First Blood

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Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).

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On Dec 13, 2001 six terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, all except one who got away, were shot dead, but not before they started a chain of events that has brought Pakistan and India to the brink of war. Even before the live TV drama was over, the Indian Government had labelled the terrorists, who had no identification on them, as Pakistanis of Kashmiri origin belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish Mohammad, two Kashmiri organizations engaged in guerilla warfare against the Indian occupation forces within Indian Held Kashmir. Coincidentally, within the Indian Parliament on that day, the Indian Government was under internal siege on two issues, viz (1) POTO, the Anti-Terrorist Bill that was being opposed tooth and nail not only by the Opposition but some of the BJP’s coalition partners, enough for the government to declare a parliamentary “whip” for its partners, coincidentally during the same week, and (2) the matter of “over-payment” for 3000 coffins ordered from USA by George Fernandes for the Indian Kargil dead during his previous tenure as Defence Minister from which he was forced out because of another scandal, the “Tehelka” scam.

On Dec 13, 2001 six terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, all except one who got away, were shot dead, but not before they started a chain of events that has brought Pakistan and India to the brink of war. Even before the live TV drama was over, the Indian Government had labelled the terrorists, who had no identification on them, as Pakistanis of Kashmiri origin belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish Mohammad, two Kashmiri organizations engaged in guerilla warfare against the Indian occupation forces within Indian Held Kashmir. Coincidentally, within the Indian Parliament on that day, the Indian Government was under internal siege on two issues, viz (1) POTO, the Anti-Terrorist Bill that was being opposed tooth and nail not only by the Opposition but some of the BJP’s coalition partners, enough for the government to declare a parliamentary “whip” for its partners, coincidentally during the same week, and (2) the matter of “over-payment” for 3000 coffins ordered from USA by George Fernandes for the Indian Kargil dead during his previous tenure as Defence Minister from which he was forced out because of another scandal, the “Tehelka” scam.

 

 

Whether the attackers were Pakistanis, Kashmiris or even Indian convicts, they were conveniently dead and as such could not be identified immediately as per the Indian claim. Among the possibilities, in a desperate bid to divert the issues bedevilling their governance, India requested the Northern Alliance for Pakistani Talibaan prisoners to be brought by air by Qanooni as a “gift” from Kabul to New Delhi, and then contrived to have them to “escape” and carry out the attack. One may well ask why were they brought to India in the first place? That India blamed ISI was no surprise, the only things they have not blamed ISI in the last decade is for the rat plague in New Delhi in 1994 and for Rabri Devi being elected as CM of Bihar. India has a history of being quick on the gun to blame Pakistan for its own “dirty tricks”, “Ganga” being blown up in Lahore by Indian RAW in 1971 is once concrete example. A few weeks ago an Indian Airlines aircraft remained “hijacked” for 4 hours before it was discovered that the flight had no hijackers, they had probably missed the flight but no one told the cockpit or the cabin crew. The cockpit crew thought the “hijackers” were in the cabin, the cabin crew thought likewise they were in the cockpit. In the meantime senior Indian officials, including a junior minister, told the media that the hijackers were Pakistani since they had heard their “Urdu” conversation over radio. Of such stuff are “facts” created to scandalize Pakistan.

Whether the attackers were Pakistanis, Kashmiris or even Indian convicts, they were conveniently dead and as such could not be identified immediately as per the Indian claim. Among the possibilities, in a desperate bid to divert the issues bedevilling their governance, India requested the Northern Alliance for Pakistani Talibaan prisoners to be brought by air by Qanooni as a “gift” from Kabul to New Delhi, and then contrived to have them to “escape” and carry out the attack. One may well ask why were they brought to India in the first place? That India blamed ISI was no surprise, the only things they have not blamed ISI in the last decade is for the rat plague in New Delhi in 1994 and for Rabri Devi being elected as CM of Bihar. India has a history of being quick on the gun to blame Pakistan for its own “dirty tricks”, “Ganga” being blown up in Lahore by Indian RAW in 1971 is once concrete example. A few weeks ago an Indian Airlines aircraft remained “hijacked” for 4 hours before it was discovered that the flight had no hijackers, they had probably missed the flight but no one told the cockpit or the cabin crew. The cockpit crew thought the “hijackers” were in the cabin, the cabin crew thought likewise they were in the cockpit. In the meantime senior Indian officials, including a junior minister, told the media that the hijackers were Pakistani since they had heard their “Urdu” conversation over radio. Of such stuff are “facts” created to scandalize Pakistan.

