How to Make Proxy War Succeed in Baluchistan
Issue Net Edition | Date : 22 Mar , 2013
Pakistan is playing towards an endgame; in contrast, India reacts in knee-jerk fashion, rather than catching Pakistani action before the effect…For years, Pakistan has succeeded in suborning Indian military and government officers and politicians, while India has fallen flat in all such attempts. And even today, Pakistan finds sympathizers among a very large Indian population that would rather see Muslim and Pakistani rule in India rather than secular Indian rule. Given this internal shortcoming, India has enemies not only on its borders, but within, as well. This makes India’s task of maintaining its sovereignty all the more difficult. But fortunately for India, India’s massive population serves as a buffer to a lot of that action, thereby serving to mitigate and absorb the forces that would otherwise disintegrate India. But for India to bank on this strength alone would be unwise, for this bastion can easily break, just as it was broken for the past one thousand years before independence in 1947.
Pakistani has truly bled India by its proxy wars. Revenue income from J&K and the North East are much lower than potential. Narcotic distribution by Pakistan in Punjab has resulted in lackluster growth in Punjab’s GDP – for decades the most prosperous state in India. The Maoists have sucked revenue growth in nearly 40% of India’s land mass. That India should grow in real terms at 6% per year is simply amazing given these odds. What India could do if these hurdles and negative forces were absent would probably be nothing short of a miracle. It therefore seems appropriate to conclude that Pakistan is coming in the direct way of India’s miracle. Naturally, no rational Indian wants to see Pakistan continue to do so. Hence, the common Indian further concludes that Pakistan must either be stopped in its destructive actions against India by peaceful action, or be annihilated by force to cease and desist.
The former sees no chance of success: all the diplomacy over decades by the 800-strong Indian Foreign service has yielded nothing more than failures, four wars, and numerous smaller military actions, and daily incursions by Pakistan into India. This is not what can be called successful Indian diplomacy, no matter how smart the diplomats or what scores they earned in their IAS entrance exams. The real world of diplomacy consists of grenades and bullets, not roses and choice gardens. The real world offers injured and dead soldiers and widows, not posh bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi. The real world sees blood, sweat, heat, cold, and tears in guarding the borders, not air conditioned rooms of rich parliamentarians in central and south Delhi. It is time to come with the wave, to understand mainstream India, to think like the Indians who earn less than $2 a day – mainstream India – which doesn’t get three square meals a day, and is pained to access medical assistance, and dies prematurely largely because there is an enemy that sucks India’s resources and kills its people from within. For Pakistan, it is a very intelligent way to succeed against a larger India; for India, it is the lamb being led to the slaughterhouse. And because mainstream India continues to carry an ever-increasing yoke, they are slowly turning against the governments that are supposed to look after them. Long gone is the time when the poor looked upon the government as mai-baap. The increased alienation of mainstream India from Indian government is a direct threat to India’s security and sovereignty. Aadhar and other such programs are scarcely going to lift the sense of alienation, no matter which government or coalition is at the center.
…a proxy war by Pakistan in two Indian provinces merely affects less than 10% of all Indian provinces, a proxy war by India in two Pakistani provinces can affect 40% of Pakistan.Thus, in this thesis, the actions that detract from Indian economic growth must be neutralized, and foremost among these is Pakistani proxy wars and interference in India. So, short of an invasion of Pakistan, an Indian proxy war inside Pakistan must be expanded. Whereas a proxy war by Pakistan in two Indian provinces merely affects less than 10% of all Indian provinces, a proxy war by India in two Pakistani provinces can affect 40% of Pakistan. By its sheer size, Pakistani resilience can be less, and Pakistani response to Indian proxy wars can be less effective. In addition, the effect of proxy wars on the Pakistani economy can be much more to Pakistan than a proxy war on India by Pakistan. Nevertheless, Pakistan did not learn the lesson that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Pakistan never thought that two could play the game; or else, they thought they could disintegrate India before India woke up. Well, that was not the case. India plans to take proxy wars into Pakistani territory, and pay Pakistan back in its own coin. But let’s analyze how a proxy war may succeed within Pakistan.
