Micro-wars as murderous business on LOC

With the media-generated mass boo-hooing attendant on the killing of the five jawans of the Bihar Regiment on the LOC in J&K, some core issues are being lost sight of. Firstly, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, such murderous attacks are virtually the norm followed by both the Indian and Pakistani forward deployed army units. Indeed, such strikes on targets of opportunity are encouraged by unit commanders to showcase the offensive-mindedness and battle-readiness of troops under their command, to give the troops otherwise bored by routine patrolling and similar tasks something aggressive to do to keep their fighting spirit stoked, and to earn merits for the ‘paltan’ and self with the higher command. There’s no point in mass hysteria and political frothing at the mouth every time there’s such an incident.

Secondly, pointing fingers at Pakistan is useless because there’s no knowing which side initiated such grisly acts in the first place long many years ago that set in motion the action-reaction sequence and has become a form of on-going, undeclared, war on the LOC. Call them micro-wars, almost guerilla actions, in a time of ostensible peace between the two countries, the waging of which, clearly, has the sanction of the Headquarters of the two Armies and, indirectly, of the two governments. These micro-wars involve not just mainline units but also often, Special Forces units, penny-packeted as army reserve, Northern Army.

Thirdly, if this is a pattern of violence on the LOC, shouldn’t the Indian Army by now have modified their patrolling procedures to prevent stragglers, to have the troops not strung out over an area, and create patrols of critical size so they cannot be easily ambushed? Shouldn’t units on notice for deployment on LOC be trained in such tactics and patrolling regimes? The Army has obviously been remiss in not modifying the attitude and mode of operating on the LOC of the forward units, despite the frequency of such incidents.

And finally, why should the larger peace process with Pakistan be derailed on account of this atrocity? As in the case of China, it shows up this country’s linear mindset when the complex reality demands a different policy tack. We can have trade, cultural exchanges, even military hotlines but also continued acts of border frictions, tyargeted intelligence operations, and strategic posturing with China as much as with Pakistan. We all better get used to it. The pity is neither the Indian people nor the government and military seem up to the task.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China, China military, civil-military relations, Great Power imperatives, guerilla warfare, India's China Policy, India's Pakistan Policy, India's strategic thinking and policy, Indian Army, Pakistan, Pakistan military, satellites, South Asia, Special Forces, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Micro-wars as murderous business on LOC

  1. Thomas says:

    What happened Mr. Rig Vedic Hindu? Why are you so apologetic ? You sound no better than the MoD.

    • The vast difference in positions, may I point out, is in my advocating, as always, pursuing very hard India’s interests without let or hindrance in the various layers of the multi-layered bilateral relations without upsetting the entire applecart especially with Pakistan. Pakistan is unlike China, in that we have deep and abiding organic links with it at the social and cultural levels, and this nobody can wish away. This reality requires a dual-purpose policy — at once hard in terms of playing the quasi-military game Islamabad has started but we can play on Indian terms, and soft in that social and trade links can be encouraged which, over a period, will begin to rectify an overly adversarial Pakistani outlook. It will, moreover, help keep India’s eye and resources on the ball — China, rather than be distracted as we so easily are by Pakistan. This is an ultimately realist perspective ingrained in the Rig Veda!

  2. akash says:

    The lord save India, if you are the so called strategic analyst who has positioned himself as India’s greatest hawk. In this passage, you sound more like one of the totally defeatist and dhimmi doves. The Pakistanis keep attacking Indian positions, killing Indian soldiers, and your response is on the lines of “ho hum, both sides do it”. With all due respect, that is sheer lunacy. Pointing fingers at Pakistan is meaningless, because you dont know who initiated it? And who is infiltrating into the Indian side, pray tell? This sort of bizarre behaviour from your end, is why its impossible to take you seriously. And probably nobody in the establishment does so either. Because for all your bluster, at the end of the day, you are no different from any of the Track2 wallahs, always ready to put down their own side and take a Pak friendly position.

  3. This is in response to Thomas and Akash. Look up all my writings over the years: In consonance with the hard-realist treatises, including Arthashastra, the counsel when confronted by two foes is to try and coopt the lesser enemy in order to better deal with the more powerful one, because one thing is certain, together China and Pakistan are too much for India alone to handle.Moreover, we have no other potential partner against this nexus, least of all the US. So, we can continue wallowing in the shallows by bellowing and expending our scarce resources against Pakistan, giving China a free-pass, or India can — as I have maintained deal harshly with Pakistan with covert targeted intelligence ops (Chanakya called kutayudh), but overtly act on the level, while concentrating and training our main effort on China. Instead, the people and the polity generally get so worked up about Pakistan, a minor, fairly insignificant adversary whom we can’t manage, it makes nonsense of our dreaming great power and of taking on the bigger, more consequential, China. Please ponder over what I have said and don’t bring in the ISI at the drop of a hat — it is the easiest thing to do when you have no arguments to make. Let there be a free, substantive, discussion — not irrelevant name-calling and flinging of nonsensical charges.

