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Pakistan and India Unlikely to Move to All-out War: Musharraf

LONDON, Dec 3 2016 (IPS) - High levels of both conventional and nuclear deterrence are likely to prevent the recent surge in clashes between India and Pakistan from escalating into all-out war, according to Pakistan’s former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf.

Pervez Musharraf

Pervez Musharraf

In an exclusive interview with IPS in London, Musharraf predicted that low-intensity conflict would continue in disputed border areas. But he did not share the belief of many Pakistanis that hostilities could slide into full-scale war between the two nuclear-armed countries.

“Any military commander knows the force levels being maintained by either side,” he said. “I don’t think war is a possibility because the lethality and accuracy of weapons has increased so much.”

Although Pakistan has reserved the right to make a nuclear first strike, he said it had sufficient controls to ensure that its nuclear weapons, including new short-range tactical missiles, were not used accidentally or stolen by terrorist groups. “They are in good hands, in secure hands.” he said.

“Thank God, the level of conventional deterrence that we have in terms of weapons and manpower is enough to deter conventional war. So therefore I’m reasonably sure that in case of a war it is the conventional side which will be played and we will not go on to the unconventional.”

The 73-yeasr-old Musharraf made his comments during a wide-ranging discussion at his London home, in which he set out plans for a return to front-line politics in Pakistan. He said he might have reacted “more strongly” in recent clashes than the Pakistani authorities had done.

Although Pakistan has reserved the right to make a nuclear first strike, he said it had sufficient controls to ensure that its nuclear weapons, including new short-range tactical missiles, were not used accidentally or stolen by terrorist groups. “They are in good hands, in secure hands.” he said.

The two countries had previously made progress on territorial disputes including in Kashmir. But India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi , who won power in 2014, was “on a collision course” with Pakistan that precluded a peaceful resolution, he said.

Musharraf also issued a strong warning about the threat to Pakistan coming from sectarian conflicts in the Middle East, saying it would be “extremely dangerous” for Pakistan to get dragged into the war in Yemen alongside its long-standing Saudi allies.

Pakistan was initially named by Saudi Arabia as part of a 34-nation coalition but held back from participating in the Saudi-led campaign supporting Yemen’s exiled government against Houthi Shia rebels.

Pakistan, with Iran as its neighbour, should not be taking sides, he warned. “We cannot do something which arouses internal conflict within Pakistan.”

The vexed question of terrorist “safe havens”, which Pakistan has been accused of providing near the border with Afghanistan, had to be addressed by both sides, Musharraf insisted. “Why is it Pakistan’s responsibility to control movement across the border?” he asked, arguing that terrorists were also being harboured in Afghanistan.

He had warm words, however, for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, describing him as “definitely a good person”. This was despite the fact that efforts to build closer ties by training Afghan cadets in Pakistan had fizzled out.

His relationship with Ghani’s predecessor Hamid Karzai was more difficult. “I just didn’t like him,” Musharraf said, “because I think he was not a straight dealer.”

This is the second of three articles based on Musharraf’s interview with IPS.

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  • GM

    With due respect and apology, as a layperson, I differ with your analysis as this assessment is not founded on ground realities. Such an assessment especially from a retired army chief may be misleading. I have many reasons to differ but a few are stated below:
    (i) Technology is changing rapidly. Developments of centuries are taking place in decades and you are not in picture for a long.
    (ii) International political environment is changing. Global powers are forging new alignments. For the time being while India is enjoying support from both West and Russia) Pakistan is out of the Western camp and facing isolation now a day (e.g. no one came to calm down recent aggression by Indian army on LOC.). This has resulted in increased Indian aggression towards Pakistan.
    (iii) Apparently, India has a plan on table to repeat its experience of East Pakistan and for this purpose a full scale war is imminent. Most likely target will be Karachi as depicted from the events and reports surfacing there. Huge defense spending by India is widening imbalance of power especially of air and naval forces. This power imbalance might give India a temptation to pursue its goal in Sindh.
    (iv) The reported tactical weapons being developed by Pakistan are probably to avert the Indian army advancement within Pakistani territory – not on Indian land.
    (v) Pakistan has formulated the first use policy for such an Indian move but does not reserve the right to use first the weapons of mass destruction on Indian soil.
    (vi) Long ago, another serving army chief of Pakistan provided laughing stuff to the world by a somewhat similar naïve analysis on Iraqi and US army during US invasion of Iraq.
    (vii) By the way, was the Kargil War not a similar miscalculation?

  • John

    1) Technology is changing for everyone, not one or two countries. Developments can be good for you and at times bad for you. So this point is baseless

    2) Regarding International climate and alignments, please do not believe what the useless TRP hungry Indian media tells you or feeds you. International friendships and alignments are not mood based or personality based relationships, but rather relationships based on mutual requirements and interests of two or more countries.Pakistan was and continues to remain a much more important Non-NATO ally of the US, which is proved by their $860 million aid package for this year. China, the worlds most united country with no opposition stands with Pakistan as an all weather all season friend. Russia and Iran are in formal talks with Pakistan aimed at joining the CPEC. Saudi Arabia and much of the Middle East stands firmly with Pakistan. The only country that can be considered an ally of India is possibly Russia, and that too for the fact that India imports 70% of its equipment from Russia, hence it is more of a business partnership than an alignment. So all this talk of Pakistan being isolated is plain nonsense and is only good for fooling the people of India for electoral gains.

    3) Regarding India attempting any dreamy misadventure, this does not need to be discussed at all, as it is a laughable prospect. Those who talk about 1971 East Pakistan, should do well to remember that India no more has a brave and honest leader like Indira Gandhi and in the present age you are talking about a nuclear armed Pakistan that matches your conventional weapons capability inspite of being much smaller a country. Hence please stop day dreaming. Incase you refer to the recent surgical strikes drama ( denied by UN team ) and suppose they did happen – India lost 19 brave soldiers in Uri, but lost 31 more since the fake surgical strikes. Hence the surgical strike, even it happened, has failed royally.

    4) Tactical weapons are no issue. And Indian army advancing into Pakistan territory is once again a dream. First concentrate on taking back Kashmir.

    5) Regarding first use policy, Pakistan has a stated policy of delivering a nuclear strike first, irrespective of where the enemy is. So this point is baseless as well.

    6) What any ex Pakistan Army Chief said about a war happening in some other region of the world has no bearing on the India-Pakistan conflict. Concentrate on what they say about the war here.

    7) Whether Kargil war was a miscalculation or not, no one can say. But what matters is that innocent people are still being killed and tortured daily in Kashmir. To highlight this fact, and to bring India back to the negotiating table, Kargil was definitely a big success for Pakistan.

    Media needs to be responsible. Do not spread lies and hatred. People on both sides want love and peace. Pray for India Pakistan friendship.

    Long Live India