 

 

India’s desperation is understandable. Before September 11, Pakistan was barely keeping afloat economically, the rewards of democratic misrule for over a decade. Since military governments are out of fashion after the requirements of the Cold War, despite the best efforts of President Mosharraf and his uniformed colleagues to stay with a Supreme Court (SC) mandated deadline in October 2002 for return to democratic rule, we were on the backfoot internationally. Not isolated, as our “democrats” who have vested interest in returning to power, would have us believe, but certainly not the favourites of the western world. We had a myriad number of sanctions slapped on us and the world’s financial institutions were dragging their feet. We may not have defaulted as big as Argentine recently, US$ 125 billion, but it is said that some installments falling due, ranging from US$ 1 – 1.5 billion or so, would not have been repaid on time. In the matter of terrorism, the Talibaan’s excesses within Afghanistan on the one hand and those militant Kashmiri outfits that tend to talk and roam the streets more in Pakistan than fighting inside Indian Kashmir, if at all, had ensured that we were under relentless pressure to be declared “a terrorist state”. But worst of all, once Bush took over as President, the US that had remained an ally of sorts, off and on, for over five decades, declared their intentions to become India’s ally as a strategic partner against China’s perceived competition. India was on a roll and in keeping with their expected status in the world condescended to invite Pakistani President Pervez Mosharraf to an Indo-Pak Summit at Agra in July. No matter that barely two years ago, the General was being castigated by the Indian leadership for Kargil, and then for overturning democracy. India went back on their solemn resolve to have no truck with a military dictator, subsequently they came worse off at Agra. For the first time in living memory Pakistan had a clear media victory and succeeded in putting Kashmir as the core relevance in a possible nuclear flashpoint in the eyes of the world. This was a victory engineered by Pervez Mosharraf’s confidence and ability to think on his feet combined with the desperate urge of the private Indian electronic media for audiences. Pervez Mosharraf floored the Indians, some role was played by Pakistani media persons who came on the private Indian channels. Before India set in a “damage control” exercise, Pakistan had scored heavily. India went back to its pre-Agra attitude of not talking to Pakistan at the highest level , this despite solemn promises made at Agra by the Indian PM.

India’s desperation is understandable. Before September 11, Pakistan was barely keeping afloat economically, the rewards of democratic misrule for over a decade. Since military governments are out of fashion after the requirements of the Cold War, despite the best efforts of President Mosharraf and his uniformed colleagues to stay with a Supreme Court (SC) mandated deadline in October 2002 for return to democratic rule, we were on the backfoot internationally. Not isolated, as our “democrats” who have vested interest in returning to power, would have us believe, but certainly not the favourites of the western world. We had a myriad number of sanctions slapped on us and the world’s financial institutions were dragging their feet. We may not have defaulted as big as Argentine recently, US$ 125 billion, but it is said that some installments falling due, ranging from US$ 1 – 1.5 billion or so, would not have been repaid on time. In the matter of terrorism, the Talibaan’s excesses within Afghanistan on the one hand and those militant Kashmiri outfits that tend to talk and roam the streets more in Pakistan than fighting inside Indian Kashmir, if at all, had ensured that we were under relentless pressure to be declared “a terrorist state”. But worst of all, once Bush took over as President, the US that had remained an ally of sorts, off and on, for over five decades, declared their intentions to become India’s ally as a strategic partner against China’s perceived competition. India was on a roll and in keeping with their expected status in the world condescended to invite Pakistani President Pervez Mosharraf to an Indo-Pak Summit at Agra in July. No matter that barely two years ago, the General was being castigated by the Indian leadership for Kargil, and then for overturning democracy. India went back on their solemn resolve to have no truck with a military dictator, subsequently they came worse off at Agra. For the first time in living memory Pakistan had a clear media victory and succeeded in putting Kashmir as the core relevance in a possible nuclear flashpoint in the eyes of the world. This was a victory engineered by Pervez Mosharraf’s confidence and ability to think on his feet combined with the desperate urge of the private Indian electronic media for audiences. Pervez Mosharraf floored the Indians, some role was played by Pakistani media persons who came on the private Indian channels. Before India set in a “damage control” exercise, Pakistan had scored heavily. India went back to its pre-Agra attitude of not talking to Pakistan at the highest level , this despite solemn promises made at Agra by the Indian PM.

