Per un Natale di pace, gli "auguri" della Stratfor…
India, Pakistan: Signs of a Coming War
December 24, 2008
Several major signs of a coming Indian-Pakistani war surfaced Dec. 24.
Indian troops reportedly have deployed to the Barmer district of southwest Rajasthan state along the Indian-Pakistani border. Furthermore, the state government of Rajasthan has ordered residents of its border villages to be prepared for relocation. The decision reportedly came after a meeting among the state’s director-general of police, home secretary and an official from the central government. Stratfor confirmed the report with an Indian army officer.
According to India’s ZeeNews, the Pakistani army replaced the Pakistan Rangers that regularly patrol the border with India. The Pakistani troop movements were later confirmed by U.K. Bansal, the additional director-general of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) in Barmer, Rajasthan.
As Stratfor reported Dec. 22, there is a high probability of India using military force against Pakistan after Dec. 26, when a deadline expires for Pakistan to deliver on Indian demands to crack down on Islamist militant proxies that threaten India. With low expectations that Pakistan has the will or capability to deliver on these demands, India has spent the past month preparing for military action against Pakistan. Pressure is now ratcheting up on both sides of the border, with Indian Air Marshal P.K. Barbora, air officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Air Command, telling reporters Dec. 24 that as many as 5,000 targets in Pakistan have thus far been identified, while saying that many of the militants hiding out in camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have already fled.
It should be noted that the area of Rajasthan where Indian troops are deploying and where villagers are preparing to evacuate is a long distance from Kashmir, where conflict between India and Pakistan typically takes place. Barmer district is adjacent to Jaisalmer district, where India’s Southwestern Air Command is located. Any attacks based out of the Barmer district would involve mechanized and armored forces that could threaten the core Karachi-Hyderabad-Islamabad corridor — Pakistan’s only transit corridor that links the Pakistani heartland of Punjab with the coast. Given that cash-strapped Pakistan is a net food and energy importer and is already flirting with bankruptcy, India has a military opportunity at hand to cut off Pakistan’s economic lifeline. Furthermore, a potential cutoff would likely complicate the flow of fuel and supplies to U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Any ground troop movement in southwestern Rajasthan is likely to be accompanied by air strikes against militant targets outside of Kashmir and possibly against intelligence facilities in Pakistan’s urban areas.
The timing of Indian military action is still unclear, as it will take some time for India to mobilize its forces and evacuate locals along the border area. But given these recent troop movements, it could be a matter of days before the world witnesses another Indian-Pakistani war.
Dalla Stratfor del 22 dicembre:
The week began with a series of signals from New Delhi that India’s restraint in taking military action against Pakistan is no longer guaranteed. In fact, such action could very well be imminent.
In a press conference Monday, Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said that while India “has so far acted with utmost restraint,” it will “explore all options” in pressuring Pakistan to deal with Islamist militancy. The same day, Indian media reported that Indian troops and the air force’s Quick Reaction Teams had deployed along the border with Pakistan, with commandos reinforced at airstrips in Jaisalmer and Uttarlai in Rajasthan and Bhuj in Gujarat. The Pakistani military, meanwhile, reportedly went on a heightened state of alert, with reports of air force jets scrambling in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Over the past few weeks, India has played a complex diplomatic game, issuing a series of statements that seemingly downplayed the likelihood of military action against Pakistan in response to the Nov. 26 Mumbai attacks, while making a point in the public sphere that New Delhi was focused on using diplomatic tools to pressure Islamabad. While New Delhi’s behavior led many to believe that the threat of war had subsided, Stratfor maintained that Indian military operations were being prepared, and that New Delhi’s plan was first to exhaust its diplomatic options before engaging in any kind of military action. India’s restraint, in large part, was attributed to its talks with the United States, which would much rather not see the nuclear-armed rivals come to blows when the Americans are fighting an uphill battle against al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the region.
But time is running out for Pakistan.
Reliable sources -— whose information on this issue cannot be verified at this time -— have told us that in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, New Delhi relayed a message to the Pakistanis via the United States, saying they would be given 30 days to crack down on Islamist militant proxies on Pakistani soil that continue to threaten India. While India used the time to prep its military forces, the United States came down hard on Pakistan behind the scenes, making clear that if Islamabad did not deliver, Washington would not be able to stand in New Delhi’s way if and when the time came for India to act. The Pakistanis carried out a few raids targeting militant leaders and Pakistani intelligence operatives, making a few arrests, but did nothing that substantially reduced the threat to India, from New Delhi’s point of view. And even if Pakistan’s government was prepared to accede to India’s demands in full, it could go only so far in placating New Delhi before its efforts to avoid an international crisis created a domestic one.
The deadline given to Islamabad, as far as we know, is Dec. 26, making Indian military action against Pakistan a very real and near possibility. The Indians have had a month to prepare their operations, and Indian defense sources have revealed that these plans are ready to go into effect. With no one in New Delhi really expecting that Pakistan has either the political will -— or perhaps even the capability —- to meet Indian and U.S. demands, we now need to examine how far India will take this military campaign, and to what extent U.S. operations in Afghanistan will be affected.
The answer to these questions is still unclear. Discussions are occurring within Indian defense circles about an escalatory military campaign, beginning with largely symbolic strikes in Pakistan-administered Kashmir against militant training camps and offices. Depending on Pakistan’s ability to respond, pressure could then be increased with precision air strikes in Pakistan’s urban areas —- to include the capital —- against intelligence facilities and militant leadership hideouts. The option of a naval blockade, which would cut off the main U.S. supply line into Afghanistan, has also been tossed around. While a blockade would put the already cash-strapped Pakistan in an economic choke-hold, doing so inevitably would cause friction in India’s relationship with Washington.
But the United States knows the limits to its relationship with New Delhi and is already preparing for a worst-case scenario. For the past month, the U.S. military has been stockpiling supplies for its forces in Afghanistan in anticipation of a major interruption. The trick for the United States, however, is to find an alternate supply route that avoids the problem of having to deal with a resurgent Russia, which would relish the thought of having U.S. military operations dependent on its good graces. There really are no good options, but the United States is working on solving this issue by devising an alternate, albeit much longer, supply arrangement from Turkey to Central Asia through the Caucasus that would help back-fill supplies that have already been stockpiled.
Pakistan’s best defense at this point is to continue pinning blame on militants that have escaped Islamabad’s control while making the case that further destabilization in Pakistan would only exacerbate the U.S.-jihadist war. But with the United States coming up with alternate supply routes and India under the impression that Pakistan has more control over these militants than it claims, Pakistan’s defense is growing weaker by the day. From where we stand, the window for diplomacy is closing, and a crisis on the Indian subcontinent is rapidly approaching.