28 Oct 2010
New Delhi, India
Everybody in the meeting room wore a grim expression. None of them had expected things to deteriorate so fast. Defence Minister was supposed to be on his way to Russia for a meeting with his Russian counterpart. News of the attempted coup had come in middle of the night and he had to postpone his trip. Air Force Chief had cut short his tour of some newly activated air fields in the north-east. He could have registered his presence using video-conferencing, but he preferred to be physically present. Right now, he was exchanging notes with the Army chief who was looking even more serious than usual.
Last men to enter the meeting room were PM and NSA chief Angad, both earnestly involved in a conversation. Everybody rose up to greet the PM who took up his usual seat and motioned NSA Chief to start his briefing immediately.
"Good morning, gentlemen. We are a bit short on time due to radically changing situations in our neighbourhood. I'll come straight to the point. Last night, there was an attempted coup in Pakistan.
Some serving Pakistani soldiers, believed to be loyal to General Asgar tried to kidnap or kill General Beg inside his residence. General Beg escaped unharmed, but hiswife and nearly 20 of his soldiers were killed. At the same time, his new second in command, General Khalid was kidnapped. His present whereabouts are unknown. Beg had promoted General Khalid in staff meeting last night to replace General Asgar.
Right after the news of this attack started to spread, there were reports of gun fights among Pakistani soldiers in various cantonments all over the country. 100s of Pakistani soldiers are believed to be dead or missing in the bloodshed."Pakistan has seen numerous coups, but this one is unprecedented in terms of players involved and the bloodshed that followed. This infighting inside Pakistani army is sure to affect their already weak civil society badly. Pakistani civilians were already reeling under bomb blasts and subsequent riots. This mutiny will have serious consequences not only for Pakistanis but even us. This meeting is called for discussing our plan of action regarding this issue."
DM was in an unusually bad mood, partly due to postponement of his trip and he was not hiding his displeasure, "Damn these idiots! Who is in control of their nuclear weapons now ? "
"In comparatively normal circumstances, General Beg . Whatever we know of Pakistani nuclear system, even if Asgar manages to get hold of a few bombs, he wouldn't be able to use them. Not even against us."
How is that ?" DM asked eagerly.
"In return for their dollars, Americans had forced Pakis to consolidate their nukes in to a centralised system that can be monitored continuously and deactivated to prevent it's misuse in conditions just like this. Their man Beg, had all the launch codes and even if any rogue element manages to launch a missile against us, it wouldn't cause a nuclear explosion. " Angad explained.
"You mean to say, that right now all of their nukes are useless against us ?"
" Not exactly. Only the arsenal that they couldn't hide is under control. Rest of it might still be usable.""
That's not a comforting thought." HM observed dryly"
It certainly isn't" NSA chief agreed.
DM was on verge of hysteria, "The whole country is breaking down. Even the army that used to hold the place together is divided now. What stops any fanatic to take advantage of the chaos and take control of a few nukes! We have to take some action."
"And what might that be ? Do you have anything in mind ?" PM inquired
"Well, I can't think of anything right now" DM conceded. But surely military can think of something. What do you suggest gentlemen ?" he asked turning to the service chiefs sitting besides him for help.
Army chief began, "Right now, anything we do will potentially be seen as adding fuel to the fire. They , I mean some of them actually want us to get involved in the mess. This morning, Pakistanis started firing at our border posts in J&K breaking the cease fire agreement."
"Pakis have always been firing all year round to provide cover for their terrorists. What's different his time ?" HM interrupted.
"The scale of firing is unprecedented. Earlier Pakis shelled our positions either to provide diversion or covering fire to their terrorist infiltrating into India, but this time they are specifically targeting our soldiers and positions. This is not limited to a limited area. Our positions in Kargil, Siachen, Uri, Punch, Rajauri, practically whole of the north and north-west sector in J&K came under intense fire today. It's still going on in many places. According to the orders, our men showed restraint and refrained from responding in the same way. Our causalities were light for the scale of fire, but our luck wouldn't hold for long.
"We can't fall in to this trap. If we don't show restraint this whole thing will blow up in our faces." PM said in a worried voice.
General Zoravar Singh was expecting this, "I don't disagree sir, but consequences will be far more serious if we don't take any action. We lost 3 men in the firing today with 14 wounded. The toll is mounting even as we discuss the issue. Letting our soldiers die just like that is completely unacceptable. We have to show those Pakis that they can't take play nuke card every time to inflict damage on us. If we surrender to Pakis today, Chinese will surely try to take advantage, They have already taken control of a large part of PoK. what stops Chinese from indulging in similar mischief to further weaken and embarrass us ?"
"Yes. He is right. Pakis tried to play dirty in Kargil too, thinking that we wouldn't dare attack them since they had nukes. But after we did, they washed off their hands of the whole issue. Buggers even refused to acknowledge their own dead. What if we had not taken any action and allowed them to stay fearing a nuclear attack ?" DM added
"How do Chinese fit in to this picture ? Are they involved ? And who in Pakistan gave the orders to start the firing ?" PM asked.
