Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A conflict strategy for India in the TNW era


Why rule in TNW
Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNW) use considerations in an India-Pakistan conflict are usually held hostage to the optimist-pessimist debate. To deterrence optimists, nuclear deterrence will hold and therefore there is little to discuss. To pessimists, deterrence could break down and therefore there should be options up one’s sleeve. To the former, the existence of such options makes deterrence more liable to breakdown in first place. To the latter, the options reinforce deterrence in that the ability to respond in a situation of deterrence breakdown, prevents deterrence breakdown. A second line of argument between the two is in pessimists insisting that once breakdown is incentivized thus and occurs, then escalation is ruled in; making TNW irrelevant after the initial exchange(s). Pessimists believe that the idea of escalation is so horrendous to contemplate that escalation may not readily result, with the exchange(s) liable to be halted at the lowest threshold. Optimist would say that is impossible and therefore there is no call to make any effort to make nuclear war appear fightable; but to pessimists it is only impossible if no attempt is made to limit escalation and de-escalate prior and during hostilities.  The debate is liable to continue as it has since the seventies during the Cold Warbut in the regional setting in South Asia.
Understandably, in light of their security competition and largely adversarial relations, India and Pakistan appear on different sides of this debate. It would appear from India’s declaratory doctrine that it is informed by deterrence optimism; while Pakistan’s unstated nuclear doctrine seems to be based on deterrence pessimism. India’s declaratory doctrine posits unacceptable damage in return for nuclear first use against it or its forces anywhere. Logically, its use of the phrase ‘massive’ seems to be to reinforce deterrence in that it brings home to Pakistan the unwelcome prospects of escalation for that state. This explains India’s leveraging of its conventional advantage in its ‘proactive’ conventional doctrine. The optimistic understanding seems to be that deterrence will hold sufficiently for a measured conventional punishment of Pakistan.
Pakistan, for its part, appears nonchalant in pursuing tactical nuclear weapons as part of its ‘full spectrum deterrence’ formulation in keeping with its concept of deterrence which covers not merely the nuclear level but also the conventional level. It believes that this enables deterrence against war, even while it races to restore the strategic balance seemingly in favour of India in terms of second strike capability. Pakistan’s deterrence pessimism comes through from its TNW turn in that it hints at its apprehensions that its extension of nuclear deterrence to cover the conventional level may not hold, forcing nuclear first use on it. That it hopes for a graduated escalation is seen in its emphasis on TNW, hoping thereby to preclude escalation by nuclear first use at the lowest escalatory threshold and with the lowest opprobrium quotient.
Since there is no initiative so far, despite the possibility having been bandied about in election time last year of a nuclear doctrine revision, at the declaratory level India persists with nuclear optimism. However, it cannot be said with conviction that this will remain the case with India’s operational nuclear doctrine. India’s operational nuclear doctrine may well be different and more responsive to nuclear developments on the Pakistan front, even if India chooses not to advertise any shift from its position based on nuclear optimism. Therefore, there is a possibility that India’s operational nuclear doctrine may have an element of nuclear pessimism. India has possibly taken care not to own up to this so as not to incentivize Pakistani nuclear first use in the belief that it can get away with a lower and therefore tolerable punishment. India requires cauterizing its conventional level from Pakistani nuclear first use. Any hint of its own contemplation of TNWs in response may incentivize Pakistani TNW use, thereby placing India’s conventional forces in harm’s way and with the challenge of facing a nuclear conflict.
However, it is clear that India’s resort to its declaratory doctrine for informing its nuclear strategy in a conflict gone nuclear exposes India to strategic exchange(s). Compared to this, tactical nuclear exchanges may not harm mainland India to a similar extent. Between the two – having armed forces face up to nuclear conflict and the population face up to a strategic nuclear exchange(s) – it can be expected that the democratic government in India may settle for the former. Therefore, it makes as much strategic sense for India to have tactical nuclear response options up its sleeve as an unstated operational nuclear doctrine as to alongside keep quiet on any departure from its declaratory nuclear doctrine this entails.
What the discussion above suggests is that TNW use cannot be ruled out. In any case, this is not for India to legislate on since it is a decision Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, serving Pakistan’s National Command Authority, has arrogated to itself. What has been established in the discussion here is contrary to strategic commentary in India that rules out TNW use by India, there is a possibility of India to respond in a ‘tit for tat’ manner since it makes strategic sense to do so. Doctrine can only inform strategy; it cannot dictate it. This suggests that a future conventional conflict can go nuclear with the resort to TNW by both sides.
What TNW use entails
Nuclear level
