed.  It was appreciated that a fence could be constructed along the border more efficiently than was the case in northeastern India.  It was also understood that this could be no more than a “cattle fence”; it would keep out animals but not human beings unless constantly observed and patrolled.  It was wisely decided to fence only a few selected areas and declare a 5-km belt along the whole border as a protected zone within which movement was restricted.  This step, along with improved surveillance methods and an identity card system began yielding good results and curbing infiltration.  Significantly, two tunnels constructed under the fence from Pakistan into India were detected after some time.  This emphasised the need for constant vigilance.

When the armed forces were withdrawn from active participation in counter-insurgency operations, Punjab police were revitalised under the leadership of a succession of dynamic Director Generals.  Constant surveillance of the border, good leadership and sound training began to show results.  Extremists were no longer having it their own way.   Their attempts to stage dramatic acts of terrorism were repeatedly frustrated with heavy casualties by skillful and ruthless police counter-measures. In May 1988, 80 armed extremists once again laid siege to the Golden Temple. It appeared that they wanted to stage a dramatic coup to regain public sympathy for their cause.  In fact the move misfired.  Police forces were able to carry out a 10-day siege of the Complex and then flush out the extremists killing several of them without suffering any casualties.  Significantly, the Sikh community did not react adversely to the siege; on the contrary there was praise for Mr.K.P.S. Gill, the Director General of Police.  Sikhs were clearly fed up with terrorism.

Despite the success achieved in Punjab and the Northeast, professionals know that the growth of terrorism and violence will continue to increase in the coming decades for several different reasons.  First, the tools available are becoming more lethal and much more frightening than before.  However, we should bear in mind that sophisticated weaponry facilitates rather than causes violence and terrorism.  Second, the media attention, which is focussed on a terrorist act, is immediate, global and usually undisciplined.  Third, the motives for terrorist attacks today span a spectrum that includes at extremes, personal grudges and political ambitions of independent statehood; there is little certainty as to what underlying motives may really be at play in any particular case.

 Terrorism won’t go away as along as it serves a purpose.  The use of terrorist tactics will persist as a weapon of political expression, as a substitute for diplomacy and sometimes as a weapon in an insurgency movement.  Small groups with a limited expenditure and a capacity for violence, can always use terror tactics to achieve disproportionate effects.  They hope to attract wide attention to themselves and to their cause. The terrorist will always retain one major advantage: India cannot protect everything, everywhere, all the time.  Terrorists increase their leverage by the careful selection of highly symbolic targets; the level of violence remains the same but the effect is expanded dramatically.  This forces India to devote vast resources to protect likely targets against terrorist attacks.  Security measures against terrorists at airports, around politicians and civic leaders have become a permanent feature of the Indian landscape, just as terrorism has become a permanent feature of the world’s political landscape.

Parliamentary politics and religion/caste in contemporary India are two entirely different streams of activity that operate on separate planes; their dynamics and points of reference are dissimilar.  Politics involves the struggle of groups, classes and individuals to impose their will upon society in a manner acceptable to it; it is directed outwards and seeks sanction for popular policies which are rational.  Religion/caste is inward looking.  Its sensibilities pertain to individual spiritual/traditional choices.  Religious belief and faith derive their justification from the other world and God.  An arbitrarily constituted religious/caste group may be sufficient authority for a religious edict or a narrow caste  programme.  But democratic politics is concerned about legitimate representation of the popular will through delegation or directly.

Some moralists believe that terrorism is a response to injustice, oppression and persecution.  They therefore conclude that by removing the underlying causes, terrorism will wither away.  This sounds plausible, since happy people are unlikely to commit savage acts of violence.  But this simple abstract proposition seldom works in real life, which is never free of conflict and revolt.  Dissent and revolt is the pattern of the age, but we should draw a distinction between technological, cultural and ideological revolt that endeavours to give the Indian variety of non-conformity a place in world history, and  caste/linguistic/religious revolt that attempts to challenge modernization.. The search for identity by minorities, caste groups and some sections of Hindu society, has coincided with the process of globalisation and India’s search for effective integration through modern communications and administration down to the smallest and most remote village.  This process sets up many conflicts, which could always be better managed, but  can never be reversed or avoided.  The upheavals in Punjab, the Northeast and elsewhere are an unpleasant confirmation of the success of Indian democracy and the process of empowerment of the under-privileged..  Many feel that they are at bay because they are now forced to articulate their aspirations not within the confines of their shrinking communities but within a larger India.  They cannot opt out the all-India scenario and they cannot dictate its terms.  In fact, democracy denies them the caste or religious group dominance that they had previously enjoyed.

Today, communal riots are not confined to Hindu-Muslim communities;  Christians have become a new target. Senseless acts of violence are not confined to Punjab and northeastern India alone, but take place in traditionally law-abiding regions.  [Unrest in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which began when India was partioned, is a complex problem and will be dealt with in Chapter 7.] Few states are immune from the virus of public disorder. In some regions caste killings take place at regular intervals. Large migrations from poorer overpopulated underdeveloped states to the more prosperous regions, adds to the tensions.  Such migrations are opposed by local political leaders who preach a “sons-of-the-soil” policy.  In Bihar, rich landlords have organised their own armed militia and an undeclared “war” exists between the landlords and rural tenants who are supported by armed Naxalites.  This situation cannot be remedied merely by creating more para-military forces.

Good laws, bold leadership, effective intelligence, contingency planning and relentless professionalism will make it difficult for a terrorist to operate freely.  Further success will depend on the discipline and morale displayed by individual citizens who are under attack and their political leaders who must set a public example by ensuring that the laws enacted by parliament and state legislatures will be strictly enforced and that no interference of any sort will be tolerated.

Too many politicians and citizens do not recognise their responsibility in these matters.  People seem to fall into the “why-so-I-pay-taxes?” mentality, and the typical response to a public act of terrorism is, “Why didn’t the police stop this from happening?”  Citizens must realise the limitations of the criminal justice system: police, the courts and prisons merely react to crime and cannot do much to prevent it.  Public discipline and morale are relevant factors in the fight against terrorism; continual political support for elementary public disciplinary measures is a vital first step in building up such morale.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEVEN

 

 

Whenever I am asked, “What is the solution to the Kashmir problem?”  I have countered by asking, “What is the problem?”  We cannot solve a problem until we have defined the problem in clear terms. This cannot happen until we are quite clear about the basic facts and the issues at stake.  India’s democracy accepts pluralism and diversity.  Despite its many imperfections, the system attempts to resolve differences through the spirit of tolerance, accommodation, co-existence and co-operation.  Pakistan’s polity finds it difficult to accept and deal with pluralism and diversity.  It attempts to deal with this through aggression, suppression, secession and isolation.  The partition of the Indian sub-continent, which took place in 1947, is a supreme example of this attitude.  Once the basic difference between the two states is understood, then the mini-cold war, which is being fought between the two countries over the past 50 years becomes understandable.  The Kashmir problem is a symptom of the conflict and not the cause of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Jammu and Kashmir

 

Jammu and Kashmir [K&K] is one of the 25 states of the Indian Union with a total population of a little under 8 million.  The state is divided into several distinct areas from the racial, linguistic and historical points of view.  The northern districts of Gilgit and Hunza [currently occupied by Pakistan] have people of Mongolian origin who are racially close to Central Asia.  The people living in the Indus and Jhelum valleys are linguistically and ethnically closer to Punjab.  Inhabitants of Srinagar Valley are linguistically and ethnically different to the remainder.

In the parts of the state under Indian control, there are three major divisions.  Of the total population of 7.72 million, nearly 50 per cent live in Srinagar Valley that comprises only 9 per cent of the total land area of the state.  Ladakh, which comprises nearly 46 per cent of the land mass, is predominantly Buddhist but sparsely populated, with barely 0.3 million people.  The rest of the area comprises Jammu division, which accounts for 45 per cent of the population.  Hindus form the majority in Jammu division; the remainder are Muslims.  Shias form 20 per cent of the population in the state.  There are many villages with a mixed Hindu-Muslim population throughout the state.  Even in Srinagar Valley, which is predominantly Muslim, Kashmiri Hindus, called Pandits, numbered 200,000 till 1990, when in the wake of terrorist violence, most of them had to flee their homes.  These people are presently living in refugee camps near Jammu.

Kashmir Valley, also referred to as Srinagar Valley, is a very fertile area located at a mean average height of 5000 feet above sea level.  The Valley is located East of the Pir Panjal range and is bounded to the north by the Great Himalayan range and to the east and south by the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges.  These ranges rise above 18,000 feet and are a formidable barrier to normal movement.  The natural route in to  Kashmir valley is from the west  through the Jhelum gorge.  This gorge is flanked with hills populated by people who are ethnically and linguistically different to the Kashmiris.  These factors ensured that the Kashmir Valley developed in isolation from the rest of the state.

In 1587, Emperor Akbar conquered J&K.  There followed a long period of peace under Moghul rule. It was only in the 18th Century, under Emperor Aurangzeb’s rule, that Kashmiri Hindus in large numbers gave up their religion and became Muslims, making them the most recent group of converts to Islam in the Indian sub-continent.  Kashmir has a large number of Dargahs [graves of holy men.]  Many of the saints are worshipped by both Hindus and Muslims.  Strict Islamic tradition frowns on such practices. Sufi saints of Kashmir continued the tradition of learning and tolerance giving Kahmiri Islam a unique character of its own, which makes draws it closer, emotionally and culturally, to the pluralism of India rather than to the less tolerant Wahaabi Islam. The patron saint of Kashmir, Nurrudin, is known as Nand Rishi by Hindus.

 In 1739, Kashmir came under the rule of Kabul.  In 1819, a joint delegation of Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus went to Lahore, capital of the Sikh Empire, and sought help to oust the Afghans from Kashmir.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Sikh ruler, drove the Afghans out of J&K.  Thirty-five years later, by the Treaty of Amritsar [1846] which was signed between the British and the Sikhs, J&K came into the possession of the Sikh general, Gulab Singh, a Hindu Dogra.  It is Gulab Singh who established the princely state of J&K in its present geographical shape and identity.

The modern history of J&K is dominated by the personality of Sheikh Abdullah, a charismatic man with an image of a father figure.  He was called the Lion of Kashmir.  Abdullah’s dream of an independent J&K influenced the thinking of the people of Kashmir for several generations.  In the late 30s, the Sheikh launched an agitation against Dogra rule to get a better representation for Muslims in government jobs.  He also wanted land reforms; large tracts were then owned by Hindus.  To get national support for his fight, he modified the constitution of his party, the Muslim Conference, and converted it into a secular organisation, which was named the National Conference.  In 1947 Shiekh Abdullah tried to secure the agreement of Indian and Pakistani leaders to an independent J&K.  The response from both sides was negative.  

The British parliament passed the Indian Independence Act in June 1947 declaring that the Muslim majority provinces of Sind, Baluchistan and the North Western Frontier Province, along with the Muslim majority areas of Bengal and Punjab were to constitute a separate state of Pakistan.  Sir Cyril Radcliffe was appointed chairman of the commission that was to divide the provinces of Punjab and Bengal.

At that time, besides the provinces directly ruled by the British, India also consisted of 562 principalities, which were ruled by chieftains, commonly referred to as Princes.  The Indian Independence Act left the fate of these Princely states undecided.  Legally, after the lapse of British imperial authority on 14/15 August 1947, these states would become independent.  The British, at the behest of major political parties in India and Pakistan, advised the states to join either of the two.  However, the British let it be known that they would neither oppose nor support any move for independence.  The decision to join either of the new states was left to the ruler. India and Pakistan followed different yardsticks for the merger of the Princely states.  Pakistan recognised the right of the ruler to decide, while India asserted that the merger issue must be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people.  According to India, the choice of the people should be ascertained either through a referendum, or by the views of an elected assembly [where such an assembly existed] or by consultations with the dominant political party. 

Beneath the veneer of principles, Indian and Pakistani stands were based on hard political realities.  The Congress Party was the dominant political force in most of the princely states.  The Party felt confident that this factor would favour India in the event of a referendum.  Pakistani support to the principle of absolute power of the ruler was based on the fact that a large number of Princely states had a majority Hindu population but were ruled by Muslims who were keen to join Pakistan.  Where these states did not have a land link with Pakistan, Jinnah was quite prepared to bargain for an independent status. India did not favour independence under any circumstances.

To facilitate future mergers, a department was set up with Mr. V.P.Menon as its secretary. Under the firm guidance of Home Minister Sardar Patel and able stewardship of Menon, all Princely states except J&K were eventually merged into the Indian Union by 1946; a remarkable achievement.  Sardar Patel truly deserved his reputation and title of “Bismarck of India.  However, the task of consolidating India’s territorial identity was not yet completed.  J&K, Goa and Sikkim became parts of the Republic between 1948 and the early 70s. This Chapter deals with J&K’s integration.  This took place in special circumstances and in several stages, The process has been evolutionary and gradual, and not the result of arbitary or abrupt political decision.

In 1947,Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K was inclined to remain independent. Though India stood firm in rejecting the idea of granting the state independence or of partitioning a princely state, some observers hinted that India was paving the way for the merger of the state’s Hindu and Buddhist majority areas with India. These suspicions sent alarm bells ringing in Pakistan.  Military preparations to seize J&K by force began in earnest.  As there were many serving Indian army officers still located with their units in Pakistan, the Indian government was made aware of these moves. 

            In August 1947, the people of newly created Pakistan expected the Muslim-majority State of Jammu & Kashmir [J&K} to join Pakistan. Whilst the Maharaja hesitated about whether to accede to Pakistan or India, the sparsely populated northern districts [Gilgit and  Hunza] supported by local militia units, which were officered entirely by the British, unilaterally declared that they were part of Pakistan.  The few State Force units, which were located in the area, withdrew into walled forts and later surrendered when they ran out of food.  There was very little violence. Elsewhere in J&K, State Forces attempted to maintain law and order in a rapidly deteriorating environment. The Maharaja was shaken by these events and now seemed keen to merge with India.  Prime Minister Nehru insisted that the ruler’s decision have the backing of the National Conference.

From September 1947 onwards, Nehru kept insisting that the only condition on which the merger could take place was with the agreement of Sheikh Abdullah.  In the second week of October 1947, Sheikh Abdullah came to Delhi.  While he was there, his trusted colleague Mr.G.M.Sadiq was in Karachi negotiating with Mr. Jinnah.  Ironically, Sheikh Abdullah agreed with his ruler; both of them wanted Kashmir to remain independent with the recognition and approval of India and Pakistan.

As a result of the Radcliffe Award, the only road and rail links to the State were via Pakistan; these were already being blocked by it.  The approach from India to Jammu via Pathankot was non-existent.  On 22 October, encouraged by the prompt secession of the northern districts, and the knowledge that India had no direct surface communications with J&K, Pakistan launched about 5000 Pathan tribals mounted in 200 civilian trucks and buses.  They distributed arms to ex-servicemen from Poonch and the Valley and encouraged them to join the tribals. These armed militants were organised into several columns, which moved eastwards along roads leading from Pakistan into J&K. Each column was commanded by a Pakistani army officer. They assumed that India would find it impossible to intervene militarily via Pathankot The aim was to provoke a popular uprising, which would overthrow the state government..

State force units fought gallant rearguard actions, blowing up bridges as they fell back towards Naoshera, Poonch and Srinagar.  This delayed the advance of the aggressors.  Raiders, operating through the Jhelum gorge, reached the township of Baramulla on 24 October.  Confident o success, the tribals decided to stop for a night at Baramulla eating, drinking and making merry.  Unruly Pathans went berserk and began mass rape and looting.  No one was spared. The victims were Muslims, Hindus and even Christian nuns at Baramulla convent. Their halt was extended to two nights. Reports of these atrocities outraged people in Srinagar and turned public opinion towards India.  The Maharaja sent his deputy Prime Minister to Delhi requesting immediate military aid.  Menon flew to Srinagar, consulted Sheikh Abdullah and obtained the signature of the Maharaja on the instrument of accession.  He returned to Delhi on 26 October.  The Maharaja left Srinagar for Jammu on the same day. The Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, accepted this signed instrument of accession conditionally.  He insisted that the future of Kashmir be decided through a referendum to be held at a later date.  To save time, a second instrument, already signed by Mountbatten and incorporating the condition of a referendum, was sent to Jammu for the Maharaja’s signature on 27 October.

At the same time, the first infantry unit of the Indian army was flown into Srinagar using civilian Dakota aircraft.  By now, Pakistani sponsored raiders were already threatening Srinagar airfield, which was secured by air-landed infantry under hostile rifle fire. This, and subsequent military actions could not have taken place without the whole-hearted co-operation of Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference workers who rallied public support and provided the army with civil trucks.  This enabled our air-landed forces to carry out operations beyond the airfield. Meanwhile, the airlift into Srinagar worked smoothly, thanks to the skill and dedication of the crews of private airline, the daring pilots of the IAF and competent staff officers at all levels.

Whilst this was happening, army engineers began building a road from Pathankot to Jammu.  Though this took time to complete, a rough cut with temporary bridging facilities over the numerous streams and rivers was completed in record time enabling convoys carrying heavy stores and ammunition to reach the troops who had been air lifted to the valley.  After a few fierce initial battles, the raiders were forced to retreat westwards, beyond the Jhelum gorge, and the Valley made secure.  Elsewhere in J&K, the raiders were forced to withdraw on all fronts except in the northern districts.   A State Force garrison of about three hundred men was still holding out in Skardu fort, some 90 km north of Kargil.  Attempts to link up with this force along a mule track failed and the garrison eventually surrendered.

            J&K’s accession to India had been constitutionally legitimate.  India took its complaint of Pakistani aggression to the UN Security Council. By now the road from Pathankot to Jammu had taken shape and military convoys were using this almost daily.  The army kept building up its strength and went on the offensive in all sectors.  Because of our success on all fronts and the likelihood of a collapse of Pakistan’s adventure, the UN after dilly-dallying for months over Pakistan’s aggression in J&K suddenly woke up.  A commission appointed by the Security Council passed a resolution, which was in three parts. The UN firstly asked both parties to accept a cease-fire.  Both countries accepted the UN resolution and a cease-fire came into force on 1 January 1949.

At that time, the military situation was turning in our favour.  Lieutenant General S.P.P. Thorat in his book From Reveille to Retreat, has written: “Judging by reports that reached Army Headquarters, our forces might have succeeded in evicting the invaders if the Prime Minister had not held them in check and later offered the cease-fire.  Obviously great pressure must have been brought to bear on him by the Governor-General, Lord Louis Mountbatten.”  Admittedly both the Indian and Pakistani armies were then headed by chiefs who were British nationals and this presented problems of a special nature in prolonging the conflict.  But it is interesting to consider what might have happened had India carried on with an offensive till the whole of Kashmir Valley, Poonch and Jammu were liberated.

The UN Security Council resolution, which was accepted by both India and Pakistan, was in three parts.  Part I provided for a cease-fire.  Part II provided for a truce agreement in which Pakistan was to accept an unconditional obligation to withdraw its troops as well as its tribesmen.  The Commission at the same time recognised the necessity to keep enough Indian forces in the State to ensure law and order and also the defence of the state.  Part III provided that after Part I was carried out and a truce agreement concluded under Part II, the parties and the Commission would consider ways and means to ascertain the will of the people. Because of the towering secular presence of Sheikh Abdullah, Pakistan was afraid of holding a plebiscite, at that time, and therefore refused to abide by Part II of the UN Resolution.   So Part III, ascertaining the will of the people, was never possible.  In the meanwhile, UN personnel were deployed to supervise the sanctity of the Cease-Fire Line (CFL).

In June 1949, the governor-general, Lord Mountbatten, departed for England.  Shri Chakravarty Rajagopalachari [CR] was appointed as the first Indian governor-general. British army officers and civil servants also began leaving India; a few senior ones were retained in key assignments for a period of three years.  The cabinet appointed General K.M. Cariappa as the first Indian Commander-in-Chief

By the end of 1949, India’s Constituent Assembly had finished its labours and produced a Constitution; an excellent document containing fundamental rights and so much else, all defined in the language of Macauly, Shakespeare and Bacon.  In it was Article 370, which is called “Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”  This was necessary as the Instrument of Accession which had been accepted by Mountbatten in October 1947 specified only three subjects on which the Government of India could legislate or make laws applicable to J&K.   These were, defence, foreign affairs and communications.  Among a number of matters still to be settled were the questions of fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy.  Article 370 therefore stated that the powers of the Central Parliament to make laws applicable to J&K were to be limited to matters corresponding to those specified in the Instrument of Accession and such matters as, with the concurrence of the Government of the State, the President may by order specify. 

Thus the status of J&K in the Union of India was clearly recognised to be different from that of all the other princely states which had been fully integrated into India. Unlike other Indian states, J&K’s governor was termed Sardar-i-Riyasat, and the chief minister was termed Prime Minister. Mr. B.R. Ambedkar described the provisions in Article 370 as “fatal in the long run for the unity and integrity of India.” The authors of Article 370 deliberately made it a temporary provision, which was not meant to last for half a century.  They believed that the termination of the maharaja’s rule would make Article 370 redundant.

India was declared a Republic on 26 January 1950.  Shri Rajendra Prasad was appointed as President to replace the governor-general.  The President, on 17 November 1952 signed the J&K constituent assembly’s resolution removing the ruler of J&K.   One view claims that with the abolition of the maharaja’s rule, all powers or subjects which the ruler had retained within his personal command, by keeping them out of the purview of the Instrument of Accession, ceased to exist on 17 November 1952.  Those conditions attached to the Instrument of Accession had become non-existent. The accession is now absolute.

Pakistan’s founder, Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wanted his country to be a modern secular state, a proposition, which was acceptable to all its federal constituents.  But after his death, the country adopted a constitution, which declared that Pakistan was an Islamic State.  Intellectuals warned that there would be a conflict between the concept of an Islamic state and the desire of the people to be a modern state. Apart from this, Pakistan has never been happy with the UN’s three-part resolution on J&K.  Partition of the sub continent had been based on religion.  It feels that it has been cheated of its rightful possession of a Muslim majority state.  India does not accept that a Muslim-majority state automatically gives Pakistan the right to assume possession  (By that logic, the state should belong to India which has a greater Muslim population than Pakistan.)  Anyway, the accession of J&K to India is legally correct. Moreover it was morally correct as India believed that aggression should never be rewarded

At that time, Pakistan supported the USA’s anti-Communist policy.  India adopted a neutral and non-aligned approach to the East-West confrontation. Pakistan became an active member of the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation (SEATO) which had been set up to contain Communism. Thereafter, every debate on the Kashmir issue in the UN was mired by the aberrations of the Cold War with the US blindly siding with Pakistan whenever the Soviet Union intervened to back India. To enable it to fulfil their role in those military pacts, the US began arming Pakistan with modern tanks, artillery and aircraft.  This was upsetting the military balance in South Asia.  India protested to the US but was told that American weapons would not be used against India.

Pakistani rulers have always turned for support to leaders of fundamentalist groups to validate the two-nation theory.  In this process, they borrowed extensively from fundamentalist ideology.  Over the years, they latched on to the term jihad [struggle].  There are many interpretations of the concepts of jihad.  At the two extremes there are those who believe that this is an internal struggle to better one’s self, and those who consider it a violent struggle against those who oppose Islam.  However, over the first two decades of its existence, Pakistan avoided becoming a fundamentalist state.   Various Islamic revivalist and fundamentalist political parties contested elections in the hope of capturing power.  Significantly, the electorate has always soundly rejected them.  However, national parties have not hesitated from using these radicals to boost their success at the polls. 

In  July 1952, Nehru and Abdullah met in Delhi to review events in J&K and discussions that had taken place at the UN between 1948 and 1952. There was an Indian commitment to hold a plebiscite to determine the state’s future status after Pakistan fulfilled its obligation under Part II of the UN Resolution. Both leaders wanted to expedite the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from those parts of J&K, which was occupied by them in accordance with Part II of the UN Resolution of 1947..   It was only when it became clear that Pakistan had no intention of doing this that the leaders of India and J&K signed an agreement on 24 July 1952, which began the process of integrating the state into India.

Shortly after this, elections for a J&K Constituent Assembly were held and the elected assembly began its sessions.  Sheikh Abdullah whilst addressing the assembly said, ”The fundamental rights contained in the Constitution of India could not be conferred on the residents of J&K in their entirety….care should be taken to preserve the basic character of the decisions taken by this House on the question of land confiscation as well as the transfer of land to the tiller and other matters.”  These remarks added fuel to the policy of agricultural reforms. which were being viewed in Jammu as brutal appropriation without compensation against the provisions of the Indian Constitution.  Many felt that this could only be undone by the removal of Abdullah from the appointment of Prime Minister. 

The crisis deepened when a communal agitation by the Jammu Praja Parishad took a violent turn.  The agitators were joined by the Jana Sangh, the Akali Dal, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh [RSS].  This was a formidable combination of Hindu and Sikh orthodoxy.  The common objective was the full integration of J&K into the Indian Union, down with Article 370, down with Abdullah, and down with Nehru if necessary. Apparently, Kashmiri perceptions of accession were different from some people in India.  The feeling in the Valley was that their freedom was being defended by the Indian army, whereas many Indians  believed that Kashmir had acceded to India like any other state.

At that time, records indicate that the Government of India was willing to grant a great degree of autonomy to the State.  It was prepared to leave even the most vital provisions of citizenship, fundamental rights of citizens, the jurisdiction of the supreme court and a lot else, to the State’s Constituent Assembly.  This did not suit the right wingers and reactionaries who began to exert their pressures.  They knew that they had to strike before the committees of the Kashmir Constituent Assembly could submit their reports.  A propaganda barrage was unleashed in the press claiming that Sheikh Abdullah was a turncoat; a pro-Pakistani who was about to repudiate the state's accession to India; he wanted an independent Kashmir.

At the height of this crisis, Shyama Prasad Mookerji, a prominent right wing politician, in a breach of orders, entered Jammu leading a band of agitators.  He was arrested and died of a heart attack in jail.  This strengthened the hands of the right wingers against Abdullah.  On 9 August 1953, in collusion with several of Sheikhs’s intriguing cabinet colleagues, the Sardar-i-Riyasat, Karan Singh, dismissed Abdullah from office at the dead of night, had him arrested in Gulmarg and driven away to jail in Jammu.  Propaganda said that Sheikh was about to cross over to Pakistan that night or early next morning.  Some claim that Nehru’s consent was neither sought nor given for this coup “which was a dual blow on Abdullah and Nehru who were both defeated”.  [Law and order, being a state subject, is dealt directly by a state.  Nehru and the Centre need not have been consulted; they were only required to be kept informed.]  After Abdullah’ dismissal, a coalition based on pliant National Conference ministers took over the government.  Appointees holding the titles Sardar-i-Riyasat and Prime Minister were given the titles governor and chief minister, to conform to the nomenclature in other Indian states.

 In 1954, the J&K Constituent Assembly completed its deliberations.  We should bear in mind that this Assembly’s right to convene is explicitly recognised by the Indian Constitution.  We should also appreciate that Sections 3 and 5 of the J&K Constitution specifically describe the J&K State as an integral part of the Union of India.  Before winding up itself, the Assembly agreed to place the state under India within the provisions of the special status granted by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.  For these reasons experts on constitutional law advise that it would be  unwise to scrap Article 370 as this could open a Pandora box of international  and legal problems. Nehru was never unduly perturbed by Article 370.  He believed that Article 370  "ghiste ghiste ghis jayga" [by constant rubbing would be rubbed off.]

Sheikh Abdullah had been detained in jail from August 1953. The Home Ministry and Central Bureau of Investigation [CBI] were working on a complicated Pakistan conspiracy charge, but since nothing concrete had been found, no charges could be framed against him.  Nehru lost his patience and ordered that Abdullah be released.  This was done.  After another four months of intense “investigation”, the Home Ministry said it was ready with a “plethora of evidence”.  Abdullah was again jailed in April 1954.  The notorious Kashmir Conspiracy Case was presented in a magistrate’s court in Jammu against 25 alleged accused but still without the principle actor.  Abdullah eventually featured in a complaint before the same magistrate in October.  The case dragged on inconclusively and Abdullah remained in jail for another five and a half years while puppets ran the state with the strings being pulled from Delhi.  Young Kashmiris watched all this in silent anger.

            The Sino-Indian Conflict (1962) resulted in an Indian debacle.  Nehru’s self-confidence was shaken, but he survived as PM.  Sheikh Abdullah was then still in jail.  Nehru said, “This farce cannot go on.”  He ordered the Home Ministry to release him.  He was told that Abdullah’s release would spread chaos and that the first thing he would do would be to repudiate J&K’s accession to India.  Nehru was adamant.  He said, ”If a damned thing can’t be proved after five or six years, there’s obviously nothing to be proved.”  Abdullah was released and immediately made a triumphant journey to Srinagar on 8 April.  He was lionised by every village all the way back along his route.  Later he came to Delhi to meet Nehru and other leaders, particularly Jai Prakash [JP] Narain and CR.  He put forward the idea of a Confederation of India, Pakistan and J&K.   Nehru told him that Pakistan would not agree to this.

In May 1964, President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, wrote inviting Abdullah to visit Pakistan.  He assumed that since Abdullah had been in jail for years, he would be pro-Pakistan.  Nehru told Abdullah that he had no objection to his going to Pakistan.  Abdullah, accompanied by Mirza Afzal Beg and Maulana Massoudi received a tumultuous welcome on their arrival at Rawalpindi.  But the glamour did not last long.

Abdullah did not make himself particularly popular by repeatedly declaring at public meetings that the salvation of the people of Kashmir lay in the permanent friendship of India and Pakistan.

