Monday, 11 January 2016

Sadness of Being Doval, Parrikar, and Modi as Indian Subconventional Deterrence Fails in Pathankot Again

Prime Minister Narendra Mod, Army and Air Force Chief's and NSA at Pathankot Briefing

India awoke to the new year with Television sets that had caught on to a new cross border raid. Wait its Pathankot after Gurdaspur! 

The same spot has been hit by a Pakistan Army proxy in JeM. But an Airbase in peacetime? And not just any airbase! This is the Indian Air Force Airbase, Pathankot. Frontline and facing the Pakistan International Border. Future air arrowhead targeting the Chinese PLA in Ladakh, as key component of the since stillborn Mountain Strike Corps, crippled by bean counters and their, guns over butter, debate, that is the bane of India's security abdication, from conventional to subconventional deterrence
Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar at Pathankot Op Briefing
 Wild comparisons to the global war on Terror. We are at war, we have been at war much before 9/11, in Parliament, Kaluchak, Samba, and in Gurdaspur. before Sydney, Ankara and Paris. The French have been colonisers and involved in active military acts unlike us. America has bombed Iraq and Afghanistan to hell, and let the Pakistan Army Jihadi genie out of the bottle.  Paris comparisons to 26/11 are faulty, what we suffered was far more devious. It was a cross border marine raid by a nation, not a non state actor, using the veil of LeT. To pretend that we are not at war is to lie to yourself and the memory of the men who died in Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. And the men, women and children who died in even now regular terror attacks on our soil. 

Pakistan remains everybody's whore, America, Arab States and of India's other bete noire in China. That Pathankot, coincided with a similar Fidayeen hit on yet another Indian Consulate in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's disingenuous bid to incorporate Gilgit Baltistan aka PoK, into yet another province ready for gifting to the Chinese, PLA, surprised nobody.

India's dilemma of refusing America's embrace as a pivot against China, when it is being hit repeatedly by irregular warfare subcontracted out to Pakistan Army by the Chinese Army, and being armed and financed by the the same America is complete. The Narendra Modi led BJP Government's unilateral concessions to Obama State Department including Environmental hard lines at COP21 in Paris, Trade negotiations, favourable Military and Nuclear Sales, and a hands-off policy in Afghanistan had all tanked in Pathankot, Herat attacks. Whatever India received in return for this Faustian bargain looks worthless. 

The Chinese signal was clear, as America repeated its ambivalent equivalence of India and Pakistan, and Pakistan continued its Civil versus Military theatre in yet another episode of plausible denial and stalling maneuvers perfected ironically on the same State Department in Afghanistan, and the Chinese in Uyghur insurgency in Xinjiang.

The strategic myopia and turf wars that engender and exacerbate Civil and Military disconnect in India, did not help. The once righteous BJP was caught sitting on its hands on Security. Military Reform, Intelligence Reform, an orientation to including counterterrorism in internal security, and a lack of legal sanction and accountability of India's Intelligence agencies, is at a standstill. Today Narendra Modi, his entire Cabinet, including his Security Tzar in much feted and eulogised, NSA in Ajit Doval are in the cross hairs of the media, and strategic community. Even discounting the opposition, key votaries of Modi Government are today angry and humiliated, and the Army badly alienated in tactical choices of flying in a centrally located NSG instead of the sizeable local Army presence and its elite Special Forces, practiced in efficient Fidayeen killing and counterterrorism.

The inability of the NSA and Prime Minister's Office to act in cohesion to provide a unified Command and Control front led to a free for all. The media left to its own devices had a field day, often resorting to conjecture, speculation in response to paralysis of information dissemination and PsyOps cover. Much before the clearing operation ended in Pathankot, India had lost the Infowar, again, due to the silo mentality of its jealous, petty minded, and self serving bureaucracy. It took 4 days of blundering for the Doval micromanaged operation to get a joint Army, Airforce and NSG briefing going. Add to this silly statements by both Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and countless other luminaries including Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, under a corruption scanner, resulted in a tragic musical chairs of disaster.