" Well, Chinese involvement is what worrying us the most. As discussed in the last meeting,General Asgar is just their puppet. I'd be really surprised if we don't find any proof of their involvement in this coup. Apart from this, the area in northern J&K, where we came under fire is too close to places Chinese are present. We know for sure that Chinese have spread their tentacles much beyond the highways and tunnels they were building.
As for who is coordinating this firing, most of the evidence points to General Asgar. For starters, he was CO of the Pak Army HQ in Gilgit during Musharraf's time. Further, commanders currently serving there are believed to be loyal to him."
PM's already worried face assumed a horrified expression, "So if we retaliate to Paki firing, there is a real possibility of Chinese getting involved too ? This is too much for us."
DM lost all of his patience,"Chinese have no ground to take any offense. All of J&K, including POK is ours and these turds have no business being there in first place. And we are retaliating to unprovoked Paki firing on our positions. We have all the right to do anything we want to protect ourselves."
"What if all this is a Chinese conspiracy to pick up a fight ?"
HM spoke up."So what! We give them a fight. Why the hell are we spending so much money on defence when a 3rd rate terrorist sink hole can kill our soldiers at it's own pleasure ? "
DM's voice was getting too loud for ears of the soft-spoken PM and he winced in annoyance."So, what do you want ? An all out war ? "
"Of course not. But taking such provocations lying down is highly unsuitable for a country aspiring to be in UNSC. It's your pet dream after all, isn't it ?" DM shot back, much to the surprise of everybody present in the meeting.
HM cleared his throat and intervened, "Cool down Shivendra jee. It's not the time or place for this. There is always a peaceful way."
"Don't you think that I know this ? DM replied, in a milder tone. "But there has to be a limit. There is nothing stopping us from at least bombing the hell out of buggers who are shelling us."
Army chief took the cue, " Yes. Our hands are tied due to the ceasefire agreement. Now that they've themselves broken it, we have no obligation to play nice. At the very minimum, we should have the authority to destroy Paki positions which are firing on us."
"What about Chinese ?" HM askedDM answered the question before Army chief could, "What about them ? We are defending ourselves from Paki firing. If they object, they wouldn't have a leg to stand upon. "
PM took a deep breath and asked "Are you sure General, that firing back is the right thing to do ?"
Army Chief responded , "We do have the option to stay quite and take the blows, but for what ? We are losing soldiers even as we sit here. Some of the firing has affected civilian areas too. A journalist from a national TV channel was filming a documentary on our border posts in Uri, when it came under fire."
HM had not forgotten the pestering he had endured by the TV channel to grant permission for documentary. He rolled his eyes and interrupted, "Yes, that Varsha Butt from UNDE TV. Saw her showing off her wounds and posing like she is some kind of war heroine . It was a mistake allowing her to be there." Realising somewhat belatedly that he was interrupting the Army chief, he apologised and requested him to continue.
Army Chief acknowledged his apology with a curt nod and resumed, " Not responding will encourage Pakis as well as Chinese to cause even more trouble. It's effect on moral of armed forces as well as civilians is anybody's guess. We are not asking for permission for an all out attack on Pakistan. We just want the authority to defend ourselves against Paki firing."
"And you are sure that the things wouldn't spiral out of control ? What if they start firing in other places too "
" I can't give you 400% guarantee of anything apart from that my soldiers will not overstep their authority in any condition." General replied plainly. "As for rest of the international border apart from J&K is concerned, we can be reasonably sure that the Pakistani Rangers in the sector will not act in same way as their Army counterparts in J&K. We have no reason to believe that Rangers will dance to Asgar's tunes.In addition, they don't have the Chinese card to threaten us here. Pakistani forces are in no position for a offensive anywhere. Our forces are on a high alert anyway and can start mobilising within hours of receiving the orders."
"Will you require support from Air Force or Navy ? "
"We had discussed the issue among ourselves before the meeting. My men will surely need support from AF to transport men and materials. Navy can be used to impose a sea blockade, but that's not necessary now. We can handle the offensive part ourselves. Involving AF or Navy offensively will escalate matters. "
"That reminds me, what about their Air Force and Navy?" DM asked Angad.
"Although their Air Force is in control of some nuclear bombs, they just can't launch their aircraft carrying them without us or Americans knowing. Specially since only a few F16s are nuke capable and Americans have kept a tight leash on them .As for Navy, we don't think that they pose any serious threat to us. Mutiny in army has affected these 2 forces in the same way and operational readiness is severely degraded. Hell, I'd be surprised if they manage to fly even regular sorties. Even then we are taking no chances and we all of them under continuous surveillance. If they try doing anything funny, we'll be the first to know."
For first time since the meeting started, PM looked slightly at ease, "That's some comparatively better news. Very well General. You have my permission to fire back in if Pakistanis fire at you. But under no conditions, our men will cross the LoC. You can't imagine the pressure I'm currently in. People want me to just offer the other cheek. "
"I understand Sir. We'll try our best to keep things under check." A visibly relieved General Zoravar Singh replied.
"I suppose that's all there is to it ? Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I have a meeting scheduled with the American ambassador. Shivendra jee, do you have your statement on situation in Pakistan ready yet ? Let's discuss it in my office. PM rose up signaling end of the meeting.