Abdullah’s bold and repeated references to the secular character of India and the need to strengthen those forces tarnished his “conspiratorial” image.  This disappointed the public in general.  Ayub turned down the idea of a confederation, and Mr Z.A.Bhutto, the Foreign Minister, turned down the offer of a  “no war declaration”.  Abdullah then suggested a summit meeting between Ayub and Nehru and succeeded in persuading Ayub to agree to this.  Abdullah publicly announced at Rawalpindi that Ayub and Nehru would meet in June in an attempt to end the Kashmir dispute.  Unfortunately Nehru died the next day and Abdullah cut short his tour of Pakistan and flew back to Delhi.

Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri took over as India’s Prime Minister.  Pakistan misread him as a small, meek, puny man.  It assessed that India, after its 1962 debacle, lacked the military morale and political will to fight.   Pakistan’s armed forces, thanks to US military aid, now had an edge over the Indian armed forces in aircraft, tanks and artillery.  Pakistan felt that this was the best time to confront India militarily and reopen the J&K issue to its advantage.  As a preliminary step, it launched a regiment of tanks into a disputed part of the Rann of Kutch.  India’s military high command advised the government not to counter this challenge with force, as India had no tanks or military infrastructure in that area. India should guard against diverting its limited military resources from Punjab.  So India’s response to this challenge was to accept arbitration at the international court in The Hague.

            India lost its case at The Hague.  Pakistan was elated.  This seemed to confirm their assessment that Indian leaders lacked the morale and the will to fight.  In August 1965 Pakistan launched guerrilla forces into Srinagar valley through the Hajipir pass, which was under its control, located between Poonch and Uri. . These were led by regular officers.  Indian infantry units, handled with skill, captured Hajipir pass cutting off the guerrillas, most of who were captured or killed.   Stung  by this set back, Pakistan began moving strong armoured forces towards Chamb.  The Indian Prime Minister was physically a tiny man, but he was a very strong character with an iron will.  He warned Pakistan that any attack across the CFL would be treated as an attack against India and would be countered with force everywhere.  Thus, when Pakistan launched an armoured attack across the CFL against Chamb, Indian forces were ordered to attack across the international border.

            The Indo-Pak War of 1965 was short and ended with an UN-imposed cease-fire.  Pakistan had suffered a grievous blow to its morale.  It lost the cream of its armoured forces and large tracts of territory in Punjab and J&K.  President Ayub was forced to declare an Emergency and later step down to make way for Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto . The Tashkent Agreement resulted in India withdrawing across the international border, and from the Hajipir pass and other vital tactical areas it had captured in J&K.  The CFL was redefined.  In the years that followed, Pakistan slowly built up its forces.

   The Indo-Pak War of 1971 was the outcome of a political struggle between East and West Pakistan.  Brutal killing of 300,000 East Pakistani Bengalis resulted in an exodus of over six million Muslim and Hindu refugees into India. (This was one of the greatest ethnic cleansings that has ever taken place after the Nazi Holocaust.) The War ended in a resounding victory for India, the creation of Bangladesh, the return of Bengali refugees and the surrender of 92,000 Pakistani soldiers who were taken prisoners of war.  The Simla Accord, signed between Prime Ministers Bhutto and Indira Gandhi redefined the CFL. This was physically surveyed along the line of actual control, and then delineated on large-scale maps by a joint Indo-Pak military team.  This was renamed as the Line of Control [LOC] and was no longer to be supervised by the UN.

The Indian PM wanted to avoid imposing an unequal Versailles-type treaty on Pakistan.  The Simla Accord envisioned the growth of cordial relations between the two countries.  Both sides agreed to deal with this problem bilaterally and accepted that peaceful methods would be adopted to resolve the Kashmir conflict. Both agreed for the need to create a friendly atmosphere through extensive people to people contacts and normalisation of relations.  Privately, Mr.Bhutto, the Pakistani PM, assured Mrs. Gandhi that he would take steps to freeze the status quo on the LOC.  Maybe he would have, had he not been ousted by a military coup led by General Zia-ul-Haq who later had him hanged.

The transformation of the State and Pakistani society began in earnest when General Zia came to power. He was convinced of the need to continue adopting radical Islamic concepts and fundamentalist practices after Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971 and a Baluch insurrection took place soon after.  Both these events questioned the very existence of Pakistan and challenged the ideology of Pakistan; that Islam is the only force capable of keeping Pakistan a united federal structure. 

In a bid to legitimise his position, General Zia borrowed from the fundamentalist ideology and imposed punitive Shari’at laws and introduced the Islamic tax, zakat.  He also instigated Hizbul Mujahideen members to serve in Afghanistan as model jihadis who were willing to sacrifice their lives for Islam and fight against Soviet un-believers.  This strategy combined both an ideological offensive and a pragmatic approach to international politics.  Through it, General Zia sought not only to reinforce the two-nation theory but he also wanted to strengthen relations with the US and thereby boost Pakistan’s military strength. 

Whatever the ups and downs and the pros and cons of the political scene unfolding in J&K, the fact remains that elections were held there for both the assembly and parliament.  The constitutional and procedural changes in the relationship between the Centre and J&K from 1952 to 1975 had the support of elected governments of J&K.  Sheikh Abdullah generally accepted this position though he did have reservations about some aspect of the integration, which had taken place.  It is those reservations, his experience during his visit to Pakistan and the clear realisation that the collapse of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh had spelt the doom of the two nation theory, which led to negotiations between him and Indira Gandhi.

The Agreement signed between the PM and Abdullah on 24 February 1975 endorsed the integration of J&K with India. Article 370 of the Constitution, confirming a special status on the state was to remain in operation.  All residual legislative powers remained with the state assembly.  But Parliament could exercise overriding power to make laws and prevent disruption of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India and secessionist activities that eroded the Constitution.  The provisions of the Constitution were to be applied to J&K with respect for the special circumstances in the state.  Only those provisions would be unalterable which affected the unity of India.  The question of the nomenclature of the governor and chief minister was not insisted upon by Abdulllah at that time.  It is unfortunate that besides constitutional arrangements between J&K and India, this agreement did not pay enough attention to the separate identities of Jammu province and Ladhak  

J&K’s constitutional crisis which arose from the 80s onwards was the result of the failure of successive ruling parties in New Delhi to implement this 1975 Agreement faithfully. But despite this criticism, it is evident that the Agreements between Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah in 1952, and between the Sheikh and Indira Gandhi in 1975 represent the evolutionary process of making J&K an integral part of India.

The last fifty years have seen many violent emotional shifts in public opinion in J&K.  Immediately after the tribal invasion of 1947, anti-Pakistani feelings ran very high.  Over the next ten years, due to poor governance and constant Pakistani propaganda using the Islamic card, public opinion slowly swung against India.  Due to his oratory and anti-India rhetoric, Bhutto became a popular figure in Kashmir.  When he was hanged in 1979 0n the orders of General Zia-ul-Haq, there were anti-Pakistan riots in Srinagar.  A congregation at a mosque in the Valley thanked Allah that Kashmiris had made the choice in 1947 of joining India and not Pakistan. 

Sheikh Abdullah, and after him his son Dr Farook Abdullah, remained undisputed leaders in Kashmir till the 80s.  The National Conference misused power; their rule saw widespread corruption and inefficiency.  Public support soon evaporated.  In 1989, Sheik Abdullah’s birth anniversary was observed as a black day and his grave in Srinagar had to be protected to save it from the wrath of people who intended to vandalise it.  By now, the clock had turned a full circle and General Zia  was seen as a saviour who would bring Azadi [freedom] to the long-suffering Kashmiris.  Zia’s be-medalled photographs began to adorn many public places in Kashmir.

Pakistan claimed that the uprising in J&K is a people’s revolt, which is being suppressed by India with brute force.  The cause of merger with Pakistan was championed by the Muslim Conference, which had its popular bases in the Muzzafarabad and Mirpur areas that are presently under Pakistani control.  Pakistan established several training camps in that area and began recruiting volunteers.  These were trained to operate as guerrillas, to avoid battle and commit acts of terrorism, arson and destruction through the use of simple explosive devices.  The vast majority of the volunteers were non-Kashmiris; Pakistanis, Arabs, Afghans, Sudanese and others.  These were termed mujahideen [freedom fighters] and organised into several small groups, each under a selected leader.  It would be more appropriate to call these men  “foreign mercenaries” or “terrorists”,  rather than indigenous freedom fighters.

At that time, the violent campaign for an independent Sikh state in Punjab was also at its height.  The General Election held in 1989 saw the formation of a coalition government in New Delhi.  Within a week of that happening, Kashmiri terrorists a scored a major victory by kidnapping the daughter of the Union Home Minister who happened to be a Kashmiri Muslim.  The new government in a weak response released several hard-core terrorists who were being held in detention.  The expectations in the Valley were that it was only a matter of time before Kashmir merged with Pakistan. Popular uprisings in Eastern Europe against Soviet rule had their effect in further raising the expectations of freedom from Indian rule.  Pakistan began inducting batches of terrorists into J&K

Throughout this period, massive US aid was being funneled through Pakistan to aid Afghan freedom fighters that were battling the Soviet army in Afghanistan.  A fair percentage of this aid never reached Afghanistan; sophisticated weapons and communication equipment were held back by Pakistan for its own use.  By 1989, Pakistan was euphoric over its success in helping the Afghans to fight against powerful Soviet forces.  It grew over-confident and felt that it could do the same in J&K without getting themselves directly engaged in the fighting.

Pakistan prepared too increase the number of terrorists under training.  However, General Zia was very clear that a popular uprising could only succeed if the Kashmiris played a major role in the fighting.  But that was never to happen.  By 1992 it was evident that the Kashmiris never had their heart in the terrorist game.  It was mainly Afghan and Pakistani volunteers who were fighting the Indian army in J&K. 

The LOC is very long and passes through some very tough mountainous terrain.  It is impossible for the army to protect and carry out surveillance over every inch of this line.  Small gangs of trained terrorists are always able to slip quietly through at night and lie hidden in some uninhabited forest or mountain hideout.  However, to perform their allotted tasks, gangs would have to emerge from these natural sanctuaries and enter inhabited villages and urban areas.  Foreign mercenaries can never operate in those areas or hope to avoid detection if they were not given food and shelter by locals.  This was clearly happening in 1992 and caused concern to the security forces.  However, the situation began to change after 1993 for a variety of reasons.

Those Kashmiris who had welcomed the terrorists as liberators soon found that these men were ruthless killers and immoral scoundrels.  They overplayed their role as liberators when they began raping their host’s wives and daughters.  Enraged Kashmiris began giving information to the security forces and disclosing secret locations of terrorist gangs. The battle to win the hearts and minds of the public once again began shifting in favour of India.  This coincided with a change in the army’s tactics.  Till then, our security forces had been paying more attention to the security of the LOC than to surveillance of peaceful internal villages.  Whereas guarding the LOC still remained the main task, more forces were inducted into certain areas with the role of patrolling villages and towns, where terrorists were known to seek sanctuary.  This major change of tactics paid dividends.

In 1994 it was clear that foreign mercenaries were suffering losses without achieving anything worthwhile.  It was anticipated that they would have to do something dramatic to attract the attention of the public.  At the beginning of 1995, a mercenary gang entered Charar e Sharif, a shrine dedicated to the patron Saint of Kashmir, Sheik Nuruddin [Nand Rishi to Hindus].  Security forces surrounded the area and called upon the terrorists to surrender.  Terrorists set fire to the shrine. Security forces surrounding the shrine were faced with two simultaneous problems;  to try to save the shrine buy carrying out fire-fighting operations and to maintain a cordon and prevent the terrorists from escaping.  In the ensuing melee, many terrorists managed to escape.  However, this incident far from winning public acclaim further alienated the Kashmiris.

In July 1995, terrorists took six western tourists hostage in the upper reaches of the Valley.  On 13 August, the headless body of Hans Christian Ostro, a Norwegian of Jewish origin, was thrown on the street.  Of the remaining five hostages, one managed to escape to freedom. The other four have never been traced or recovered till today.

But the terrorists knew that they are no longer had things going the way they wanted. Every success by the security forces against a terrorist brings forth cries of protest from Pakistan that we were violating human rights and killing innocent freedom fighters.  A criticism often leveled against India is that if we have nothing to hide, why don’t we permit London-based Amnesty International to visit J&K and report on the true state of affairs prevailing there?  India’s stand on this issue has been consistent.  It accepts that Amnesty International is a respected organisation.  Its aim is to monitor the activities of authoritarian governments, which deprive their citizens of internationally accepted human right conventions.  Amnesty International’s main target during the Cold War was the Soviet Union. However, Indian security forces were often unfairly criticised for operations in north-eastern India and J&K.  The Government felt that because of the aberrations of the Cold War and India’s policy of non-aligned neutrality, events in India could never be dispassionately assessed by Amnesty International.

. Some years ago, Amnesty International reported alleged atrocities committed by Indian security forces in J&K.  This report was accompanied by photographs claiming to substantiate the allegations.  Unfortunately the photographs were proved to be ones taken in Sri Lanka and had nothing to do with J&K. It is therefore not surprising that even though the Cold War has ended, India is hesitant to permit Amnesty International to operate freely in the country.  However, India has nothing to hide.  It welcomes any member of Amnesty International to visit J&K or any other part of India as a tourist, but not officially. [Apparently the Chairman of Amnesty International did avail of this invitation and visited J&K in a private capacity.]

Amnesty International in its annual assessment of 1999 has confirmed that India, as a member of the UN since 1945, has played an influential role in the deliberations of the UN human rights studies starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1948]. It has been a party to, and voluntarily taken on a legal commitment to uphold the provisions of the following: the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination since 1958, the International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on Civil and Political Rights since 1977, the Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1992 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [Women’s Convention] since 1993.  India signed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1997.  There are a number of Indian non-government organisations [NGO] and private bodies that monitor human rights abuses. India prohibits international funding of NGOs.  India also has a National Human Rights Commission with a retired supreme Court judge as its Chairman.

India admits that there is room for improvement in its human rights record. There have been many shortcomings.  India also admits that its security forces on internal security duties sometime go beyond the bounds of necessity.  Many cases are reported to the National Human Rights Commission.  Every allegation is carefully examined.  Nearly 200 military men of all ranks have been punished for their excesses.  This is in sharp contrast to the gruesome crimes being committed by Pakistani backed terrorists in J&K who apparently have no responsibilities or obligations to uphold  UN Conventions.

 Views on the conduct of a plebiscite in J&K have fluctuated over time.  To begin with, India was prepared for the UN to conduct a plebiscite to ascertain the will of the people.  It was confident that Sheik Abdullah would win popular support.  A plebiscite was never held as Pakistan refused to abide by Part II of the UN Resolution which stated that Pakistan should withdraw from J&K as a prelude to the holding of a plebiscite under Part III of the Resolution. India till now has not allowed any non-Kashmiri from India to migrate to J&K.  On the other hand after 1948, Pakistan permitted the free migration of their citizens into areas occupied by it.  This altered the demographic composition of those areas.  Any plebiscite if held today will not be a true reflection of the will of the original inhabitants of J&K.

As already pointed out, the feelings of the people of Kashmir have fluctuated from year to year. The current mood appears to be an equal disillusionment with both countries.  J&K have seen the rise of regional political parties, (as has happened elsewhere in India.)  Some extremists may talk about independence, but the majority view favours a continued association with India under constitutional safeguards to guarantee minimum autonomy.

Pakistan will never accept that any portion of Indian administered J&K be granted independence because it fears that this will generate similar requests from parts of Kashmir occupied by it.  Pakistan seems to favour a solution by which it will continue to hold what it has, and India will continue to hold Ladakh.  The remaining area (population 6.5m) should be partitioned into a Hindu-majority area (1.5m) and a Muslim-majority area (6m). [It is uncertain how Pakistan visualises two such homogenous areas on a map]  The former area will merge with India and the latter with Pakistan.  India would not like any portion of Kashmir to remain under its jurisdiction by force of arms.  Nor will it accept that the wishes of the people be circumscribed by religious fundamentalists and terror tactics. Should any such a proposal be discussed, India should certainly insist that the Muslim inhabitants of the area being claimed by Pakistan be consulted about whether they wish to join Pakistan or not. 

Apart from this, India’s Constitution and ethos is committed to safeguarding and preserving varied ethnic, linguistic and religious communities in a spirit of co-existence and co-operation.  Experience tells us that few non-Muslims are prepared to live under a Pakistani-type theocracy. The proposed “mini-partition scheme” is therefore bound to result in some non-Muslims becoming refugees. Over the past 50 years India’s political system has painstakingly ensured that volatile communal forces are kept delicate balance so that various communities may live in harmony with one another. No Indian wants that this harmony be undermined by another partition, which will surely result in an exchange of populations within J&K, and provoke an undesirable communal backlash elsewhere in India. Such a scheme is therefore not acceptable to India.

So India continues to apply relentless pressure on the terrorists.  During the last four years, over 1100 armed militants have surrendered.  The army has been able to retrieve over 9000 AK-47 rifles, 900 machine guns and several rocket launchers from terrorists who have been killed or captured.  All this has taken place at a heavy cost.  From January 1988 to March 1999, there have been 85,192 incidents of violence in J&K, claiming 20,506 deaths. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EIGHT

 

 

 

Gunpowder is a powerful potential force.  It can be used to make fireworks or artillery shells.  The choice is a human decision.  Nuclear power can be used for a variety of peaceful purposes.  It can also be used to make atomic bombs.  The choice, once again, is as always human.  All the nuclear weapon states initially approached nuclear power by manufacturing military weapons of war.  Only later did they utilise their nuclear infrastructure for peaceful purposes. India initially developed nuclear power for peaceful purposes.  It only turned to the explosive aspects of atomic power after two decades, and then too, tentatively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 8

 

India’s  Path to Nuclear Power

 

India’s first Prime Minister [PM], Jawarharlal Nehru, hoped to create a world where nations, instead of forming groups to act against each other would learn to eschew conflict and settle their disputes in a peaceful manner.  He placed his faith in the United Nations [UN].  Overlying his idealism was his hatred for war and all things military.  He knew that atomic energy represented a new technological force that India had to learn to use as fast as possible.  He was determined that atomic energy would only be used for peaceful purposes.

One of India’s first parliamentary enactments was to establish the Atomic Energy Commission [AEC], which led to the formation of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre [BARC].  In 1950, Asia’s first atomic reactor was established in India. Thereafter a vast infrastructure came into being.  Although much of the work was done with local resources, India has been the recipient of very significant outside assistance.  India has vast resources of thorium and this shaped its nuclear technologies and the search for breeder reactors.  Soon small nuclear power stations began coming up all over India, in addition to plants to separate and re-process plutonium and thorium.  India became a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The elimination of nuclear weapons [NW] has been a declared aim of the international community and the UN from the very beginning of its existence.  This goal has since been repeated in many declarations and resolutions signed by member states.  There is a popular conception in India that the US has been an obstacle in effecting such a NW-free world scenario. Records show that the US was always deeply concerned over the tremendous political and social implications of the use of NW. Even at the time that the US enjoyed a NW monopoly, it proposed a world authority to be formed to control them. [The Frank Report, Baruch Plan and numerous anti-NW Pugwash monograms were being debated from as far back as 1946.]  The emergence of the Soviet Union as a NW power and the resultant Cold War led to an unrestrained arms race.  This resulted in the build up of huge nuclear arsenals, which threaten the survival of mankind.

Indian nuclear policy and disarmament diplomacy worked in tandem from the very beginning.   The Indian approach in the early and virulent phase of the Cold War laid stress on nuclear disarmament.  Nehru’s appeal for a nuclear test moratorium in 1954 was designed as a disarmament measure.  There were only three NW powers at that time; US, the Soviet Union and Great Britain.  The two super powers had just conducted their first thermo-nuclear tests.  If the Indian proposal had then been accepted, the world would have been spared the dangers that the huge weapon stockpiles pose today.  The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 banned atmospheric tests.  This was a measure to preserve the environment from being poisoned by deadly radiation fall out.  But once underground tests were permitted, the NW powers continued to test and refine their NW.  In spite of the treaty, both China and France continued to test in the atmosphere.

The military were never consulted about NW policy.  This policy prevails till today.  Nevertheless, Nehru was mindful of the security implications of his strategy.  Scientists and civil servants did raise the question of India developing its own nuclear arsenal.  In the then prevailing stand off between the super powers, their combined arsenals had reached a monstrous figure of 63,000 megatons in 1963.  Nehru saw little point in India adding to the danger to the world.  A small nuclear arsenal was of no security consequence.  India was quite confident of facing Pakistan, its only adversary, with a modest conventional build up

In the early 50s and 60s, the US was careful not to give military aid to Pakistan that would tilt the balance in South Asia.  China’s conventional forces were thought to be under control by an unwritten but logical American guarantee and Soviet restraint.  In October 1962, taking advantage of the super power’s confrontation in the Cuban Missile Crisis, China attacked India and humiliated it militarily.  Nehru’s strategy of  exclusive reliance on diplomacy not backed by force came unstuck.  America’s commitment to Indian defence was manifest.  As the Cuban Missile Crisis ended, China unilaterally withdrew to its bases in Tibet.

In May 1964, Nehru died and in the same year China joined the nuclear club.  Dr. Homi Bhabha, Chairman of the AEC, assured the public that Indian scientists could explode an atomic device within 18 months after a decision was taken. This confident assertion was based upon a series of earlier decisions taken during the Nehruvian era.  These included the commissioning of a reprocessing plant at a time when only the US,  Soviet Union, Britain and France had such technology.  It was this decision, coupled with continuous development of nuclear installations insulated from external intrusions that ultimately opened the NW option.  A unique feature of this option was that it emerged from an extension of India’s civil nuclear enterprise.  In contrast, the five NW powers initially produced fissile material from installations dedicated to military pursuits; their nuclear power stations came later.

In the 1970s, applications of radio-active atoms for peaceful purposes were in wide use for electric power generation, and in radio therapy, food preservation and agricultural production.  With the emergence of China as a recognised NW state, India found itself in a nuclear neighbourhood.  PM Lal Bahadur Shastri, therefore, authorised a project for a peaceful nuclear explosion [PNE].  The US and Soviet Union then had ambitious plans for using such explosions for releasing oil and gas, and for changing the course of rivers.  The sudden deaths in quick succession of Shastri and Bhabha, coupled with Bhabha’s successor, Dr. Vikram Sarabhai’s opposition to nuclear explosions of any kind, brought the PNE project to a halt.

India also gave special attention to space and communication technology.  In 1969, the Indian Space Research Organisation [ISRO] was established.  A network of institutions was slowly built up to ensure maximum degree of self-reliance in design, development and fabrication of satellites, rocket systems and operating facilities.  In 1975, with Russian assistance, India launched its first satellite from a missile base in the Soviet Union.

Sarabhai died in 1971.  In 1972, Pakistan’s PM, Bhutto, announced that his country was developing a NW.  India’s PM, Indira Gandhi, gave the green signal for the PNE project to be taken up.  In the nuclear fission explosion carried out in May 1974, Indian scientists and engineers demonstrated their technical competence by mastering the implosion technique.  India was the only country whose first nuclear explosion was not atmospheric but an underground test.  After Pokhran-I, the Indian PM proclaimed that India supported a global ban on NW.  She added that India would keep its nuclear options open in the event of its national interests being threatened.  India would not sign the non-proliferation treaty [NPT] as it was discriminatory and divided the world into “haves” and “have nots”. It is unlikely that Pakistan, which was at its weakest after the 1971 Indo-Pak War, or China, then in political turmoil, were major factors in the decision to carry out the Pokhran-I test.  Essentially the decision was triggered by the NPT that threatened India’s nuclear option.

International reactions to Pokhran-I were diverse.  Soviet reporting was bland and factual.  The Chairman of the French AEC sent a congratulatory telegram.  China’s response reflected its ties with Pakistan.  The Beijing Review of 30 May 1974 quoted Mr. Z.A.Bhutto’s statement that Pakistan would never surrender its right or claims because of India’s nuclear status. It went on to say that “the Chinese government and people firmly support Pakistan and other countries in their just struggle to safeguard national independence and state sovereignty and oppose aggression and intervention form outside, including nuclear blackmail and threats.”

The US took Pokhran-I as a challenge to the established nuclear order and began concerted efforts to reshape the non-proliferation regime and tighten technology controls.  The US unilaterally changed the definition of proliferation and the objectives of safeguards.  Not only NW but also even enrichment and re-processing capabilities, [which were not prohibited by the NPT,] became forbidden fruit. The objective of safeguards was no longer detection of the diversion of nuclear material from peaceful to military pursuits, but prevention of “nuclear explosive capability”.  Industrialised countries were allowed to develop enrichment and reprocessing plants on which they had already spent billions of dollars.  Developing countries could not have these facilities even under IAEA safeguards.  A new layer of discrimination was thus added into the non-proliferation regime; nuclear fuel-cycle states, and countries with only fragmented fuel-cycle capabilities.  Had India been a party to the NPT, these substantial alterations in its provisions would have marginalised its voice in the global nuclear disarmament debate.  At the same time, its nuclear options would have been closed forever.

The US Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 was specifically drafted to close any loopholes left in the NPT regime.   India continues to endure a quarter century of technology embargoes but succeeded in preserving its nuclear autonomy.  This was possible because of a remarkable consensus across the entire political spectrum in favour of keeping the nuclear option open.  Moreover, the technology embargoes were taken as a challenge by our scientists and engineers to demonstrate their technological competence.  This necessitated the development of indigenous technologies and particularly a missile capability.  Indira Gandhi took the first step by instituting the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme in 1983. The Indian approach had three strands.  India supported a global ban of NW.  It would not sign the NPT because it was discriminatory.  India would keep its nucolear options open, until it was convinced that the nuclear weapon states were genuinely committed to effective global nuclear disarmament.  Indira Gandhi refrained from spelling out India’s nuclear strategy in detail.  No ministry was assigned the responsibility of dealing with the two issues of NW technology and missile development; these remained under the PM’s personal charge. The military were not connected with either of these programmes; this policy continues till today.

 The press and foreign governments, therefore, found it impossible to interact with any responsible departmental spokesperson, as is normally done in the case of other departments.  Individual reporters and analysts were thus forced to draw their own conclusions.  Mrs. Gandhi maintained an eloquent silence on the subject.  Ten years later she was no more and her original concepts, whatever they may have been, remained unknown.

Following the PM’s assassination, the Director of the Delhi-based Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis [IDSA] became the unofficial spokesman for India’s nuclear strategy.  He referred to this as an “Ambiguous Strategy”. Around the IDSA grew a privileged group in Delhi, which monopolised every national and international conference and meeting, which discussed nuclear strategy. The government put no restrictions on the study or discussion of nuclear strategy. However, as the military were never involved with nuclear of missile planning, and there were no other Indian analysts in this strategic field, the Director of IDSA at that time was a lone voice that preached on India’s nuclear  doctrine.  He soon earned the reputation of being India’s strategic guru. The “Monopolists’ were not created by design but by circumstances.  The Monopolists had no one to challenge their views.  They had exclusive access to the editorial pages of leading national newspapers and journals. Their Ambiguous Strategy claimed that India’s existing capability enabled it to produce nuclear weapons whenever it wished.  This permitted it to adopt a minimum nuclear deterrent strategy, at short notice, whenever threatened. Dr. Raja Ramana, reportedly father of India’s fission bomb, also spoke in public to support this strategy.

Over the years, a non-government organisation [NGO], calling itself Initiative for Peace and Disarmament [INPAD], was established in Pune  This Pune-based group.began publishing papers critical of the Delhi line.  INPAD pointed out that Mrs. Gandhi had spoken in the context of the NPT when she had said that she was keeping options open and would exercise them if Indian interests [options] were threatened.  The Monopolists were making a misleading statement when they spoke of military threats. Words in a strategic discussion have precise meanings.  In strategic parlance, deterrence is a definitive concept.  It means to possess a survivable force, which after absorbing a pre-emptive strike, can still inflict unacceptable damage on the aggressor.  The main idea being that once a prospective aggressor perceives such a transparent and demonstrated capability, he will be deterred from taking action inimical to his interests.  The statement of the Monopolists that their strategy was ambiguous {not a transparent or demonstrated capability] and that this could deter made no strategic sense; a deterrent strategy has to be transparent for it to deter.  The claim to be able to manufacture “instant” deterrence at short notice if threatened was technically and administratively absurd.

As already explained in Chapters 2 and 5, our military leaders have repeatedly advised the government that the defence management structure is antiquated.  This needs to be modernised in order to handle new conventional weapons.  INPAD warned that a NW environment  requires even finer refinements of the system.  It advocated the establishment of a whole new chain of command, safeguards and security checks in order to avoid mistakes, misunderstandings, accidents and miscalculations.  Until these essential ingredients were in place, India's NW status lacked credibility and it would be misleading to speak of adopting a deterrent strategy at short notice if threatened.

INPAD stressed that unlike conventional warfare, which kept plans secret, there should be nothing ambiguous or secret about a nuclear strategy except the location of missile sites at the time of launch.  In fact, the more the publicity about one’s nuclear capability and plans, the better the effect so that prospective adversaries are deterred or dissuaded and miscalculations and mistakes are avoided.  It was time that the government came out with a clear policy statement.  An Ambiguous Strategy was dangerous; it fostered doubts and miscalculations in the minds of an adversary and perplexity amongst friends and neutral nations.  This undercut the political credibility of India during international seminars or discussions at the UN.

INPAD pointed out that there is a qualitative difference between a fission nuclear weapon and a thermonuclear weapon.  It is only the latter which possesses a degree of potential power that can provide assured deterrence.  If India confines itself to fission technology, then its strategic posture in global terminology should be described as “dissuasion” not deterrence.  INPAD insisted that we use recognised terminology so that others understand what we mean.

