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?