By Lt Gen PR Shankar (R)
Gen Mattis got it right on the count that Pakistan views all geopolitics through its prism of its hostility towards India. However, I think he missed the mark on the count that Pakistani people do not have leaders who care about their future. The Pakistani people do not have leaders. They have an Army oligarchy which cares about its future at their expense. That is more than a tragedy. It is in this context that I have penned this through the prism of an imaginary Pakistani General. The General may be imaginary however his thinking approximates to my assessment as to how the Pakistani cabal of Generals will behave hereafter. To that extent I consider this approximation as realistic. The actuality may be more diabolic, organized and better orchestrated than what I have outlined. We must know our enemy and deal with him accordingly. In our case we have an enemy addicted to the emotion of revenge with which we will have to live with till Pakistan disintegrates.
THINKING OF A PAKISTANI GENERAL
Core Interests of Pakistani Army
The Pakistan Army has two core interests. Firstly, continue to be an Army with a nation. Secondly, wreak revenge on India. The rest is all secondary. We are not interested in Kashmir. It is a deception tool in our designs. Ideally, we would like to defeat India soundly in a war – conventional or nuclear. We know we cannot. A defeat by India hereafter could end Pakistan as a State and unseat us (Army). That is anathema to our core interests. We will not allow that. War is no option. Long back we embarked on a path to bleed India with a thousand cuts. Though this strategy has not paid full dividends, it is still the best one. Before I outline my strategy, let me outline the present conditions.
China. China – our ‘Iron Brother” has not been able to help us as we expected them to, despite giving them so many brides. Maybe because of their own economics problems, trade war, internal issues pertaining to Hong Kong, Xinjang and Tibet and a host of other factors. However, in the long run we hope they will be there to support us. The next Sino Indian Border incident like Doklam will be our opportunity to strike India. Our problem with them is that they are trying to colonize us.
USA. We will run with the jihadi hare and hunt with the US hounds. In the ultimate analysis we need the USA for many things. The veiled threat to the American homeland ensures flow of dollars and arms into Pakistan. They need us to exit Afghanistan. Once they exit Afghanistan, we will start fooling them again by assuring to protect their interests while undermining them totally. We know that USA will not help us in any eventuality with India. Off late they treat us with utmost suspicion. The Taliban deal is also iffy. If it does not go well, we will not have the traction we want.
Islamic Countries. The Islamic Ummah is a disappointment. The OIC is a toothless tiger. The Ummah has marooned us. They will not help us. They are only interested in using us as a labor force in the Gulf. We can count on Turkey. However, against India it counts very little. We must mend our fences with Iran to secure our Western border in case we have to prosecute any kind of action with India.
Afghanistan. Afghanistan offers us immense strategic space. After USA’s exit and once our Taliban Allies are in power in Afghanistan, our Western Border becomes more secure. It enables us to restart the Narcotic trade which is vital for funding the campaign against India. We will also facilitate China’s entry into Afghanistan for minerals to earn revenues. Of course, all the surplus Jihadis there will be cheap and great strategic assets for us to be pushed into Kashmir.
Summary. Our external situation is very precarious. We have no allies who will support us in our fight against India. We are isolated. We must fight our own battles all alone in the Pakistani way to decimate India.
There is no doubt that our internal situation is poor. Our economy is in shambles. ’Im the Dim’, our selected PM is ineffective. There are problems in Baluchistan and KP. Though all these issues can be handled, they tie down our forces and add to our expenditure. However, they can be handled with a firm hand. We have one ace. As a nation we hate India, and that unites us. Hence irrespective of all things, we can wage a war against India at various levels till eternity just with the hate factor. We also have strategic assets in our jihadis which will be beefed up when USA exits Afghanistan.
How to Wage the New War
Aim. Continue to be an Army with a nation.
Centre of Gravity. The Army is the Centre of Gravity. Everything in Pakistan hinges around it. It must be preserved and used to optimum effect. It should not be committed against India in a full-fledged war.
Strategic Opportunity. We were under tremendous pressure from the FATF to dismantle our strategic assets. However, abrogation of Article 370 by India has given new wind to our sails. We must lie low for a month or two. After the next review, when we will be taken of the grey list, we can restart with our business. However, we must recalibrate our strategy and start from a new direction. After all the ground situation has changed. The new way is home grown terror in Kashmir and Rest of India.
Tenets. We must fight a very low-cost diffused war in which violence is affordable and untraceable to us. Keep India boiling. Continue flagging the existential threat. Continue playing the nuclear holocaust card. Keep ourselves (Army) relevant and mandatory for survival. At any cost ensure Pakistan does not break up. We must exhibit strategic patience and grab the opportunity when it is presented.
Funding. The state of our economy does not permit a full war now or in the decades to come. However, we can fund a low-cost war. Our $38 Bn military businesses will fund it along with Narcotic Trade from our Western Borders. After all in the nineties it was the narcotic trade which kept our economy afloat. Of course, we will continue to skim the budget. The people can make do with the leftovers. Last but not the least we will squeeze USA to continue arming us. We can also start skimming India for funding. Indians will be made to pay for their own destruction like they have been made to do so for so many years in Kashmir.