 The Monopolists at every seminar and in writing tried to counter INPAD criticism in order to justify their concepts.  They further confused the public and government by referring to France’s “Force de Frappe”. [This force is based on submarine launched missiles armed with thermonuclear warheads, yet modestly claims to have a strategy of dissuasion.]  The government continued to be silent on India’s official nuclear strategy.   However, it was now evident that INPAD’s rational criticism was attracting attention in official circles.  Though many may not have agreed with all that INPAD said, the government was happy to have access to more than one strategic viewpoint.

The end of the Cold War revived hopes of a NW-free world.  In the transformed political and economic climate, a total ban of NW is no longer considered fanciful and is being seriously re-examined. The global long-term plan to eventually ban NW articulated by interested governments  was conceived in three stages, which have been simply described as cap, reduce and eliminate.  “Cap” entails stopping the spread of NW.  “Reduce” entails reducing existing stocks of NW to a bare minimum.  "“Eliminate" visualises eventually placing the residual stocks of NW under UN authority.

By the early 90s there was global support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT].  The NPT and CTBT are arms control [capping] measures.  The CTBT unlike the NPT is not discriminatory. A clause in the proposed CTBT, inserted at the instance of China, meant that a time would come when it would be difficult for any country to defy world opinion and carry out a test explosion, even if it had not signed the CTBT.  It was therefore imperative for India to make up its mind and carry out the minimum number of test explosions now, or else sign the CTBT and rely on the assurances of its scientists that this would not close its future potential for the manufacture of thermonuclear NW.  These were clearly perceivable options and continued ambiguity was neither in the interest of India’s security concerns nor of global peace and the disarmament process. Anticipating global acceptance of the CTBT, France and China began carrying out a series of underground NW tests. INPAD urged that India do the same, as it would be violating no treaty obligations.  But the government did not order a test then.

At this stage the differences in the approach to nuclear policy were very clear.  The hawks urged the government to carry out all the test explosions that the scientists required to ensure a reliable thermonuclear NW capability, then to manufacture NW and declare India a NW state, and sign the CTBT.  INPAD’s view was that Indian scientists should carry out all nuclear test explosions they felt were necessary to confirm and display their technological capability.  India should then sign the CTBT and declare that it would not manufacture NW.  It should thereafter press vigorously from this position of credible potential strength for significant progress in the negotiations for global nuclear disarmament. Politically parties opposed to the ruling coalition had no constructive strategic policy and kept mum  The Monopolists sat on the fence and urged the government not to sign the CTBT and not to carry out any tests.  They were confident that by stalling the CTBT at Geneva, India could continue its Ambiguous Strategy and leave its NW option open.

The government was hesitant to sign the CTBT either because our scientists could not confirm what was wanted without a test explosion, or the politicians lacked faith in the scientists.  Whatever that be, the Cabinet had never taken parliament, the armed forces and the people into its confidence.  These issues were never rationally debated in parliament.  India’s political system is poorly managed in areas like defence.  There is no tradition of opposition parties organising a shadow cabinet.  There is thus no organised attempt to prepare politicians for assumption of key appointments; to enable them to study their future ministerial subjects and become thoroughly conversant with their likely portfolios before assuming power.

.  Because of vague and highly coloured news reports, a majority of Indians had come to believe that the CTBT was being forced on India and would close all its future NW options.  The public believed the signing of the CTBT was not in India’s best interest; it suited the NW states that were committed to capping the spread of NW.  Consequently, at this stage the government could not dare sign the CTBT for fear of domestic repercussions.  Nor was it willing to carry out a nuclear test explosion to confirm technical doubts for fear of international repercussions.  The Monopolist’s line provided the politician with an ideal solution to match their indecisiveness.

At that time the Ministry of External Affairs [MEA] was made responsible for projecting our nuclear strategy.  MEA’s representatives who were earmarked to go to Geneva to attend the Conference on Disarmament [CD] were new to the subject..   The Indian delegation was apparently under instruction to stall the signing of the CTBT at any cost.  During the debate, the Indian argument was that the Treaty ought to be truly comprehensive and encompass computer and laboratory testing.  This proposal was unanimously rejected on the grounds that those activities cannot be monitored or verified.  Our delegate next insisted that the NW states accept a time-bound disarmament programme for a total ban of NW as a prelude to signing the CTBT.  This proposal was also rejected unanimously; India was told that preparing a realistic time bound programme was just not feasible because of current uncertainties in the international scene.  Thereupon, our delegate refused to sign the CTBT, confident that by so doing, the Treaty had been successfully stalled  [According to rules and procedures at the CD, all decisions have to be unanimous for these to be accepted.]

  Other delegates at the CD were frustrated and angry that the Treaty had been stalled.   Most of them were of the opinion that India was deliberately misconstruing an arms control measure for a disarmament one, and making lame excuses in order to avoid signing the Treaty.   The MEA seemed to be insensitive to the strong pro-CTBT mood of the other 60 members of the CD.  Our delegate should not have been surprised when one member took the issue directly to the UN General Assembly.  India tried to stop this and was overruled.  In the debate that followed in New York, member nations voted overwhelmingly for acceptance of the CTBT despite India’s strenuous objections. Though this vote was not binding on the CD members, it clearly indicated that India was internationally isolated.

The decision not to accept the CTBT undoubtedly satisfied the vast majority in India.  Some claimed that India lost support in the UN General Assembly “only because it defied powerful USA; other members were forced to bow to American wishes.”  This attitude displayed a sterile anti-Americanism and was an insult to other independent nations.   INPAD branded the CTBT episode a diplomatic fiasco. India had been pressing for a CTBT since the time of Nehru; this was an about face and displayed inconsistency in vital matters of prime external policy.  Because our stand lacked reason, our delegate was forced to make confused statements. India lost credibility and was isolated and rendered irrelevant at the CD and the UN.

The Bharatiya Janta Party [BJP], a major opposition party, in its pre-election manifesto had indicated that, if elected to power, it would review India’s nuclear policy.  When a BJP-led coalition government came into power in 1998, its national agenda reasserted that it would establish a national security council [NSC], would carry out a fresh threat assessment, and if necessary exercise the nuclear option.  Mr. Jaswant Singh, one of the BJP’s chief spokesperson on its nuclear policy, analysed the government’s stand most eloquently.  He stated, “The problem faced by public men in India, is how to reconcile the over-riding national security concerns with valid and just international concerns about weapons of mass destruction.  In… international relations, nuclear weapons are still a currency of state power….If the Permanent Five’s [P-5] possession of nuclear weapons is good, [is equated with security,] then how is the possession of nuclear weapons by India not good and the equation reversible?  We recognise that weapons of mass destruction are not really usable.  However, if they are not usable weapons, the dilemma and paradox lies in their deterrent value….The fact that these weapons do have a deterrent value and yet the World must be free of them, is the principal obstacle in total nuclear disarmament…”

In the first week of May 1998, India’s Defence Minister, at a public gathering, began referring to China as the main threat to Indian security.  On 11 May, three underground nuclear detonations took place at Pokhran.  This was followed on 13 May by another two detonations.  These tests confirmed that India could manufacture thermonuclear warheads and carry out sub-critical computer controlled nuclear testing.  But five detonations do not constitute a nuclear strategy.  The nation awaited an official announcement.  Alas, it appears that the government had no coherent policy.

The detonations created a wave of nationalist fervour. Headlines in the papers read “Explosion of self-esteem”, “Road to Resurgence”, “A Moment of Pride”.  BJP leaders, government officials and scientists began making conflicting and confused statements.  The PM was kept busy silencing some ministers and contradicting others.  As anticipated, the US imposed mandatory sanctions on India.  There was world-wide condemnation of the tests.  Economic aid from major donors was discontinued.  Belligerent supporters of the BJP said that India was not afraid of economic sanctions and could learn to live with them.

Meanwhile satellite pictures indicated that Pakistan was preparing for a nuclear detonation in Baluchistan.  The US offered Pakistan an attractive package of sophisticated conventional weapons including F-16 fighter aircraft if it refrained from testing. [This package would have tilted the conventional arms balance in South Asia in Pakistan’s favour.]  But the pressure of public opinion on the Pakistani PM was too great.  On 28 May, Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices.  Again on 30 May, one more detonation took place.  These were all fission type explosions. Mr. Bal Thackeray of the Shiv Sena said, “We have proved that we are not eunuchs any more.  We have superior strength and potency.”  The US imposed mandatory sanctions on Pakistan. There were the customary statements of condemnation from all over the world.  But this was relatively subdued.  The world considered India the prime culprit for conducting the Pokhran-II tests and upsetting the nuclear status quo in South Asia.

The debate on this issue in the Lok Sabha was diffused.  The discussion centred on the reasons for the government carrying out the tests at this time.  Some suggested that if it was necessary, as the scientists needed to confirm their technology, then surely there was no need to raise the question of “threats”.  Others said that it was political expediency; the citing of Chinese threats was a mere excuse.  Many asked, having tested and proved technological credibility, do we need to weaponise?  If we now weaponise without sufficient cause, we would be abandoning a policy proclaimed since the 1950s and the country would lose credibility.

Pokhran-II had broken no laws.  It had tested and demonstrated India’s nuclear capability. Opposition members kept criticising the government for carrying out the explosions, for wanting to weaponise without sufficient cause, for creating fictional threats, for abandoning a policy proclaimed since the 50s, for endangering the survival of Indian and mankind. There was now no point in denying this capability or bemoaning the abandonment of old 1950 policies. The BJP at least had a transparent strategy of acquiring a minimum nuclear deterrent capability. There was no opposition leader to rally the House and warn the nation that India stood at a crossroad; it either works on the side of the have-nots for a step by step disarmament approach, or it embraces nuclear deterrence as a strategic doctrine.  The latter course was a profoundly immoral course taken by the P5, which created a terror-ridden era with enough weapons to destroy the world 30 times over. The truth was that the opposition parties had no rational alternative nuclear strategy to offer the nation.

The Monopolists and some scientists had lulled the nation into accepting a vague Ambiguous Strategy in the false belief that this would enable India to keep its “nuclear options open.”  Those magic words, “keeping our nuclear options open” were repeated for 25 years like a mantra.  Now India faced its moment of truth.  The crucial issue was not Pokhran-II or the CTBT but India’s approach to the widely accepted immoral concept of nuclear deterrence.  Deterrence is to nuclear disarmament as slavery is to human rights.  We must always categorically and unconditionally oppose slavery regardless of what others have done or do.  Deterrence is irredeemably immoral as it seeks to attain security by threatening millions with instant extinction.  It is indiscriminate violence. The opposition knew that urging the renunciation of NW would be politically unwise as it would never be acceptable to the mass of the people.  So, not a single opposition member was able to confront the ruling party and enunciate an alternative coherent strategy.  Lacking a constructive rational strategic approach, opposition MPs merely indulged in clever rhetoric.  If it is argued that the BJP is guilty of political expediency and faulty judgement for testing and then proposing a deterrent strategy, then history must surely record that the opposition were equally, if not more guilty, for failing to offer an alternative policy to the electorate.

After the initial fervour of Pokhran-II had died down, and in the absence of any political guidance by the opposition parties, public support for a weaponisation strategy was expressed by a wide and large cross-section of India.  Analysts accepted that economic and diplomatic pressure would attempt to isolate India, and will result in reduced foreign direct investments, some flight of capital, a fall in foreign reserves and a slide in the rupee’s value against the dollar.  “If this form of isolation is inevitable because India has taken a considered pre-emptive initiative to safeguard its national security, then it must have the grit to go down the lonely path till the world sees the logic of its decision.”

Some pointed out that till Pokhran-II, the nuclear dialogue between the US and India has been unidirectional with the US preaching the virtues of non-proliferation to the Indian.  Attempts made by the non-official strategic community to engage their US counterparts in a dialogue on even such important non-nuclear issues as US policy towards insurgencies and ethno-nationalist problems in different parts of the world had not proved fruitful.  In the past, it seemed that the USA had only a one-point agenda with India: preaching the virtues of non-proliferation.  Analysts hoped that now India would be in a position to ask the US its views on the future role of NW in international politics, and there would be no hurdles in the way of a real strategic interaction, even on non-nuclear issues.

Many condemned the hypocrisy and arrogance of the P-5 who had turned a blind eye to the arms proliferation, which was affecting Asian and Indian security.  There was a refusal to recognise that Pakistan started its NW programme, as announced by Mr. Z.A.Bhutto, three years before Pokhran-I.  There was no objective acknowledgement of the assistance being given to Pakistan by many western countries and China, which has resulted in Pakistan’s present NW and missile capability.   There has been no recognition of Indian restraint for over three decades in the hope that the NW powers would give visible commitments to eliminate NW and ensure a genuine move towards a genuine non-proliferation regime.

Supporters of a weaponisation policy while arguing questions of cost, status and power said, “Another very relevant criticism made by some intellectuals is that before removing poverty, illiteracy and hunger of our people, we should not waste our resources on NW.”   There is apparent morality in this view.  However, there are a very large number of people within extensive areas of China that are under the poverty line even now, but that has not stopped China in its race for super power status.  Can India afford to stay out of that race?

India’ stand on the NPT enjoys wide public support.  The need to have nuclear test explosions to prove and demonstrate our scientific and technical capability has also been accepted by many as unavoidable.  But the decision to weaponise had divided the nation.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NINE

 

In August 2000, the assessment of the US Central Intelligence Agency and various US espionage agencies known as the National Intelligence Estimate, which had been closely monitoring developments in Jammu and Kashmir, had reached a consensus that the threat of a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan is very real.  The chapter that follows is pure fiction.  It may serve as a warning to those who mistakenly believe that a nuclear weapon is just one more bigger bomb in India’s arsenal.  Fiction may drive home the basic truth that nuclear wars must never be fought and are un-winnable.  Such wars do not merely kill enemies; it kills both opponents without discrimination.  A nuclear war will destroy the environment and the earth itself. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

South Asia’s Day After

 

After the jingoistic fervour of the May 1998 nuclear test explosions subsided, India and Pakistan began to assess the realities of the situation.    Both the countries had demonstrated that they could manufacture a 20-Kt  fission-type atom bomb with assurance that these would be operative.  Grim statistics were published by reputed scientists summarising the basic characteristics of a 20-Kt atom bomb.

An atom bomb has three effects: blast, heat and nuclear radiation.  The blast lasts for a short time after the explosion and is very destructive.  If exploded at a height of 3000 m, a 20-Kt bomb will kill everyone and destroy all two-story buildings of Delhi within a radius of two kms of the explosion.  It will injure all people between a radius o two and four km of the explosion.  The flash will cause blindness up to 10 km away on a clear day and 40 km at night.  The heat will burn human flesh and cause massive fires.  People within a radius of three km will suffer second-degree burns, and will die if not properly treated.  Fires will spread and huge conflagrations can be expected as these are fanned by prevailing winds.  A thermonuclear bomb will be 100 or a 1000  times more destructive, depending on the mega tonnage of the weapon.

The explosion will also release streams of atomic particles, some quite long-lived, which will contaminate the area.  “Fallout” is nuclear radiation caused when contaminated debris is lifted by the explosion and carried by the wind to other areas.  Contamination and fallout can have prolonged effects injurious or fatal to life.  This will depend on the nature of the emissions and  extent of exposure, which is measured in REM [Roentgen Equivalent Man].  A dose of 600 REM over a period of seven days could result in fatal illness among 90 per cent of the population exposed.

Concerned of the dangers of a nuclear confrontation, responsible leaders in both countries declared a moratorium on further tests and assured each other that they would adopt a “no first use” nuclear policy.  Preliminary talks at the secretary level were cordial and paved the way for a summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers.  Both the leaders met towards the end 1999.  Both countries asserted that their first priority would be to develop a limited stockpile of nuclear weapons so as to be able to adopt a minimum deterrence strategy.  Both accepted that nuclear weaponisation and an ambiguous strategy were dangerous incompatibles.  They agreed that nuclear weapons [NW] were not secret weapons;  their respective strategies should conform to well-established “laws” of deterrence to avoid misperceptions or an accidental exchange.

The summit concluded with a joint statement which summarised these views and confirmation that they would  both adopt a “no first use” doctrine.  Both agreed to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT] without any reservations.  Both were prepared to join the Conference on Disarmament  [CD] at Geneva for negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty [FMCT].  Following this summit, economic sanctions on the two countries were lifted.  However, technological curbs continued to be imposed on both the nations by the world’s industrial powers.

In 2001, Pakistan’s economic growth rose to 6 per cent.  India’s growth was a little better at over 7 per cent.  Regular bilateral meetings between the two countries continued.  Though no major progress was made to resolve the Kashmir issue, a limited confidence building measure had been accepted on the Line of Control [LOC].  This had enabled a few people on both sides of the LOC, after careful sreening, to cross through selected entry points and visit friends and relatives.  This had helped to ease tensions across the LOC.

Bilateral strategic talks made good headway.  By the end of 2002, both sides had agreed to maintain their NW arsenals at a mutually acceptable level in order to avoid an arms race.  The UN hailed this pronouncement as a sane approach to security in South Asia.  This period saw the conclusion of a UN-sponsored FMCT. Thereafter, India and Pakistan were accepted as NW states.

In 2004, Altaf Hussain of the Peoples Party [PP] was elected PM in Pakistan.  In India a coalition of several parties , named the Democratic Alliance [DA] formed the government in New Delhi as young  leader, Jagat Ram, who was appointed Prime Minister..At that time, the USA and Russia concluded their bilateral disarmament START-3 talks, which concluded with an agreement to reduce their nuclear arsenals to under 500 each over the next three years.  This agreement was followed a UN announcement that it was planning to sponsor START-4 talks which would include all NW states, including India and Pakistan  The intentions was to attempt to reduce NW to the bare minimum and place these residual stocks under UN control., thus hopefully establishing a Nuclear Weapon Free World by the year 2010.

 Throughout this period, India and Pakistan continued to prosper economically.  Illiteracy and population growth was steadily diminishing in both countries.  By this time, bilateral talks on the Kashmir issue had begun to yield positive results.  Leaders in Kashmir had seen the course of events in fractured Yugoslavia and had come to realise that azadi [freedom] defined as autonomy within India, seemed a far more realistic alternative to the mirage of a plebiscite or  an unviable independence.    The mass killings of Bengali Muslims in erstwhile East Pakistan in 1971, the visible lack of autonomy and democracy in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [POK], and the colonial-type rule imposed in the Northern Districts of Gilgit and Hunza were a poor advertisment for secession to Pakistan, despite the magnet of religion and undoubted economic prosperity that prevailed in Pakistan.

Economic prosperity had made Pakistani leaders realise that it was no longer cost-effective  to continue fighting a proxy war with India. In a break-through meeting in 2005, both PMs accepted a compromise solution in J&K: soft borders with safeguard procedures for free movement, commerce and cultural exchanges across the LOC.  Both parties to the agreement saw this as an opportunity by which neither side lost honour or their sovereignty.  The Islamabad Agreement of 2005 ratified these decisions.

Opposed to these positive plus points was the growing number of unemployed restless half-educated adults and youth in both countries. Undoubtedly ambitious sensible  Pakistanis  and Indian boys and girls had come to realise that  making money [and love] was better than making war.  Undoubtedly, had steady economic prosperity and a progressive decline in population growth continued, the unemployment rate would have fallen further.  But young hotheads wanted quick results.  Fascist-type fundamentalists in both countries found this volatile element fertile ground in their search for political power.  In the year 2009, fundamentalist parties in both India and Pakistan were elected to power. Their common platform was “Sab ke liye naukri.”  [Jobs for all.]  Neither party had a clear plan to explain how this promise was going to be fulfilled.

One year after coming into power, militants in POK began misusing the soft border provisions to infiltrate terrorists into J&K.  The aim of these terrorist missions was never clearly spelt out.  However, several liberal Kashmiri leaders were murdered in separate terrorist attacks.  The identity of the group, which was responsible for these atrocities, was never disclosed.  Fundamentalists in India demanded that the Islamabad Agreement be scrapped and security forces be given orders to cross the LOC and attack suspected terrorist’s camps.  Fortunately, cool heads prevailed in both New Delhi and Islamabad.  At a joint meeting held at the secretary level, both countries agreed to play down these incidents.  The Pakistani secretary assured his Indian counterpart that every effort would be made to trace the origin of these terrorist acts and deal ruthlessly with those held responsible.

Shortly after this meeting, rumours began to float in Pakistan that India had deployed its nuclear missiles in an attack mode.  Vociferous MPs in  Pakistan’s parliament pressurised the government to do the same, and deploy its missiles.   Reliable Indian intelligence reports backed by satellite pictures indicated that this was being done.  In December 2010, a blinding flash followed by a huge explosion occurred in a small village across the LOC in POK.  Many claimed that this was a nuclear missile fired by India and was aimed at a suspected terrorist training camp.  The Indian PM used the hotline to speak to his counterpart and assure him that India had not deployed or fired any nuclear missile.  He emphasised that it would have  been foolish for India to violate its “no first use” doctrine , and that, too, in order to use a NW against an insignificant village in POK.  But people in the area of the explosion panicked and began fleeing to escape rumoured effects of a presumed nuclear fallout.

A few days after this incident, Pakistani fears were again fuelled by persistent reports that India was preparing to launch a massive pre-emptive nuclear missile strike against targets in Pakistan.  Apparently these rumours started in Mumbai and spread from there, first to Delhi, and then from there like wild fire throughout Pakistan. It is not clear why the well-established system of checks to prevent such miscalculations were ignored.  However, Pakistan suddenly fired six nuclear tipped missiles aimed at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Chandigarh and New Delhi.  Each of these missiles was carrying a 10-Kt warhead.  Simultaneously, three aircraft each carrying one 20-Kt fission-type nuclear bomb, Ganganagar, Ambala and Dehra Dun.  One of these aircraft was shot down.  The other two were able to reach their target area and drop their bombs; one of the bombs turned out to be a dud and did not explode.

Great damage was inflicted by these Pakistani strikes.  India’s top political, administrative and military command was wiped out in New Delhi.  The state governments of Punjab, Harayana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra were no longer functioning.  Trhe Chief Minister of West Bengal rallied the surviving Indian state governments.  In accordance with pre-conceived orders on the procedure to be followed in the event of India’s top order being de-capitated by a surprise nuclear strike, The Chief Minister of West Bengal assumed the powers of the President of India.  He rallied the surviving Indian state governments and declared a national emergency.  He appointed the General Officer Commander-in-Chief [GOC-in-C] Eastern Army, Fort William, Calcutta, as overall commander of all the three services, and the para-military police.

Throughout the next two days, radio and TV broadcasts from Pakistan kept up a continuous barrage of propaganda that their pre-emptive strikes had saved the country from a surprise nuclear attack by India.  However, by the third day, Pakistan began showing signs of alarm.  Clouds of radio-active dust and debris were being blown across the border from India into northern Sind, Multan, Lahore and Sialkot.  Citizens were being advised to take impractical precautions; thousands were evacuating the area and fleeing westwards in panic.

Meanwhile, radio reports kept coming in from India’s Northern Army command, at Udhampur, that Pakistani ground forces were attacking along the LOC.  It was only now that India responded with a strike of ten missiles armed with a mixture of fission and thermo-nuclear warheads.  Ten major cities of Pakistan were obliterated.  Hostilities came to an abrupt close at 6 am on 15 December 2010.

The world was stunned by this horrific nuclear exchange.  It was estimated that over 30 million people in Pakistan and about 16 million in India had died instantaneously.  Another 40 million people in each country were now dying slowly because of fatal burns or exposure to radiation.    Huge clouds of fallout were drifting over Pakistan and moving westwards and northwards threatening parts of Iran, Afghanistan, J&K, Central Asia, Turkey, Greece, Eastern Europe, Russia and Sinkiang [China].  Contaminated clouds over India were being blown westwards into Pakistan and northwards into western Nepal and Tibet.  Terrified citizens were trying to flee from threatened areas to avoid lethal exposure to radiation.  Indian victims could at least move eastwards, but Pakistanis had no safe haven.

The river Indus and the sources of the Ganges were contaminated.  This effected fish and all living sea creatures in the Persian Gulf, the rivers of Bangladesh and West Bengal, and along India’s west coast till as far south as Goa. 

Because eastern and southern India remained stable, India was able to restore minimum administrative control over western and northern states that were stricken.  But in Pakistan, law and order had broken down completely.  In some areas armed gangs battled for survival.  It was only after April 2011 that small teams of UN doctors and soldiers wearing protective clothing ventured into Pakistan to plan for humanitarian aid for dying and suffering survivors.  By then, traces of radio-active rain and snow were being detected in as far away areas as western Europe, North America, Japan and Australia.

No one in India proposed celebrating 15 December 2010 as Victory Day.  Many began asking, “What happened to the mutual “no first use” pledge?”  Strategists complained that nuclear weapons were never intended to be used; they asked, “Why then were these fired when they were only meant to serve as a deterrent?”  Some began demanding a judicial enquiry.

In May, meteorologists forecast that South Asia would enjoy a good monsoon.  But scientists warned that rain clouds would be contaminated.  All prayed that the rains would not prove fatal. 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEN

 

Security plans at the highest level are made by the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. Military leaders, bureaucrats, scientists and other individuals who may be appointed as security advisers, could be invited to attend meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security.  They may then offer their views when invited to do so.  Their views may be accepted or rejected.  But the final decisions are always those of the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is the only apex body with constitutional authority to make security plans.  It is necessary to understand how such a system functions in a democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 
The Role & Functions of National Security Advisers

                                   

.  After World War I (1918), our leaders began demanding freedom from colonial rule.  Lawyers dominated the political scene.  They were well informed about the social, economic and cultural problems of the nation.  They were less familiar with politico-military issues.  Jawaharlal Nehru’s disinterest in military affairs affected the thoughts and prejudices of four decades of politicians, intellectuals and civil servants who, taking their cue from him, failed to acquire an adequate understanding of the legitimate role of military force in democratic governance. 

We all accept that in a democracy, the military remains apolitical; that the military must always be subordinate to elected political leaders. History tells us that military force cannot resolve some political issues.  The corollary to this is that certain political actions, which are not backed by military force, may not always be effective. But many of our intellectuals and leaders have misconceptions about other basic security issues  The government has to make many plans:  fiscal, commercial, taxation, water management, and so on.  The military is not directly concerned with such policies.  But any policy, which could result in hostilities, is a security plan. Security plans are based on non-military and military factors.  It is therefore evident that the armed forces have a direct concern and a legitimate role in the formulation of any national security plan. A false cloak of secrecy, which shrouds security issues, prevents public discussion of these matters that should be openly debated.  These fundamental concepts and axioms of democratic governance with regard to politico-military decision-making have been discussed in earlier chapters, along with the reasons why the integration of the defence ministry and the three service headquarters is an essential managerial step.

In a parliamentary-cabinet system of government, the apex political decision-making body is the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs (CCPA).  No major national decision or policy can be made without the consent of this body.  The British experience over two World Wars had taught them that the CCPA was too cumbersome to deal with security plans, especially in a crisis.  After World War I (1918) the British government created a sub-committee of the CCPA, the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC). This is presided over by the Prime Minister with selected ministers including the defence minister as members; the service chiefs, defence secretary and financial adviser are in attendance at all meetings.  When first set up in 1923, the step was considered revolutionary by other democracies.  For the first time, elected politicians were interacting directly with the military high command in the formulation of security plans, which had till then had remained the sole prerogative of the politician and the civilian bureaucrat.

The DCC system worked very well during World War II and impressed the Americans.  They had no equivalent system to formulate and co-ordinate their strategic plans. They could not copy the DCC in toto, as the American presidential system did not cater for a cabinet composed of elected members.   Fortunately, the US Chief of Army Staff, General George Marshal, was an outstanding soldier and administrator.  He set up a makeshift Security Council, which functioned in an advisory role under the President.  This functioned as America’s equivalent of a DCC.  After World War II, this advisory body was expanded, restructured and renamed the National Security Council.

After attaining independence, India followed the British pattern an named its apex political decision-making body  the Cabinet Committee of Political Affairs  [CCPA].  The Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, relying on his British experience, recommended that India also have a DCC composed and functioning on the same lines as in Britain, with the three Service Chiefs in attendance.  Below this would function the Defence Minister’s Committee [DMC] presided over by the Defence Minister with the three chiefs as members. These two apex bodies would be serviced by a separate Military Wing to be created as part of the Cabinet Secretariat.  The Indian Cabinet accepted these recommendations. It must be emphasised that at this time, no Indian politicians or military officers had  personal experience of politico-military decision-making.

Tied up with our traditional neglect and ignorance of the military is a fear of the military.  In earlier chapters we have discussed why that is so and how there should  be no fears of a military coup d’etat after 50 years of freedom. But apparently fear of an army coup still persists in some minds.   Over the years there have been formal proposals from the military to modernise the defence system, reorganise the three service headquarters and merge this with the defence ministry.  However, that has not yet taken place for a variety of reasons which have been discussed in detail in earlier chapters.

Shocked by China’s success in the Sino-IndianConflict [1962], Nehru admitted in Parliament that the debacle was due to his ignorance of military affairs.  To offset his political opponents, he proclaimed the formation of a National Defence Council composed of all the chief ministers, some retired service officers and others.  This was India’s first official announcement of the need for some security advisory body.  However, Nehru’s proposal was not serious; it was intended to pacify public opinion.  Such a body is incapable of exercising strategic control and it subsequently died a natural death.

After the debacle, the army began rectifying its material deficiencies. But the larger and more important problem of restructuring the antiquated defence system was not undertaken.  On the contrary, meetings of the DCC and the DMC were discontinued after the Chinese attack. This was a step backwards as these were the only two institutions which give the service chiefs an opportunity to meet their political masters face to face, to discuss security issues and record their opinions. It seemed that the politicians were afraid of a formal agenda, dissent and recorded minutes, as these could become evidence for future historians.  However, senior politicians and military officers had by now painfully come to realise that threats to India’s security have to be faced on five fronts: the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military fronts. These fronts, or human activities, do not operate in watertight compartments. They often merge into one another. Thus any national security plan entails the co-ordination and orchestration by the Prime Minister of five fronts which are controlled by several different ministries.

