By Iqbal Khan
General Rawat Bipin rose to fame after acknowledging the existence of Cold Start Doctrine. Until then, under the US pressure, India was in a denial mode, notwithstanding the corroborating military reorganization and operational trials of the doctrinal concept. And now he has jumped to madness; according to the Press Trust of India, Rawat said credible deterrence did not take away the threat of war: “Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true.” Indian Army Chief tends to forget the great equalizer, Al Nasr— Pakistan’s battlefield nuclear weapon that would promptly cause hot fizzle to Bipin’s coldly started independent battle group. Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s spiritual inspirer Adolf Hitler had practiced such tactics during World War II, rest is history.
On January 12, he said at a presser: “We will call the [nuclear] bluff of Pakistan. If we will have to really confront, and a task is given to us, we are not going to say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons”.
In a similar gaffe, Rawat has suggested to his government that countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have to be kept on board as part of a broader strategy to deal with China. Admitting the failure of Indian policies in the region, Rawat said, “The armed forces operating in the state cannot be status quoist, and must evolve new strategies and tactics to deal with the situation.” “You have to keep changing your doctrines and concept and the manner in which you operate in such areas. An overall approach is required to deal with the Kashmir issue,” he added.
The threatening and irresponsible statement by the Indian Army Chief was representative of a sinister mindset that has taken hold of BJP’s India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had elevated erratic Bipin to his current position on the basis of his so called previous experience in Kashmir. Poor guy has no job to do; but look busy he must. For this, he keeps playing jokers and keeps day-dreaming about doing some surgical strikes into Azad Kashmir and conquering some Chinese territory. However, Kashmiri youth is doing enough to keep him busy. Bipin wishes that these stone pelters should fight with rifles and guns so that he could respond. Nevertheless, Bipin’s orders for use of pallet guns to blind the youth makes a fit case against him in International Criminal Court.
It is improbable that Indian side actually wants to engage in a nuclear conflict, and Pakistan surely does not. A nuclear war is unwinnable. Even a limited exchange would devastate the two countries. Pakistan promptly contacted India through diplomatic channels to convey concerns regarding Rawat’s nuclear faux pas. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif responded that India may test Pakistan’s resolve if that is what it wishes to do: “Very irresponsible statement by Indian Army Chief, not befitting his office”. He termed the Indian army chief’s statement as “tantamount to an invitation for a nuclear war. If that is what they desire, they are welcome to test our resolve. The general’s doubt would swiftly be removed, inshallah.”
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said “Nuclear weapons are not pistols or slingshots, they are weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, people expect nuclear powers to behave responsibly.” Spokesperson of Pakistan’s Foreign Office also termed the Indian army chief’s statement as “irresponsible.” Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations responded: “Should they wish to test our resolve they may try and see it for themselves, but we believe it’s a weapon of deterrence not a choice…If India could overpower Pakistan through conventional engagement post-overt nuclearization, it could have done that by now…That’s why India is targeting Pakistan through sub-conventional threat and state-sponsored terrorism”.
With such a cohesive national response from Pakistani leadership, Rawat has no place to hide. Under duress, on January 14, he retraced form his nonsensical stance by acknowledging that space needed to be given to political initiatives as a means of achieving peace and took anchorage with textbook maxim that “Political initiative and all the other initiatives must go simultaneously hand-in-hand and only if all of us function in synergy, we can bring lasting peace in Kashmir”.
General Bipin’s statement on January 12 that his country will handle China’s growing assertiveness and that India had stepped up patrols on their disputed border to head off more standoffs is yet another manifestation of New Delhi’s aggressive and provocative posture. He added that time had come for India to shift focus from western to the northern frontier. Bipin asserted that “China is a powerful country but we are not a weak nation”. India is being provided with all sorts of equipment and technologies by the United States, thus it is not losing any opportunity of raising the ante.
Bipin’s China bluff also came to a naught. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang advised Indian military on January 15 to conscientiously learn the lesson from history. Lu Kang said that high-ranking Indian military official pointed on the military shift of emphasis to the northern border contradicted the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries during BRICS conference in Xiamen last September. He added that during the last year, “Sino-Indian relations have experienced some ups and downs…The remark made by the top Indian military officer once again showed that Indian army illegally crossed the border last year. Donglong(Doklam) belongs to China. The Sino-Indian border’s Sikkim [section] has been demarcated by the history…We urge the Indian side to do more things that are conducive to the maintenance of peace and stability.” During last year, India faced humiliation because of its uncalled-for interference in Doklam but it seems it has not learnt any lesson.
“India must evolve its policies in South Asia…I am only seeing a marginal change in the situation,” Rawat said while responding to a question about the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK). Rawat acknowledged that Kashmiri youth continues to be attracted to the struggle for freedom from India and were rapidly joining separatist groups despite efforts by occupying forces to maintain pressure on them. “I do not think it is time to become over confident and start assuming that the situation in Kashmir has been brought under control,” Rawat conceded.
He argued that India must prepare for two-front war with China and Pakistan. Referring to the 2017 standoff with the Chinese army in the Himalayas, Rawat said the situation on India’s northern border could deteriorate in the future, in which case, Pakistan on the western front could take advantage of the situation. He added that “China is exerting pressure on the Indian border. The country is capable of handling China’s assertiveness.,” Times of India reported. Rawat stated that the troops are “ready to tackle any aggressive manoeuvring China may take up”.
Peaceful environment in the region is imperative for economic progress and wellbeing of the people. And who would know better than Bipin that Pakistan’s nuclear resolve has been tested many times over since Brass-tacks days, and it always stood the test very well. Indian leadership is well aware about inherent weaknesses attached to its nuclear button. Rawat’s bellicosity is misplaced. And as regards China, Doklam fiasco shall continue to haunt a couple of Bipin’s successors. This tactical mistake has brought enduring strategic pain to India, smaller countries of South Asia as well the US stand exposed to the reality that India military is no match to Chinese strategic acumen. It appears as if Bipin had extensively bunked his military strategy related classes during staff college days.
*The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at Iqbal.firstname.lastname@example.org