Requisite Principles of Proxy Wars
As experience around the world has shown, a successful proxy war that is able to disaffiliate a part of a territory or initiate regime change in a country must consider four major parameters:
- The numerical size of the rebel army
- The volume of external aid and military assistance actually provided to the rebels
- The resolve and ability of the home army to resist the armed rebellion
- The physical presence of external military action by a foreign country.
In 1971, the Mukti Bahini had rebels in large numbers, and received a large volume of Indian military supplies, advisors, and Bengali soldiers from the Indian army, thus fulfilling requisites 1 and 2 above. However, Pakistan had about one corps plus two divisions spread over all parts of Bangladesh to suppress all uprisings in all parts of East Pakistan, thereby demonstrating Pakistani resolve to hold on to East Pakistan, thereby fulfilling requisite 3 above. But then, as anyone can understand, without Indian military action that invaded East Pakistan, no one thinks that Bangladesh would have been created. Hence, Mukti Bahini resistance would have been resisted by Pakistani forces till doomsday, even if it meant that the economy would go to ruin and all East Pakistanis would die. Therefore, the liberation of Bangladesh would have been impossible without direct Indian military intervention.
…the effect of proxy wars on the Pakistani economy can be much more to Pakistan than a proxy war on India by Pakistan.Look now at how the Americans fought off the Russians in Afghanistan. The Americans benefitted from a very large numerical rebel force in the shape of the mujahedeen, supplied effective firepower to them, such as the stinger missiles that succeeded in bringing down the vast majority of the Russian helicopter and air fighting fleet, and supplied military and CIA advisors on the ground. These fulfilled requisites 1 and 2 above. Russian resolve began to weaken after American weaponry began to take a toll on their military, thereby assuring that requisite 3 did not continue as a major criterion in the rebel action. Finally, Pakistani forces were lined up along the entire Durand line to offer physical support to the mujahidin, impart physical training and logistics in executing rebel action, and stood as a solid front to dissuade a Russian invasion of Pakistan, while standing as a threat of possibly intervening in Afghanistan should the situation call for it with American blessings. This requisite 4 was present in this long drawn battle that eventually saw success by the rebels.
Later, in Kosovo, NATO bombing was so devastating and overwhelming that internal resolve to resist was wiped out. But, even with a small numerical size of the rebel army, the out-of-proportion external military intervention via aerial bombing carried the day, and Kosovo was set on the path of independence.
Look next at Libya: a large rebel base, especially in East Libya, was granted weapons by NATO while CIA advisors guided strategy and tactics on the ground. American army teams provided clandestine field medical facilities. The Libyan army had already been reduced to ineffectiveness by Gaddafi because he feared they may launch a coup against him just as he did against King Idris, so the ability of the Libyan army to resist was reduced. Gaddafi had to procure mercenaries from neighboring Male who had mixed loyalties and so took Gaddafi’s money till the going was good, but then abandoned him when the going got tough. Finally, NATO warplanes such as the Eurofighter and Rafale delivered the coup d’etat to Libyan forces for over weeks of prolonged fighting. Again, we see that all four requisites in our criteria were present to favorable degrees for the regime change to succeed through a proxy war.
Now look at Syria: Whereas the Free Syrian Army has a large numerical size, the arms it receives are limited as America refuses to arm them, while Europe is a reluctant supplier. The resolve of Bashar Assad to resist knows no end; and external intervention is all but missing, with only one or two Israeli air raids into Syria, but that also only to target fissile nuclear material and movement of trucks and machinery required for Syria’s clandestine nuclear program. Hence, it can be observed that Syria’s civil war is dragging on slowly and painfully at a rotten pace. The external ingredient is convincingly missing in the right proportion for the rebel action to succeed convincingly. Thus, the lesser the external supply and physical action on the ground, the longer the rebel action can be expected to take; if external assistance is stepped up, the Assad regime is likely to crumble faster.
