By Muhammad Ali Ehsan
Most military planners know about American General Collin Powell’s ‘Powell Doctrine’. Simply put, it means an approach to military conflicts that advocates using overwhelming force to maximize success and minimize causalities”. Given his experience in conducting a surgical strike in Myanmar and now threatening to do so against Pakistan, the Indian military chief may also be credited with a ‘Bipin Doctrine’. An M. Phil in Defense Studies from Madras University and a Ph.D. for his research work in ‘military media strategic studies’, the current Army Chief of the Indian army General Bipin Rawat showcases academic qualifications that should put him in the league of ‘thinking soldiers’. Yet his comments on the possibility of surgical strikes in Pakistan, while talking to Indian media after a book launch ceremony in New Delhi, suggests that there was not much military thinking involved in what he said.
Coming on the heels of the Indo-Pakistan diplomatic tirade in UN General Assembly, these comments from the Indian military chief suggest that the ever elusive and ever-inconclusive process of peace between the two neighboring countries is not being shot down only by poor diplomacy but the military leadership is also leaving no stone unturned to kick up military to military hatred and animosity. But let’s first see why this second generation soldier (son of a Lieutenant General) and a recipient of the sword of honor with a worthy military carrier spread over 37 years made a statement based more on hope than any military logic? The state oppression and the state terrorism being executed by the occupation Indian military force in Jammu and Kashmir means that the possibility of another Uri like attack conducted by the indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters
Surgical strikes even if executed would never reduce the risk of any terrorism. They will only foster the Pakistani national resentment and put the Pakistani military under extreme pressure to respond. The end result will only be escalation and not containment of hostilities. Consumed from within by a bloodbath that is on Indian military’s hands, all that the military chief, like the most Indian politicians, can do is try and take the world attention away from the state terrorism it executes in Kashmir. Warning Pakistan that India would again carry out a surgical strike, General Bipin said, “The terrorists will keep coming because the terrorist camps are operational there. We are ready, we will keep receiving them to dispatch them to and a half feet below the ground…The surgical strike (29 Sep 2016) was a message we wanted to communicate to them and they have understood what we mean … that things could follow up if required.”
This isn’t General Bipin’s first warning to the countries in the neighborhood. His remarks against China that came just a week after Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President met on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit and agreed to end one of their worst military face-offs at Doklam at the India- Bhutan-China tri-junction also seemed little thought out and most unsuitable given the time and circumstances, especially when considering that the political leadership was talking conflict resolution and he was talking conflict. That surgical strike was carried out to avenge the death of eighteen Indian soldiers killed by militants belonging to UNLFW. On that occasion he said that ‘as far as our northern adversary is concerned, flexing of muscles has started, Salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of the threshold is something we have to be wary of and remain prepared for such situations, which could gradually emerge into conflict.’
Interestingly, the Indian unit that carried out the surgical strike in June 2015, to eliminate a militant camp across the border in Myanmar was part of the formation (Dimapur-based 111 Corps) commanded by (then) Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat. That surgical strike was carried out to avenge the death of eighteen Indian soldiers killed by militants belonging to UNLFW (United Liberation Front of South East Asia in Manipur.
Two things General Bipin already knows; one, on 29 September 2016 no surgical strike took place in Pakistan. He knows it, because much of his service in almost every rank, has been in Kashmir. He knows that it is not easy to breach a heavily manned and fenced border in the area. Even if a force infiltrates or is para-dropped it is difficult for it to extricate without taking any causalities. Two, carrying out a surgical strike in Pakistan will be quite different from carrying out a surgical strike against a militant base in Myanmar.
The 2016 false claim of a surgical strike came 11 days after 19 Indian soldiers lost their lives in an attack on their camp in Uri. The state oppression and the state terrorism being executed by the occupation Indian military force in Jammu and Kashmir means that the possibility of another Uri like attack conducted by the indigenous Kashmiri freedom fighters can never be ruled out. That may be more due to the Indian military’s incompetence and inefficiency rather than a planned plot executed from across the border in Pakistan. But given that such an attack can take place and given that the stakes are also very high in light of the current Indian military chief’s threat to repeat the surgical strikes (last time they were only military skirmishes) Pakistan military cannot afford to take this threat lightly. Coming on the heels of the Indo-Pakistan diplomatic tirade in UN General Assembly, these comments from the Indian military chief suggest that the ever elusive and ever-inconclusive process of peace.
Indian intent has been revealed, but it’s not the intent against which Pakistan military should balance (ISPR giving a response statement). It should balance against the operationally deployed Indian capability in the Kashmir sector. Our military capability in Kashmir sector must aggressively demonstrate to the Indians that their overt military action of any kind will not go unresponded and unpunished. Any surgical strike in Pakistan should present India a fait accompli that should be militarily costly and very difficult to digest. Readiness and responsiveness will be the twin guiding factors to swiftly react to the security challenge that the growing belligerent Indian army may present. Surely Pakistan military must already have placed the required military means and equipment to deter any Indian military aggression. Although the Indian military chief has exaggerated the threat and overstated Indian military’s ability to eliminate it. Pakistan must not lower its defense shield and at the same retaliate with full force if confronted with such a challenge.
Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan did his doctorate in International Relations from Karachi Univ; where he also teaches. His Ph.D. work is on ‘Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan’. He served for 25 years in Pakistan Army and remained an Instructor in Pakistan Military Academy. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.