“Modi government is more pro-active and more decisive”
“If you get fixated with one kind of policy, the other group tries to take the advantage. What is the Pakistani view? They have got such a huge amount of ambiguity about the use of nuclear weapons. When their Prime Minister Imran Khan said that we would not use nuclear weapons first, straightaway the Pakistani army said that this was not their policy. Therefore, while we have a declared NFU policy, we should bring in a degree of flexibility to suit the circumstances, if so required,” says General Deepak Kapoor , Former Chief of Army Staff, in an exclusive interview with Ravi Mishra . Excerpts:
China and Pakistan have been creating problems for India. Do you think we are ready to deal with both the countries?
If both were to simultaneously join hands against us, it would be a big challenge. And we have to put our best foot forward to meet such an eventuality. While we can tackle one at a time, to tackle both of them requires a lot of efforts.
Indian para-military forces like BSF and ITBP don’t come under the purview of Indian Army, but of Home Ministry, whereas these forces directly deal with Pakistani and Chinese borders. Do you think some changes should be brought about in this regard?
It is very important that whenever a situation of disputed borders arises and the army is required to come in, then they should have command and control. You cannot have both the Home Ministry and Defence Ministry exercising jurisdiction on the same area. And even as Army Chief, I had raised this point, and, subsequent to me, other Chiefs also raised this point. If ITBP is deployed in certain areas, which are disputed like in Leh, Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, they must come under the control of the Army. Because, the Army is the one that is to conduct the operation to prevent any attempt of infiltration. So, this is the dichotomy, which needs to be resolved.
In recent times, our armed forces did surgical and air strikes deep inside Pakistan, whereas such strikes could not be carried out in past regimes. Were we not capable of doing this?
It would be wrong to say that we were not capable of carrying out such strikes. In fact, it was the previous governments, who were not prepared to undertake such an operation. And it is to the credit to the present government that it has undertaken such operations. Capabilities have always been there to launch surgical strikes. But you have to take a political decision, which was not forthcoming in earlier dispensations.
So, you are saying the Modi government is decisive in taking political decisions?
This government is more pro-active and more decisive.
Recently Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan confessed publically that there are more than 35,000 active terrorists in Pakistan. As a neighbour, isn’t it a big challenge for India?
This has always been a challenge. Nothing is new. We have known it for a long time that there are terrorists in Pakistan. It is just that Imran Khan has admitted it formally. In the past, rulers of Pakistan and its army never admitted it. I am glad that he has admitted it. Insurgency from 1989 to 2010 was a much bigger challenge than it is now. But the important thing is that someone has admitted it. Terrorist organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and others have always been there. So nothing is new.
So, the whole world now knows that Pakistan aids and abets terrorism.
Yes, it does. But, how Pakistan reacts and how it gets out of this difficult situation is to be seen. For, Pakistan has the different methodology and different trick to get out of a tricky situation. For example, to facilitate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the US wants to use Pakistan, but it will have to give something in return to Pakistan. So, the pressure pertaining to Pakistan being the terror hotspot gets reduced. And Pakistan is also an ally of China, which is also a member of the United Nations Security Council. Even some Islamic countries in the Middle East, according to their national interests, support Pakistan. Tomorrow, if Saudi Arabia has to retaliate against Iran, who is the Commander-in-Chief of Saudi Arabian forces? It is the ex-Army Chief of Pakistan, Gen. Raheel Sharif. So, Pakistan will ask for something from these countries to strike against Iran. So every country is going to look at its own national interests first. Yes, for terrorism, Pakistan is known the world over, but, if there is a confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan has a role to play.
Do you think India should enter Afghanistan after the withdrawal of the US troops?
No, it should not. Look at the history! How many countries have entered Afghanistan? Russia entered and failed. Americans entered and are now withdrawing. So, they also failed. And both were superpowers. Now the question is: What superpower are you to enter Afghanistan? And what for?
How should India deal with Pakistan on PoK and China on Chinese-occupied Kashmir (CoK)?
What India is doing is the right policy. The doctrine of abrogation of Article 370 and trying to stop the sources of finance, which is coming illegally into J&K, is the right step to take, so that infiltration from Pakistani side is not only reduced, but is totally eliminated.
Recently, we signed an S-400 defence deal with Russia and the US raised its objection about it. The US is also playing a mind game with India vis-a-vis Pakistan. Therefore, isn’t it a big challenge for India to make a balance between Russia and the US?
This government is striking a balance between the two countries. So, what it is doing is right, as it is not falling into the ambit of Americans. The US is looking for someone as a hedge against China. They are talking about quadrilateral alliance–US, India, Japan and Australia. However, India is following an independent line, not totally being part of the US plans. Every country is looking at its own national interest as does the US. The US does not want to involve with China, but it wants someone else to face China. Therefore, India is maintaining an autonomous foreign policy. And the same way, it is maintaining with the Russian side. Most recently, our Prime Minister was invited to Russia as a chief guest in Eastern Economic Forum. So, all the countries are following an autonomous foreign policy.
How do you see the military modernisation under the current government?
Military modernisation has a long way to go. Look at the military budget in terms of the percentage of GDP in the last 10 to 15 years. Every year you will find the military is getting lesser and lesser percentage of the GDP.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently made a statement that India’s “no-first-use” (NFU) policy on nuclear weapons would depend on circumstances. What is your view on this?
It’s a good thing that he said so. If you get fixated with one kind of policy, the other group tries to take the advantage. What is the Pakistani view? They have got such a huge amount of ambiguity about the use of nuclear weapons. When their Prime Minister Imran Khan said that we would not use nuclear weapons first, straightaway the Pakistani army said that this was not their policy. Therefore, while we have a declared NFU policy, we should bring in a degree of flexibility to suit the circumstances if so required.
By Ravi Mishra