Wednesday, 24 September 2014

book extract

An extract from the book India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia:

The organisational culture has also been considerably influenced by the kargil war and the near-war situation of 2001–02. Just as the 1962 war prompted much internal tumult, the initial surprise (V.P. Malik) in kargil and later, the inability to deal Pakistan a return blow in 2002 despite the Parliament attack and later the kalu Chak incident, referred to in subsequent literature as the ‘twin peaks crisis’, has prompted much introspection. The military’s image and self-image was considerably dented. ‘Face’ has well-known cultural connotations. Thus it had to come up with an answer to the con- tinuing problem posed by Pakistan. The outcome was Limited war thinking (kapoor 2010: 3). A change in organisational culture per- ceptibly towards the offensive was the result. only a change from defensive mindset to offensive, from attrition orientation to maneu- verist thinking could operationalise the doctrine (kapoor 2010: 4). The internal measures taken to foster an offensive mindset are not dealt in detail here.
The defensive mindset has been partially ingrained by the foremost role of the military involving defence of national territory interpreted earlier as a need to defend ‘every inch’ has been over-shadowed instead by an inclination to undertake the same role differently by taking the offensive. Forces for this in pivot forma- tions have been created by thinning out on the defences and accept- ing the risk of loss of territory that this entails. earlier, loss was not possible to envisage as in a short duration war it was felt that losses in territory would serve as bargaining chips in adverse hands and would be politically costly. however, by taking to the offensive through building the capability and an enabling doctrine, the bar-gaining advantage would be with the side on the offensive. There- fore, by taking the offensive, this risk stands minimised.
General V.P. Malik recalls that he had mooted the idea of Limited war prior to the Kargil war but not been taken seriously (Basrur 2009: 328; Malik 2010). The Army, having been at the receiving end of the Pakistani intrusion at kargil, was determined to exploit the gap below the nuclear threshold for a limited conventional operation. The assumption was that Pakistan would be ‘finished’ in case of a nuclear exchange; therefore space existed for conventional operations (Basrur 2009: 328). This would have enabled it to deal decisively with the sub-conventional proxy war. its earlier doctrine involved not only deterring an enemy attack by being ready for it (‘deterrence by denial’) but also launching counter offensives in line with ‘deterrence by punishment’. The accent is now no longer on ‘deterrence by denial’. in fact, the troops for the new offensive tasks of pivot corps have been taken off defensive roles. The aim is to take the initiative and fight the war on enemy territory. The war intended as a short one, would not require defending one’s own territory to the extent once done. Therefore, thinning out is possible in the ground-holding role of forces in defence. This does not imply dilution of ability to defend, but a substitution of manpower by technology and firepower.
The earlier ‘deterrence by punishment’ was deterrence of conventional action by the enemy on the offensive. now ‘deterrence by punishment’ implies punishment for sub-conventional infringements. A shift has taken place in doctrine towards the offensive in the form of proactive operations. This is in keeping with organisational culture that favoured the offensive in any case, as evident from its earlier intent for prosecution of ‘deterrence by denial’ through counter offensives.
The apparent neglect of the nuclear context points to the working of organisational culture. That a blind-spot exists where dan- gers should otherwise be starkly visible, suggests the operation of culture. According to rajesh rajagopalan, the development of the doctrine is, ‘another indication of the indian effort to overcome the limits imposed by nuclearisation and the limitations of that effort’ (2008: 205). he thinks that success would increase Pakistani propensity for nuclear first use. he notes that, ‘whether it is possible to think in terms of military victory in a nuclearised environment is left unaddressed in this doctrine’ (rajagopalan 2008: 206). The military wishes to fulfill its obligation through doctrinal innovation in the direction of what S. Paul kapur calls, ‘Aggressive conventional posture’ (kapur 2008: 88), the dilemma of Pakistani nuclear response notwithstanding. rajesh Basrur asserts that, ‘The “lesson” of kargil — that force projection would work better than diplomacy — was a case of “incorrect learning”. in practice, the whole argument for limited war came to naught in 2002’ (Basrur 2009: 330). Yet, kapur notes, ‘Military thinking has not changed. General Malik continues to hold that “limited war was, and still is, a strategic possibility so long as proxy war continues in the sub- continent”’ (Malik 2009: 330). To Basrur, ‘This represents a military professional’s thinking, and does not reflect the perspective of political decision makers, who have been reluctant to return to the limited war logic that preceded the 2001–2002 crisis. The politicians, at least, seem to have learned the combined lesson of the two crises: that limited war is not a viable option in the nuclear context’ (Basrur 1998: 331).
This ‘learning’ has led to persistence of the ‘strategy of restraint’, despite the provocation of Mumbai attacks of 26/11. it is this that perhaps accounts for a distancing by the military away from Cold Start in favour for what it terms proactive ‘contingency’ operations. in terms of cultural theory, this can be explained as persistence of india’s symbolic strategic culture. despite having an offensive option as an artifact of parabellum or operational strategic culture, that it remains unexercised, indicates the scope of symbolic strategic culture of restraint.
India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia,
Ali Ahmed 
Routledge, 2014, pp. 240, Rs 695