An appreciation of how this would play out is necessary at all three levels: nuclear, conventional and sub-conventional. At the nuclear level, the aim for India’s NCA would essentially be to modify the war aims for a war that has gone nuclear in light of preexisting and longstanding grand strategic aims. India would not like any of its three revolutions being undertaken simultaneously – economic, political and social – be upturned or inordinately set back. A nuclear war has potential to set these back considerably. India as a rising power may like to cauterize the long term effects of nuclear conflict. In this it would not be alone, in that Pakistan would also like to play along, aware that it would suffer disproportionately. The twin aims of the two states would have the facilitative weight of the alarmed international community. Therefore, the reflexive escalation that finds usual mention in strategic literature is unlikely to happen without a sufficient window for escalation control and bargaining.
At best any exchanges in this window as the political and diplomatic de-escalatory game plays out would be of TNW. The Indian nuclear logic in this initial exchange(s) should follow game-theory-endorsed mirroring strikes. TNW use for Pakistan would have two objectives: at the political level, it would be in a de-escalatory mode to message the crossing of thresholds and that India must desist from cashing in on the gains that have provoked the strike(s). At the operational level, the objective would be to redress any operational level asymmetries India’s offensives have generated. For India, TNW use would be to reflect its resolve. It would like to convey two messages simultaneously: one of determination not to be second best in any nuclear exchange(s) and second a willingness to discontinue these in case Pakistan throws in the towel first. These would entail TNW strikes that are quid pro quo or a tad quid quo pro plus.
Since the scenario usually imagined is of Pakistani TNW use in a low opprobrium mode on its own territory in a defensive manner, India’s reply would be also on Pakistani soil. This would be in effect a double whammy for Pakistan. It can only get out of this bind by escalating exponentially, a suicidal action. It would therefore be boxed into proportional escalation with the certainty that should it touch Indian soil in this, it would risk strategic exchange(s) – a slower but equally sure way to national suicide. What emerges is that even though the TNW genie is out of the bottle, TNW is what Pakistan would be restricted to and that too most likely on its own soil or at best in conflict zones on India’s territorial periphery. India can thus afford to mirror Pakistan in TNW exchanges. The strategic level at which the nuclear exchanges are playing out would then be in conformity with the political level at which the politico-diplomatic de-escalatory moves are in play. A pitch that India’s restraint will enable it at this level is that it be allowed to continue conventional operations to sufficiently punish Pakistan for its busting of the nuclear taboo, while an international clampdown on Pakistan’s nuclear use is enforced.
Conventional level
There are three options for conventional strategy: one is to rely that nuclear deterrence will hold; two is preparedness to modify conventional strategy in face of deterrence breakdown; and last is to have conventional operations proceed under the assumption of Pakistani nuclear first use with TNW. The first is somewhat wishful. While the good health of India’s deterrence is not in doubt, the strategic sense of the Pakistani leadership certainly is. The Pakistan army has blundered before and can do so at the crunch. The second is desirable in that it caters for both a deterrence breakdown and has contingency plans in place prior for coping timely. Since national war aims may be adjusted in face of nuclear first use, so would military objectives and plans.
The third, proceeding with the assumption that Pakistan means what it says, may make the military over-cautious, leading to it pulling its punches. The down-side of this is in India not exercising its conventional advantages, gained at the cost of national treasure, optimally. The up-side is that a cautious war strategy and plans would put Pakistan in a political spot if were to nevertheless break the nuclear taboo despite India’s restrained conventional strategy. It would put Pakistan in the political doghouse and enable opening up Pakistan to military punishment. Such a prevents nuclear first use and in case of nuclear first use enables using the political leverage so gained to advance military objectives.
This article is not the space for dilating on how such a conventional strategy needs working out. However, a barebones sketch is that India could unleash stand-off conventional punishment, not amounting to a Cold Start of Pakistan’s nightmares. It could do creeping and selective mobilization behind this, to both be in conformity with a crisis management profile of the run up to conflict as also up the ante in case of failure of crisis diplomacy. Pinprick Cold Start offensives, such as by an Integrated Battle Group or two, can serve notice on Pakistan. It could have a Cold Start lite up its sleeve in case Pakistani counter moves gain threatening proportions. Allowing Pakistan’s counter moves to play out may be useful alibi from a political casus belli point of view. The offensive punch of strike corps can be in reserve, awaiting a ripe moment for launch of Cold Start, even if no longer ‘cold’.
It can be envisaged that Pakistan’s nuclear moment is not when it is at the receiving end of stand-off missile, air, artillery and naval fire operations. The threshold is also unlikely to be crossed in case of pinprick IBG offensives. But it gains plausibility in case of Cold Start lite and increasingly so in case of strike corps operations. In case of TNW advent in face of Cold Start lite, the opportunity presents itself for strike corps to follow through. At the political level, space must be created for military punishment of Pakistan. This is possible in case of demonstrated conventional restraint as depicted here, followed by nuclear restraint in a ‘tit for tat’ TNW response. Strike corps can then operate with relative impunity in the dust of initial TNW exchange(s). Relatively bold gains can be made in the mountain sector employing the mountain strike corps, since TNW employment is unlikely in these areas owing to proximity of the national capital region of Pakistan and the water flow considerations. What this discussion suggests is that India’s plans must be less of Cold Start and more of slow boil and be capable of acceleration once Pakistan’s TNW gambit is revealed as having less conflict ending potential than it hopes.
