- Posted May 3, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
Indo-Pak Relationship– An Insider’s View
My discussions with the Pakistan Army Officers and some politicians made me feel that the Pakistanis fancy themselves to be the descendants of Central Asian conquerors who repeatedly defeated Indian forces during invasions of India in the medieval period. They have a notion that they have inherited their martial superiority. And it is this perception that made Pakistan adopt adventurist policies.
For centuries, India’s defence policy was managed exclusively by her rulers and Indians were nowhere in the loop. There was no tradition of strategic thinking in our country.It was only in 1947 that we assumed responsibility for India’s defence. Neither our political nor military leadership had knowledge or experience of managing national strategy. Our military leadership was ill-equipped to do so. For a year-and-a-half after Independence we had British army chiefs, first General Lockhart and then General Bucher. The Navy and the Air Force had British service chiefs for much longer. Lord Mountbatten was the head of state.
The first priority for these top military officers was to serve British national interests. There were not more than one per cent Indian officers in the Army and hardly any in the Navy and the Air Force who had risen above the rank of major or equivalent. Very few Indians had served on staff at formation headquarters and almost none at the national level in Service Headquarters. The first Indian to be promoted major general was Brig. Cariappa on August 15, 1947.
Our political leadership of that time failed to take full cognisance of developments on our borders. The popular slogan during Partition was “Hanske lia Pakistan, Larke lenge Hindustan”. The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Sir Syed Ahmed, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, asserted, “Is it possible that two nations, the Mohammadan and the Hindu, could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. Our co-religionists from the hills in North will come down like locusts and make blood flow up to Calcutta” (Divide and Quit, by Sir Penderrel Moon).
Pakistan invaded Kashmir within weeks of Independence, unleashing tribesmen led by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan of the Pakistan Army along with Army personnel in civilian clothes to capture Srinagar and the Kashmir Valley. Timely intervention by the Indian Army rescued the people while the invaders lost two days in plunder and rapine of Baramulla, drenching it in “pools of blood”. Srinagar was saved and the people of the Valley rescued by the timely arrival of Indian soldiers. A decisive victory was won against all odds and the entire Valley was cleared by November 14, 1947. A golden opportunity was lost when the Army was at Uri and not allowed to pursue the fleeing enemy to Muzaffarabad and seal the border. This was a wrong political decision supported by the top military leadership at Delhi which was all British. The dream of “Larke lenge Hindustan” was duly foiled.
In 1948, Syed Kasim Razvi of Hyderabad expressed a desire to hoist the green flag over the Red Fort in Delhi. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed in Pakistan has been frequently leading large demonstrations declaring that Rizwi’s dream of 1948 be made reality now. The government of Pakistan does nothing to restrain his outbursts and even abets it. The ISI frequently unleashes terrorist attacks against India.
The policy makers of Pakistanis seem to have have misread history. They fancy themselves to be the descendants of Central Asian conquerors who repeatedly defeated Indian forces during invasions of India in the medieval period. They have a notion that they have inherited their martial superiority. Pakistan’s foreign policy has always been India-centric. It joined the Western bloc and obtains modern military hardware from the US for use against India.
The generous aid and military weapons from US to Pakistan right from the time of independence to the present time, to promote jihadi terrorism in Afghanistan was intended for use against the Soviet Union was always wilfully used and this misuse was winked at by Uncle sam. . The Taliban were organised for operations in Afghanistan. The US aid for operations against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan has been largely utilised to promote terrorism against India. The US also turned a Nelson’s eye to Pakistan becoming a nuclear weapons power for the sole purpose of using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against India.
Pakistan had state-of-the-art military hardware — tanks, guns, and jet fighters much superior to the vintage weapons of Indian forces. Ayub Khan roared during the 1965 war that he would soon have his tanks rolling across the plains of Panipat to Delhi. This dream was foiled when the Pakistani offensive got stuck at Khem Karan, which became the graveyard of Pakistan’s Patton tanks. Their belief in martial superiority received a big jolt in the 1965 war. In 1971 that belief was totally shattered when, after a 13-day war, 92,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendered to India at Dhaka on December 16, 1971.
After the 1971 war, Pakistan realised that it was in no position to defeat India in conventional warfare. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who had threatened a thousand-year war with India, and his chosen Army Chief, Zia-ul-Haq, chose a new strategy for Pakistan against India. This was to develop a very close relationship with China, an all-weather friendship said to be “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans”, to neutralise India. This conformed to Chanakya’s Mandala theory of befriending the enemy’s enemy. Even the US during Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to Beijing adopted this policy to neutralise the Soviet threat. It is a pity that India totally neglected to adopt this policy.
I recall that at the time of Independence we had no strategy of our own to counter Pakistan. Our thinking was based on trying to defend our territory when Pakistan invaded. Napoleon had said that a war cannot be won only by defence, it has to be won by offensive action. Our military thinking in 1947 was based on what happened to the British at the beginning of the Second World War. They traded space for time till sufficient military strength was built up with US aid and a decisive victory won at El Alamein in North Africa. We thought of withdrawing to prepared positions on the Beas river before launching a counter-offensive.
In 1965 I had a hand in preparing our first plans for the defence of Punjab. I recall that I had advocated that in accordance with Napoleon’s dictum our plan should be based on offensive action into Pakistan. Also, as per Chanakya’s Mandala theory, we should force a two-front war on Pakistan. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was alive, staying at Jalalabad.
The Durand Line forced by the British was unacceptable to Pashtuns. We should have developed a close relationship with the Pashtuns and supported their claim on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. At the same time our offensive, as per Napoleonic doctrine, should have been directed towards Sukkur, about 60 miles across the desert. Sukkur bridge was a bottleneck for both rail and road communication between Punjab and Sindh. There was also an ongoing Jiyo Sindh movement in Sindh wanting to break away from Punjab. Its loss would have made Pakistan a land-locked country. My seniors had a big laugh, saying that I must learn to command companies and battalions before thinking of commanding armies and planning national strategy. I was also told that India was wedded to promoting international peace and my offensive thinking would be an anathema to our political leadership.
In 1972 when I was on an official visit to Kabul the then Afghan Army Chief, jokingly told me that India and Afghanistan should have collaborated in 1971 and their two armies could have shaken hands across the Indus.
Narasimha Rao initiated the Look East policy which was further developed by Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Manmohan Singh has been reaching out to Korea and Japan to deter Chinese military adventurism and break its string of pearls strategy. Lately the United Progressive Alliance government deserves credit for a Look West (Middle East) policy. Talks have been held between Russia, China and India to deal with Afghanistan when the US quits that country by the end of this year. Indian troops should not get embroiled in military operations in Afghanistan. However, we must help in training of Afghan military personnel as also providing military hardware to the Afghanistan National Army, including funds to purchase war equipment from other countries like Russia. A consensus should be built on preventing another Taliban takeover of Kabul. A friendly secular government in Kabul is in India’s interest.
As regards military preparedness, we should not lose our edge in military strength for conventional war with Pakistan and also maintain a credible multi-pronged nuclear deterrent. As for jihadi terrorism from Pakistan we should be prepared to take offensive action against known terrorist camps, particularly, in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, when we claim that it is an integral part of India. We should welcome the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan and the latter being no longer dependent on Pakistan for surface communication to Afghanistan and thus not obliged to provide generous military aid. The policy of pusillanimity and appeasement has been an unfortunate basis of the policy of the UPA government. This was displayed at Havana, Sharm el-Sheikh and Bhutan. Dialogue should not be considered uninterruptable when there is terrorist action.
India must strive for peace with Pakistan from a position of strength, not weakness. Despite our giving Pakistan Most Favoured Nation, status, Islamabad has found one reason or another not to do so. Reciprocity must be the basis for Indo-Pak relations. May be the new government shall make amends for the failures of post Indira governments.