A Soldier’s Response

It is now amply clear that India will further its reputation of being a soft state. India has been hit time and again - including our mission in Afghanistan - by terrorists, yet India never bays for blood in return. Why is the Indian state so docile in its response?  When soldiers are killed the nation wishes to respond with “talks”. How should India respond? Why ask that question when, since 1988, New Delhi has responded only with “talks” to every action. 

There is an old story of a sage who was crossing a river. He saw a scorpion drowning. The sage went with a leaf to save the scorpion. The scorpion got ready to bite. This goes on. A passerby sees this and asks the sage why he is saving the scorpion. The sage replies that it is the nature of the scorpion to bite and his is to save. Thus, it is the nature of Pakistan Army to present India with death by a thousand cuts (their stated policy) and the nature of Indian to respond with “talks”. The saving grace is that the river may have drowned the scorpion. But how many lives will India lose by then?

Recently speaking at a town hall debate on arms control, President Obama said, “I spend a lot of time worrying about how to ensure that terrorist don’t strike America”.  Do we hear such things in India which is among the nations hit hardest by insurgencies and terrorism? India has been hit by insurgency since the mid-fifties, and Pakistan sponsored terrorism from 1988. The intelligentsia and the political class have never considered these two scourges worth prime consideration. They fall in the grey area, the insurgencies far away from Delhi, and terrorism mixed with law and order problem, thus not meriting the same attention as poverty alleviation.  A debate on terrorism becomes a slanging match, and the Indian state has not produced any worthwhile response for this 27-year-old menace.

Can any of us recall a serious discussion across the board with all stakeholders who are excellent at turf wars on a single platform? It rarely happens because of turf warfare, whereas, operational art states that the resources of the state must be used in unison for optimum results.  Is this nation, with its rich experience in this form of warfare, a world leader in doctrines? Or do we simply ape the West, because they have devoted more time, energy, and resources to this form of warfare? Has any political party come up with innovative solutions to secure India from the scourge of terrorism? This is a scourge that is hitting India time and again.  Except first, when after Parliament was attacked the forces mobilised and got back; the second time after Mumbai attack, the nation responded with hysteria, of an air response. Is this an enviable response for a nation hit by insurgencies and terrorism? Action, as understood by the fauji (military personnel), was still missing, except against Myanmar. As far as faujis (military personnel) are concerned, there own children now say, “why join the Army, when later on we have to sit and protest at Jantar Mantar?”   If there was any doubt, the recommendations of the seventh pay commission have said it all.

How should India respond? Don’t ask the Generals if they are schooled in the thought of civilian supremacy. Such is the suspicion that even if a couple of infantry combat vehicles are moved they are blamed for coups. It matters little that mechanised infantry lacks a method to fight in built-up area, and are not suited to operate in built-up area. Such is the disdain for military matters that it is accepted for a critical operation that a General may put a square peg in a round hole. The Generals are outside the decision-making loop and the Army has to do with a less than acceptable defense budget. At this budget, are the forces cost effective?  Why not spend a little more and have a force that can issue a worthwhile response to terror attacks?  Armies respect force and the Pakistan Army is no different. Armies are schooled in tactics, and to win a tactical battle is more important and leads to strategic victory. Each time the terrorist strike, Pakistan Army is added with another tactical victory. The Indian response is not tactical but strategic, and this does not pain the Pakistan Army. The Indian response is conveniently forgotten after two or three days of discussion on television. These deliberations are old, the arguments often repeated, but nothing happens in our country.

There is a need to inflict pain on those who are not willing to accept stated positions. This can only happen if the nation is ready for the same. Those who cause pain to the nation need to be paid back in the same coin. If after 27 years the Indian state has not got an answer, then it needs to find a solution. We trust those in power and need a solution. The current methodology has not brought any results. Can the nation find an answer? The patience of the people is wearing thin.  

(The writer is a retired Brigadier. Views expressed are strictly personal)
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