Subconventional level
After the Gulf War II experience it is clear that hybrid wars are what a state must prepare for, especially when forces are deploying in areas that have potential for Islamism. Pakistan has been at war with extremism, albeit a selective and partial one, for about a decade. Indian offensives will eventually find Indian troops in occupation of Pakistani territory, and reclaimed Indian territory in J&K. It can easily appreciated that they will face an irregular warfare backlash. In case this is compounded by prior nuclear outbreak, there is likely to be a political and leadership vacuum in Pakistan, particularly at lower levels of administration. A clue to this can be seen in the manner the extremists managed to fulfill the requirements of an absent state when Pakistan was struck by the earthquake in 2005 and by floods later. Therefore, stabilization operations will have a subconventional operations bias. As to how this will be accentuated by the nuclear factor may have figured in formation wargames, but has escaped discussion in the open domain so far.
India has two options: one is to persist in Pakistani territory and second is to retrieve to Indian territory, other than in J&K, earliest. The former has its basis in war aims, which may be to stabilize Pakistan in order that it does not continue to pose a post war threat to India. This may be in league with right thinking elements in Pakistani polity and society, including factions within its military. This may include those in charge of its nuclear arsenal. This may be in conjunction with international organisations and key actors, including the US and China, lending a helping hand to stabilize Pakistan. On the other hand, the latter may be on account of prudence dictating that there is no reason to offer a magnet for terrorist impulses of extremist forces in Pakistan. In right thinking forces are at low ebb in Pakistan, there may be little that India can do but to contain a truncated, nuclear contaminated Pakistan. 
In either case, and during the course of conventional operations, India would in any case have to contend with an Islamist counter. Alongside, would be societal effects of TNW use, such as refugee flows and heightened civil-military issues such as disaster management. There would therefore have to be three lines of action. One is that the offensive formations will have to undertake their own anti-terrorist measures. Second is in additional formations, possibly Rashtriya Rifles, to undertake communication zone pacification. And last is paramilitary for handling the increased population control measures. Clearly, both RR and paramilitary, will be at a premium, particularly as calls from disaster management priorities within India, especially those stemming from nuclear blasts, will assume priority. Therefore, the army’s contingency plans will need keying in prior to operations itself. A major facet of these will be to sensitise soldiery of the need to distinguish between the extremists and people. Any identification between the two should not owe to India’ssubconventional operations. This has been the principal take away from wars this century.
Thinking about TNW use has been drowned out by the dominant narrative in nuclear strategic discourse in India that there is there is no such category. All nuclear weapons are strategic weapons. This is to serve India’s declaratory deterrence doctrine that any nuclear weapons use against India or its forces anywhere would meet with nuclear retribution. The problem with this postulation is that it prevents thinking such as carried in this paper that could productively inform conflict strategizing within the military. Whereas the military may be undertaking such thinking independently and confidentially, there is no reason for a blackout in strategic literature. In fact, loud thinking such as here, may help with deterrence, in that in communicates to Pakistan’s SPD that its expectations of nuclear stumping of India may be unfounded in light of India’s thinking through its responses prior and being prepared accordingly. An Indian military that is prepared for undertaking conventional operations in nuclear conditions will enable greater flexibility to the Political Council of India’s Nuclear Command Authority. It then does not reflexively have to approve a nuclear strategy based on the declaratory doctrine. India’s operationalization of the nuclear deterrent, which involves a greater military input and interface than hitherto with the nuclear field, must also push for an operational nuclear doctrine, which even if kept secret, is a departure from the declaratory doctrine.
A nuclear strategy that envisages TNW employment as depicted here must follow game-theory endorsed ‘tit for tat’ exchange(s), at least at the lower end of the nuclear spectrum. This will convey resolve and allow Pakistan a face saving exit. In being de-escalatory thus, it will create a political and moral high-ground for India to continue conventional operations. Conventional operations must first be premised on caution and second must be capable of upgrading in violence once international political-diplomatic pressures ensuing on induction of TNW succeed in restraining Pakistan. Conventional forces can expect a subconventional backlash from Pakistani extremists. Conflict strategy must have an exit game-plan in play. If persisting on occupied territory is required then it must be in conjunction with right thinking elements in Pakistan polity, society and its army.