The DCC formulates strategic policy and the civil-administration-cum military have to prepare plans to fulfil the policy.  If strategy was a simple one-time process of preparing a plan, then the DCC could sit down and make a national security plan, and issue this to all concerned for action.  Unfortunately, the factors affecting a strategic plan are changing continually due to an opponent’s reactions, political pressures, rapid advances in science and technology and other reasons. A strategic aim will remain constant, but in order to fulfil the aim, strategic control has to be a flexible on-going process requiring full-time attention.  Pre-hostility strategic control entails exercising non-violent action to persuade, hinder and coerce an opponent on all the five fronts. Military action is undertaken only when non-violent control fails. In a crisis situation, such as we saw recently in Kargil, events have to be monitored minute by minute for 24 hours.  This obviously cannot be done by the DCC and has to be carried out by some advisory group, which keeps the DCC informed of key events and makes recommendations for action wherever necessary.  It only then that the DCC can order appropriate actions to control events [crisis management].  Only the DCC has the constitutional authority to issue such orders for action on one or more of the five fronts.  In a fast moving situation, control may have to be exercised on a day-to-day basis on all five fronts.

When Mrs Indira Gandhi took over as PM, she knew that India did not need an American type National Security Council because the DCC performs that role.  But she also knew that the DCC lacked proper managerial support .to perform the tasks as outlined above.  She attempted to overcome this handicap by forming a group, which she termed the Apex Body.  This was a progressive step and the government’s second attempt at forming some national security advisory group.  Unfortunately that organisation’s role and functions were not properly defined and the Apex Body never really took shape.

During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, Mrs Gandhi’s strategic perception and control were superb.  She held informal meetings of the DCC with the service chiefs in attendance, and used this to persuade, hinder and coerce Pakistan on all five fronts without opening hostilities.  Force was only used as a last resort when Pakistan, out of sheer frustration, launched an air attack on the western front.  The three services displayed tactical skill and initiative of a high order.  The War culminated in the surrender of 92,000 Pakistani prisoners of war.  It was a triumph for Mrs Gandhi who transcended an out-of-date security decision-making system.  Later, a meeting between the two PMs resulted in the Simla Accord.  Regrettably, this Accord, which involved vital security aspects, was finalised without adequate military inputs. Once again the, military was denied its legitimate institutional role in politico-military decision-making.

Our victory in 1971 could not conceal that we were faced with serious internal social and political problems. The number of armed police and paramilitary forces deployed on internal security duties exceeded the total strength of the army’s infantry. Apart from this, rebels in the north-eastern states and Pakistani inspired terrorists in J&K were keeping the army busy on low intensity operations.  Co-ordinating and supervising this mixture of forces, in different types of conflict, through different agencies in different ministries at the centre and in the states posed managerial problems for the Cabinet.   Formal meetings of the DCC had still not been revived, even though an ad hoc DCC functioned during the Indo-Pak War of 1971 where its efficacy had been amply demonstrated.  Mrs Gandhi formed a Policy Advisory Group (PAG) to assist the Cabinet in that task of security management.  Its role and concept was not clearly defined, nor was it properly manned. The PAG never worked. This third attempt to form some security advisory group failed.

In 1974, Mrs. Gandhi ordered a test firing of a nuclear bomb at Pokhran.  This decision was taken by the PM after consulting selected bureaucrats and scientists.  This was done without consulting the service chiefs. When Mrs Gandhi was assassinated, her son Rajiv Gandhi took over as Prime Minister.  He scrapped the PAG.  He thereafter apparently relied on a few select civil servant and cronies to advise him on security matters.  Operations in Sri Lanka were a failure of political judgement and intelligence. This failure was followed by successful joint operations by the three Services against rebels in Maldives.

Operations in Sri Lanka and Maldives indicated a strategic shift in the traditional role of the armed force.  They were now being ordered to defend India’s interests beyond our geographical borders.  This radical change of role was decided without even a debate in Parliament.  It was done on the whims of an immature PM based on the perceptions and advice of bureaucrats who lacked constitutional accountability.  Mr Arun Singh, Minister of State for Defence, was conscious of the need to reform the defence system.  He resigned ostensibly because of differences of opinion with the PM.

When the Congress government was voted out of power and a Janata Dal government took over in Delhi, the PM, Mr V.P.Singh, invited Mr Arun Singh, the ex-Minister of State for Defence, to preside over a Committee of Defence Expenditure. The Committee was given wide scope and made recommendations that would have modernised the system, removed civil-military friction and saved crores of rupees annually.  Unfortunately the government was voted out of power before these recommendations could be debated in parliament and implemented.  

However, by now it was evident that many MPs belonging to different political parties were unhappy with the politico-military decision-making system.  They spoke publicly of the need for some institutionalised form of security advisory board. The Bharatya Janta Party (BJP), in its 1998 election manifesto, said that it would set up a National Security Council and review India’s nuclear strategy.  When a BJP-led coalition came into power, Mr George Fernandes, the new Defence Minister, was quick to sense the resentment underlying the relationship between the civil servants of his Ministry and the military.  In March 1998 he announced the revival of the DMC, after a gap of 26 years. This decision was well received by the armed forces. However no one spoke of the equally urgent need to modernise the antiquated defence system at the service headquarters/defence ministry level.  The Arun Singh Report continued to gather dust in the cupboards of South Block.

In April 1998, in order to fulfil its election manifesto, the government appointed a special Task Force under the Chairmanship of Mr K.C.Pant, to make recommendations on a proposed National Security Council (NSC). In May 1998 a series of underground nuclear test explosions were carried out at Pokhran. This momentous decision was taken solely on the advice of clever scientists and bureaucrats who lacked constitutional accountability. The military chiefs were not in attendance when this matter, which had far reaching security consequences, was being discussed by the PM.   Pokhran II was followed by a period of confusion with several ministers making irresponsible and contradictory statements.

After Pokhran II, the Government announced the constitution of a three-tier national security system. This announcement was over-shadowed by military events, which followed. Pakistani intrusions across the Line of Control (LOC) into Kargil. [The Kargil episode is discussed in Chapter 12.]  It was only after Pakistani intruders had been thrown back across the LOC that attention could be given to the proposed national security system that had begun functioning during the Kargil crisis.

A detailed examination of the  national security proposals will indicate that the apex body, the former DCC, has been renamed the National Security Council (NSC).  There was no logical reason to do this.  As already explained above, the Americans were compelled to form a NSC because they lacked a cabinet system of government. India’s DCC is fully capable of carrying out the functions of the proposed NSC, which it has been doing anyway since 1947. After a spell of time, the Government  responded to this criticism and renamed the apex security body as the Cabinet Committee on Security {CCS} . 

The ministerial composition of the CCS  remains unchanged but for the addition of the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and the PM’s principal secretary who functions as the National Security Adviser in addition to his duties as principal secretary. The CCS is expected to deal with broad subject areas: external security environment and threat scenarios; threats involving atomic energy, space and high technology; economy threats in the areas of energy, foreign trade, food, finance and ecology; internal security including counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence; patterns of alienation emerging in the country, especially those with a social, communal or regional dimension; threats posed by trans-border crimes such as smuggling and traffic in arms, drugs and narcotics; and co-ordination in intelligence collection and tasking of intelligence agencies so as to ensure that intelligence is focussed on areas of concern for the nation

The listed role and functions of the CCS are unexceptional.  However, there are two criticisms on its composition.  Firstly, the PM’s principal secretary is expected to perform two full-time jobs both of which are  taxing.  Either a separate National Security Adviser be appointed or the Principal Secretary be provided with a separate full-time security assistant.  Secondly, the three service chiefs are no longer to be in attendance as a matter of course; they are to be invited only when required.  This omission is unfortunate, because, as already discussed, the chiefs ought to be present when any security plans are being evolved which could result in hostile action .

If those who are making India’s security plans, ignore the service chiefs, then they would be relying on the advice of bureaucrats and scientists who do not have a constitutional role in military planning. Obviously, Service Chiefs have to be consulted on such basic issues as to which type of guns, aircraft, ships or tanks has to be purchased.  But the chiefs must be in attendance when the Cabinet discusses  other vital long-term security matters on which the professional military view ought to be available if required..  A few examples: of long term security decisions of the past are the Tashkent Agreement, Simla Accord, our nuclear strategy, our missile programme and its proposed relationship with nuclear strategy, the extension of the role of the armed forces to include the defence of vital national interests beyond India’s geographical borders, defining vital interests, our stand on the Non-proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and so on.

Some will object to these issues being listed as military concerns. The point being made is that in a democracy, the military has a legitimate role to play in the formulation of policies, which have a security content. The Cabinet need not seek military advice when the chiefs are in attendance.  But if the Service Chiefs are not present, then the military is kept ignorant of the detailed political considerations underlying a security policy.  This is a handicap if the armed forces are called to undertake the military option at short notice. .It is therefore necessary and wise for an elected government to have its military advisers in attendance whenever the cabinet is discussing such policies. And that is the crux of democratic security planning. The nation has the right to know who provides the military inputs in the absence of responsible appointed military chiefs. 

It is not being suggested that the government must blindly follow military advice on security policy issues.  If military advisers are present, they may or may not be consulted, that is the PM’s privilege.  If consulted, it is the PM’s prerogative to accept or reject their advice. This form of politico-military interaction and involvement reflects trust and is sound democratic management.  This is not a constitutional requirement but a question of pragmatism. Such a convention prevails in all democracies.  Such a procedure functioned in South Block from 1947 to 1962.  The nation should be told why this was discontinued. The practice of distancing the military from the security planning process undermines the self-respect and authority of the three Service Chiefs because they are being kept outside the system whilst amateurs pre-empt their lawful military tasks and authority.  Perceptive subordinates  can see this, and they know that their seniors are merely required to perform the duties of highly paid chowkidars.  This perception is detrimental to service morale.

The omission is anyway meaningless because the chiefs would have to be present at every meeting of the  CCS during a crisis as in fact happened throughout the three-month long Kargil episode.  That being the case, surely it would have been a trust-evoking gesture to mention their inclusion, in attendance, in formal terms, thus making a virtue of necessity. Here again, the Government was quick to respond to this suggestion.  Although no formal statement amending the composition of the first tier has been made, it appears that the chiefs are now being invited for meetings of the CCS.

The second level has been defined as the Strategic Policy Group (SPG).  Its priority task will be to undertake the long-term strategic defence review.  This document, when approved by the NSC, will enunciate India’s strategic aims.  It will be the principal mechanism for inter-ministerial co-ordination and integration of relevant inputs in the formulation of national security policies.  The SPG will be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary.  This Group consists of the three service chiefs, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, foreign, home, finance and defence secretaries, secretary department of defence production and supplies, scientific adviser to the defence minister, and several other secretaries of the cabinet secretariat, and the departments of revenue, atomic energy, space, and the director Intelligence Bureau.

The SPG is an expanded version of the Secretaries Committee to which has been added the three service chiefs and some others. Civil secretaries are accustomed to making generalist comments on papers produced by others.  It will be interesting to see how they produce original work to cover their respective “fronts” in an integrated and co-ordinated long-term strategic defence review.  

The existing Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) has been restructured and renamed as the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS). This is headed by a Secretary  The erstwhile functions of the JIC relating to intelligence analysis and assessment will continue to be performed by the NSCS.  In addition to that, it will function as the NSC’s secretariat.  All ministries/departments will consult the Secretariat on matters relating to national security.  The NSCS will prepare papers for consideration of the NSC and SPG, and also for the third tier of the system.

After the 1962 debacle, the JIC was made an autonomous assessment body in the Cabinet Secretariat.  However, the inability of ministers and senior civil servants to appreciate that long-range intelligence assessments are essential inputs for policy making, resulted in poor staffing which effected the efficiency of the JIC.  The tendency to treat the JIC as a temporary tenure for senior police officers, and of intelligence agencies to withhold information from the JIC, further undermined the efficiency of the JIC. Now the JIC has been given the responsibility of functioning as a secretariat to the NSC.  This step will result in the neglect of both short- and long-term  intelligence analysis and assessments.  This is bound to adversely effect strategic review which instead of being based on solid professional assessments will have to rely on the ad hoc views of individuals. We saw how damaging this was in the Kargil episode. It is imperative that the JIC be preserved in its original form and be properly manned and equipped  to enable it to shoulder its responsibilities in an information age where the rapid and voluminous in-flow of intelligence will be a battle-winning factor..

 It is time that a high-level review of all aspects of intelligence is undertaken. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) carry out the same basic tasks, collecting, collating, assessing and distributing information.  The former functions internally and the latter externally. Whereas many of these tasks are best performed by police officers, it is debatable whether RAW and IB and JIC ought to be headed by police officers as a matter of routine, which is the case today. This is not a reflection on the character or ability of present incumbents or police officers in general.  Experience shows that police officers, by their training, experience and environmental duties, develop a temperament, outlook and aptitude which is ideal for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Criminal Investigation Department (CID), but not for some aspects of intelligence work. The time has come for these sensitive appointments to be staffed by appropriately qualified officers. Only candidates having the requisite profile should be screened by a mixed board composed of ruling and opposition MPs. This will ensure that candidates have an all-party national stature and acceptance.  The same procedure should be used to select a qualified National Security Assistant.

If this recommendation to keep the JIC as a separated entity, is accepted, then a separate NCSC would have to be set up.  Without attempting to duplicate a military operations room, the Secretariat should be capable of housing a full session of the NSC and displaying all relevant information during discussions. This is not difficult to do in a computer age.  Apart from the office routine duties already listed, the secretariat will function as a national security information and research data bank and assist the NSG and concerned ministries in their efforts to co-ordinate and integrate approved security plans and actions. Access to the NCSC and its computer data banks must be restricted and strictly monitored.

The third tier of the security system is the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which consists of a Convenor and thirty other members of eminence with experience in the fields of foreign affairs, external security, defence and armed forces, strategic analysis, economics, science and technology, internal security, and related areas.  The function of the Board is to advise the NSC on issues relating to security, which may be referred to it by the NSC

The National Security Adviser had assigned the NSAB two tasks in 1998.  The  completion of its first task was announced with the  release on 16 August of a draft Nuclear Doctrine.. The Draft has been characterised  as a mixture of Cold War deterrence clichés and a wish list.  This has not enhanced the credibility of the NSAB. The public release of the doctrine so close to the general election annoyed some members who say that the NSAB should guard against becoming an adjunct of the government or it will lose credibility.

The NSAB is currently busy attempting to complete its second assigned task, a draft Strategic Defence Review.  Reportedly some 60 research papers each of about 50 pages have been prepared and are in the process of being sifted by separate teams. Members complain that the NSAB is too large a group and is faced with a generation gap; only five members are under 50 years of age, the remaining members are geriatrics.  Some feel that they are temporary consultants whereas the task requires  full-time incumbents for good results.  The one-year term of the Board came to an end on 3 December 1999.  It has been reconstituted in April 2000 with some alterations in its composition.

The NSAB as presently constituted is too ponderous. It should be restructured to function as a dynamic think-tank for the NSC. It will have three roles.  Firstly, to look ahead at long term problems and advise on specific tasks e.g .nuclear doctrine, post-Kargil scenarios, our likely stand on the Fissile Material Control Treaty (FMCT) and other connected matters as assigned by the National Security Adviser. Its second role would arise during a crisis situation.  In this situations it would monitor events minute by minute and , where necessary, offer the CCS advice on non-violent options to persuade, coerce and hinder an opponent, before hostilities commence.  Its third and passive role is to tap talent, both in India and abroad, for ideas.  A liberal budget allocation must be made available to enable it to make prompt payments as consultation fees.

The NSAB should be composed of not more than one co-ordinator, who could also function as the National Security Assistant, and about nine other members, each selected on the same basis as has been recommended above for choosing the heads of RAW. IB, JIC and the National Security Assistant. Each of the members must be a specialist in one of the five fronts: the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military fronts.   Additional qualifications of political science and international relations will be preferred.  Members should be appointed for full time work for a minimum period of five years.

Whatever be our individual views on the current system, it must be admitted that this fourth attempt at reforming the strategic decision making system has been deliberate.  We should try to further improve the system.  Whilst so doing, nine points must be kept in mind.

1 Free India has always had a NSC functioning under the designation DCC.  The government has taken a correct step to rename it as the Cabinet Committee on Security [CCS].

2 The CCS cannot delegate its functional responsibilities to others.  It is imperative that the three Service Chiefs be in attendance when security plans are being discussed.  To be  effective, the CCS must enhance its inputs; this is a    managerial problem

3 Based on JIC’s analysis and assessments, and individual perceptions of members, the CCS defines the national aim and threats.

4.Based on CCS’s perceptions, the SPG prepares a draft Strategic Defence Review (SDR). This is amended or approved by the CCS and then isued to all.

5 The SDR should not be a secret document.  On the contrary this should be debated in parliament to ensure national consensus or debate and the generation of fresh ideas.

6 Based on the SDR, each ministry prepares separate operational plans for its respective sphere of responsibility to ensure that the national aim is fulfilled.  These plans must be kept secret.

7 As the strategic scene develops, the CCS needs three inputs in order to exercise proper strategic control in a crisis situation.  These are:-

A  Long- and short-term intelligence analysis. (This is the JIC’s role)

     B Advice on non-violent action to persuade, hinder and coerce an opponent

        during a crisis before hostilities commence. A dynamic NSAB

        must be created to meet this requirement.  This should be compact and com

posed of full-time members..

C Advice on military action when hostilities are imminent. (This is the role 

    of the Chiefs/ Defence Planning Staff.).

8  The National Security Adviser wears two hats. He needs a  Security Assistant  to sift the in-flow of advice and help co-ordinate ministerial actions.

9 The creation of a separate NSC Secretariat is unavoidable to ensure efficient             managerial support..

   In conclusion we should note that an efficient security system has many indivisible components.  We have only discussed the setting up of the apex body; the CCS, and its associated managerial in-puts It is irrational to modernise this level and neglect the middle and lower levels of the security system.  That is as futile as developing a hi-tech car engine and fitting it to a chassis with an antiquated transmission and suspension system.  Such a car will never attain world standards.  Indirect references of the need to modernise and integrate the defence ministry and service headquarters have been made.  However that aspect has been discussed in detail in earlier chapters.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELEVEN

 

 

Geographically, Afghanistan is not India’s immediate neighbour.  It is Pakistan’s immediate neighbour.  It is always prudent to be friendly with the immediate neighbour of a hostile neighbour.  Apart from this, Afghanistan has been associated with the Indian sub-continent from the very earliest time. In the pre-Islamic era, Indian emperors have ruled over Afghanistan and influenced events in Central Asia, which lies beyond Afghanistan.  Aryans, Huns, Sakas and Kushans have marched from Central Asia through Afghanistan into India.  Afghan kings have made Delhi their capital and ruled India.  It is from Central Asia that Babar migrated to Afghanistan, and then India to establish the Mogul Empire.  The next chapter explains why India ought to continue maintaining its traditional links with the region. 

 


      

Chapter 11

 

.Afghanistan & Central Asia

 

In 328 BC, Alexander’s Greek army on its way to India, referred to the lofty hills lying on the north-western approached by its oldest recorded name, Paropanisus: “higher than the ceiling of an eagle’s flight”.  At that time, the crossroads of civilization were not through Rome to Europe, but the area around the Oxus [or Amur Darya]  and the Indus rivers.  This region, known as Transoxiana, has been the theatre of decisive event in mankind’s affairs from the dawn of history.  Men have been crossing the arduous passes in the region in both directions on every kind of errand: as migrants, refugees, travelers, invaders, merchants, and missionaries and as pilgrims.  Alexander obtained the submission of the area lying south of the Oxus River, a region that was referred to as Baktria.  He planted a Greek colony here.  The historian Herodotus mentions that the region was occupied by tribes which bore the name Pactyes, a word that is almost identical with the present day name Pakhtuns, alias Pathans.

In the days of aeroplanes and cars, this ancient route is less frequented.  This has led some to assume that the region’s remote location no longer gives it any major role in world affairs.  However, events in the latter part of the 20th Century have proved otherwise.  An examination of the past may help to explain why this is so.

By 70 BC, Menander, one of the most powerful of the Greco-Baktrian kings, had established his capital at Kabul, which had once been part of the Ashokan Exmpire.  Menander is referred to as Melinda in Buddhist works of that period.  He was a pious follower of the Dharma.  The social situation in Baktria and West Asia was changed by the appearance of the Sakas [Scythians}, a tribe of Turki nomads who were pushed out of their pastures around Samarkand by another northern nomadic tribe called Kushans.  Saka emigrants began trekking southwards and over the next 100 years, spilled over into Partha and Baktria, crossed the Indus and established themselves in the Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujrat;  some claim that their blood and spirit has been inherited by the Marathas.

During the Kushan era, the north-western defences of Hindustan ran along the hills of modern Afghanisrtan; these ranges came to be named The Hindu Kush.  There are two version of the origin of this nbame.  According to the Afghan scholar, Rabbi Pazhwak, “when the Aryans moved from the plains of Bakhtar and reached the Himalaya [sic], they saw many rivers of clear water flowing from these ranges…they named the mountains Hindu Kush  [Hindu=sindhu=river, kush=originator of]”.  This theory is not supported by Greek historians who make no mention of the name Hindu Kush, and named the range Paropanisus.  There is another version in which the word “kush” means “death” [as it still; does in Pashtoo and Urdu].  Thus, this battlefield was named Hindu Kush [death to the Hindus] by the invading Huns in memory of the Indo-Aryan defenders who thwarted their initial aggressive ambitions on this strategic frontier.

But it would be wrong to look upon all the early immigrants from Central Asia into India as invaders.  The Sakas, Kushan and other Turki tribes of Transoxiana were probable those to whom Ashoka’s missionaries had carried the message of the Good Law.  Buddhism did not, as Ashoka hoped, prevent war, but it made India of that period the most religious country in the world.  Thus, many of the nomadic migrants must have entered India, not as barbarous conquerors, bent on rape and plunder, but as disciples of the Shakya Prince pressing forward to their holy land, as the European Jews towards Palestine.

By the middle of the First Century BC, the Kushans had won political supremacy over Afghanistan and all the mixed population of the Indian border lands.  They brought law and order to that unsettled region which formed the half-way house between India and Europe on one side, and India and China on the other.  The Mongolian connections of the Kushans gave impetus to the spread of Buddhism in China and at the same time, the Hellenistic culture of West Asia imbibed Buddhist idealism, which influenced the ritual and folk-lore of Christianity.  Because the Kushans were always under military pressure from the warring tribes of Central Asia, they shifted the centre of their political power from Kabul to Purushapura, modern Peshawar.

Isalm has been a powerful historical nation-making agency; the Arab, Berber, Indo-Aryan, Seljuk Turks of Anatolia, Greco-Roman Albanians and unruly central Asian tribes were all reborn as nations under the impact of Islam.  From that point of view, Islam’s influence has been more powerful than Hinduism and Christianity in the medieval period.  This is because Islam offers a strong religious, social and cultural framework to a backward people and furnishes a common goal to mutually antagonistic tribal elements.  But we would recognise that Islam’s rigid frame functioned less effectively when this was imposed upon sophisticated cultures and societies as was evident in India and Persia [Iran].  History shows that the cultural and social influences of man have always proved stronger that any religion or ideology, and it was no exception in Islam.  In West Asia we have seen a Turkish revolt against Arabicism under Mustafa Kamal; from all that turmoil emerged the twin streams of Arab and non-Arab Muslim nations each with numerous sects and rival groups within the fold of Islam.  Nearer home, the predominance of the social and cultural factors was evident in Bangladesh where the power of the mullah was muffled by the growth of nationalism which made the Bengali language its chief weapon.

Apart from social and cultural factors, there were ideological differences arising from succession issues which resulted in the great divide between Shia and Sunni.  The latter maintain the validity of the first four Caliphs, the Shia pronounced them usurpers and assert the claim of Ali.  When the House of Ali lost the competition for the Caliphate, Shias still perpetuated their own existence as an embodiment of frustrated ambition.  They attempted to broaden their base by identifying themselves with the non-Arab subjects of the Caliphate against Arab ascendancy.  The Persians were the most important and  advanced non-Arab Islamic community.  Thus, from the 8th Century onwards we find Persia producing a Shia dynasty.

The rise of several rival Sunni and Shia Islamic dynasties in West Asia also saw the rise of a non-Muslim nomadic dynasty in Mongolia which lies north-east of Transoxiana.  This geographically remote area fulfils a strategic function, which belies its isolation.  It is what Sir Halford J.Machinder, the founder of geopolitical thinking would have called a true “geographical pivot of history”.  Mongolia is the heart of the Asian continent.  Thus, when a number of diverse  circumstances, a cycle of favourable weather with a resulting improvement of the Mongolian pastures, an increase in fodder and a sharp rise in the nomadic herds of horses were all combined under the organising ability of Genghis Khan, the Mongols were able to launch their military campaigns in the 12th Century.  They succeeded within 50 years in over-running the newly formed Muslim emirates of West Asia and conquering most of the known world.  It is only when they reached the threshold of Central Europe that they found themselves too extended for their primitive and nomadic form of organisation and supply.

It took the Islamic world several decades to recover from the shattering effect of the Mongol invasion.  When the dust settled down, two centres of Islamic power emerged: the Turk [Sunni} Ottoman Empire of Anatolia and the {Shia} Persian Empire.  Some Mongols, when they withdrew to Transoxiana, took Islam with them.  In due course, a Muslim descendant of the Mongols, Timur or Timurlane [1336-1405] established a Transoxianian Empire and proclaimed himself champion of the Islamic tradition against the paganism and barbarism of the lesser nomads who occupied the Eurasian Steppe..  The main reason for Timur’s failure to impose Islamic civilization upon the Eurasian Steppe was his inability to stick to his aim.  Instead of turning north and westwards, he turned southwards to loot the neighbouring Muslim powers in India, Syria, Persia and Anatolia.  He sacked and destroyed every prosperous city that he met on his way. With the passing away of Timur in 1405, his Transoxianian Empire disintegrated into several small kingdoms.  However, the Ottoman and Persian Empires revived.

In the 16th Century, the Turks of the Ottoman Empire in Anatolia wanted to link up with their Turki ancestors in Transoxiana.  Their southern approach was blocked by a hostile Persian Empire, which had expanded its Shai rule northwards into Parthia and Baktria.  They therefore attempted to open a route north of the Caspian Sea, across the Volga River, through the area of modern Stalingrad.  This attempt was foiled by the Russian army.  By this strategic move, the Russians isolated Transoxians until they found it convenient to annex this relic of the Islamic world to the Russian Empire some 300 years later.

At the start of the 16th Century, the Uzbeks occupied Baktria and Samarkand and began expanding their rule.  Under Uzbek pressure, a minor Timurid prince, Zahir-ud-din Muhammed, nick-named Babur [lion] was forced to abandon his small inherited fiefdom of Farghana, east of Samarkand, and flee to Afghanistan as a refugee.  Ismail Shah of Persia sent an envoy to Babur with an offer of friendship and military aid.  Ismail seems to have made his military aid conditional upon Babur’s conversion to Shiaism.  The details of these negotiations are not known as Babur’s Sunni descendants have drawn a discreet veil over those transactions and these relevant sections of Babur’ Memoirs are “lost”.

In 1511, Babur supported by Persian forces went on the offensive and reoccupied Samarkand.  In his over-confidence, Babur returned Ismail’s auxiliaries to Persia.  But Babur’s  public display of Shiaism shocked the Sunni public, and he found that his subjects were against him.  Babur’s forces were defeated by a Sunni faction and he was once again forced to flee to Afghanistan where he established the Kingdom of Kabul.  From here he turned towards Hindustan when invited by Lodhi’s Muslim chieftains to reassert his right to the sovereignty of Delhi derived from his grandfather Timur.  Thus was established the Mugal dynasty and its eventual domain over almost all of India for 300 years.

When we translate the Sunni Shia cleavage into modern geographic al terms, we find that it cuts right across the Islamic zone.  Shiaism occupies the whole territory of Iran with outposts in Iraq and India.  This Iranian wedge splits the Sunnis into two groups, which are geographically isolated from one another.  To the east are the Sunnis of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. To the west are the Sunnis of Turkey, Arabia, Syria, Egypt and North Africa.

Up to the 16th Century, Central Asia was composed of a number of independent and disunited Muslim tribes, separated from the two great Islamic empires in Turkey and Persia [Iran].  Russia, therefore, found no difficulty in annexing the area.  Britain’s attempts to assert its military authority over Afghanistan in order to exercise political influence across the Amur Darya, ended in military failure.  This left Russia in sole control of the region.  However, apart from establishing a few trading and military posts, Imperial Russia did not interfere with the cultural and social life of the people.

At the end of the First World War[1918], the rise of Communism in Russia changed the political scene and deeply alarmed Sir Halford J. Machinder, founder of geopolitical thinking..  Machinder’s theory, rather grandly expressed, was that “who rules the heartland commands the world island; who rules the world island commands the world.”  The location of “heartland” was a matter on which he was not always precise.  He placed the heartland in Eastern Europe.  But the more familiar location was deep in Asia; the locale of the Huns of Genghis Khan, of the Manchus, and the scene of the Russian-British struggle in Afghanistan in the 19th Century.

