From among his initial posting as camp-in-charge of a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp meant for Pakistani soldiers in the 1971 conflict to his multiple postings in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) culminating as a Special Director to his job as the Secretary Security in the Cabinet Secretariat, a post he left on superannuation in 2007, few in our country can claim to have practically studied Pakistan as NC Padhi can. On the day five Indian soldiers were killed by the Pakistani Army in Poonch, Padhi broke his silence.
In an exclusive interview Padhi spoke of the need to ‘finally empower the army ground commanders’ as well as the worrying ‘radicalisation of the Pak Army’. Excerpts follow:
Q. To what has taken place, how do you react?
A. As an Indian, I am outraged but not surprised. The Pakistan Army’s unprofessional conduct has been such that in the last 65 years, it has fought multiple wars, at home, along borders or abroad and yet not won even a single one of them. I doubt if we see the last 65 years of world history, any army has fought so much and then lost so much.
Q. Tell us about the state of Pakistan Army, based on your study.
A. Since the time of General Zia, the radicalisation of their army began. I can say that today, more than 50 per cent of the men in their staff have been radicalized. In fact we are aware that the ordinary soldiers, belonging to rural areas of Pakistan and devout Muslims look down upon their seniors for their liberal thinking and cosmopolitan upbringing. This is creating a huge crisis for them in terms of maintaining command and control. To be honest, my apprehension is that one can’t say when the remaining liberal elements may be uprooted by the hard core ones.
Q. What about the ISI?
A. Well, as Pakistan Army exists as a state within the Pakistani state, the ISI exists as a state within the army. The element of infiltration which has taken place by the terrorist organisations into the ISI especially is alarming. And this is the first sign of a failed state.
Q. So what is the meaning behind talking to them?
A. Not much. This is situation where neither the civil leadership in that country can rein in its army not can the army chief guarantee the behaviour and conduct of its army. I see no point in talking. And in saying this I must mention that the judiciary in that country has not distinguished itself one bit by not doing what it was required to do to send the army back to the barracks.
Q. For India, what should be the road ahead?
A. Firstly, no party in India whether in power or outside wants a war with Pakistan. But what is clear is that our government will have to do more than what it has hitherto done on this subject. To begin with, there is no doubt we need to launch a strong diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. Our Prime Minister should cancel the proposed meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in September.
Q. And militarily?
A. Our army needs to be given more say in what it wishes to do with Pakistan especially the ground commanders. In fact I would go to the extent of saying that the army should be allowed the freedom to escalate matters to dare Pakistan Army to start a war.
Q. Won’t multiple agreements, bilateral and international come in the way?
A. These agreements are meant to be observed between two civilized sides. But the Pakistan Army can no longer be called a civilized one.