Being less of a threat to Pakistan

Shouldn’t India nail that canard?

Here’s a thought: almost everyone in Pakistan, and many thinking people in the United States still believe in that story about why having to face a stronger army on its eastern border makes the Pakistani army less able to throw more resources into the fight against the Taliban (see this post on Pragmatic Euphony).

At one level Pakistan’s insecurity with respect to India is structural. There’s nothing India can do about that (see Dhruva’s post). At another level, the perception of insecurity is purely military in nature. There is something—actually many things—that India could do about that.

Like moving some strike formations and heavy equipment some distance away from the border. Surely, it can’t be that the Pakistanis will take advantage of this and send armoured columns rolling into India across the Indian border? If not Washington’s frown, they surely will fear yet another military defeat at the hands of the Indian army.

Once India gets itself a new cabinet, perhaps the foreign minister or his boss can announce that as long as the Pakistan army is really fighting the Taliban (“the common threat to India, Pakistan and the United States”, as people like to say these days), it need not fear an Indian attack.

Remember, this has little bearing on checking the infiltration of terrorists along the Line of Control, or indeed the international border. Counter-infiltration must continue, and indeed, gear up.

So why not?

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17 Responses to Being less of a threat to Pakistan

  1. BOK 7th May 2009 at 17:08 #

    “Like moving some strike formations and heavy equipment some distance away from the border. Surely, it can’t be that the Pakistanis will take advantage of this and send armoured columns rolling into India across the Indian border?”

    Right, and that’s why the lightly-armed BSF guards the international border usually, not the Army (which is deployed at LOC though).

    Knowing that there are missiles and fighter jets ready to strike inside Pakistan within a matter of minutes, moving the infantry or other such units further back from their peace stations (and at no alert level, AFAIK) will do nothing to reduce the manufactured paranoia of Pakistan. The mere existence of India is reason enough for Pakistan to stay in a continuous state of frenzy.

    “Once India gets itself a new cabinet, perhaps the foreign minister or his boss can announce that as long as the Pakistan army is really fighting the Taliban (”the common threat to India, Pakistan and the United States”, as people like to say these days), it need not fear an Indian attack.”

    Heh.. that sounds like Pakistan *needs* to fear an Indian attack if it is not fighting the Taliban. Such a statement would sort-of legitimize the Pakistani paranoia.

    Not that I have any against pulling the Indian Army further back per se. I just think that the costs (mostly financial, and some tactical) are not outweighed by the projected benefits (reducing the perception of insecurity, or even “winning” this insecurity argument).

  2. Kannan 7th May 2009 at 18:02 #

    I think we need to put a readily deployable force with heavy armour and artillery on the border. This way we can put pressure on Americans if they give too much candy to Pak military..This is the only leverage we have with Americans.
    If we activate some light border battles, Pak will take a huge chunk of troops that are doing “half-hearted show attacks” on Taliban will come to our border.
    This way Americans will feel the pinch..
    Today we can see that..pakis do cry baby stuff and gets all the candy..
    we act like gentlemen..and take Kabul & Mumbai(the most provocative in 3 years) lying down…and US sees this as our frailty than resilience..and are pushing us on NPT,Kashmir bullshit,troop withdrawal..and stuff..
    We need to put US on notice..that we too can play spoilsports..

  3. kedar 7th May 2009 at 18:13 #

    Nitin:
    If there is something I learnt from you about foreign policy since the last two years, its that there is a reason that this fire of this hoax is constantly fanned and stoked so that Pakis can get max. mileage out of it.

    The more we do to nail/migitate/assuage it, the more real will the Paki fears become- “Look! So it is true that they had so much artillery, army, and missiles ready to attack them anytime. And if they are moving all that artillery away from the border, they must be planning something more sinister!” And we have seen how India is the least trusted country in the whole world :)

    It is best to let Pakis believe that feeding that fire will help them in the long run. And if because of this very reason, the Paki army is actually unable to fight off Taliban and they end up occupying Pakistan, then we have a real reason to place our army on our borders, and we would have been right all the time. The US would then become the ‘Elmer Fudd’ in the game, having trusted Pakistani Daffy Duck.