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Demystifying India’s Volte-Face on Pakistan
India’s new government has sprung two back-to-back surprises on Pakistan: the first was inviting Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; the second was the about-face on foreign secretary level talks upon the resumption of dialogue.
The first of these was seemingly couched in Indian regional diplomacy, but was mainly directed at Pakistan. The message was that with a new right-leaning government in New Delhi, Pakistan could expect bolder movement on the outstanding issues between the two.
However, the second stemmed from the new government’s reluctance to be brought to the negotiating table under Pakistani pressure. There were an estimated 95 incidents along the Line of Control (LoC) this summer, with 25 on the international border (or “working boundary,” according to Pakistan).
A strategic view of the increase in action along the LoC is that it is the Pakistani military’s attempt to get India to engage meaningfully. A political view is that it was intended to position the military favorably within Pakistan, to first gain credibility for the talks by pushing India to the table, and second to caution the Pakistani government against any “sell out.”
In this event, the Pakistani high commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri separatists, something traditionally acceded to by India, provided the pretext for the cancellation. It was India’s message to Pakistan’s “miltastablishment,” to use former Punjab acting chief minister, Najam Sethi’s phrase, that force will not work, particularly on a new government with a “tough” self-image.
India’s outstretched hand in the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Residence) forecourt appeared promising for the peace constituency in Pakistan, which comprises liberals and the business lobby. It is a longstanding Indian policy to expand the peace constituency by holding out economic benefits as an incentive for Pakistan to go beyond the Kashmir question. Cancelling talks was unhelpful in empowering the peace lobby relative to India-skeptics in Pakistan.
It is apparent that India’s strategy does not rely on this constituency’s ability to marginalize hardliners. The cancellation and the manner it was done together suggest India’s intent to bring about change through other means.
In a speech to troops while in Leh, Modi pointed out that the Pakistani military’s shift to a proxy war was due to India’s conventional advantages. Obviously these advantages have not been so overwhelming they could deter a proxy war.
The ability to administer military punishment was found wanting when it was tested during the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Even though India has had a conventional doctrine for the nuclear age, called Cold Start, since the attack on India’s Parliament in December 2001, the military’s wherewithal to execute its policy could not keep pace given the strained economic circumstances during the later part of the last decade.
Deterrence deemed insufficient, India is now attempting to compel.
India is expected to import $250 billion in arms over the next ten years. It is filling in the gaps in its conventional inventory, such as artillery, to remove any doubt of credibility about its conventional deterrence. The amount of foreign investment allowed in defense manufacturing has been upped to 49 percent. Since assuming office, the prime minister has visited Jammu and Kashmir twice, addressing troops on both occasions. Additionally, keeping the defense portfolio without a full-time minister has allowed Modi to keep a closer eye on it.
Three warships have been commissioned in close succession, although two of them are reportedly not quite ready. The buildup on the Chinese front, reviewed most recently by the part-time defense minister in August when he visited the mountain strike corps forming there, could prove useful on the western front too. Carte blanche has been given to the Army and the Border Security Force by respective ministers to administer a “befitting reply” on the LoC and international border.
Within this flurry of activity is couched a message for Pakistan. Thus far, Pakistan has been upping the ante in the hope of getting India to move on Kashmir. This time around, India hopes to increase pressure to get Pakistan to forget Kashmir.
Will this strategy succeed?
Pakistan, for its part, has a counter-strategy of ensuring that it is always in a position to credibly show itself in conflict with India. All it needs to do to win is to avoid losing. Further, its moves on the nuclear front are meant to convey the threat of escalation. This places India’s conventional threat in question, as it is based on keeping any conflict non-nuclear.
Indeed, a paradox emerges in that the more successful India is in its armament program, the greater is the probability of Pakistan’s proxy war challenge heightening at the lower end of the conflict spectrum, and the nuclear shadow lengthening at the upper end.
In Rawalpindi’s perception, with the U.S. set to exit Afghanistan and “good behavior” on Kashmir over the past decade not having “worked,” it may be back to business. Besides, it might be better for Kashmir to act as a sink for surplus Islamist energy than Pakistan’s cities and Punjab. The spike in firing incidents since talks were cancelled suggests as much.
India could also undertake a proxy war itself, an accusation Pakistan has made before, most notably at the Sharm-el Sheikh joint statement in Egypt. The appointment of an intelligence czar as India’s national security advisor is an indicator. Afghanistan readily lends itself as a suitable site for such an endeavor. Any such conflict would certainly spill-over into Pakistan. In India’s calculation, placing Pakistan on its back foot could make it less adventurous in Kashmir.
A strategy of overawing Pakistan is dangerous. Four potential proxy wars threaten: in Afghanistan, its spillover into Pakistan, in Kashmir, and in Islamist terror in India; this last heightened by al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahari’s latest video. At the same time there would be conventional and nuclear muscle-flexing by both sides.
Given such dangers, India and Pakistan would do well to restart the peace process at the earliest opportunity, during the two prime ministers’ appearances at the U.N. at the end of next month. At the least, it would reinsert a buffer between crisis and conflict.
Realistically, this may not be on the cards. India, set on upping the ante, may have decided to hold course no matter what. In this game of chicken, it hopes Pakistan’s army will be the first to blink. This is a touching, if entirely unfounded, faith in Pakistan’s army.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

