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POST MUMBAI 9/11: INDIA PARALYZED BY PAKISTAN'S SUPERIORITY IN "BATTLE OF PERCEPTIONS"

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Submitted by DSK (India), Jan 8, 2009 at 02:48

Introductory Observations

Pondering agonizingly over India's paralysis in not striking back credibly against Pakistan in response to the Pakistan Army and its ISI-sponsored "war of terror" assault on India's sovereignty at Mumbai on November 26, 2008, this Author came across a feature in "The Jerusalem Post" written against the back drop of the assaults on Israel's sovereignty by Hezbollah earlier and Hamas presently and why Israel strikes back forcefully.

The point that caught attention in this feature was that currently, the Israeli Defense Forces in their senior commanders training lays emphasis on how modern warfare is conducted. Israel believes that emphasis today should not be on which side conquers more territory or loses more fighters and fighter aircraft – as was the case in conventional battles such as the 1967 Six War, "but rather on perceptions. In other words, the victor is the side that is perceived to have won".

Applying this precept in the context of Mumbai 9/11 and India's paralysis in the post-Mumbai 9/11 phase of over a month, one painfully comes to the conclusion that the root cause of India's lack of credible responses against the Pakistani military establishment, the ISI and their affiliated Islamic Jihadi terrorist organizations, is that Pakistan established a superiority over India in the "Battle of Perceptions".

India's long history of not striking back at major Pakistan-sponsored terrorism incidents from 1992 onwards, India's misplaced faith that "Friends of Pakistan" would dissuade Pakistan and restrain Pakistan's war-like provocations against India and Indian political leadership of the day shirking from the will to use power, despite preponderant instruments of power at their command, led to Mumbai 9/11 – a "war of terror" on India when a handful of Pakistan terrorists held India to ransom for three days in sustained gun battles and blasts. In those three days more than 200 lives were lost.

Post-Mumbai 9/11, India's political leadership fell back in its traditional mould of shirking to use power to safeguard India's "National Honour" and the unprovoked assault on her sovereignty.

Brave statements were made by India's political leaders that "all options are on the table" in terms of a riposte to Pakistan. But the one option that India should have exercised in the first few days of Mumbai 9/11, "continues to lie on the table" even after a month of the attacks.

India's political leaders to strategically chastise Pakistan for its proven involvement and culpability in Mumbai 9/11 attacks moved away from their strident calls on Pakistan to atone for Mumbai 9/11 to a "diplomatic offensive" to present clinching evidence to world capitals. The Indian policy establishment should realize that it is not fighting a "court case" where evidence will count. Does it not occur to the Indian Government that it is dealing in terms of terrorism with a "rogue state" dominated by Pakistan Army on whose agenda, peace with India does not figure. Nor would any guarantees by Pakistan military establishment count that no further terrorist war against India would take place. Are not Pakistan's broken pledges to the United States to wage war on terrorism, a lesson to be learnt and kept in mind?

India continued to be let down by its political leaders, policy advisors and policy formulation mechanisms in not responding firmly at the outset and thereby further reinforcing Pakistan's "perceptions" that India can be played around with and will not respond even after a "thousand bleeding cuts"

The Pakistani policy establishment and its more powerful military establishment stood emboldened by their "perceptions" of India's leadership vulnerabilities to launch Mumbai 9/11 and stand further emboldened by the "perceptions" once again that India would be unable to strike back and continue to seek assistance and support from "Friends of Pakistan", rather than acting on her own strengths.

Pakistan therefore stands to have won the "Battle of Perceptions" on both counts due to India's flawed counter-terrorism responses.

This Author's last paper entitled "India: Policy Establishments Failure on Pakistan Threat Assessment (SAAG Paper No. 2987 dated 19 Dec. 2008 has already brought out in fair detail the flawed threat assessments on President Zardari and General Kiyani, Pakistan Army Chief of India's political leadership and India's policy establishment.

