- Playing dangerous games
The new Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, put his foot in his mouth right at the beginning of his tenure, saying that if the Indian Parliament approved, the Indian Army would move to take Azad Kashmir. Commenting on this statement, which appeared in the Indian press, DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that such ‘routine rhetoric’ was meant to divert attention from ongoing turmoil. He added that Pakistan’s armed forces were fully prepared to respond to any act of aggression. That India is undergoing internal turmoil is hidden from no one. Even as the Indian COAS spoke, protesters against the citizenship amendment act demonstrated in Kolkata against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the city. Meanwhile, in the territory General Naravane seemed so concerned about, Jammu and Kashmir (the Indian-occupied part), the lockdown imposed since August 5, when the BJP government changed its status, continues, and the expected outburst of outraged feeling there is still to be unleashed.
It is perhaps worrisome that General Naravane was detailed to make this statement, instead of a politician, either Mr Modi himself, or someone else, because it should not be forgotten that Mr Modi is unstable enough to threaten regional peace, as he did last year over the Pulwama incident. Because the Indian plan went fearfully wrong, as its air force failed to deliver, instead getting its planes shot down, because the Pakistan government tried, and because the world powers intervened, peace was preserved. However, Mr Modi’s instability is matched only by US President Donald Trump’s, which was on show in the Iranian crisis, which he produced all on his own. Instead of reining him in, General Naravane seems to think he should pander to his basest instincts with this display of bellicosity.
This statement also shows that the new Indian higher defence organisation, with General Naravane’s predecessor as COAS, Gen Bipin Rawat, the first Chief of Defence Staff, has not taken root, for otherwise no COAS could make such a statement which apparently excludes the Air Force, which would provide air cover for any ground operations. This shows that the Indian armed forces are not able to cooperate with each other in peace, and thus the latest changes have not yet taken effect as they should. General Rawat as COAS, made many such statements, but now he needs to rein in his subordinate.