The recent attacks on our security forces in Kulgam, Handwara, Pampore, Shopian, etc. is corroborating what I had said in some of my earlier posts, e.g. 'The war drums are sounding', 'A full blown guerilla war is developing in Kashmir'. What we are witnessing in Kashmir is a guerilla war in its infancy, which is bound to grow and grow, ultimately creating a Vietnam type situation.
As I have said in an earlier post, I have many relatives who have been in the army (one had even fought in the British army against Rommel in North Africa in the Second World War), and I have discussed warfare at length with them. I have also studied the works of Sherman, Mao-tse-tung, Che Guevara, Genera Giap, Marshal Zhukov.
A guerilla war to succeed must have popular support. Unfortunately due to the stupidity of successive Indian governments, almost the entire Kashmiri population (I am referring to the people living in the Kashmir valley, not Jammu or Ladakh) has been alienated from India and have become hostile to us. Of course only a small percentage of this population are militants, but even the non militants are overwhelmingly hostile to us, and are sympathizers of the militants, to whom they provide intelligence, sanctuary, food. Sophisticated arms and supplies are coming to the militants on a large scale from China via Pakistan.
The guerillas have the advantage of surprise. They decide when to strike, where to strike, etc. Their traditional tactics is 'hit and run', and 'attack the soft, avoid the hard'.
All local elements suspected by them to be traitors to their cause will be eliminated, as was done by the Vietcong. The Jammu and Kashmir police consisting of largely local Kashmiris, has been already effectively neutralized by instilling fear of reprisals against their family members. That leaves the non Kashmiri Indian army and para military forces as the effective opponents of the militants.
The militants will use classic guerilla tactics to fight them, e,g. avoiding attacking heavily fortified army encampments, and attacking when our forces are on the move, as it happened in Shopian, where the sympathizers must have secretly informed the Kashmiri militants about the movement of the convoy of our para military column.
There will be pinpricks here and there but cumulatively these will have a deadly effect, just as being bitten by one bee may not cause much harm, but being bitten by a swarm can be mortal.
Guerilla war is psychological war too. Our security forces will constantly be kept on the tenterhooks. A soldier has to sleep and rest, but the guerillas will not allow him that, by attacking often at night, or at unexpected hours, as it happened in the American War of Independence ( 1775-1781 ), during Napoleon's retreat from Moscow in !812, in the Chinese Revolutionary war, and in Vietnam.
In retaliation our soldiers are bound to commit atrocities on civilians, but this will only turn more civilians into militants, as these civilians will be filled with hatred and seek revenge for the death of their near and dear ones. This will increase the ranks of the militants. And of course there will be no shortage of arms for them, as these will be supplied by China and Pakistan.
As I had written in an earlier post, an army can fight another army, it cannot fight the armed masses. A tiger can attack a prey, it cannot attack a swarm of mosquitoes.
In a conventional war, one usually knows where the enemy is. In a guerilla war, the enemy is everywhere, he is nowhere. It is often a war in the shadows, and a war of attrition. Our army will even find it difficult to distinguish the guerilla from the civilian, for the former is often wearing no uniform, as the American soldiers learnt in Vietnam. Consequently, anyone even remotely suspected of being a militant will be shot by our soldiers. These may be innocent civilians, but their deaths will increase the hatred against our security forces, and convert civilians into overt or covert militants, seeking revenge. This cycle will be repeated over and over again, increasing the number of militants fighting our forces.
And in the meanwhile our crooked politicians will carry on with their dirty game of trying to get political mileage for the coming elections by 'surgical strikes' (which to my mind was nothing but a pinprick), and treating our brave soldiers as cannon fodder for their political advantage.
Much has been said about the 'surgical strike' by our army, as if it was a Stalingrad Victory. But leaving aside all the jingoism what did it achieve ? Our soldiers went in 3 km beyond the LOC, smashed some militant camps and killed some terrorists, and came back (we need not go into the question whether those killed were in fact terrorists or not.) But in this we caught the Pakistani army unprepared and off guard (just as the Uri attackers caught our soldiers off guard).
But now the element of surprise is spent, and the Pakistani army will be on guard against any further such incursion, and will meet it, if at all attempted, with stiff opposition. Also, the militant camps near the LOC would by now have been shifted to places far from the LOC. If our army tries another ' surgical strike ' it may only end up not with clapping and cheering by a hysterical public instigated by a TRP driven media, but with a bloody nose..
This article was originallly published in Satyam Bruyat, Justice Katju's blogpost.