TNW are here to stay. As other weapons they cannot be uninvented. Consequently, discussion on their effects and the possibilities and options they open up must be part of the professional regimen. The current silence on such issues is untenable and can prove paralyzing later. There are issues that have not been covered here but warrant equal attention, such as the effects on fighting troops’ morale and discipline, on management of families in cantonments close to the border etc.Approaching nuclear conflict as a different conflict environment enables clarity in such matters. Even if in the event it turns out that the nature and character of conflict does not really change, nuclear conflict will make demands that can be expected to put our earlier experience of relatively gentlemanly wars in the subcontinent to shade. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Information operations in Limited Nuclear War

It is a cliché that deterrence is a mind game. Clearly then, information operations that affect the mind of the adversary nuclear decision maker are critical. In peacetime and conflict, they need to be so directed that deterrence is strengthened. 

In conflict, it is not infeasible that deterrence may break down. However, nuclear first use does not entail abandonment of deterrence. In-conflict deterrence will need support of information operations in order to limit the war gone nuclear. Alongside coping with nuclear use, consequences will add to the targets of information operations that would require being directed also at one’s own military and people. 

The aim would continue to be deterrence in all phases: peacetime, pre-conflict, conventional operations stage and, even, post-nuclear first use. This article posits an interesting shift in the peacetime, pre- and post-nuclear use phases. 

In peacetime, the emphasis would be on nuclear escalatory possibilities, projecting these as inevitable. This can already be seen in play with the latest salvo on this score being from Amb. G. Parthasarathy writing: ‘Pakistan will be very foolish to test out Indian resolve to respond massively to its use of tactical nuclear weapons (TNW).’ 

This echoes Amb. Shyam Saran’s earlier warning on the same lines: ‘Any nuclear exchange, once initiated, would swiftly and inexorably escalate to the strategic level. Pakistan would be prudent not to assume otherwise as it sometimes appears to do ….’ 

However, on conflict outbreak and in its pre-nuclear first use conventional operations phase, there needs to be greater subtlety. Even as the escalation potential is accentuated, the narrative could include the ability, if not the intent, for nuclear response in kind (quid pro quo and quid pro quo plus). 

While the latter – escalatory potential - will influence the mind of the civilian part of Pakistan’s NCA, the former – limiting nuclear war possibilities - will play on its uniformed side. Together, they would help stay Pakistan’s nuclear hand, i.e. deter. Building in subtlety is necessary on two counts. 

The first is to prevent nuclear ‘first use’ (introduction of nuclear weapons into a conflict) in the form of a ‘first strike’ attempt (to take out India’s nuclear retaliatory potential in a higher order strike). Since India follows a No First Use policy, it needs to insure against first strike. While second strike capability is the best manner of doing so and efforts to this end are in hand, information operations serve to supplement. 

The second, correspondingly, is to deter Pakistan’s lower order first use, as its foreign secretary recently promised. Information operations would need to be subtle here: not only must they help deter TNW use, but also to incentivise TNW in battlefield mode over any other Pakistani nuclear first use option. 

That all corps and command exercises have a nuclear adjunct suggests this scenario can be coped with. Peacetime information operations have hitherto emphasised this preparedness; thereby sending the message that TNW will not serve any military purpose. 

In a shift since 2012 when the nuclear dimension found mention in Exercise Sudarshan Chakra, the usual nuclear aspect has been left out of the press briefs in subsequent years such as for Exercise Shoor Veer and Exercise Panchjanya. So has been the case this yearwith Exercise Brahmashira by a strike corps, though ‘full spectrum of operations’, presumably including nuclear, found mention in the brief on Exercise Akraman II of the pivot corps (Baatcheet April 2015, p. 11). 

The message - perhaps inadvertent - was that India is sanguine that deterrence works and it incentivises Pakistan to keep the battlefield non-nuclear. 

However, more significant is the strategic outcome with silence on the ‘nuclear backdrop’ keeping diplomatic attention away to counter Pakistan’s constant projection of a ‘pink flamingo’ - a predictable but ignored possibility – in South Asia. 

However, it can be reasonably adduced that Pakistani TNW resort would not be so much to stop a strike corps in its tracks, but as nuclear messaging. From India’s point of view, nuclear first use against its troops anywhere, being least hurtful, would be preferable to such use against any other category of target: military installation, industrial, infrastructure or civilian. To incentivize this - as against the undesirable mode of first use - information operations must flexibly make a switch. 

