writings of ali ahmed, PhD (JNU), PhD (Cantab), with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Download books/papers from dropbox links provided. Twitter: @aliahd66
Also see blog-www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in. Former UN official, academic and infantryman. Author India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge 2014). All views are personal.
The Army Chief, speaking at the 1965 War’s fiftieth anniversary commemorative tri-service seminar, highlighted the army’s operational preparedness for a ‘swift and short’ war. Neither the terms he used nor the concept of Limited War, that the terms signify, are new to strategy. In the Indian context a similar description was given to the Kargil War with the Kargil Review Committee calling it, ‘not a minor skirmish, but a short, sharp war’.
Indeed, the 1965 War was a Limited War too, if somewhat on a wider scale, with the eastern front and the maritime dimension not figuring in the action, except for a foray or two, and the two states agreeing to a ceasefire in three weeks of the outbreak of undeclared conventional hostilities.
Limited War, for the purposes here and in the context of the nuclear era, can be defined as a war that at its outset is intended to remain non-nuclear. There appear to be two models of Limited War: a relatively wider 1965 War and the more restricted Kargil War. Whereas the latter can more readily be seen as being below the proverbial nuclear threshold, the former appears to possibly flirt with lowered nuclear thresholds. Whereas Pakistan would like to believe that its nuclear posturing has ruled out an offensive by India in the 1965 War model, India for its part would like to project that such a model continues in play.
Two possible models of ‘swift and sharp’ war therefore suggest themselves: a ‘reverse Kargil’ and an adaptation of 1965. Whereas the military dimension of these doubtless informs closed-door deliberations within the military that need not detain the discussion here, such deliberations need to be alive to the diplomatic prong of strategy in Limited War.
In both wars –Kargil and 1965 –the diplomatic dimension was arguably as salient as the military, in the former more so than the latter. In the Kargil War, the terms of reference to the military over crossing of the Line of Control for retaliation was primarily informed by the diplomatic prong of strategy. It paid off in the end, with Nawaz Sharif rushing to Washington for a bailout and receiving no succour there. In the 1965 War, the diplomatic strategy played out in bringing the conflict to a close, with, as revisionists today would have it, India on top.
Today, the nuclear dimension to conflict suggests that between the two models, visualized as two ends of a continuum, India may incline in the initial phases towards the Kargil model end, even while projecting its capability for following through with the 1965 model, notwithstanding Pakistani nuclear redlines.
In doing so it would gain the diplomatic high-ground in its display of restraint in going in for a Cold Start lite and the threat of worse in store up India’s sleeve – projected diplomatically - would keep international pressure on Pakistan from escalation.
There appear therefore to be three diplomatic strategy options.
One is in gaining the political high ground by diplomatic action highlighting Pakistani provocation leading to the conflict and India’s self-imposed restraint. Precedence for this exists in the Kargil War and the Op Parakram crisis. In the latter, the mobilization was part of coercive diplomacy; implying diplomacy was the dominant prong.
Second, is in the projection of India’s ability for escalation dominance. Whereas suitable military positioning will suggest as much in Pakistani operations rooms, that may not be enough from dissuading escalation on their part. They may require being shown the writing on the wall by the international community, corralled to this by the diplomatic prong of strategy. An example is in General Zinni, CentCom chief, rushing to Islamabad and Musharraf’s turnabout on 12 January 2002. In case of conflict extension in terms of widening and/or deepening, diplomacy would require synchronizing with military strategy for creating and exploiting suitable saliencies for an exit strategy.
Finally, in case India chooses to ab initio go the 1965 model way, the diplomatic prong would have a greater job of work on its hands. Presumably this would be made easier by India’s choice being dictated by the level of instant provocation or cumulative provocation over a period of time. The diplomatic prong may require borrowing a leaf from the US and Israeli jus in bello rationales that on occasion have included anticipatory self defence too. Since this would be a wider, if still limited, war, the bit about exit strategies in the last para remains relevant in this option.
In all three options, the diplomatic prong would have to be seized of the nuclear dimension. The international community would justifiably be concerned and it would be India’s endeavour to reassure all of India’s continuing exercise of responsibility. While in doing so there may be a tactical temptation to place Pakistan as a villain most likely to break the nuclear taboo, it may be prudent to examine if instead Pakistani strategic good sense is alongside propped up, ensuring that state acknowledges the political and diplomatic fruits of like restraint.
Not discussed in any detail here are the exponential demands on the diplomatic prong in case the nuclear balloon nevertheless goes up, since the war would then no longer remain Limited War. However, briefly, the diplomatic prong would require being alert to and part of the deterrence-reassurance nuclear strategy, even as the operational nuclear strategy dealing with nuclear weapons employment unfolds. In-conflict nuclear deterrence in terms of nuclear escalation dominance and reassurance for creating exit points will require diplomatic exertion. The latter will target Pakistani decision makers, directly and through the international community auspices.
The conditions for creation of exit points cannot be done unilaterally, as much as bilaterally, and therefore a thought must be spared in peacetime for the mechanisms and measures by way of which the two sides will step off the nuclear ladder together. This can be by way of NSA level talks, a back channel or the talks plank on nuclear confidence building that has already gone through five iterations last decade. This can also be a secret agenda point in respective talks by both governments with international interlocutors, such as the US, so as to have good offices available at a crunch.
This survey of the demands on the diplomatic prong of strategy resulting from the ‘swift and short’ war doctrine is necessarily preliminary since the open domain strategic debate has been sketchy. What needs doing is a discussion of such issues in the open domain so that nuances and edges are aired and the attentive public tuned in.
This does not mean that an ‘all of government’ approach is absent. The structures are in place in the form of the National Security Council Secretariat and common training is in hand at the National Defence College. However, in case not already in place,this article would have served a purpose in pushing on the structural front,inclusion of diplomats in the ‘strategy programs staff’ of the NSCS, and,on the training front, in the Combined Operational Review program
- See more at: http://www.claws.in/1453/the-diplomatic-dimension-af-a-%E2%80%98swift-and-sharp-war-ali-ahmed.html#sthash.eWMzqIe1.dpuf