Maroof Raza, India’s leading expert commentator on strategic and defense affairs, talks to Shailaza Singh about various issues including Kashmir. He has authored several books and opinion pieces besides producing an award winning television series on the many wars and operations conducted by the Indian armed forces. Raza loves to speak his mind without being ‘politically correct’.
Maroof Raza, a retired army officer loves wearing many hats. He is a consultant and strategic affairs expert who has appeared in almost all of India’s leading television channels as an expert on military and security matters in India and BBC world service radio programmes. He has also authored books like Kashmir’s Untold Story (Bloomsbury India), Confronting Terrorism (Penguin India), Low-Intensity Conflicts- The New Dimension to India’s Military Commitments and No Peace Over Kashmir. He is currently working on a new television series titled ‘Tales of Valour’ which focus on the acts of bravery in the past battles of India.
The first impression that one gets on meeting the man is that he loves to speak his mind, a rarity in today’s day and age where people aspire to become ‘people pleasers’ and have developed a penchant to be politically correct even if it means stifling their own hearts and minds.
By his own admission, his children tell him that he is completely out of sync with the real world since he does not have any social media accounts and always keeps his mobile on silent. When he talks, all one can do is listen in rapt attention.
Pakistan’s Kashmir Fixation
Pakistan has always had this dream of conquering Kashmir. They even tried to annex Kashmir by sending in troops but were repelled by the Indian forces on October 27, 1947. Christopher Snedden, the well known Australian author, political scientist in his book ‘The Untold Story of People of Azad Kashmir’ says that Pakistan has a permanent government-in-waiting in Azad Kashmir who are prepared to unfurl the Pakistani flag once the Kashmir valley falls. For them, that is when the process of formation of Pakistan will be complete. However, what they don’t understand is this is a dream that they will never realize under any circumstances. The interesting thing about the line of control (LOC) is that it is not just a military divide but also a physical, demographic and geographic divide. Given the current LOC’s strategic location and terrain, it is not possible for the either side to conquer any more land.
After the war in 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was instrumental in establishing the line of control. She categorically told the Pakistan government and the Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at that time that there will be no further wars. However, what many did not realize was that she was doing a peace arrangement with a man who had built his entire career with hostility towards India. It is interesting to know that for ten years, Zulfikar Bhutto was an Indian national. He had studied in Mumbai. He adopted Pakistan’s nationality only in 1958. He was waiting in the wings to see whether it was worthwhile to go to Pakistan or not. Not only that, he was the man who orchestrated the surrender of the 1971 war. It was not the Indian army per se. It was he who was sent by General Yahya Khan, the president of Pakistan to New York to negotiate with the UN so that the cease fire could be announced. Bhutto did not want the cease fire but was being pressurized by Yahya Khan. So while in New York, when General Yahya Khan asked him on the phone about the cease fire, he told him he could not hear him. The operator told Bhutto that he could hear General Aya Khan but Bhutto told him to stay out of it. Bhutto wanted to prolong the ceasefire process till Dhaka fell so that Pakistan army could go back motivated.
The entire concept of Pakistan is based on anti-Indian identity. There was no thought about progress of the people. The man Muhammed Ali Jinnah, who created the new state of Pakistan was himself not a believer. Today, people of Pakistan are suffering from the incessant factional wars in Pakistan and the level of human rights abuses.
Solving the Kashmir’s Problems
I always say solve the problems in Kashmir so that you don’t have a problem of Kashmir. Our government needs to solve the issues of broken schools, colleges and hospitals. Give the people of Kashmir the best engineers, best administrators. In my conversations with the National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, I have always been of the opinion that we need to have a tear off calendar for Kashmir. If you make Kashmir a heaven by giving them all the modern-day amenities to its people, it will be like Singapore or Dubai. Does any one talk about freedom in Singapore or Dubai? In India, a few handful of politicians have kept the pot boiling because that is their bread and butter. When the Prime Minister Narendra Modi called me during his first tenure and asked me for advice, I told him to go all out on Kashmir because as it is no one is giving this government any extra points for doing anything in Kashmir. All we need to do is just make Kashmir a place where people can go for holidays, do business, have intellectual discussions. Of course, the most important thing is that we need to seal it from Pakistan.
However, I am of the opinion that keeping Kashmir on the boil is profitable to many people in our country. The home ministry of India will become irrelevant if you solve the Kashmir issue. They will be dealing with Padma awards and pensions. The paramilitary and armed forces will be at a loose end because they will have no war to fight and no medals to win. The contractors want everything to be permanently temporary so that they do not have to face any audit. The NGOs want a conflict to be able to cry on and get funds. Pakistan, of course enjoys all this chaos because it helps them to keep their people diverted from the inability of the government to deliver on any account.
China’s Game Plan
Pakistan is merely a foot soldier in China’s game plan. In intelligence terms, we call it the Jeff and Mutt Policy where China plays the nice guy and the bad guy with India at the same time. They are getting an annual trade of about 40 billion USD from India. This is the same money that they are investing in Pakistan under the China Pakistan economic corridor. We have gotten so used to cheap electronic goods that we cannot say no to buying these goods. Moreover, we in India cannot emulate China when it comes to their manufacturing industry. US banned Huawei because they found some chips that they suspected might be transmitting information in a lot of defense equipment supplied by China.
The Enemy Within
People don’t understand army and that is not their fault. It is the fault of the Indian Army. When I talk at the events organized by the Indian Army, I tell them because biggest enemy of the armed forces is the armed forces themselves. I wanted to make a movie on the Balakot strikes. For this, I talked to the Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor, who thought it was a great idea. So, asked him to talk to the air force authorities to give me unclassified information. He agreed. When I went to the air chief’s office , the public relations officer (PRO) did not help me and said that letter is required. I asked him if tomorrow if the NSA calls you up to tell you of an impending strike, would you still want a letter in writing? That project fizzled out. I told the PRO that if they cannot take a decision to make a film how will they take a decision to engage with the enemy?
Army needs decision makers like Lt. General Sagat Singh, PVSM, who had literally filled the Nathula pass in 1965 with the bodies of the Chinese soldiers. The authorities then decided to remove him from his command because they felt that he was too decisive. In the 1971 war, they brought him back which changed the course of the war. The point is you cannot disregard that quality of taking the right decisions at the right time in an army man. If at the level of a Lieutenant General you are indecisive then are you waiting to become the army chief to become decisive? Everything in the army has become very rank centric. During my tenure in the army, I believed in doing a thing and getting over with it.
This article was published in the Arbit section of Rashtradoot Newspaper on December 12, 2019