  4. Amit 7th May 2009 at 19:01 #

    “Like moving some strike formations and heavy equipment some distance away from the border. ”

    In fact it is so simple , all we have to do is construct new cantonments some 300-400 km aways from our existing ones !! Move 2-3 strike formations further interior !! which involves troops movements of a “Few” Lakhs !! so easy !! Plus add to it the cost of all that !!
    Just like a stroll in the park !! or as they say , similar to moving house , no ? get the movers ask them to pack and voila , you have reached a place from where you will work !!

    ?? ????? ?? ????? ????? ?????? ??

    I wonder why MoD does not call you for advise !!

  5. SJ 7th May 2009 at 21:21 #

    Clausewitz notwithstanding, the problem with this policy would be its incompatibility with India’s new military doctrine: Cold Start (see http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/isec.2008.32.3.158). The purpose of Cold Start is exactly the opposite: move assets, and offensive ones at that closer to the border. This is supposed to “enable” limited war in response to major provocations. The new doctrine is still being implemented (not even all the equipment is ready), and so there was no chance of it being invoked post-Mumbai.

    As to whether such a strategy would work, well that’s a separate question. But the rationale behind moving strike formations closer to rather than further from the border comes out of the lessons of Operation Parakram — if assets are too far away, coercive diplomacy takes too long and outruns the window of diplomatic vulnerability. Troops aren’t on the border for counter-infiltration in a ‘denial’ sense.

    On the other hand, war *is* the continuation of policy etc etc.

  6. neelakantan 8th May 2009 at 08:11 #

    While your point is well taken – the India fear is an irrational manufactured fear for these guys. Once that “fear” is taken off, why does Pkstn need an army. The army ensures that this fear is in their psyche for their own survival.

    That this threat is not real has been tested very well. Imagine, Parliament attack, Mumbai attack, even Kargil and that stupid threat of the giant enemy army has not materialised. What should they fear? And how much of a difference will moving any strike unit back make?

  7. Sanjay 8th May 2009 at 08:46 #

    US is waiting for the Indian elections to be over before it attempts to arm-twist us on troop reductions, etc. The problem is that at least the hardliners within the Pak military establishment, if not their establishment as a whole, would not appreciate us backing off the border to add pressure to them to fight Taliban. No, the hardliners, if not the whole military establishment, would seek to inflict another Mumbai style attack to bring us back to the border again, in order to make Indo-Pak border tensions the focus of international attention again.

    Meanwhile, is it true that the US wants Pakistan to store its highly enriched uranium in the US?

    link

  8. photonman 8th May 2009 at 10:12 #

    Nitin,

    At one level Pakistan’s insecurity with respect to India is structural.

    What is a “structual” insecurity?

    You also say that:
    Surely, it can’t be that the Pakistanis will take advantage of this and send armoured columns rolling into India across the Indian border? If not Washington’s frown, they surely will fear yet another military defeat at the hands of the Indian army.

    IMO, Pakistan is unlikely to initiate a conventional war with India: US or no US. This is something that could plausibly result in, if not in India’s victory, a stalemate that could be far too costly to Pakistan than it would to India. Waging covert war was one means to address this imbalance. Pakistani nukes are meant to actually reduce the possibility of a conventional war from India, IMO.

    Seen in this light, IMO moving the strike formations deeper into India would only hand a propaganda victory to Pakistan and those US think tanks you mentioned, with possible future demands about Indian role in Afghanistan. What’s more, it could make people view differently even a “normal” Indian redeployment or foreign policy vis-a-vis Afghanistan in the near-future.