From pre-war positing of Armageddon (for Pakistan) for any nuclear first use, they must switch to projecting that India has lower order nuclear retaliatory options. This way, in case of an itchy nuclear finger, Pakistan reaches for the lower order nuclear first use button. 

Once the ‘nuclear taboo’ – global nuclear non-use norm - has been breached by Pakistan, information operations have an exponential increase in the task at hand. Not only must they keep the Pakistani NCA from escalating by working on its mind, but multiple targets have to be influenced in myriad ways. 

Within Pakistan’s NCA, a debate can be imagined between those wanting a more robust go at India. In light of India’s declaratory nuclear doctrine of 2003 - ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation – there would be a ‘use them or lose them’ dilemma. 

The saner element - from which the Pakistani military cannot be excluded - may pitch for non-escalatory options. Indian information operations will have to target the NCA in a manner that the latter wins the debate. In this, information operations will play second-fiddle to the nuclear retaliatory strategy in play. 

Depending on the retaliatory option chosen, information operations will require supplementing the message. 

It would appear that retaliatory options that leave open the possibility of de-escalation can be better supported by information operations. While diplomacy does its bit, information operations would need working on the international media to underscore legitimacy of India’s war waging options – nuclear and conventional. 

However, more importantly, these would need to play on the mind of the Pakistani NCA, in particular its civilian element. This can be done indirectly, by pressing Pakistani people to get the leadership off the nuclear ladder, not so much by instilling fear as by conveying India’s benign intent. It would be important to keep this message simple, loud and direct to cut through ‘noise’ and the ‘fog of war’. At this juncture, any blame-game can wait. 

The multiple targets for information operations in this post nuclear use phase would include India’s military and people. Both would require reassurance. The latter would additionally require informing of emergency and population control measures. Transparency would have to be tempered by the need to ward off panic and disorder that tend to worst affect the most vulnerable. Here the static formations' ‘A’ staff need to be suitably exercised, especially those covering metropolises. 

The doctrinal effects of the loud thinking here are of import. The open domain doctrine, Indian Army Doctrine (2004), does not carry a section on information operations. Information operations can figure in a separate joint information warfare doctrine, as also as be included as distinct chapters in the service doctrines. 

Since only the gist of the nuclear doctrine was carried in the 2003 press release on its operationalisation, hopefully the operational doctrine has a more variegated discussion on inter-linkages between information and nuclear operations. 

Clearly, the Information Warfare staff, currently available down to Corps level, has its task cutout.   - 

See more at: http://www.claws.in/1485/information-operations-in-limited-nuclear-war-ali-ahmed.html#sthash.VjhaGsQ1.dpuf

Thursday, 10 December 2015

India-Pakistan: Ties Finally Looking Up?         http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2015/12/09/india-pakistan-ties-finally-looking-up/                                                                       The joint statement of the National Security Advisers (NSA) of India and Pakistan at the end of their secret meeting in Bangkok on 6 December has buoyed expectations. Not only does it closely precede the visit of India’s foreign minister to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan this week, but it also heralds the visit of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Islamabad for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

The initiative was result of the short informal meeting between the two prime ministers at the climate change summit in Paris. It retrieves the ground lost since the last minute cancellation of the NSA meeting in August over a disagreement on whether the agenda should include Kashmir or be restricted to terrorism. Pakistan wanted to undo what had been agreed at the meeting in Ufa, Russia, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) between the two prime ministers reflected in the joint statement of the two foreign secretaries that left out mention of Kashmir. That both terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) were discussed at Bangkok shows the two are beyond this particular hurdle.

The canceled meeting of August was in wake of two terror attacks that were taken in India as the Pakistani army’s manner of registering its disapproval of its government’s agreement to an agenda without Kashmir. Pakistan soon thereafter replaced its national security adviser with a former military man. This switch incentivized India in that it could now consider dealing with a credible interlocutor.
The secret meeting also shows a shift in India’s strategy. The early promise of the Modi government of better India-Pakistan ties, evidenced by Modi’s invite to Nawaz Sharif to attend his swearing in in May 2014, was dissipated in the cancellation of foreign secretary talks soon thereafter in August of the same year.
India kept up the pressure with partial activation of the Line of Control by fire assaults by India, seemingly in response to spurt in infiltration bids from across. These duels spread to the international border sector also. This year has seen India exercise elements of all three of its geographic field armies facing Pakistan, including two strike corps. There were also insinuations in Pakistani media of covert Indian assistance to dissident militant groups in Pakistan.
This phase of strategy can now be seen to be shoring up of its fences by the new Indian government before it ventured to mend these. The idea appears to have been to go in for talks from a position of strength. For its part, Pakistan has gained confidence in setting back, through military and ranger operations in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and in Karachi,  elements it alleges have had Indian intelligence backing and gains the Taliban, allegedly with its backing, have made in Afghanistan.
The very fact that the talks have taken place in secret and outside the region suggests that even a conservative-realist government in Delhi needs to tread pragmatically. While the talks have been a step ahead, it is only the first. The vision of the two prime ministers for a ‘peaceful, stable, and prosperous South Asia’ requires many more steps to follow.
What should these steps be?
The first steps would necessarily be on atmospherics. The visits by the foreign minister and prime minister in quick succession can revise the tone of the relationship. Since the Pakistan army appears to be on board this time, India has the assurance that there would not be another Kargil-on-the-make as was the case last time when the last BJP Prime Minister Vajpayee went to Lahore to fix the relationship in 1999.
A resumption of cricketing ties, awaiting a green light from India’s foreign ministry, can now be expected. The two teams have been poised lately to play a short one-day series, but in Sri Lanka.However, on atmospherics, the more important front is to manage the internal perceptions of the ‘Other’ state.