Machinder’s school of geopolitics gave birth to a philosophy closely associated  with imperial aspirations in Germany; it found  expression in the theories of Karl Haushofer, the ideological patron of the Nazis.  In Japan, Machinder’s thinking is reflected in the infamous Tanaka Memorial [1927] to the Japanese Emperor.  As the Memorial puts it, “in order to conquer the world we must begin by conquering China.  In order to conquer China we must first conquer Manchuria and Mongolia.”

Under Soviet governance, Central Asia was reorganixed , modernized and demarcated on a tribal basis and given appropriate names and statehood as part of the Soviet Union.  After World War II [1945], a pro-Communist government was installed in Afghanistan which, however, continued to remain an independent non-aligned state.

In December 1979 there was an anti-Communist uprising in Afghanistan.  The Soviet Union undertook the largest military invasion of a non-aligned country since World War II.  Some claim that the Soviet Union’s decision to intervene in Afghanistan was made with the hope that a limited operation could achieve multiple goals quickly.  Soviet political motives were probably a mixture of the following: a desire to ensure that their Communist nominee remained in power in Afghanistan; a concern over instability on their frontiers coupled with a belief that Afghanistan, like Outer Mongolia, is a Soviet area of influence and their unwillingness for forces unfriendly to the Soviet Union to emerge in control; a response to the Afghan government’s invitation under the Soviet-Afghanistan Treaty of Friendship; a  demonstration to other governments in the region that they were fully committed to their allies unlike the USA, which had failed to protect the Pahlavi dynasty in Iran; a warning to Islamic fundamentalists in Iran that the Soviet Union disapproves of their exporting Islamic fundamentalism.

Apart from these considerations, there must have been strong Machinder-inspired geopolitical compulsions.  The Russians have a good sense of history and knew what a graveyard Afghanistan was for the British.  More recently, Vietnam was a quagmire for the USA.  They knew that their move would upset the Muslim world and prevent their exploitation of Iran’s anti-Americanism and Arab anger with the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty.  They knew that no one would be fooled by the legalistic justification on the basis of the Soviet-Afghanistan Treaty of Friendship.  They knew that this would threaten the SALT Treaty and even jeopardise the success of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.  Nevertheless, they were compelled to act because they must have believed that their vital geopolitical interests were at stake in the heartland.  And there is some justification for that viewpoint.

Whether on subscribes to Machinder’s theories or not, we should note that despite its apparent remoteness, Central Asia has special strategic significance.  It borders China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, and the four major cultural forces they represent.  Islam is a significant force within the area.  The region possesses some of the world’s largest deposits of oil, natural gas, gold and uranium.  The area also produces or acts as a channel for much of the heroin reaching Europe.  For these reasons alone, Central Asia cannot be ignored.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has left five new independent states.  All five have joined Russian-inspired Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS]  However, seven decades of Soviet rule and central planning had distorted the politics and economics of each of these states in different ways..  This has resulted in each  state is facing  different problems.  This has placed the area’s future security and  relations with its neighbours, including India, in question. A brief examination of each state will indicate how and why this is so.

Kazakhstan,with a population of 18 million, gained short-term diplomatic benefit by agreeing to relinquish the nuclear weapons left on its territory after the Soviet break-up.  It has enormous oil reserves, liberal leadership and favourable business laws which make it attractive for foreign investors.  However, economic prospects are constrained by the ethnic and territorial division of the Republic between Russians and Kazakhs,. the weakness of local institutions, the absence of scientific intelligentsia and an underdeveloped ;industrial base and infrastructure.  Its capital Almaty is located at the far edge of the Kazakh-popoulated zone and has limited room for expansion.  The Republic’s GDP has been steadily declining since 1993 and attempts of the President to resort to reform by decree suggests that Kazakhstan cannot play a major independent regional role in the foreseeable future.  Apparently, recognising this, the President agreed in 1995 to allow several Russian military bases on his country’s soil.

Kazakhstan is adjacent to Xinjiang province of China, which is the home of seven million Muslim Uighurs, who are racially akin to those living across the border in Kazakhstan.  The Turki speaking Uighuyrs claim that they have always been independent and were functioning as the Eastern Turkistan Republic from 1944 to 1949 when it was annexed to become Xinjiang and part of the People’s Republic of China.  Rebel Uighurs have been agitating for independence ever since. To counter this, the Chinese have inducted some nine million Han Chinese into Xinjiang over the past 50 years.  This has not deterred the rebels who have recently stepped up their violent protests.  China views these activities with concern as they set a bad example to other autonomous regions like Tibet and Inner Mongolia, which also have restless minorities.

Kyrgyzstan is a small picturesque mountainous nation with a population of four million.  It aspires to become the “Switzerland” of Asia but it is poor in resources and lacks most of the requirements for independent regional power.  Its public life is riddled with inter-clan rivalries, regional divisions and corruption.  With Russians constituting 20 per cent of the population, it faces ethnic tensions that could eventually threaten its survival

Turkmenistan has abundant natural gas wells.  Th profitable sale of this product to its neighbours enables it to supply electricity at no charge to every citizen in this otherwise poor country.  But its large desert territory, a population of fewer than four million and a small number of intellectuals, compels Turkmenistan to depend on others for its security, much like the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Tajikistan with a population of six million and 900,000 displaced persons is suffering from the full impact of the Afghan civil war and drug trafficking along its southern border with Afghanistan.  Internal ethnic strife is exacerbated by a rebel fundamentalist movement, a lack of unity among its leaders, a paucity of natural resources and the presence of large quantities of Soviet weapons.  The proximity of Afghanistan is another danger.  Ahmed Shah Masood who ran the Army of the ousted Afghan government, is a Tajik.  The Taliban accuse him of having a clandestine base in Tajikistan from where he operates an airfield.  In this situation the Republic is in no position to emerge as a regional power of consequence

Afghanistan, which strictly has never been considered to form part of Central Asia, is connected historically, geographically, economically and ethnically with that region.  With a populationof 18 million, Afghanistan lacks ethnic unity.  The southern two-thirds of the country is composed of Pathan [Pakhtun] stock and the northern one-third of Tajik and Uzbek stock.  Along the north-western border and around Heart are located small pockets of Hazara Shiites and Ismailis who have close affinity to the peopole livcing on the border with Iran.

The country has not only been a victim of the Cold War while it raged but continues to suffer from its fallout in the form of covert intervention of its neighbours, the spread of heroin and the Kalashnikov culture, religious extremism and tribal nationalism.  After the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, Pakistan, tried to install their nominee Gulbudin Hekmatiyar in Kabul.  When this move failed, Pakistan  created a Pakhtun-dominated Taliban militia  [Taliban, is a Persian word meaning “student”.]  This force, fired by medieval Islamic phobias, and backed by Saudi money, US weapons and Pakistani logistics and training, succeeded in overrunning southern Afghanistan and installing the Pakhtuns in Kabul.  President Burhanuddin Rabbani took refuge in the northern provinces, which was being defended by  a combination of Uzbeks and Tajiks under the overall command of Ahmed Shah Masood.

In February 1997, internal tribal quarrels broke up the solidarity of the Uzbek army which was defending the north-western provinces under General Abdul Rashid Dostum.  A rebel faction led by General Abdul Malik took support of the Taliban [some say that Malik’s defection was purchased with money] and ousted General Dostum who fled to Turkey.  Taliban militia, operating from Herat moved along the southern border of Turkmenistan and entered the city of Mazar-e-Sharif without a shot being fired.  Uzbek soldiers retained their arms.  Ahmed Shah Masood still remained firmly entrenched in his mountain stronghold in Panjsher valley in control of the road to Kabul and the strategic Salang Pass, the southern gateway into Central Asia.  Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were exuberant and joined Pakistan in extending their support and recognition to the new regime at Kabul.

This apparent victory raised fears of the spread of militant Islamic fundamenntali9sm into Central Asia, into Chinese xinjiang province and Jammu and Kashmir.  Because all the five republics of Centnral Asia are members of the CIS, Moscow issued a warning to Taliban that any intrusion across the border will be repulsed with force.  Iran sealed its borders with western Afghanistan.  India continued its recognition of the Rabbani regime.  It demanded that foreign interference in Afghanistan should stop forthwith, and supported an end to the crisis through negotiations and a solution based on sharing of power by all the important groups.

In the months which followed, black-turbaned bearded Taliban men poured into Mazar-e-Sharif via Heart, and began issuing eccentric dictates: a ban on the use of TV, videos and paper bags [as these might be recycled from old copies of the Koran]; the compulsory growing of beards by men and adoption of the veil by women; ban on women working and girls going to school.  Liberal Vodha-drinking Uzbeks were soon fed up.  They waited for an opportunity to throw out these intolerant intruders.  In May 1997, several senior Pakistani and Taliban diplomats came to Mazar-e-Sharif by helicoper.  When a security-conscious local Taliban commander ordered some Ismaili soldiers to disarm, they refused to do so and a fight broke out. Violence spread rapidly.  Within 24 hours General Malik’s forces had slaughtered hundreds and captured many including the visiting diplomats.  Ahmad Shah Masood joined battle and attacked the fleeing Taliban forces; who were thrown back some 120 km to the outskirts of Kabul.  Having lost the cream of its first line forces, the Taliban requested a return of prisoners followed by a cease-fire.  The request was ignored.  Like Britain and Russia, Pakistan had learnt that meddling in Afghanistan can mean humiliation and military disaster.

Pakistan’s grand strategy having failed, it plans to consolidate Taliban’s control over the southern two-thirds of the country.  It is attempting to win over Uzbek and Tajok leaders to form a coalition government in Kabul.  But the Afghans know that Pakistan has never accepted the validity of the Durrand Line, drawn by the British in the 19th Century as a frontier with Afghanistan.  A current proposal to rename Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province as Pakhtunkhawa [Home of the Pakhtuns] has clear implications for Afghanistan, which is being divided on ethnic lines, separating it geographically into northern non-Pakhtun and southern Pakhtun.  Some Pakistani intellectuals have questioned this policy and fear the adverse impact of Taliban on their country and a possible exacerbation of Pakhtun ethnic-nationalism on both sides of the Durrand Line.

Decades of internal warfare have left Afghanistan in ruins with the southern provinces under the control of fundamentalist Taliban, and the northern provinces under Uzbek and Tajik control. Although Taliban was able to improve its position and now controls 90 per cent of the country, Kabul faces growing military pressures from the west, north and north-east and a growing economic nightmare. With the return of General Dostum from his self-imposed exile, a reorganisation of anti-Taliban forces has taken place under his overall command. The Taliban regime faces hostility from three of its neighbours: Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Viewed in this context, it seems almost certain that instability in Afghanistan will continue.  This could result in increasing instability in Pakistan.

This brief survey has covered  four of the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan.  Even if given an optimistic weightage, the assessment leaves little hope that any of these five countries could adopt an independent course and mobilise its political and economic resources to exercise overall leadership in the area in the foreseeable future.  The fifth, and last republic of Central Asia, Uzbekistan, is the only country which can function as a regional anchor in the region.

Uzbekistan lies at the geographic centre of the region, borders all the other five states and it alone has no common border with any major power.  It is a little smaller than France and has a population of 23 million.  There are politically active Uzbek minorities in all the other five republics, including 1.5 million in Afghanistan.  Ethnic Russians represent less than a tenth of Uzbekistan’s population and are concentrated in the capital Tashkent.  The urban centres of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Tashkent have constituted the historical and cultural core of the region since the 18th Century.  The Mongol warlord Timur alias Tamerlane [1336-1405] was born near Samarkand and brought entire West Asia, Afghanistan and north-western India under his control.  Babur was a Timurid.  The Uzbeks of today differ ethnically from the medieval Timurid, but the Timurids are irrevocably linked with the nation, making Uzbeks feel that they share a tradition of statehood that has no parallel in the area.  This pride shapes Uzbek attitudes towards surrounding powers.  When, after the Turki-speaking states of Central Asia declared their independence in 1991, Turkey briefly aspired to act as their elder brother, Uzbeks dismissed it as an upstart.

The Czars and the erstwhile Soviet regime both confirmed Uzbekistan’s place in Central Asia.  The Russians, after annexing the region in 1865, made Tashkent the regional military and administrative headquarters.  The city was still the seat of Soviet military presence in Central Asia when the USSR began disintegrating in 1980.  Although no nuclear weapons were deployed in the country, its numerous military bases once housed over 30,000 tanks, most of which today lie rusting in equipment parks.

The Soviets developed Uzbekistan’s economy, setting up major factories for the production of aircraft, buses and tractors, as well as refineries for oil piped from Turkmenistan.  The Soviets also established a network of research institutions in Tashkent confirming the city’s status as a regional centre of scientific and intellectual life.  Underlying these political, economic and intellectual assets is Uzbekistan’s rich natural resources of oil, natural gas, gold, tungsten, uranium and manganese.  The cotton crop, though built on colonial exploitation by Moscow, enabled Uzbekistan to become one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of cotton.

Uzbekistan’s assets are offset by several liabilities.  Cotton monoculture, with its irrigation system, has led directly to the Aral Sea’s loss of 60 per cent of its volume since 1980.  This is one of the world’s worst ecological disasters.  The resulting fouled water and windblown salt has created serious public health problems.  The unbalanced emphasis on cotton has made the Republic dependent on food grown elsewhere. It has begun taking steps to be self-sufficient in food and has begun shifting thousands of acres of land out of cotton into wheat, reducing food imports and addressing the ecological effects of the Aral Sea disaster.

 After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan’s indigenous Communist leaders have remained in power.  This has led some critics to accuse the leadership of being diehard Communists.  It would be fair to admit that most Uzbeks are wary of accepting one-man one-vote democracy out of fear that this could upset the balance of powerful social forces and cause instability.  They prefer the Chinese approach of slow democratisation and quick economic progress along with tight political control.  With this in mind, the leadership is committed to a reform strategy but only in deliberate controlled stages.  The first priority is internal stability and security; the second is establishment of the rule of law and the very last priority is step-by-step privatization and the growth of free markets.

When Uzbekistan declared its independence in August 1991, the fighting in Afghanistan and a civil war in Tajikistan forced it to enter into an uneasy military alliance with Russia.  Although a member of the CIS, Uzbekistan has expressed grave reservations about Russia’s 1994 mutual security pact for CIS countries, which remains unratified.  They fear that Russia’s ultra-nationalists might try to exploit the arrangement to gain a foothold in the region.  They also oppose Russia’s proposal on dual citizenship, which would have transformed Uzbekistan’s two million Russians into a kind of fifth column.

Uzbekistan has begun taking steps to be self-sufficient in oil.  With foreign investments pouring in it hopes to be self-sufficient in oil within two years.  A striking feature of the economy is the state of its currency.  The government has been able to control the budget deficiency and reduce inflation, making the country attractive to investors from Asia and Europe.  Private companies from Korea, Japan and Germany are setting up factories in the country.

Uzbek leadership fears Islamic fundamentalism.  Intellectuals know that religion has always been over-valued as a political force.  Catholicism was unable to unify France and Spain, neither could Islam unify West Asia, nor could it keep West Pakistan and erstwhile East Pakistan united.  They know that when Timurid Babur fought Afghan Lodi at Panipat, it was Muslim versus Muslim.  Pan-Arabism, not religion, could unite Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabians. They know that  formal religion is not a solid basis upon which to construct either a nation or a confederation of nations. They are determined that their republic will be a secular state.  However, Uzbeks are aware of the power which religion can have on individuals.  They are not prepared to take chances.  Religious parties and  extreme nationalists have been banned.  Nevertheless, conscious of the harm done by repressive atheism in erstwhile USSR, the government has recognisd a politically moderate Sunni branch of Islam that predominates in the country.  It finances citizens’ pilgrimages to Mecca and has effected a rapprochement with other Islamic countries. 

At the same time the government is taking steps to strengthen national consciousness.  All official business during the Soviet era was conducted in Russian.  Now Uzbek has become the official language.  The government plans to abandon the Cyrillic script for the Roman alphabet.  The government has slowly been transforming its military into an Uzbek institution; the officer composition is now 65 per cent Uzbek.  The government is also attempting to introduce the people to outside influences and freedoms.  Recently it has allowed independent TV and radio stations to operate in Tashkent and in other provincial centres.

It would be premature at this stage to judge Uzbekistan’s strategy of change as a success or failure.  Much will depend on how they modernize their clan-based social structure and cope with Islamic fundamentalism, and on the outcome of the civil wars in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.  India hopes that Uzbekistan will remain an anchor of secular stability in Central Asia; a strong independent republic, which will respect its neighbours’ sovereignty and foster security and cooperation in this vast rich region of geographically open borders.  If at the same time, the CIS emerges as an informal body for economic coordination among countries with a common heritage of Soviet rule, rather than a neo-imperial system perpetuating Russia’s sphere of military and political influence, then Uzbekistan could play a significant role in serving the best interests of all the countries involved, including Russia.

Uzbekistan is in search of a direct outlet to the Arabian Sea, which would enable vast oil and other mineral resources of the region to be shifted to a hungry world.  There are two possible outlets; one via Afghanistan and Pakistan, the other via Turkmenistan and Iran.  The latter route is shorter, physically easier to develop and politically more stable.  However, this route cannot become functional as long as Iran is seen to be a state, which supports terrorism and is unresponsive to human rights.  In 1996, the US Secretary of Defence visited Tashkent and praised the country for being “an island of stability” in Central Asia.  Uzbekistan responded by becoming the only Central Asian state to back the US trade embargo against Iran.

Undaunted by the US trade embargo, Iran proposes to pump oil and gas directly to India.  This scheme has been welcomed by India, which suggested that an underwater pipeline be constructed through international waters.  An initial survey indicated that this project would be too expensive.  Iran proposes to construct oil and gas pipelines through Pakistan to India.  Pakistan has welcomed the proposal as this would enable it to earn substantial transit fees.

The oil and gas resources of the region have begun to attract hungry international investors.  Billion-dollar schemes for gas and oil pipelines to Europe via Turkey, and through China to Korea and Japan, have already been negotiated with multi-national corporations.  Despite the US trade embargo, powerful global interest are busy  planning for pipelines via Iran, and via Afghanistan-Pakistan-India to the Arabian Sea.  All are waiting to see how the situation develops in the region.

The areas both sides of Amur Darya, in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, are adorned with monuments and relics which bear witness to its former primacy.  The paths are strewn with Aryan bones, Greek coins, Buddhist stupas, Ashokan edicts and Moghul gardens where weary transients rested.  India cannot forget this historical, cultural and strategic link.  It has not been slow to recognise Uzbekistan’s significance in Central Asia’s emerging power structure.  The President and senior officials have visited the country to emphasise and strengthen ancient cultural ties and discuss matters of mutual interest.  India would be happy to see an Uzbek political and economic arrangement emerge in the coming years with Iran, USA and others to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned.  India has no conflict of interests with such arrangements and has had long and cordial relations with all the parties concerned.  India is thus in a position to play a constructive role in the region in the coming years.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TWELVE

 

 

India never accepted the logic or validity of the two-nation concept.  Some feel that we should, therefore, never have accepted a partition of the country  as a bad bargain in 1947.  Perhaps, if the British were not present to play the imperial middleman’s role of “divide and rule”, and if India had a leader like Abraham Lincoln, then we might have fought a civil war.  That would not have been a communal conflict between Hindu and Muslim, but a would have been a conflict between those who wanted secession and those who wanted to preserve the union.  Since the “ifs” of history are only a dream, the sub-continent suffers for the sins of the past, and continues the un-fought civil war.  This has resulted in three mini-wars, which concluded with the collapse of East Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh.  The Kargil episode in 1998 was not an isolated skirmish on a remote border in Kashmir.  It is a continuation of the drama of Partition.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 12

 

Kargil: A  Wider Perspective

 

Pakistan’s morale was boosted by the Soviet-Afghan War.  Large quantities of sophisticated US military aid were funnelled through Pakistan for Afghan freedom fighters facing Soviet troops.  Pakistan siphoned off what it wanted for its own use.

            But by the mid-90s, the strategic and tactical scene had altered radically.  Soviet Troops withdrew from Afghanistan.  The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Pakistan was no longer a key partner in America’s anti-Communist global strategic plans. US financial and military aid to Afghan guerrillas dried up. Pakistani army personnel already deployed in Afghanistan continued to provide military support to the Taliban.  However many of the Pakistani-sponsored militia forces, which could no longer be financed, were forced to leave Afghanistan. Pakistan was engulfed by hundreds of seasoned mercenaries, who had been operating under their control.  Among these were gangs, which were being funded by the proclaimed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. All were well armed and many were religiously motivated.  Their morale was high as they had fought and defeated powerful Soviet forces. . Pakistan decided to clandestinely infiltrate the Afghanistan-returned militia into J&K as reinforcements for their proxy war against India.

            By the 90s, Indian security forces had re-deployed and evolved new tactics to deal with infiltrators who sought shelter in inhabited towns and villages.  Also by then many of the locals had grown fed up with brutal Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries who demanded free shelter, food and women.  Our army began receiving accurate information about the movements of intruders from local sources.  This enhanced their success rate against infiltrators. About 20 mercenaries were being killed or captured every week.  By 1995 it was evident that mercenaries who infiltrated into Kashmir were having a difficult time. However there were certain areas where intruders continued to be given shelter. 

In Pakistan, pressure was being brought on General Zia to revive the democratic processes. Ms. Benazir Bhutto who had fled the country during military rule, apparently assured of American support, returned from exile.  Wherever she went from Karachi to the Khyber she was greeted by the largest ever crowds for a political leader.  In 1987, Benazir married Mr. A.Zardari, a Sindhi  feudal leader.  In 1988, General Zia dismissed his handpicked government, dissolved the assembly and announced elections.  Ten weeks later he was killed along with the top ranks of the army and the US Ambassador in a mysterious plane crash.  Nevertheless elections were held.

Pakistan People’s Party [PPP] emerged as the largest party but without a clear majority.  Ms. Benazir,  leader of the PPP, formed the government in 1988.  Within one year the PPP was tainted with corruption charges and Benazir’s husband became known as Mr. Ten Percent for allegedly taking bribes on every deal that was passed by the government.  The President, citing corruption and ineptitude, and claiming that the PPP had willfully interfered with the working of courts, dismissed the government.  In the elections which followed, Nawaz Sharif, a wealthy Punjabi business man and leader of the Islamic Democratic Alliance [IDA], became Prime Minister in 1990. He continued in office till 1993.  He wanted to scrap a constitutional amendment, which gave the President the power to dismiss a prime Minster. When the President got wind of this, he promptly dismissed Nawaz  Sharif.

In the elections that followed, the PPP was voted into power and Ms. Bhuto was again appointed Prime Minister.  She served in that appointment for three years and in 1997 was dismissed by the President on charges of corruption.  In the elections which followed, the IDA won two-thirds of the seats in a 217-seat Parliament.  It is significant that the party’s pre-election manifesto promised “friendship with India”. Nawaz Sharif was appointed Prime Minister. His political opponents disapproved of his moderate policies. Some had welcomed the influx of militants from Afghanistan and sought their support for a more fundamentalist approach to the country’s social problems.  In order to offset domestic pressures, the Prime Minister announced that he was introducing the Sharia Law.   His critics were not satisfied with this. They were unhappy that friendly overtures were developing between India and Pakistan.   They believed that India was not serious about finding a just solution to the J&K problem.

In February 1999, the Indian PM traveled by bus to Lahore to meet his Pakistani counterpart.  Mr. Vajpayee made it a point to visit the Minar e Pakistan, the historic site where the Muslim League in the 40s had passed their historic resolution demanding the creation of Pakistan.  On this occasion, the Indian PM whilst admitting that he regretted the formation of Pakistan, said that India today accepted that reality and bore the people of Pakistan no ill-will.  He went on to add that in life, one can choose one’s friends but cannot change geography or the choice of one’s neighbours.  He said that no matter what the differences, India and Pakistan must learn to live as good neighbours, accept their diversities and co-exist in peace.

This historic meeting ended with the signing of a Lahore Declaration, which re-iterated the theme outlined in the Simla Accord.  Pakistani hawks did not like these moves of friendship. They knew that a direct military confrontation with India was impractical.  They demanded that Sharif at least display a more aggressive approach towards India. They wanted Pakistan to continue the policy of infiltrating mercenaries and carrying out acts of terrorism in India.  The hoped to create a military incident, which would compel international intervention in J&K

 In order to keep restless unemployed militia groups busy and political opponents quiet, Pakistani strategists evolved a scheme wherein the army supported by militia groups would establish a small enclave across the LOC at a place, which would be tactically strong and hurt India.  They believed that India’s conventional military superiority had been neutralised by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.  There was therefore little risk of a modest incursion escalating into a full-fledged war, They were sure that this would result in the intervention of the US and UN and a reopening of the J&K issue to Pakistan’s advantage.  Nawaz Sharif tentatively accepted the concept in outline.  

Pakistan’s military officers chose the place and time of aggression with care. The area depicted in the map is at a height of 10,000 feet or more above sea level.  Before 1948, a mule track connected  Sonamarg and Leh .  This was improved into a national highway (NH1A).  About 300 military and civil vehicles ply daily on this road during the months from May to October.  The LOC in this area runs north of  NH1A along the crest line at heights between 15,000 and 17,000 feet above seal level. This has always been in Indian hands.  At the nearest point the LOC is about 10 km north of NH1A.

The tree-line in this region ends at about 11,000 feet above sea level.   Drass and Kargil are located on the tree line. These consist of groups of bleak stone structures, which are occupied in winter by nomadic shepherds who come down from the high surrounding grazing grounds.  These also functioned as wayside inns and halting places in the days when mule columns used this track. Due to the presence of NH1A and army garrisons, these places have grown into prosperous little hamlets, with shops, schools, and small vegetable plots.  Other places shown along or close to the LOC, such as Mushkoh, Tiger Hill, Tololing, Shangruti and Jubar are local names for landmarks and grazing grounds which are visited by herdsmen during the summer months. These are uninhabited in winter.

. Pakistani military officers approached their task in a methodical professional manner. From April 1998 onwards, using Skardu as the headquarters, they moved a brigade group (about 5000 regulars) into the area and began preparing three strong defensive bases along their side of the LOC.  Each of these was located at a height of about 10,000 feet above sea level and was occupied by about 1500 regular army personnel, artillery guns, anti-aircraft missiles and about 500 militia. Artillery guns were so located in the bases that these could engage targets moving on NH1A Once the men were fully acclimatised to operate at heights above 15,000 feet, each base began erecting sheds on the slopes close to the top of dominating features on their side of the LOC. Sheds were located below the crest line at a height of about 15,000 ft so that shepherds or patrols could not see them from viewpoints on the Indian side of the LOC.   Mules and porters composed of mixed groups of militia and regulars were used to carry ammunition, fuel, snow clothing, mines, rations and other stores from the bases to the sheds, a distance of about 5 km.  Each porter load had to be broken up into 25-kg packs.  It is unlikely that any porter did more than two trips a day.  This task was completed by September 1998, before the onset of snow.  Mules and porters, except for a few men who stayed as sentries with the sheds, returned to the base for winter. Till now, Pakistan had not violated the LOC

In February 1999, whilst the Prime Ministers of both countries were meeting in Lahore and signing a Declaration of Friendship, a few hand-picked men disguised as shepherds were sent across the LOC to reconnoiter and select forward defensive positions overlooking Kargil, Drass an Batalik.  The snows melted early in April 1999.  Using their bases as a launching pad, Pakistan moved a mixed force of about 100 regulars and militia from each of the bases to the shed areas.  Half the number began preparing strong defences 500m on the Indian side of the LOC. The other half, three batches each of about 50 men, guided by the “shepherds” advanced a further 5-km across the LOC into three widely separated sectors of Tiger Hill, Tuloling and Batalik.  These were supported by mule transport. and about 100 porters, mostly mercenaries stiffened by a few regulars who carried essential stores from the sheds to the forward positions.   The intruders included artillery observers.  Soldiers were dressed as mercenaries and were armed with machine guns, mortars and hand-held anti-aircraft weapons.

Pakistan knew that this intrusion would eventually be detected.  They expected India to complain about Pakistan’s breach of the sanctity of the LOC. They planned to counter Indian protests by stating that these were Kashmiri freedom fighters and disclaiming any control over them. The forward defences were located about 5000 feet above Drass, Kargil and Batalik. Intruders were confident that it would be very difficult for an attacking force to dislodge them from such formidable positions, which were supported by artillery fire.   Pakistan assessed that, because nuclear parity prevailed between the two countries, Delhi would hesitate to widen the conflict by attacking elsewhere across the LOC.  The USA and Pakistan had been allies during the Cold War and the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan.  America had sided with Muslim Kosovars against Christian Serbs on a human rights issue. Pakistan was confident that America would side with its old Muslim ally against Hindu infidels on the question of defending the human rights of Kashmiri Muslims.  It hoped that the US and the UN would intervene to prevent an escalation of the fighting and would take prompt steps to settle the J&K issue in Pakistan’s favour.

Indian commanders only learnt about the intruders from shepherds in the first week of May.  The intruders had had two months to prepare their defences.  (This raises questions about the efficiency of intelligence agencies and poor surveillance by local ground forces.  This has since been investigated.  In brief it is apparent that apart from clear lapses at the local level by the army and intelligence agencies, there has been a failure at the top levels of intelligence to analyse known facts.)  Indian reconnaissance patrols drew fire and reported that armed hostiles occupied the forward slopes of Tiger Hill, Tololing and the hills north of Batalik.  Local commanders thought that these were infiltration groups that had been detected whilst on their way into the valley.  Fighting patrols were sent to round up the infiltrators.

A patrol sent to the Tiger Hill-Tuloling area came under fire and lost radio contact; the men were reported missing, presumed killed or taken prisoner.  The patrol to Batalik came under machine gun fire and gave accurate reports of the extent of intrusion.  Troops sent from Turtok were able to intercept the arrival of a group of intruders and foiled its attempts to occupy positions across the LOC.  In the third week of May  separate columns were organised with orders to clear the enemy from Batalik, Tololing and Tiger Hill.   Attacking Indian forces were subjected to heavy machine gun and artillery fire and suffered many casualties.  Accurate artillery fire on NH1A brought all traffic to a standstill. 

