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Can Pakistan do a 'Bangladesh' in Kashmir?

May 04, 2017 08:40 IST

'The Pakistan army feels it can inflict a similar defeat on India in Kashmir and make it "India's Bangladesh".'
'But comparing Bangladesh of 1971 with the Kashmir valley of 2017 is like equating chalk and cheese!' warns Colonel Anil A Athale (retd).

An Indian Army officer pays tribute to a soldier killed by the Pakistan army

On May 3, during a border skirmish, Pakistani troops and jihadi elements killed two Indian soldiers in the Nangi tekdi area of Krishna ghati near Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir.

As has happened earlier as well, the Pakistanis then carried out a ritual beheading of the soldiers and mutilated their dead bodies.

As expected it has sent shock waves through the nation and calls for suitable revenge.

What is the logic behind these incidents?

What does Pakistan hope to achieve through these un-soldierly acts?

It is time citizens understand the mindset and strategy that lies at the root of this savagery.

The Nangi Tekdi areas, where the clash took place, was captured from Pakistan in the 1971 war. The area is thickly wooded and consists of undulating hillocks, making it difficult to patrol.

After the 1971 war and cease fire, a narrow strip of land with the Poonch river behind is controlled by Pakistan.

Most posts here are small strength and non-tactically located. These are vulnerable to Indian retaliation.

Could this have been a 'local' initiative? Possible, given the geography of the area. After all, how many times has one seen this kind of churlish behaviour from Pakistan?

Does one remember the many times Pakistani authorities 'accidentally' put the Indian flag upside down on vehicles for Indian dignitaries?!

For the un-initiated, an upside down flag is a symbol of a defeated nation. Countless Indian army messes have captured Pakistani flags upside down on display.

Forty-six years have passed since the Pakistan army's defeat, yet it appears that the flame of revenge burns bright. It is reported that Pakistani army officers take an oath to avenge the 1971 humiliation when they are commissioned into the military.

The Pakistan army feels it can inflict a similar defeat on India in Kashmir and make it 'India's Bangladesh.'

Raids on the border, support for Kashmiris fighting India, training jihadis like the LeT (Lashkar-e-Tayiba) or Jaish-e-Mohamad and infiltrating terrorists into India is the methodology of this proxy war.

The justification is that like India trained the Mukti Bahini irregulars in then East Pakistan in 1971, so Pakistan is supporting the uprising in the Kashmir valley. It has to be accepted that at least four to five districts in the Kashmir valley have indeed seen an uprising against India.

But comparing Bangladesh of 1971 with the Kashmir valley of 2017 is like equating chalk and cheese!

For starters, the Kashmir valley forms a minuscule part of Jammu and Kashmir, leave alone a continent size nation like India.

The erstwhile East Pakistan was half the country and more than 50% of the population had revolted.

Strategically, Bangladesh was isolated from West Pakistan and surrounded by India from three sides and blockaded by the ocean on the fourth! The Kashmir vale is neither isolated nor surrounded by Pakistan.

In the early stages of the 1971 war, India destroyed the Pakistan air force in the east and had complete air supremacy. India also had superiority on the ground.

Even if one is to accept the possibility that the Chinese will take an active part (a very doubtful preposition), the Indian armed strength can more than match the deployable Chinese/Pakistan combined strength.

This strategic calculus is necessary as in the case of Bangladesh's liberation, while the Mukti Bahini and popular support did play a major role, the coup de grace was delivered by the Indian armed forces.

Does the 'professional' Pakistan army think it has the kind of superiority needed for this?

The Indian campaign to liberate Bangladesh evoked international support. Kashmiri separatism in the valley, with Islamic State flags on display and the possibility of the emergence of another terrorist haven, has elicited lukewarm world opinion.

In 1990, when the situation in the Kashmir valley was on the boil, Robert Gates, then the CIA director visited India and Pakistan to defuse the crisis. Gates is reported to have told Pakistan's generals that the Americans had war-gamed India-Pakistan wars several times and in every possible scenario, it ended in defeat for Pakistan.

Finally, there is the nuclear dimension.

No country in the world, including Pakistan's all-weather friend China, wants to see the use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. The basic lesson of nuclear deterrence is that it can deter an attack, but not grant any advantage in an offensive.

To understand the Pakistan army's behaviour and its rationale in keeping the borders alive, we have to look elsewhere, to the internal dimension of Pakistan.

Support for jihadi organisations is dictated by the widespread public support for the Kashmir cause in Pakistan.

In addition, given its galloping population, unemployment and dire economic conditions, jihad and keeping the India-Pakistan pot boiling is the only viable option to keep the young restive population engaged.

Jihad against India is an employment opportunity for Pakistan's restive youth.

Though fully aware that it cannot achieve military success against India, border incidents and killings keep the fires of India hate burning in Pakistan.

This then conjures up an India threat and ensures the Pakistan army's primacy in politics and economics of that country.

One possible Pakistani calculation in mutilating Indian soldiers' bodies is to be found in the logic that this will weaken support for the Modi government's Kashmir policy.

Pakistanis ought to have noted that every single victim's family (with one exception) have felt proud of their sacrifice and wants a lesson to be taught to Pakistan.

Instead of weakening the resolve, these acts have given rise to anger and the resolve to avenge!

IMAGE: An army officer pays tribute to soldiers killed by the Pakistani army in Poonch. Photograph: Umar Ganie

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Colonel Anil A Athale (retd)