An IDC Special Analysis


New Delhi, 12 January 2002

This somewhat bold opinion is sparked by the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, de facto CDS and Army Chief's strident press interview to the media on 11 Jan in the hallowed Conference Hall of the South Block, New Delhi. The took place at the same time when some 60 trucks and the Army's ammo dump at Bikaner were going up in flames and Indian troops as per media were killing 10 Pakistani soldiers along the LOC and demolishing their bunkers, bringing the total toll in Pakistan to over 45 by Indian Army's actions in the New Year alone. Surprisingly an almost equal number of troops have died in India mainly due to our own mines being accidentally blown up by our own troops while laying a trip wire for Pakistan which defensive operation harks of the lessons learnt 30 years ago to thwart Pakistan's armour's ambitions. It is hoped more studies on this have taken place since and other options ruled out so also our mines are good and the training is of high standards.

The press conference made for interesting viewing (without the charming MEA spokesman present for a change who has improved by the day in making no statements at all) , for those who follow India's defence scenario closely. These are most interesting times .The handsome black haired and young looking 61 year old 15th NDA Course Army Chief made it amply clear that India has climbed the lower rungs of escalation along the Pakistan divide by migrating from the 'no war, no peace' scenario and dispersed nuclear weapons under civil control that dominated the scene after the 1999 'Kargil war, to "ready to go to war " as soon as ordered by the Government or hit targets across the border or whatever. Earlier the Air Chief on taking over had said that he was also ready to hit camps across the border but the Navy which said it was ready too knows it cannot easily operate offensively off the Pakistan coast with 40 ships of 6 Navies already in the seas there. A blockade would be internationally unacceptable and Pakistani targets at sea with foreign navies milling around will be difficult to identify by EW or other means.

The three attack Corps –– No 1 at Ambala, No 2 at Mathura and No 21 in Bhopal and the three Armoured Divisions from Hissar, Jhansi and Ambala must have moved to forward locations called staging posts, at the cost of some few hundred million dollars to the exchequer. Even doctors from Delhi where a shortage already exists, have been moved, indicating the seriousness of the effort. Army officers have even asked trains to move slowly to avoid accidents and many trains have moved and TEXMACO a Calcutta based Company has supplied wagons and flat racks for the tanks to claim a healthy balance sheet.

The first lot of T-90 Tanks ex Russia have also arrived and the Army must be trying to make them operational as soon as possible. The stocks of ammunition and mines are being upgraded in a rush hence the accidents. All that remains is the eruption of a limited conflict along the actual ground position on the LOC in Kashmir, or a single front specific escalation by either side which could lead to an all out conflict followed by nuclear exchange which was discussed in the conference.

So far, so good!

Op Parakrama –– the foreign media had mentioned it a few days ago, was openly disclosed by the Chief, but no mention was made of Op Chivalry to follow. The conference kept all engrossed as war is a serious business and we seem to treat it as a media event. Late at night the Defence Minister George Fernandes tried to cool matters regarding nuclear strikes –– as what the Army Chief said will be analysed world over by experts.

But IDC made a snap appreciation as we have been doing professionally all these years. The Chief seems to have made a categorical statement on 11 Jan to newsmen implying that India has its second strike ready to obliterate the enemy. This means the Armed Forces have practiced and the Chief has the nuclear trigger under control and that is mixed news. Good that the level of training and preparedness for a second nuclear strike has been perfected by the Armed Forces as IDC and even experts were unable to confirm this earlier, and bad that if there is a false alarm and the political control of the trigger is not very perfect, an unintended holocaust could follow. Though the chances are remote –– but then some believe in Nostradamus and the destruction in the East. Ben Boothe in his newsletter has hinted that if President Bush was under pressure on ENRON he would not mind an event that could deflect the attention of Americans.

The Army Chief’s quote as picked up from media went like this "As long as I am alive, if nuclear weapons are used against India, or Indian forces, or the assets in the seas, or our economic interests, the perpetrator of the particular outrage will be punished, punished so severely that his continuation in any fray/form will be in doubt." IDC glean this means the second strike has been mobilized and is ready. We look to corrections, if any, and inputs by experts and will respond immediately.

The Government has already exerted economic, diplomatic and political pressure on Pakistan. Advaniji is in USA asking all and sundry to make Pakistan comply with India’s demands to stop cross border terrorism and hand over some twenty terrorists. President Musharraf is in a bind as he is capable of so much and no more. Virtually, his tether is being tested. Many liken it to the well-known Naval Gunboat diplomacy on the land borders, because India sees Pakistan as vulnerable and wedged in with economic and other woes. This has prompted British PM Tony Blair to caution leaders of both countries to exercise restraint, during his visits to India and Pakistan last week.

Shimon Peres of Israel also arrived and advised against hit and run attacks and Gen Powell a friend of Pakistan is expected to stop over in both countries en route to Tokyo. RM George Fernandes is off to USA on 15 Jan with a shopping list and demands. RRM Hiran Pathak will be in charge of the war preparations as it seems Vajpayeeji is not like Indira Gandhi who got personally involved in 1971, when Gen Manekshaw had direct access to her and had demanded months to get the Armed Forces act together for victory.

The prestigious Scientific American has in its December 2001 issue in an illuminating article bared India and Pakistan’s nuclear bomb potential and placed the two nations’ bomb stocks at 55 to 110 for India and 20 to 40 for Pakistan. This shows how vague nuclear estimates are even by experts. The same article talks of vague safeguards and offers of expertise by the West, which India it seems has now mastered. The war like situation today is quite strident; reminiscent and smelling of Op Brasstacks and Checker Board that late Gen S Sundarji conducted in 1987 –– to innovate the Army and threaten Pakistan. He could not conduct OP Brassboard that was to involve national level forces and agencies to exercise war, as the Government woke up to calculate the costs, which would have been severe for India already committed in Sri Lanka fighting the LTTE. India’s tank fleet however, took quite a beating in peacetime itself.

IDC complement the Government and the Army for mastering the Nuclear weapon readiness for second strike and feels it is not bluster as the Army Chief is held in high esteem, is a professional with knowledge of nuclear systems. Simultaneously one hopes the Government is also assured of its ability to respond correctly and responsibly.

There are chances India’s gunboat diplomacy using the army will succeed only if India knows what is the final solution to Kashmir. The LOC as the international border is one workable solution. However if our strength is as strong as the Army Chief feels, the saffron Government and the nation may feel confident of taking back all of Kashmir by force but we hope such a plan does not back fire. However, as IDC keep saying we are emotional people and logic takes second place and all TV shows say Indians want war, the Army Chief’s press conference has enthused confidence. Except for Khuswant Singh most scribes also want this impasse to be settled once and for all even if it means by war, the rest be dammed.

IDC sincerely hope India’s gunboat diplomacy succeeds.

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