India has sent in up to 500,000 troops at one time to control Kashmir. Moreover, any military action that Pakistan initiates across the Line of Control (LOC) is not sufficient to overpower Indian forces.The applications of the requisites are applicable and relevant everywhere. The Chechen and Sinkiang rebellions have been unsuccessful because there is no external physical action present. The only armaments they get are from other Islamic groups in Asia, which is of an insufficient and meager amount. Sinkiang rebels have been trained second hand by mujahidin in Afghanistan and madrasas in Pakistan, a poor substitute for the real training. Similarly, the Mindanao rebels have failed to severe from the Philippines because internal resolve to resist them is high and external actions to intervene are absent. Gaddafi funded the Mindanao rebels for a long time in the 1990s and 2000s, and their rebel attacks were aggressive during those days, but the situation is apparently contained now because the necessary requisites have further diminished.
In 1979, we saw that the Cambodian populace, unable to overthrow a blood-sucking Pol-Pot, required an actual Vietnamese invasion to overthrow the brutal regime, since no amount of earlier Vietnamese weapon assistance to the rebel armies seemed to suffice. Overall, it can be noticed all over the world that the principle of the four requisites is applicable and relevant in every proxy war that anyone seeks to fight.
The Principle of Requisites Applied to Pakistan’s Proxy Wars in India
Coming now to India, it is seen that Nagaland is still a part of India inspite of the fact that the numerical size of rebels was tangible; they received small arms from outside sources (read: China and Pakistan). But they underestimated the resolve of successive Indian governments, and there was no external enemy action against Nagaland. Hence requisite 1 existed; requisite 2 was present to a considerable extent, but not to the fullest extent; and requisites 3 and 4 were absent; the result: proxy wars waged by Pakistan and China in Nagaland have been unsuccessful in severing Nagaland from the Indian union.
…the uprisings, revolts, and rebellions continue in Baluchistan today. MI6 and CIA are interested in carving the country of Baluchistan, in which they find themselves as strange bedfellows with Iran, with the same end interest, but for a different reason.Extend this principle to J&K. Pakistan has tried repeatedly since 1947 to severe J&K from India. Pakistan has provided small arms, sent its own military personnel to infiltrate Kashmir to create turmoil, has grown a rebel mujahidin army with the help of other terrorist outfits, and has succeeded in destroying the economic base of Kashmir, but has failed to severe Kashmir from India. India’s resolve to hang on to J&K is steadfast, resolute, and non-negotiable. In addition, India has sent in up to 500,000 troops at one time to control Kashmir. Moreover, any military action that Pakistan initiates across the Line of Control (LOC) is not sufficient to overpower Indian forces. Hence, whereas requisites 1 and 2 are present in Kashmir, requisites 3 and 4 are not present in adequate proportions.
The situation with the Maoists has not reached extreme proportions yet. Perhaps when India has to fight on two-and-a-half fronts, this dimension may pose a problem, but for the present, the Maoist situation, by itself, is missing requisites 3 and 4; requisite 1 is very, very strongly in its favor, and requisite 2 is also existent because the Maoists are known to receive small arms with Chinese markings, unless the allegation is propaganda by Indian counter-intelligence. Hence, the Maoists can fret and fume from event after event, but they will be unable to secure major advantages till requisites 3 and 4 fall into place, which is why the Maoist problem is still somewhat contained.
