Follow @southasiaanalys


Note No. 65      

The National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), which completed its one-year term after submitting the draft Strategic Defence Review (SDR) to the Government on December 18, has not yet been re-constituted and the SDR has not been released to the public so far.

More than one year after the National Security Council (NSC) mechanism was set up, it is without the services of a full-time National Security Adviser (NSA) and a full-fledged Secretariat.

The Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) of the Cabinet Secretariat, set up after the 1962 war with China, has been re-designated as the NSC Secretariat, but it is not equipped to play the vigorous role of an NSC Secretariat, which involves the co-ordination of the roles of the intelligence-producing and using agencies, monitoring their performance on behalf of the political leadership, assessment of intelligence inputs, anticipation of threats and crises, identification of political, diplomatic and operational options available, and their subsequent management.

Instead of acting as a catalyst for identifying the weak points in our NSM which called for immediate corrective action, before embarking on long-term projections, the NSAB remained excessively preoccupied with long-term projections and esoteric nuclear theology, while national security was being relentlessly undermined by Pakistan's intensified covert warfare.

Since 1981, when Pakistan started its covert warfare, successive Governments have paid no attention to the formulation of an integrated approach to the problem. Such an approach should have the following ingredients:

* Strengthened physical and infrastructure security. The ease with which the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM) terrorists hijacked the aircraft and cadres of the HUM and the Lashkar-e-Toiba have repeatedly been penetrating high security areas in Kashmir are indicators of the poor state of the physical and infrastructure security. The terrorists have not suddenly grown nine feet tall due to newly-acquired prowess. It is the inability of the state to ensure effective defensive security due to negligence and a casual attitude, which has made them assume a larger than real life dimension.

Even in the past, intelligence agencies had identified possible threats to our irrigation systems, lines of communications and energy production and supply networks from terrorist actions. In future, our nuclear and space infrastructure and computer networks could become vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

One might recall the threat issued by the Chechen terrorists to Moscow in 1995 to seize nuclear reactors and use them as a bargaining counter. Moscow took their warnings seriously and strengthened nuclear infrastructure security. We have to anticipate the possibility of such a threat emerging in India one day and strengthen ours.

* Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism: This has political, perceptual and operational aspects, all of which need simultaneous attention. The lesson from Russia's predicament in Chechnya is that over-reliance on superior force without adequate attention to the political and perceptual aspects leads to an operational quagmire.

The lesson from Jakarta's East Timor experience is that no State can ignore global perceptions of the struggle of a minority against the majority. One saw how global opinion, including, that in Australia, which had recognised East Timor as an integral part of Indonesia, changed almost overnight, making Jakarta's position untenable.

Pakistan may not have succeeded in making world opinion favourable to it, but due to our continued neglect of the political and perceptual aspects of the grievances of the religious and ethnic minorities in general and those of the Kashmiris in particular, world opinion is showing less understanding of our position. The pressure for a greater US interest in the Kashmir issue and for the appointment of a special co-ordinator on Kashmir similar to that on Tibet is gaining momentum as seen from the recent statements of some Senators who had visited India and Pakistan and the latest policy paper of Dr.Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution.

By continuing to ignore the alternate political forces which have come up in Kashmir post-1989, we are letting ourselves be caught in a political quagmire of our own creation and by continuing to keep the leaders of theses forces in jail for long periods, we are letting the Pakistani and other foreign mercenaries emerge in the eyes of sections of the people as their only protectors.

* Intelligence & Counter-intelligence: The continuing ISI activities in Indian territory and the ease with which the HUM terrorists took shelter in Mumbai from November 5 and planned and carried out their hijacking on December 24 without their presence and activities being detected for six weeks is a disturbing indicator of the poor state of our intelligence and counter-intelligence machinery. This brings to mind how the LTTE assassins of Rajiv Gandhi planned and rehearsed their attack from Chennai for over four weeks without the machinery detecting them. Our preventive security continues to be the weakest point of our NSM.

