General Kayani Shooting Straight


A reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved, said Gen Kayani.

An interesting, well put and insightful presentation by Pakistan Army’s chief. A very straight forward and candid take (sans hyperbole) on Kashmir, India, Afghanistan …
While world powers and diplomats pay lip service, General Kayani gives a very frank assessment on Pakistan’s concerns based on ground realities and the way forward both regarding India as well as the situation in Afghanistan. Interesting comment about the timeframe of India’s cold start doctrine implementation. Given India’s military hardware procurements coupled with the timeframe assessment, the gravity of the threat of war in the region is really brought home. The nuclear stakes are high and given foreign presence and eyes on Pakistani nukes, Pakistan needs to be sharp and vigilant. Also, his comments on Afghanistan would be well heeded by those looking to bring stability to the country.

Kayani spells out threat posed by Indian doctrine

While the Pakistan Army is alert to and fighting the threat posed by militancy, it remains an “India-centric” institution and that reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved, according to army chief Gen Kayani.

History, unresolved issues, India’s military capability and its ‘Cold Start’ doctrine meant that Pakistan could not afford to let its guard down. Repeating a well-known formulation, Gen Kayani said: “We plan on adversaries’ capabilities, not intentions.”

The general was particularly keen to highlight the threat posed by India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine. Turing the traditional theory of war on its head, ‘Cold Start’ would permit the Indian Army to attack before mobilising, increasing the possibility of a “sudden spiral escalation”, according to Gen Kayani.

The Pakistan Army’s concerns about ‘Cold Start’ are well known, but Gen Kayani went as far as to put a timeline on its implementation: two years for India to achieve partial implementation and five years for full.

If true, the strategic impact could be of the highest order: defence analysts have speculated that ‘Cold Start’ may lead the Pakistan Army to lower its nuclear threshold as a way of deterring any punitive strikes or rapid capture of territory by the Indian armed forces.

Yet, Gen Kayani was also keen to point out that he did not have a one-dimensional view of security. Despite the fact that India’s defence budget is “seven times” that of Pakistan’s “there has to be a balance between development and military spending,” the general said.

He also pleaded that “peace and stability in South Asia should not be made hostage to a single terrorist act of a non-state actor”, a reference to the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Refusing to talk to Pakistan would send a bad signal on two counts: one, the non-state actors would know that they have the power to nudge India and Pakistan towards war; and two, within India it would become clear that relations with Pakistan could be suspended indefinitely.

Emphasising what he termed the “fundamentals”, he claimed that until the Afghan government improved its credibility and governance record and until the Afghan population began to change its perception that Isaf is not winning, the Afghan government would not be able to establish its writ and the local Taliban would not be “weaned off”.

But on Afghanistan, too, India featured in Gen Kayani’s comments. Rejecting India’s reported interest in training the Afghan National Army and the country’s police force, Gen Kayani argued that Pakistan had a more legitimate expectation to do so.

Unlike the past, though, the stakes appear to be higher because of the uncertain future of Afghanistan and a ‘nuclear overhang’ that may be affected by ‘Cold Start’.

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