It is often said that Pakistan has better soldiers but India has better generals. Strategy comes from the Greek work strategos which means general. Better strategy wins the war. What passes for strategy in Pakistan is tactics raised to the level of strategy, to the detriment of the state.
A recent book by Tahir Malik, Richard Bonney and Tridev Singh Maini, Warriors after War (Peter Lang 2011) carries interviews of generals of both sides. What emerges confirms past assessments of Pakistani generals. The Indian generals are more professional; the Pakistani ones are ideological — therefore non-professional — and daring. The Indians speak from the drill; Pakistanis are unorthodox and swashbuckling.
Stereotypes: the average Indian officer will say Pakistan was a mistake; the average Pakistani officer will say India never accepted Pakistan. Both stances are wrong. The first one can’t be proved; the second one has been proved wrong again and again.
Being a general in a status quo state with unconquerable size is laid-back, intellectually fertile, and lacking in daring tactics; his counterpart has to be fidgety in peace, trigger-happy, non-intellectual and daring. India is better-off not being revisionist vis-à-vis China or it may have produced generals in the Pakistani mould. The paradox in the case of Pakistan is that defeat teaches nothing.
From the Indian side those interviewed included: Maj-Gen Gagandeep Bakshi, Lt-Gen Kamaleshwar Dawar, General VP Malik, etc. From Pakistan, we have General Mirza Aslam Beg, General Hamid Gul, General Talat Masood, Major-Gen Syed Wajahat Hussain, Brigadier Shaukat Qadir, etc.
Aslam Beg says: The 1965 and 1971 wars were defeats for Pakistan. Jihad is ordained and has bestowed dividends in Afghanistan and Kashmir because of Divine Will behind Jihad. “In Pakistan, Pakhtun power has emerged as a reality. There are over three million Pakhtuns in Karachi; their power extends to Balochistan, NWFP and to the Hindukush mountains. Their fight for freedom, since 1980, has galvanised them into a formidable force, combining the forces of Pakhtun nationalism, Islamic idealism (jihad) and the universalism of the Islamic resistance against oppression, with its hard core resting along the Durand Line.”
Hamid Gul says: “Indian secularism is a ruse as Babri Mosque proved it. This is my reason for dislike of India. The rift with India has a solid basis and that is why the Muslims living in the subcontinent — whether in Pakistan, Bangladesh or India — are one nation. The 1965 war was an interrupted victory because finance minister Shoaib sabotaged it. Foreign minister Zafrullah Khan sabotaged the 1948 war. I strongly believe that the sole purpose of the Pakistani Army is to liberate Kashmir from Indian occupation. I assure you that India is in a miserable state. Deep down, Indians are afraid of Pakistan.”
Major-General Syed Wajahat Hussain says: “Jinnah emphasised a liberal, tolerant and outward-looking, progressive Pakistan. Hamid is wrong on the 1948 war. Jinnah never wanted it and it was abandoned after Pakistan Army Chief General Gracey and Liaquat agreed with Jinnah to call it off. The 1965 war was our mistake. Extremism and the concept of jihad were never part of the Pakistani Army.”
He goes on: “General Zia was the first to introduce the concept of jihad and shahadat. Pakistan has suffered more than India in the three declared wars. The people who were supported once by us are those who are causing terrorism in Pakistan today.”
Lieutenant-General Talat Masood is for normalising ties with India instead of fighting. He thinks President Zardari is sticking his neck out to improve relations with India. His vision of relations with India is driven by economic and cultural motivations and is futuristic in approach.
Brigadier Shaukat Qadir is remarkably perceptive, challenging the military’s fundamental tenets of war: “The military is responsible for converting a genuine movement for an independent Kashmir into a jihad — the greatest damage that we could do and did. Both 1965 and 1971 wars were acts of stupidity. Musharraf, like others of his ilk, is given to bragging. Our oft-quoted strategic location is strategic only if commerce flows through it in all directions.”
Today, because the Pakistan Army is not allowed to self-correct, it is being penetrated by a thinking that not only negates the military profession but the state itself. Professional soldiers are silent, Aslam Beg and Hamid Gul are encouraging Pakistan’s nemesis, the non-state actors, to pull apart whatever is left of the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2012.