January 2000 News

Pakistan using Bangladesh for tactics in Jammu and Kashmir

27 January 2000
The Times of India
M D Nalapat

NEW DELHI: After the large-scale induction of Punjabis and Afghans into Kashmir in 1993, local (Valley Sunni) support for the ISI- led covert war waned because of historical antipathy of Kashmiris with these two groups. Sunni Punjabis have already colonised Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK), reducing the Kashmir-speaking there to second class status. Since 1997, practically all the serious fighting in Kashmir has been done by foreign (or guest) militants.

However, despite heavy induction of men and equipment these mercenaries were unable to reverse the reality of Indian control. Kargil was the first manifestation of a new strategy, which replicates Indian tactics during the 1970-71 Bangladesh conflict: stepping up participation of conventional forces, so that they can serve as a spearhead for mercenaries. Despite the failure of the Kargil operations six months ago, Pakistan is sticking to its strategy of provoking armed clashes and infiltrating regular commando forces into the Valley. In this way, Islamabad hopes to break the ability of Indian forces to retain ground-level superiority.

Such a tactic is based on the calculation that India will not give a conventional riposte anywhere along the border, but, like in Kargil, confine its response to pinching off the incursions as they occur. This is a costly and ultimately self-defeating approach, as Pakistan will then be able to attack at any place of its choosing. Finally, the Indian counter-thrusts will become ineffective. For India to claim victory, it will have to repel every Pakistani thrust. A single successful land-grab using the new tactics will motivate the ISI-led forces to undertake fresh incursions.

Thus, the defence minister's recipe of ``limited war'' is just what the doctor ordered - for Pakistan. Such tactics will in time exhaust and enervate Indian forces, thus (according to the calculations of ISI) making them ready to accept a Pakistan-dictated solution in Kashmir. Only by raising the stakes and cost substantially for Islamabad, i.e., by counter-attacking anywhere along the India-Pak border will the ISI be brought to heel. Pakistan cannot afford a conventional flare-up across its border. Provided the mistakes of 1959-62 concerning China are not repeated, India will be able to quickly exhaust Pakistan by such tactics. The bluff of nuclear retaliation will need to be called by readying the means for a massive killer strike across Pakistan.

The Clinton administration will not rein in Pakistan because Islamabad is cleverly feeding scraps of information to Washington about the Jehadi organisations. Just as drugs smugglers themselves arrange small seizures every now and then, ISI is allowing the US to nab a few terrorists every few months, while using the resulting US goodwill to build up forces in theatres of ISI interest, notably Kashmir. Unaware of such a trade-off the Vajpayee government continues to hope for US pressure on Pakistan rather than devise tactics that will be effective in the new ``Bangladesh'' model of a mix of conventional and mercenary forces to exhaust India.


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