An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 12 November 2003

When Stephen Cohen talks everyone listens because he is forthright and he hails from the Brookings Institute of Washington DC, which is a few hundred yards away from the Indian Embassy at Du Pont circle. He has studied the sub continent and has met every shade of knowledgeable civilian and man in uniform both in India and Pakistan during his many tours ––and in Washington where people from India and Pakistan express them selves a little more freely. Discussions on India and Pakistan are on the increase and USA had funded some 200 visitors from India alone.

Washington has many think tanks and Brookings is well supported and respected. Top Indian and Pakistan journalists have done attachments there. Cohen rightly claims he knows and understands India and Pakistan, as he looks at us without emotion from the outside and has military expertise in equipment and organisation, which helps him along the way. He can rattle off Corps and battalions on both sides, better than many of us. Many of his predictions have come true and he is sought after by all institutions.

We in India have little knowledge about the exact state of the Pakistan Army or Military and ISI because our MEA has ensured there are no contacts for the serving officers. Many await the genuine opening of ties. This bureaucratic methodology is understandable because they see themselves as the only arbiters of judgement and fear leaks of information unaware that today it is a very open world. The more open we are the more self-confidence the Armed Forces will have. We therefore assume that the Indian military establishment is therefore predominantly dependant on open sources which are many –– despatches of the Indian Defence Attaches, DIA, MI, IB and RAW and now NTFO ( National Technical Facilities Organisation ) for radio, email and Internet intercepts from Islamabad –– for details about the Pakistan Military.

When Cohen wrote his book on the Pakistan Army some years ago it was read as a great education by all professionals but that was before Pakistan and India went legally nuclear. So it is out of date and he himself admits the situation between the two nuclear countries is very risky. His next book after “ Emerging India”, in which he predicted India will emerge) and his new one   on Pakistan are due to be out soon. Hence it was also a sales tour for his updates and this time when Stephen Cohen was in Delhi he was a most sought after person and the Reliance Observer Group think tank headed by Shri R K Misra, Gen V P Malik and Vice Admiral KK Nayyar amongst others were his hosts. He even visited Gujrat.

At his lecture on Pakistan Army at the USI even busy bureaucrats from the Secretariat turned up for a full house, which in Delhi is a rarity. We make an attempt to analyse his views, and though Mr Cohen spoke very generally about the Pakistan Army at USI and at other fora (he stated he has to) we can only make some points of analysis that are relevant and need to be stressed for India–Pakistan watchers, as food for thought. Gen V P Malik was in the Chair at the USI talk and he also shared his views after his experience as the architect of the Kargil victory, and now a Prime Adviser who accompanies the NSA Brajesh Mishra to some conferences and travels widely.

The Reliance Observer Group has hired many analysts and some from IDSA and intends to become India’s RAND Corporation with full support form the Ambani brothers, especially Anil as they can get strategic intelligence and analysis for their huge empire now involved in Oil, Plastics, Bio-Technology and Telephony. Defence could follow via Larsen and Tubro and maybe one day Reliance will invest in Pakistan as their 12m ton refinery at Jamnagar is within 12 minutes flying time from Pakistan. All this is good for India, and IDC lauds the efforts.

There is now privatisation in thinking too, and there is money in it, and Jaswant Singh a former Major has stated there is nothing wrong in five star culture and accepts that India’s pseudo socialism has to fall by the wayside, and Cohen in his book ‘Emerging India’, had alluded to this. As socialism reduces India will rise further. It is well said, in Communism all become equal and well provided and only the top leaders become rich. In Capitalism wealth is generated and many become rich and carry others. In socialism the poor remain poor while the political leaders, the bureaucrats and their cronies get the cream.

Now to Cohen’s points:

  • The Pakistan Army according to Cohen is a professional Army and though the officers enjoy great privileges and the Army is in power they should not be underestimated. They are not as well equipped as the Indian Army but they are not poorly equipped either and post 9/11 their inventory has gone up. Hence the Indian Army can never treat the Pakistani army lightly. The Indian army has only a slight edge despite a more than triple defence budget. India’s 21 Divisions are far spread.

