India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

Bombing your own people: the use of air power in South Asia

(U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt jets, also known as the Warthog. File photo)

(U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt jets, also known as the Warthog. File photo)

Pakistani army chief of staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani offered a rare apology at the weekend for a deadly air strike in the Khyber region in the northwest  in which residents and local officials say at least 63 civilians were killed.

Tragically for the Pakistani military, most of the victims were members of a tribe that had stood up against the Taliban. Some of them were members of the army. Indeed as Dawn reported the first bomb was dropped on the house of a serving army officer, followed by another more devastating strike just when people rushed to the scene. Such actions defy description and an explanation is in order from those who ordered the assault, the newspaper said in an angry editorial.

But the question really is wasn't it coming? The counter-insurgency strategy that Pakistan has pursued to wrest control of its turbulent northwest along the border with Afghanistan has consisted of heavy use of air strikes and long range artillery barrages in the initial stages before putting boots on the ground.

It's the steam-roller approach that Lord Curzon, the turn-of-the century British Viceroy of India, spoke about when confronted with a similar challenge in Waziristan - except that it relies on stand-off weapons like releasing bombs from the safety of a jet aircraft to keep military casualties down, taking a leaf from the U.S. playbook in Afghanistan.

Indeed it would appear that while the U.S. is trying to change tack after years of  deadly strikes in Afghanistan, and focus on avoiding casualties at all costs, the Pakistanis are relying on the classic counter-insurgency strategy of overwhelming force as Tim Foxley writes on the Afghanistan blog or the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Army vs police: who should maintain law-and-order?

The peacetime activities of an armed force have a bearing on its wartime capabilities and its relations with the civil society.

Although it has been the stated government policy for at least a decade to use the defence forces as sparingly as possible the Indian army has been continually engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.

“Excessive and continuous involvement of the Army for internal security is not good, neither for the Army nor for the nation,” former army chief Ved Prakash Malik said four years ago.

  •