Pakistan Army’s Strategy in Kashmir

16 Jun, 1999    ·   205

Maj Gen Ashok Krishna, AVSM (Retd) points out how the present aggression in LoC is not a stray incident but part of a much larger game plan...

There is a  grand design behind Pakistan ’s transgression of the Line of Control [LoC] in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir [J & K]. This Line has never been violated in the last 27 years. The LoC Agreement is enshrined in 19 mosaics and 27 maps signed on December 11, 1972. They depict the terrain and there is no scope for errors in recognising  key features. The first step in elementary map reading is to relate ‘map to ground’ and vice versa. Pakistan was well aware of the LoC’s alignment when it  downed  Indian aircraft and directed artillery fire onto Indian positions and roads.





It was President Zia-ul Haq who chalked out the strategy  for insurgency in J & K in 1985. His intention was to inspire a popular  uprising against India by inducting trained  militants belonging to fundamentalist Muslim organisations. Kashmiri youth   were enticed with money and false promises to go to Pakistan for training and induction.  The Pak Army  had contacted the J & K  Liberation Front [JKLF], which agreed to cooperate on the condition that Kashmir would be granted independence after Indian control ceased over the State.



As insurgency picked up, the Pak Army engineered  a  split in the JKLF and went back on its commitment to an  Azad Kashmir. The control of anti- Indian operations later passed on to   pro – Pakistan elements who made it a pro- Islamic movement and raised the slogan of Kashmir ’s accession to Pakistan . The Kashmiri youth  saw through Pakistan ’s  deceit and disassociated themselves from it. It was the population of J & K imbued as it has always been with the spirit of Kashmiriat [ a secular outlook,  lack of bigotry, and above all generosity in the spiritual sense] that defeated Pakistan ’s plans. By  1997 the situation was well under control to enable the government to hold elections.





May 1998  saw the  nuclear tests and pressure on both India and Pakistan   not to escalate tensions. Some Indian defence analysts believed that nuclear weapons would preclude a conventional  war and lead to settlement of the J & K issue along the existing LoC. In the last two or  three years, it has become  clear to Pakistan that, in the Indian state of J & K, a mere 10 percent of the population  wish to join Pakistan; the rest would opt for autonomy within the Indian Union. What is worse the Kashmiris in Pak Occupied Kashmir [POK],  having been denied political and economic freedom for 50 years, desire to break loose.



Thus, the Pak Army had to do something quickly to defuse   the situation. It consequently,  shifted to a military approach. The essence of  this strategy was to use the Pak Army to occupy important heights  in the Dras-Kargil-Batalik-Turtok area and thus cut off the Ladakh Division and Siachen Brigade. It was calculated that the critical situation would force the Indian Army to divert troops from the Valley and elsewhere  in J & K  to meet this challenge. This  would enable Pakistan to induct  some 2000 to 3000 mercenaries all over J & K and whip up a  fresh wave of insurgency. Initial success would provide the impetus to the Pak Army to breach the LoC at other points. The overly stretched  Indian security forces, unable to thwart this two pronged invasion, would continue to lose control, and Pakistan would  be finally able to internationalise the  J & K issue.



The Pakistani General Staff did not anticipate a firm Indian response, particularly the use of air power, and  certainly not in high altitude terrain where a superiority of  6:1 is required to evict the intruder. Nawaz Sharif was definitely  taken into confidence, but he could not  rein in his generals as national security in Pakistan is the sole preserve of the Pak Army. Interference and opposition  is not countenanced.



Where do we go from here. The LoC may not be transgressed at other points to keep the conflict restricted to the present area of operations. However, having undertaken an intrusion of this magnitude, it would  lead to loss of face for the Pak Army to pull back across the LoC; hence, Pakistani intransigence at the Delhi talks. Infiltration will continue and the proxy war will go on. India will find it very hard to trust Pakistan again. The Indian Army is coming out with flying colours, yet it is exercising remarkable restraint in keeping the conflict localised. Although Pakistan has found little support  abroad for its misadventure, the J& K issue has  been internationalised. It will not be long before the United States and  other Western powers begin to declare they cannot  play the role of  mere onlookers.