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New Indian Army chief

By Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat

According to Indian Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan, a former Deputy Chief of Army Staff, “Kashmir today is a reality. A conventional war is a hypothetical scenario. From all indications there should be no conventional war. We don’t need it and Pakistan cannot afford it. Nor is there a chance of a war with China. They are developing their economy. Also, the Chinese are a patient people. They don’t want a solution to an issue overnight. They can wait for decades.”

The former Indian Army general is right all along when he admits that Kashmir is a reality from which India, or the Modi Sarkar, cannot escape. But he is wrong in saying that only Pakistan cannot afford a conventional war; the same very much holds true for India. Neither the Indian armed forces are well-equipped for any conventional war with Pakistan nor can their economy bear it. On the other hand, the nuclear question is unthinkable.

Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan believes that the new Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat was selected as he had commanded a brigade and a division in the Kashmir Valley and has served in Arunachal Pradesh on the Chinese border. He says: “The other two (superseded) officers – Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Lt Gen PM Hariz belong to the mechanised forces. Their experience would be greater in the plains of Punjab and Rajasthan. They may not have commanded troops in Jammu and Kashmir. That might be the difference.”

However, General Kadyan has been effectively countered by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh, another retired deputy chief of army staff who has commanded a corps in Jammu and Kashmir. Harwant Singh declares: “For Lt-Gen Bipin Rawat’s elevation the justification offered by the ministry of defence is his experience in counter-insurgency operations and his long tenure along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Many defence experts too are giving the same argument as the ministry: That terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and counter-insurgency or what is also known as asymmetrical war is of greater relevance to the country than a full-scale conflict with an adversary.”

He adds: “We seem to forget that the main task for the Indian Army, with its large troops and the essential arsenal, is to secure the country’s borders and fight a full blooded war against an enemy, when pushed into such a situation. Counter insurgency in the Northeast and terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, at the scale faced by the country should be handled by state and central police forces. Unfortunately, as of now, these do not measure up to the task, both in training and junior leadership. Therefore, the army has to chip in.”

A damning admission about the competence of Indian law enforcement agencies!

But Harwant Singh categorically adds: “So the argument that the one now promoted has more experience in an area, which decidedly is of relatively less importance, compared to the larger tasks set out for the Indian Army, cuts little ice. It is the overall national security scene, the deteriorating relations with Pakistan, its close links with China and more recently Russia, which should beep on the Indian security radar. The geostrategic scenario, the ever-tightening String of Pearls around country’s neck, should be an area of greater concern than insurgency. Only the short-sighted can fail to see the emerging threats to national security at the strategic level.”

While this is an unflattering indictment of one track policy of Modi Sarkar on held Kashmir that continues to boil, there is little chance that the incoming Indian Army chief will be able to make any difference in the valley. The only way out for India is an honest referendum to resolve the issue once and for all.

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