October 24, 2007Foreign AffairsSecurity

Pakistan must learn counter-insurgency from India

No, this is not a weekday squib

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Anit Mukherjee and Moeed Yusuf do it without any hint of irony. The Pakistani army, they write, has much to learn from the Indian army in the business of counterinsurgency.

The Indian military is the only organization familiar with operating in a terrain similar to Pakistan’s tribal belt and that has a track record of successful counterinsurgencies. Although the Indian military has battled internal insurgencies since 1956, its ultimate test was the decade-long insurgency in Kashmir, where the Indian military faced a steep learning curve but eventually managed to employ an effective strategy.

There are some similarities between Pakistan’s tribal belt and Kashmir. As in the tribal belt, in Kashmir there was tremendous resentment against the central government–in this case Delhi–which was reflected by the indigenous origins of the insurgency. A large population–especially Muslims in the Kashmir Valley–was also sympathetic to the anti-state militants in the early years of the insurgency and was thus unwilling to share information with Delhi. In the later stages of the Kashmiri insurgency, the influx of non-Kashmiri militants from abroad meant that there was little existing intelligence on militant groups’ links with each other and with local pockets of resistance. The insurgency was also constantly replenished from outside. Despite the differences between the two case studies, their similarities make a study of the Indian model relevant for Pakistani forces.

The Indian experience commends approaching a counterinsurgency campaign with an emphasis on both military and non-military means. For India, success was based on three critical elements: a sustained, large military presence; effective civil administration; and development. [AEI]Without denying Mukherjee & Yusuf their strictly military strategic points, it is germane to point out that successful counterinsurgency is not merely about what the army does. It is also about what the army does not do. Like, for instance, run the country. It is also about what the army did not do. Like, for instance, nurture the militants in the first place.

They also suggest that the United States should encourage Pakistan to study the Indian model closely and adapt Delhi’s experience to its own challenges”. But hasn’t the United States learnt enough in Iraq and Afghanistan to impart the requisite wisdom to its frontline ally?

Related Link: Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass returns from Pakistan noting that it’s not the will to fight Taliban/al-Qaeda that Pakistan lacks, but rather, the capacity. It’s rather late in the day to make this conclusion, even for a think-tank, after paying the Pakistani army over US$10 billion, and selling maritime reconnaissance planes and F-16 fighters. If history is anything to go by, one should start worrying when the United States begins to talk about bolstering capacity of Pakistani security forces. The problem with capacity is that it is fungible.

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