what does india mean by 'two front' problem?

The phrase ‘two front’ was firmly placed in Indian strategic discussion by its army chief referring to it in a closed-door meeting of army brass at the turn of the decade in the context of Chinese presence in Gilgit. The ‘two front’ reference was to the ‘collusive threat’ from China and Pakistan seen as developing along the Himalayan watershed. While the term may be new, India has long been sensitive to the threat. In the April 1971 considerations of a military response to troubles in East Pakistan, India had refrained from action wary of the second front. Today, India’s naval exertions have expanded the scope of the term to the maritime domain.
The article examines what India means by the term by discussing it in its two connotations: one in peace time, and the other in its implications in conflict. The latter while hypothetical, is not on that account insignificant. It informs the ‘worst case’ that best explains the monies to the tune of $250 billion set to be expended by India over the coming decade.

Peacetime connotations

The prime minister while commissioning India’s largest indigenously manufactured destroyer, INS Kolkata, indicated India’s strategic doctrine as one of deterrence. The military prong is in being able to respond militarily to offensive action. This will reduce any incentive for aggressive behavior, leaving the diplomatic route open for dispute settlement. The diplomatic prong is in external balancing, for instance in the just-completed strategic dialogue with the US best signified by the US taking over as India’s largest defence supplier. Taking advantage of deterrence, India continues to engage diplomatically with both neighbours.
The prime minister has indicated that sufficient monies are being set apart for deterrence, with the 12 per cent increase in defence budget illustrating the government’s seriousness. On the China front, improved Tibetan infrastructure has given China the theoretical ability to launch 30 divisions. China has practiced rapid trans-regional mobilization in the Chengdu and Lanzhau military regions to enable this. India in rebound has shifted from a defensive to a posture of active deterrence on the China front by expanding airfields, placing strike aircraft forward and rescinding environmental rules for developing border roads at a gallop.
The Pakistan part of the ‘two front’ has stabilized since India rejigged its conventional doctrine. It was able to convert from its Second World War style conventional doctrine to one more appropriate for the nuclear age. It has reappraised the manner in which it will use its three strike corps in light of Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. The raising of one of the two divisions of the mountain strike corps in Pathankot on the Pakistan border suggests that the corps advertised for the China front can be dual-tasked for the Pakistan front. This suggests that India has an offensive capability for the Pakistan front. ‘Deterrence by punishment’ is being worked towards in order to be able to respond on the conventional level in case of subconventional terror provocation.

Connotation in conflict

The second connotation, that of how the ‘two front’ concept could manifest in conflict, is indeed difficult to visualize. China would not want to get into a conflict with India since it would not like to divert its energy and attention from its emergence at the global level as the main challenger. An India-China conflict itself being remote, the ‘second front’, on the west with Pakistan, is unlikely to materialize.
Reversing the consideration, in any future India-Pakistan conflict, China may side with Pakistan without necessarily opening up a ‘front’. However, in case of a conflict originating in terror provocation, China will unlikely weigh in on Paksitan’s side. Besides, from China’s past record in India-Pakistan wars, though India has kept a watchful eye on it such as in 1971, China has remained dormant.

