Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Giving Pakistan a taste of its own medicine

By Pravin Sawhney

While confirming that the recent mutilation of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control was the handiwork of Pakistani regulars, defence minister A.K. Antony said that India was watching the situation, a euphemism for military inaction. Taking cue, the army, has confirmed its resolve to continue with counter-terrorism operations adding that 2,500 infiltrators are waiting to cross the LC. Pakistan, on the other hand, slipped into denial mode, with its foreign minister, Hina Rabbani offering cooperation for a UN probe into the matter, which India rejected. This was clear evidence, if one was needed, that the raid had sanction from the highest level at General Headquarters, and the latter controls India policy. Meanwhile, having got a good sensational story, the Indian media went into an overdrive speculating motives behind the dastardly act and what India should do to teach the Pakistan Army a lesson.

Writing in the Hindustan Times newspaper, one defence analyst with army background has suggested that the Pakistani post from where the raiders came should be decimated by massive artillery firepower. This is what should not be done. The Pakistan Army will seize the opportunity with ferocious firepower retaliation leading to the end of ceasefire on the LC. The latter will both then facilitate infiltration under cover fire and India will be seen as aggressors in Kashmiri perception. The Indian response should also not be more CI ops, something that works to Pakistan Army’s satisfaction; the India Army continues to bleed itself in an unending war with little threat to Pakistan. The answer lies in giving the Pakistan Army a taste of its own medicine. This should be done by regular raids by Indian Army Special Forces across the LC at a time of its own choosing, while keeping a firm grip over the war escalatory ladder. How?

Three simultaneous actions by Indian defence ministry will get Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani to the edge of his chair wondering what to do next? In the next three months, the Indian Army should move 40 to 50 per cent of its Rashtriya Rifles (RR) troops from its CI role in the hinterland to the LC. Of the present five divisions (called RR Force Headquarters), two divisions or about 25,000 troops can be pulled to the LC for the conventional war role. This should not be difficult as forward elements of these forces (reconnaissance and order groups) have been familiarising themselves for the war contingency. In addition, two Special Forces units doing CI ops in Kashmir should also be moved to the LC.

Meanwhile, the fence on the LC which gets damaged by snow, especially in the higher reaches, each year, should not be re-built this season. This will both facilitate Indian raids when they happen, and will leave the Pakistan Army perplexed about Indian motives. And lastly, in a war-like mode, defence ministry officials should procure ammunition and missiles from abroad to make up war wastage rate deficiencies of the Indian Army, something that was done during the 1999 Kargil conflict. Even if India does not want war, the army should have adequate ammunition for a credible holding (and probing, if needed) action on the border.

Once these preparations are afoot, the Pakistan Army, in all possibility, will get the message and be compelled to even scale down infiltration across the LC, something that usually goes up each year with the melting of snow. The Indian Army offensive strategy will become clear to GHQ, Rawalpindi. It will be raids across the LC, and should Pakistan escalate operations, there will be credible Indian forces (pivot corps) on the border to checkmate the machinations without venturing into Pakistan territory. The Pakistan Army leadership, committed on its western front against Afghanistan, will find it difficult to keep supporting the Jehadis (Laskhar terrorists) across the LC. The Pakistan Army for once in 22 years, when insurgency started in Kashmir in 1990, will be on the back-foot.
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