by Palepu Ravi Shankar (Retd)
PURANA PAKISTAN HANGS PRIME MINISTER
NAYA PAKISTAN PROTECTS TERRORISTS
JAILS PRIME MINISTER!
The high-profile aerial exchanges between us and the Deep State are over. Some de-escalation has taken place. The nuclear risk has been pushed back for now. But …it is far from over. There is a lull in this battle. Lot of opinions have been expressed – some good, some bad. However, the pieces on the board have moved forward. The long hard haul of breaking the Deep State has begun. It is not going to be easy. There can be no let up. Where are we going from here? It depends on us. The ball is in our court. So, what does the court look like?
Economic Ground View- Insight of a Gulf NRI. I got a significant insight from a Gulf based NRI. India is the third largest importer of LNG from Qatar and paying hard currency for it. (https://arabiangazette.com/india-qatar-lng-import/). It is the fifth largest trading partner of UAE. It is one of the largest Saudi oil importers. Imports Kuwaiti oil as well. In a tectonic shift, USA has become a net oil exporter. Hence export markets for oil producing countries have shrunk. Gulf Countries badly need USD to sustain their subsidies and agendas (e.g. Saudi bankrolling conflicts, buying loyalties etc in Yemen, Egypt and a bankrupt Bahrain). Saudi Arabia is now seeking inbound investments! Saudi jewel ARAMCO is teetering – put on the block once and withdrawn. Once Iran and Iraq pump oil normally in future, the markets are likely to collapse again. Pakistan is a begging bowl economy. Job market in Gulf is in shambles with increasing localization of labor. Labor exporters like Pakistan will be hit. USA tap is closed. China is not giving cash (never gives cash) but puts money on infra and awards contracts to Chinese companies only. Soon Pakistan will run out of cash, unless IMF steps in. Loans from GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) are short term fixes. Won’t last for more than nine months at best. India is too important a market for oil and gas exporting countries. India’s economic clout must be leveraged ruthlessly.
Status of Masood Azhar. The status of Masood Azhar is unclear. Dead? Unwell? Renal failure or Bomb Injury? State Guest or Prisoner of Deep State? Paki ministers coming out with different statements. Whatever his status, he is under the protection of the Deep State. Also, his organization is intact and vocal through high decibel virulent audios. What about his twin? Hafiz Sayid? Definitely not getting his militant finery ready for Imran Khan’s Nobel Prize ceremony! They would be redoing their plot. Let us not let our guard down.
Air and Marine Traffic. Air and maritime traffic are limping back to some kind of normalcy. However, most flights are still flying along the Quetta – Islamabad line well in depth. A point to consider. No one wants to get into Pakistan in a hurry. The country is isolated.
Cold Start- Cold Sweat. It is obvious that Pakistan is very worried about India exercising the Cold Start option. In their opinion the most dangerous place for the Cold Start to manifest is in the Fort Abbas area. In their estimates it will split up Pakistan for good. It is a ‘Na Rahega Baans Na Bajegi Bansuri’ scenario. An aircraft dropping an empty fuel tank over the Cholistan desert spooks villagers. Their aircraft are doing combat patrols, they are sending UAVs across etc. They are on the edge and in cold sweat. Keep it that way.
Sea Action. Geo TV has reported that Pak Navy has shooed off an IN sub off its territorial waters. Of course, the whole issue will be contended as to who did what. But what is confirmed that IN is lurking at the doorstep of Naya Pakistan. Every day the screw is tightening.
Baluchistan. Trouble is brewing for Pakistan in Baluchistan. Coming together of three groups under one umbrella to combat Pakistani Army and create trouble along CPEC is bad news for Naya Pakistan. Help it along.
Seizing Assets of Terror Orgs. Pakistan has promulgated laws which yield to UN to sanctions against named terror icons. They have taken some steps by arresting a handful. Pakistan is fully capable of keeping the rear door open for terrorists to escape. This is an old Houdini story. Don’t Trust. Verify. Prepare data for the next FATF review. (https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/pakistan-govt-issues-order-to-seize-assets-of-all-banned-outfits-under-un-sanctions-regime-3608191.html).
