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June 28, 1999

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E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

Stupid is as stupid does

In this Politically Correct Age, it's an absolute sin to attribute traits to bunches of people. So naturally, I hold that blacks have beat, Maadoos have money sense, Sikhs are sexy, and so on. Still, it's all at a scientifically unproven level and I'm not about to start defending my theories, no matter how fanatically I believe in them. But I wonder about those systematic studies of the human psyche, which are used by strategists to understand an ally or enemy. Are such profiles at all reliable?

Secondly, would an assessor's bias affect the interpretation? What made Henry Kissinger say to Mao-Tse Tung, "For Ghandi (sic), non-violence wasn't a philosophical principle, but because he thought the British were too moralistic and sentimental to use violence against. They are nonsentimental people... given the character and diversity of the English people, [nonresistance] was only a way to conduct the struggle against the British." Moralistic, sentimental, nonsentimental -- as national characteristics. Freudian mumbo-jumbo, perhaps. But if not, whose assessment was correct, Gandhiji's or Kissinger's?

Pakistan, whose intelligence agencies were set up by the CIA, engages in a study of not only the terrain of its operations, but also the psyche of an adversary in order to predict his reaction. A three-year research was undertaken by a lieutenant-colonel of the Pakistan army for the Faculty of Research and Doctrinal Studies in the Command and Staff College, Quetta, to monitor India's external response pattern and delve into the Indian mind. Apart from analysis of tactics, organisation and doctrinal aspects, its main thrust was to understand the "Indian personality."

The paper imputes two traits -- "patience" and "intellectualism" -- which are of interest. It's no secret that all Pakistan thinks that one Muslim can beat ten Hindus, but its military establishment now has a "scientific study" asserting that Indians are patient to a point of absurdity, and that the Indian's intellectualism results in his supposed reluctance to pick up arms, because of which he's forced into a strategy of defence based on concepts...

I admit, I thought so, too; and I believed them to be negative factors. Till Kargil, that is. But the more I ponder Pakistan's military history, and its present overdrive, and our own retaliatory actions, the more I feel we're A-Ok. Pakistan is everything we are not -- indeed, they exemplify the antonyms for "patient" and "intellectual." And frankly, if we're erring at all, I'd rather we err in the direction of the "Indian" traits. Can't help it -- it's the Hindu tilt towards buddhi-vaad.

It can't be denied by even Natwar that India has gained a psychological superiority over Pakistan -- country-to-country, and through the support of the international community. If war hysteria had been our aim, all Mr Jaswant Singh had to do was release pictures of the mangled bodies of the six jawans, and bingo! But India played by the rules and is playing very cleverly -- consider the calibrated military response to the intrusion, the revising against evolving situations, the explicit refusal to cede territory, the resolve to localise the conflict, the rejection of third party mediation, the continuing endorsement of the Lahore peace process, and the release of the Musharraf transcripts...

All of which has made Pakistan look like a vicious buffoon state. For it so unbalanced them that that idiot, Brig Qureshi, admitted to The LA Times that Pakistani troops are fighting Indian soldiers at the LoC; their equally daft PM made a nuclear threat; and rocket-scientist Parvez Musharraf declared there will be no "unilateral withdrawal" from Kargil -- thereby contradicting all avowals of Pakistan's non-involvement -- and accorded military honours to a slain Harkat mujahideen... They simply do not know what to do when faced with restraint and discretion -- characteristics alien to the jihad mindset.

It's silly to discuss whether or not India should open other fronts or cross the LoC -- that's for the service chiefs to determine. If you recall, even Mrs G had to postpone the liberation of Bangladesh on General Sam Manekshaw's advice. But should we go gung-ho, I've no doubt that Pakistan will suffer yet another Operation Gibraltar. Even then -- as in the 1947 Operation Gulmarg -- Pakistan had put together a force of "freedom fighters" (PoK civilians and army regulars) to infiltrate and provoke an uprising in Kashmir while the Pakistan Army was ready to "defend" the border. No, Pakistan is not known for originality. For that, they'd need a tad of intellectualism...

The story of Operation Gibraltar and its adjunct, Operation Grand Slam -- hastily launched when it was realised that Gibraltar was an unmitigated fiasco -- is a laugh riot from start to finish. Gibraltar was the infiltration operation, while the latter was the manoeuvre to capture Akhnur-Jammu. Till today, no one can say why President Ayub blundered into the war even when his officers were against it, although all evidence points to then Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's monomania.

However, one feature becomes clear from reading memoirs of that time: There's a fault in the Pakistani personality. The Paki is amazingly stupid, undisciplined and, worst of all, he wilts under pressure. It's precisely this -- coupled with the "flaws" in the Indian personality, of course -- that led to Pakistan's 1965 humiliation. So, how do I, no psychologist, make this sweeping statement? Hey, it's history! You be the judge -- while keeping in mind the recent kukri combat of the Naga Regiment:

* In August 1965, after the infiltrators began attacking posts in Srinagar, Poonch and Kargil areas, Indian troops dressed like the mujahideen and moved about in small groups to locate them. When found, they were surrounded and subjected to mortar fire. The infiltrators, who had received only three months training and no battle inoculation, panicked and fled.