It was only now that the full strength of the intruders dawned on the military’s higher command. These intruders were not like the infiltrators who had previously been operating clandestinely in inhabited parts of Kashmir.  This was a deliberate act of aggression across the LOC by: armed men who had occupied uninhabited Indian territory and were claiming to be Kashmiri freedom fighters. Orders were given to avoid further frontal attacks, to contain the intruders and keep their positions under observation. A fresh assessment was made of likely enemy intentions.  Meanwhile infantry and artillery reinforcements were moved to Kargil and Drass, where ammunition and supplies for further operations were built up. (Troops operating at heights above 10,000 ft above sea level have to acclimatised before being inducted; the process takes about ten days; a further period of at least one week’s acclimatisation is required for those operating at heights above 15,000 feet above sea level.)

The government told opposition leaders and the nation that this was no simple infiltration but an act of aggression.  Pakistan, whilst talking of peace and signing the Lahore Declaration in February 1999 had been preparing for deliberate aggression.  It had violated India’s trust. This was an attempt to achieve permanent occupation.  This was an open challenge. The government admitted that pushing the intruders back across. the LOC would be costly and  take time.  Undoubtedly there are several places, elsewhere along the LOC, where our troops have good observation over vital Pakistani targets, which could easily be dominated by artillery fire or physically occupied to cause a major disruption to Pakistani internal road communications..  However our air and ground forces were ordered not to violate the LOC.  This was also conveyed to the world through diplomatic channels.

All political parties supported the government’s plans to evict the intruders using air power if necessary.  An infantry offensive in the Kargil area was resumed in early June, under artillery and air support.  The defenders were clearly disconcerted by the air strikes.  One fighter aircraft developed engine trouble and crashed near the LOC; the pilot was seen to eject. (He was captured and later handed over to our High Commission at Islamabad.).  A missile shot down the aircraft that was sent to investigate this crash.  The pilot ejected and was captured.  Two shots fired at point blank range murdered him. (His body was later returned to India)  A shoulder-fired missile shot down an armed helicopter and the crew killed.    The bodies of six soldiers, captured in a first encounter, were also returned to India.  Post mortem examinations revealed that the men had been brutally tortured and their bodies mutilated.

Pakistan’s treachery for plotting these operations whilst signing the Lahore Declaration of friendship, and its barbaric violations of the Geneva Conventions outraged the nation. There was an unprecedented upsurge of nationalism in India. There were demands that no handicaps be imposed on the armed forces who should be permitted to fight on ground of their choosing.  Pressure grew for the waging of an all out war against Pakistan. The Prime Minister declared that he was confident that the armed forces would eject every intruder.  But India would continue to preserve the sanctity of the LOC until national interests warranted a change of policy.  At this stage, the morale of the intruders was high.   Indian ground and air forces were put on alert in case Pakistan attempted an intrusion elsewhere along the international boundary.  Powerful Indian naval battle groups were deployed off the Pakistani coast along with amphibian forces in preparation of a seaborne landing in case the conflict escalated.

With improved infantry-air tactics, our ground forces in Kargil began steadily capturing ground behind the intruders, inflicting heavy casualties on them and isolating them from their bases and the LOC.  Indian diplomatic efforts also began to yield results.  The USA appreciated India’s restraint.  It issued a statement advising Pakistan to withdraw the intruders, abide by the Simla Accord, honour the sanctity of the LOC, and maintain the spirit of the Lahore Declaration.  The Group of Eight nations later repeated this advice to Pakistan. France held up the delivery of Mirage fighter aircraft and submarines, which had already been paid for by Pakistan. The Prime Minister of Pakistan flew on a six-day visit to China but returned after two days.  China urged Pakistan to honour the LOC.

In the middle of June, army patrols operating at night behind the intruders intercepted a mule column of about 40 animals.  Night patrols also began ambushing porter and enemy relief teams.  By day the infantry attacked the flanks whilst the artillery and air force kept pounding targets.  Extremely good results were reported under difficult flying conditions. When Tololing was cleared most of the enemy dead were found to be regular Pakistani soldiers.  The enemy had planned to melt snow and use this as drinking water.  Heavy artillery shelling had contaminated the snow surrounding the defenders who grew desperately thirsty; they could not dare crawl out of their bunkers for fear of being targeted by Indian snipers.  They were also short of rations and ammunition, and under pressure from the rear and flanks.  They began to withdraw from forward positions and were now denied close observation of NH1A.  Only Tiger Hill and a small enclave north of Batalik remained in their possession.  Restricted road traffic was resumed on NH1A, which however was still being subjected to random artillery fire.  (There was never any fear that Leh and Siachen would be cut off.  An alternative, safe but longer route to Leh, via Himachal Pradesh had already been constructed to safeguard against this very contingency.)           

The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) met towards the end of June.  The foreign ministers of Islamic countries passed two resolutions.  One lauded Pakistan’s peace initiatives on  Kargil.  The other condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir.  However, Pakistan was otherwise isolated in the international community. Realising that his gamble had failed, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began looking for a  face saving exit.  Requests to open negotiations on the Kargil issue were turned down by New Delhi.  India had nothing to discuss until Pakistan vacated the area, accepted the sanctity of the LOC  and the Simla Accord.

 The  intruders found themselves under growing military pressure every day. .  On top of this was the realisation of world-wide condemnation, a spiralling economic crisis and China’s refusal to back Islamabad.  Pakistan suffered its last diplomatic jolt in early July when a US Congressional Panel demanded an immediate Pakistani withdrawal from the Indian side of the LOC and urged the Clinton Administration to explore all options, including blocking of loans from international financial institutions, to force it to vacate Indian territory.  Nawaz Sharif was forced  to accept the failure of what was universally regarded as foolhardy and overreaching adventurism.  He urgently sought a meeting with President Clinton amid signs of panic.

. On 3 July, Indian forces launched a final assault on Tiger Hill under the support of strong artillery and air cover. This coincided with Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington.  The Indian Prime Minister was also invited but declined the invitation as it was inconvenient for him to leave Delhi.  On 4 July, our forces captured Tiger Hill after fierce hand to hand fighting.  A counter attack was beaten back with heavy casualties to the enemy.  Most of the enemy dead was found to be regular soldiers. Direct observation of traffic on NH1A had been eliminated. Normal traffic on NH1A was resumed the next day.

In Washington, Nawaz Sharif was given no face-saving exit.  Pakistan was told that it had to withdraw and accept the sanctity of the LOC.  Sharif’s request for US mediation or UN intervention was rejected.  Islamabad was forced to accept the bilateral approach. The only concession was Clinton’s word that he would take “personal interest” in the bilateral efforts, but that too, only “once the sanctity of the LOC is fully restored.”  Sharif announced that he had ordered the withdrawal of intruders.  He delayed his return to Pakistan, stopping at New York and then London.  It appeared that he was anxious for public anger against his agreement with Clinton to die down before he returned home.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, began making confused statements in London He suggested that a Pakistani withdrawal in the Kargil sector was contingent on an Indian withdrawal from Siachen.  (A US spokesman immediately said that Kargil and Siachen were not connected issues and added that Aziz’s remark was not justified.).  Aziz also kept stating that Pakistan had no direct control over Kashmiri freedom fighters.  This statement lacked credibility; it was well established that the intruders were not Kashmiris but regulars and a few Islamic militants.  (A US spokesman pointed out that the intruders were entirely dependent on Pakistan for their daily rations and supply of ammunition, and artillery support. If Pakistan cut off this support they would have to withdraw.).

 On 9 July, our troops reported that enemy resistance on all fronts was crumbling.  Pakistani helicopters were observed ferrying reinforcements to defences near the LOC. On 11 July, at Pakistan’s request, senior military officers from both countries met at the Attari border post to discuss the modalities for a Pakistani withdrawal.  Both sides agreed to keep 1000m away from the LOC and not prepare any new defences in that zone. India agreed to suspend ground and air attacks up to the morning of 16 July, by which time all intruders must be withdrawn The next day front line soldiers confirmed that enemy rearward movements were taking place.  Pakistan later requested an extension of the deadline by one day.  India agreed to this.  Pakistan reported that the withdrawal was complete on 17 July, Till then, our armed forces had suffered 414 killed, including 25 officers; 596 wounded including 35 officers, and 4 missing. It is estimated that Pakistan suffered over 500 casualties; this included one brigadier and 50 officers reportedly killed.  [Or army has their names and regimental numbers, but Pakistan has not yet announced these casualties.] 

Our ground forces edged forward towards the LOC with caution as the area was strewn with abandoned wounded men and many dead bodies, booby traps and anti-personnel mines.  On 21 July our troops whilst approaching the LOC were subjected to intense artillery shelling and came under heavy machine-gun fire from enemy positions about 500m ahead of the LOC.  By 26 July the enemy had thinned out everywhere except from small localities on the LOC itself, and some positions on the Indian side of the LOC opposite Mushkoh, Drass and Batalik.  It would be impossible for our forces to adopt envelopment tactics to dislodge them without crossing the LOC  The alignment of theLOC in this area is quite clear.  The presence of these intruders was a breach of Pakistan’s assurance that it would withdraw beyond 1000m on their side of the LOC.  Negotiations are taking place to clear any misunderstanding.  Meanwhile sporadic shelling continued and our troops suffered another 50 casualties

Anxious citizens ask, “can the armed forces prevent a repetition of such intrusions?”  The simple answer is “No”.  Improved intelligence and surveillance systems may provide early warning of hostile intentions, so that forces can be alerted and vital targets protected.  But no army in the world can protect every inch of its national soil against a Kargil-type incursion.  The sanctity of a border between two nations is always a matter of trust.  An aggressor, who breaks his word and crosses a border, only does so because he calculates that this will benefit him.  The best insurance against a prospective aggressor is to always make it obvious that, though he may achieve a degree of surprise, he will always suffer militarily, diplomatically and economically if he crosses your border.      

Those who ask, “Who won the war?”  do not appreciate that this war is not yet over. Wars are fought on five fronts; the diplomatic, economic, social, psychological and military front.  Nawaz Sharif had a political aim: to checkmate his domestic opponents by reopening the J&K issue with a minor military action. Once he had defined the political aim, his military and diplomatic advisers planned a three phased strategy.  In phase one, the military was to carry out limited intrusion and employ mercenaries who had spilled into Pakistan from Afghanistan.  Having gained a foothold in a sensitive area, Pakistan hoped to gain the intervention of a UN peacekeeping force so that its diplomats could launch phase two and three of the strategic plan.  The Kargil conflict was a small battle , which formed phase one of the larger war designed to prove the  validity of the two-nation concept and win J&K. 

What did Pakistan achieve in phase one?  It undoubtedly gained military surprise. But they had wanted to create a minor incident.  They had not anticipated the unprecedented national upsurge that took place in India.  Indian forces reacted late and initially suffered heavy casualties. They soon adopted suitable tactics to meet the situation.  They then did a wonderful job against a determined enemy in very difficult terrain. The defenders were disconcerted by night attacks on their supply columns, by the courage of our infantry officers who lead attacks on their flanks, by the scale of our artillery bombardment and devastating air strikes. They were forced to withdraw from the lower spurs, and later from the dominating heights. They fell back to well-prepared alternative defensive positions adjoining their side of the LOC from where they were supported by bases located in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir [POK].

 It would have been very costly for our troops to throw them out from there without crossing the LOC Their continued presence there was of no military significance, but it was politically unacceptable and would have been a blow to India’s military prestige. Pakistan’s army had suffered heavy casualties but kept the flag flying and only pulled back when ordered to do so. There were public demonstrations in Pakistan by those that protested against Nawaz Sharif’s “sell-out” to Washington.  Fundamentalist sections of the army had never liked the Lahore Declaration.  This faction resented the fact that politicians forced a withdrawal on the military..

It was Sharif’s political and diplomatic miscalculations in phase one that discomforted him. . America had turned a blind eye to the arming and training of the Taliban and other fundamentalist groups by Pakistan for employment against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.  Pakistan did not realise that the situation had changed radically since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Sharif underestimated the alarm aroused in the Group of Eight Nations and China at the growing nexus between Pakistan and terrorist groups. [Missionaries from Osama bin Laden’s Harkatal Jehad Al Islami (HJAI) are known to be secretly entering Sinkiang Province (China), India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, where they preach the gospel of terrorism, recruit followers and try to establish HJAI cells.]  Osama who openly urges his followers to wage a terrorist war against America and India, is reported to have left Afghanistan and “disappeared” somewhere in the mountainous unadministered boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There have been public demonstrations in Pakistan urging the government not to bow to American pressure.  Fanatics have warned that there will be bloodshed if Osama is arrested and handed over to US authorities

Sympathy for Pakistan’s claims on Kashmir was virtually wiped out by international perception that its leaders flirted with nuclear disaster in Kargil.  Pakistan was not able to win Western or Chinese support, nor get the US or UN to intervene directly in J&K.  Pakistan’s only success in Phase One was that President Clinton gave his word that he will take a personal interest in future talks on J&K This advantage encouraged Pakistan to prepare for the struggle that lies ahead.  It commenced “fighting” phase two of its strategic offensive: to win the information battle before any talks commence. 

In this phase, Pakistan makes persistent and strident demands on every available media platform for a prompt resumption of Indo-Pak talks.   India, quite rightly, has said that there can be no talks till Pakistan respects the sanctity of the LOC everywhere and an atmosphere of trust is once again developed.  This implies no further Pakistani violations such as the clandestine infiltration of sponsored terrorist groups, the shooting of innocent farmers tilling their fields near the border and the firing of artillery shells across the LOC.  Training camps for terrorists, which are located in POK, must also be closed down.  Instead of attempting to create an atmosphere conducive for peace talks, Pakistan stepped up its cross-border terrorism.  

Pakistani-trained terrorists, who had already been infiltrated into J&K and had been lying low in safe havens, were activated.  They began attacking soft targets; a Hindu marriage party, a pilgrim bus and unarmed labour camp and.  massacring innocent citizens. Additional gangs of fanatics from Afghanistan were infiltrated across the LOC into the Valley.  Some were intercepted and killed, but a few kept getting through.  They began carrying our rocket attacks against police and military posts. They were able to kill several prominent Muslim National Conference leaders.  Pakistan disclaims any responsibility for these terrorist attacks.  It protests that it cannot be held responsible for the actions of indigenous freedom fighters operating within J&K. Along with this, there has been a marked upsurge of violent incidents by Pakistani inspired terrorist gangs in northeastern India.  Several attempts by Pakistan to smuggle huge quantities of explosives into India via the eastern and western borders, and through Nepal, were intercepted and continue to be intercepted almost every week.

In August 1999 a Pakistani naval Atlantique reconnaissance plane carrying sophisticated intelligence gathering equipment, whilst on a spying mission, penetrated 10km across the international border in Gujerat.  It was challenged by Indian fighters, disregarded signals to land, adopted an offensive mode and was shot down killing all  16 crew members. Debris of the aircraft was strewn in a Kutch creek across the international border.  Helicopters were able to recover a few items about 2 km within Indian territory.   Pakistani ground forces unsuccessfully fired ground-to-air missiles at an unarmed Indian helicopter, which was carrying a media team to the crash site.   Pakistan said that India had committed a cowardly and barbaric act by shooting down an unarmed plane, which was on a training flight along the international border.  India stated that the 1991 Indo-Pak Agreement on Violations of Air Space prohibits combat aircraft of both countries from flying within 10 km of the border.  Anyway, India does not accept that the Atlantique was on a training mission.  A US spokesman whilst denying any attempt to be judgmental said that India had over-reacted.

This Atlantique episode is the first such incident outside of J&K in nearly 28 years.  It tested the good sense and statesmanship of both Prime Ministers more severely than Kargil. [Pakistan filed a complaint at the International Court of Justice but was told that this matter is beyond that court’s jurisdiction.]   Pakistan complains to the world that India is escalating the Kargil episode and is not serious about resuming peaceful bilateral talks. Meanwhile, by stepping up its terrorist attacks is hoping to send a message that India cannot win the war in J&K.  It is telling the state government in J&K that it is not going to be allowed to run a peaceful administration or carry out peaceful elections.  It is telling India and the world that the J&K talks must begin without delay or else the war may escalate.

India stands firm to the principle that fruitful talks can only take place in an atmosphere of trust.  India must make it clear that even when talks are eventually resumed, should any major violation of the LOC or the international border occur, it will break off the talks till Pakistan displays an appropriate response.   Meanwhile, Indian security forces continue to be on alert and are prepared to deal with an upsurge of terrorism in J&K, and elsewhere as required.  Our forces are confident that every single killer will be rounded up no matter what the cost.

 Every time an intruder is captured or killed in J&K, Pakistan conducts a propaganda barrage condemning India for repressing “freedom fighters” and violating human rights.  It appeals to Amnesty International and the conscience of the world to safeguard helpless Muslim victims.  India draws attention to the axiom that the best indicator of state sponsored persecution is an out-flow of terror-stricken refugees.   Examples of this occur all over the world.  Nearer home, in 1971 when the Pakistan army killed 300,000 Bengali dissidents in erstwhile East Pakistan, (the largest organised ethnic cleansing carried out after the Nazi Holocaust,) over six million Muslim refugees fled to India.  That was the indicator, which shocked and disillusioned even diehard Pakistani supporters.  Bengali refugees only returned to their homes after the Indian forces intervened, captured 92,000 Pakistani prisoners of war, and the new nation of Bangladesh was created. 

That tragic episode undermined the concept of Pakistani nationhood based on religion, and left a strong impact on the people of South Asia who have come to realise that religion by itself is a poor foundation for nationhood.  Using the yardstick of the “refugee indicator”, the world should note that very few Muslims from J&K have fled to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir over the past five decades. In fact a number of those who did leave Kashmir in the early years have begun returning over the past few months.   On the other hand, over 200,000 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits have been forced to flee from their ancestral homes in Srinagar Valley in order to escape from Pakistani inspired terrorists.

 The government is aware of the importance of the information battle and concerned by the inroads that Pakistan TV has made in J&K.  It has decided to spend Rs 430 crores to upgrade and boost the broadcast capacity of Doordarshan and All India Radio in the state. Whilst “fighting” the information battle, India must guard against the illusion that international condemnation of Pakistan for the Kargil episode signifies a turning point in Indo-US relations.  America, is a great power.  It has no permanent friends or enemies.  It has security interests, which change depending of their view of global events.  Its prime security aim in the past five decades had been containment of Communism.  During that period, Pakistan (or any other state, which professed to be anti-Communist) was its ally.  Non-aligned India was treated as an outcaste.

With the end of the Cold War and the break up of the Soviet Union, USA’s strategic aims have changed.  Today, America’s four major interests are to create a nuclear-free world, to subdue international terrorism, to encourage the spread of democracy and to uphold human rights.  In mid-October, when a newly elected government was installed in Delhi, America began to pursue its primary interest, the creation of a nuclear-free world.  New Delhi must make up its mind about the CTBT or face a continuation of American economic and technological sanctions.  India should never adopt an opportunist nuclear policy merely to win favour with the USA.  (The pros and cons of signing the CTBT and the wisest nuclear weapon strategy for India to adopt are discussed in detail in Chapter 13]

Many mistakenly look upon the Kashmir dispute as a Hindu-Muslim conflict.  Some say this is a continuation of a struggle that has been taking place over the past thousand years and will continue forever.  This statement is historically false.  India has been warding off invasions from northwestern India long before the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.  After the advent of Islam, the First Battle of Panipat (1556) was fought between two Muslim armies.  This was a simple power struggle. Indians welcomed the Moghul Emperor Akbar.  The world’s history books refer to him as Akbar the Great because he was a wise and tolerant ruler who understood the Indian psyche and embraced the concepts of unity in diversity.  Akbar’s policies laid the foundations for stable Moghul rule, which lasted over 200 years. It is only when Emperor Aurangzeb adopted intolerant laws, which violated the acceptance of pluralism and diversity that his empire began to crumble. He provoked dissent from his subjects and tore the delicate fabric of unity, which resulted in the eclipse of the Moghul Empire. (Not surprisingly school history books in Pakistan extol Aurangzeb and not Akbar.) 

In the dying days of the Moghul Empire, East India Company’s initial aim  was to expand and safeguard the scope of its commercial operations in India.  They did this by raising mercenary forces and through alliances with cooperative Indian rulers.  The Great Indian Mutiny of 1856 was a joint Hindu-Muslim attempt to revive Moghul rule and fight against creeping proxy rule by foreigners.  The attempt failed.  But Britain’s parliament was forced to intervene, curb shameless commercial depredations, freeze the territorial boundaries between British India and the princely states, and establish formal governance over the Indian sub-continent under its jurisdiction.  Over the years, which followed, India came to admire British administration and laws, their new educational systems, their inspiring political doctrines of democracy and liberty, and the English language. 

The gradual establishment of elected local civic bodies, municipal corporations and provincial assemblies gave British Raj credibility and stability. Then the Raj began to lose its reputation for impartial governance.  It began encouraging religious differences in an attempt to divide and rule, so that a British presence in India could be perpetuated as an arbitrator between warring communal forces.  Indians resented this and fought for freedom from repressive rule. There was never a religious quarrel between Hindu India and Christian Britain.  It was, as always, a freedom struggle between arrogant autocratic rule and democracy.

Mr. M.A.Jinnah was a shrewd barrister and a Congress politician.  He was stanch secularist.  He resigned from the Congress because he disagreed with Gandhi’s mass disobedience movement. He joined the Muslim League, very much in the mood of a barrister who accepts a brief without questioning the guilt of his client.  He took advantage of Britain’s “divide and rule” policy to side with the British and thereby gain a political edge over the Congress during India’s freedom struggle.  He kept branding the Congress as a Hindu organisation.  He played on Muslims’ fears of Hindu hegemony.  He appealed to the religious fervour of simple people in order to win his short term political ambitions. There was nothing religious about the creation of Pakistan.  Ironically after Partition more Muslims remained in India than the number in Pakistan.

Jinnah  knew that religion was a poor foundation for statehood. He felt that once he came into power, he could control events to suit his larger purpose. . After partition, he tried to wipe the communal slate clean. But Pakistan’s ruling elite lacked his perception and did not share his views on secularism. Jinnah soon came to realise that he had awakened communal forces, which were beyond his control.  On his deathbed he confessed to his doctor that “the creation of Pakistan has been the greatest blunder of my life.”

India’s stand in J&K rests on acceptance of four realities: firstly, both India and Pakistan have divergent interests in the state; secondly, these differences cannot be decided by force; thirdly, ascertaining the wishes of the people is important, and   lastly, this dispute can only be resolved by bilateral talks as outlined in the Simla Accord and re-iterated in the Lahore Declaration.. The “mini-partition” proposal by Pakistan, which have been floated in the press and discussed in Chapter 7, will remain academic scenarios until these can be presented formally when the talks commence.  And that is not going to happen at the point of a gun.  The quicker Pakistan realises this and begins normalising relations with India and fostering a spirit of trust, the sooner  will the talks commence. Perhaps this might have happened by the end of the year had events in Pakistan not taken an unfortunate turn.

Up to unfolding of the Kargil incident, Sharif had shown himself to be an astute PM.  He had earlier sacked a naval chief and an army chief.  He had revoked the constitutional provision, which entitled a president to sack a PM.  It was difficult for him to deny his acquiescence to the Kargil plan.  However, he felt that the manner in which the army chief had conducted  the Kargil operations had plunged the country into a military failure.  This had now become a political and economic crisis. What was worse, the army was claiming that their grand strategy had been frustrated because of Sharif’s weak reactions under US pressure.  The PM felt that the only way he could retrieve his position would be by dismissing his army chief.  He felt that there would be no difficulties as he had done this before and this general was a mohajir [a refugee from India.]  Nevertheless, he decided to be cautious and waited till the General went on an official visit to Sri Lanka.  

On 11 October, whilst General Parvez Musharraf was flying back to Pakistan from Colombo he was sacked by Nawaz Sharif while his plane was air borne.  The pilot was instructed not to land in Karachi and divert to India or the Middle East. Apparently the PM had underestimated the strong feelings in the armed forces that there should be no more interference in the administration of service matters. He apparently had no inkling of the extensive pre-planning that the army had already carried out in anticipation of this eventuality There was an immediate reaction in Pakistan.  The army placed the Prime Minister under arrest, took over Karachi airport and instructed the plane to land as scheduled.  Once on the ground, General Musharraf resumed command of the army, dissolved all state assemblies and pronounced himself the Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan.  He later had the Prime Minister tried on several counts of terrorism, kidnapping, attempted murder and hijacking.  The Prime Minster was eventually convicted for hijacking and terrorism, and sentenced to two life terms.  He then faced further charges of corruption.  In July 2000 he was convicted by a special accountability court and sentenced to 14 years hard labour, fined Rs 20 million and debarred from politics for 21 years. 

Begum Kulsoom Sharif, the PM’s wife has been fighting for her husband’s cause.  She has stated that General Musharraf is deceiving the people of Pakistan by concealing the extent of the defeat that the army has suffered at Kargil due to his strategic and tactical blunders.  Furthermore, the Pakistan army is not disclosing the true list of casualties, which are over 500.  She went on to hint that the General was sacked because the PM had “wanted to charge him for high treason.”  The lady was publicly warned not to talk about national secrets or she would face imprisonment.  She has since then kept her silence.  These events have further delayed the resumption of Indo-Pak talks.

When significant Indo-Pak talks do commence, we must be ready to face phase three of Pakistan’s strategic plan: and be prepared to win the diplomatic battle.  After Pokhran II and its Pakistan’s nuclear counterpart, the international community feels it has a vital stake in preserving Indo-Pak peace to avoid a nuclear exchange.  The Kashmir dispute, whether we like it or not, has become the world’s concern.

There is as yet no international consensus on the LOC.  World opinion is divided, and is likely to be influenced more by practical realities than by moral rights and wrongs.  One school suggests that because this dispute threatens peace in a nuclear environment, both countries should be pushed into converting the LOC into an international border.  Another school is afraid that Pakistan’s fragile political system is under unsustainable pressure. Even those who accept that Pakistan engineered the Kargil crisis feel that India, being the larger stable country, ought to be prepared to lean towards Pakistan so that the nation can be kept together and is given an opportunity to create a modern Islamic state.

Until talks on the future of J&K commence, every effort should be made to pursue sensible confidence-building measures and cool down the feelings on both sides of the LOC.  For example, form a mixed group of selected  J&K politicians from both sides of the LOC and give it the authority to cross the border freely to meet with people and investigate alleged atrocities on the spot.  This step will scotch false unwarranted rumours that often cause widespread fear and antagonism.  In due course of time, the border can be thrown open at select points to enable common people from either side to freely visit their friends and relatives without undue red-tape procedures.

Many Pakistanis are under the misapprehension that fostering a peaceful atmosphere, honouring past agreements and preserving the sanctity of the LOC  implies tacit acceptance of its eventual conversion into an international boundary.   India has always treated the LOC as a confidence building border.  India has an open mind and is prepared to consider any meaningful and fair proposals for resolving this long-standing dispute. It is in India’s interest to push the debate forward and not go on endlessly repeating moral arguments.  India should be prepared to make concessions to ensure a mutually acceptable international border. However, as already pointed out, India insists that any final solution be administratively viable and psychologically acceptable, so that no backlash is caused due to an uncontrolled exodus of refugees.

India, till now, has refused to accept any mediation in its bilateral talks with Pakistan.  President Clinton had given his word to Nawaz Sharif that he will take a personal interest in the resumption of future Indo-Pak talks on J&K The talks when resumed will receive wide media attention.  This is a fact of life in today’s information age, and is an indirect form of passive “interference”. This is not to India’s disadvantage provided we do not look upon the world’s legitimate concerns as unwarranted; and provided we understand how to use information technology and the need for transparency to our advantage.  We must be prepared to deal with global curiosity intelligently.  

Transparency and truth are powerful weapons for those who have nothing to hide.  Each proposal and counter proposal in the forthcoming talks deserves to be heard by every Indian and Pakistani. We ought to consider asking Pakistan to agree that the talks be public and open to the media. Many Indians may consider this a dangerous and irresponsible step.  But if our negotiating team is composed of sensible professionals who have done their homework, and we have faith and confidence in our people and our approach to the dispute, we should be prepared to throw such a challenge. Will Pakistan be prepared to accept this challenge? During the talks there should be plain speaking and a willingness to take hard decisions.  Whatever the final out come, clearly many people in both countries will have to swallow some bitter medicine.  Will the leaders and people in both countries be able to stomach this?

Twenty-three years after Partition, South Asia was to witness a political power struggle between Muslim West Pakistan and Muslim East Pakistan. India was not directly involved in that ethnic struggle. There was nothing religious about the Indo-Pak War of 1971, which undermined the rationale of Pakistan as a separate religious state. Not surprisingly a law has been enacted in Pakistan making it a criminal offence to discuss the desirability for the creation of Pakistan.  The penalty for violating this law is imprisonment. In order to unify their country many perpetuate the myth of Islam under threat from Hindu infidels.

After Partition, more Muslims were left in India than in Pakistan.  Indian Muslims form a substantial minority group, which is spread all over India.  To begin with they were bewildered and felt overwhelmed by the majority community and abandoned by the Muslims who migrated to Pakistan. The wounds of Partition took some time to heal.   However, once the dust of those dark days settled down, India kept faith with its ancient philosophy that all religions lead to God, and with its tradition of tolerance. Over the years that followed, India was able to hold numerous fair and free elections to state and central assemblies, create an independent judiciary, uphold a free press, and effect a steady economic growth. The establishment of numerous independent democratic institutions strengthened Indian secularism and the concept of unity in diversity; the concept that in a democracy differences and diversities are resolved by co-existence and not by separation or partition. 