India’s conflict options

Therefore, a two-front consideration in conflict can only be hypothetical. India would essentially have three options: the first is to hold on both fronts and the second is to progress matters on one front while holding on the other front. That latter has two variants – hold on the Pakistan front and progress matters on the China front and vice versa – leading to three Indian options.
The first – holding on both fronts – is feasible in terms of India having the requisite defensive capability for both fronts. The option enables time for strategic partners to step in on India’s side. This is the dividend India seeks in its current day diplomacy’s targeting of democracies. The second – hold on the China front while progressing matters on the Pakistan front – is feasible since India has the capability for offensive on the Pakistan front with mechanized forces that does not affect its capacity on the China front. This may be in Chinese interests in that it would leave Pakistan to dissipate India’s military might. Consequently, the third – to progress operations against China while holding on the Pakistan front – cannot be ruled out. China, the major opponent, would require India to have singularity of aim and concentration of effort for a credible showing. Success in this will also prevent any hyena-act on Pakistan’s part.
However, the ‘two front’ problem would tend to converge in the J&K in which there could be one theatre but two opponents. India has advantages of inner lines and that mountains favour defence. It’s location of an armoured brigade in Ladakh and presence of five divisions of the paramilitary, the Rashtriya Rifles, in Kashmir, indicates resilience. India may require spreading the adversaries’ attention and dissipating their strength to the other theatres/sectors, such as the plains sector in case of Pakistan and the eastern sector in case of China, by posturing respectively of its strike corps and the mountain strike corps.

The nuclear dimension

Such a discussion cannot be in isolation of the nuclear factor. India is relatively well placed conventionally not to dislodge the No First Use pillar of its nuclear doctrine. There is also the buffer on the maritime front available for pressuring China in case India is adversely placed on the Himalayan waterfront. India has only recently pointedly commissioned India’s aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, INS Kolkata and the antisubmarine warfare ship, INS Kamorta. On the Pakistan front, since India has the mechanized forces with a single front applicability, it would not be India that brings the nuclear factor into the reckoning. It would be Pakistan.
Pakistan has been projecting a low nuclear threshold since its 2011-introduction of and late 2013 testing of the tactical nuclear missile system, Nasr. In a ‘two front’ scenario, it can be assumed to be acting as a junior partner to China, so it would not be able to consider its nuclear actions without recourse to China. Therefore, how China appreciates the nuclear factor is a key question. China is in the game with global power stakes. Any action against India can at best be with a preventive intent. This limited aim can do without the complications of a nuclear dimension. Therefore, in a two-front scenario, China will likely dampen any Pakistani propensity to reach for the nuclear button.
Pakistan, with China alongside, is also unlikely to need to do so. Nuclear dangers on the China front are minimal since both India and China have an NFU in place as also have sufficient conventional forces for enabling respective aims. The nuclear dimension will unlikely figure unless any of the three is gravely conventionally disadvantaged. All three are aware that a nuclear power is never to be pushed into such a corner.

The future

The ‘two-front’ formulation has not outlived its utility. Deterrence is in any case always a work-in-progress. Therefore, while finishing touches are being made, the time is ripe for shifting from the military to the diplomatic prong of its ‘two front’ strategy. India is apparently making such a shift. India could aim at achieving a position of greater proximity with either state than each has with the other. It could consider such proximity with China so as to displace Pakistan from its favoured position. Precedence exists in the changed equations in the US-India-Pakistan triad.

India’s approach to the ‘transgressions’ on the Line of Actual Control has drawn positive comment with China calling it ‘objective’. It is set to receive Chinese premier. On the Pakistan front, however, India is being ‘tough’, having put off a promising beginning in the recent calling off of foreign secretary level talks with Pakistan. It is also engaging in firefights, termed as ‘befitting reply’ in press handouts, along the Line of Control.
Summing up, it can be said that India has a differentiated ‘two front’ policy. While on the China front it has defensive deterrence in place behind which it is engaging China diplomatically, for the Pakistan front it is reliant on offensive deterrence and has a harder diplomatic line. This suggests India’s strategy to be one of mitigating the ‘two front’ problem by isolating Pakistan. This sets the stage for it to tackle Pakistan more forcefully in case of terror provocation, without China weighing in.