* In the Rajauri area, the infiltration routes were not kept open by Pakistani command. We sealed the routes, and they surrendered.

* Phase I of Grand Slam started 20 hours behind schedule. Phase II began 2 days late because General Musa decided to change the commanding officer on the day it was scheduled to begin.

* On September 6, when the troops under Yahya Khan were about 25 miles from the strategically vital Akhnur, the patient, intellectualising Indians attacked across the international border at Jassar and Lahore: Yahya instantly went on the defensive. Meanwhile, Pak's 13 Lancers had advanced to where they could see the undefended Akhnur bridge, but since they didn't receive orders to capture it - they stayed put! 13 Lancers yet have the milestone at which they halted; it says, "Akhnur, 4 Kilometres."

* At the Jassar bridge, two companies of 3 Punjab, in an enclave across the Ravi, were attacked by two battalions of our 29 Independent Brigade. 3 Punjab fled across the bridge. In the morning, its commander induced two tanks and a section of the battalion to cross the bridge. The tanks got bogged down, and their pictures were published worldwide.

* Pak's Military Operations Directorate indicated to the Special Services Group the major bridges to destroy, military targets to sabotage and lines of communications to disrupt. Col SG Mehdi, who had commanded the SSG for two years, had exaggerated its capabilities -- and refused the task. Gen Musa could only scream, "You have cheated me!"

* The SSG had agreed to paradrop commandos on three main Indian airbases. On D-day, officers were randomly picked up and given a perfunctory briefing. The Adampur airbase team was given a bundle of quarter-inch maps printed in 1923 after they had boarded the aircraft. The Pathankot team was dropped on the Amritsar Road; its commander couldn't assemble the troops and all of them eventually surrendered. The Halwara team was dropped on the roof-tops of a large village. Its commander, too, couldn't assemble his men, but along with two men, made his way to the airbase. When they reached it, a PAF aircraft bombed the base.

* When we thrice attacked the two enemy companies deployed across the Jassar bridge, Pak's 15 Division ordered the bridge to be demolished in such a hurry that its companies across the Chenab had to abandon all the heavy weapons -- for us to pick.

* When the commanding officer of 6 Lancers was shot dead on the turret of his tank, the second in command refused to assume control -- and so did the rest of the squadron officers. 6 Lancers became paralysed. When the commander of 24 Cavalry was killed, this regiment, too, went loco.

* Pak's 4 Armoured Brigade secured Mastgarh without opposition, and then, instead of advancing eastwards, moved towards the Pakistan border.

* 10 FF occupied undefended Bhure Karimpur. The tank squadron supporting the battalion got bogged down and asked for further operations to be called off for the day. The request was denied and the brigade was ordered to complete the mission by night. To this end, the commander asked for -- and received -- a squadron for flank protection. However, the brigade made no effort to follow orders.

* Soon after the advance to capture Chima began, the brigade commander discovered that 4 Cavalry and 10 FF were on wrong routes. He corrected them, but didn't inform the 12 Cavalry squadron deployed at Lakhna-Kalangar about the movements. When 10 FF tried to pass through, 12 Cavalry opened fire. 10 FF panicked, abandoned their armoured personnel carriers, rushed past the brigade HQ -- where the company under command of 4 Cavalry also joined them! The second in command of the battalion spent the next few days recovering the abandoned carriers.

* 4 Cavalry, with 11 tanks, reached Mile 32, but got bogged down. The commanding officer didn't send a runner to the brigade to inform that the objective had been occupied, and the brigade commander didn't bother to establish communications. The crew of the swamped tanks collected after nightfall, and the officer decided that if the brigade didn't link up, he'd surrender. After sunrise, an Indian jeep came along and a very surprised Sikh lieutenant saw a dozen empty M 47 Patton tanks lined up. He fetched a 10-man patrol; a white flag was waved; and about a squadron-strength of 4 Cavalry surrendered.

* 24 Cavalry attacked Khem Karan-Bhikkiwind with two companies of 5 FF and a squadron of tanks. The attack began well, but when one company commander was killed and the other wounded, both the companies ran back -- firing at their own men! 24 Cavalry, left without infantry, fled.

Brig (retd) ZA Khan, in his book The Way It Was, writes: "The 1965 war with India was started by us to force a favourable settlement of the Kashmir dispute. It ended with the loss of over 5,000 Azad Kashmiris forcibly recruited and sent as infiltrators... Operation Grand Slam was very near a success but failed due to commanders and staff officers, from the regimental to the divisional level, not being alert to the opportunity... The discipline and the determination of our troops in adversity requires a deep study. Generally when officers got killed, the troops abandoned their mission... [Musa and Nur Khan] asked for a ceasefire which was arranged and came into effect on 23 September."

Our Army says, "Besides losing sizable tracts of Pakistan, Ayub and Musa lost their credibility and jobs... Pakistan trying to snap up what did not belong to her had been administered a sharp rap on the knuckles. Pakistan's allies did their bit to pull her out of a sticky situation. The Chinese carried out some moves to forward positions and unleashed a propaganda campaign. The Americans provided some moral and equipment support. That was all."

So what else is new? Stupid is as stupid does...

Varsha Bhosle

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