. During the first 45 years of its existence Pakistan lived in the shadow of US power and the Cold War.  This blinded it to the realities of history and geography.   It military built up an inflated image of its role and potential in South Asia. Pakistan wasted those formative years warring with India and feeding its people with negative and intolerant ideals.  Unable to consolidate and build democratic institutions the country’s political system was slowly undermined.  This lead to a succession of military regimes, which kept on using the J&K issue as an excuse for perpetual confrontation with India. Many believed that this was the only way to keep their country unified.

Meanwhile, Muslim India broke out of its “minority” complex.  Many individual Muslims have become Indian icons in the fields of art, literature, music, sport and in the film world. Young India has no quarrel with Islam or the existence of Pakistan or the people of Pakistan, but only with those who sponsor senseless cross-border terrorism.  Pakistanis who know this and understand the practical need for friendship with India dare not to speak the truth.  Those that do speak out are beaten up and branded as traitors.  Pakistani religious zealots (like their Hindu counterparts in India) fear literacy, democracy, modernity, diversity and tolerance, a free press and the liberation of women.

It would be wrong to look upon the past 52 years of tension on the border with Pakistan as a Hindu-Muslim quarrel.  From that day in August 1947 when Jinnah delivered his inaugural speech to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, till today, there is a power struggle taking place within Pakistan, between the forces of intolerant oppressive religious bigotry and liberal Islam. This is not something unique.  Ideological struggles take place continually within India, and within other societies all over the world because the struggle to uphold truth and freedom is never ending.

At the start of the new millennium, there were clear indications that Pakistani inspired terrorists and the ultras were on the defensive and no longer dominated the hearts and minds of the people of J&K.  The government and other political parties in India appreciate that before any meaningful talks take place with Pakistan, it is important that basic issues be debated internally. All the political parties were keen to influence public opinion before the talks commenced. Some right wing Hindu organisations began the process by suggesting that one way out of the J&K problem is to give Jammu province full statehood, and Ladakh Union Territory status.  Once this is done, these two regions could be fully integrated into the Union without Article 370 creating any problems for the future.  Negotiations could then be carried out more effectively with the Valley to confer on it a degree of autonomy that it may desire. This concept was floated in India’s national media in January 2000, and raised wide debate. It was clear that public opinion was against trifurcating the state as that will jeopardise the very logic on which the Indian Union is based: unity in diversity; the acceptance of diversities which must be resolved by compromise, co-existence and co-operation, and not by amputation, partition or segregation.

In April 2000, the Government of India unconditionally released all the top leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat {freedom] Conference [APHC], the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front [JKLF], the pro-Pakistan militant Hizbul Mujahideen [HM], along with other militia leaders who were being held in detention. Delhi indicated that it was prepared to have unconditional dialogues with all violent and non-violent dissidents who had demanded either independence, or integration with Pakistan, or autonomy in one form or the other.   These moves by Delhi alarmed the Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah. In 1996 and 1999, he had made promises that if elected, he would fight for the grant of greater autonomy to the state.  In fact he had done nothing about this.  He feared that these new leaders would win public support and undermine his power base in J&K.

In July 2000 Farooq had the J&K Assembly pass a resolution demanding Autonomy.  This Resolution made no specific demands for a return to the pre-1953 position, [this would have been unacceptable to New Delhi].  However, the committee that framed the Resolution relied on three basic documents, all of which go back to before 1953; these are the Instrument of Accession 1947, the Presidential order of 1950 and the Nehru-Abdullah  Agreement of July 1952. Strangely, no mention was made in the Resolution of the Indira Gandhi-Abdullah Agreement of February 1975, which would have been an acceptable and logical base for any demand for more autonomy. The Autonomy Resolution was therefore treated as an indirect demand to return to a pre-1953 status. While this Resolution may appeal to a segment of the people in the Valley, it is opposed by the people of Jammu and Ladakh. The Government of India rejected the State’s Autonomy Resolution.

On 25 July 2000, the Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] faction located in J&K announced that it would give peace a chance.  It declared a unilateral three month cease-fire, to create a “conducive atmosphere for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute….we have not surrendered our weapons and reserve our right to withdraw this offer if the Government of India did not respond positively.” It appealed to other foreign militant groups to honour the cease-fire.  Among the estimated 2500 militants active in J&K, HM is a heavy weight.  It accounts for 1000 militants and is the only group dominated by Kashmiri activists as distinct from Pakistani and other foreign mercenaries.  It has strong political links both to Pakistan and within J&K.  It is the group closest to representing the alienated Kashmiri majority.  The APHC, which comes a close second to HM in political influence, expressed regret over the “hasty” decision of the HM to declare a unilateral truce, saying it would create confusion among the people. Although it described the cease-fire as hasty, it did not condemn it. The APHC’s guarded statement has made it clear that it does not want to antagonise  either the HM or the militant groups opposed to the cease-fire. 

The State and Central Governments welcomed the move saying that they will wait and see how it works out. The unified Command in J&K, which controls all army, para-military and security forces in the State, responded to the announcement by stopping offensive operations against the HM.  A senior military officer clarified that, “The security forces would continue operations against non-HM militants….if there was any attack on our security forces, they would retaliate in self defence..”

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister told reporters in Islamabad that it is for the Kashmiris to decide what direction to take in their battle against India. The US welcomed the announcement and hoped that other groups would also come forward with similar offers.  Cynics in India warned that the cease-fire could be an elaborate ruse.  Pakistan may have urged the HM to go ahead and take this step so that the Indian government will be left with no choice but to hold talks with the militants. This would indirectly result in India discussing the Kashmir issue with Pakistan.  Thus, by using the HM and other militant groups, Pakistan will not only be able to renew its dialogue with India, but it will also restore its credibility in the West.

Syed Salahudin, the Pakistani-based supreme leader of HM. endorsed the cease-fire announcement made by his commander in J&K.  However, several other militant groups based in POK reacted angrily to the announcement. Some accused the HM of being “bought and betraying their brothers in arms.” The United Jihad Council [UJC], an umbrella organisation of 14 Pakistan-based militant groups, has dismissed the supreme leader of HM, Syed Salahudin from his appointment as chairman of the Council and suspended his organisation for proclaiming a unilateral cease-fire.  Announcing this at a press conference in Islamabad, UJC leaders asked Salahudin to withdraw the cease-fire as well as his offer to hold talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue. On the night of 1 August, suffered one of its worse nights of brutal terror.  Militants displayed their paranoia over the peace process.  In a period of about four hours, small groups of armed men struck at eight widely different places all over the state massacring over 100 innocent unarmed civilians and injuring an equal number.  Some of the killers were dressed in Indian army uniforms; their targets were pilgrims on their way to Amarnath, sleeping road and brick kiln workers, isolated homes in remote villages.  The attacks were clearly aimed at upsetting the peace process Two terrorists who were killed by police who were escorting pilgrims, were identified as members of a non-HM terrorist group. 

Top leaders of the HM and APHC condemned the attacks as barbaric un-Islamic acts, which were not justified by any religion. A Pakistani spokesman said that the killings might well have been organised by India, using army renegades, in an attempt to undermine the concept of jihad and Pakistan’s image in the eyes of the international community. All of India mourned for the dead.  Security measures were tightened up and all were determined that life would go on as usual.  Undaunted by the brutal murder of their compatriots, pilgrims continued their journey to Amarnath.

The Home Minister, while sympathising with bereaved relatives, said, “peace talks will not be derailed by such cowardly acts of terrorism.”  On 3 August, Indian officials and HM representatives met to discuss the modalities for the talks.  The HM suddenly announced that the talks must include Pakistani representatives; it insisted that this demand must be met by 8 August, else the talks and the cease-fire would be called off. It seemed that the cease-fire, which had been conceived in Srinagar was being undermined in Islamabad.  The PM invited all militant groups to join in the talks, which would be unconditional.  He made it clear that Pakistan had no role in the on-going talks. 

On 8 August, the HM issued a statement calling off the cease-fire because India had failed to meet its demands.   The Government regretted this decision and blamed Pakistan for the breakdown of talks.  However, some felt that General Musharraf had originally given a green signal for the HM to open negotiations with India.  He apparently now had to bow to the wishes of the mullahs, jihadis, and the powerful right wing elements in his army.  Pakistani-based militants threatened to escalate their violent attacks.  They kept their word and within a fortnight executed a carefully planned car-bomb attack, which killed 11 policemen and some journalists in Srinagar.  This was followed by attacks elsewhere in the State.  Security forces maintained their vigilance and killed over 15 armed foreign mercenaries in the same period.  The proxy war had been resumed with a vengeance. 

India’s PM said that the offer to hold unconditional talks with all militant groups still remains open. He urged HM and other not to be swayed by Pakistan and to take an independent stand. If internal talks make progress, this could later lead to three-party talks, to include Pakistan. He emphasised that it was not Pakistan’s military regime but its sponsoring of cross-border terrorism that prevents the inclusion of Pakistan in these talks at this stage.  HM negotiators in J&K accepted the logic of this proposal.  On 17 August, they agreed to re-open  talks with India and  said that  Pakistan would be included in the talks when these reach a crucial stage. Salahudin rejected this stand and said that the Srinagar faction had no authority to speak on behalf of the HM.  He raised a new demand.  Not only must Pakistan be invited to the talks, but India should also admit that J&K is disputed territory.  An APHC spokesman  said that the APHC should split its executive committee into to two parts; one would negotiate with Pakistan and the other with India.  Disputes arose between other militant groups on this issue.  This resulted in open fights with several factions firing on one another.

India hopes that while the first stage of internal talks progress, Pakistan will create an atmosphere, which is conducive for tripartite talks. This cannot take place so long as General Musharraf’s concept of jihad does not respect national borders.  He must stop proclaiming that every true Muslim is a jihadi, wherever he be, and has the duty to confront those who oppress Muslims, wherever that be, and by force of arms if necessary.  The General cannot cloak cross-border terrorism under the guise of religious jihad.  He can no longer insist that he has no control over militant groups located in Pakistan.

Insistence that all violence across the LOC must end as a prelude to talks is weak on three counts.  How much is “all”; how is it to be verified which violence is by whom; and what would India’s answer be if some proposed that since neither side would accept the other’s verification, a third party should put its observers in place?  A more verifiable route would be a meeting at the highest level between the two countries as agreed upon at Lahore, on a comprehensive agenda with Kashmir included.  Talks can start whenever Pakistan is ready.  General Musharraf must not be allowed to brush aside the Lahore documents merely because he has dismissed Nawaz Sharif.

India would normally be prepared to deal with yet another military ruler who has appointed himself the Chief Executive of Pakistan. That is not the problem. The problem is how to deal with an increasingly militarised polity.  How does one deal with a government, which has the potential to manufacture nuclear weapons, which sponsors cross-border terrorism, which harbours extremist elements that are obsessed with jihad and Islamic fundamentalism, which has cultivated a visceral hatred for India and a schizophrenic mindset detached from economic and social realities about its military capabilities, and which has created a romantic national aim of presiding over the break up of India.

 It is for the people of Pakistan to decide whether they want a modern Islamic state that their founder visualised or a fundamentalist country.  It is for the people to decide what type of governance they want. If liberal democratic forces prevail, there will be peace on our western borders.  If the religious bigots or irrational autocrats prevail, then there will be tension on our western border. All we can say, as neighbours, is that the direction in which Pakistan is likely to move in the coming years is uncertain and unpredictable. So if and when three-party talks on J&K do take place, let there be goodwill and prudent concessions but no complacency.  The armed forces must be kept up to strength, and be ready to face any eventuality while phase three of the Kargil episode is taking place.

     

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THIRTEEN

 

 

After the Pokhran II nuclear tests in August 1998, analysts began debating the policy options facing India.  The debate centred around two options: either to manufacture nuclear weapons or renounce the use of nuclear weapons.  The advantages and disadvantages of both these options have been listed and are well understood by the public.  The chapter that follows proposes a third option.  It is a rational and humane policy, which enjoys the advantages of both the well-known options and in no way undermines India’s long-term security interests.  This third option deserves greater attention and wider public debate.

 


 

 

 

Chapter 13

 

Nuclear Policy Options

 

Before any discussion on nuclear issues takes place, it is necessary to dispel certain prevailing myths and misconceptions about deterrence.  It is also imperative that universally accepted terminology be adopted to prevent confusion and misunderstanding.

  The rationale of scientists who proposed the development of a nuclear weapon [NW] during World War II, was to ensure that the Allies acquired this weapon before Hitler’s Germany.  NW were avowedly used against Japan to save American lives As long as nuclear asymmetry prevailed, the doctrine of “massive retaliation” envisaged NW as an instrument of war. At the nuclear level, the super powers initially attempted to treat nuclear war as a zero-sum game.

In the theory of games, a non-zero-sum game is the kind where one participant’s gain is not necessarily another’s loss.  The gains and losses do not sum to zero.  Trade is a non-zero-sum game since seller and buyer can both improve their positions. In zero-sum games, by contrast, there is a fixed total of prizes, with the consequence that any person’s advantage must be at the expense of someone else.  Poker is a zero-sum game, so is competition between suitors for the same mate.  There is nothing to be gained from co-operation in zero-sum games.  But participants in non-zero-sum games typically stand to do better by co-operating with each other than by singly pursuing their individual interests.

As stockpiles of weapons and delivery vehicles grew, a situation of Mutual Assured Destruction [MAD] and then Total Assured destruction of Earth [TAD] came into being.  The zero-sum game had tuned into a mutual suicide game. It became evident that NW are unusable when the effects of thermonuclear NW by both the super powers demonstrated the terrible dangers of radio active fallout and a nuclear winter.  The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis formalised the concept of mutual deterrence as a non-zero-sum game; an alliance of two super powers against a nuclear war

 In this situation in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to lend stability to the arms race and counter a threat of a pre-emptive nuclear strike, the concept of “minimum nuclear deterrence” was evolved with its emphasis on survival of a first strike and then retaliation. “Deterrence”, as conceived by the two super powers, was always a two party non-zero-sum game that was country and threat specific.  Minimum deterrence evolved and was effective in the context of MAD and TAD and had no separate existence. 

At that time, it  became evident that “omnipotent deterrence” to all spectrums of war does not exist.  Thus the USA could not deter conventionally armed North Vietnam nor the USSR deter Afghan guerrillas.  The US, conscious of this handicap, created the concept of tactical NW.  France created an independent NW force in order to deter Soviet conventional superiority in Europe. France’s exclusive “second strike” capability was a concept of “dissuasion” and not “deterrence”, and this too in the context of MAD and TAD.. 

A strategy of minimum deterrence and second strike pledge are meaningless in the absence of a global balance of terror and in the face of an explicit strategy of first use by an aggressive power.  When a geo-politically and technologically weak country like Pakistan proclaims a strategy of first use, then minimum deterrence backed by a “no first use” doctrine is an invitation for Kargil-like adventures because Pakistan is confident that it can escalate the conventional battle without fear of nuclear retaliation.

In the case of South Asia, there is no agreement on a non-zero sum game, there are more than two players (India, China and Pakistan), and Pakistan wants to change the territorial status of Jammu & Kashmir. [J&K].  In this situation, stability based on a nuclear minimum deterrence or a second strike pledge or a dissuasion strategy, is not workable.  The only factors, which lends stability to the current scene in South Asia is the overwhelming NW power of the P-5, which acts as a curb on Indian and Pakistan, and international fear that the use of NW by either India or Pakistan could lead to global nuclear anarchy.  Thus to summarise, for nuclear deterrence to work, in South Asia, there have to be three main ingredients-.

-mutual agreement to play a non-zero-sum game.

-understanding that the fear of global ecocide will entail P-5 intervention.

-understanding that fear of global nuclear anarchy will entail P-5 intervention.

Chapter 8 has explained how, after the 1974 Pokhran nuclear test, Mrs Gandhi proclaimed that India supported a ban on nuclear weapons [NW], would not sign the Non-proliferation Treaty [NPT] and would keep its options open. After the Prime Minister’s assassination, a few bureaucrats/scientists monopolised the nuclear debate.  They claimed that India had an Ambiguous Nuclear Strategy, which enables it to weaponise and adopt a minimum deterrent strategy at short notice if threatened.  Pune-based Initiative for Peace and Disarmament [INPAD] warned that no nuclear strategy could be ambiguous as that could result in accidents and miscalculations; a deterrent policy had to be transparent in order to deter. 

In 1995, on the eve of discussions at the Conference on Disarmament [CD] on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty [CTBT], France and China began carrying out a series of underground tests.   INPAD advised that India should carry out all the tests its scientists needed in order to confirm advanced NW technology, and sign the CTBT. Others continued to advise the government that it could postpone a decision at Geneva by refusing to sign the CTBT and thus keep all its options open.  India adopted the latter course and consequently faced a diplomatic fiasco at Geneva and the UN General Assembly where it was outvoted, 182 to 3, on the CTBT issue.  India was internationally isolated.

India’s Ambiguous Strategy worked throughout the Cold War because of the prevalence of a balance of terror. At that time, India, Israel and Pakistan were recognised as threshold or potential NW states.  Ashok Kapur, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, characterised the policy of threshold nuclear states as a strategy of “Non-Weaponised Deterrence”.  Kapur, a perceptive analyst, suggests [in his paper “India and Pakistan: Nature and Elements of Nuclear Deterrence between Two Regional Rivals”, University of Manitoba, 1995,18A] that this strategy enables a country to maintain and develop technical capacity to use a nuclear threat in an emergency.  It enables friendly powers to accept denial of their weaponisation.  It also assures domestic public opinion that the country is not militarily vulnerable in an emergency. This strategy fosters arms control negotiations with regional adversaries with the theme, “don’t push me into a corner; mutual restraint will help us avoid a regional nuclear arms race.”  It also indirectly blackmails allies [Pakistan-USA, Pakistan-China, and India-USSR] with the theme, ”we are insecure, help us with military, nuclear, diplomatic and economic carrots.” 

China claims that it has a minimum deterrent nuclear strategy with a no-first-use doctrine.  There are  reports of China having provided Pakistan with substantial aid to both its nuclear and missile programmes.  An alternative to a direct Chinese nuclear confrontation with India is for it to continue or even increase its aid to Pakistan.  China’s goal would be to make it harder for India to use its superior resources to gain an advantage over Pakistan in a nuclear arms race.

After the May 1998 Pokhran II tests, the debate in India has centred on the key question: does India intend to weaponise or renunciate NW?  This question perpetuates the misconception that these are the only two options facing India.  The aim of this chapter is to dispel that misconception.

In August 1999, the National Security Advisory Board released a draft “India Nuclear Doctrine” which calls for a minimum nuclear deterrent strategy based on a delivery triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets.  The doctrine conformed to standard requirements applicable to any Cold-War-era NW system.  Those requirements are summarised in the paragraphs that follow.

India’s fully developed and deployed nuclear force should be able to survive a first-strike designed to prevent the force from striking back.  The second requirement is that delivery systems must be able to reach their targets.  The third requirement is that the force should have a low risk of physical accidents. [These are problems that both the Soviet Union and the USA encountered; aircraft and submarines-carrying NW have crashed or sunk; missile explosions have occurred in silos.]

A fourth requirement is that NW should be safe against theft or unauthorised use. [In Algeria, in 1961, a revolt broke out within the French Army as a NW was being prepared for a test; the weapon was hastily detonated to prevent its possible seizure.]  Fifthly, the force should have low risk of mistaken use by authorised persons.[An unauthorised person in Delhi had once mimicked the Mrs Gandhi’s voice and withdrawn lacs from the prime ministers special bank account.]  Sixthly, the command authorities who survive a first strike must be able to make the decision to retaliate, and be able to communicate that decision to surviving nuclear forces.  [This is a complex business, specially if the final command authority must specify targets instead of just giving a green signal to launch.]

Seventhly, nuclear forces should be capable of a number of response options otherwise the political authority may not have options available that they are willing to carry out.  [For example, a small deterrence force capable of striking a few of the enemy’s cities would not provide a reasonable option in the face of an attack on military forces.  To respond in such circumstances would invite  response on one’s own cities.]  Finally, the force must be produced, maintained and operated at a reasonable cost.

A question often asked is whether India needs to conduct additional NW tests in order to fulfil its weaponisation programme.  Pokhran II has provided enough information to produce a reliable NW weighing 1000 kg or less, with a 10-20  kT yield. It is well understood that India cannot fore go the possession of thermonuclear weapons if it wants to maintain any sort of balance with China  India claims that it has tested a thermonuclear device with a yield of 42 kT.  Observers argue that the whole point of producing a thermonuclear weapon would be to have a warhead with a yield in the 100-kT to 1-MT range.  Indian scientists say that the weapon yield of the warhead, which was tested, was deliberately reduced to minimise environmental damage. [This is not unusual; when the British were testing in Australia, they deliberately tested reduced-yield versions of their weapons to limit the environmental effects.]

.  However, Pokhran II’s yield discrepancies have thrown doubt in some circles on India’s thermonuclear claim- a doubt that may undercut any deterrent effect India’s supposed possession of thermonuclear weapons might have.  The need to remove this doubt is one reason why some suggest that India may well want to conduct more nuclear tests.  Critics, including a former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, say that if India wants to weaponise it must continue testing, and also develop and test a neutron bomb.  However, the scientists who conducted the Pokhran- II tests are confident that no more tests are required.  The Prime Minister obviously accepts that assessment.  He has proclaimed a test moratorium and has said that India will enter negotiations on signing the CTBT.

Setting aside the controversy over further testing, it is known that India has aircraft, which can drop a NW wherever targeted.  It also has units armed with Prithvi missiles, which are presently armed with conventional warheads, but can carry a 1000 kg war head up to a range of 300 km.  The Agni I and Agni II missiles are fully developed and tested but not yet in production.  Agni I can carry a 1000 kg warhead up to a range of 1500-2000 km.  Agni II has a range of up to 3000 km.  Agni III with a range of 5000 km is on the drawing board.  This could be developed and tested within 5 years.  A submarine with missile launching capability is being developed and may be produced within 10 years.  Thus, there is no doubt that should it be desired, India has the technological and managerial ability to develop and deploy a minimum nuclear deterrent, based on a triad delivery system, over a 10 year period of time. However, this strategy can only be implemented if the eight requirements as listed above are initiated and is backed by an efficient intelligence system.  A Minimum Deterrent Strategy has also to be backed by a matching doctrine, which should be outlined by the Cabinet Committee on Security. It will also be necessary to weaponise and associate the armed forces, the three Chiefs of Staff and their Planning Committees with refinement of the doctrine, which supports the strategy.

Experts have estimated that if India adopts this option, it will cost about Rs 3000 crores annually over at least 10 years.  This can only be at the expense of urgent socio-economic schemes, which if postponed, will give rise to domestic unrest.  Moreover this step will earn the disapproval of the international community and result in India’s isolation.  India cannot afford to let this happen in an era of globalisation. Several rounds of serious talks have taken place between Mr. Strobe Talbot, the US Deputy Secretary of State, and Mr. Jaswant Singh, the PM’s special representative to thrash out an agreement on what should be India’s eventual nuclear status.   The government has apparently not yet made up its mind about weaponization and the involvement of the armed forces in the preparation of a matching doctrine for this strategy.

Meanwhile, a number of new NGOs with the role of discussing South Asian strategic issues, had been established in India.  Their contribution added variety to the discussion on the country’s  nuclear options, which till then had been a two-way debate between the Monopolists and INPAD  The public were now wanting the press to inform about NPT, CTBT and concepts of deterrence.  The newcomers were only too happy to provide the media with lively articles on these subjects. These formed a valuable input to the MEA. One such group has put forward a Renunciation Strategy as an alternative to the Deterrent Strategy.

In simplistic terms, the Renunciation Strategy urges India to sign the Non Proliferation Treaty [NPT], the CTBT, the proposed Fissile Material Control Treaty [FMCT]. and all other UN-sponsored nuclear disarmament treaties. The reasoning, which influences the views of those who support a Renunciation Strategy, is outlined in the paragraphs which follow.

Supporters of the Renunciation concept assert that Indians are pitifully behind the times, not just scientifically and technologically but more pertinently in our ability to grasp the true nature of NW and their relevance in the post-Cold War era.  India is discussing politics and foreign policy issues as though it has just devised a new bigger bomb, which can annihilate all its enemies and protect it from all harm.  We don’t seem to understand that if there is a nuclear war, out foes will not be China or Pakistan, but will be the earth itself.  The very elements, the sky, air, land, wind and water will turn against us.  Those who laugh at this Doomsday scenario claim that “deterrence” is about peace not war. But they overlook the fact that the theory of deterrence has some fundamental flaws.

The concept of deterrence presumes a complete sophisticated understanding of the psychology of our enemy.  It assumes that what deters an average Indian [the fear of annihilation] will also deter an opponent.  What about those who are not deterred?  In any case who is the enemy? India, China and Pakistan have governments, which change, and some do not even require a majority of people to effect this change. Another flaw is that deterrence is premised on fear, which in turn is premised on knowledge. Deterrence cannot work between countries when the majority of the people are ignorant or illiterate. 

If  India feels it has the right to have NW, then why should others not have this right?  Where will it end?  It is supreme folly to believe that having NW is harmless because these are never intended to be used.  The very fact that NW exist undermines peace and confidence, because they pervade our thinking..  Yet, Indians are being told that Pokhran-II was not just a nuclear test, but was a nationalism test-  “an Expression of Self-Esteem”.  Those who preach the Renunciation Concept are branded as anti-nationalists. Renunciators, are scornful of scientists/bureaucrats who in order to justify their advice of the past, continue to claim that every Prime Minister, from Mrs Gandhi onwards has steadily guided national security policy towards a minimum NW deterrent. 

Three official reasons are given for Pokhran II: China, Pakistan and exposing western hypocrisy.  Critics of weaponisation admit that the world is flawed.  Problems with China and Pakistan are real issues, but not new issues. Pointing NW at them cannot solve these.  As for exposing western hypocrisy-  how much more can it be exposed?  They know that they can wipe us out in a few hours.  We have less food, less money and less military power.  But we have a kind of wealth that they lack:  a delightful unstructured life-style and unquantifiable wealth.  Must we trade that in and become like the people we despise?  Become a third-rate NW state?  Beg to be admitted to the Club of Five NW States? Weaponisation would be the final act of betrayal by the ruling class that has failed its people.

The Renunciation Concept is supported by millions of non-violent peace-loving humanists but carries little weight with hard-headed strategists who believe that military power is the best currency in international relationships; they desire to match the potential NW of likely enemies.  Shrewd politicians, many of whom might agree with Renunciation, follow the same line because a minimum NW deterrent concept has mass appeal and wins votes.

A third strategy, which was first enunciated by INPAD some ten years ago, adopts a course between the two strategies of Minimum Deterrence and Renunciation  This has been termed as the Satyagraha [insistence on truth] approach, or a Resistance Strategy.  Proponents of this strategy point out that three security challenges face India. Firstly, internal stability, which is being aggravated by deliberate Pakistani attempts to destabalise India’s basic polity.  Secondly, Pakistan’s renunciation of its South Asian identity and its self-perception as the sword-arm of Islam; this motivates it to sponsor cross-border terrorism.  Lastly, the presence of strong Chinese military forces in Tibet and its long term plans to establish a naval presence in the Indian Ocean.  Although  NW are a power in their own right they cannot address any of these three challenges. INPAD, therefore, recommends the adoption of a Resistance Strategy

This strategy is a “middle path” between weaponisation ,which does not address the main security challenges, is offensive to global opinion, could result in India becoming an international outcaste and undermines India's’ socio-economic plans. And between renunciation, which is not acceptable to a public majority which fears that India’s security would be jeopardised on moral grounds.  This satyagraha approach is based on the insistence of two central truths: that all NW threaten the survival of mankind; and NW cannot address India’s security concerns. A Resistance Strategy is a defensive strategy and is so named because it resists pressures by domestic hawks to weaponise, and at the same time reassures the public that this strategy does not leave India more vulnerable than the choice of a minimum deterrent strategy.  This strategy also resists pressures by the P-5 NW states, which want India to sign the NPT and renounce weaponisation   At the same time India reassures the P-5 that, though it will continue to develop and display NW and missile technology, it will not weaponise.

This strategy insists that India should not sign the NPT because that treaty emphasises a nuclear status quo and is therefore not pro-disarmament. India however supports the UN plan for a universal capping and reduction of NW, and the eventual control by a UN Agency of all residual NW and weapon grade fissile material.  It recommends that India sign the CTBT and agree to discuss a rational Fissile Material Control Treaty.  Whilst so doing it should be made clear that India will retain, under its sole control, a a small number of 1000 kg ready-for-use thermonuclear warheads and a bulk stock of weapon grade fissile material, which will be the equivalent of 300 potential NW.  India insists that these warheads and weapon-grade stock be treated at par with the NW held by the five NW states.

If this proposal is accepted, then India agrees to a universal control of all the fissile material it hereafter produces, except the stock-pile equivalent of 300 potential NW.  When all NW are eventually subjected to UN checks and controls, then India’s potential NW stocks will also be placed under UN control.  The CD may not agree to India’s proposals. But India will then have the satisfaction of knowing that it adopted a transparent rational stand without making lame excuses or raising extraneous issues or searching for devious accommodation, as happened in 1998; now it will be the CD and not India, which obstructs an agreement. The rejection of India’s proposals under those circumstances will indirectly enhance India’s moral stature.

