Kayani's game plan

Kayani's game plan

Pak armys new strategy: Of late Pakistan army has been looking for an excuse or an event that can facilitate escalation of violence along LoC.

Despite Pakistani denials, let us not be in any doubt that the recent ambushing and mutilation of two soldiers of Indian army in Mendhar Sector of Poonch in absolute foggy conditions on the morning of January 8 was a preplanned action by the 29 Baloch Regiment of the Pakistani SSG Group with an aim to escalate the violence along the 770 km long LoC in J&K and send India a message.

Of late Pakistan army has been looking for an excuse or an event that can facilitate escalation of violence along LoC. They found this in the recent visit of the Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik to India. Under intense public pressure, India during this visit had raised the issue of torture and beheading of late Capt Saurabh Kalia in May 1999 by the same regiment of Pakistan.

Rehman Malik made light of this case amounting to mockery of India’s sentiments resulting in adverse public opinion. Realising that repeat of this incident at this stage will escalate India-Pakistan tensions many fold, Pakistani army planned this operation. Army chief Gen Bikram Singh is right in his recent statement that this was a premeditated action by Pakistan army.

The big question is, Pakistan which is a bankrupt country living on US doles and beset by internal strife and terror related attacks leading to an average of 3,000 people getting killed every year as also a very volatile western border with Afghanistan, why does it want to destabilise its comparatively quiet eastern border with India? This question has perplexed many analysts but knowing Pakistan army and ISI this is exactly how the Pakistani generals operate. They are working on a well planned strategy.

Just six months back, with Americans having killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on Durand Line and US-Pakistan relations at their worst nadir, Gen Kayani was all for peace with India. He made a specific call to India to settle Siachin dispute amicably after 135 Pakistani soldiers got killed in an avalanche there last year. It was with the blessings of the Pakistani army that Indo-Pak peace process once again started chugging along.

Things however have changed since then. Obama has been reelected as American president. He has more or less publicly acknowledged that the American Afghanistan policy has failed. Now he wants to withdraw post haste from Afghanistan by 2014 without leaving behind any residual troops. Towards this end Pakistan has been restored the $ 3 billion dollar American aid.

War material

The withdrawing American troops with their heavy war equipment have to pass through the Durand line and Pakistan. They will definitely be attacked by Taliban all along with the aim that they leave behind this war material and do not ever come back to Afghanistan again. Pakistan is a party to this plan.

However the 1.4 lakh Pakistani troops stationed on Durand Line at the American behest and being paid for by the Americans are required to stop this from happening. But then if the LoC gets activated on the eastern border of Pakistan with India, giving an excuse to Pakistan to withdraw bulk of its troops from its western border of Afghanistan to Indian border in national interest blaming India, two birds will be killed with one stone.

Gen Kayani, who is already on an unprecedented 3-year extension in Pakistan army’s history is retiring in September this year. Along with him three of the top corps commanders of Pakistan army out of its 11 corps commanders are also retiring. This will create a big void in Pakistan army’s hierarchy.

Kayani cannot get another extension now because the junior crops commanders are seething with rage for being  denied promotion. However if a war like situation gets created in the Indian borders then it is a different matter and nobody will deny Kayani an extension.

Pakistan is facing the general elections in a few months from now. Pakistan army does not want the current PPP government in power to come back because twice this government tried to cut them to size. The other major player Nawaz Sharif and his party PQML (Nawaz) is suspect in the eyes of the army because it was Pakistani army which not only dethroned Nawaz Sharif in a coup but also exiled him from the country for seven years.

Pakistan army along with fundamentalist parties will like the new comer Imran Khan with his Tehriq-e-Insaf party to win. This will be a puppet regime for the army to play as they please. For this to happen Pakistan army must create a tense situation along Indian border to earn the good will of the people of Pakistan. Incidentally both PPP and Nawaz Sharif wanting peace with India is anathema to army.

It is good that the Indian government has not fallen to this Pakistani trap by over reacting to the border incident. It is also a sensible approach by the current UPA government in power that it has laid out clear policy for Indian army to settle scores with Pakistan army at the LoC by reacting to any provocation by them with a suitable offensive action in a graded professional manner while the government itself is offering carrots.

This will ensure that the Pakistan army will have to pay a heavy price on the border for any mischief and the morale of Indian army will remain high. At the same time the civilian government of Pakistan has been left with the option, should they pick courage, to confront their army.

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