Modi’s Rising Bellicosity Towards Pakistan

Modi’s Rising Bellicosity Towards Pakistan
Modi has thrown caution to the wind, oblivious to what many politicians, intellectuals, academics and thought leaders in the rest of the world are saying about him. India’s image of a secular democracy, epitomized by its founding fathers Mahatama Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, is in tatters, writes Ahmad Faruqui.

The rhetoric of Indian Prime Minister Modi has become increasingly bellicose. He has begun accusing Pakistan of supporting terrorism against India. He and some of his senior advisors, in a display of reckless naiveté, have begun threatening military action.

Is this just talk designed to appease his extremist base, which would like nothing more than to wipe Pakistan off the map and restore Hindu supremacy over the South Asian subcontinent? That base is lusting for Muslim blood. In broad daylight, Indian Muslims are being lynched.

The extremist base is not content with depriving Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir of their civil, economic and human rights. Those people have been living in servitude for the past several months, their suffering surprisingly ignored not only by the world at large but even by the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Seeing no reaction from the world community over the darkness that has descended over Kashmir, Modi’s India has passed a law that threatens the rights of all 200 million Muslims living in India. That law has unleashed protests in much of urban India and led to horrible violence against Muslims. This was on brazen display in the Indian capital while the US president and his wife, and his daughter and son-in-law, were striking a pose in front of the Taj Mahal.

Modi has thrown caution to the wind, oblivious to what many politicians, intellectuals, academics and thought leaders in the rest of the world are saying about him. India’s image of a secular democracy, epitomized by its founding fathers Mahatama Gandhi and Pandit Nehru, is in tatters. More to the point, the Indian economy, once the marvel of the world, its progressed praised to no end by the Economist magazine, has lost its momentum.

Indeed, that same magazine is now condemning Modi’s policies in the strongest possible terms and it is by no means the only global magazine that’s coming to the same conclusion.

It is against this backdrop that Modi’s remarks toward Pakistan have to be viewed with seriousness. Accusing Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism in Indian-administered Kashmir is not a trivial charge for India’s chief executive to be making in today’s polarized climate.  

Articles have begun appearing in the world press about a new war between India and Pakistan in 2020. When it comes to military combat with Pakistan, Modi has little to brag about. After all, just a year ago two of his fighters were shot down by the Pakistan Air Force. One of the pilots was captured alive and later returned to India by Pakistan as a gesture of goodwill by Prime Minister Imran Khan. A major crisis was averted.

It is time that Prime Minister Modi took some time to study military history. He will soon come to know that in just about every prior encounter, the PAF has gotten the better of the IAF. This fact is beyond dispute. Even during the 1971 war in the West, the PAF had a kill ratio of 3:1 in Pakistan’s favor.

General Chuck Yeager, who was the US military advisor in Islamabad, has testified to the PAF’s superior war-fighting abilities against its numerically superior enemy.

Modi should know that any attack on Azad Kashmir would be met with a strong counter response by Pakistan. It will not take it lying down. There is little doubt in my mind that any attack on Azad Kashmir will be interpreted as an attack on Pakistan by Islamabad and met with a counterattack that may not remain limited to Kashmir.

This is no 1971 moment for India. In that war, the Pakistan army was drained after fighting a long and grueling civil war. The Eastern Garrison had only four divisions available to it of which three had been hastily flown in from the West without their full complement of artillery. The PAF had only one squadron of fighters in the East, which became inoperative when the IAF put the runway at Dhaka airport out of commission.

In December, the Indian army that invaded East Pakistan was more than five times larger than the depleted and worn out Pakistani army, which was cut off from its base that lay a thousand miles in the West, was fighting with no air cover, and was surrounded by a hostile population.

India’s army is now only twice as large as Pakistan’s. Not all of it can be deployed against Pakistan for logistical and strategic reasons, making the ratio even smaller. It’s a well-accepted rule of thumb that the attacker needs to have a force that is at least three times larger than the defender. Should war break out, the Pakistani population will stand solidly with the Pakistani army, making India’s job even harder.

Modi should know that Pakistan has always prevailed in the West when it was attacked. In 1965, Pakistan held off and eventually defeated the numerically larger Indian forces that first attacked Lahore, and having failed to take the city, then attacked Sialkot and were beaten back.

But let’s imagine for a moment the worst-case scenario for Pakistan. If Modi’s generals get incredibly lucky and begin defeating their Pakistani counterparts, will the High Command in Rawalpindi take it lying down? Of course not. Pakistan will launch its nuclear weapons, first the tactical ones of the battlefield, and then if the invasion does not stop, the strategic ones that can hit just about any target in India. India will not survive a nuclear war.

Modi’s generals know this history even if he has chosen to forget it. They should advise him to desist from adventurism against Pakistan. They have the most to lose since their forces will be decimated. India’s intellectuals should advise him that an Indian attack would unleash a level of devastation from which India may never recover.

It behooves India’s external friends to show it the light. The US president did say to Modi that relations between US and Pakistan were strong. He should let Modi know that the US will not let India attack Pakistan.

Modi must know that China will not take kindly to an attack on Pakistan. It will act to protect is CPEC investment, which is the lynchpin of its Belt and Roads initiative. It will not let Pakistan go down the drain, given the close historical ties between the all-weather friends going back to the early sixties.

Ultimately, and perhaps most importantly, India will lose its relationship with the Arab world. It will not take kindly to an unprovoked attack on a large and important member of the global Muslim fraternity.

Ahmad Faruqui is a defense analyst and economist. He has taught at the universities of Karachi, California at Davis, and San Jose State. Faruqui is the author of "Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan" (Ashgate, 2003). Contact him via Twitter @AhmadFaruqui