The deployment of
's armed forces along the IB, the LoC and at sea in the aftermath of the 13 December terrorist attack on
's Parliament has come in for much comment. Certain important aspects in this context are analysed below.
Purpose and Options
The purpose of the deployment was to indicate national resolve and determination and to send an unambiguous signal that
was left with no option but to respond militarily to continuing terrorist attacks. The following courses of action were open to the government when deployment was ordered:-
(a) To attack across the IB and LoC but to keep the objectives limited to preclude the possibility of the conventional conflict escalating to a nuclear war. This would have sent a strong warning to
to stop cross-border terrorism and terrorist attacks within
(b) To attack at selected points along the LoC. This would most likely have led to a Pakistani riposte in the Ahnoor-Samba areas. The onus for widening the conflict to areas along the IB would have rested with
(c) To choose a critical area or areas in the proximity of the LoC, capture and hold it/these, e.g., the Uri-Punch bulge from where considerable infiltration takes place both into the Valley and towards Punch and Rajauri; and/or capture certain heights from where
directs its artillery fire on the Leh-Kargil road.
(d) To carry out surgical strikes across the LoC and return to own side of the LoC.
The correct time for taking these actions was between mid-December 2001 and the first week of January 2002. World opinion was wholly in
’s favour and would have grudgingly countenanced Indian action. Further, surprise was on
’s side, and
was not prepared. The conflict would have remained below the nuclear threshold as long as
did not go for deep objectives aimed at severing
, and did not press the naval blockade beyond a point when
felt economically strangulated. Strikes against Pakistani nuclear installations had also to be eschewed.
Inaction during this initial period led to the international community getting together to defuse the situation. By dithering during this crucial period, the Indian leadership lost a vital opportunity to highlight the need for peace through military action. Instead, it opted for what is known as coercive diplomacy.
Soon after Musharraf's address of 12 January, the climate changed and the Indian deployment began to be called unprecedented and provocative. Here it must be pointed out that prolonged deployments do not necessarily lead to war. They lasted for years on the Sino-Soviet and NATO-Warsaw Pact borders, and American and South Korean troops have been eyeball to eyeball with the North Koreans for over 50 years.
Let us take a look at the situation in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and along the LoC:-
(a) Inside military circles that have long steered
policy and now control its government, the recent ban on infiltration is regarded as only a tactical move and not a policy shift. After a brief lull following Deputy Secretary Armitage’s visit, infiltration is on the rise again.
(b) According to wireless intercepts about 5000 militants are waiting to cross over to the Indian side of the LoC. They are planning Kaluchak type massacres that would prevent Kashmiri leaders from contesting the coming assembly elections. Whilst terrorist activities may have temporarily declined in
, these activities have increased in Poonch, Rajauri and
has achieved very limited success in its war against the Al Qaeda cadres in
. Consequently, they have spilled across the border into
. The Pakistanis do not want to engage them. Hence, they are sending them to POK and thence to J&K where they would fight the Indian Army. This eastward shift of the Al Qaeda, therefore, suits both the Americans and the Pakistanis though for different reasons.
With elections impending in J&K and the possibility of large scale violence, the Army has to sustain its enhanced deployment in J&K. This explosive situation would dictate that troops must also remain deployed along the IB.
What after the elections
General Musharraf has made
an official ally of the West in the war against terror to garner its largesse and to protect his position. The
military is not ready for a strategic change in policy with regard to cross-border terrorism and settlement of the J&K issue. In the absence of free elections in
, Musharraf eventually owes his allegiance to his corps commanders. Therefore, the Indian armed forces may have to remain deployed in J&K well into 2003. Elsewhere, the situation may ease provided there are no more terrorist attacks – a remote possibility. The most important need of the hour is global recognition of
’s hypocrisy followed by firm action.