Command Confusion
The choice of NSG deployment and Command over Army of a what was a Counterterrorist operation including large territory best suited to Infantry cordon, search and destroy created a strategic stink. That a Home Ministry funded NSG, chaired by a policeman with no combat experience was in Command of a clearing operation at a Military installation, with the Army used at perimeter, was all the more galling because all its tactical assault units are drawn from the Army. That the NSG once envisaged as an elite unit on the lines of SAS and Delta Force has become a multi city behemoth with hundreds of personnel, another jobless kingdom of bureaucracy and babysitting politicians as bouncers has destroyed its raison d'etre, and diluted the quality of its efficacy as a crack tactical unit.

The Army and Air Chief tail wagging to political masters and bureaucracy has seen a loss of prestige in the men they command. The resulting demoralisation has no accurate measure but its presence will be felt years on. India misses the Military leadership of legendary Generals Manekshaw's and the Dayal's of 1971 and Haji Pir fame. The current crop of Military brass looking more and more like spineless bureaucrats and politicians themselves.

Post operation heat in the media notwithstanding, the maturity of governance and prudence of statecraft remains absent. Repeated stupid and ill considered statements by the Defence Minister and NSA, Ajit Doval on threats of proxy war and preconditions to Pakistan remain unhelpful. The humiliation of continued loss of subconventional deterrence needs action not bluster and rhetoric. India is being seen as a power unable to secure its strategic military assets and its population, and no amount of talk will change that perception, unless consequences of retribution to irregular warfare assume certainty and disproportionate pain a constant.

The BJP spokespersons in media were in disarray. From denial to bizarre utterances, they made a complete hash of their recently and hard won credibility. Flush with the swagger of the righteousness, suddenly these men and women and their proxies in social media looked out of their depths. Many a respected journalists and analysts lost their credibility in carrying water for an indefensible BJP Government and its unusually social media oversharer, Prime Minister in Narendra Modi.

The BJP led by majority mandate crowned Narendra Modi has achieved the same in public ridicule, anger and disgust in 2 years what the Congress led by Manmohan Singh, proxy Prime Minister of Sonia Gandhi led UPA, took 9 years to achieve! The inability to tame babudom, press through legislation, or reform the economy, security, and provide reasonable governance, suddenly everything is under question. The Economy over Security chickens have come home to roost for the Narendra Modi led BJP Government. in less than a week, and one Pakistan Army crossborder raid, India's government has lost its prestige and the entire cabinet look like a bunch of pretenders, and amateurs. Do BJP and RSS supporters deserve this after the mandate they gave the BJP and Narendra Modi is the question on everyone's lips.

Ajit Doval has become the unnecessary cynosure of a lot of criticism, given there are many things in the security matrix rotten from a historical babudom intrigue and dysfunction. But excessive exposure brings excessive brickbats! It is sad to see a man of such achievement hold the can in Pathankot. Luckily, for him Pathankot is also a story that could be far worse. Hopefully lessons have been learnt and India will finally see emergency reform in Security and Intelligence stalled since Kargil. Hopefully, it will see joint command, and an integration of Special Forces in Special Forces Command, away from current jobless private militia of bureaucrats and turfs. Hopefully, the stalled Mountain Strike Corps will find money, as Chinese only understand strength. 

Ajit Doval may have become a spy from a policeman but he still needs the diplomats and the Special Forces General in his role as India's NSA. This must be formally institutionalised, so turf does not come in the way of the next counterterrorism operation or covert hit. The conventional media has long held an adversarial relationship with Narendra Modi and BJP, as have a plethora of think tank eagles and retired Generals that are situated in media debates. These have to be co-opted by the Government forthwith. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Press Information Bureau are not only for defending Arun Jaitley and pushing dead press releases, use them to fight the Infowar and PsyOps in conjunction with Army SF. 

Army Special Forces
The answer to Proxy war is not in overt war with all the TNW pole dancing by Pakistan Army. The answer to proxy war lies in proactive Special Forces led subconventional operations based on Intelligence, targeting, harassing, men, planners, trainers and funding of all such ventures aimed at our populations and infrastructure. This has to be fought crossborder, covert and under the cover of deceit and plausible denial, employing proxies and deniable assets, exactly what is employed against us. 

India is at War. Either we go to it or it will find us in our kingdoms and cocoons.

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