Pakistan has a history of alternating between civilian and military rule.
There is a lot of buzz in international circles of an impending army coup in 2012.
If that happens, then India should be very worried.
For every Pakistani dictator has been involved with at least one conflict with India.
A look at all their dictators and Indo-Pak conflicts …
Ayub Khan: 1965 War
General Ayub Khan became President of Pakistan in a bloodless coup. He decided to make the most of India’s 1962 war loss with China. He was emboldened by the death of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and at that time soft image of his successor Lal Bahadur Shastri.
In 1965, border skirmishes saw Pakistan getting about 10% of the Rann of Kutch. This minor victory along with India declaring peace saw Ayub Khan eying Kashmir. Operation Gibraltar was launched in the same year to spread insurgency in the state and that led to the Indo-Pak war of 1965.
Yahya Khan: 1971 War
A combination of circumstances led Ayub Khan to hand over power to General Yahya Khan in 1969. Yahya Khan launched Operation Searchlight with the aim of suppressing the Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan.
These events led to the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and Yahya Khan was forced to hand over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the end of the war.
Zia-ul-Haq: Siachen Conflict
General Zia-ul-Haq toppled Bhutto in 1977 and took charge of Pakistan. The 1980s was a very happening decade with the CIA and ISI becoming very active in Afghanistan and the effects of that are still being felt way into 2012.
But Indian and Pakistani forces clashed in what has been called the highest battleground on Earth in 1984 and India wrested control of the entire Siachen Glacier.
Pervez Musharraf: Kargil War
General Musharraf changed the script a bit. He orchestrated the Kargil War and then used it as a launch pad to stage a coup and come to power. The Kargil war of 1999 saw more than 500 Indian casualties.
This is the first time that two nuclear powers directly went to war.
Major General Akbar Khan: Kashmir War
One war that has been left out is the Kashmir War of 1947-48. It broke out immediately after Independence over the accession of Kashmir. But interestingly the Brigadier-in-Charge of Kashmir from the Pakistani side was Akbar Khan.
Akbar Khan later became Major General and was the main conspirator of Pakistan’s first (and botched) coup attempt of 1951. He failed in something which Musharraf succeeded years later.
So it would be safe to say that most Indo-Pak conflicts have either been preceded or succeeded by a coup attempt.
Of course that's not to say that civilian rule has been peaceful for India. Civilian leaders while not waging war outright have been involved in a lot of hectic behind the scenes activities.
In 1965 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (then Foreign Minister) famously declared…
“Pakistan will fight, fight for a thousand years. If.. India builds the (Atom) bomb.... (Pakistan) will eat grass or (leaves), even go hungry, but we (Pakistan) will get one of our own (Atom bomb).... We (Pakistan) have no other Choice!...”
So in the 1970s, Bhutto became the father of the nation’s nuclear weapon programme.
The 1990s civilian rule saw the ISI get really busy fomenting militancy in Kashmir and creating the Taliban.
Coup in 2012?
So that brings us back to the present. Pakistan is seeing instability once again. President Asif Ali Zardari is looking beleaguered. Prime Minister Yousaf Gillani has been censured by the Supreme Court. US-Pak ties have reached a new low.
General Ashfaq Kayani is undoubtedly the most powerful man in Pakistan and can easily stage a coup. Whether he does that or not remains to be seen.
Another compromise appearing to be on the cards will be the return of Musharraf, another ole dictator.
Either way India should be worried.
Just look at the years of all the conflicts: 1947-48. 1965. 1971. 1984. 1999.
Going by the above, some sort of military conflict takes place between India and Pakistan every 6-17 years.
It’s been more than 12 years since Kargil and a coup in Pakistan will test that peace to the limit.
One hopes that the era of Indo-Pak conflicts is over, but 2012 will be a year watched with nervousness from both sides of the border.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/