India and Pakistan ties, the final round (article)

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London, Jan.30 (ANI): India and Pakistan had a full scale war in September 1965. Air Marshal (r) Asghar Khan in his book called it 'The first round'; even though both countries had a military clash in Ran of Kachh in the same year. Apart from that both countries fought each other in a protracted war over Kashmir in 1947 which ended on 1st January 1949. Many say the war never ended, as it is continuing in different form and shape till today.

History is a funny subject. We try to understand historical events through eyes of others. If four people witness an event and they all go away and explain that event we will end up having four different versions of the same event, and those listening to these events could either misunderstand, forget or overlook some aspects of the event, hence different versions of the same event. Furthermore experience, knowledge and perspective help us to formulate our views and our ideologies.

If some one completes his doctorate in Maths or Science, very few if any will question his/her knowledge or challenge his formulae like people do in Social Siences; but if some one spends same number of years in studies and completes doctorate in History or Politics, two disciplines of Social Sciences, he/she will have many challengers and critics. Even a person who reads newspaper for a few months feels confident to assert his/her claim to be an expert on history and politics.

In most Pakistani history books it is claimed that it was India who 'cowardly attacked' Pakistan on 6th September 1965, and Pakistan emerged 'victorious' in this military confrontation. Some Pakistani history books even claim that Pakistan was not defeated in the war of 1971. To them it was the Bengalis who could not maintain their independence, as if they were a separate and independent country at that time. These 'historians' and 'experts' also claim that Pakistan won a major victory in 1999 during the Kargil war.

Fact regarding the 1965 war is that it was Pakistan which initiated the war by sending thousands of guerrillas under the plan called 'Operation Gibraltar' in Jammu and Kashmir to engage and disrupt the Indian army supply lines, and also by invading parts of areas of Jammu and Kashmir under India. Pakistani and Azad Kashmiri forces under the command of Lt General Akhtar Hussain Malik invaded areas of Chamb - Jorian and were advancing towards Akhnoor, and fall of this important town also looked imminent. At that crucial time Pakistani military and political elite decided to hand over the command to Lt General Yayya Khan, as they didn't want the credit to go to a Qadiyani General, Akhtar Hussain Malik.

Anticipating an imminent fall of Akhnoor and victory stretching as far as Jammu to cut off the supply line of the Indian forces, Pakistani government declared that their forces were advancing towards Akhnoor. Yayya Khan had his own 'interests' and reached 24 hour late to take over the command, which gave enough time to India to bolster its defences. After Pakistan's acknowledgement the Indian government announced that they will open a new front of their choice.

The Pakistani government was under this false illusion created by the Foreign Minister of the time that India will never cross the International Border. When under pressure in Jammu and Kashmir India attacked Lahore and Sialkot with full force on 6th September 1965. Both countries claimed victory in 1965 war.

Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was asked that Pakistan claims to have won the war, what do you say to this. She replied: Pakistan started this war to get Jammu and Kashmir. If after the war these areas are under Pakistan then they have won, and if they are still with us then we have won.

That apart India and Pakistan have not yet matured enough that they could live side by side in peace and harmony with each other. Both countries have strong influence of extremists, who at times call shots and force governments to move in certain directions. Pakistani extremists say they will destroy India and reduce it to the size of Sri Lanka. The Indian extremists say they will break Pakistan in to 40 pieces; and that they made a mistake in 1971 and should have finished the rest of Pakistan at that time.

After the defeat and surrender in East Pakistan the Pakistan army and the ruling elite were in a state of shock, so it is difficult to say what could have happened if India had continued with the war on the Western front. Some sections of the Indian government and the army wanted to continue the war and finish the 'job', but it is learnt that the USA categorically told the Indians to call it a day and not to continue the war in West Pakistan.

The situation now has changed. Pakistan is smaller in size, but it is a country with nuclear weapons, and this has changed the whole scenario. Despite this 'strength' or plus point, Pakistan has many minus points. The country is more divided than it was in 1971, and many Pakistanis don't envisage a bright future. Economically it is ruined and there is militancy going on in FATA, Swat and other parts of the Frontier province where the government has practically lost its writ. Apart from that for the first time in its history there is a serious danger to Pakistan from its Western border.

India is a big country with strong economy and ample resources. It is emerging regional economic and military power, and envisages an international role for itself; and international players are willing to assign certain roles to India. Pakistan in that sense is not in the same league; but in view of some analysts it has ability and plans to hold back progress of India by bleeding India and engaging it in some kind of protracted military conflict. These analysts give example of different insurgencies going on in India and one in Jammu and Kashmir; and moreover terrorist actions like that of Mumbai.

Anger, resentment or hatred is one thing, but the Indian public opinion is divided as they are not sure what to do with Pakistan. Some still suggest the dialogue and peace process even though it did not bring tangible results and crumbled under the rubbles of Mumbai attacks. This group is of the opinion that India has made tremendous progress and a military confrontation, even a conventional one will be disastrous; and it will be walking into the trap of Pakistan and extremists.

Others say enough is enough; India has to teach Pakistan a lesson, and speak in a language which Pakistan understands. This group thinks if India continues to acquiesce and swallow every bitter pill which comes its way from Pakistan then it will seriously harm India's image and future regional and strategic plans. This group is of the opinion that now is the time to strike at Pakistan and cut it to size that it is not a threat to India in future.

But the question is what to do with the nuclear capability of Pakistan. Pakistanis say India is not America and Pakistan is not Iraq or Afghanistan; and that they are capable to deal with any Indian adventurism. Hawks in the Indian political and military elite and the extremists say we have no choice but to have this final round with Pakistan to settle matters for once and all. In their view this stalemate could not continue; and that they would not be kept hostage to this nuclear threat and would not tolerate Pakistan's 'terrorism' and 'proxy wars'.

It is claimed by some experts that India, America and Israel have worked some contingency plan to deal with nuclear aspect of the problem. Even a child in a street knows that in a war situation when pushed against the wall Pakistan would use its trump card - nuclear weapons, this means India, Israel and America also know it very well. Some Indian experts advocate a strategy to take out Pakistani nukes and control and command system. They believe Israeli and the American help and technical support should be available to complete the task.

Purpose of the new war will be to establish two or at least one new country in that region. One could be an independent Balochistan by taking some parts of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistani Balochistan; and the second by taking some parts of FATA, parts of Frontier province and parts of Afghanistan, which could help them to control matters there.

One clear objective of this could be to ensure that there are no direct land links between Pakistan and China and Pakistan and Iran. Furthermore India, a strategic partner of America, should have direct access to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries without going through Pakistan. Also they don't want India to have access to Iran through Pakistan, so for this purpose a road is already being built by India from Afghanistan to Iranian port of Chabahar. All this could only happen by making some geographical changes in the region.

If and when this final round starts the main war theatre will be areas adjacent to Afghanistan. India's main target will be areas of AJK and Gilgit and Baltistan. In my article, 'The coming of a new war', I wrote in November 2008 as follows: 'I urge people in power to exercise restraint, and make a new start by setting up some kind of mechanism to fight monster of terrorism. If however a military clash has to take place, I think it could take place by February and March of 2009 with disastrous consequences.'

However I hope that common sense prevails and both countries show maturity, and learn to live as good neighbours without going through the experience of another war. By Dr Shabir Choudhry (ANI)

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