BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent

  1. Image result for kashmir crisisAnother BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunes and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above. You can also support the podcast as a patron (the primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else…). Would appreciate more positive reviews.

In this episode Razib and Omar talk to Major Amin and Dr Hamid Hussain. Major Amin and Dr Hamid are familiar to our readers for their regular contributions on military history. In this episode we discuss the current India-Pakistan confrontation and what comes next. Events may have moved on even as this gets posted, but I am sure listeners will find it an interesting review of the military and political aspects of the crisis.

Postscript: I may have been too hasty in concluding that only one plane was lost that day. It seems that witness accounts and initial Pakistani claims all mention two aircraft. Pakistan says that was another Indian plane, Indians say it was a PAF F-16. Right now, all we can say is that Abhinandan’s MiG 21 crashed without a doubt.. what happened to the second plane and who was it? We don’t know yet for sure.



Note from Razib: I tried my best, but there were a few issues with the sound on this podcast. But since the substance is timely and hard to find elsewhere I think it’s worth it!

Image result for kashmir crisis

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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

32 thoughts on “BrownCast Podcast episode 18: India and Pakistan; Confrontation in the Subcontinent”

  1. Great podcast.

    Its looking like Pak won this stand-of, if only because they were able to respond to India’s initial strike and then force a ceasefire with broad international support, meaning the paradigm hasn’t shifted to allowing strikes on Pakistan as a defensive measure against their proxy attacks.

    There’s also the fact that India seems to have completely shit the bed when it comes to the technical aspects of the conflict.

    Their initial strike hit literally nothing (verified by international and local media), but based on the proximity to a legitimate JEM camp, it means they were aiming for it and either are incompetent, or were forced to drop early due to rapid Pak response. This wouldn’t be so bad (could claim safe flight into and out of Pak), if they hadn’t leaked casualty figures of 200-350. Now they (and Indian media) are left with egg on their face.

    Day 2 was even worse. Pak raiding into Indian territory, proudly acknowledging they struck empty land to prove a point (but avoid casualties and deescalate), while luring two Indian fighters into Pakistan, shooting them down without suffering losses, and taking the one that crashed in Pak alive as prisoner, where he’s singing the praises of the Pak-army for treating him so well.

    Meanwhile the Indians crashed their helicopter into the side of a mountain (all 6 soldiers died), and denied the Pak-raid and jet-downing until they were shamed into admitting it. Not to mention the claims of shooting down a Pak jet, which is looking to be another fabrication on their part (thought not confirmed).

    1. meaning the paradigm hasn’t shifted to allowing strikes on Pakistan as a defensive measure against their proxy attacks

      Is that a good thing from your perspective? Are we supposed to continue taking these kinds of attacks lying down? Does Pakistan have no responsibility to tamp down and eliminate terrorist activity on its soil?

      1. Absolutely a good thing, as it will deter India from attacking Pakistan again, and potentially setting off nuclear Armageddon.

        I suppose Pakistan does have a responsibility to clamp down on its proxy warfare, though I think India also has a responsibility to clamp down on its repression of Kashmiris.

        To be fair, I actually think India’s responsibility is far-greater, as its killed far more Kashmiris than Pakistani-proxies have killed Indians, and its treatment of Kashmir is what engendered this proxy activity in India to begin with.

        1. @INDTHINGS

          Nice work obfuscating Islamist ideologically motivated terrorism. No mention of Ghazwa-e-Hind?

          Jaish-e-Muhammad ‘projects Kashmir as a “gateway” to the entire India, whose Muslims are also deemed to be in need of liberation. After liberating Kashmir, it aims to carry its ‘jihad’ to other parts of India, with an intent to drive Hindus and other non-Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. ‘ It takes the Ghazwa-e-Hind as its motto.

          1. 1.) You clearly don’t know much about Islam if you are citing a lone Hasan Hadith and two weak Hadiths (which by definition cannot be used as primary source for deriving law).

            2.) I have no doubt JEM and other terror groups are nefarious, but there is no citation in Wikipedia for what is being claimed, “that they want to use Kashmir as a gateway to expel non-Muslims from India”. Their is plenty of evidence for their known goal (liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation).