 

 

Sep 11 changed the world, for Pakistan it was a 180 degree turnabout. Thanks to a superb display of leadership at its best when under pressure, Parvez Mosharraf did not wait for hell to freeze over while taking the only decision possible, to join the US in a Coalition to fight the war against terrorism. That quick decision taken at great personal risk, changed things dramatically for Pakistan. Not only we became a prime ally because of our geographical location, the Talibaan’s isolation as a result sapped their will to fight and hastened their abrupt downfall, albeit under a virtual rain of precision guided bombs alongwith bunker busters, daisy cutters, etc. We got immediate direct economic relief, we eventually also got quite a package of debt relief. We were back to our favourite geo-political status, a frontline state for a US war. Having been abandoned in the 90s despite our deep involvement as a partner in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, we had reason to be somewhat skeptical but in the end commitments made have been adhered to, uptil now.

Sep 11 changed the world, for Pakistan it was a 180 degree turnabout. Thanks to a superb display of leadership at its best when under pressure, Parvez Mosharraf did not wait for hell to freeze over while taking the only decision possible, to join the US in a Coalition to fight the war against terrorism. That quick decision taken at great personal risk, changed things dramatically for Pakistan. Not only we became a prime ally because of our geographical location, the Talibaan’s isolation as a result sapped their will to fight and hastened their abrupt downfall, albeit under a virtual rain of precision guided bombs alongwith bunker busters, daisy cutters, etc. We got immediate direct economic relief, we eventually also got quite a package of debt relief. We were back to our favourite geo-political status, a frontline state for a US war. Having been abandoned in the 90s despite our deep involvement as a partner in the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan, we had reason to be somewhat skeptical but in the end commitments made have been adhered to, uptil now.

 

 

In the circumstances one can understand why India is so upset. Best laid Indian plans for over a decade crumbled harder than the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Not to be left out Indian had offered its air bases in Rajasthan and Punjab and its ports in the Indian Ocean to the US for the war against Afghanistan. The problem was one of geography and the Indians could not oblige US in the way Pakistan could. Moreover India had been waiting patiently for Pakistan to (1) collapse economically and (2) being declared a terrorist State. It was looking forward to life as a US ally, to be acknowledged as an emerging world Superpower in the effort to contain China. All of it went up in smoke between 9 and 10 in the morning of Sep 11 in New York. One can almost feel how much India must be hating Pakistan, the frustrations of a bride abandoned at the altar by a bridegroom who goes back to his wife of earlier years. Whether the attack on its Parliament was like the German Reichtag fire that Hitler used to put Germany under emergency or like the Polish Border Incident that Germany used to justify their invasion of Poland, was it really planned and carried out by Kashmiri militants? The incident was to India’s advantage for many reasons other than already mentioned, viz (1) the failure of India’s economic policy in attracting investment and the likely furore over the impending annual budget (2) the future elections in India’s most populous State, the United Provinces (3) influencing of the world to label the freedom struggle in Occupied Kashmir as terrorism. If it were carried out by any Kashmiri militant faction, they must have been brain dead to give India this advantage.

