Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pak Nuclear Card limits Indian Anti-terror Opions

Feeble diplomatic moves and half-hearted military posturing have not only failed to deter Pakistan from sponsoring terrorism, but have instead vindicated the effectiveness of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence against any punitive move by India. If we are serious about putting an end to such terrorist attacks, we must call off Pakistan's nuclear bluff and confront it squarely and retaliate appropriately against any act that is detrimental to India’s national interests
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (Retd)
ITS three decades since Pakistan has been fermenting trouble in India. It started with Punjab and later in Jammu and Kashmir, followed by sporadic terrorist attacks in rest of India. While it is a cheap option for Pakistan, it has cost India thousands of lives and has been a heavy burden on the exchequer. India has failed to deter Pakistan from pursuing this nefarious activity. Pakistan’s policy of bleeding India by a thousand cuts has never been suitably addressed by us. There have been somewhat feeble and ill-conceived attempts, both military and diplomatic, to make Pakistan desist from is activities, but to no avail.
If the aim of Operation Parakam, launched after the terrorist attack on the Parliament in 2001, was to coerce Pakistan and deter it from sponsoring terrorist attacks, then the manner of implementation of this operation conveyed a different message. Civil rail and road traffic was not to be disrupted and consequently it took rather long to concentrate troops at their battle locations. Since there was no urgency, it gave the impression that India was not serious and was merely saber-rattling. At the same time, Pakistani intelligence had that much more time to gather information on the movement and forward locations of these formations.
Later, some on this side opined that India missed a “window of opportunity”, though no one defined this “window”. Even under the best conditions for mobilisation, when the highest priority over road and rail traffic is accorded to the military in India, Pakistan is still able to mobilise in about half that time because of shorter distances and the advantage of operating on interior lines in that country. So, per se, Pakistan will leave no “window” open for India to exploit. Nor was there any such “window” during Op Parakaram. The term “window of opportunity” was brought into use to cover up certain other failings.
In the Indo-Pak context, a “window” will have to be created by holding back strike formations at locations from where multiple options for offensives are available. This will keep the enemy guessing and, in fact, bring in uncertainty and put him on the horns of a dilemma. Thereafter, through surprise and deception, create that “window” in the enemy’s defences and then with rapid movement of troops and competent generalship fully exploit the developing situation. Gen J.N. Chaudhuri did this in the 1965 war against Pakistan.
Concurrently, some defence experts and perhaps those at Army HQs and the Training Command propagated another concept, “Cold Start”. Reference to this recently surfaced in the Wikileaks expose, where the US ambassador to India talked about India adopting the Cold Start concept, and that was the excuse Pakistan advanced for not shifting more troops from its eastern front against India to the AF-Pak border for anti-Taliban operations.
Cold start implies that offensives can be launched “at a moment’s notice”. This would require either pre-positioning of offensive formations well forward or their components grouped with defensive elements for a quick but limited offensive. In both cases the enemy can acquire information regarding their presence and take adequate counter-measures. Further there will be no surprise in such type of operations. Splitting resources of strike formations and locating these with defensive elements have their own implications. Be that as it may, the Army Chief has stated that the army does not subscribe to such a concept.
Some other armchair experts have been propagating that a number of battle-groups should be launched over a wide front. Perhaps they are ignorant of the time-honoured principal of concentration of forces and the prospects of defeat in detail. Defensive formations would merely unbalance themselves were they to undertake any offensives, even a limited strike, on their own.
Indian defence experts have been seeking solutions to problems and scenarios of their own making but missing out on the core issue of factors inhibiting military response to continuing Pakistani mischief. India’s option for punitive military action is completely overshadowed by Pakistan’s threat of retaliation by nuclear weapons. Pakistan is well aware that threat of nuclear strike frightens India. This deterrence works well on India, because we have some how convinced ourselves, that Pakistan will be rash enough to press the nuclear button, as soon as an Indian offensive takes off. Equally, some in Delhi feel that it is the Pakistani military that controls the nuclear button and would act on its own.