This Paper intends to be a study of the following aspects of the "Battle of Perceptions" between India and Pakistan and is discussed under the following heads:

  • India's Flawed Perceptions on Pakistan
  • India's Misplaced Perceptions of Trust in "Friends of Pakistan" to Restrain Pakistan's "War of Terror" Against India
  • Pakistan's Perceptions of India's Paralysis to Strike Back, Post -Mumbai 9/11

This Paper is not going to elaborate on what India's responses should be, which is a separate subject by itself but focus entirely on why India fails to strike back credibly and creates "wrong perceptions" in Pakistan. Only if India had done so in the past and does so now after her "diplomatic offensive" is over, can then India hope that the "appropriate perceptions" have been created in the Pakistani military establishment's mind that India cannot be messed around with.

But before addressing the above aspects, a bit of digression is required to highlight Indian political leader's propensity to shirk from safeguarding India's "National Honor" and India's propensity to rely on the international community to discipline Pakistan's "War of Terror".

India's Political Leaders Propensity to Shirk from Safeguarding India's National Honour and Propensity to Seek International Support to Discipline Pakistan's "War of Terror"

India's political leadership of both the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the present ruling Congress Party have both demonstrated a propensity to shirk from safeguarding India's National Honour" and a marked propensity to seek international support, more specifically from the United State to discipline Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India. Both have abdicated their responsibilities and seek to "outsource India's counter-terrorism" to the international community.

The BJP after armed attacks on India's Parliament House in December 2002 mobilized the entire Indian Army on Pakistan's borders and promised an "Aar Pas Ki Larai", the mother of all battles, to end Pakistan's terrorism against India. It was a bold move which could have brought decisive results had Indian forces struck in the first few months. The BJP leadership let the strategic advantage fizzle out after a year, under pressure from the United States.

The Congress government in the wake of Mumbai 9/11 gave strong indications that it would indulge in air and missile strikes and should Pakistan enlarge the conflict use India's conventional might. Once again, history has been repeated and the Congress Government, like the BJP Government buckled under United States pressures for restraint. Once again India's strategic advantages over Pakistan were foreclosed.

India's political leaders of all political dispensations need to be reminded of a few home-truths on both these counts from two quotations from the noted British strategist Maj. Gen. Fuller, which this Author incorporated in the last chapter entitled "Prescriptions for India's National Security" in his book "India's Defence Policies & Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis". They read as follows. First on "National Honour":

"There is only one balsam which can make peace worth living – Honour, which is righteousness. There are sublimer ideals than mere peacefulness, and honour is one of these. Peace without honour is degradation and as a noble woman safeguards her honour, and will even sacrifice her life to maintain it in order to keep the family clean, and as a man will give up his life to protect her and her children, so will an upright nation because of its honour, not only protect but sacrifice itself for righteousness cause. All may be lost save honour, for without honour mankind ceases to be human"

and then the thoughts on nations relying on international support to safeguard "National Honour" and this presently applies to India in more ways than one:

"The nation which depends for the security of its honour on some international force (or support from a superpower: my emphasis) has become but a kept woman among nations. There is only one guardian of honour – a virile arm backed by a virile brain. Again a state, which is not prepared to defend its honour by a righteous war, and depends on the benevolence of others to guarantee its existence, when life is threatened, is but a paralytic living in an alm-house; it has scarcely the right to live, for it lacks the might to thrive"

These two messages for all Indian political leaders should be self-explanatory and also denote what Indian public opinion expect from their political leaders, especially when after Mumbai 9/11 Indian nationalism stands aroused.

If India's political leaders pay heed to these two maxims, they would be able to ensure that the next time around India is subjected to another Pak-initiated terrorist strike, India's instruments of power stand readied and are used for flick-knife retaliation without the agony of unending debates on Indian TV and media as to what India's options should be. Nor would there be any requirement to heed advice of "Look before you leap", India should at all times be ready for a strategic and military leap to chastise its aggressors.

India's Flawed Perceptions on Pakistan

India's political leaderships and policy establishment's flawed perceptions and misplaced readings on the emergence of President Zardari and General Kayani and their impact on Indo-Pak security environment stand discussed in the last Paper of this Author. Timely warnings on these two dignitaries on this account, given months in advance of Mumbai 9/11 stood reflected in this Author's Papers since mid-2008.

India's flawed perceptions on Pakistan prevailing in the mindsets of Indian political leaders and policy making establishment are reflected below in brief.