In the circumstances one can understand why India is so upset. Best laid Indian plans for over a decade crumbled harder than the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Not to be left out Indian had offered its air bases in Rajasthan and Punjab and its ports in the Indian Ocean to the US for the war against Afghanistan. The problem was one of geography and the Indians could not oblige US in the way Pakistan could. Moreover India had been waiting patiently for Pakistan to (1) collapse economically and (2) being declared a terrorist State. It was looking forward to life as a US ally, to be acknowledged as an emerging world Superpower in the effort to contain China. All of it went up in smoke between 9 and 10 in the morning of Sep 11 in New York. One can almost feel how much India must be hating Pakistan, the frustrations of a bride abandoned at the altar by a bridegroom who goes back to his wife of earlier years. Whether the attack on its Parliament was like the German Reichtag fire that Hitler used to put Germany under emergency or like the Polish Border Incident that Germany used to justify their invasion of Poland, was it really planned and carried out by Kashmiri militants? The incident was to India’s advantage for many reasons other than already mentioned, viz (1) the failure of India’s economic policy in attracting investment and the likely furore over the impending annual budget (2) the future elections in India’s most populous State, the United Provinces (3) influencing of the world to label the freedom struggle in Occupied Kashmir as terrorism. If it were carried out by any Kashmiri militant faction, they must have been brain dead to give India this advantage.

 

 

With all its secular trappings, BJP is the ugly face of Hindu chauvinism that cannot co-exist with any other religion, particularly Islam. At the moment the world is focused on Islamic militants as the prime source of terrorism. The exploding of bus bombs in Israel has added to that image in full international media view. There is a difference between stone-throwing and bomb explosions, it didn’t take long for world sympathy to shift to Israel. With Ariel Sharon in charge, Israel’s reaction was predictable. Moreover Yasser Arafat at his best is a dicey customer. Using F-16s against civilian targets in urban areas may be “over-kill”, unfortunately in today’s world that was the only way for Israel to get Arafat’s attention. By cracking down on Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Arafat acknowledges he got the Israeli message loud and clear, why did he wait for Sharon to take the initiative?. Sharon thus accomplished what he set out to achieve. Advani and Fernandes are no Sharons, if India is trying to equate Pakistan with Palestine to drive a message home, it has not thought out the consequences of its gameplan thoroughly. First of all, the circumstances as well as the analogy are different. President Mosharraf condemned the attack on the Indian Parliament in no uncertain language, then he has repeatedly said, give us even a shred of evidence and we will take action against any Pakistan-based militant outfit that may have even morally supported the attack. He has even requested either a joint or impartial enquiry. Next the freedom struggle is in Kashmir, as it is also on-going in at least nine other Indian States, and it is not confined to muslims but in most of the eastern States it is a Christian insurgency for over five decades. In Assam, Meghalaya and Bodo it is a Hindu-led revolt. Moreover Israel has a declared strategy of “land for peace” that it has been implementing, albeit in slow stages. Has Indian given an inch in Kashmir that it occupies in the face of US resolutions asking for “the wishes of the Kashmiri people” to be determined?

With all its secular trappings, BJP is the ugly face of Hindu chauvinism that cannot co-exist with any other religion, particularly Islam. At the moment the world is focused on Islamic militants as the prime source of terrorism. The exploding of bus bombs in Israel has added to that image in full international media view. There is a difference between stone-throwing and bomb explosions, it didn’t take long for world sympathy to shift to Israel. With Ariel Sharon in charge, Israel’s reaction was predictable. Moreover Yasser Arafat at his best is a dicey customer. Using F-16s against civilian targets in urban areas may be “over-kill”, unfortunately in today’s world that was the only way for Israel to get Arafat’s attention. By cracking down on Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Arafat acknowledges he got the Israeli message loud and clear, why did he wait for Sharon to take the initiative?. Sharon thus accomplished what he set out to achieve. Advani and Fernandes are no Sharons, if India is trying to equate Pakistan with Palestine to drive a message home, it has not thought out the consequences of its gameplan thoroughly. First of all, the circumstances as well as the analogy are different. President Mosharraf condemned the attack on the Indian Parliament in no uncertain language, then he has repeatedly said, give us even a shred of evidence and we will take action against any Pakistan-based militant outfit that may have even morally supported the attack. He has even requested either a joint or impartial enquiry. Next the freedom struggle is in Kashmir, as it is also on-going in at least nine other Indian States, and it is not confined to muslims but in most of the eastern States it is a Christian insurgency for over five decades. In Assam, Meghalaya and Bodo it is a Hindu-led revolt. Moreover Israel has a declared strategy of “land for peace” that it has been implementing, albeit in slow stages. Has Indian given an inch in Kashmir that it occupies in the face of US resolutions asking for “the wishes of the Kashmiri people” to be determined?