Meanwhile, irrespective of whether India’s proposals are accepted or not, India must overtly plan, organise and prepare for all the eight requirements of a fully developed NW system, as outlined above under Minimum Deterrent Strategy.  To summarise, these are  ;-

1 The potential NW system should be able to survive a first strike.

2 Delivery systems should be able to reach likely targets.

3 There should be a low risk of physical accidents.

4 The system should be safe against theft or unauthorised use.

5 The systems should have a low risk of mistaken use by authorised persons.

6 The command authority must survive any first strike.

7 The systems must be capable of a number of response options in the event of strikes.

8 The system must operate at a reasonable cost, and ensure that intelligence agencies operate at a high state of efficiency

As already pointed out, apart from announcing a strategy, it is also necessary to associate the armed forces and evolve a transparent doctrine, which is made known to the world, and  accepted by Pakistan so that there are no accidents or miscalculations. Some key aspects of a suggested doctrine are listed below

Apart from a “no-first-use” nuclear doctrine, [which Pakistan currently refuses to adopt,] India must insist that both countries confine their armed forces to peace-time cantonments.  Such locations should be transparent and verifiable. Both countries should accept that there will be no change in the state of alertness and “no-first-deployment” of their respective conventional forces along the Indo-Pak border.  Pakistan can have no legitimate excuse for rejecting this confidence-building measure. [It was pleasing to note that some Pakistani strategists have published an article in February 2000 suggesting that India and Pakistan should sign a treaty agreeing to a no-first-use of conventional weapons.]  India must inform the UN Security Council that since Pakistan is armed with NW and refuses to accept a “no-first-use” doctrine, any deployment by Pakistan along the  border will be treated as a threat to India’s security and a violation of Article 2[4] of the UN Charter.   Should Pakistan insist on its sovereign right to deploy its forces along its side of the  border , then India reserves to itself the right to self defence as embodied in Article 51 of the UN Charter.

It is axiomatic that any strategic defensive posture should include an offensive tactical content.  India will earmark an offensive force, which will be termed Force A. It will be composed of designated missile and air force units armed with conventional warheads.  Force A will not be deployed but will be trained and rehearsed for a launch-on-warning role.  In the event of a crisis situation arising between India and Pakistan, our armed forces may be placed on a high state of alert and may be mobilised but in accordance with our declared “no-first-deployment” policy, will not be deployed along the international border.

If and when Pakistan’s armed forces, specially its missiles, are reported to be moving out of their peace-time locations, this will be treated as a violation of the “no-first-deployment” principle. Irrespective of whether Pakistan had agreed to this principle or not, India will treat this as an unwarranted escalatory move and a prelude to a planned nuclear first strike.  India will take the following steps to ensure its survival.

1   Force A will be ordered to carry out a pre-emptive [counter-force] strike with conventional weapons against Pakistani military targets. At the same time India will advise the UN that it is taking this action under Article 51 of the UN Charter. It will thereafter keep the UN informed of subsequent actions. [Article 51 is restricted only by the procedural requirement that “means taken by members in the exercise of their rights shall be immediately reported to the Security Council.”]

2   India will order the arming of selected missile and air force units with NW warheads. This, Force B, will be deployed and ready to launch within six hours.

3   The armed forces will be deployed to secure the Indo-Pak border and deny sea routes to Pakistan.

4           Force B will stand by to launch a NW counter-value strike if Pakistan uses NW.

All concerned should be trained and rehearsed in this doctrine.  Though some aspects of this doctrine [for example, the composition and location of Forces A & B, choice of targets and so on,] must be kept secret, the outline steps as noted above should be widely publicised so that this may serve as a deterrent.  Just as any “no first use” doctrine is a self-imposed brake on a minimum deterrent strategy, so also a “no weaponisation” doctrine is a further self-imposed brake on a no-first-use minimum deterrent strategy.  A “no first deployment” doctrine is yet another brake on hostilities of any sort.

Meanwhile, India will continue overt development of new-generation force projections, and the development of new delivery technologies, including cruise missiles and a missile defence shield, without contravening any international agreements. It will display this potential, but it will not weaponise.  [Weaponisation, in this context, implies the assembly of warheads with missiles, and the issue of NW to manned military or air force units as a prelude to launch.]  From this position of potential strength, India can urge arms control measures with authority.

 There can be two valid criticisms of this strategy.  International cynics will say that India is adopting this strategy as a ploy to cover up its secret long-term aim of building up a NW deterrent of 300 NW.  For any  NW state, which has enough bombs to destroy the world ten times over, to express such fears would be the height of impertinence.  However, this is a fear, which Pakistan may legitimately express. This fear can only be countered by transparent confidence building measures..  India should give Pakistan an “open factories” offer [on the same line as USA’s “open skies” offer to the USSR in the 70s].   Pakistanis will be invited to visit any site, missile or air force unit of their choice to assure themselves that India is not clandestinely weaponising.  This confidence-building measure, together with India’s proclamation of a “no-first-use” doctrine and a “no-first-deployment[or a “no first use of conventional weapons”] policy, should diminish the danger of a nuclear confrontation in South Asia.

The second objection would be by domestic critics who fear that merely displaying a potential NW capacity and not weaponising, will leave India vulnerable to a surprise Pakistani nuclear first strike.  If Pakistan, [or any other NW state] was to opt for a surprise attack, there is little any prospective victim can do about it, even if one were not subscribing to the doctrine of ‘no-first-use’ and were on full alert.  It for this reason that a central requirement of any nuclear system is the ability to survive a first strike and be in a position to retaliate after accepting unavoidable damage. India must therefore continually make it evident to Pakistan that it should never mindlessly escalate a crisis to a point, which would necessitate a pre-emptive Indian response with formidable conventional force.  Apart from this, India must continue to make it evident that it will not be the first to use NW.  But should Pakistan attempt a nuclear first strike, the surviving command authorities must be in a position to order the total destruction of Pakistan.

This doctrine will not be applicable to China for three reasons.  The dispute with China, unlike with Pakistan is territorial and not ideological.  Such problems can be kept at a low key and discussed diplomatically.  Talks to resolve this are even now taking place.  Secondly, we should draw a distinction between the concept of “capability” and “threat”.  China has the capability to strike any part of India with NW.  India today lacks that capability and is determined to match this within the next ten years, by developing Agni I, II and III, cruise missiles and submarine launched missiles [SLM].  Lastly, China, like India, has accepted a “no-first-use” nuclear strategy.  This functions as a “brake” and reduces the likelihood of a direct nuclear confrontation with China. Thus, at this period of time, China has a greater NW capability than India but  poses no nuclear threat.  However, Pakistan has a smaller nuclear capability than India but poses a greater threat. A Resistance Strategy does not keep India in a  permanent state of inferior missile capability.  It enables India to potentially match China’s capability in 10 years.  This poses no immediate or long-term threat to China. 

The setting up of eight requirements, and the development costs for the Agni, cruise missiles and the SLM  will be a common expenditure for a Minimum Deterrent Strategy and a Resistance Strategy.  However, in the case of a Resistance Strategy, The Agni series of missiles will be tested but not  produced beyond the prototype stage.    New military units armed with Agni and cruise missiles need not therefore be raised. Apart from a few nuclear warheads, there will be no need to convert the stock pile of fissile material into 300 nuclear warheads. This will effect a considerable saving, would minimise security risks and reduce the costs of surveillance. The annual costs over a period of ten years is likely to be less than Rs 1000 crores, however this aspect will require to be examined by qualified analysts.

Some say that our bureaucratic and political elite, due to traditional, cultural and other reasons has an in-built abhorrence and contempt for war and violence. They question whether our political leaders can display the will to implement such a strategy and its associated doctrine.   However, there should be no doubt that this doctrine together with firm political will, forms an essential ingredient of the Resistance Strategy, which has two objectives:to support US non-proliferation aims and safeguard Indias’s security concerns.  

In conclusion, we should remind ourselves that in the 19th Century, naval warships played a key military role in the international power game. In the 20th Century, aircraft, missiles and NW dominated the scene. In the 21st Century, and with the end of the Cold War, economics and global concern for the environment have become major international concerns. Inter state wars have been replaced by intrastate ethnic conflicts.  These cannot be resolved by NW or even conventional weapons of mass destruction. Thus, precision guided conventionally armed weapons have become the fulcrum of military power in the new millennium   International public opinion has come to accept that NW are the most dangerous thing that man has ever made.  If your believe in God, then your will see that this is a challenge to God :  man has the power to destroy everything that God has created.  If you don’t believe in God, then you should see that the world, which is over a billion years old, could end in 24 hours..

The UN is in the process of restructuring its organisation.  This is likely to result in an increase in the permanent membership of the Security Council.  It would be a display of gross opportunism for India to argue that it will not weaponise, and as a quid pro quo demand a seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. [Our bureaucrats must also guard against demeaning the country by repeatedly listing India’s qualifications to be a member of the Security Council.]  India, .or any other aspirant,  will only earn its rightful place in the community of nations by virtue of its likely contribution, both in real and potential term, to the world organisation.  This is a matter of perception and cannot be a matter of bureaucratic bargaining or self-promotion.

A Resistance Strategy is not a one-time all-time strategy.  It would need to be reviewed from time to time in the light of latest technology and prevailing political reality. However, at this moment in time. a Resistance Strategy best answers India’s  security and socio-economic problems.  It will send a strong positive message to the international community It will enhance India’s stature in disarmament and environmental councils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOURTEEN

 

Whereas it is easy to perceive the strategic relevance of Afghanistan and Central Asia, Yugoslavia is far away from India.  One may well ask, “What’s special about the Balkans; an area that is located in another continent?  What strategic links can that region provide for India? “  Yugoslavia, per se, has no strategic significance for India.  But the manner in which that country has been disintegrated has many serious implications for us.  We would do well to understand why that is so.

 

 

 


 

Chapter 14

 

The Break-up of Yugoslavia

      

The first casualty of war is truth. The Western media, after commencing air strikes on Yugoslavia, projected Slobodan Milosevich as Europe’s bad boy.  There was talk about “genocide” to describe the human tragedy in the Balkans.  The Serbian media offered its own version of the crisis, branding NATO forces as brutal criminals who were killing innocent civilians    

 Indians are conscious of the moral dilemma of ethnic upheavals.  We experienced our 1947 partition where six million non-Muslims fled from Pakistan and roughly the same number of Muslims went over from India to Pakistan; indiscriminate killings took place on both sides of the border.  Again in 1971, one million Bangladeshis were murdered by the Pakistanis in cold blood; another 10 million fled to India.  The USA then supported Pakistan and even attempted to coax China into taking military action against India.  When the Vietnamese evicted the genocidal Pol Pot regime from Phnom Penh in 1978, the Western powers supported Prince Sihanouk’s coalition whose mainstay was the Khmer Rouge.  This ensured that Pol Pot’s appointee represented Cambodia in the UN General Assembly.  With this background, Indians are cautious to accept expressions of Western sympathy for the Kosavars.       

 When the idyllic blanket of Communism was swept away by history, long-suppressed demons of ethnicity and religion were exposed all over Eastern Europe.  Tito’s Yugoslavia also began to unravel.  Slovenia and Croatia were the first to break away.  Slovenia’s secession was accomplished peacefully.  A sizeable number of Serbs resided in Croatia.  The Croats, with tacit support from Germany, which had a World War II grudge against the Serbs, began asserting their muscle power; 150,000 Serbian refugees fled to Yugoslavia which was forced to recognise Croatia as an independent republic.  The Serbs were the first victims of Balkan ethnic cleansing.       

Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia, wanted to stop the process of disintegration and preserve a Greater Serbia consisting of the five provinces of Serbia, Bosnia Hercegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia.  When Macedonia in 1992 announced that it wanted independence, there were indications that Yugoslavia might use force to prevent this.  The President of Macedonia asked for a contingent of UN soldiers to be located in the country as a trip-wire against the Serbs.  A UN Preventive Deployment Force known as Unpredep was made up mostly of Nordic troops stiffened by a batch of Americans.  Its 1200 soldiers kept watch on Macedonia’s border with Serbia, patrolling the Macedonian side of the frontier.      

 Unpredep worked surprisingly well perhaps because Belgrade was distracted by the civil war in Bosnia Hercegovina province, which is populated by an equal number of Serbs and Muslim Croats.  Serbian para-military forces indulged in savage acts of ethnic cleansing in an attempt to terrorise the Bosnian Croats.  Eventually, professional peacemakers in Washington scripted a Bosnian peace.  The Dayton Agreement of 1995 divided Bosnia Hercegovina into two roughly equal entities: The Serb Republic and the Muslim Croat Federation, each with its own army under a central government. . Belligerent Bosnian Serb militia has been kept under UN control by 30000 peacekeeping troops.     

The province of Kosovo consisted of 90 percent Muslim Albanians and 10 percent Serbs.  Muslim guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army [KLA] were well entrenched in the hills of Kosovo. They demanded a separate state.  Serbian forces were deployed in Kosovo to prevent secession and safeguard the minority.  The European Union (EU) looked upon the Balkans as being very much a part of Europe and wanted this region be fully integrated into the Union.  Gross human rights violations against European Albanians, even if they be Muslims, were not an acceptable European value. In 1997, Europe began a series of peace talks with Milosevic on the future of Kosovo.  A Contact Group consisting of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and America, offered a deal which would ensure Serbia’s territorial integrity and give Kosovo a broad autonomy whilst some 30000 NATO peace-keepers would guarantee peace.  The delegation representing Kosovo’s Muslim majority was divided in accepting the Paris proposals, whereas Milosevic said that he was keeping his options open.     

 In February 1999, China used its veto to end Unpredep’s mission in Macedonia.  However, the government of Macedonia had maintained close relations with NATO.  Over 2000 NATO troops were already stationed in the country, ready if needed to rescue any unarmed “verifiers” provided by NATO in Kosovo.   Moreover, of the 30000 peacekeepers NATO eventually planned to send to Kosovo if a peace deal was signed, some 10000 were already on their way via Greece.  The headquarters for all of them was to be Macedonia.  With so many NATO soldiers on its soil, Macedonia had little to fear from Belgrade after the withdrawal of Unpredep. 

The Paris peace talks had laid out terms for continuing Europe’s partnership with Serbia; these were that Milosevic should hand Kosovo over to Western protectors in return for which he would be helped to stay in power in Belgrade and preserve his notion of a greater Serbia.  Whilst we may not hold a brief for Milosevic, it must be accepted that his government has been facing incremental threats to the unity and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia from 1992 onwards.  The pressure has been generated by Europe, rushing to recognise Croatia and other secessionist provinces, allowing no time for the Yugoslav leadership to resolve these differences peacefully. 

Kosovo was the consequence of unthinking encouragement to the break up of pluralistic Yugoslavia.  Milosevic had resorted to force to preserve his country’s unity and territorial integrity.   The West kept assuring Milosevic that it did not want to break up Yugoslavia; it just wanted an end to genocidal violence; it wanted neither side to win.  Milosevic believed that NATO did not undertake the French talks in good faith; it was a massive military alliance dictating unequal terms to Yugoslavia.     Milosevic hoped to take advantage of internal dissensions in the Kosovar delegation.by provoking the KLA into abandoning the peace talks.  However, under American pressure the Kosovar delegation patched up their differences and agreed to the Contact Group’s deal.  Now it was Milosevic who began stalling.  The Contact Group warned Milosevic that he would face air strikes if he refused the deal.   The same threats had been made in 1998, when Western embassies twice evacuated their staff while the threats were never made good.   That vacillation had encouraged Milosevic who assessed that the European Union [EU}was powerless if  the US was unwilling to commit its forces to an aerial bombardment in the Balkans.

After the  breakdown of the peace talks in France in March, the US President called a press conference, his first in nine months on Kosovo.  He followed this up with active lobbying of key senators and then launched his charm offensive to win support for NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia.   A Gallup Poll taken after US president’s press conference showed narrow public support for air strikes.  Within the Administration, the Secretary of State was a staunch interventionist.  The Pentagon’s top brass hated the idea of getting involved in Kosovo’s peace keeping, which it regards as “social work”.  Republicans were as divided as Democrats were on this aspect of foreign policy.  Most  preferred to sit on the fence and assert American power only if there was a quick way out.  When the House voted in March, 58 to 41 supported  air strikes.  The vote supporting military action was hedged with conditions and promises:  it required the president to explain the precise nature of American interests in Kosovo, the cost of intervention, his exit strategy and so on.  The views of individual senators were also qualified.  However, with America’s intervention assured, NATO was ready for action.

At this stage Milosevic seemed apparently unperturbed.  He sacked his generals who had advised him six months earlier to make concessions to NATO.  He replaced them with loyal hard-liners.  Many already blamed him for losing Serb lands in Croatia and Bosnia Hercegovina.  Kosovo is of great politico-ethnic importance to Serbia as the point where they resisted the expansion of Ottoman power as early as the 13th Century.  It was a Serb-majority area till the end of the Second World War. It became an Albanian-majority area only because Tito allowed liberal immigration of Albanians from the oppressive communist regime in Albania.   Hard-liners told Milosevic that to allow NATO troops into Kosovo without a fight might be a final humiliating blow to his regime.  By now, Macedonia was host to over 20000 NATO troops.   

When Milosevic was given a NATO deadline by which to accept the peace agreement or face the danger of air strikes, he was still hoping that NATO would settle for hitting a few remote installations, causing little real damage to his army.  That would allow him to channel popular anger towards the US and away from himself.  While, making a virtue of necessity, he could then capitulate in Kosovo and claim that he was saving the Serb nation from further harm.  Undoubtedly, Washington happens to be the common denominator in almost every high-profile peace process.  Thus, it is always easy to play up the “the arrogance of America in a unipolar world”.  But the Serbs underestimated the fact that NATO has its credibility to think of.  It was due to celebrate its 50th Anniversary on 24 April; Milosevic would not be allowed to spoil that celebration.

On the night of 24 March 1999, NATO aircraft began a sustained bombing campaign with raids on airfields and radar stations.  The US President announced that the raids were intended to demonstrate NATO’s “opposition to aggression”, to deter further attacks on civilians and “if necessary” to damage Serbia’s capacity to make war.  In other words, the first waves of strikes were intended as a warning, and only if it were ignored would NATO start seriously destroying the Yugoslav arsenal.   Missiles struck with deadly precision.  After one week, the attack was switched to aircraft factories, road and rail communications, military barracks, storage depots and oil installations.  Three bridges over the river Danube were destroyed cutting railway routes between Belgrade and Europe, and blocking barge traffic.   

On 4 April, after 10 days of non-stop bombing, Milosevic proclaimed a unilateral cease-fire, to extend from 6 April till the Orthodox Easter on 11 April, “out of respect for the Holy Easter season.”   NATO said that this was a diversionary ploy: a cynical attempt to reopen differences within NATO over prolonged military action.  NATO governments dismissed the offer.  If Milosevic was serious, then he should permit the induction of a NATO peacekeeping force and withdraw his army from Kosovo.  NATO stepped up its missile attacks.  A few missiles struck unintended targets raising worldwide protests.  But the percentage of accidents was very low considering the scale of operations.  Having degraded Serbian radar and anti-aircraft installations, NATO began using aircraft and armed helicopters to attack Serbian ground forces operating in Kosovo.  NATO military headquarters declared that the air campaign was being hampered by bad weather. 

Armchair strategists  recalled the Vietnam War where it was seen that continuous and intense bombing failed to humble the Vietnamese.  However others pointed out that this war was not like Vietnam, but a totally new experience arising from the advent of revolutionary guided missiles.  Today, one aircraft or missile could do what 1000 bombers could not do in Vietnam.  The power of precision missiles would force the most stubborn opponent to accept a hopeless situation.  For the Serbs to challenge NATO air power was as tragic as tribals armed with spears facing soldiers armed with machine guns.  Pessimists insisted that at some stage ground troops would have to be sent into Kosovo.  They reminded NATO of the courage and fortitude with which Serbian guerrillas had confronted Nazi occupiers during World War II.    Realists said that it was fallacious to compare today’s conditions with World War II.  If NATO forces were ever inducted into Kosovo, it would be with Belgrade’s consent.  They would be operating in friendly territory in which it would be difficult for the Serbs to adopt guerrilla tactics. 

 Quite apart from the question of whether NATO’s air strikes make military or political sense, there is the aspect of legality. The basic issues of the Balkan situation were threefold: parts of Yugoslavia desire secession and have resorted to violence to achieve this.  Secondly, the Yugoslavia government took drastic action to counter secession leading to violations of human rights and the mass exodus of refugees into Albania and Macedonia.  Thirdly, NATO has decided to take military action against a sovereign state, which is grappling with an internal secessionist movement.   According to the UN’s charter, the use of force is allowed in only two circumstances: self defence against a direct threat, and in carrying out a specific mandate of the Security Council for the maintenance of international peace and security.  NATO countries do not claim that the Serbs’ behaviour in Kosovo constitutes a direct attack on any neighbouring state or on them.  Although the Security Council has labeled the crisis in Kosovo a threat to peace and security in the Balkans, it has pointedly not authorised the use of force against Yugoslavia.  Therefore NATO’s bombing is a clear breach of the UN Charter.  It is also a clear breach of NATO’s own founding document which explicitly binds NATO to act within the UN Charter, and violates its own Article 5 which endorses the use of force only to repel an armed attack against a NATO member.  

Many argue that the extension of human rights law, and a series of humanitarian interventions over the past few decades, some authorised by the Security Council, have challenged the old notion of international sovereignty as inviolable.  They go further and argue that there are enough precedents to justify the claim that armed humanitarian intervention is now accepted by most states as legal.  For instance, India’s invasion of erstwhile East Pakistan to enable the creation of Bangladesh was done partly to halt some appalling atrocities and ensure the safe return of six million refugees.  Again, Tanzania invaded Uganda to put an end to the barbaric rule of Idi Amin.  Both those actions were widely accepted by the world.  The Allied intervention in northern Iraq in 1991 to save the Kurds, and the imposition of a no-fly zone in southern Iraq to save Shia Muslims, were undertaken without the explicit authorisation of a Security Council resolution, and are also widely accepted as legitimate. 

 Supporters of NATO’s action are careful to explain that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention would not permit any country to use force whenever it likes.  To be lawful, there will have to be impartial determination of three facts:  that a catastrophe is occurring, that it is a threat to international peace, and who is responsible.  NATO claims that all three ingredients have been established in Kosovo, and this makes its bombing legal.  But international law experts dismiss this reasoning as wishful thinking.   Although a resolution put before the Security Council condemning NATO’s bombing in Serbia was defeated by 12 votes to three on 26 March implying acceptance of the action as legal,.  the three countries that spoke in favour of the Security Council resolution, Russia, China and India, represent 40% of humanity.  There is no authorisation in the agreements governing NATO enabling it to undertake military operation for humanitarian purpose inside another state.  NATO operations are in violation of the UN Charter, which is why it did not use the instrumentality of the UN;  it knew that Russia and China would object.  One day, humanitarian intervention may be accepted as legal;  if NATO’s action in Kosovo succeeds it may be a step in that direction,  But in March 1999, NATO countries, albeit with the best of motives, put themselves, like Milosevic, outside the law.  

In today’s world, the historical Slav solidarity has little value in terms of military returns.  Russia’s policy on Yugoslavia is more sentimental than practical; it reflects a dislike of NATO’s growing influence, not any great interest in the details of Balkan politics.   Russia was party to an international agreement of arms sanctions to the Balkans.  Mr. Primakov confirmed that “Russia has not broken any sanctions yet” but warned that if pressed beyond a limit, it would sell Serbia anti-aircraft missiles that could threaten NATO planes.  Meanwhile Russia began moving an aircraft carrier and several naval support ships to the Adriatic Sea.  In military terms this show of force meant nothing.  It merely emphasised Russian impotence.  The Prime Minister spends most of his time concentrating on his country’s crumbling economy; a more urgent matter for most Russians.  All that Russia wants from the West is money and respect.  It knew that its most invaluable asset in the Balkan crisis is its diplomatic influence in the peace moves, which began to take place

No matter how uneasy the Muslim world may be about the plight of ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia, conflicting political views have left it without a clear unified opinion on Kosovo.  Libya and Iraq which have been at the receiving end of US bombing raids, were quick to condemn NATO.  Egypt and Jordan have made a gesture of support of NATO’s action in Kosovo.  Syria criticised the strikes as lacking UN Security Council endorsement.  Yasser Arafat confined himself to saying that he hoped that NATO’s actions would yield a positive result, but  Palestinian students demonstrated against Yugoslavia.  Saudi Arabia condemned Serbia’s actions in Kosovo as “a criminal matter” about which the world should not remain silent.  Iran reacted cautiously and expressed deep regret over the human catastrophe and the tyranny on Kosovo Muslims.   

Meanwhile, missiles continued to pound Serbian targets, destroying Belgrade’s radio and TV transmitting towers.  One missile was directed through Milosevic’s front door but the family was not at home.  The residence was destroyed.  The government in Belgrade showed no signs of relenting.  The bombs, predictably, brought an initial upsurge of Serbian patriotic solidarity.  Peace overtures by Russia and Germany were rebuffed.  Milosevic had built his career by teaching the Serbs that they should revel in martyrdom and defeat; the trouncing he dwells on most was that delivered by the Ottoman in Kosovo 600 years ago, paving the way for their five centuries of subjugation by Muslims.  So he kept urging his people that now was the time to drive the Muslim Kosovars back to Albania.  The Muslim refugee exodus from Kosovo to makeshift camps in Albania and Macedonia exceeded 800,000.

In the fifth week of bombing, the fourth and last major bridge across the Danube was destroyed.  Many, who witnessed the Balkan tragedy, condemned military action. They asked: is the world’s first war “to stop genocidal violence” merely promoting it?  The question, which followed from this, is can NATO achieve peace through air strikes?  Undoubtedly there is a point beyond which bombing becomes counterproductive.  NATO military headquarters believed that point had not yet been reached.  It has never clarified what would happen if it became clear that air bombing by itself could no longer persuade Milosevic to come to the negotiating table.  So the bombing continued.   

The Balkan crisis had been simmering ever since Tito passed away.  It boiled over in 1992 with Croatia’s declaration of independence.  Over the years, NATO never spoke with a unified voice on this issue.  Each member nation had its own perception of the situation based on different factors other than human rights.  These perceptions kept changing and even now are not constant.  The US branded the KLA as “terrorists” in 1998.  It now supported the KLA.   Some may say that this confirms that no principles or morality underlies the war in the Balkans; the strong can do what they please and get away even with aggression.  Cynics fail to see that that NATO’s 19 nations are democracies of one sort or another.  Each one of them has to convince its electorate and public opinion about the rights and wrongs of the crisis. 

History tells us that the powerful US military machine failed in Vietnam not only because of the valiant opposition put up by the North Vietnamese and mounting US battle casualties, but also because of dissent by the American people.  Despite all the military and economic power at the disposal of a nation or alliance, in the final analysis a moral foundation, which is accepted by one’s own nationals and world public opinion, is a basic value which must underline any long term security policy. Even autocrats cannot escape the moral pressure of public opinion.  Thus by the end of the 5th week of air bombardment, it became evident that Milosevic had become increasingly isolated from his own top leadership.  Some began critising the state media for misrepresenting the situation to the public.  On 29 April Milosevic sacked his deputy Prime Minister for openly expressing views, which supported the stationing of international peacekeeping troops in Kosovo under UN control.

 As NATO continued its methodical bombing, US President Clinton authorised the Pentagon to call up 33000 reservists for active duty in NATO’s air war.  Russia launched a peace offensive to resolve the Kosovo crisis.  Its top Balkan envoy shuttled to Brussels and Belgrade.  He announced that Yugoslavia was ready to compromise and agreed to an unarmed international presence in Kosovo under UN leadership.  The offer was rejected. NATO bombing was intensified on field army targets in Kosovo.  Bombers struck at Serbia’s power grid plunging the whole province into darkness.  It now became clear to Milosevic, his senior military advisers and the Serbs that the power of deliberate precision missiles was something they had never imagined.  It was a no win situation for them.  Russia’s envoy to Belgrade began a fresh round of peace moves.

 At the start of the seventh week of air bombing, the foreign ministers of the Group of Eight Nations (Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA and Russia) agreed on a draft peace plan for Kosovo.  This called for the “development in Kosovo, of effective international civil and security presences endorsed and adopted by the UN.”  It also called for the “safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons.”   After a week of deliberation, during which time the bombing continued, the Yugoslavia government agreed to the peace plan.  The US gave a cautious and wary welcome to Yugoslavia’s decision to bow to NATO’s demands, but said that bombing would continue until it was satisfied that a foolproof system of surveillance and verification had been set up to oversee the withdrawal of Serbian forces and their replacement by 50,000 NATO peacekeepers.  On 10 June, after 78 days of sustained bombing, NATO suspended air strikes.  The death figures tell their own tale: NATO servicemen, nil; Serb soldiers 6000, Serb civilians 2000; Kosovars 100,000, 600,000 displaced and wounded within Kosovo, 800,000 driven out.  Untold material damage had been inflicted in Kosovo and Serbia.  Peacekeepers  had the daunting task of rebuilding the Balkans, and organising the safe return of refugees to their homes.                 

The EU and America have begun planning to rehabilitate Kosovo, but the Americans say that reconstruction aid will only be provided to Yugoslavia if the Serbs reject  Milosevic.  Whatever form the diplomatic decisions now take, perhaps in time there can be a general redrawing of Balkan borders with Serbia losing Kosovo and gaining half of Bosnia Hercegovina.  But that must await a period of peace.  If an US-led NATO is to serve as an anchoring force in global civil society, it must provide a plausible moral and political vision abroad as well as at home.  That means avoiding retreats into protectionism, encouraging common international projects and loyalties beyond ethnic, cultural and religious kinship. EU’s governments have begun planning a broad economic and political strategy that will encompass all of South Eastern Europe, from former Yugoslavia and Albania to Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.