India: Military is Set for Modernisation

Pakistan is once again under the military jackboot. General Pervez Musharraf claims he imposed martial law through his coup within a coup to enable the Pakistan army to tighten its counter-insurgency operations. However, Musharraf’s second coup is quite obviously designed to consolidate and perpetuate  personal rule.
The General’s shenanigans cannot but be discomforting for an embattled army. The least that he is likely to be called upon to do would be to step down as COAS and hand over the post to General Kiani, the newly-appointed Vice Chief and his hand-picked successor. Since President George W. Bush has called on him to do so and American pressure on him is mounting by the day, he may not be able to hold out as COAS for very long. His continuation as President will be till a newly-elected National Assembly chooses to endorse or reject him. 
Musharraf has proved himself adept at forging political alliances and he may yet broker a deal with a pliable coalition and then ensure that it is returned to power in “guided” elections. However, if the lawyers’ protest snowballs out of control, thousands of ordinary people take to the streets and the law and order machinery breaks down completely, or if Musharraf’s continuation in power is resented by the rank and file and becomes politically embarrassing for the army, the new COAS and the Corps Commanders may be left with no option but to persuade him to step down and hand over power to a civilian President.
The people of Pakistan are waiting anxiously for the army to get its act together and extend its control over the lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in NWFP and for the police forces to girdle up for urban counter-terrorism. The Pakistan army and the ISI are adept at sponsoring and supporting insurgencies in neighbouring countries. Lacking strategic foresight, the army and the ISI failed to make a simple military assessment – indiscriminately arming and equipping religious fanatics and sundry warlords will be counter productive. 
The Pakistan army has been found wanting in executing counter-insurgency operations efficiently. Hundreds of troops have been ambushed and “taken hostage” with their weapons, many have refused to fight their own Sunni and Pushtun brothers (about 18 per cent of the army comprises Pushtuns), some have surrendered and still others have deserted. There are even reports of some soldiers having committed fratricide while on operational duty. Casualties are mounting and kill-ratios are abysmally low. 
The militants are becoming bolder and more aggressive and are shifting their focus from operating against the infidels – NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and US forces in Afghanistan – to directly fighting the Pakistan army that is seen to be in league with the Americans in the so-called global war against terror. 
With clearly discernible poor junior leadership, evidently loose command and control, inadequate training, signs of insubordination and indiscipline, increasing incidents of cowardice in the face of danger, all indicators of low morale, the Pakistan army is losing its much-vaunted status of a professional army. The deliberate Islamisation of the Pakistan army since General Zia ul Haq’s time, particularly the lower ranks, and its prolonged employment on governance-related duties have also weakened the army’s morale and the will to fight religious extremists. Under such circumstances, the spectre of nuclear weapons falling into Jihadi hands will inevitably come to the fore again and ring alarm bells in western capitals. Only a new leadership can lift the army up by the bootstraps.
Apprehensions of a take over by either an obscure General with Jihadi inclinations or, worse, by radical clerics, are already doing the rounds even thought these appear to be unfounded. While a conventional war is implausible, the worst case scenario for India would be the stepping up of militancy in Kashmir by the Pakistan army and the ISI to divert at least some of the Islamic extremists from causing chaos and instability at home. Infiltration in J&K has already gone up over the last month. Indian reactions may lead to re-activation of the LoC after almost four years of relative tranquillity. 
Kanwal is Additional Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.