        2. its treatment of Kashmir is what engendered this proxy activity in India to begin with.

          I’ll have to disagree there. Secessionism and Islamic radicalism came to Kashmir first. Repression by the Indian state came later (which I don’t condone, but it’s unfortunately par for the course in these situations.) You also omitted mentioning the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir Hindus. By my standards, Kashmiris forfeited any unilateral right to “self-determination” when they murdered and expelled their Hindu population. Any consideration of Kashmiri separation today must meet the consent of all of the Indian people, and polls suggest that they are overwhelmingly against it.

          1. The Kashmir conflict has existed since 1947 not 1989 (which is when the insurgency/freedom struggle started in earnest). India’s mistakes in the Valley go back decades. Sheikh Abdullah chose India and yet within a few years was placed in jail. The promised autonomy was gradually taken away. Elections were rigged. This is the context of the militancy and Pakistan’s ability to successfully fan the flames. There are no excuses for terrorism or proxy war. Yet India must recognize that the suicide bomber in Pulwama was a Kashmiri and not a Pakistani (a big change from the 1990s). Something clearly happened to radicalize him, which is independent of whatever Pakistan is doing.

            India fanned the flames in East Pakistan and succeeded in breaking the country because West Pakistan had been treating the East as a colony. If we had addressed the legitimate grievances of the East Pakistanis, it is possible that we would still have a united Pakistan.

            The ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits is inexcusable but so are the atrocities that the Indian Army and paramilitaries have carried out against Kashmiri Muslims. This treatment is what has contributed to the increasing alienation over the past three decades.

            Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris (on both sides of the LOC) and not to the Indian or Pakistani people. The plebiscite promised by Pandit Nehru was not dependent on the consent of non-Kashmiri Indians. However, I don’t think this is a realistic solution now. Both India and Pakistan must accept the LOC as the permanent border. Some kind of autonomy should be provided to Kashmiris on both sides and they should be allowed to meet each other and trade etc. The needs of the Kashmiri people should come first rather than the nationalist feelings of India and Pakistan.

            Negotiation is the only solution to this conflict, not proxy war or military action.

          2. This is illustrative of how warped the Indian view on this issue is.

            Indian repression began in 1947-1948, when they aided the Dogri’s in militarily annexing Kashmir into India against the will of its population. This is regarded as base invasion and occupation by the Kashmiris, no different than if Pakistan had invaded and annexed Gujarat.

            Islamic Fundamentalism is the natural result of a Muslim population being occupied against their will by a foreign entity, and its manifested itself most shamefully in the 90’s when the Pandits (seen as supportive of the Indian occupation) were expelled. This is a regular occurrence in independence struggles however, where minorities groups that act as fifth-column for occupation forces are targeted (happened in Ireland, South-Africa, Palestine).

            As for Kashmiris forfeiting their right to self-determination due to killing 200 Pandits, I think we both know this is ridiculous. Indians killed more than 200 British and pro-British Indians during their revolt against colonial rule, did that “forfeit” their right to self-determination? Bengalis killed thousands of pro-Pakistani Urdu speaking civilians, did that forfeit their right to form Bangladesh? Please. India has been against Kashmiri independence long before the Pandit exodus in the 90’s.

            India can continue to deny Kashmiri freedom, which necessitates the use of brutal military force to maintain the occupation. This will continue to engender hatred and attacks against Indian forces by Pak-supported Kashmiri insurgents.

            India will just have to live with that, since they can’t do anything to Pakistan, and are too stubborn to let Kashmir go. Hopefully humanity triumphs in India, and they shed this ridiculous greater Bharat nationalism nonsense, and just let Kashmir go, ending this conflict in South Asia.

          3. “minorities groups that act as fifth-column”

            Well, well, well dont remember exactly where have i heard this before in India? 😛

    2. Updates from overnight.

      Its looking more likely that Pak only shot down the one jet, and the Indians shot down a Pak jet, which crashed in POK. Rumors are that the Pak pilot died, either from the crash or even beatings by locals who mistook him for an Indian pilot.

