Friday, January 30, 2009


Mumbai 11/26 is not going to be the last terror attack launched by terrorists inspired or sponsored by Pakistan. Prepare yourselves for many more. No, I am not reiterating what I have been saying for long but am citing what Brian Jenkins from RAND corporation and Ashley Tellis have told the US Senate's committee on homeland security. "India will continue to face a serious jehadi terrorist threat from Pakistan-based terrorist groups. However, India lacks military options that have strategic-level effects without a significant risk of a military response by Pakistan."

Why does India continue to lack that vitally required military option? Why did Pervez Musharraf have the audacity to occupy large chunks of Indian territory in Kargil without being afraid of a response from India? Why did India, even when it discovered what had been done, limit its response to fighting the 'war' within its own territory and not take the battle across the LOC to make Pakistan pay a humiliating price for its misadventure? Why did India let Pakistan get away so lightly and still claim victory? Why did Pakistan follow up Kargil by an attack on India's Parliament that, had things gone according to plan, would have found hundreds of MPs held hostage within the precincts of its symbol of democracy followed by the setting free of hundreds of terrorists held in Indian prisons and other humiliating concessions to secure their release? Why did Mumbai 11/26 take place?

The two American experts mentioned above think that "India has turned out to be a terribly soft state neither able to prevent many of the terrorist acts that have confronted it over the years nor capable of retaliating effectively against either its terrorist adversaries or their state sponsors in Pakistan." The bitter truth is that India is not just a "terribly soft state", it is a cowardly state that is mortally afraid of exercising the tough options without which it cannot become secure.

Bharat Karnad has quoted erstwhile ISI chief Hamid Gul telling him years ago that India would never counter Pakistan's strategy of creating disruption in India by adopting a similar strategy in Pakistan because of its "buzdili" (cowardice). Karnad believes that that Pakistanis have the measure of the risk-averse Indian government. So is anyone under any illusion that all the diplomatic theatrics that we are seeing post Mumbai 11/26 will scare Pakistan into ensuring that India does not face any further terror attacks by terrorists coming from Pakistan or by the many of its "sleeper cells" that are in position within Indian territory and about whom the Indian state does not have a clue?

This buzdili that Hamid Gul and other Pakistanis speak tauntingly about is born out of an attitude of helpless resignation that got into India's bones in 1962 when China routed it militarily. The Indian state has somehow become so "power-averse" that not only is it not concerned about the huge leap in comparative strength that China has taken post 1962 but is comfortable with allowing a small country to fearlessly execute its plan of bleeding it to death by inflicting on it "a thousand cuts" knowing that India will just not build a military capability that will enable it to exercise the option that has "strategic-level effects".

After terrorism erupted in Kashmir in 1989, the response of the Indian establishment, both military and civil, was bizarre to say the least. Those days there was great talk that the era of open wars was over and that in future there would be "low intensity conflicts" only. There was not even a thought then of taking the fight into Pakistan to make it pay for the zero-cost option that it had adopted to get India out of Kashmir. It was generally thought that terror would be worn out over time, just like insurgency had been in the North East.

In fact, the thought of war had so been dismissed even from the minds of a myopic military leadership that when Musharraf sprang the Kargil surprise, the Indian Army found itself naked to conventional ground and air assaults because it had no camouflage nets. It appears that the Army had stopped procuring them because they were not needed to fight terrorists and a conventional war was not foreseen. Such was the fatalistic acceptance of the proxy war launched by Pakistan that a response was never thought of, nor was an escalation of that war by Pakistan.

Has anything really changed after Kargil and Parliament 2001? Not at all. Not only has nothing been done to build the much needed capability that can allow India to deliver that strategic-level counter-punch should Pakistan not mend its ways, the Army is actually weaker today than it was 10 years ago. It has taken Mumbai 11/26 for the babus in the Ministry of Defence to clear purchases of anti-tank missiles that are critically deficient. No artillery guns have been procured since 1986, some air defence weapons are of almost Second World War vintage and there are critical shortages of combat equipments across the spectrum.

Is it, therefore, any surprise that army commanders refused to launch an attack on Pakistan, as desired by the political leadership, after Mumbai 11/26? Does not Pakistan know the sad state of affairs that India has willfully landed itself in? Can it ask for a better environment to continue to prosecute its asymmetric proxy war in India, without any fear of a costly response? Does it not know that this nation that is dreaming of becoming a superpower is a coward-dog that will put its tail between its legs and run, if not lie on its back in surrender when challenged?

Who is responsible for creating this mess? Who will be accountable if something goes really wrong tomorrow, as it surely will if things continue like this? Is anything still being done to holistically address the security requirements of this about-to-become-superpower? You can be rest assured that little will be done. The national security apparatus and the ministry of defence are in the vice-like grip of generalist babus who have no clue or accountability to anyone, and are trained to question and endlessly delay, not deliver. The politicians to whom they notionally report to are disinterested/even more clueless.

Has India ever had a Defence Minister with any professional knowledge or background? Have there been any posts in the ministry of defence headed by serving military professionals who are accountable? The blunder that India made on the economic front till the then PM PV Narasimha Rao gave charge to professionals headed by Dr Manmohan Singh is continuing to be made on the defence and national security front. This is a recipe for a colossal disaster which may hit the country any time.

India's aspiration of becoming a superpower is fundamentally linked to its ability to secure itself against the now almost inseparable internal and external threats that it faces and is likely to confront in future. Scorching economic growth and a drastic improvement in living standards have to be matched by a corresponding rise in safety levels of individual citizens, businesses and the nation as a whole. And that is not going to happen on its own. Nor is it going to happen as long as the Indian state continues to be perceived to be a 'cowardog' by its enemies. And changing that perception is going to take some doing and a strong political and national will. Otherwise, India is going to miss that superpower bus that China got into four decades back, once again.

A slumdog can become a millionaire; can a nation that is a cowardog become a superpower? Ask Hamid Gul.
Readers may also read:
1. Facing the challenge of China's miltary modernisation
2. China and India: Winning wars Vs defending the country
3. India's "power": Weakness=virtue; strength=immorality
4. War on terror: Will it take God's wrath to undo the rot?
5. Wake up to Islamic terror, this is just the beginning