The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

What General Deepak Kapoor really said

Oh! What a tangled web they weave!

Pakistani’s media and strategic community have been in fits over news reports of comments made by Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, on India’s war doctrine.

Reports in Pakistan’s media on Gen Kapoor’s alleged comments resulted in sharp rebukes from Pakistan’s government and army.  Pakistan’s CoAS Parvez Kayani said that India was charting an “adventurous and dangerous path…,” while Pakistan’s Foreign Office said that Gen Kapoor’s remarks “betray a hostile intent as well as a hegemonic and jingoistic mindset.”

Pity no one in Pakistan bothered to actually read what Gen Kapoor said.

The news report first broke on that venerable bastion of free and fair news reporting, The Times of India.  Insofar as the now contentious sections of the statement are concerned, the following was said:

The plan now is to launch self-contained and highly-mobile `battle groups’…adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into enemy territory within 96 hours.

This was picked up by sections of the Pakistani media, who surreptitiously morphed the text to say:

The latest statement by the Indian Army Chief, General Kapoor, that India could fight a two-front war with Pakistan and China at the same time and end it successfully within 96 hours is highly debateable and contentious.

By any stretch of the imagination, the phrase “rapid thrusts…within 96 hours” does not equal “end it successfully within 96 hours.” But while many could be forgiven for being glib in the ways of military and strategic affairs, similar excuses cannot be offered for a former Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies.

There are several points that require clarification, with regard to Gen Kapoor’s statement:

  • Gen Kapoor’s statement was a reference the Indian Army’s “Cold Start” doctrine, which was born out of perceived inefficiencies in troop mobilization and response during Operation Parakram in 2001;
  • The process of formulating the new doctrine occurred during the leadership of Gen Padmanbhan in 2002;
  • “Cold Start” envisions eight “integrated” battle-groups making rapid thrusts into enemy territory, acting as a leverage as much against Pakistan as against possible diplomatic intervention by the international community;
  • “Cold Start” is still very much work-in-progress; there are significant imponderables that need resolution, not the least of which is an unambiguous rejection of the strategy by a key actor — the Indian Air Force.

Putting the above in context brings to light the true nature of “Cold Start” — it is a work-in-progress, contingency plan, formulated by the Indian Army, pending approval from other services and civilian leadership.

As far as talk of a two-pronged war is concerned,  India has a history of military tensions with Pakistan and China — two countries that have acted in concert to undermine India, strategically. No country would willingly pine for simultaneous wars against two nuclear-armed adversaries, but does that mean that they shouldn’t even plan for such a contingency?

Lest we forget, China deployed troops along its border with India at the behest of Yahya Khan and Henry Kissinger during India’s 1971 war with Pakistan. Therefore, the possibility of a two-pronged war isn’t quite far-fetched.

Of course, none of this is new information. To begin with, Gen Kapoor’s statements were willfully misrepresented by several Pakistani media houses. Having firstly misrepresented the General’s statements, they then indulged in a pooh-pooh campaign, calling the altered statements “dangerous”, and an exercise in brinkmanship.  A talk show on Dawn TV had the host repeatedly questioning the credibility of civilian supremacy in India’s military command-and-control!

Such campaigns serve two purposes:  inflate the threat of the adversary, and divert attention from domestic issues.  Amidst the scoffing, the self-righteous indignation and the testosterone charged rhetoric, no one thought to examine what was said by Deepak Kapoor or corroborate initial reports in Pakistan. Because that would have been self-defeating.

If Gen Kapoor went over the heads of his superiors and leaked sensitive information into public domain, he must be hauled up. If he articulated positions that were inconsistent with those held by India, he must be made to answer for them. He did neither. What Gen Kapoor did was to refer to an eight year old contingency plan, that, broadly speaking, everyone, including the Pakistanis have been aware of. So why the brouhaha now?

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Filed under: America, China, Foreign Policy, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, Pakistan, pakistan army, Politics, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indian Embassy Attack in Kabul

Limited Indian military deployment: the time is nigh

The suicide attack on Thursday was the second such attack on the Indian Embassy in the past fifteen months in Kabul.  The attack claimed the lives of seventeen, including the two Afghan policemen who attempted to deter the bomb-laden vehicle from breaching the compound.

Similar to the last attack on the Indian Embassy that left 60 dead last year, the footprint the terror consortium of the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, Taliban and ISI is clear.  Earlier this month, Gen Stanley McChrystal stated in a leaked assessment, that growing Indian involvement in Afghanistan would encourage Pakistani “countermeasures”.  More recently, former CIA Islamabad station chief Bob Grenier stated at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee deposition that the close relationship between New Delhi and Kabul “literally drives [Pakistan] crazy”.

This comes at a time of considerable disquiet in Pakistan. The Kerry-Lugar Bill has met with vociferous disapproval, initially from the media, and later from the Pakistani Corps Commanders’ Conference. The disapproval is based on the belief that some provisions — including India-specific terror clauses — impinge on Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Pakistani government (and military) must clarify how these clauses violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Specifically, Pakistan must articulate whether it believes that allowing its soil to be used to plan, organize and execute acts of terror against India is an exercise of its soverign right.

So, was the attack on the Indian Embassy meant to demonstrate Pakistan’s open defiance of Kerry-Lugar? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, if enlightenment hasn’t dawned on the Indian government now, it never will.  Pakistan will continue to use such “countermeasures” because it knows it can do so without eliciting a military response from India.  And increasing Indian involvement in the development of Afghanistan only increases the number of potential targets for the terror consortium.