      This is all rumor, but its the best explanation I’ve seen for why Pak initially claimed two downed jets w/ two pilots in captivity, but changed it to one. Would explain India only acknowledging one pilot downed, and insisting they shot a Pak jet.

  2. I think all of India’s objectives have been met. Our jets were able to penetrate quite deep into Pakistan’s airspace and drop munitions. The extent of the damage inflicted will become clear with time, but this puts a serious question mark on Pakistan’s ability to protect its non-state fighters. India’s guess was right in that, just like Abbotabad, Pakistan was not able to detect hostiles in its airspace.

    Pakistan’s response was quick, but ultimately a limited, conventional one. And their aircraft were engaged quickly by India’s patrols. Yes, the optics of the captured Indian pilot suit the Pakistani military in the short term. But in the long term, the original status quo could have only been maintained if their aircraft had penetrated Indian airspace without detection and engagement.

    A related question, can anyone provide insight into why Pakistan’s air defence is so weak ? As of now, most of Pakistan’s airspace is still closed. Flights have been in and out of Amritsar all day, but nothing around Lahore.

    1. If the idea was to prove that Pakistan proper (and not just AJK) could be attacked without consequences, that has failed. Pakistan responded the very next day and proved that we will defend our sovereignity. Any further action by India will be an escalation (which no rational human being should want).

      “Surgical strikes” etc are not going to solve our issues. The only solution is a negotiated dialogue addressing the Kashmir conflict. This may not be a popular position right now but it is the sole workable one in the long term. How many more cycles of escalation are you willing to see in the future?

      1. What consequences ? India dropped bombs 80 km into Pakistani territory, Pakistan lost an F-16 trying to even get in.

        1. I’m sure it was not India’s idea that they would get a plane shot down the next day and a pilot captured. By violating our sovereignty, they risked escalation. I’m glad everyone has calmed down now. But next time India plans some kind of “surgical strike” or “non-military preventive action”, they should realize Pakistan is completely prepared to respond to any incursion into our territory.

          Neither proxy war nor military action is the answer to anything. The outstanding issues between these two countries can only be solved by diplomacy.

          1. I think it was completely on the cards that there would be some kind of military engagement post Balakot.

            Planes get shot down in aerial combat, thats not new. India’s problem was that its soldier’s were fighting Pakistan’s irregulars. There was no risk to Pakistan’s armed forces. But that has changed. It could have just as easily been two Pakistani jets shot down. This dramatically increases the costs for the Pakistani army.

          2. The point is that incursions into Pakistan will be met with action from Pakistan’s side. Pakistan demonstrated its ability to strike back and then de-escalated by returning the Indian soldier.

            How many more cycles of this stupid escalation do you want to see? There is no excuse for Pakistan’s use of proxy forces. That should be stopped for the sake of Pakistan itself. But India’s belligerence and muscular nationalism doesn’t help matters either.

  3. I think both sides are claiming win, but Pakistan has undoubtedly won the PR battle. For those who think India has drawn new red lines, these lines will be reverted back to older ones once the opposition is in power. In a way this are “BJP lines” and not “Indian lines”. I anticipate India’s U-Turn also on other subjects like unilateral opposition to BRI once the opposition is in power.

    For folks asking if Pakistan has any responsibility to take action against proxy groups attacking India then the answer is emphatically NO. Pakistan is under no obligation to fight fair just because India wants it to. Now if you consider Pakistan (State) as enemy (which majority in India don’t) , then only you can fight an effective war. But then many in India(mostly in South and East) don’t even think we are fighting a war, so there is that.

    1. Can you elaborate this point, that these are only “BJP’s red lines”, removing all other variables? This is a view unsupported by history or context, IMHO.

      I can argue otherwise, that any government with 300+ seats in parliament with a pre-election coalition and 270+ on its own, would have done this especially so near an election after a provocative attack. Especially at this moment in time in Indian history, the media climate, geopolitical environment and Pakistan’s finances.

      With a large number of seats, Rajiv Gandhi sent IPKF to Sri Lanka, his mother previously was training LTTE and aggressively countering Khalistanis and even before that, of course the Bangladesh liberation war. Savarkarites tend to, when talking about Indira nowadays, remove the party culture around her that enabled her to do so.

