Strategic commentary in India is generally in favour of compelling Pakistan to end its recourse to terror in its dealings with India. The underlying logic is that deterrence not having proven effective enough to prevent Pakistan from adopting a proxy war position, compelling it to desist becomes necessary. Terrorist outrages, such as the Parliament attack and Mumbai 26/11, indicate the requirement of compelling Pakistan to change its policy. It is apparent that the threat of war as posed in Operation Parakram worked only partially. Therefore, a more offensive posture would help dissuade Pakistan.
A ‘war fighting’ doctrine in the form of Cold Start has evolved to meet the challenge. Deterring Pakistan at the conventional plane is not of consequence as Pakistan - deterred at this level - is using the sub-conventional plane for aggression. Therefore, ‘compellence’ is required, which only a ‘war fighting’ doctrine can deliver. The test of this doctrine however is in terms of its alignment with India’s wider political aims; possible war aims; and of effectiveness.
That the sphere of politics precedes the military domain is axiomatic. Therefore, military ‘means’ have to reckon with political ‘ends.’ The overall national aim is fairly evident from India’s political and economic conditions. The doctrine of 'compellence must be viewed against a ‘development first’ policy. Compellence appears to be a move beyond the political parameter. It is important then to dissect the military doctrine for force structure, equipment policy, organizational and operational issues which necessarily follow from doctrine. A doctrine must conform to grand strategy. Compellence goes beyond grand strategic parameters. This is not to fault the military. In providing security, which it considers its professional prerogative, it has come up with a plausible solution to the strategic dilemma posed by a continuing proxy war by Pakistan. Defining parameters and assessing the legitimacy of military doctrine is a political function. To integrate it into grand strategy – itself suitably realigned – is a political function. Else getting the military back to the drawing board must result. A rethink is therefore in order.
Next is the issue of possible war aims. Only a change in the complexion of the Pakistani state can bring about a change in its policy. Pakistan is military-led. Its military is ‘praetorian’ and its worldview is conservative-realist. Its self image is of a ‘guardian’ military and it is aligned with rightist forces for internal legitimacy. These elements are also used as a strategic tool with respect to its position on Kashmir. A change in this state of affairs would require a change of regime in Pakistan. Doing so through a Limited War may not be possible. Regime change in a nuclear-armed state, is not possible even for a superpower to bring about. Less ambitious war aims limited to punishment or revenge, require to be seen against political and economic costs and, more importantly, against nuclear risks. It is self-evident that the satisfaction of pain inflicted does not compensate for risking India’s economic trajectory and placing its population centres under heightened nuclear threat. It is apparent that Total War is unthinkable. ‘All out’ conventional war carries a risk of escalation that does not lend it easily as a legitimate means towards furthering political aims. Limited War would not change the post-conflict scenario appreciably. Thus, timely questioning of the utility of military force is valid in light of commentary elsewhere in favour of the same.
Lastly, is the test of effectiveness. Attrition of the Pakistani military is the primary criteria for punishment inflicted. This is a feasible proposition. In case the Pakistan Army gives battle, then it can be seriously reduced in power. There is, however, the possibility that should it share the idea of a short duration war, it could ‘wait out’ India; using Asymmetric War on its own territory to complicate extended Indian occupation. Conflict extension for requisite force application is not unlikely in such a circumstance. Pain inflicted by air power is possible, but the example of Iraq and earlier studies of strategic bombing indicate that, though appreciable damage would result, there are also limitations. In the not improbable case that the Pakistan Army does not give battle, the risk of expansion of war aims and means applied increases.
Though set back by decades conventionally, the ability to continue with its proxy war in Kashmir would unlikely be seriously compromised. Instead, Kashmir would be brought on the negotiation table. An infusion in terrorist ranks may well be the undesirable consequence along with a lurch to the right by the Pakistani state and society. Post-conflict peace can be ruled out in case of a not improbable mirror movement in India.
Therefore, there is a need to debunk the muscular-action votaries hogging prime time. The military option being found wanting, alternatives need a serious re-look. Application of multifaceted ‘soft power’ as recommended by Mattoo and Jacob in ”Pakistan: Need for Smart Diplomacy” (The Hindu, 25 Feb 2009) is a possible alternative.