Today, India’s ambitions in Afghanistan are not commensurate with the level of protection it is willing to provide to protect its interests.  “Soft power” is an important element of state diplomacy, but when not backed up by a credible intent to defend, paints a picture of a state that is benign, diffident, weak-willed and apprehensive.

India must stop outsourcing its intelligence and security needs in Afghanistan to other countries.  It must do what it has to do to protect its interests, its citizens and its friends.  Hitherto, India received inputs mostly from Afghan and other intelligence agencies.  It is time for India to upgrade its intelligence capability in Afghanistan; additional emphasis must also be placed on better intelligence coordination between Afghan, Indian and other foreign intelligence agencies.

Serious thought must be given to an Indian military deployment in Afghanistan.  However, for India to get bogged down fighting an insurgency would be counter-productive and would risk squandering the goodwill of the government and people of Afghanistan.

Therefore, India needs to think along the lines of a limited military deployment in Afghanistan and one with a mandate to protect its citizens and interests in that country.  This is India’s own “countermeasure”.  India has invested over a $1.2 billion in Afghanistan; Indians from all walks of life — doctors, engineers, teachers and security professionals — attempt to secure the future of Afghanistan and its people.  However, the security provided to these very individuals is either nonexistent or found wanting.

A deployment with limited mandate presents undeniable risks.  The possibility of the lines between India’s defensive deployment and the larger US/ISAF COIN operation being blurred, the risk of Indian troops becoming targets for the Taliban, Haqqani and ISI consortium and loss of goodwill in Kabul do exist.

However, the alternative to this arrangement is the status quo – India’s current posture.  As things stand today, a Pakistani attack on Indian citizens, property and interests in Afghanistan goes unchallenged.  Not much is ever done by way of a response, apart from registering the customary “our patience is not inexhaustible” complaint with the US and holding back on dialog with Pakistan.

The choices before India are stark: either it believes that Indian property, investment and lives are worth sacrificing for the greater goal of strategic partnership with Afghanistan, or it accepts that Indian security cover is essential to protect those who undertake the perilous, yet noble journey of rebuilding a war ravaged nation and spreading the goodwill of India and its people in that part of the world.  Time is running out, and India must decide soon.  What is it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

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Filed under: Af-Pak, Afghanistan, America, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Army, NWFP, Pakistan, Swat, Terrorism, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indian media discourse on China’s 60th

China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1, 2009.  It did so with the pomp and circumstance befitting a significant milestone.  Fireworks, aerobatics,  even a  female militia in miniskirt ensemble, and of course, contingents from the world’s largest armed forces.

In India, media coverage was distressingly predictable.  Labeling the military parade China’s “massive display of strength”, the media harped on about how the People’s Republic overwhelms India in military might.  Like this wonderful piece, called China vs India: Military might put together by an “NDTV correspondent” on their website (and also broadcast as a news item on television).

The article gives you a blow-by-blow of China’s relative superiority — 6,000 more “airplanes” in the PLAF, 100,000 more troops.  Run of the mill, factually incorrect observations — like Chinese plans to build and induct an aircraft carrier by 2010.  For those with an eye for the bleeding obvious, 2010 is next year.  And lest the nuclear arena be ignored, the article points out that China’s most potent warhead tested was 4 mT, whereas apparently an Indian nuclear test yielded 50 kT.  The author should have disclosed this a few weeks ago — it would have put an end to this ruccus.

Reading this article, you get the sense that China overwhelms India militarily and that the sanest thing for the Indian army to do under the circumstances is to pack up and go home.  Except, defense and national security aren’t played out on balance sheets or through inventory counts.

Any Chinese military misadventure is contingent on a number of factors, including India’s conventional  military capability, analysis of the impact of war on China’s economy and global standing, prospects of game-altering strategic alliances should war be imposed on India, and of course, China’s definition of “acceptable damage” and its assessment of India’s ability to cross that threshold via a nuclear assault.

Of course, not once was any of this remotely brought to the fore during India’s marathon coverage of China. To do so would be to bore an already disengaged audience about the intricacies of military strategy and international relations.  Why complicate matters when you can shock and scandalize someone and quickly cut to a commercial where Yuvraj Singh tries to sell you a Fiat Grande Punto?

Georges ” le Tigre” Clemenceau once said “war is too important a business to be left to soldiers”.  Disengagement of the public from matters relating to national security has led to very low levels of accountability in the defense of India.  Of the TV news anchors and “on-site” correspondents, not many can talk intelligently on such areas and ask probing questions to defense guests.  Comically, (and speaking of “le Tigre”) this blogger remembers TV coverage of the Kargil War, where one TV-news personality made repeated references to “Tiger Hills”, like it was some dashed hill station.

Today, the only honest, probing and meaningful analysis is conducted mostly by think tanks, whose publications are, unfortunately, only read by other think tanks. The Filter Coffee has long held the position that discussion on the defense of India needs to move away from think tanks and into our living rooms.  It is only then that true accountability can be demanded, both from the system, riddled as it is with bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, and from the media, who today get a free pass on peddling half-truths and sweeping generalizations on an unsuspecting public.

As it stands today on matters of defense and national security, the media fails the very democracy it says it is protecting.

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Filed under: China, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Air Force, Indian Army, indian media, Indian Navy, nuclear weapons, World, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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