Strategically and militarily, the following misperceptions seem to prevail in India's policy making circles: (1) Pakistan with its nuclear weapons arsenal is the strategic equal of India (2) In case of Indian military strikes against Pakistan, that country could strike back with nuclear weapons (3) Pakistan has the capability and wherewithal to enlarge a limited war into a general war (4) China could enlarge and intervene in any Indo-Pakistan armed conflict (5) Pakistan can inflict massive damage in retaliation of Indian strikes.

India should welcome Pakistan crossing the nuclear threshold as it would be a suicidal step for the destruction and disintegration of Pakistan. China in the current security environment where Pakistan's "war of terror" could visit Xinjiang also would not be tempted to go beyond rhetoric in any Indo-Pak armed conflict.

Politically, the Indian policy making mindset is dominated by the following misperceptions (1) Pakistan could develop into a peaceful neighbor with more political patience and understanding from India (2) Pakistan's politics domination by Islamic fundamentalist elements could fade away (3) Pakistan Army could be brought under firm control of a civilian democratic political government (4) Pakistan's civil society wants peace with India (5) Pakistan's civil society could bring about the over throw of Pakistan Army's political dominance of Pakistan's governance (6) Track II diplomacy and use of Special Indian Envoys to Pakistan could facilitate peaceful Indo-Pak relations (7) Pakistan is a responsible stake-holder in regional peace and a responsible member of the international community.

To any discerning Indian policy maker it should be evidently clear that all the above perceptions of Indian policy establishment on Pakistan are misplaced and wrong. There are no concrete indications on the ground to suggest otherwise.

It are these strategic, military and more substantially the political misperceptions on Pakistan which have distorted Indian policy-makers formulations on Pakistan and the absence of an Indian credible response to Pakistan's provocation "war of terror" against India.

India's political leaders and policy establishment needs to recognize the reality that more than a decade of Track II diplomacy and the flitting of Special Envoys between New Delhi and Islamabad have not brought the two countries to peaceful co-existence. This is for the simple reason that the Pakistan Army calls the shots in Pakistan on its foreign policies and peace with India is not Pakistan Army's objective.

India's Misplaced Perceptions of Trust in "Friends of Pakistan" to Restrain Pakistan's "War of Terror" Against India

Pakistan would like to claim the international community as "Friends of Pakistan" because most of the Western countries, China and the oil-rich Islamic monarchies of the Gulf Region bankroll Pakistan's sustenance, notwithstanding that the bulk of these finances are diverted to the Pakistan Army and the operation of Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India and Afghanistan.

In terms of discussion of India's misplaced trust in "Friends of Pakistan" to restrain Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India, the discussion in this Paper would focus on the role of the United States, China and Saudi Arabia.

Despite 9/11 when the United States itself was subjected to a combination of Pakistani operated and Saudi-financed terrorism onslaught against mainland USA, the United States has been reluctant to recognize that the Pakistani "War of Terror" against India is also part of the global Islamic Jihad and needs to be firmly dealt with in a concerted manner by the global community by backing strong actions by India against Pakistan, rather than diplomacy.

The United States has the strategic, military, political and economic clout to stop Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India. But it would not use that clout, because Pakistan colludes in American strategy in the region and India does not.

India's trust that an evolving US-India Strategic Partnership would make America play a different ball-game in South Asia, vis-à-vis Pakistan, is grossly misplaced, in light of Mumbai 9/11.

The flurry of top US dignitaries visiting New Delhi in the wake of Mumbai 9/11 were not intended to reinforce New Delhi's resolve to strike back at Pakistan but to pressurize India not to resort to military strikes against Pakistan and exercise restraint.

China enjoys even more stronger strategic, military, political and economic clout over Pakistan. In the wake of Mumbai 9/11 and moreso in the years preceding it, China was in a strong and coercive position to restrain Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India. It did not do so for reasons best known to every Indian.

In the wake of Mumbai 9/11, China has advocated restraint on both India and Pakistan. However the actual message should have been a stern and salutary message by China to Pakistan, that its "War of Terror" in the region, which may eventually engulf Xinjiang too, should stop. China can be expected to continue to support Pakistan even now in its face-off with India.

Saudi Arabia as far as international terrorism is concerned is along with Pakistan is the "Real Axis of Evil". Saudi Arabian Islamic charities finance Pakistani terrorist organizations "War of Terror" on both flanks of Pakistan. Pakistan is heavily dependant on Saudi Arabia for free oil supplies, financial aid and political backing. Saudi Arabia more than USA and China could discipline Pakistan in a second if it wishes to.

