writings of ali ahmed ...with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Views expressed are personal and may not be associated with any organisation. Follow on twitter: @aliahd66
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The aim of the monograph is to examine the structural factor behind the development of India's Limited War Doctrine. At the structural level, the regional security situation has impacted India's strategic posture - primarily the threat posed by Pakistan, India's revisionist neighbour. Given its revisionist aims and relative lack of power, Pakistan covertly went nuclear. This has accounted for its prosecuting a proxy war against India. India was consequently forced to respond albeit with restraint, exemplified by its response during the Kargil War, Operation Parakram and in the wake of 26/11. Emulating Pakistan's proactive posture at the subconventional level, India reworked its conventional war doctrine to exploit the space between the subconventional level and the nuclear threshold for conventional operations. This has been in accordance with the tenets of the Limited War concept. In discussing India's conventional war doctrine in its interface with the nuclear doctrine, the policy-relevant finding of this monograph is that limitation needs to govern both the conventional and nuclear realms of military application. This would be in compliance with the requirements of the nuclear age.
About the Author
Dr. Ali Ahmed is currently political affairs officer in the UNMISS.
The monograph was completed during his fellowship at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi in 2010-12.
Please email us at publication [at] idsa.in or call +91-11-2671 7983 (Ext. 7322)
To Late Maj Gen S. C. Sinha, PVSM CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .......................... 7 1. INTRODUCTION .................................... 9 2. DOCTRINAL CHANGE ............................. 16 3. THE STRUCTURAL FACTOR .................. 42 4. CONCLUSION ....................................... 68 REFERENCES ......................................... 79 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This monograph is the outcome of my fellowship at IDSA in 2010- 12. I am thankful to the Cluster Coordinator, Brig (Retd.) Rumel Dahiya, and members of the Military Cluster for their support. I am deeply grateful to former Director-General, Mr Narendra Sisodia for his encouragement. The monograph was made possible by the IDSA providing me an intellectually stimulating working environment, world class infrastructure, competent support staff and an inspiring set of colleagues. The monograph draws on the research for my doctoral dissertation in International Politics at Jawarharlal Nehru University, which the IDSA was kind enough to grant me permission to pursue alongside my fellowship. I stand greatly indebted to my Supervisor, the very capable and always kind Professor Rajesh Rajagopalan. I thank the three anonymous referees for their comments that have helped improve the manuscript and the copyeditor for making the monograph readable. However, despite the advantages I have had in preparing the monograph, there are the inevitable lacunae for which I am solely responsible. Ali Ahmed Introduction India developed its Limited War doctrine in the wake of the Kargil War. Officially, the land warfare doctrine dates to publication of Indian Army Doctrine in 2004. It was for a period of time, in the century’s first decade, colloquially referred to as ‘Cold Start’. The doctrine per se is for conventional war, but embedded in it are the tenets of Limited War. The understanding is that whether a war is ‘Limited’ or ‘Total’ would depend on political aims of the conflict and their strategic and operational translation. Since political aims, can reasonably, only be limited in the nuclear age, the doctrine can be taken as being a Limited War doctrine. The doctrine has evolved from the military developments of the past four decades. While India’s earlier doctrine - post the 1971 War period - had been a defensive one, organisational and doctrinal innovations in the eighties served to enhance the offensive content of military doctrine. Initially, changes were prompted by the necessity of conducting conventional operations under conditions of perceived nuclear asymmetry. This took the form of mechanisation, deemed as more suited to a nuclear battlefield. The doctrine was one of conventional deterrence comprising a dissuasive capability (deterrence by denial) along with a counter offensive capability (deterrence by punishment). In the light of Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear capability by the late eighties, the counteroffensive-capability, embodied by strike corps operations, became problematic. This was capitalised on by Pakistan to enhance its sub-conventional provocations taking advantage of the ‘stability/ instability paradox’. Consequently, India was forced, among other reasons, to adapt its offensive capability to bring its conventional edge back into the reckoning. The idea was to reinforce conventional deterrence and in case that was found wanting, then to be in a position to execute coercion or compellence as required.
Doctrinal development has been driven by the military experience
since the mid-eighties. The period witnessed the crises of 1987 and
1990 and the peace enforcement operation in Sri Lanka. Internal
conflict in Kashmir reached a climax with the Kargil War of 1999.
Pakistan’s proxy war culminated in the parliament attack that
prompted Indian coercive diplomacy, and Operation Parakram,
in 2001-02. Conflicts in the Gulf in 1991 and 2004 and Operation
Enduring Freedom which showcased the changes in the character
of conventional war influenced thinking. Organisational changes
and equipment acquisitions prompted by the revolution in military
affairs accelerated during this period. Cumulatively, these have
led to considerable doctrinal evolution. However, it was overt
nuclearisation that had the most profound effect and made conflict
limitation an overriding imperative.
An offensive and proactive capability that under-grids the war
doctrine speaks of a readiness to go to war, and, further, to take
the war to the enemy. The conventional doctrine and the nuclear
doctrine combined go beyond deterrence, to potentially enable
coercion through offensive deterrence. The nuclear doctrine posits
‘massive’ punitive retaliation in its 2003 formulation by the Cabinet
Committee on Security (CCS). This expansive formulation, it
would appear, is designed for enhancing the deterrent effect and
push up the Pakistani nuclear thresholds. Doing so enables the
leveraging of India’s conventional advantages in case Pakistani
subconventional provocations are emboldened by nuclearisation.
Pakistan’s offensive posture at the sub-conventional level and the
consequent Indian offensive orientation at the conventional level,
leads to heightened nuclear possibilities. The nuclear backdrop
serves as reminder that escalation could occur, either by accident
or design. The problem therefore has been as to how India should
cope with sub-conventional provocations. It has responded by
leveraging its conventional advantage. This needs to be tempered
by an inbuilt limitation at the conventional level in order that the
nuclear threshold is not breached. This challenge has proven
difficult, with Pakistan attempting to posture a low nuclear
threshold. India for its part has attempted to raise this threshold
by promising higher order nuclear retaliation. This intersection
of the Indian and Pakistani doctrinal postures at the conventional
and nuclear planes has an escalatory potential that could do with some mitigation. The monograph makes the suggestion that limitation must attend both conventional operations (as is indeed the direction of thinking), and also equally importantly, nuclear operations. Its chief recommendation is that India’s strategic doctrine should be informed by defensive realism. The compatible strategic doctrine is therefore one of defensive deterrence. India’s military doctrine therefore needs to be tweaked away from the proactive offensive stance to one more mindful of the nuclear overhang. Merely acknowledging its presence as the nuclear backdrop is not enough in light of escalatory possibilities. The deterrence logic has its limitations. Given this, not only must conventional doctrine be cognisant of this, but indeed also nuclear doctrine.