* Counter-covert warfare: Counter-covert warfare against a state sponsoring terrorism has overt and covert aspects. The overt aspect was seen in the US raids on Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel follows an overt (South Lebanon)-covert (Tunisia in the 1980s and Malta) mix. Our overt option has been limited by Pakistan's emergence as a nuclear power and the resulting danger of uncontrollable escalation.

We are thus left mainly with the covert option. Recognising this, the pre-1996 Governments had built up a limited counter-covert warfare capability which was, unfortunately, dismantled by the post-1996 governments in the pursuit of the so-called Gujral Doctrine and due to their misplaced trust in Mr.Nawaz Sharif, the former Pakistan Prime Minister.

There are two principles of covert warfare. First, there can be no outright victors in prolonged covert warfare unless it culminates in a conventional warfare (e.g.1971 war) in which the conventionally superior power wins after weakening the adversary covertly. This option is inadvisable after Pokhran-II and Chagai. Therefore, the outcome will be decided by who has the better sustaining power (politically, economically and operationally). India has the better sustaining power provided it knows how to apply the second principle, which is its willingness to counter Pakistan's covert warfare through means and at a place of our choosing, which would not be favourable to Pakistan.

A clinically objective evaluation would indicate that the effective checkmate to Pakistan lies not in Kashmir, but in the wheat and cotton fields of Pakistani Punjab and in the port city of Karachi. A study of post-1989 Pakistani behaviour would show that a destabilised Karachi and poor cotton and wheat crops in Punjab had a salutary effect on Pakistan's behaviour in Kashmir.

The years in which the Kashmir ground situation improved were also the years in which Pakistan had poor wheat and cotton crops due to floods and/or insects, thereby forcing it to import to feed its population and to keep the textile mills (50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings) working and its Karachi port suffered serious dislocation. Conversely, the years in which Pakistan misbehaved beyond measure in Kashmir and elsewhere were the years in which its cotton and wheat output improved and it had better control over Karachi.

Our counter-covert warfare strategy has, therefore to be an overt-covert mix. The overt action lies in strengthening preventive and protective capabilities, encouraging a political dialogue in Kashmir and showing greater receptivity to global concerns on the grievances of the Kashmiris.

The covert component lies in ensuring that Pakistan is not able to come out of its economic morass till it stops its covert warfare and, if possible, further aggravating it through a total ban on trade with Pakistan, the examination of the advisability of a suspension of the river waters agreement till Pakistan strictly adheres to the Shimla Agreement provisions regarding non-interference in our affairs etc.

After three years of poor cotton crop, which forced it to import from the Central Asian Republics, Pakistan is having a surplus crop in 1999-2000. Do you know who is buying 60 per cent of its surplus cotton this year? India, if Pakistani media is to be believed. This is as shocking as our helping out Mr.Sharif last year by purchasing Pakistan's sugar surplus.

What did we get in return for purchasing its sugar? Kargil. What in return for the cotton? Badamibagh, Kandahar and so on.

This shows how shockingly naïve we can be in dealing with Pakistan.

* Psychological: The psychological aspect relates to perception management--at home and abroad. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's Chief Executive, has been as adept in perception management as Zia-ul-Haq, devoid of the crude methods of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto and Mr.Sharif. Look at the way the CNN has already been functioning as Pak TV and many leading newspapers and TV channels of the world have started projecting him as a straight-forward and moderate man.

He has been projecting two faces vis-à-vis India--- reasonable and moderate to the outside world and hard-hitting to the domestic audience. Our response, which has so far been found wanting, has again to be an overt-covert mix. Overtly, we should not hesitate to respond to his repeated calls for a dialogue---but at the non-political level-- to test out his sincerity, while, covertly hitting hard at him where it would hurt him and Pakistan most till he really shows such sincerity and a desire for a mutually acceptable solution to bilateral problems.

B.Raman                                                             (24-1-00)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.