  • The Pakistan Army does a have Jehadi streak in its build up and that is a great motivating factor. The Army looks upon itself as the only force that can govern Pakistan satisfactorily and the feudal system will not allow democracy to take roots for quite some time. India will have to live with this.

  • Cohen also, like we had pointed out in am earlier report, feels that the 9 Corps Commanders are a very potent group that guides and governs Pakistan. We have always stated that we need to make contact with them somehow. But anyone who talks like this, has the wrath of the Indian Intelligence and Foreign Service on their hands. Our Ambassadors in Pakistan also fight shy of contact as they feel it is risky and they follow the practice here in India where senior service officers do not attend National Day celebrations of Foreign Ambassadors despite invitations or meet them and MEA strictly controls their attendance at such functions in New Delhi. More trust has to be created between uniforms at all levels with out letting our guard down. In Malaysia, the Indian Navy did not invite the two Pakistani Captains of Nasr and Babur and their visiting senior officer at LIMA 03 on board the INS Delhi reception which was a sought after event and no doubt further exacerbated the feelings of illwill.

  • On Musharraf Cohen appeared convinced that his position was tenuous and if there was change another General would arrive on the scene and hinted at Gen Aziz. He was guarded to make categoric statements and said so.

  • The Indian establishment and Army easily forgets the past (We seem to be forgetting Kargil) and we are not as revengeful, but the Pakistani psyche and Army is revengeful and they have not forgotten the 1971 war. This factor and the fact that both Indians and Pakistanis are emotional people was emphasised but Cohen wanted to convey that Pakistanis are more emotional.

  • Pakistanis rely more on personal military linkages than the systemic linkages, and this fact must be borne in mind. Several years of friendship with American defence personnel and Chinese gives them an edge in dealing with the two countries. This irks Indians and evidently Cohen has many linkages in the Pakistani Army, which facilitates his efforts.

  • There is apprehension in Pakistan that the Americans are leaning more and more on India and this suspicion could take its toll in the future on the peace process. Pakistani feels it cannot trust America as much. Cohen did not think there will be any major break through in the resolution of Kashmir, but articulated his Cohen plan and once again emphasised that India would need a facilitator and hinted as USA being that agency. This is the way out. However USA is deeply mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would ride the course. It is nuclear action that worries USA.

  • Cohen when asked a categorical question whether he thought Indian or Pakistani nuclear military readiness was better he confessed that he had been given no access to the Pakistani nuclear forces, which is tightly guarded by the Military. It is doubtful any one can answer this question as both countries have rudimentary systems with out the expensive safe guards the West established, but Cohen does fear that there is that  remote chance of nuclear war. There is noticeable and welcome change in India and service officers are being encouraged to take courses in Nuclear Ops and Management and civilian experts have been brought in to educate the mid and upper level only recently. IDC cannot but quote K Subrahmanayam, “the nuclear trigger was in the hands of people not schooled in formal nuclear doctrine.” This is changing and it is possible that the NSA and his team are now well educated on India’s arsenal and capabilities. This is very heartening.


In this analysis one cannot but quote Condelezza Rice NSA of USA on Promoting National Interest and exercising power without arrogance in the India–Pakistan context. She had stated “ The triumph of American values is most assuredly easier when the International balance of power favours those who believe in them (India). But sometimes that balance of power takes time to achieve and in the meantime it is simply not possible to ignore and isolate other powerful states (Pakistan) that do not share those values.“ Pakistan has geography to control the oil routes, and is a nuclear power and India would like USA to isolate it and India even tried via Op Parakaram. We believe the only way is to zoom ahead economically which is now happening and keep dialogues open with Pakistan and understand it better. Rand corporation had also suggested this. Hence Stephen Cohen’s visit must have added benefit to those interested in India’s track two approach, and India–Pakistan amity for our future generations, despite the Information Minister of Pakistan Sheikh Rashid Ahmed now in India, saying. “after Vajpayee there is darkenss.”  He must have been briefed by Musharraf of Agra, as the media is now a powerful player in International affairs.

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