Bottomline | Hafiz Saeed walks free

India’s energies should now be spent on dealing with the real bogey, the Pakistan Army

Pravin SawhneyPravin Sawhney

Hafiz Saeed walks free with a swagger vowing to support the jihad in Kashmir against India. While India has accused Pakistan of ‘lack of seriousness’, the question is what next?

Rather than introspection, India is certain to redouble its efforts to get Hafiz Saeed incarcerated — this will not help — and to garner world opinion against Pakistan as a state sponsoring terrorism. This will not happen.

India should instead ask itself: will Pakistan supported proxy war abate if Hafiz Saeed is in or out of jail, dead or alive, punished or pardoned? The answer is it would not. India’s problem is not terrorism, let alone international terrorism as New Delhi would have its people believe. It is the Pakistan Army, the fountain-head of terrorism against India.

India has pointlessly elevated the stature of Hafiz Saeed by over-emphasising his reach, capabilities and role. He, or any terrorist, nameless or with a name, can do little without the full backing of the Pakistan Army which provides sanctuary, arms, training, intelligence and fire power to continue bleeding the Indian Army. It does so because India — for political reasons — justifies killing of own troops’ and sagging morale (largely caused by little or no sleep and endless war-like environment) by citing wrong reasons. It is fight against the elusive terrorists that strains troops’ nerves. Since terrorists’ stock would never diminish, the proxy war would continue until the Pakistan Army achieves its objective: resolution of Jammu and Kashmir.




The only way to stop this is either by making peace with the Pakistan Army by the Kashmir resolution or to hit it where it hurts. This will not happen by killing terrorists, but by adopting an offensive posture which should compel the Pakistan Army to review its proxy war.

Four things should constitute an offensive posture:

  • Dismantle the fence;
  • Give-up counter-terror duties in phases;
  • Put pressure on the government to make up critical arms and ammunition needed for conventional war; and
  • Undertake regular raids on Pakistan Army’s forward locations across the Line of Control (LC). It does not matter if the Pakistan Army decides to use its long-range artillery and end the November 2003 ceasefire. The Indian Army should follow suit; it would be back to 1990 when trouble started in Jammu and Kashmir.

The year 1990 was different. New Delhi was caught unawares by the eruption of insurgency in Kashmir. Large numbers of troops — which were fatigued having recently returned from Sri Lanka in 1989 fighting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — were inducted into Jammu and Kashmir. Yet, the Pakistan Army was worried by the sudden accretion. The then Pakistan army chief, General Asif Nawaz Janjua, told the United States that India was planning to attack it across the LC. He did this because the Indian Army had a decisive edge over his army. To calm the nerves of the Pakistan Army, the Indian army chief, General S.F. Rodrigues invited his Pakistani counter-part to visit the Indian side of the LC and verify things for himself. As a further confidence building measure (since I was working with the Times of India newspaper), the army asked me to travel and report on the LC, which I did in a series of articles (television age had still not arrived).

In 1993, when the army chief, General B.C. Joshi, raised nearly 40,000 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) troops from within the army’s resources, he was clear that the army would go back to its warfighting job once the security situation was under control to allow free and fair state assembly elections. Things, however, changed with the successful 1996 state elections. The army had tasted blood; it started to believe that the RR should have a role in governance.

Mustafa Kamal, Farooq Abdullah’s younger brother, told me that the army had in November 1996 approached Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah with a strange proposal. It wanted senior army officers to fill the vacant posts of district commissioners in the state. The suggestion was immediately shot down by the then Union home minister, L.K. Advani. However, this did not discourage the army from an informal role in governance through the Unified Headquarters and Operation Sadbhavana — the hearts and mind strategy. The RR had come to stay; it gave the army status and authority in the state way above its constitutional stature. Army officers started seeking postings to Jammu and Kashmir as the assured route to recognition, glory and promotions.

Since RR service did not count for combat experience, this dilemma was resolved by the army chief, General N.C. Vij in 2004. He erected the fence on the LC, and popularised a new series of awards — the Yudh Seva Medal — meant for distinguished service in an ‘operational area to include war-like situations.’ Thus, on the one hand, the army was to mostly restrict its operations to the LC and hinterland. On the other hand, the counter-terror operations qualified as real combat experience.

This was good news for the Pakistan Army. It could now continue with its conventional war preparedness without bothering about the implications of its proxy war. The Indian Army was happy fighting Pakistan’s proxy war and in the bargain blunting its own conventional war preparedness.

Whatever hope was left of the army going back to its basic task of warfighting was dashed with the arrival of the Modi government in May 2014. It did three things: One, in October 2014, defence minister, Arun Jaitley, announced in the Parliament that the army would continue with anti-infiltration and counter-terror operations; thereby formalising this role. Two, the army chief, General Bipin Rawat was appointed by deep selection for his expertise in counter-terror operations. And three, the national narrative with the help of social media was changed; combating terrorism was equated with fighting the real enemy — the Pakistan Army. To add to this, the government identified terrorism as the main threat to India’s territorial integrity.

What has been underplayed is the real threat — the two military lines with Pakistan and China. Over time, this threat has increased with the developed interoperability (ability to fight together) with commonality of equipment and joint operational training between the two adversaries. Yet, instead of seizing the challenge, India is happy chasing Hafiz Saeed and his ilk. This cannot be good news for India and its army.