Proxy Wars in Pakistan: Baluch Focus
Now, move to Baluchistan, which is the main site of India’s proclaimed proxy war in Pakistan. The British and Americans also have strong interest in creating an independent Baluchistan, not to mention Iran’s interest because Baluchistan is predominantly Shia, like Iran. British Prime Minister Tony Blair apparently put the idea into America’s ear that having an independent Baluchistan would solve America’s overland route problem into Afghanistan. The British SIS (or MI6) consequently initiated clandestine action with the CIA post 10/11 to foment rebellion in Baluchistan, once American troops displaced the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. Hence requisite 2 went into action. The numerical size of the rebels was relatively small when the Western powers started, but that got built to some 4-6,000 rebels, about the size of two brigades, and enough to cause turmoil, blow up army depots, harass military convoys, and launch surprise attacks at military bases. Seeing an upswing in Baluch rebellion in 2004, Musharraf sent in one division and two brigades to quash the rebellion. Soon, the octogenarian leader of Baluchistan, Nawab Akbar Bugti, Oxford-educated, and a former Governor of Baluchistan, was assassinated by Musharraf in 2006, who claimed it a victory for the Pakistani people1. In 2007, the Pakistani army resorted to indiscriminate civilian attacks in the regions of Kahan and Dera Bugti; over 200 houses were razed, and more than 100 civilians, women and children killed. In addition, Pakistani forces poured into more than a dozen cities to suppress pro-independence protests; the army further used helicopter gunships and carpet bombed entire villages in Kahan, Taratani and Kamalan Kech areas. Dozens of Baluch were shot dead in cold blood by executing squads, 400 were arrested, another 500 were kidnapped. The human rights violations were appalling.2
Indian covert action in Baluchistan is fair tit-for-tat for Pakistani proxy wars in India. India should not be left wanting in its own security concerns.In 2012, nearly 1,000 people were officially known killed in Baluchistan,3 in a province of only 8 million people, even though it occupies 44% of the land area of Pakistan. The daughter and grand-daughter of Bugti were slaughtered in their car in the streets of Karachi, to send a gruesome message to Bugti’s grandson, Brahmadagh, the leader of the Baluch Republican Party.4 It appears that the rebellion is weighted in the opposite direction to what intended: rebel groups and sympathizers are being slaughtered by home security forces rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, after Musharraf’s departure to England, an FIR was issued against him for the murder of Akbar Bugti. Musharraf will still have to face the music after he returns on March 24, 2013 to Pakistan.
Thus, the uprisings, revolts, and rebellions continue in Baluchistan today. MI6 and CIA are interested in carving the country of Baluchistan, in which they find themselves as strange bedfellows with Iran, with the same end interest, but for a different reason.
For Iran, it’s a question of creating a larger Shia conglomerate; for the Americans and British it is to have an overland route to Afghanistan, as well as have a physical base from where to monitor Pakistani nuclear movements; for India, it is simply a matter to break-up and weaken an arch enemy.
India is assumed to provide assistance to the Baluch, an action that India need not be ashamed of, though Pakistan tried to shame India in this matter in the famous 2009 joint statement between Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh.5 Creating a proxy war in Baluchistan to severe it from Pakistan is in the direct interest of India. First, the mineral-rich province will then no longer provide resources and riches to Pakistan, an event that will directly deplete Pakistani military expenditure. While Baluchistan is easily Pakistan’s richest province, its people are its poorest, mainly because Pakistan has exploited Baluchistan like a colony. The human rights excesses by Pakistan in Baluchistan are enough of a moral reason to assist and aid the Baluch in segregating from Pakistan. But more than that, Pakistan has been enough of an enemy of India to attract India’s legitimate and moral wrath. Finally, Indian covert action in Baluchistan is fair tit-for-tat for Pakistani proxy wars in India. India should not be left wanting in its own security concerns. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is fair policy. But India needs to brook no nonsense, and like every other country in its place, has the moral right to react disproportionately: Two eyes for one; and the whole jaw for a tooth!
Brief History of Baluchistan
Baluchistan consists of a western province in Iran, a northern province in Afghanistan, and a central province in Pakistan. They speak a dialect distantly related to the Kurdish people. Ironically, the Baluch are deprived of a nation just like the Kurds, who are also divided across three countries. In the 19th century, the Persians and British agreed to divide Baluchistan into a Persian sector, an Afghan province, and an independent central state that served as a vassal state to Great Britain,6 much like Kashmir. These vassal states protected Great Britain from invasions from the West and North, especially considering that they entered into a separate agreement with Russia to keep Afghanistan as a virtual no-man’s land. Thus, Britain’s borders to the north and west against the major empires of the time – Russia, Persia, and a potential China were secure. Tibet was an added buffer against both Russian and Chinese invasions, remembering that Chengiz Khan had come into North India through Tibet and Afghanistan, while Russia had expanded southwards into Central Asia during the major part of the early 19th century.
