Pakistan’s military literature makes clear that its generals are seeking to provoke a crisis. India is pushing itself into their trap

Late one night in the summer of 2009, four improvised 107-millimetre rockets arced over the Pul Kanjari border outpost in Punjab, and exploded in the fields outside the village of Attari. For the first time since the war of 1971, there was an attack across the India-Pakistan border. In September that year, four more rockets were fired; then, in January 2010, there was a third assault.

Now, as Indian and Pakistani troops trade fire along the Line of Control (LoC), it is more important than ever to understand the significance of those events. The rocket attacks, believed to have been carried out by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, represented a glimpse into a grim future that India’s policy of strategic restraint has been designed to avert — a war of attrition waged by jihadists that would turn India’s western frontiers into a kind of nuclear-fuelled Lebanon.

Ever since January 2008, two months after General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani took over as chief of the Pakistan Army, clashes along the LoC have escalated. India reported 28 ceasefire violations in 2009, 44 in 2010, 60 in 2011, and 117 last year. The traditional explanation — that these clashes are linked to terrorist infiltration across the LoC — borne out by the data: during this period, Jammu and Kashmir has become significantly less violent, not more.

New doctrine

Pakistan’s military literature provides some insight into what is going on. The country’s generals, it shows, hope heightened tensions with India will help rebuild their legitimacy, extricate themselves from a domestic insurgency they are losing, and push jihadist groups now ranged against the Pakistani state to turn their energies eastwards. India, driven by a barrage of ill-conceived war polemic, is pushing itself into this trap.

Earlier this month, reports emerged that Pakistan had amended its doctrinal manual, called the Green Book, to include a chapter identifying internal insurgent forces as the country’s principal national security threat. No one, though, has quoted as much as a single line from the Green Book in question — one of several reasons to suspect it might just be a red herring. Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, in a January 4 address at the National Defence University, called on the armed forces to “redesign and redefine our military doctrine” to fight terrorism. It seems reasonable to infer that, on that date, he at least was unaware of a new doctrine.

C. Christine Fair, a Georgetown University scholar who is the preeminent authority on the Pakistan Army’s internal doctrinal literature — and the first to bring the Green Book series to light — is in little doubt that is the case. “This talk of a new doctrine is rubbish,” says Dr. Fair, “I think a lot of people who really ought know better have let themselves be talked into buying snake-oil.”

The Green Book isn’t, in fact, a doctrinal testament — or even, in fact, one book. For the last two decades, as first reported in The Hindu in 2011, the Pakistan Army’s general headquarters has published collections of essays by senior officers, with the name assigned to the series. The 2010 Green Book, on information warfare, only became available last year; the next in the biennial series only became available in 2011.

Suspicions of India

From the very first essay in the current Green Book, it becomes clear the Pakistani officer corps’ maniacal suspiciousness of India hasn’t stilled. Brigadier Umar Farooq Durrani’s “Treatise on Indian-backed Psychological Warfare Against Pakistan,” asserts that the Research and Analysis Wing “funds many Indian newspapers and even television channels, such as Zee Television, which is considered to be its media headquarters to wage psychological war.” The “creation of [the] South Asian Free Media Association a few years back,” Brigadier Farooq claims, “was a step in the same direction.” Even the eminent scholar Ayesha Siddiqa’s work, he insists, is “a classical example of psychological war against Pakistan.”

“The most subtle form” of this psychological war, the Brigadier states, “is found in movies where Muslim and Hindu friendship is screened within [sic.] the backdrop of melodrama. Indian soaps and movies are readily welcomed in most households in Pakistan. The effects desired to be achieved through this is to undermine the Two National Theory [as] being a person obsession of [Muhammad Ali] Jinnah.”

Had the Green Books not been official publications, none of this ought to have been a cause of worry. There is, after all, no shortage of delusional paranoiacs on the eastern side of the India-Pakistan border either, in and outside the armed forces.

From the Pakistan Army chief himself, though, we know ideas like those of Brigadier Durrani are considered worthy of serious consideration. In his foreword to the 2010 edition, General Kayani asserts that the essays provide “an effective forum for the leadership to reflect on, identity and define the challenges faced by the Pakistan army, and share possible ways of overcoming them.”

The eastern enemy

Language of the kind that runs through the 2010 Green Book pervades earlier editions too. In 2002, as Pakistan faced up to the looming war between its armed forces and their one-time jihadist allies, the Green Book focussed on low-intensity warfare. Brigadier Shahid Hashmat, typically, argued that the “threat of low-intensity conflicts should be considered as the most serious matter at [the] national level.” Thus, he went on, “all national agencies and resources must be directed concurrently for launching an effective and robust response against this threat.”

The blame for the crisis imposed on Pakistan by religious sectarian groups and jihadists, though, is firmly placed on India. Lieutenant-Colonel Inayatullah Nadeem Butt, using ideas near-identical to those in the current Green Book, asserted that “India has been aggressively involved in subverting the minds of youth through planned propaganda and luring them towards subversive activities.”

Even as they considered how to fight religious sectarian groups and revolutionary jihadists, the officers who contributed to the 2002 Green Book thus focussed on imposing punitive costs on India. Brigadier Muhammad Zia, for example, noted that “India is highly volatile on its internal front due to numerous vulnerabilities which, if agitated, accordingly could yield results out of proportion to the efforts put in.” In similar vein, Major Ijaz Ahmad advocated “that [the] Inter-Services Intelligence should launch low profile operations in Indian-held Kashmir and should not allow the freedom movement to die down.” “Linguistic, social, religious and communal diversities in India,” the officer continued, “should be exploited carefully and imaginatively.”

Put another way, even as they considered tactics to defeat insurgents in Pakistan, the officer corps also discussed sponsoring insurgencies in India, to tie down their arch-adversary. General Pervez Musharraf described the 2002 Green Book, as a “valuable document for posterity”; he was right.

Tough challenge

Like all forms of madness, the texts in the Green Book aren’t without method: crisis with India is, after all, a precondition for ensuring the Pakistan Army’s preeminent position in the country’s power structure. 26/11, it is surprisingly little remarked upon, almost did pay off for Pakistan’s Army. Less than a week after the attack, a senior Army commander was reported as calling the jihadist chief Baitullah Mehsud a “patriot.” The officer said the army’s war with the Taliban leaders like Mehsud was merely the result of minor “misunderstandings.”

There is plenty of evidence that jihadists in Pakistan are growing more powerful — and that organisations like the Tehreek-e-Taliban are seriously considering expanding their operations eastwards. “The practical struggle for a shari’a system that we are carrying out in Pakistan,” its deputy chief Maulana Wali-ur-Rahman said in a recently-released video, “the same way we will continue it in Kashmir, and the same way we will implement the shari’a system in India.”

It is self-evident that preventing a rapprochement between jihadists and the generals is in India’s best interest — one reason why Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh proved willing to pay the political price for a policy of strategic restraint. That the will to continue doing so is fraying in the build-up to the General Election is evident. India has, so far, punished Pakistani aggression with a variety of means, conventional and covert — but the seduction of grandiose gestures is growing. Indians must become aware, though, that a more muscular response to Pakistani aggression on the LoC, like all instant gratification, will come with a price that probably isn’t worth paying.

praveen.swami@thehindu.co.in