Some experts have been talking of air strikes on terrorist training camps. In this case the Indian intelligence is more likely to have incomplete information on their exact location, number under training, routine at these camps or the best time for an air strike. These camps have hardly any infrastructure and what air strikes may eventually achieve is, knocking out some rudimentary obstacle course or result in civilian casualties. In any case, even punitive action in the way of air strikes or limited ground action is stymied by the apparition of a nuclear retaliation. A Catch-22 situation of our own making!
Kargil presented a great opportunity to put an end the repeated needling by Pakistan once for all, but unfortunately the weak politico-military leadership proved quite incapable of grasping it. In fact, the leadership showed extreme pusillanimity. It was left to a brigadier from the Pakistan army to spell out in the Dawn newspaper, an appropriate Indian response and the great opportunity India missed - to settle the Siachen problem and gain control over the Northern Areas.
This would have forestalled Chinese troops moving into this area and casting an altogether new dimension to the Kashmir problem. Failure to deal appropriately with Pakistan at Kargil led to more terrorist attacks, in J&K and elsewhere. It also resulted in deploying additional troops by India in an area of no strategic importance and the consequent heavy financial burden. It reconfirmed that Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence works well and it can continue terrorist attacks on India.
India has mainly relied on feeble diplomatic moves and half-hearted military posturing to make Pakistan desist from terrorism. These efforts have had little or no perceptible effect on a recalcitrant and hostile Pakistan. Though, that country itself has become the target of the same set of terrorists, Pakistan finds them a useful tool to keep targeting India. Therefore, if India is serious in putting an end to terrorist attacks by Pakistan inspired elements, it must call off this nuclear bluff by Pakistan. It must be made clear to Pakistan, in unequivocal language, that in the event of a nuclear strike against India, we will retaliate immediately and massively, which would reduce Pakistan into a wasteland. Further any terrorist attack on India, sponsored or emanating from Pakistan, will surely invite Indian military reaction. Sooner than later, India will have to bite the bullet and bring to end this continuing perfidy by Pakistan.
The writer is a former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff
Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism
Pakistan has been accused by Bangladesh, India, Iran, Afghanistan and other nations (including the US and Britain) of its involvement in terrorism in India and Afghanistan. Satellite imagery from the FBI and data produced by India's Research and Analysis Wing suggest the existence of several terrorist camps in Pakistan. The JKLF, a militant outfit considered a terrorist group by India, has admitted to having more than 3,000 of its militants trained in Pakistan.
Many non-partisan sources believe that officials within Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence sympathise with and aid Islamic terrorists, saying that the "ISI has provided covert but well-documented support to terrorist groups in Kashmir, including the al-Qaeda affiliate Jaish-e-Mohammed". Though Pakistan had denied involvement in terrorist activities, its president Asif Ali Zardari admitted in July 2010 that terrorist outfits had been "deliberately created and nurtured" by past governments "as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives". In October 2010, former Pakistan president and its former army chief, Gen Pervez Musharraf revealed that Pakistani armed forces trained militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir.
Many Kashmiri militant groups designated as terrorist organisations by the US still maintain their headquarters in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. This is cited by the Indian government as further proof that Pakistan supports terrorism. Many terrorist organisations are banned by the UN, but continue to operate under different names.
Even the normally reticent United Nations Organisation has publicly increased pressure on Pakistan on its inability to control its Afghanistan border and not restricting the activities of Taliban leaders who have been declared by the UN as terrorists. Both the federal and state governments in India continue to accuse Pakistan of helping several banned terrorist organisations like ULFA in Assam. Experts believe that the ISI has also been involved in training and supplying Chechen militants.