  9. Aam Insaan 8th May 2009 at 15:35 #

    The insipid Indian bureaucrats need to be kicked up their ass, the fact remains that inspite of a proven track record of restrain & military defensive policies, why is India incapable of dispelling this notion of the global community of India as a regional bully & Pakistan despite of being the aggressor & the tyrant is successful in merrily projecting itself as the victim & underdog.

  10. Sud 9th May 2009 at 09:35 #

    If pak was really angling to provoke India into heating up the IB with some skirmishes, it would most certainly have done another serial-blasts series across desi cities by now, if not a series of 26/11s.

    Why hasn’t that happened? Could it merely be that Pak doesn’t want to precipitate a particular party from coming to power?

    Just wondering.

  11. Paritosh 9th May 2009 at 16:19 #

    Without digressing, if you want to show a gesture of good intentions and peace, why not send aid for the displaced civilians and refugees? (I am not sure if even that will be acknowledged, accepted, or well-received).

    History should be a measure enough to understand that we have never initiated an aggression across the border since the last war. While I understand where you come from, pulling back from our current positions might not compromise security big-time, but it will send out the wrong message…a wrong image of a responsible, but no-nonsense neighbor – we cannot always buckle down, either out of goodwill for others or under pressure from others…

  12. Raymond Turney 11th May 2009 at 04:03 #

    Hi,

    I’d suggest India ask the US what it is willing to offer for this.

    After all, while it won’t actually cost India much, it will cost India something. India should pull back its forces if and only if one or more of the following conditions apply:

    a) it gets a good offer from the US to do so;

    b) it reduces the cost of maintaining forces currently on the border and India thinks the Pakistanis won’t believe they are willing to attack anyway;

    c) it thinks the propaganda value of pulling back outweighs the military value of remaining on the border. This might be the case if India thinks that 11/26 convinced the Pakistani military that India is not going to attack until there has been a substantial change in the military balance.

    So it is certainly worth thinking about – if I were playing India in a war game I would consider it. On the other hand, if another terrorist attack happens, and the guys on the other end of the radio are speaking with a Pakistani accent and good evidence of an ISI connection is present, India might think it will have to attack. In that case, having its forces on the border might be very helpful. Having India ready to attack might also reduce the willingness of the Pak Army and ISI to take chances. So unless the offer was very good, I’d probably end up preferring the current situation.

    But, as always, I am running on a little here. For those who want more, I have a blog at the link above.

    Good luck,

    Ray,

  13. Chandra 11th May 2009 at 20:14 #

    Paritosh, you have the sanest idea. Why don’t we give Rs25 crores to help out! Better yet why don’t we give the money to JeM which apparently has a very good record of delivering goods to crisis prone families.

  14. Sanjay 12th May 2009 at 07:01 #

    Ray, the US doesn’t have to offer India something, when it can take the shortcut of instead offering the Congress Party something. You see, the Congress Party is very rentable. They care much more about their own survival than the survival of the country. Therefore it’s a much cheaper proposition for the US to simply offer the Congress Party help in ensuring its political dominance, than to try to offer something to advance India’s interests.

  15. Nitin 12th May 2009 at 21:30 #

    Hi all,

    Thank you for putting out some good arguments. Almost all the comments had something interesting. I’ll address them in a separate post. I’d like to leave you all with one thought: you don’t have to convince the Pakistani army that India is less of a threat. You just have to substantially weaken their argument. It is all for the Americans’ benefit ;-)

  16. Paritosh 13th May 2009 at 00:29 #

    Chandra…
    Probably should have made it explicitly clear for some that when I say ‘aid’, I mean medicines, food, and tents… I am not sure how that measures up in your sanity scale vs. the Rs. 25 crores aid you propose to JeM…, but be my guest to judge… :-)

  17. Rohit 13th May 2009 at 09:43 #

    Does pork-land really fear India’s aggressive actions? I don’t think there is any structural insecurity–if it was, they would not be deliberately provoking conflict. There might be need for insecurity but then they are not nearly the same.

    But if it is all for American benefit, all good. As long as we remember it is posturing. Sometimes, we take it too seriously.

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