Follow by Email

Sunday, July 19, 2009

#2162, 4 December 2006
Kargil: Back in the News Firdaus AhmedKargil, in the consciousness of strategists, has found itself back in the headlines. The latest mention is in allegations against his seniors of a Brigadier of Kargil War fame on being passed over for promotion. Earlier, the spat between the two chiefs of the Air Force and Army of the period over differences in the early stages of the war had served to remind newspaper readers of the war. President Musharraf's interesting take on Kargil had also understandably drawn all round criticism. Memorials have been inaugurated in Noida, Jammu, Pune and Chandigarh reminding lay persons of the sacrifice of young men. However, these references to Kargil are backward looking and serve to conceal what may be its more important legacy.
Distance in time does provide the necessary vantage for a relook at Kargil in terms of what it has meant since for South Asian security and how these implications may yet play themselves out in the future. The most obvious one is that, despite General Musharraf having proven himself to be lacking in strategic wisdom, the war did succeed in extending the life of terrorism in Kashmir by about half a decade. It bears speculation that 9/11 was fairly untimely for Pakistan dislodging it from its position of military advantage gained through additional infiltration of terrorists with modified tactics of suicide attacks when India's attention and effort was temporarily diverted. Only with the influx of troops during Operation Parakram could India bring back the indices of violence back to pre Kargil levels. There have not been adequate focus on the more intangible outcome of the war, that of heightened mistrust of Pakistan and its benevolent dictator. This was visible at Agra and continues to bedevil negotiations over Siachen.
Consequent to this, a 'proactive doctrine' has been conjured up by India's armed forces as insurance against future Pakistani unpredictability or misadventure. The doctrine is hopefully cognizant of nuclear weaponisation of the subcontinent that preceded the Kargil war, and in some analysis, provided Pakistan the cover to be more venturesome. The related doctrines of limited war and 'cold start' have since sought to influence Pakistani assessment of its relative impunity. The encouraging security indices in Kashmir can be taken as Pakistan's tacit acknowledgement, even if many other factors, such as the 'human touch' and the 'Vij line', have also contributed in varying measures to this.
However, the longer term implications constitute Kargil's shadow across the future. Firstly, Kargil has prompted a heightening in Indian military power. In so far as this is defensive, it is a legitimate Indian response. However, India's additional strength releases more forces for offensive purposes. Given the direction of evolution of Indian doctrine and heightened preparedness along its dictates over time, Indian strategic venturesomeness can be visualized, in a hark back to the mid Eighties.
Secondly, with Pakistan attempting to use its clout with America to recoup militarily, the strategic advantage has not entirely passed to India. This can be expected to further provoke India to persist in the quest of regional pre-eminence. In the run up to the recently concluded first ever conference on defence finance and economics sponsored by the Ministry of Defence, pundits propounded the seemingly reasonable thesis that an economy growing at 8 per cent can afford a defence budget to 3 per cent of the GDP. The revenue portion of the defence budget is likely to get a further boost with the Sixth pay commission next year. Already defence lobbies can be seen at work with recent release of figures such as numbers of casualties and stress related suicides to get the sympathy factor onto the deliberations of the commission. Once greater amounts are set aside for salaries and pensions, greater will be the clamour for money for modernization.
Lastly, there is a rise in strategic outpourings on India's responsibilities as a rising power, replicating the stretch of imperial Great Britain of the early twentieth century. India's strategic association and military partnership in full media glare with its new found 'natural ally', the USA, is strengthening this discourse on 'spheres of influence' and 'balance of power'. These tendencies are liable to interpretation of India as a putative neo colonial power. Inevitably the backlash, be it Chinese interest in Pakistan or jihadi angst against US influence, will ensure a self reinforcing cycle.
Future strategic experts may reckon that the ending of last century in the nuclear test and Kargil set the stage for the conflicts of this one. Meetings between the foreign secretaries in November and the forthcoming between the foreign ministers in December are lost opportunities if they are viewed as successes only for having taken place at all. A retrospective look at Kargil, such as this one, would indicate urgency of equivalent order as the militarization of India must attend the presently somewhat somnolent non state peace initiatives and state led 'peace process'. Kargil being back in the news would then have served a purpose other than the public washing of dirty linen of those who fought it.

No comments:

Post a Comment