In Pakistan, the extremist leader Hafeez Sayeed has already chipped in with his criticism. In India, the Congress opposition, while overall supportive of improved ties, has registered its reservation on the unpredictability in the government’s Pakistan policy.
More significant in India are the voices in the government’s own camp that require managing. Lately, there have been several statements by right wing politicians dragging Pakistan into their point-scoring against India’s largest minority, its Muslims. This has prompted the ongoing ‘intolerance’ debate in India.
From the ‘intolerance’ debate, the prospects of this do not appear bright since Modi has chosen not to rein in the cultural nationalists, his support base. It is possible he might choose to keep silent, since it would also enable him an alibi against moving further than he might like on repairing fences with Pakistan.
Among the final steps figures a return to the start point made available by the back channel in the first tenure of the predecessor government of Manmohan Singh. The memoirs of Pakistan’s foreign minister in the period, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, reveal the possibilities. However, ‘resolution’ along those lines, may not be the destination either Modi or his National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, have in mind. As hardliners, they may believe that India does not need to make any concessions to buy peace, preferring Pakistan fall in line overawed by India’s rise.
In the interim, both governments would likely consolidate the beginning made. At a minimum, India would be looking to keep a mega-terror attack from diverting its economic trajectory into a conflict with nuclear portents. Pakistan for its part would like  India to ease up on intelligence, diplomatic, and military pressure. That the two foreign secretaries were also present at Bangkok suggests a broader agenda than merely security.
Therefore, it is clear that Modi’s next, if yet-to-be-announced, foreign stop Islamabad would likely be his most important. It remains to be seen if, as has been his wont in using his numerous foreign visits for positioning India favorably, he is able to finesse Pakistan.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