 

 

There is also one more difference between Palestine and Pakistan that India seems to forget in its enthusiasm to be counted as one of the States fighting terror, Pakistan is a sovereign country that is quite capable of defending itself. It has never committed aggression against any neighbouring country but has defended itself adequately when its Armed Forces have been called upon to do so. India has committed aggression against its neighbours repeatedly. A decade or so ago, it sent the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka, ostensibly at Sri Lanka’s request but actually the “request” was made at the point of a gun. In East Pakistan India was the beneficiary of our own failures. Once hostilities were launched upon by the Army on one’s own people on March 25, 1971, the die was cast and while the immediate battle was won, the war was already lost. You cannot fight against your own people if they are almost unanimous in revolt, moreover logistics of a thousand miles of hostile territory was against the Pakistan Armed Forces in its eastern wing, it was only a matter of time. On the western front, Pakistan gave as well as it got, everywhere against superior numbers along the line. Most importantly, despite severe shortages because of grounding of East Pakistani pilots and technicians, the PAF held its own despite being almost swamped in the beginning.

There is also one more difference between Palestine and Pakistan that India seems to forget in its enthusiasm to be counted as one of the States fighting terror, Pakistan is a sovereign country that is quite capable of defending itself. It has never committed aggression against any neighbouring country but has defended itself adequately when its Armed Forces have been called upon to do so. India has committed aggression against its neighbours repeatedly. A decade or so ago, it sent the Indian Peacekeeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka, ostensibly at Sri Lanka’s request but actually the “request” was made at the point of a gun. In East Pakistan India was the beneficiary of our own failures. Once hostilities were launched upon by the Army on one’s own people on March 25, 1971, the die was cast and while the immediate battle was won, the war was already lost. You cannot fight against your own people if they are almost unanimous in revolt, moreover logistics of a thousand miles of hostile territory was against the Pakistan Armed Forces in its eastern wing, it was only a matter of time. On the western front, Pakistan gave as well as it got, everywhere against superior numbers along the line. Most importantly, despite severe shortages because of grounding of East Pakistani pilots and technicians, the PAF held its own despite being almost swamped in the beginning.

 

 

India has moved three of its strike Corps into attacking positions along our eastern border. White it has been threatening war for the last fortnight, what is significant militarily is the mobilization of forward airfields to support a possible ground offensive against Pakistan. Having racheted up the talk of war on all platforms, there is likely a stage that rhetoric may take a life of its own. While there is no doubt our Armed Forces will be able to hold an Indian attack whenever it comes, the fact of superior numbers and our lack of depth makes for the momentum of the attack threaten to cut our vital North-South Lines of Communication at one or two number of places before our Armed Forces can contain and counter Indian aggression. Can we afford this temporary setback?

India has moved three of its strike Corps into attacking positions along our eastern border. White it has been threatening war for the last fortnight, what is significant militarily is the mobilization of forward airfields to support a possible ground offensive against Pakistan. Having racheted up the talk of war on all platforms, there is likely a stage that rhetoric may take a life of its own. While there is no doubt our Armed Forces will be able to hold an Indian attack whenever it comes, the fact of superior numbers and our lack of depth makes for the momentum of the attack threaten to cut our vital North-South Lines of Communication at one or two number of places before our Armed Forces can contain and counter Indian aggression. Can we afford this temporary setback?

