George Tanham, the American security analyst, stated that Indians had no strategic doctrine and formulated strategy on ad hoc basis. I regretfully accept that he was not far wrong. However, recent events show that despite all its security think tanks and vast resources, the United States has not done much better in dealing with Islamic fundamentalism. I recall that during the Second World War, there used to be a joke that the Americans are slow on the uptake. They joined the First World War three years late and the Second World War two years late. Today it seems to have taken them many years to fully realise the dimensions of jihadi terrorism and Pakistan’s duplicity.
Unfortunately, Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his great contribution during the freedom movement and in establishing Indian democracy, showed a lamentable lack of strategic vision. He handled Kashmir’s accession badly, leaving a running sore. There was no requirement to commit in 1947 that the people will finally decide after peace was restored. He compounded this in taking the Kashmir issue to the UN in January 1948. We claim that Gilgit-Baltistan is legally Indian territory. Yet we did not give even moral support to the people’s uprisings there against anti-Shia policy, colonial status and changing demography by settling people from mainland Pakistan. In an agreement signed at Delhi on August 4, 1947 by Mountbatten, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat Baluchistan was to revert to its 1876 independent status on Pakistan coming into being. In January 1948 Jinnah forced the Khan, then on a visit to Karachi, to sign the Instrument of Accession. No referendum was stipulated nor special status. The Baluchistan Assembly unanimously rejected this and Baluch insurgency has continued since January 1948. Pakistan has been carrying out artillery shelling and air strikes against the insurgents. The veteran Baluch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti, was killed in a air strike against his hideout in 2007.
In 1950 King Tribhuvan of Nepal came to Delhi and offered to merge Nepal with India. Despite Sardar Patel’s advice, Nehru refused the offer. His daughter showed sagacity in 1975 by merging Sikkim with India, otherwise Sikkim would also have become a running sore. Nehru ignored Patel’s letter of November 17, 1950 warning him about the threat posed by China’s occupation of Tibet. We lost a buffer in the Himalayas. He did not accept the US offer of India getting a permanent seat in the Security Council and urged that the People’s Republic of China be given the seat. At that time the Communist regime in China had not been recognised by most countries, including the US.
The British imposed the Durand Line, arbitrarily dividing the Pashtuns on either side of the then Indo-Afghan (now Pakistan-Afghan) border. Afghanistan refused to recognise this line. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the tallest Pashtun leader, had been closely associated with the Congress Party and Nehru. India did not show any interest in the Pashtun problem and decided to remain aloof from the internal affairs of a neighbouring country. Idealism does not have a place in real politik. Pakistan aligned with the US to obtain military hardware for use against India. Similarly, with worsening Sino-India relations from the late Fifties, it befriended China. This relationship is now said to be higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the ocean. India had to contend with a two-front defence strategy. In 1975, on an official visit to Kabul, I was told by a senior Afghan general that if India and Pakistan had worked together in 1971, their armies could have shaken hands across the Indus. We have never tried to impose a two-front strategy on Pakistan.
Samuel Huttington, an eminent political analyst, lectured on the clash of civilisations and also wrote a widely read book on the subject. There was an attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and growing Islamist violence in Asia. The US ignored all this. The CIA provided funds and weapons to Pakistan for launching jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Taliban was helped to power in Afghanistan. This barbarity included the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddha statues while the lone superpower and the UN issued meaningless verbal condemnation. Further, the US turned a blind eye to Pakistan clandestinely acquiring nuclear weapons. On 9/11, the twin towers came crashing down. The civilised world was outraged. The US launched a successful attack within a month, clearing the Taliban from Afghanistan but allowing the defeated elements to take refuge in Pakistan which clandestinely helped them reorganise and re-equip. Without fully consolidating its success in Afghanistan, the US got misled and diverted to wasteful operations in Iraq. And when it got back to pursuing operations in Afghanistan, it had a full-blown insurgency on its hands reminiscent of the war in Vietnam. The Taliban, with ISI complicity, began attacking from havens in Pakistan.
The US is dependent on Pakistan for moving supplies by road to Afghanistan across Pakistani territory. Its convoys and personnel have been frequently attacked in the Pakistan territory and have suffered casualties. On the plea of economy air supply was not used to remove dependence on Pakistan nor was any alternative land route developed with the cooperation of Russia and the Central Asian republics. During World War II, the 14th Army was put on air maintenance for several months when air transport capability was comparitively primitive.
Pakistan exploited the US dependence for surface communications. The US gave Pakistan aid amounting to $20 billion. Yet the US remained the most hated country in Pakistan and the latter had no compunction in assisting the Taliban in killing US soldiers.
The operation against Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad, where he had been sheltered by Pakistan, fully exposed Pakistan’s blatant duplicity. Yet US aid to Pakistan continued as an unavoidable imperative. Apart from dependence on Pakistan for land communication, the US is now also dependent on Pakistan for an honourable exit from Afghanistan. The recent attacks by the Haqqani group, with the complicity of the ISI, has now completely blown the lid off. Adm. Mike Mullen, the retiring Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff who had all along been fully supportive of Pakistan, has now come out strongly against it, saying that the Haqqani group is an arm of the ISI. The US and Pakistan are engaged in a war of words.
Against this backdrop, we signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan on October 4, 2011 during President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Delhi. No doubt this is a commendable achievement. However, the implications of this agreement must be carefully analysed and necessary follow-up action taken most expeditiously to ensure national security.
The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as
governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir
About the author
After retiring from the army as retired Lieutenant General, S K Sinha served as Governor of the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Assam. He had also worked as India's Ambassador to Nepal.