A call for nuclear sanity rather than retaliation


26 November 2015

Amb. G Parthasarathy’s opinion piece in The Tribune (19 November 2015) argues that, ‘Pakistan should be presented a stark picture of what would happen to its Punjab province, if it resorts foolishly to nuclear adventurism, whether tactical or strategic.’
He prefers that India respond to any Pakistani use of nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons, with ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation in keeping with India’s declaratory nuclear doctrine. To him, holding densely populated Pakistani Punjab hostage would deter Pakistan from going nuclear.  
He is not alone in holding such a position. Amb. Shyam Saran also made the same point in his Subbu Forum Society lecture in New Delhi in 2013, when he was Chair of the National Security Advisory Board. Saran said, ‘if it (India) is attacked with such weapons, it would engage in nuclear retaliation which will be massive and designed to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary… the label on a nuclear weapon used for attacking India, strategic or tactical, is irrelevant.’
That India continues with its declaratory nuclear doctrine that dates to 2003 implies that it is a widely held view. It is easy to see why this is so. The prospects of near certain destruction can only serve to deter.
However, since 2003, much water has flown down the Indus. The subcontinent has witnessed vertical proliferation, with Pakistan reputedly having 140-160 nuclear warheads. India is not far behind.
What this suggests is that Pakistan has the capability to retaliate in kind in case India was to massively counter Pakistan’s introduction of nuclear weapons into a conflict. Since India stands to be grievously hurt, it may be unwilling to follow through on its promise of ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation.
This may embolden Pakistan to go nuclear. Consequently, India would do well to arrive at safer and saner options than the one it has currently.
Amb. Parthasarathy in his article points to Pakistani Punjab as offering plentitude of nuclear targets for retaliation even if Pakistan’s nuclear first use only targets Indian troops operating under its ‘Cold Start’ doctrine.
However, if India was to target west Punjab, then its own border areas in proximity starting from Rajouri, through Jammu and onwards via Amritsar down to Ganganagar stand to be effected by direct and long term environmental consequences.
Even areas further away will not be spared. The usual autumnal media story is that burning of paddy stubble in fields in Punjab invariably chokes Delhi with its pollution. On Diwali, the figures for pollution in Delhi were 23 times WHO’s permissible limit. It can only be imagined what the environmental fallout from the burning of even a couple cities would entail.
There would also be socio-political fallout. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe suggests multiple problems and dangers. Population movements will be akin to those witnessed at Partition. These will not necessarily be towards the west since across the Indus begin deserts. Afghanistan is also an unlikely prospect as destination. India may well be where these flows will head.
The refugees in Europe today are unlikely to be going back any time soon. Similarly, those who gatecrash India’s border fence will be here for the long term. As the Paris attacks show, their influx will not be without dangers.
They would be in addition to India’s own border populace who would likely have fled inwards. This is in addition to the internally displaced people India may have to cope with in case any of its cities are hit in counter retaliation. Many would flee cities such as Delhi, fearing such targeting.
The civil administration that at the best of times find coping with monsoons difficult will be unable to rely on the military to bail it out. The military will be busy inside Pakistan. A proportion of the paramilitary have relieved the army to stanch possible resurgence of insurgency in Kashmir.
Further, there are also imponderables such as effects of the contrived identification of Indian Muslims with Pakistan. The latest manifestation of this was in the BJP president saying that in case the party loses in Bihar, there would be celebrations in Pakistan. Some have interpreted the reference to Pakistan to mean a reference to India’s internal ‘Other’, its Muslims. Given extant conditions of polarization, it is not impossible to visualize a communal carnage within India in case of war going nuclear with its largest minority as scapegoat. 
Clearly, with such scenarios easy to visualize, it is strange that India persists with the logic of ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation. On these counts, Pakistan will unlikely be deterred by this formulation, knowing India cannot follow through.
Consequently, India needs to reframe its nuclear doctrine, moving away from ‘massive’ to a more credible ‘tit for tat’. Such exchange(s), albeit avoidable, will yet keep Indian cities safe.
The rumours of impending nuclear doctrine revision that attended the BJP election campaign last year must be taken to the logical conclusion in a revised nuclear doctrine. The revised one must be predicated on preserving India from nuclear damage to the greatest extent possible; feasible only by a ‘city avoidance’ strategy in first place.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015



The Marathas at peacekeeping frontiers

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


(Unedited version)

That the Indian army has been at the forefront of UN peacekeeping is well known. Axiomatically then, it follows that along with their comrades from all regiments, the Marathas too have shouldered the peacekeeping responsibility across the globe. This article highlights the contribution of the Marathas.

Ever since they watered their horses at River Indus in the eighteenth century, the Marathas have ‘been there and done that’. They went overseas under the British. They have enforced peace in the erstwhile North West Frontier Agency yesterday and provided aid to civil authority in the North East today. This has stood them well in their peacekeeping forays as part of a sovereign republic’s contribution to world peace.

Maratha participation has ranged from the traditional peacekeeping such as in separation of belligerents in Ethiopia and Eritrea by 12 MARATHA LI and in undivided Sudan by 11 MARATHA LI to multidimensional peace operations by 15 MARATHA LI in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, 9 MARATHA LI is in the midst of robust peacekeeping in South Sudan’s civil war, with 6 MARATHA LI poised to take over the same area of operations a year from now. Maratha officers have also left their mark as military observers, with Lt Gen Satish Nambiar in the lead. 

The Marathas are uniquely predisposed as peacekeepers owing to their character traits and historical legacy anchored in the example of Chhatrapati Shivaji. They are imbued with a constabulary ethic, typical of good counter-insurgent troops, and, lastly, are part of a glorious Indian military peacekeeping tradition.

In his approach to peace and conflict, Chhatrapati Shivaji set an atypical standard in medieval times. Although he confronted the Mughuls, his way of war was one by the rules and with an eye for the dignity of the common man. Before humanitarian considerations were conceptualized and institutionalized into the law of war, his armies were already practitioners. Marathas are no strangers to foreign militaries, having reckoned with the British and Portuguese during the colonial period, or to ethnic diversity that characterizes UN peacekeeping ever since the Sultanats had a field day in the Deccan.  

A hundred years back, the First World War firmly established the Marathas’ reputation for discipline and stolidity in face of hardship. The ethnography left behind by the British, admittedly considerably Orientalist, is nevertheless testimony of the cool quietude with which Maratha troops go about their military business. Peacekeeping locales are similarly exacting, remote and at a corner of a foreign, forgotten field.