At Indian independence in 1947, Baluchistan, like Kashmir, was kept out of the India-Pakistan equation, and both Kashmir and Baluchistan were left as independent, sovereign states by Britain, with Britain actually recognizing Baluchistan as a sovereign state. But, on March 26, 1948, 300 years of Baluch autonomy came to a striking end when the Pakistani army walked in, much like India walked into Hyderabad. That India recognized Pakistani occupation of Baluchistan was probably in reciprocity to Pakistani recognition of India’s occupation of Hyderabad.
The total rebel strength is still not estimated at more than 5,000 armed fighters – perhaps as low as 2,000. This number is much too small to sustain an effective armed uprising.Arab nationalists in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt began to support Baluch independence in the 1950s. Iraq renewed its support of Iranian Baloch during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. Very logically, Russia supported Pakistani Baluch during their occupation of Afghanistan, 1979-1989. Ahmad Akbar Bugti rose to prominence in the 1990s, galvanized Baluch resistance, but was squarely eliminated by Musharraf in the 2000s. Harsh repressions against Baluch nationals, presumed rebels, and sympathizers continues today by Pakistani security forces, thereby further alienating the sentiments of the Baluch people. But the Baluch people simply are a small population and suffer from inadequate external assistance to carve their independence. This, in a nutshell, is the Baluch history. In all this, it must not be forgotten that the Baluch are an independent group of people who have had their own country in the past; they are a sovereign people who want to see an end to Punjabi exploitation from Islamabad, and now rightfully seek their own free nation.
Implementation of the Baluch Proxy War
So, inasmuch as India needs to foment Baluch rebellion, let’s apply the four principle requisites to the problem. First, there are an insufficient number of Baluch rebels available who will fight for independence. The total rebel strength is still not estimated at more than 5,000 armed fighters – perhaps as low as 2,000. This number is much too small to sustain an effective armed uprising. In contrast, the Free Syrian Army has a maximum of 50,000 fighters,7 including deserters from the Syrian Army, but is still in a tough face-off with the Syrian Army, which is much smaller and less professional than the Pakistani army.
In comparison, the Pakistani army is 450,000 strong, and so Pakistan can very easily suppress any armed rebellion by 2,000 Baluch rebels. That the people of Baluchistan may suffer in the process or that the province may become poorer is not of concern to Pakistani Punjabis. All that the Pakistani Punjabis want are the minerals and resources of Baluchistan, the rest being damned. Hence, an armed rebellion in Baluchistan may not be more than a bee sting for Pakistan that Pakistan can easily shrug and forget.
Pakistani resolve to retain Baluchistan is firm. Pakistan’s ISI and military is pro-active in weeding possible Baluch rebels, often kidnapping innocent men and women in the process.Thus we see that requisite 1 is difficult to fulfill, notwithstanding British, American, Iranian, and Indian wishes in the matter. Requisite 2 is hard to come by, because effective weaponry is not being given yet, in spite of what people may believe. The Western powers are forever wary that their assistance may fall into the wrong hands. India’s hardware assistance is miniscule. Russian assistance stopped in 1989, even though the Russians first raised the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA). But, with RAW and RAD (Russian Intelligence) help, America trained some 30 Baluch fighters in 2002 that RAW helped select.8 But anyone can understand that 30 fighters is a pitiable joke for a huge province! Other reports claim that numerous training camps have come up across Pakistan,9 but how many fighters do they produce? Thirty per camp in ten camps? This is still an extremely small number to stir a rebellion. The numbers of camps that have been discovered and destroyed by Pakistani forces are also significant, so India’s results are certainly not 100%, but closer to 50%, in all likelihood. Thus, the proxy war situation is even more pathetic than expected. The deaths and assaults reported for Baluchistan are of Baluch by Taliban and Pakistani security forces rather than the other way around. Baluch rebel assaults on Pakistani military forces are all but non-existent. If the rebellion were meaningful and strong, more Pakistani military casualties would be registered. Foreign weapon assistance, including from India, is minimal.10 The assistance from America and Britain has slid to lip-service and hearings at the US Congress. The action on the ground is far from meaningful. The rhetoric, as usual, especially in Indian security analysis circles is hyped up. They catch a mouse and claim to have caught a tiger! This is typical Indian personality, characterized by some degree of inferiority. The truth is that the Baluch proxy war is close to dreaming of action but having none of it; impotence is a better way to characterize it. India knows how to count its chickens, but not hatch them.