      I can also argue the exact opposite- every moment of capitulation to Pak sponsored terrorism has been when BJP has been leading or supporting the Central government: starting with Rubaiya Sayeed’s kidnapping (the release of terrorists was opposed by Farooq Abdullah), the infamous escort to Kandahar, and then being caught unguarded at Kargil, besides the various incidents of past 5 years.

  4. Not commenting on Parallel’s broader point, but will say that Congress governments are much better at communication and PR. We have seen the BJP floundering on this aspect in the recent crisis as well as during internal crises of which there have been many over the past couple of years.
    BJP doesn’t have a sophisticated bench that Congress has (corrupt as they might be)..I think you need an elite background, education etc and not the up from the ground background that most BJP walas have, to know how to set and control narratives..BJP would do well to introspect on this front

  5. “Can you elaborate this point, that these are only “BJP’s red lines”, removing all other variables? This is a view unsupported by history or context, IMHO.”

    No its not. I am not sure why is it difficult to understand. The opposition including the Congress does not play this games because its support base(South ,East India,Liberals) do not care about “nationalistic” stuff. So they would have done exactly the same thing with whatever numbers they come up in Parliament. And they would have with the same numbers would have acted in the very same manner as they did after 2008 Mumbai attacks. Now i respect and understand why this groups feel that way abt Pakistan or “nationalistic” stuff in general , but lets recognize it for what it is.

    “I can also argue the exact opposite- every moment of capitulation to Pak sponsored terrorism has been when BJP has been leading or supporting the Central government:”

    Yeah that’s the point. India’s natural response to all this is taking it to the chin, which it has been doing all these years(including previous BJP years), and will of course revert back once the opposition is in power. That’s why i made a differentiation b/w the supposed” red lines” being drawn now and India’s “red lines”. Perhaps i should have been more clearer and said Modi “red lines”

    1. I think you are overstating the North Indian ‘nationalistic’ vs South/East angle here. The only reason why BJP has a presence in Haryana, UP and Bihar is because of Modi. The surveys I have come across indicate far more aversion to Pakistan amongst South Indians than any other group in India.

      You may be right that these are Modi’s lines. But stepping back from them now will not be easy for a leader of any persuasion.

      1. I dont think so, it actually tough to follow his lead now. Modi in a way did certain things which i would still say were low hanging fruits in escalation. I think subsequent leaders will find it extremely tough to even do what he has done , because the surprise factor is now gone. I have a hunch that even Modi himself will find it more and more tough to do anything now vis-v escalation, because there are only limited things you can really do across the border.

        On N-india vs rest let just agree to disagree

        1. Disagree with both N vs S Indian-nationalism part and that these are Modi’s red lines.

          Regarding nationalism (generically), possibly wrong but IMHO the current wave of Savarkarite nationalism (SN) is a unique product of temporal and circumstantial factors. Some of these include a combination of post-90s economic growth, tiring with Congress corruption (earlier) and “weak” coalition governments (later), 2-3 decades of Pak-terrorism in the newspapers, post-Soviet fatigue of left/communists, etc.

          SN of course always had and will continue to have a core % of voters (?10-15%) but the pendulum will swing and rest will dissipate. The organic (cf elite) left-liberal folks are only now discovering and organizing on internet / social media – this will progress dramatically along with a simultaneous tiring with SN for both mundane (“anti-incumbency”) and ideological reasons (discovery by those beyond-core voters they don’t dig it as much once the novelty wears off, tiring of the “nationalist” media, etc). I give it 10 years for the swing to peak to the other side but could be wrong on the timeline, may be earlier or later than that.

  6. Post festum of two-days Indo-Pakistan’s war.

    I was a bit surprised by the incompetence of India’s military command.
    1) It is unbelievable that they still use MiG-21 which was retired from almost all armies except very poor African countries. Why they haven’t bought modern MiGs 29+ which are superior to American jets? They have (I think) 12 Sukhoys which are very good but it seems that they are older versions, too. Russian used successfully more advanced versions (but not the latest) in Syria. If Kashmir is the neuralgic point, they should allocate their most advanced jets there.

