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#805, 25 July 2002
Lessons from the Present Crisis Firdaus AhmedFreelance writer on security issues
Since the current crisis is not quite over yet, drawing conclusive lessons may be trifle premature. Nevertheless, it does appear that, thankfully, the culminating point of the crisis is behind us. Both, Gen Musharraf and President- to-be Dr Kalam have claimed on behalf of their countries that respective nuclear deterrents have worked. Since India had the initiative and did not follow through, it would appear that Pakistani deterrent did weigh heavily on Indian calculus. It has also been said by India that it never did have the intention of going to war, but used the crisis to mount pressure on Pakistan to desist from continuing to foment terrorism in J&K. To claim that Pakistan backed down owing to the Indian deterrent may not be accurate, since Pakistan was the reactive power in the competitive mobilization that we were witness to.
The point that emerges is that both states are now sanguine that their deterrents are robust and crisis resistant. Both states are convinced of their own and their adversaries rationality. In short, nuclearisation is being seen as having been vindicated. The tenuousness of this logic is the first point that bears highlighting.
Doing so need not await the passing of the crisis to be highlighted, for the crisis can well rejuvenate itself as, incidentally, it has been periodically peaking with each attempt by terrorists to provoke a war for their own ends. With the two armed forces in a state of extended mobilization, the next crisis could well be the last. The cumulative public pressure in India, whipped up in part by the use of recurring episodes of violence to keep the crisis alive, may well compel action by a government to prove that it is decisive and muscular.
With armies presently already ‘on the mark,’ the time available for crisis management is relatively constricted, thereby heightening military compulsions in decision making. Last December the firebreak for political intervention was provided by the time requirement of the Indian Army to mobilize and position itself. With strategic surprise not possible, this time round both countries would like to achieve operational surprise taking advantage of their mobilized state. This may well lead us into a war that neither wants, one that may be thrust on both by terrorists who may be spectacularly successful at some or other unprecedented atrocity.
The answer therefore is to get both armies back to barracks. Given the perceived threat from a proactive India, Pakistan is not likely to lead the way. Therefore the onus to end the crisis it started is with India. This cannot come about given Indian disdain for Gen Musharraf as voiced by its Deputy PM, as also its skepticism about Pakistani declarations on ending aid to terrorism. Therefore, in the absence of negotiations, the role of Anglo-Saxon intermediaries requires to be appreciated afresh.
The first lesson that emerges is that misplaced confidence in the viability of nuclear deterrence could yet prove fatal. The second is that there is a case for a relook at the configuration of conventional military power in light of its declining utility and its implication for crisis stability in a nuclear environment. The third lesson is that internationalization of Indo-Pak differences over Kashmir is a fact that has to be contended with. This is the broad agenda of the likely preoccupation of strategists over the near and middle term.

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