Mainstream, VOL LIV No 44 New Delhi October 22, 2016
Dispel the Spectre of War—It is Doable
Sunday 23 October 2016, by
India’s September 29 cross-LoC strike was conducted professionally, as expected of the apolitical Army of the Indian Republic. Pakistan‘s predictable response is denial of it ever having happened. It could have been left at that, but the government and the Opposition (such as it is), encouraged by TRP-hungry TV channels, provoking certain publicity-hungry military veterans, have been using the apolitical Army’s professionalism to make political or personal capital out of the success of the operation, thus stoking war hysteria among a vocal minority.
More specifically, Defence Minister Parrikar stated that it was he who enabled the Army to realise its own power and capability. Further, notwithstanding PM Modi discouraging chest-thumping at the success of the strike, Parrikar is freely indulging in it, even suggesting that enlargement of the conflict is possible.
Somewhat more worrying is the fact that the USIBC (US-India Business Council) sees “tremen-dous [business] opportunity” for the USA’s military-industrial corporations, as tensions heighten between India and Pakistan. Whether or not India and Pakistan are presently economi-cally or logistically capable of entering into even a short war (as in 1965, 1971 or 1999), the assurance of business in military hardware is being surreptitiously ensured. In addition, there is sufficient unfortunate precedent for countries entering into war or conflict simply to divert public attention from domestic problems, and India and Pakistan (and the USA and China too) presently have that motivation.
Chinese artfulness overshadowed PM Modi’s “jhula diplomacy” at Sabarmati soon after Modi assumed charge as the PM, since even while Modi sipped tea with Xi, Chinese troops were intruding into India near Depsang La in Ladakh, and most of PoK’s Gilgit was already occupied by the Chinese PLA troops. Modi’s 2016 Indepen-dence Day mention of Pakistan’s problems in Balochistan, followed by an important Balochi seeking asylum in India, and most recently by a Balochi “official” proposing creation of a Balochi government-in-exile in India, have clearly turned China more openly against India, because its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) terminates in Gwadar port on Balochistan’s Arabian Sea coast.
Some strategic thinkers suggest that India “taking on” Pakistan actually amounts to challenging China, thus opening our northern and eastern fronts in addition to our western front with Pakistan. It must be recalled that with the Lhasa railway in operation, China has excellent logistic support for its military already deployed on India’s Tibetan border, within comfortable missile range of India’s populous heartland cities. Further, we must not fail to note that when India proposed reworking the Indus Water Treaty to “punish” Pakistan, China immediately brought up its control over Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) waters to effectively kill the proposal.
India had drawn close to the USA with PM Manmohan Singh’s initiative for strategic partnership with successive US Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, when LEMOA and CISMOA, both of military importance, were proposed. There being no substantive difference between the (essentially neoliberal) strategic-economic outlooks of the NDA-1, UPA-1 and 2, and NDA-2 governments, today these two Agreements are on the verge of being operationalised. This has worsened India-China relations, while Pakistan peevishly demanded similar “treatment” from the USA. All this has driven the Pakistani state—the present elected government ostensibly in the driving seat, but with the steering wheel, accelerator and clutch-and-gears controlled by its Army—ever closer to China, which has over the years provided it nuclear technology, weapon-delivery systems and hardware.
A section of India’s electronic media has sought to humiliate Pakistan by tom-tomming the eminently successful September 29 cross-LoC strike, even as India has launched a diplomatic offensive to isolate Pakistan in the international community. With East Pakistan gone (1971) and Balochistan—40 per cent of its land area—now “on the block”, Pakistan feels threatened and cornered, but is predictably defiant in the warmth of China’s unconditional support.
India’s choice of close (albeit subordinate) strategic partnership with the USA has alienated both China and Russia, which have been moving closer together because of the common threat represented by the USA in the Pacific and NATO in Europe. Pakistan is moving closer to both China and Russia, and the strategic lines are being drawn more clearly. At the same time, India-Pakistan relations are in a tail-spin, with India talking about Balochistan while Pakistan talks of the Kashmir unrest, and both beat the war drums.
With terror-exporter Pakistan effectively run by its India-hating military-ISI combine, and badly hit by its own Frankenstein monster on the one hand, and a strongly Right-wing govern-ment in India embattled by a make-or-break political situation at home on the other hand, the subcontinent appears close to escalation of military hostilities, possibly even war. By talking at each other rather than with each other, India and Pakistan are doing what can only profit the military-industrial corporations which manu-facture and supply military hardware, and smell business opportunity in the deaths and wounds of the inevitable victims of war.
War is the product of forces in the inter-national political stratosphere, caused by default or design of politicians, and prosecuted by Generals who are far from the battlefronts. Battles are fought by middle-rank and junior officers, JCOs and soldiers, who are the primary casualties. No soldier of any country in his right senses wants war, even if he trains and prepares assiduously for it, and proudly rises to the occasion like the Indian officer and soldier have repeatedly done. The common citizen of every country wants peace and social tranquillity, not war.
But today, the Indian subcontinent is teetering on the edge of war. It is therefore the crying need of the hour for all right-thinking citizens in India and Pakistan to speak up and prevail upon their respective governments to de-escalate tensions and begin talks, rein in the war-mongering sections of the media and the public, and initiate appropriate diplomatic measures without, at the same time, lowering the military guard. This is eminently doable if military efficiency and prowess is not subordinated to domestic or international political expediency. As far as India is concerned, “NO WAR” should be our opening mantra if we want peace and development according to “sab ka saath, sab ka vikas”, coined by PM Modi himself.
Major General S.G. Vombatkere, VSM, retired as the Additional DG (Discipline and Vigilance) in the Army HQ AG’s Branch. He is a member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People‘s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL). With over 500 published papers in national and international journals and seminars, his area of interest is strategic and development-related issues.