Pakistan must learn counter-insurgency from India

No, this is not a weekday squib

Anit Mukherjee and Moeed Yusuf do it without any hint of irony. The Pakistani army, they write, has much to learn from the Indian army in the business of counterinsurgency.

The Indian military is the only organization familiar with operating in a terrain similar to Pakistan’s tribal belt and that has a track record of successful counterinsurgencies. Although the Indian military has battled internal insurgencies since 1956, its ultimate test was the decade-long insurgency in Kashmir, where the Indian military faced a steep learning curve but eventually managed to employ an effective strategy.

There are some similarities between Pakistan’s tribal belt and Kashmir. As in the tribal belt, in Kashmir there was tremendous resentment against the central government–in this case Delhi–which was reflected by the indigenous origins of the insurgency. A large population–especially Muslims in the Kashmir Valley–was also sympathetic to the anti-state militants in the early years of the insurgency and was thus unwilling to share information with Delhi. In the later stages of the Kashmiri insurgency, the influx of non-Kashmiri militants from abroad meant that there was little existing intelligence on militant groups’ links with each other and with local pockets of resistance. The insurgency was also constantly replenished from outside. Despite the differences between the two case studies, their similarities make a study of the Indian model relevant for Pakistani forces.

The Indian experience commends approaching a counterinsurgency campaign with an emphasis on both military and non-military means. For India, success was based on three critical elements: a sustained, large military presence; effective civil administration; and development. [AEI]

Without denying Mukherjee & Yusuf their strictly military strategic points, it is germane to point out that successful counterinsurgency is not merely about what the army does. It is also about what the army does not do. Like, for instance, run the country. It is also about what the army did not do. Like, for instance, nurture the militants in the first place.

They also suggest that the United States “should encourage Pakistan to study the Indian model closely and adapt Delhi’s experience to its own challenges”. But hasn’t the United States learnt enough in Iraq and Afghanistan to impart the requisite wisdom to its frontline ally?

Related Link: Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass returns from Pakistan noting that it’s not the will to fight Taliban/al-Qaeda that Pakistan lacks, but rather, the capacity. It’s rather late in the day to make this conclusion, even for a think-tank, after paying the Pakistani army over US$10 billion, and selling maritime reconnaissance planes and F-16 fighters. If history is anything to go by, one should start worrying when the United States begins to talk about bolstering capacity of Pakistani security forces. The problem with capacity is that it is fungible.

8 thoughts on “Pakistan must learn counter-insurgency from India”

  1. It’ll be interesting to know the amount of money that goes into counter-insurgency measures in Kashmir and in Pakistan’s north west. I think Richard Haass might be right. Even I don’t think Pakistan Army (PA) has the capacity to take on the Al-Qaeda, Taliban elements in NWFP/Waziristan even if it wants to. Talking about PA being the father of terrorism is only an academic exercise. The world (especially India) needs PA to succeed there. If India can help, then so be it! Thinking out of the box, what say?

  2. The funny thing is that the so called terrorists who operate in the tribal belt have the ‘capacity’ to defeat the army. How do they have it? without F-16s, night vision glasses and just AK-47s and perhaps old Stingers? So, perhaps, some of those defeats are nicely staged for getting those latest helicopter gunships? And lastly, perhaps the army does not want to “defeat” them; perhaps it is the same as defeating itself…

  3. Nitin/Rohit:

    I have heard this one before; lots of Indian military officers, half-mockingly and with great pride, parrot these lines – our neighbours should come and learn from us about counterinsurgency operations. Probably, Anit has been speaking to some of his coursemates in India too often. I understand that Anit still has strong RR and NE connections and I appreciate his intent of showing it all in a positive light.

    There are too many lacunae in the paper. At one point, I started gloating that India has been able to successfully tackle insurgency in Kashmir. But then I wondered if we were talking about the same Indian state of J&K.

    RR – the jury is still out on its effectiveness. The Ikhwani model failed miserably and led to so many attacks on military camps, after the renegades were coopted by the insurgents again. The SPOs – well, I don’t want to comment here. CASO – rated by the army as the biggest cause of public disaffection, discarded by the Army itself.

    Why IEDs didn’t succeed in the Valley, I’ve answered that question in my post http://pragmatic.nationalinterest.in/2007/10/07/social-trajectory-of-improvised-explosive-devices-ieds/. Let me quote
    After IEDs caused heavy losses of men, materiel and morale in Sri Lanka, Indian Army has been able to significantly contain the damage caused by the IEDs in Kashmir. The reasons are manifold. First and foremost, the terrain in Kashmir and its underdeveloped road infrastructure limits the use of vehicles or Armoured carriers by the military. The bridges destroyed by the insurgents to reduce the mobility of the military forces have forced the troopers to abandon transport and move on foot. Moreover, having one-fourths of its strength in the state provides the Indian Army with substantial numbers to be used for Road Opening duties in J&K. The Indians implemented this methodology in Sri Lanka for the railway lines carrying logistical supplies and a variation of the same model has been used for all major roads and highways in J&K that are used by military and VIP convoys. It involves the military physically searching and securing the complete road or the highway before being opened for military use. This virtually eliminates any major incidents of IED attacks on military convoys or VIPs. In any case, unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, Kashmir is not a fully home-grown insurgency but an insurgency heavily supported, guided and subsidised by a neighbouring state and led by friendly ‘guest militants’ of other nationalities. The social trajectory and social network is not amenable to be fully co-opted by these foreign elements for ‘firing’ the IEDs. Finally, the lack of interest by the Indian and international media in the routine happenings in Kashmir and low penetration of internet in Kashmir valley provides insurgents with little avenues to publicise the impact of IEDs. It inhibits the growth of the IED as a strategic weapon and acts as a disincentive for the insurgents to employ the IEDs.

    Civilian administration, exceptional infrastructure developmental assistance, Army’s role in Punjab and North East and so on – I agree with Rohit on the levity bit.

    Anit and Moeed stretched the argument a bit too far while trying to make a forceful case. I am deeply worried about someone in the US state department taking this suggestion seriously…

    On a more personal not, what is Anit’s boss, Professor Devesh Kapoor’s take on this.

  4. Nitin:

    On second thoughts – wouldn’t comparison with Operation Pawan against LTTE (of course, within the context) be a more apposite one? That should answer the ‘does not do’ and ‘did not do’ portions better.

    And, pray, why is Operation Pawan never discussed while talking of Indian Army’s historical role in dealing with counterinsurgencies?

Comments are closed.