The lurking enemy India needs to watch out for
I am not a strategic analyst; neither am I a military historian, nor a so-called intellectual. I am just an ordinary guy, who loves reading and writing about how battles are fought, for readers who enjoy that kind of literature. Nevertheless, I do put in my two pennies worth once in a while, when, as a former soldier who had been under fire, I despair at the sight of my country licking the dust. I did it once earlier, mostly to my friends and whoever else had time to listen, because I had no platform to air my views then and those were too maverick for Indian publications with their pacifist agenda to print. That was in 1999 during IC 814 Hijack and I had advocated military action. Not a small-scale one, I wanted India to declare an all-out war against the Taliban regime of Afghanistan, if they failed to heed to our ultimatum to release the hostages within 24 hours. Even a ten-rear old could discern that the terrorists were hand in glove with the rulers of Afghanistan. How else could they land a hijacked aircraft in Afghan territory and dictate terms to India? A massive airlifting of troops via Iran, circumventing Pakistan, augmented by tanks and guns being made available by Russia across the Central Asian Republics and a lightning paradrop of at least a brigade on Kabul, would have convinced the Taliban to shed their false bravado and fall in line. Indeed, the lives of the hostages would have been risked, but a stern warning that we would reduce Kabul to rubble if anything happened to the hostages, would have had the Taliban thinking twice. An Entebbe-style rescue operation and a massive PR exercise to convince and hearten the families of the hostages would have had to be launched simultaneously. You think it was a quixotic idea, don’t you? That’s what most Indians of the day would have thought too, if the paper was ever published. You see, that’s how our minds are conditioned, by centuries of servility. Do you know what a close friend of mine commented instantly? “Well, Israel could have done it, not we.” That is what has propelled me to write this now, because Israel is doing precisely that at the moment, risking far more than we have ever done in history.
I am not pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian in my thinking. Any sane analysis would infer that the current Israel-Hamas War is a conflict perpetrated by extremist elements on both sides; the right-wing Israelis with their high-handed expansion of settlements and the Hamas with their brutal strategy of killing and kidnapping civilians. However, that’s not my point. It’s how Israel has responded to a terrorist attack. Mind you, if 164 Indians were held hostage aboard IC-814, Hamas has more than 200 Israeli hostages, whose locations and whereabouts are even not known. And while Hamas could at least blame Israel for its wrongdoing with the settlements on the West Bank, India had in no way gone out of its way to harm anyone, except jailing violators of the law of the land. Therefore, we were morally and legally justified to do everything within our power to protect the lives of our citizens and uphold the nation’s honour. The entire world was with us at that moment. Unfortunately, the window of that kind of global sympathy remains open for a very brief duration. Sympathy of countries, like those of people, dilutes with every passing moment. It’s essential that in a crisis, we grab that critical moment to act. That’s what Israel has done with the bombing of Gaza. It’s brutal and merciless; but as Sherman, the original exponent of the scorched-earth policy professed, since war is brutal, it’s better to make it absolutely so, so that the enemy would not want to fight for a long time. This is a lesson; we Indians do not seem to learn. To deal with ruthless enemies, we need to be doubly ruthless. Compassion does not stop rabid dogs, bullets do.
I am not about to blame our government of the day for what happened with IC-814 episode. Could you reasonably expect the Prime Minister of a country to make a sane decision, when grown-up men are crowding his doorstep, wailing and beating their chests like nannies, demanding to bring their relatives home? We, the people, have to blame ourselves for the disgrace we brought up on our nation by succumbing to the terrorists’ demands. And our ever-rabid media went to town, blaring joyfully to the world the inglorious sight of a cabinet minister of ours meekly handing over the terrorist-prisoners to the hijackers!
Did we do any better in later years? Our parliament was attacked and we went for a military mobilization of such magnitude that probably cost us more than a war with Pakistan would have. What did we achieve? Did it deter the enemies of our country? They keep on staging one terrorist outrage after the other with impunity, not to talk of the ongoing proxy war in Kashmir. They ripped apart the perceived efficacy of our security systems for the world to witness in Mumbai in 2008. In recent times, we did some surgical strikes, but even the much-publicized Balakot air strike came a tad too late. After the Pulwama massacre of the CRPF men, our aircraft should have struck within hours, instead of almost a fortnight it took and that too only a sneak raid. Why can’t we strike harder? Why do we pull our punches. Call their bluff, I say, we would have far longer spells of peace. I’m sure you would call it a maverick thought. I am indeed a maverick, but maverick ideas have won more battles than the text book ones. The good old axiom rules warfare; the enemy never fights by your rules.
I appreciate that Pakistan is not Palestine and is capable of striking back. Even so, they couldn’t afford to go beyond a few air battles for a face saver. Look at their plight, the local Taliban cock a snook at their army. And why restrict ourselves to air raids or commando operations? We could always have our tanks making a quick foray and rampaging their border villages, whenever their proxies do any mischief on our side. My point is that Pakistan is so muddled in its misery, it’s barely capable of risking a war, notwithstanding its nuclear status. We give too much weight to Pakistan. For that matter, even our paranoia about the Chinese threat is misplaced. I strongly believe that China would never go to war with India. They have too much to lose, as much as we have. Irrespective of what kind of diplomacy we follow, they will keep creating irritants to make India waste its resources in land defence, curbing our growth as an industrial and maritime power. Ever since the two countries embarked on their separate journeys from the mid twentieth century, China had been doing that, with no real intention to fight a war. Even 1962 was the pretence of a war they staged to air their frustration about India’s support to the Tibetan cause. Otherwise, why would they voluntarily vacate Arunachal Pradesh they claim as theirs after overrunning it. Would we do that, if we took back Pak-occupied Kashmir?
I am discounting these commonly perceived threats from our northern and western neighbours to suggest that there is another real and present danger that we would be better off, safeguarding ourselves against. Now that the Taliban is well-entrenched in Afghanistan and already making its forays into Pakistan, the day would not be far when they would target India. After all, India represents everything that the Taliban resents, democracy, gender equality, a liberal culture and above all, it’s a country predominantly inhabited by Hindus, whom it considers infidels. We need to be fully alive to the stark reality that Taliban-ism is a medieval ideology that stands to no reason and it cannot tolerate a neighbour like India for long. It’s only a matter of when, but strike it will. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it staged an even more diabolic attack on India one day, than Hamas did on Israel. This lurking enemy may make us bleed dearly one day, if we don’t watch out. Are our national security experts listening?