The visit of Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister last month was meaningless. He hesitated and shirked from condemning Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India. His visit was meaningless even if India intended that through it to send a message to Islamic Countries.

In any case it should have struck the Indian policy establishment that no Gulf Region Islamic countries have come out with any outright condemnation of Pakistan following 9/11. Further the media in these countries has been spewing vitriolic outbursts that India is now involved in American-Zionist conspiracies to fragment Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal – the only one in the Islamic world. More cynically that Mumbai 9/11 was fabricated by India intelligence agencies as an excuse for the above.

All in all, the stark pointer is that India cannot rely on the international community to curb Pakistan's "War of Terror". The "Friends of Pakistan" count on Pakistan to serve their strategic ends and would go to great lengths to protect Pakistan from India's wrath however well placed.

Pakistan's Perceptions of India's Paralysis to Strike Back, Post Mumbai 9/11

In the "Battle of Perceptions" post-Mumbai 9/11 Pakistan seems to have established a superiority over India by correctly perceiving India's paralysis.

Gleaning through the demonstrated performance and statements of Pakistan's political and military leaders and the writings of Pakistani columnists in their media, the Pakistani perceptions of India's paralysis to strike back post-Mumbai 9/11 were read as follows: (1) India failed to strike back against Pakistan in 2002-2003 OP PRAKARM despite an initial advantage of surprise and strength. (2) In the large number of major terrorist attacks in India by Pak-sponsored terrorists or their modules within India there were no retaliatory responses from India (3) India every time took the "softer route" of attempting to enlist international condemnation against Pakistan (4) Pakistan this time too was confident that after the first few days of general condemnation, the international community would lapse back as hithertofore (5) Pakistani columnists harped on India's military machine not being fully prepared for war due to incomplete inventories and slow inflow of Russian military hardware (6) Pakistan's military establishment was confident in their perceptions that India would not be able to obtain substantial USA, China, Saudi Arabia backing for Indian retaliatory strikes against Pakistan.(7) India would be held back by fears that any assertive step could lead to internationalizing of the Kashmir issue.

Indian political leader's propensity to shirk away from using "hard options" to protect India's "National Honour" and rely more on international condemnation of Pakistan was correctly read by the Pakistani military establishment.

The course of events even after a month post-Mumbai 9/11 seem to bear out Pakistan's military establishments perceptions of India in terms of retaliatory strikes or other hard actions.

To that extent it can be said that Pakistan has established superiority over India in the "Battle of Perceptions" unless India now decides to change course, in confronting Pakistan's "War of Terror" against India.

The current "diplomatic offensive" by India and providing dossiers of clinching involvement of Pakistan's official establishment in Mumbai 9/11 will not shame the Pakistani military establishment or prompt it to any positive action to dismantle its terror-networks or extradite the wanted terrorists to India for trial.

At the end of this "diplomatic offensive" Pakistan's military establishment's "Perceptions" of India's soft responses would continue.

India would be left then with only two options, namely to execute military strikes against Pakistan or just accept a "lump-it" situation.

Concluding Observations

The major concluding observations that need to be made are as under:

  • India cannot endlessly go on buckling to Pakistan Army sponsored and Pakistan based "War of Terror" against India.
  • The next such "War of Terror" strike against India would perforce pressurize the present Indian Government or the one that succeeds it to go in for the "hard option" of retaliatory military strikes, irrespective of the cost.
  • USA, China and Saudi Arabia would be well-advised as "Friends of Pakistan" to clamp down on Pakistan Army sponsored terrorist organization in Pakistan and their disruptive activities as any future conflict on this count could also jeopardize their respective national security interests in this region.
  • Pakistan itself needs to realize that when its traditional intransigence against India pushes India to the wall, it could result in another fragmentation of Pakistan as in 1971.
  • India needs to recognize that "diplomatic offensives" do not tame strategic delinquencies of military-dominated nations like Pakistan. Hard options are called for:
  • Finally, India's political leaders need to recognize that threats to Indian "National Honour", sovereignty and security have to met squarely and eliminated by India and India alone. India's counter-terrorism operations cannot be "out-sourced" to others.
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