    • Thomas says:

      PRC is a different story. You cant deal with PRC using INSAS and Tavor 21s. You need a few hundred BrahMos 2s, couple of ICBMs/SLBMs with 6-10 MIRV each, 2 MT + payload and ofcourse FGFAs . MAD needs to be ensured. Then only will there be peace . Having a heavily conventional armed Vietnam would be ideal too. But most importantly is that we need a govt which doesn’t have its head in Gandhi’s ass.

      • Not sure which Gandhi you are referring to! If it is the Mahatma, then I’d heartily agree with you because our national outlook and mindset has been hobbled by the Gandhian emphasis on nonviolence, etc that is irrelevant to international relations and which he didn’t himself believe in. (Look up the first chapter in my tome “Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security”). If it is the more quotidian Gandhis ruling the roost at present, I’d agree with you again but for a different set of reasons!

    • Thomas says:

      First of all let me start by apologizing about the impulsive comment I made about the ISI . But hey, I’m 20 years old, sitting abroad and watching my country’s head bow down to a rogue state .

      But please do educate me . Or if you do not have the time , please point me to some relevant articles written by you or others which answer my questions.

      How do we co-op a state which has ideological and territorial disputes? You suggested to give them 5 billion dollars and bail them out. So we should use money? Are we in an auction competing for a rogue state, with a python like China sitting in the same room? China can always put forth a more lucrative deal.

      Ok so we can’t win financially, how about leveraging our cultural ties? The organic links that you mentioned that we have is debatable. Ask me. We are the same people with different ideologies. But ask them , they are in denial of being Indian muslims. The so called macho punjabis like to assert that they are indeed, carriers of Arab blood.

      And last , it is hard to easily dismiss the fact that a good proportion of them see themselves as the righteous rulers of India. “A thousand more years” seems to be the motif from the Pakistani side on India-Pak cricket video comments online. Those who are radicalized are taught to hate the west . One of the many motivational facts they give their victims is the fact that the British snatched India from Muslims and gave it back to the Hindus.

      So tell me Sir , how do we co – op Pakistan given these constraints ?

      • About co-opting Pakistan — as the old joke goes about making love to a porcupine — very carefully! How the Pakis see themselves is again irrelevant to the situation at hand. Most South Asian Muslims are converts — with admixture no doubt about Arab, Central Asian, Turkic strains, but then the entire subcontinental mass of peoples and populations constitute, as I have written, the ultimate mongrel race, and like all mongrels, are a very hardy, resilient, crafty but psychologically mixed-up people. If you want a hint of just how and why Pakis have been unable to configure a national identity for themselves after 60 odd yrs of independent existence, please read Pakistan press or go to youtube for pak TV discussion programs where all these pathologies come out. If a psychologically crippled nation and its people don’t know who they are, they’ll naturally be more belligerent in defining whoever they believe they actually are, and immerse themselves even more in defining themselves and others through the one prism they are certain of — Islam! All this requires careful handling by India. What we need to do is to create stakeholders for restoring to the subcontinent, as I have argued, to begin with the economic unitariness of South Asia. The various Chambers of Commerce in Pakistan are eager for close economic ties, which will inevitably and progressively lead to a tenuous than more substantive economic integration. Once that happens all the politico-military frictions and its sources will be gradually eroded. Opening up the Indian market to Pakistani producers and exporters could be the Ópen Sesame’! Parallely, allow a modified open-visa regime and cultural exchanges. At the core, when Pak’s economy becomes dependent on the Indian earnings, the motivation needlessly to fight will erode. That, in a nutshell, is how you co-opt Pakistan.

  4. akash says:

    Thats your thinking, based on lofty positioning based on Arthashastra and what not. You think Pak is insignificant. The rest of us do not. They are killing our soldiers, doing 26/11 type events and that is not inconsequential. With nuclear weapons, they are now an existential threat. In contrast, you have a whimsical view believing Pak is some sort of child that can be managed by a benevolent uncle who is preparing for “bigger things”. A cold hard view would state that if India made an example out of Pak, it would automatically deter China. Instead of which, people like you come up with whimsical theories of coopting Pak (by defanging critical Indian assets like the strike corps based on wishes as versus facts) and talk of stockpiling meaningless TN devices to deter China. Nations dont become great powers by indulging in such escapist behavior, they become powers by making examples out of those who pose a critical threat. Its shameful, that despite the amount of lives lost, the religious bigotry on display by a hateful Pak and the intense hatred they
    display, you wish to ignore all that, and play an equal equal game, in order to possibly deter the PRC.