Being forever in operations in some theater or other, from Jaffna to Kashmir, the Marathas are familiar with conflict conditions and psychological demands that it places. They are therefore able to take to demanding peacekeeping environments with equanimity and deliver in a crunch, such as 9 MARATHA LI is currently demonstrating in South Sudan.

India is a reckonable peacekeeping power. Whereas its contribution in terms of numbers is not different from other South Asian states, its quality sets it apart from all other peacekeepers. India also takes care to send its proven units abroad, not only as a reward for services rendered in difficult areas and circumstances, but also to ensure that it’s showing in peacekeeping is of a higher order. Elite Maratha units have upheld this tradition.

Peacekeeping is mistakenly believed to be a good break from India’s multiple military engagements ranging as they do from LC deployments to counter insurgency commitment. Peacekeeping instead has elements of all these environments together: be it remoteness, adverse climate, interesting context and tactical challenges. A demanding effort is required that proves greatly enhancing professionally for participant outfits and personally for individuals exposed. The Marathas have risen to the occasion. This has qualitatively bettered them as cohesive units, junior leaders and as soldiers.

The UN journey does not begin in catching the white aircraft at Palam or sending off the containers at Mumbai. It begins in putting in that extra bit that enables selection as a unit detailed to travel on a UN assignment. Nor does it end in landing back on Indian soil but after redeploying at a new operational area. In effect, it may take up to three tenures with a UN stint sandwiched in between. This is about a decade all told, which is a considerable proportion of a soldier’s service life.

There is passion involved in measuring up to the requirements of selection. At a minimum an Army Commanders’ unit appreciation is a must. This comes with sweat and planning, not PR! This bit of measuring up is followed by a period of anticipation in which the unit awaits with bated breath word on its nomination, since this may be in competition with other regimental units with as distinguished a record in some or other field station.

But the dreaded part is to turn up in Delhi where the routine of getting the outfit ready for departure is strenuous. This is understandably so in so far as training regimen is concerned. However, what rankles is that despite the two decade long enhanced commitment in peacekeeping, the accommodation and amenities for looking after troops detailed remains rudimentary. Delhi’s heat and dust and cold and smog have first to be bested in the six months additional troops from sister units turn up. The individuals who join from other units to make up the strength also go through a selection process pitching them against their peers. A cohesive body of men is to be formed in this melee. In addition, are attachments from other arms and services to make up a battalion group. Then it is finally, take off time.

The arrival in the mission area is after considerable exposure to the same in lectures, training and briefings. Nevertheless, it can be disorientating, since for instance within hours of landing in Juba, troops of 9 MARATHA LI found themselves emplaning for remote Pibor, where the Murle battled the Nuer. This baptism by fire was useful when the Dinka-Nuer civil war broke out soon thereafter.

Such transitions are the test of command and of troops. Marathas have been known since their days harassing the Moghuls in the Ghats to be nimble and surefooted. Their ability to function on little makes them adapt to operational conditions that obtain in most peacekeeping environments, in particular in Africa. 11 MARATHA LI was involved in two missions as force reserve in a single tenure, moving from UNMIS with ‘single S’ to UNMISS ‘with a double SS’ when Sudan divided into two. Its showing was duly acknowledged in an Indian Vice Presidential visit to its location.

On mission, Maratha units have had differing circumstances to contend with even if in the same mission. 9 MARATHA LI was involved in a unique riverine task of providing Force Protection for movement of barges from Malakal to Juba on the Nile. It has provided 17,000 civilians protection at its newly constructed IDP Camp with a multi tier defence system. Alongside, its main task, the battalion has provided protection to high level delegations from countries such as UK and Kenya and carried out On-the-Job training for newly inducted troops along with Bangladesh Force Protection Unit (BANFU). This is addition to the usual maintaining of peace in its AOR by round the clock Short Duration Patrols (SDP) and Dynamic Air Patrols (DAP) in areas controlled by both Government and by rebel groups in Jonglei. Similar feats by other units are not recorded here for reasons of space, but have been uniformly been rewarded by award of Force Commander’s Appreciation to all four units that have participated this century.  

The downside of the mission is unfortunately the equipment that the units have to maintain that more often than not has withered in the conditions obtaining on mission. On that score governmental support seldom measures up to its rhetoric. In effect, India does not look after its troops to the extent of the gains that India makes by their peacekeeping presence. The upside is in the knowledge base and good practices acquired being shared across the regiment as troops rejoin their parent units on repatriation.

The tenure for Ganpats being six months, it is more difficult since a passage home in between is very costly. Even though the mobile has considerably reduced the distance that they are not within travel distance of their families is a tough burden to bear, for both the Ganpat and his family. Today family problems have multiplied and WhatsApp is only a partial answer to these. At most places, there is no such luxury – conflict having accounted for the infrastructure. