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Foil Pakistan army's evil designs

Pakistan army has always posted itself as a sort of hedge against what it contrived as evil designs of India to break up that country. In somewhat similar manner, it did with East Pakistan. However, that line no more seems to hold and the situation has undergone a dramatic change. Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd) writes.

punjab Updated: Sep 09, 2013 09:25 IST
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd)
Lt Gen Harwant Singh (retd)
Hindustan Times

Pakistan army has always posted itself as a sort of hedge against what it contrived as evil designs of India to break up that country. In somewhat similar manner, it did with East Pakistan. However, that line no more seems to hold and the situation has undergone a dramatic change.

The assertiveness of the Supreme Court and the treatment being meted out to Pervez Musharraf, who staged the last military coup in Pakistan and later was its President, has put considerable caution on any future attempt at a military coup.

The military's own performance against the terrorists in the FATA region, terrorist attack on its headquarters, attack on important naval establishment and the American action in taking out Osama bin Laden from right under the nose of the military has to an extent diminished its standing in the politico-military equation and among the public at large. Further repeated military coups have done great damage economically and politically.

Promoting terrorism

Pakistan has been mentor of Taliban in Afghanistan and been training and pushing terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir as well as making the rest of India target of terrorist attacks. This policy of promoting terrorism has finally recoiled on Pakistan making it a major target of terrorist attacks. A case of chickens coming home to roost! This has caused certain amount of resentment against terrorists within the country. The base for recruitment into terrorist cadres has essentially been the poorest sections of society, whose children find place in madrasas where they are first indoctrinated into fundamentalist culture and then turned into terrorists.

Return of Nawaz

Return of Nawaz Sharif, with a thumping majority and his past experience with the military will have a bearing on future politico-military relations. On the last occasion, he made an error of judgment; first, in the selection of the army chief and then allowing himself to be taken in by a false and devious projection of Kargil misadventure. Therefore, this time he is going to be more careful in selecting replacement of General Kyani and taking military's advice at its face value. His attempt will be to rein in military and its adjunct, the ISI.

This process of getting full control over the military and positioning it at its rightful place in a democratic dispensation will perforce be slow and in measured steps. It would be prudent for the Pakistan government to make the army give up the illusion of seeking in Afghanistan, what it terms as 'strategic depth', by installing a pliable and Pakistan army-friendly regime in that country. Pakistan army is on the backfoot and it is the right time to tame it. Sharif should know that confrontation with India works to Pakistan's disadvantage and it is China's policy to use his country as a pawn in its policy in dealing with India.

Recent incidents

The recent incidents on the LoC and the attack on Indian consulate in Afghanistan needs to be viewed as the Pakistan army's desperate attempt to retain its relevance in politico-military set-up in the country by provoking India to react violently, at a disproportionate scale, to its actions on the LoC. Once Indian reaction manifests with all its violence, then react to it thereby projecting itself as the sole protector of the country against the evil designs of India. In the process it would be able not only to sabotage the forthcoming meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the UN session in New York next month, but equally try and gain some relevance in the politico-military equation.

India takes the bait

Given this background, India has taken the bait hook, line and sinker. The media, both print and electronic, has been going overboard to whip up emotions in India and calling for not only cancellation of the proposed meeting between the two prime ministers, but strong retaliation. Spokespersons of political parties, in an effort to score brownie points, have been putting up irrational responses and so have been various defence experts. Even serving senior officers have appeared on TV and promised strong retaliation against the incidents on the LoC, at a place and timing of their choosing.

There have been artillery duels in the Kargil sector. All this has merely led to Indian public opinion falling into the trap laid by the Pakistan army. What was required was a low-key, calibrated response on the LoC, as Indian commanders in the field have invariably done in the past, without ever going to town with their proposed and executed actions.
Pakistan army, in an attempt to keep pace with the strength of Indian army and breeding terrorist organisations, has pauperised the country. It also created a Frankenstein, which has now turned on Pakistan itself.

Options for Sharif

Sharif has two options. One to improve relations with India and build commercial and trade bonds to the benefits of both countries and pull his country out of the quagmire of soul-destroying poverty, which will eventually dry up the terrorist recruitment base. The second is to continue with the policy of confrontation with India, giving the army and the ISI a free hand to continue with terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India. In this case, he may end up with an army out of control and once again a threat to the democratic structure in the country.

Pakistan is already tottering on the verge of being a failed state and its economy is in a shambles. It is an acknowledged terrorist state. The state of poverty is driving more and more children to madrasas. The journey, down the terrorist lane, will result in total anarchy and will eventually lead to the break-up of that country.

Politically stable and economically sound Pakistan is in the best interest of India and that is what this country has always desired. The problems between the two countries are not intractable and can be resolved in a fair and equitable dispensation. There is tremendous scope for mutual cooperation in trade and commerce for the benefit of both the countries. Nawaz Sharif has the vision, power and the opportunity to change the disastrous course on which Pakistan has been moving these years and turn a new page for the best interests of his country. Both the time and tide favour him and he need to sail forth with confidence.

India must continue with its efforts to befriend Pakistan and there is no cause to cancel the proposed meeting between the two prime ministers, on the sidelines of the UN session.

First Published: Sep 09, 2013 09:22 IST