Kashmir-Intifada Strategy. We must help the new Intifada to take root and prosper into a freedom movement. We must strengthen the local freedom fighters with the Afghanis. We must capture the narrative and propagate ours – occupation, alienation, hindutva, fascism, threat to Islam, genocide, human rights et al. We must capture the political space with a new leadership of believers. We must win over the middle ground. All politicians like Omar Abdullah and Mufti must be enticed into our side to widen and strengthen the base of the Intifada. The lot of oppressed Kashmiris must geometrically increase. There must be disobedience, widespread paralysis, protests, stone pelting and total non-cooperation. A new leadership must be created which is iconic, popular and aggressive. Most importantly they should be pro Azadi and not Pro Pakistani to maintain deniability. We must capture the education, infiltrate government jobs and milk the machinery. Kashmir must remain paralyzed. Tourism, local industry and economy must be choked. Settlers from outside should be slaughtered. Security forces must be provoked into human rights abuses and killings of the common Kashmiri. Media and human rights platforms must be exploited fully. Kashmir is our jugular vein and we will go to any length to protect it… this is the chant of every Pakistani. Any amount of sacrifice is not enough. Militants should be given the promised dream of 72 virgins on Shahadat. After all it is the Kashmiris who will be dying and not Pakistanis! We must also ensure Kashmiris are self-financed through hawala, bank looting, siphoning government funds, drug trade and donations. The prime source of funding will be the Indian Treasury. We will take care not to provoke India to act against us. The Indian government must look constantly inwards. Very importantly, we should be able to reinvent the movement when Kashmiris show any kind of fatigue.
Military – War Avoidance Strategy. While war hysteria will be built up, ‘war avoidance at all costs’ is our strategy. We will not and cannot confront India conventionally. In case we must get into a fight, it should be a short skirmish where we can skillfully demonstrate and claim victory as we did post Balakot. Our image as a great military nation will grow. After every fight we should emerge as the only force to which people can turn to irrespective of the outcome. Then Pakistan will continue to remain ours. The LoC should be kept silent since we suffer causalities there. Bad for morale. The nuclear card will be played constantly. We must wait for an opportunity when India and China get into a tangle. We will then exploit the situation fully. Diverting Taliban from Afghanistan into Kashmir after training and arming them will be our prime military task. Training and arming Kashmiri freedom fighters will continue. Our Jihadis must sap the morale of Indian security forces. Lot of effort will be put in to collect intelligence and evolve an alternate communication system during blackout phases. One of the most important aspects of our military strategy is to ensure a quiet Western Border so that maximum forces are available on the Indian Border. We will also start collaborating with IS and Al Qaeda through JEM and LET to enable them grow in Kashmir. Most importantly our Military should now refine the art of deniability through un-traceability.
Rest of India- Muslim Oppression Strategy. Outside Kashmir, we will start spreading unadulterated mayhem. India should feel the pain. Attacks in Mumbai, Parliament, Akshardham etc were traced back to us. We cannot have that anymore. To start with, we will study the Sri Lanka Easter Bombings model and replicate it at various parts of India on every important Hindu festival. There are enough oppressed and cultivated Muslims in India who will carry out our designs. Dawood Ibrahim and more such people will be of great value in this strategy. We can infiltrate into India at will through Nepal, Bangladesh and even Sri Lanka. We must assist IS and Al Qaeda to establish themselves in India. On a parallel track, we must exploit the oppression and discrimination of the Muslim minority by Hindu fascists. Issues like Cow Slaughter Ban, lynching of Muslims, Babri Masjid, Gujarat Massacre, ethnic cleansing and NRC are fertile grounds for us to exploit. We need to build on these. India must bleed and be made to look bad internationally. The cracks of democracy must be exploited. There are enough disaffected intellectuals who can be used to our advantage. They have already started venting their anger at the Modi Government. We must maximize these friends of Pakistan without scaring them. At the end these are patriotic Indian fools who are doing a good job for us. Let them be that way.
Internal – Protective Strategy. Internally we will execute a defensive and protective strategy to ensure that we do not lose what we have. India will fish in our troubled waters- which are aplenty. It has already started eyeing AJK, Gilgit and Baltistan. We could lose AJK in one sharp political stroke. It will overturn our invincibility and start breaking up Pakistan. What we are realizing is that the political sword is sharper than the military one. We must use every trick to ensure that this area remains calm and with us. It is key to our water security. Any loss here means danger to CPEC. We must be ruthless against the Baluch insurgents and crush them. CPEC is very vulnerable. Indians will start targeting CPEC projects which we will have to protect. We cannot let our Chinese masters become unhappy more than they are. If CPEC fails miserably, we are sunk. All our Swiss bank accounts will be endangered. Most importantly, we must protect our Nuclear Jewels. They are our insurance to remain relevant.
60 per cent of any strategic plan is based on ground or the environment. 30 per cent is based on the enemy intent and plans and only 10 per cent is based on our own intent. This was what I was once told by my instructor in Staff College. I never forgot that. The current effort to think through a Pakistani General’s mind is to assess the 30 per cent of the enemy part as well as confirm that the 60 per cent of the environmental factors are correct. It is also an effort to enable us to act in anticipation rather than react in hindsight. When we act in anticipation, based on reason, it forces the enemy to change his original ideas. In this business of war of proxies which Pakistan is indulging in, ideas take time to generate and be acted upon. Thus, we buy ourselves time and space to execute our plans to the benefit of our people. I might not be correct in my assessment, but I am not wrong either.