 

 

I am one of those who strongly advocate peace with India. The impoverished millions in Pakistan and India have no hope of emancipation unless we have free trade and a common currency for all South Asia. We have complementary economies and raw material that can make us the best free market area in the world. We have human skills and commitment that can never be matched by any other region on the world. I have friends in India whom I love and cherish, when we went to Agra with the President last July I found a reservoir of goodwill among the people of India that was simply marvellous. At the same time there is blatant intellectual dishonesty among their present leadership cadre. There is no future in war, South Asia is not going anywhere without peace. However we have to call a spade a spade, for their own narrow, selfish ends those who rule India today are taking us inexorably towards war, a war in which we will be able to hold them militarily but in which the sheer numbers of their Air Force may cause crippling damage to our vital economic installations, putting us back a several decades. People like Advani and Fernandes have to be taken seriously. These octogenarians have one foot in the grave, for them the deaths of thousands and thousands of their youth do not matter. The Hindus believe in “Satti”, taking their youth with them is the BJP’s form of “Satti”. Hear Mr. L K Advani talk, he threatens to abrogate the Indus Water Treaty and make Pakistan into a desert, he wants that we, the whole population of Pakistan, should die of thirst. If that is the eventuality we have to face, then so be it. At least, let us die with honour.

I am one of those who strongly advocate peace with India. The impoverished millions in Pakistan and India have no hope of emancipation unless we have free trade and a common currency for all South Asia. We have complementary economies and raw material that can make us the best free market area in the world. We have human skills and commitment that can never be matched by any other region on the world. I have friends in India whom I love and cherish, when we went to Agra with the President last July I found a reservoir of goodwill among the people of India that was simply marvellous. At the same time there is blatant intellectual dishonesty among their present leadership cadre. There is no future in war, South Asia is not going anywhere without peace. However we have to call a spade a spade, for their own narrow, selfish ends those who rule India today are taking us inexorably towards war, a war in which we will be able to hold them militarily but in which the sheer numbers of their Air Force may cause crippling damage to our vital economic installations, putting us back a several decades. People like Advani and Fernandes have to be taken seriously. These octogenarians have one foot in the grave, for them the deaths of thousands and thousands of their youth do not matter. The Hindus believe in “Satti”, taking their youth with them is the BJP’s form of “Satti”. Hear Mr. L K Advani talk, he threatens to abrogate the Indus Water Treaty and make Pakistan into a desert, he wants that we, the whole population of Pakistan, should die of thirst. If that is the eventuality we have to face, then so be it. At least, let us die with honour.

 

 

While I cannot match in military knowledge the excellent soldiers who lead Pakistan today, certainly better in quality than in 1965 or 1971, I can only give one advice. We must let India know unambiguously that if they ever cross the international border with ground forces then we will carry out tactical nuclear strikes against their strike formations because having no depth we cannot afford encroachments. Tactical strikes are clearly aimed against military targets, these will avoid urban areas. However our military planners will have to fine-tune what the Indian response is likely to be it if India raises the stakes and goes against our urban areas. Then we must have that much strike capability that will take out some of their major cities in lieu. Nobody wants to die but if we must, at least let’s make the cost of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) known to the present Indian leadership, they are not the only ones who can play MAD, and that is not a pun. As the Indians claim, they can certainly lay Pakistan to waste but are they ready to take the obliteration of New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Chennai, among other cities? We must make them aware that if bluff is replaced with actual aggression, there will be a heavy cost to the Indians for not reining in the rhetoric of their present blackmail.

While I cannot match in military knowledge the excellent soldiers who lead Pakistan today, certainly better in quality than in 1965 or 1971, I can only give one advice. We must let India know unambiguously that if they ever cross the international border with ground forces then we will carry out tactical nuclear strikes against their strike formations because having no depth we cannot afford encroachments. Tactical strikes are clearly aimed against military targets, these will avoid urban areas. However our military planners will have to fine-tune what the Indian response is likely to be it if India raises the stakes and goes against our urban areas. Then we must have that much strike capability that will take out some of their major cities in lieu. Nobody wants to die but if we must, at least let’s make the cost of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) known to the present Indian leadership, they are not the only ones who can play MAD, and that is not a pun. As the Indians claim, they can certainly lay Pakistan to waste but are they ready to take the obliteration of New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Chennai, among other cities? We must make them aware that if bluff is replaced with actual aggression, there will be a heavy cost to the Indians for not reining in the rhetoric of their present blackmail.

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).

Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).

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