On road to peace through conflict
Himmat Singh Gill

Four Crises And A Peace Process
By P.R.Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, Stephen P.Cohen Harper Collins. Pages 252. Rs 495

Four Crises And A Peace ProcessPakistan’s Iqbal Cheema and P.R Chari, members of two thinktanks on both sides of the border, and Stephen Cohen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, have got together to write about four crises, which in their reckoning enveloped the sub-continent post-1971, and have thereafter traced the various peace processes that ultimately were able to de-escalate these explosive situations and in one case an armed conflict.

They have named the four crises as Ex-Brasstacks 1986-87, Compound crisis of 1990, Border crisis of 2001-02 and of course the 1999 Kargil conflict. Though there is considerable know-how around with the veterans of that era, including this reviewer, that the first two named were more of ego trips by those in power at the time (including some Men in Olive) and that the third crisis or Operation Parakram was more of a political diktat to the Army to move to the border after the attack on Parliament. The step had been taken without any well thought-out plan for waging a war, and was therefore, in military terms, a waste of time, energy, resources, degradation of equipment and a loss of morale for the troops due to a prolonged stalemate on the border without any real-time aim or objective.

Seen in objective terms, Brasstacks turned out to be a large exercise with troops but with little ammunition , poised directionally close to the desert border with Pakistan. This operation saw the other side responding soberly in kind but without generating any kind of a flap.

General Sundarji was known for doing these sort of things and also for aggravating matters thoughtlessly. And with Arjan Singh, the de facto Defence Minister at the time, grandiose events were the order of the day.

About the short-lived Compound crisis when the daughter of India’s Home Minister had been kidnapped and there was some amount of turmoil in the valley, there never was a situation when, "trading accusations and threats, India and Pakistan spent Feburary, March and April of 1990 seemingly preparing for a war", as opined by the authors.

Besides the normal alerts being sounded, no "significant forces" were moved to the international border, at least not by India.

Kargil has been covered extensively and interestingly. The authors state that India’s NSAB had recommended to the Cabinet Committee on Security, through Brajesh Mishra, that the military be allowed to "cross the border/LOC". The fact that such a crossing was not resorted to because of the sagacity of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the fringe view of a few select defence analysts, is of course another matter. An escalation in conventional and possibly nuclear terms at the time would have proved catastrophic besides making India lose all diplomatic advantage that it had gained by its restraint.

In these times no country can go about crossing borders, especially when the adversary also possesses a nuclear capability, no matter how primitive the delivery system is. In General Musharraf’s words the Kargil operation was "conducted flawlessly, a tactical marvel of military professionalism", and it is time that we in India at least in the informed community accept this fact and the bitter truth that is often sought to be pushed under the carpet by our topmost military commanders.

To give the authors their due it must be accepted that their examination of the nuclear equation and the deterrence necessary to deter escalation, has been carried out in a very professional manner. They go on to opine very tellingly that, "India’s introduction of such doctrines as limited war and cold start seem to contradict its implicit policy of massive retaliation, in that they invite Pakistan to use nuclear weapons first if conventional defence fails. This problem will be exacerbated in years to come, as India builds up its conventional capabilities and Pakistan improves its nuclear ones."

They go on very rightly to recommend that as in the case of the Indo-Pak CBMs, where either side will not attack the other’s nuclear installations, there is a need for a similar dispensation with China.

Do four of the events examined in the book throw any light on the risky expansionist designs of some politicians, who make it an art to cultivate the top brass in the armed forces (and where the top brass joins in happily), is a subject worthy of a further debate and analysis.

In such a case the post of a sole Chief of the Defence Staff wielding immense authority may not necessarily be a blessing as many have felt that it would be and the thinktank community as the one pioneering this book and others would do well to seek out answers to exactly such contingencies as and when they arise.

Conflict resolution in the years ahead will depend largely on the state of the politician-General rapport in the case of India, and how successfully Pakistan’s nestling democracy and civil rule manages to rein in the military.