Associate Partner

'After Pulwama, can't be business as usual': Defence experts demand policy changes, accountability, modernisation of armoury

  • 'NSA Ajit Doval should take responsibility. The buck has to stop somewhere. As far as I am concerned, it stops at his office,' said ex-RAW chief AS Dulat

  • Pravin Sawhney, editor of FORCE, said the government's muscular policy has created a situation where Kashmiris are looking to Pakistan for help

  • 'The attempts to isolate Pakistan are laughable, begging other nations to help them isolate it,' said Dr Bharat Karnad, one of India's most noted defence experts

The past few years have been witness to a series of intelligence failures, with the body count increasing with every lapse. Uri saw the death of 19 soldiers and Pathankot, seven security personnel. The Pulwama tragedy was the single deadliest attack on our security forces, killing 42 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to accuse Pakistan of masterminding the attack and claim, in his public statement, that he would give a "moohtod jawab" (retaliation in equal measure). He also said Indian security forces were committed to carrying out a retaliatory attack on Pakistan at a time and place of their choosing, and that India would work 24x7 to isolate Pakistan by launching an international campaign.

However, it is obvious that the Pakistan military and civil establishment are not paying any heed to these warnings. Five days after the attack on the CRPF convoy, Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan denied, in a statement broadcast live, any Pakistani hand in the Pulwama massacre. He also dared India to attack Pakistan, claiming they were braced for any Indian attack.

Data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs shows that between 2014 and 2018, there was a 93 percent rise in the number of security personnel killed in terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. These five years also saw a 176 percent rise in the number of terror attacks in the state — according to government data, Jammu and Kashmir suffered 1,708 terrorist strikes from 2014 to 2018, which works out to 28 terrorist incidents every month the past five years.

The question that security experts are now asking is who should be held accountable for both policy and intelligence failures in Kashmir. To mute the tide of criticism against the United Progressive Alliance government after the horrendous 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had asked the then home minister, Shivraj Patil, to resign.

With whom is the buck going to stop for the successive lapses under the government of the National Democratic Alliace? Defence experts share their views on the matter of accountability.

Former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing AS Dulat is of the opinion that Home Minister Rajnath Singh should take responsibility for what is going on, "except that he does not have much of a say".

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is perceived to be the most powerful person in the ruling establishment after the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah. Dulat said: "Of course, Doval should take responsibility. The buck has to stop somewhere. As far as I am concerned, it stops at his office."

 After Pulwama, cant be business as usual: Defence experts demand policy changes, accountability, modernisation of armoury

Around 40 CRPF personnel were killed in the Pulwama terror attack. PTI

In the same breadth, he added, "Doval is a friend. He is a colleague. But the government thinking needs to change. They need to engage with Kashmiris."

Dr Radha Kumar, a former interlocutor in Kashmir and author of a comprehensive book on the dispute titled Paradise at War, is equally forthright. "The only policy being pursued in Kashmir is one of alienation and hatred. What results will you get when, in the past four and a half years, we have not seen a single positive initiative in the state?"

"Pulwama was a major intelligence failure. But why don't you provide your troops with adequate equipment to defend themselves? Militancy has been in the Valley for more than two decades and troops don't have fortified vehicles against such attacks. What are you up to? It is absolutely outrageous," she asserted.

Kumar is equally critical of Doval's muscular policy in Kashmir. "The so-called muscular policy is not muscular but just a combination of petty vindictiveness that puts our security forces in harm's way without any adequate safeguards. The government needs to accept responsibility for both security and policy failures — they already have egg on their faces after the Saudi-Pakistan joint statement. They don't even know what coercive policy means," she said.

Dr Bharat Karnad, one of India's most noted strategic defence experts, minces no words in castigating the present defence policy. "What is all this talk about the Doval doctrine? There is no Doval doctrine. Where is the doctrine? He doesn't have any doctrine. He is an implementor of what the boss wants. He is just a cop. The prime minister is the progenitor."

Commenting on Modi's "moohtod jawab" statement, he said: "India can't do much in military terms unless they launch a major operation. The attempts to isolate Pakistan are laughable, begging other nations to help them isolate it. Pakistan cannot be easily isolated."

Karnad believes there are two factors that have emboldened Islamabad to stay with its enormously successful strategy of covert warfare against India. The United States cannot risk alienating Pakistan because it needs the country as its frontline state for its policy of military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Similarly, China has stood by Pakistan for decades now, having nuclear missile-armed the neighbour and cultivated it as a near perfect hindrance to India's regional ambitions and as a means of keeping the India militarily preoccupied with the subcontinent.

AG Noorani, lawyer and commentator, spelled out the Doval doctrine, claiming it is based on three principles. "The three themes of the Doval doctrine are irrelevance of morality, extremism freed from calculation or calibration, and reliance on military might," Noorani said.

Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had accused his rival Mehbooba Mufti of following the so-called Doval doctrine to "crush Kashmiris". He had said the strategy that the PDP-BJP coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir had pursued had been "nothing but the rehashing of a plan suggested by NSA Ajit Doval way back in 2010".

Pravin Sawhney, editor of FORCE, believes that the muscular policy adopted by the government has created a situation where the Kashmiri youth are looking to Pakistan for help. "Why are we refusing to talk to our people? Why are we refusing to talk to political stakeholders in Kashmir? Why are we denying that we have a political problem that needs resolution?" asks Sawhney.

"India's security apparatus needs urgent military reform to be able to cater to modern warfare. Unfortunately, we do not have war fighting capability because of the great scarcity of ammunition across the three services. Pakistan may be facing an economic crisis. but that does not apply to the Pakistani Army. With China's Belt and Road Initiative running through Pakistan, the Chinese have taken on the responsibility of providing security to Pakistan, and its army is supported by the Chinese Army," Sawhney explained.

"The Indian Army, with 13 lakh troops, is twice the size of the Pakistan Army of six lakh soldiers, but it is our officers and jawans who are dying. Their army is not bleeding," Sawhney noted.

Defence specialist Mukul Shukla believes the political leadership has not invested in developing India's military capabilities. "The CRPF has been unable to control left-wing extremism. For them to take on a highly-motivated and well-armed group of militants is no easy task, especially as they lack resources. Our enemies have fourth-generation fighter aircraft, whereas our infantry has yet to be given modern assault rifles," he pointed out

"The biggest problem is that we have not been able to build our own indigenous military capabilities. In the past 60 years, we have failed to create infrastructural capability to produce a pistol or even a trainer . How are we expected to compete with a nation that has acquired cutting-edge military technology from China and the US?"

"The present government had a rare and opportune moment in 2014 to introduce policy changes and build India's indigenous capabilities. They failed to do. The result is for all to see," Shukla remarked.

The consensus among defence experts seems to be that heads must roll if there is to be a policy turnaround. Post Pulwama, it cannot be business as usual.

The Great Diwali Discount!
Unlock 75% more savings this festive season. Get Moneycontrol Pro for a year for Rs 289 only.
Coupon code: DIWALI. Offer valid till 10th November, 2019 .

Updated Date: Feb 20, 2019 16:26:11 IST