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AUGUST 2013 ISSUE


Forever on Defence
Ceasefire on the LC is proving counter-productive to the Indian Army, making it complacent to outer attacks
 


Soldiers patrolling along the fence on the LCIt was a masterstroke by the Pakistan Army 10 years ago. The cue, probably, came from the blockbuster Bollywood movie, Baazigar (gambler), where the hero believed that to gain something big, you have to lose something. By offering the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LC) on 24 November 2003, the Pakistan Army gained a windfall in return for peanuts: it sacrificed covering fire to infiltration across the LC. In return, it got a tamed Indian Army which fenced itself on the LC sending the unambiguous signal that its offensive thinking of the Nineties had been put aside. Docility became the mind-set of the Indian Army and all that is wrong with this wonderful organisation today followed.

A gullible India not only accepted the ceasefire offer immediately, but also proposed its extension to the Siachen theatre. On 26 November 2003, artillery on both sides fell silent. The Indian chief of army staff, General N.C. Vij went a step further to please the political masters. In less than a year, under Operation Fence, he erected a fence along most of the 746km LC. This was the beginning of the Maginot mentality; any worthwhile military commander the world over will attest that a fortification induces a false sense of security, stifles the offensive spirit and offensive action, and in the age of mobile warfare, is counter-productive. General Vij had got the fence idea from the Border Security Force (BSF) paramilitary holding portions of the LC. The army, with little to do across the LC, now looks inwards. Little wonder, it takes pride in comparing itself with the paramilitary forces in counter-insurgency (CI) operations. The Pakistan Army has achieved its strategic aim.

The IA of the Nineties had a different mind-set. During most of this decade, senior army commanders had argued that since no insurgency which enjoys an inviolate sanctuary has ever been defeated, India must shift its strategy from combating the elusive insurgents to hitting their sanctuaries. Until 1996, when the Pakistan ISI shifted terrorists’ training camps to Afghanistan under the Taliban, the main sanctuaries of the insurgents were in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and the Northern Areas. These could have been hit by a two-pronged strategy: Pakistani lines of communication which run close to the LC, as in Poonch, should have been raided. And, limited offensive action ought to have been undertaken to dislodge Pakistanis from the heights denying them tactical advantages. No additional troops were needed for these tasks. Moreover, such proactive action would have helped raise the morale of the troops, put Pakistan Army on the defensive, and helped sever ties between the people of Kashmir and the ISI-supported terrorists in Kashmir. To the relief of the Pakistan Army, India’s political leadership rejected this offensive approach.
 
 
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