On the other hand, Pakistani resolve to retain Baluchistan is firm. Pakistan’s ISI and military is pro-active in weeding possible Baluch rebels, often kidnapping innocent men and women in the process. “In the period from 2003-2012 it is estimated that 8,000 people were kidnapped by Pakistani security forces in the province. In 2008 alone an estimated 1,102 Baluch people disappeared. There have also been [widespread] reports of torture.”11 These reports widely resemble Indian army actions in Nagaland in the 1960s and Punjab in the 1980s, and even now both those provinces are firmly in Indian territory. Pakistan has systematically eliminated members of the BLA and other would-be rebels, even though General Kakar, former Chief of Army of Staff of Pakistan, called Musharraf’s actions in killing Bugti a mistake.12 The will of the Pakistani political and military machinery to squash Baluch rebellion is strong; this thereby indicates that requisite 3 is not adequate for a rebellion to succeed.
Thus, requisites 1, 2, and 3 are wanting. However, it is possible to tilt these by using requisite 4 in such a way that it overcomes all other requisites. Thus, by the Indian army opening its guns all along the 1,850 mile Indo-Pak border, and stepping up weapon supplies to the Baluch Liberation Army (BLA), much as it did to the Mukti Bahini, India can hope to tie down Pakistani forces on its Eastern front, while military installations in Baluchistan can be torched by rebels, and bombarded by Indian naval gunships and missile ships. Much as India loaned its Bengali officers and soldiers to the Mukti Bahini in 1971, it may have to do something similar with the BLA, albeit in a different shape. Again, Indian Special Forces and Marcos can be a great asset here, though the Indian establishment can brainstorm other options. Cooperation with Iran in this respect must not be ruled out, but must be negotiated. USA and Britain must be more closely consulted. For instance, Iran could press troops on the Baluchistan border, or US troops could come down into Quetta in Baluchistan from Kandahar, even if these are distant dreams, because the USA is simply scared to send troops into Pakistan for various military, economic, and political reasons. Nevertheless, without external military intervention it is difficult to see how Pakistan will relinquish control over a huge, mineral-rich province.
Eventually, the paltry Indian assistance to the Baluch Liberation Army must increase by gargantuan amounts for the liberation action to succeed.The execution of the proxy war will also require allocation of a special status by the Indian cabinet and a large budget to go with it. Hence, requisites 1, 2, and 4 can be ramped up and the will of resistance that is in requisite 3 can be gradually broken by the measures mentioned. This is how the proxy war can succeed; else its success is only in the imagination of dreamers, because even a weak and fatigued Pakistan will not relinquish its hold on Baluchistan.
Four requisites for the success of a proxy war were outlined, and examples given from world situations. In conclusion, it sounds unlikely that a proxy war as currently being waged by India or the Western powers in Baluchistan can severe Baluchistan from Pakistan, even though they need it for their strategic interests. The four requisites to make this happen in Baluchistan simply don’t seem to exist, and Pakistan’s will to retain Baluchistan is strong. However, the deficiency in requisites can be overcome if India ties down Pakistani forces along the Indo-Pak border after opening its guns in fire along the entire 1,850 mile border. This must be supplemented by loaning Special Forces soldiers and officers to the Baluch National Army to damage and destroy Pakistani installations in Baluchistan. Eventually, the paltry Indian assistance to the Baluch Liberation Army must increase by gargantuan amounts for the liberation action to succeed. In the end, a freedom fight and proxy war in Baluchistan is morally justified for the human rights abuses and excesses by Islamabad in Baluchistan. It is undeniable that a successful proxy war in Baluchistan is in India’s strategic interest. This proxy war can be fought as overtly as covertly because India has been at war with Pakistan for 65 years.
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