Why India can’t win decisively
There is no doubt that a sustained pressure over a long period of time is required for Pakistan, especially the sort which can have some effect on the nation’s politico-military establishment, and in turn on their more radical and militant elements, in order to root out terror outfits from that country.
This pressure has to be delicately balanced and gradual, so as to ensure that the Pakistani state doesn’t implode from within and make things even more complex and perilous. The world remains worried that the Pakistani nukes don’t fall in the wrong hands. Careful managing of the nation’s army by key players in the global stage is, therefore, crucial.
Many Western strategists are well aware of these realities. However, nuclear weapons aren’t actually enough of a deterrence for combined international pressure and the Pakistani establishment will have to buzz one way or the other given their dependency on the outside world and shaky condition of their economy.
Pakistan is already on the back foot, given the state of global Islamist terror, as many of them originated from that country due to the doctrine of the savage Zia-ul-Haq and his cohorts in the 1980s and 1990s. Some time ago, these terror outfits developed their own agendas and slipped out of the sway of Pakistani intelligence.
Islamist jihadism has done grave damage to another cause, ie Kashmiri politico-armed struggle. Secular Kashmiri armed movements like the JKLF have become all but extinct. Indian security forces and their propaganda machine now term Kashmiri militancy as “terror.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Hindutva-led right wing has been cooking up another problem that could also lead to a wider cycle of conflict within the region. Sensing Pakistan’s international vulnerability, they have launched a relentless smear campaign against Pakistan when it comes to any violence against Indian forces and the establishment in Kashmir by the Kashmiri militants, deliberately ignoring the local dynamics and history of oppression in the valley.
Prior to the Pulwama attack, Indian security forces had killed more than a hundred Kashmiri militants and civilians in the much troubled southern part of the valley where Pulwama is located. During Modi’s timeas PM, violence and casualties in Kashmir have risen to an astounding magnitude.
The domestically-influential right wing media in India has indulged it into a frenzied jingoism post Pulwama that no responsible mainstream media of a modern nation ought to do. One specifically deplorable part of their war-mongering is that election-time agendas and bias towards Modi are written all over it.
They are trying their best to give the poor-performing Modi regime a lifeline for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, especially in the context of the recent provincial and by-polls loses by the BJP. But the most dangerous part is that many of these mindless media houses, news/talk show anchors and their so called paid experts actually want war and have hardly any clue of its real consequences.
If their hysteria actually gets Modi to get into a greater cycle of conflict with Pakistan following the Balakot raid by Indian Air Force and retaliatory Pakistani air action in Indian Kashmir, an Indo-Pak war with devastation ratification for both may ensue. Indian media is trying their best to undermine whatever good gesture Imran Khan made by returning the captured Indian pilot and endeavouring to de-escalate.
What the war-mongering hawks in the Indian establishment and media don’t realize is that India can’t win decisively in the Indo-Pak battle front as it stands today. India simply doesn’t have a favourable force ratio. The Indian military is stronger than Pakistan’s in the aggregate count, but they won’t be able to deploy enough military formations to achieve a clear win over Pakistan in the Western front as they have to maintain a significant force at the vast northern India-China theatre all the time.
Even the much talked about “cold start” tactic of the Indian forces may not work, as Pakistanis already know about it and, presumably, have prepared plans to counter it.
A better way to compel Pakistan to go harder against the regional and international terror outfits or their remnants is to pressure them economically with the help of the Western world and the Middle East. Pakistan is largely dependent on these two parts of the world, economically and financially. The sane minds within the Indian civil society know this -- but will they find listeners among the policy-makers and the frenzied public discourse?
It’s difficult to predict how things will unfold from here. It’s hard to foresee events with any precision given the dynamics of the changing domestic environments and evolving regional and global order.
Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is a contributor.