What pins India down?
During the Vietnam War, the analysts of the US department of defence had come up with a concept that was clearly off the wall. In that asymmetric war, the US infantry “attrited” the South Vietnamese guerillas.
The requirement for that count of attrition had emerged because US army platoons – mostly of conscripts – were avoiding taking on the guerrillas. So the “rate of attrition” was a measure of performance on the field. In that “dirty war,” – if My Lai did not count for being down and dirty – then one should get one’s head checked.
In modern manoeuvring warfare, in a fully mechanised and highly digitised environment, that count no longer sticks. As you move in fast into enemy territory, you have to know that you should be able to cede some of your less strategic territory in the bargain. But there lies the rub.
Indian political class who ascend to power with the least amount of training in anything military, the first thing they learn is that losing an inch of Indian territory is politically (domestically) untenable.
Narendra Modi government is no exception, it had seemed, when the tin-pot generals on television were itching to launch a “devastating” (hopefully for Pakistan) war every hour, the government seemed to rock back to that position of utter stupidity. But no, it turned out that our National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval (the so-called gung-ho policeman) and his deputies, had better sense than that.
Before one delves deeper into the discussion of how Doval and Co. led by PM, Modi, developed the situational scenario, one must say that once again the various military headquarters could not provide the civilian leadership any “good” option. It is indeed a shame that despite decades of cross-border adventurism, our military planners who do so well in TV studios after they retire, were not able to create an option board that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) could tick off in case of an Uri, Pathankot, or Kaluachak-like crises.
So in the absence of a plan that can neuter Pakistan’s own Samson Option-like behavior - defined by its calling on ruination on itself while trying to kill-off the enemy - we had to fall back on less expensive (for our elites and those in Pakistan) actions like seeking diplomatic “isolation” for Islamabad.
And a flailing Pakistan had to fulminate, exemplified by even the venerable Ðawn newspaper had to misreport that the country’s current benefactors, the Chinese leadership, have given them the assurance that in case of a military operation they will come to the aid of Islamabad/Rawalpindi.
While yesterday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson nullified that report, one recalled about the similar assurances that Beijing had apparently given in 1965 and then in, 1971, only to be found flat-footed when the time came for delivering on that promise.
In this circumstance, it was indeed comical that Mian Nawaz Sharif, the Panama Papers-hit Prime Minister of Pakistan was shown his place by none other than a 2005-batch Indian Foreign Service minnow, Eenam Gambhir. Around the time Sharif began begging to the Pakistan army and its toxic agency, ISI, to make him a politician, Eenam was perhaps not even born.
One wonders whether it was required for a powerful orator like Sushma Swaraj to state India’s position that Pakistan’s pariah status needed to be sanctified by the 193-member United Nations. Possibly, we would have been served that she as a CCS member asked a few sharp questions to Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, about his performance in the past 24-months in the defence portion of the South Block. Has he ever visited the Operations Room of the Indian army in the precincts of the Director General of Military Operations in these past months?
How many times has he visited the service headquarters of the Indian Army, Navy or the Air Force and got himself briefed on the nature of their business? And for how long will India not have the technological capacity to provide a riposte to Pakistan – and Pakistan only – that is measured to be proportional to the loss they cause to the country?
Even this doubtful nationalist like, yours truly had a dream this time. This was to test the cyber capabilities as part of the country’s comprehensive national power by just making the computers (presumably!) in the power transmission house of Pindi go bonkers for a few hours. As the tin-pot generals (serving ones, this time) had a black out - to take a satellite picture of that part of the globe and make it a global showpiece.
I was told by an honourable veteran of cybernetic systems of the Indian armed forces that I was only being an armchair warrior, for they will bring on line their redundant power supply and light up. But wouldn’t it have been worthwhile for picturising even those few symbolic hours of darkness, to become a tribute to those who died in their line of duty?
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)