Pakistan and the Killings across the LoC: Tactical Offensive or a Strategic Defensive?

08 Aug, 2013    ·   4079

Lt Gen Arvinder S Lamba on what the recent killings forebode for the Indo-Pak peace process

The recent killing of five soldiers in  Poonch    has reverberated the calculated and  tested strategy of the Pakistan Army once again.  Pakistan’s dubious track record of such events since the killing of  Captain Saurabh Kalia and five other soldiers in May 15  1999 to the killing five of our brave men  on Aug O5, 2013, inside our LoC  are indicative of a revival of such dehumanization.

The emotions and concerns raised by the nation each time may well be justified, but undue intensity in responses and reactions  may often  go to consolidate success of the perpetrators. In a contextual perspective, recurring events of this nature fall in line with  the  processes  of  authorization, routinization, and dehumanization, used by Kelman and Hamilton in studying My Lai and related events,  to  explain the dimension of  Pakistan’s Military psychology. Pakistan military can learn from its  record of atrocities in Bangladesh with larger ramifications of isolation in international relations, a possibility that Nawaz Sharif Government cannot allow.

At a tactical level, Pakistan’s  military psychology may be seen focused on a sense of achievement vis a vis India within the vacuum created by  enormous disparities of conventional combat power or as a moral ascendancy/supremacy in the prevailing imbalance. While  the dare exhibited in this raid may   certainly be a shot of Adrenaline for the Pakistani military, but this may  not be without a  risk of  escalation.

India therefore, cannot and need not be cowed down by the  hyped responses and talks of nuclear retaliation built up by Pakistani military establishment, to any action taken by the Indian Military and reiterated by every single Pakistani participant during  television debates or panel discussions . Perhaps Our responses  need to be fearless, timely  and appropriate at the tactical level, and  beyond glare of the media.
While objectives of such or similar actions identified by India’s Security and Defence Experts during recent debates and discussions are extremely relevant, the outcome intended this time may well be more subtle and strategic.  It is pertinent to bring here the internal security dynamic and declining influence of the Pakistani Military in the  post elections scenario.

The divergence in the civil military relationship  between the Army, the PML-N and  PTI on several security issues has been increasing . India’s role in Afghanistan, and cooperation between India and Pakistan towards peace and tranquility may well be the most serious differences that may threaten peace.

In its first steps towards its strategic objectives of return to constitutional hierarchy, the Government’s  focus is on  the place of the Military  denying it its traditional space of decision making on national issues.

The federal government’s recent decision  to initiate a high treason case against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf for subverting the constitution of Pakistan twice, which led to exile of Nawaz Sharif, and landing the shame/ humiliation of Kargil upon Pakistan are significant . Commencement of investigations , fully  supported  by the PTI and PPP’ have added to   concerns of the Military , as any such  prosecution would threaten many to similar fate.  

Silence of the Army  chief, General Kayani during the entire process of campaigning and elections, and of keeping the  Taliban at bay while propagating opportunities of  their conditional return to main stream,  while  a step in the good and orderly direction, was viewed  with serious reservations  from many quarters within the Army.
The implicit intent of the civil government may well be the nemesis of the Pakistan Army from a place of pre eminence and control, to a place of irrelevance or relative insignificance. The only field left where the Military can draw or perhaps redraw its significance is the LoC and issues of terrorism that may turn focus from civilian engagement to military incidents that  tend to  rally nations and people against each other reversing the entire process of restoring peace.

Katharine Houreld from Reuters on 20  May this year, quoted Lieutenant Talat Masood who viewed the past five years significant in this context , in that, while the military remained the most powerful force behind the scenes, it no longer wanted to take direct power, Musharraf, the last military dictator, was in detention, Generals had been hauled up before Pakistan's feisty courts and accused of vote-rigging, corruption and extrajudicial killings. The army does not have the monopoly of the power it once did.
With a judiciary supportive of the  Prime Minister s and  a pro government media,    an  Army with a reformed, pro-democracy mindset, will complement the  underpinnings for change in  the overall environment in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Towards this, Nawaz Sharif will have to address the singular and greatest obsession of the Pakistan Military leadership and the rank and file,  from its  perceptions of India being the entire reason de etre of its existence to one of relevance in the national interests and internal contingencies. 

The fragile peace between India and Pakistan is once again under threat, but this time, the unease and tension may not be  between India and Pakistan but between Pakistan and Pakistani Military establishment.

For the latter, it may be a last  strategic defensive for  the Military’s relevance than a tactical victory vis a vis India.