Wednesday, 24 September 2014
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,
Routledge, 2014, pp. 240, Rs 695