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Pak’s Barbaric Act: ASSERT BUT ALSO INTROSPECT, By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd), 14 Jan, 2013 Print E-mail

Defence Notes

New Delhi, 14 January 2013

Pak’s Barbaric Act


By Col (Dr) PK Vasudeva (Retd)


Notwithstanding the flag meeting between army commanders of India and Pakistan to de-escalate the tension along the Line of Control (LoC), attempts to improve relations between the neighbours have taken a severe beating. The barbaric beheading of an Indian soldier and mutilation of another’s body by the Pakistani Army should be viewed as a clear attempt by the establishment in Islamabad to destabilise the decade-old ceasefire and dislodge the peace process. More so, at a time when the ties were beginning to improve after the enormous damage done by 26/11 attacks.


While vested interests in Pakistan are doing their utmost to derail the dialogue, New Delhi too needs to get its act together and send strong signals that its patience is running out. Not only is the dastardly act by the Pakistani Army most shocking but a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions. Other than its neighbour, New Delhi must raise it at appropriate international fora to expose Pakistan for its inhuman activities against soldiers. 


However, it must tread cautiously on Pakistan's offer to let the UN probe the brutal killings in Mendhar in Jammu and Kashmir. It is a clever diplomatic ploy—a part of Islamabad’s deep-rooted strategy to internationalise the Kashmir issue. Beginning this year, Pakistan assumed rotational presidency of the UN Security Council. It has been planning special sessions on peacekeeping and counter-terrorism, and its offer for a UN probe should be seen as leveraging its position as the Council chair, where the LoC incident can be used to its advantage. Islamabad could press for a discussion on the issue to embarrass India, and the incident could be a good trigger.


This apart, with elections due in Pakistan, it suits the political leadership to play up the K issue. Diplomatic sources indicate that for many years India has resisted Islamabad’s attempts to use the world forum to raise the Kashmir issue, and by letting a UN probe in the case it would eventually give sanctity to its role in the whole process.


While Islamabad has stated that it was prepared to hold investigations through the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), which has a presence on both sides of the LoC, India is firm there is no UN role, and even the UNMOGIP, has only a symbolic presence. Importantly, New Delhi does not consider their reports or assessments.


Undeniably, Pakistan army’s depravity has sunk to a new low, with the latest incident of beheading and mutilation. Soldiers kill and get killed but what makes these killings particularly disturbing and deplorable is the beastly manner in which they were carried out by the Pakistani army. This is not the way a professional army conducts itself, certainly not one that is a party to a ceasefire agreement. Recall, that an Indian soldier Capt Saurabh Kalia was brutally tortured and killed while in captivity during the Kargil conflict. It was believed then that ‘irregulars’ mutilated his body, although subsequent reports pointed to the complicity of the Pakistan military.


While the depravity of the Pakistani army is of concern to New Delhi, this should worry more the Pakistani government and its people. However, their silence is eerie. So far Islamabad has been in a denial mode, while the media and civil society have avoided asking questions. Unfortunately, this will only embolden the military.

Further, there are close links between the military, the Taliban and other extremist outfits that indulge in beheading, as also the growing radicalisation of army officers and lower ranks. It does seem now that elements in the Pakistan military have become ‘Talibanised,’ infected not just by the medieval ideology of the Taliban but by its barbaric methods as well.

New Delhi must not only robustly raise its concerns to the Pakistani government but must stress that such conduct of its Army will have its costs. It must assert that there are red lines, which if breached by Islamabad, would force India to act. It would need to adopt a carefully calibrated approach to Pakistan’s barbarism. Short of military action, there are several options available, if it wants to pressurise Islamabad and New Delhi must explore these. Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne’s comment that the country might have to look at “some other options for compliance” is well taken.


At the same time, Delhi should utilise the reactions that are coming in. For one, the US State Department has expressed concern and stated: “We urge both sides to take steps to end exchanges of fire and to resume normal trade and travel across the line of control.”  It must also pay heed to J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s tweet:...   Clearly someone up the chain of command wants to do everything to derail any dialogue between the two countries....That having been said ceasefire must hold else infiltration will shoot up manifold under cover provided by firing.” 


This apart, it is essential that India looks within its system. It must introspect as to why Indian soldiers get killed when it has the latest man packed radars, which can detect the enemy in bad foggy weather from a distance of over 500 meters. Additionally, it must accept the fact that the main cause of our failure at the LoC is that we do not have junior leaders – Lieutenants, Captains and Majors to lead the troops.


Regrettably, the Indian Army is facing a peculiar problem – not enough youngsters are attracted to join the 1.1-million strong force as officers. Expressing concern at the situation, Army Chief General Bikram Singh, has stated that about 10,500 officers are needed. The shortage, he admitted, was impacting the officer-jawan relationship. According to official figures, the shortage is around 10,500 in the Army, 1,400 in the Navy and 1,100 in the Air Force.


Therefore, our political leadership must wake up and make the Armed Forces’ service conditions more attractive so that the youth join the forces as their first priority. Otherwise we shall have many more such debacles in the face of the enemy and suffer humiliation. How can the soldier fight wars without the junior leadership, which is the backbone of all success? It is well-known that wars are won by the soldiers and not by Generals.


Worse, there does not seem to be any dialogue between the top Army brass and the political leadership on strategic issues. One is surprised to learn that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was briefed about the gruesome LoC incident by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and not by the Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee. How are bureaucrats better versed with security issues than the Services chiefs, who are responsible for the national security and integrity of the country?


Earlier, the Service chiefs had always been invited at the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security for advice and strategic planning. The chiefs preferably (Chief of the Defence Staff as and when appointed) must be involved at the decision-making level on national security issues. Sadly, there is a clear disconnect between the political and military leadership. Let us not waste any more time to make necessary amends. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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