  1. Dear Friends ,

    From Wiki,"Estimates of Pakistan's stockpile of nuclear warheads vary. The most recent analysis, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 2010, estimates that Pakistan has 70-90 nuclear warheads.[38] In 2001, the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that Pakistan had built 24–48 HEU-based nuclear warheads with HEU reserves for 30-52 additional warheads.[39][40] In 2003, the U.S. Navy Center for Contemporary Conflict estimated that Pakistan possessed between 35 and 95 nuclear warheads, with a median of 60.[41] In 2003, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace estimated a stockpile of approximately 50 weapons. By contrast, in 2000, U.S. Military intelligence estimated that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal may be as large as 100 warheads.[42]"

    Veteran Harwant writes:

    " Therefore, if India is serious in putting an end to terrorist attacks by Pakistan inspired elements, it must call off this nuclear bluff by Pakistan. It must be made clear to Pakistan, in unequivocal language, that in the event of a nuclear strike against India, we will retaliate immediately and massively, which would reduce Pakistan into a wasteland. Further any terrorist attack on India, sponsored or emanating from Pakistan, will surely invite Indian military reaction. Sooner than later, India will have to bite the bullet and bring to end this continuing perfidy by Pakistan."

    With about 100 Pakistani nuclear weapon, even if only 10 get thru and hit Indian targets, besides the nuclear fallout from both sides nuclear weapons, spreading out on the sub-continent, this threat from India to Pakistan is less than credible. Does India really want 10 Hiroshimas in India?

    I think this is not a credible option.


    Maurice Abel

  2. Hawks on the other side will support/press for a nuclear strike. Saner minds on our sides will opt for discussions/dialogues and other options incl military non nuclear.

    In a nuclear war, there are no winners. Or as Lt Cdr Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) says in the movie Crimson Tide - “In my humble opinion, in the nuclear world, the true enemy is war itself.”

    In Punjabi we say, 'bhukhay nay bhukhay di mari, doven behosh ho gaye'. Sorry for the crude language.

    PS: The time for eliminating the nuclear threat from the other side has long past. It was when Pak was developing their nuclear capability / centrifuge. Another missed opportunity by our then political leadership.


    B Bates

  3. Dear Friends,

    Balraj is clearly one of the saner minds.

    We live in an inter-dependent world with the various countries participatipating in a global economy with economic links and various dependencies, incl the many existing military pacts.

    Not to widen my criticism I omitted to mention the probable reaction of the Superpowers, especially China, who will certainly have a major stake in any such conflict, and also suffer from the nuclear fallout, etc. If China was to warn us and threaten us similarly, as a result our threat to Pakistan, we would be embarking on 'a strategy of suicide'.

    'The cure' to terrorism suggested by Harwant, 'would be infinitely worse than the disease'- potentially fatal!



  4. Break Pakistan - That's the answer to ALL our problems

    Dear Friends ,

    Please refer to mails below.

    Nuclear exchange is NO answer. To break Pakistan by ''Other Means'', without firing a shot or a single soldier crossing LOC/ Border is the answer. And it is possible.

    We should do what USA did to (erstwhile) USSR.


    The fallout by way of Fundamentalists taking over some portions of Pakistan and refugees is far easier to handle than a united, hostile nuclear Pakistan.

    If Pak's ''National Aim'' is ''TO BREAK INDIA TO A 'MANAGEABLE' SIZE'', why shouldn't INDIA have a similar 'AIM' to counter their AIM?

    More later on getting comments

    With Warm Regards,

    Yours' Sincerely,

    Brig Harwant Singh (Retd),

  5. Dear Brig Harwant,

    With reference to your mail, I totally agree with you. A time has really come to do something.

    You must have also read in the news paper today, that Pakistani Fundamentalist Hafeez Mohammad Sayeed of Jamat-ud-Dava, has warned India, on the occasion of "Kashmir Ekta Diwas" that India should get ready for a War, to save Kashmir.

    They are just waiting for America to vacate Iraq and Afghanistan. As soon as Americans leave these countries, they would wage a war against India and liberate Kashmir from India and if that does not happen, they would capture the whole of Kashmir very soon, and words to that effect.

    Isn't it a height of provocation? It would be worth watching Indian Governent's reaction to this provocative statement by Sayeed, who it is understood, was in jail for about six months in connection with 26/11 in Mumbai.

    Incidentally, about three months back, I had suggested some options for Kashmir which were published in the Indore local News Paper "Free Press" which I am forwarding to you, if you did not have the opportunity to see them earlier.

    Please see my articles in my blog "indiamydreamland.blogspot.com

    Col LK Anand Retd