Overall Asessment. The country seems to be in a panic mode. The tone of ‘Dawn’ which I considered balanced is revealing. On 05 Mar, the main articles read as … India Plotted Dangerous Attack with Israel Help. Death Wish as Nationalism (https://www.dawn.com/news/1467716/death-wish-as-nationalism), War Drums : The Challenge is to Stop Collective Economic Suicide in South Asia, Surgical Reich (https://www.dawn.com/news/1467553/surgical-reich). My first impression – delusional rationalization. Saw it again – not a single word against the role of the Government, Armed Forces or Terrorists. Even sane voices are backing the grotesque system they created. The nation is panicked but coalescing. Predictably, they have turned back to the Deep State to save them from danger in which they have been put by the Deep State. It won’t be an easy one. Chip away. The nut will crack.
International Community. The International community is wiser and playing it cool. It will not bail out Pakistan. USA cannot but go into details of end user certification of F16 misuse as per their law. They will not let Pakistan go. The ramifications are going to be stiff. China has too much at stake in CPEC. If Pakistan spins out of control, it is 19 bn USDs down the drain and collapse of BRI for China. That is something it cannot afford. In this entire episode, I see Pakistani tail being twisted.
Chinese Defence Budget Hike. Chinese hike in defence budget by 7.5% is good news in the current scenario. Our political and bureaucratic hierarchy will wake up and spend some more on our defense budget. If this situation has not brought things home, then nothing will. This forced hike in def budget and spending will build capacities in India. In turn it will turn the screws tighter on Pakistan. Overall this is a least cost high value strategy. (https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/world-china-hikes-defence-budget-by-7-5-percent-to-usd-177-61-billion-507457)
Iran. Predictably, Iran has jumped into the fray and commenced flexing muscles. Even if Iran does something minimalist, the Deep state will be spooked. If it does something more; then the Deep state is in trouble. ( http://www.catchnews.com/world-news/after-india-strikes-jaish-iran-threatens-to-take-action-against-pakistan-based-terrorist-groups-151654.html)
Bounty on Osama’s Son. Osama Bin Laden’s son has just issued a threat to avenge his father and USA has put a million Dollar bounty on his head. These jehadis in Pakistan have sown misery and propagated violence in Kashmir and elsewhere. They have made Pakistan into a beggared nation. There should be a bounty on these terrorists too. Pakistanis will deliver their head for us. I have no doubt. I have advocated this earlier. (https://www.newsheads.in/world/news/the-us-announces-1-million-bounty-on-osama-son-after-threat-to-avenge-father-death-article-56868)
Operations Ongoing. Many would be wondering what is next operationally. As the Air Chief has said – operations are ongoing. (https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/ongoing-operations-air-chief-marshal-bs-dhanoa-curious-comment-on-india-pakistan-tension-2002382). Nothing is off the table. There might be a lull. Just wait for the next piece of action. Even our PM has indicated that. Options are many. Not correct for me to second guess the Armed Forces now.
Ammunition Availability and Vintage. There is speculation that our ammunition stamina is 10 days only. CAG has been quoted. The CAG is an accountant. With due respect to him, let him continue counting. Do you think Gen Bipin Rawat would have stood up to China in Doklam with just ten days ammunition in his pocket? The crux is Artillery ammunition, of which we have enough. In any case, if our disbelieving Media hyperventilates, ten days ammunition for all guns in the Indian Army is, in my opinion, twice the bill, plus tips for dealing with Pakistan. Talking of vintage, does it matter if the 155 shell comes from a thirty-year-old Bofors or a new Dhanush? It is still lethal. Going ahead, things will only improve. To quote myself – In future, Artillery will be the mainstay of India’s combat capabilities, which will deter its adversaries. It will be one of the most fearsome Artilleries of the world (https://www.dailyo.in/politics/indian-artillery-defence-procurement-howitzer-guns/story/1/17370.html). No panic at all. Pakistan should be panicking!
Mentioned in Dispatches. There are some of our stalwarts who cannot stop criticizing the Government or our actions. These stalwarts and their uttering are quoted by Pakistani media and Government to portray India and its intentions in poor light. Those who are mentioned in dispatches by the Pakistani media are Sudhindra Kulkarni, Rajdeep Sardesai, Navjyot Sidhu, Barka Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh, Mehbooba Mufti amongst others. These good people need to introspect. Free speech doesn’t mean freedom to criticize India with advantage to Pakistan.
Overall Asessment. India seems to be playing its cards well. After having enlarged the envelop of conflict, we are applying our options in a wider range. J & K is also relatively quiet barring the routine encounters which take place. India must keep course. The major distraction will be the elections. Election rhetoric could adversely impinge upon operational decisions. That must be avoided. Also, politicization of actions is highly avoidable. st be avoided. Also, politicization of actions is highly avoidable.