    2) The other thing, why they did not buy Russian S300 or even S400 as China and Turkey did? S400 would be enough to control the whole Kashmir and part of the Pakistan, there is no escape from this system which is also much more superior than US Patriot. Russians would be ready to give India the license to produce these systems by themselves as they will give to Turks who are still in Nato.

    3) The air-fight was so naïve, the India’s commander allowed to be drawn in Pak’s air space without support in an old plane which should be retired long ago. Pak’s F-16 are also fairly old but one generation in front of MiG21 and even more reliable than the latest US models.

    4) What India should do now? Army’s Chief of Staff and the air-force commander should be replaced. They should urgently buy new generations of MiG and Sukhoy which have better performances than US peers and they are much cheaper. They should also buy S400 which guarantee 100% of sky safety. They should send pilots and anti-aircraft for a training to Russia (this is also much cheaper than in US). They should sell all old planes (Mig21, Mirage, etc) to poorer countries. Only well-armed and capable air-force and anti-aircraft systems will guarantee the safety of their borders and they will use them as a deterrent for any potential invader what will prevent new conflicts in the future. India has economic power to easily fulfill this minimum army modernization program.

    1. Milan you are operating on incomplete information.

      I could write a very detailed article on the Indian Air Force. Would this be of interest?

      India’s air force procurement plan has been delayed because of Dassault Rafale challenges.

      India’s work horse are Indian customized Sukhoi Su-30 (the newest of which were manufactured in India). India has 272 minus losses in crashes and frames in maintenance.

      The Mig 21 are scheduled to be replaced by Hal Tejas. Hal Tejas is a decade late and more expensive to manufacture than originally budgeted.

      Do you think India should manufacture more Sukhoi Su-30 in lieu of large numbers of Hal Tejas?

      India is working on a 5th Gen stealth fighter with Russia that is many years out.

      What is your concern regarding the Indian air defense grid? Indians don’t believe the S300 or S400 are as good as US air defense systems.

      1. Turkey has rejected the offer of the United States to renounce the S-400 Russian land-based missile systems and to purchase the US Patriot system. A reasonable part of the offer was a favourable term: by the end of 2019. Unlike the Russian offer, which Ankara had already accepted earlier, even this latest US does not include either the sale of credit or the “surrender of technology” (for the production of the Patriot system in Turkey). Bloomberg claims that the Turkish response to the offer was short: “We cannot accept such offer.”

        Russia’s S-400, a mobile long-range surface-to-air missile system, costs approximately $500 million, whereas a Patriot Pac-2 battery costs $1 billion and a THAAD battery rings in at about $3 billion, according to people with first-hand knowledge of a U.S. intelligence assessment.
        S-400 is anti-aircraft missile system, designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, it can also be used against ground objectives. It is able to intercept cruise missiles out to a range of about 40 km due to their low altitude flight paths.

        INDIA HAS SIGNED a deal with Russia to acquire the S-400 air defence missile system, despite the possibility such a move could trigger US sanctions. … It has a range of 400km (248 miles) and can shoot down up to 80 targets simultaneously, aiming two missiles at each one.

        Russia’s S-500 Air Defence System: The Ultimate F-35 Killer
        Russian media and military experts believe that the S-500 will be the first missile defence system able to reliably target and neutralise fifth-generation stealth fighters like the F-35. Russia quietly conducted the world’s longest surface-to-air missile test, according to sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence about the weapons program. The S-500 surface-to-air missile system successfully struck a target 299 miles away. Russia claims that the ground-based missile system is capable of intercepting hypersonic missiles, lower level satellites, drones, aircraft as well as stealth warplanes like the F-22 and the F-35.

        1. Turkey and Israel seek to access high end technology from everyone in combination with their indigenous R&D. Very smart.

          At some point hope to research what is the status of India’s long term air defense R&D.

          India has attempted joint Indian/US R&D on air defense for a long time. America has been less enthusiastic over this than India.

    1. Nicely explained.

      The Pakistani Air Force is massively outclassed.


      Any thoughts on the Pakistani manufactured JF 17 aircraft?

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