  5. Shaurya says:

    Bharat ji: The only thing these internet yahoos understand is Pakistan is to be destroyed. Islam is our enemy and our muslims are agents of Pakistanis. INC is a traitor and all of our Media has sold its soul! Beyond the above, it is above their comprehension levels so please forgive them.

    I was about the write about the four tools of Acharya Kautilya (Sama, Dana, Bheda & Danda) have to be used simultaneously to deal with Pakistan and blessed would be the leadership that manages to do so.

    Please do continue to articulate. You along with a MAJORITY of informed and thinking opinion is on the same page. Please do so vociferously for some of it will eventually rub off on even the goons of SP, who think nothing of even supreme court rulings. But that for you is Indian Democracy.

    It is a hard and tough climb for folks like you, India and her progeny will thank you for speaking up for Indian interests.

  6. Jim says:

    “Targeted intelligence ops” across LOC is exactly what has lacked in this “action reaction sequence” on India’s part, primarily due to a “soft” and non escalatory nature of our Pakistan policy. I refrain from using the term “Pakistan Strategy” because, ostensibly there isn’t any since the latter is more permanent in nature than the former. The events of last three days are testimony to the inconsistency in dealing with the pricking neighbour.

    As for your view that this aggression is a norm on LOC, I would like to know- when was the last time Pakistan claimed that its soldiers were beheaded by Indians or that Indian Army crossed to lay an ambush?

    I quote “there’s no knowing which side initiated such grisly act in the first place.” India’s COAS and Defence Minister and five dead bodies says so. Obviously when you walk into an ambush, the initiative is not with you! So according to you, they both are lying to the nation!

    Your response typically enunciates our country’s reaction to body bags – indifference. This is exemplified by the slaughter of infantrymen in Kargil in which men were used in manner reminiscent of attrition warfare in World War I. At least warring parties of that time could be forgiven for lack of force multipliers that we had or have today.

    As a commander, how do you convince a soldier of the “just national cause” for which he needs to patrol a border when he and his family is told that dying there is just a “norm” and that there is no need for “boo-hoo” because if media shows wailing wives and mothers, it affects a non-existent peace process.

    I agree that media went overboard with generating rhetoric and war-mongering but Mr Karnad, at least they are being called martyrs, at least it brought out the kinks in civil-mil relation (Army’s statement vs MOD), at least somebody went to their funeral to which otherwise no govt rep ever goes, at least it brought their names to their countrymen.

    Army is dply like human chain on LOC, because of primarily defensive anti-infilt posture necessitating ” troops strung out over an area.” So there you have it 700 KM to see and how many legs on the ground? Army training says “fight to kill” not sit behind a fence in eye ball contact with trained extremists. Its difficult temporary transformation for soldiers. I am sorry but you seem to have no idea of environmental realities on LC or hinterland ops in J&K.

    The Bottom line is that civil govt in Pakistan does not control Army, in India it does. The low cost, high effect proxy war or in your terms “micro war”, will continue till eternity unless either Pakistani Army and by extension ISI, ceases to exist or by an unlikely miracle Pakistani PM calls all the shots!

    whom to talk to then? Your guess is as good as mine!

    • As I stated, the action-reaction sequence goes way back and is not something that was started this year or with the killing of the five Bihar Regt jawans and the locus genesis is hard to identify. But it has led to the chain of events — of one side then the other — indulging in aggressive actions that have come into the media glare only when these have threatened to upend some political rapprochement initiative or the other, in the latest case the Manmohan-Nawaz meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA in late Sept 2013. Again, the important thing to keep in mind is that both armies have to keep the “fighting spirit’of the forward deployed troops honed, for which purpose over-enthusiastic COs of units countenance, sometimes encourage, show of aggression that such trans-border incidents represent. This is reality, not a matter of speculation or conjecture. This has less to do with the two AHQs actually pushing for such violence than with with distantly tolerating it. In this situation, with the Pak Army controlled milieu on the other side, GHQ Rawalpindi may be more in the loop than AHQ here. The larger issue of why such actions are countenanced at all, of course, lies in the realm of visceral politics that animate India-Pakistan politics, which is not the case regarding bilateral relns with China, say, where the head is used more often the martial spirit. And that’s the trouble. How come New Delhi (military included) does’nt use its head more in dealing with Islamabad on every troubled occasion when the emotional demons are permitted to dictate terms and get the better of unfolding developments?

  7. Garg says:

    Somebody wins in most wars. Same with India/Pakistan. I consider the border firing, terrorist incidents etc. all part of larger India/Pakistan war which started in 1947 and has never ended.

    Indians want to live in delusion about intentions of Pakistan government. There is no difference in Pakistan government and Pakistan army. Pakistan army calls the shots and the government follows. Pakistan army is the entity that Indians should be paying attention to for policy.

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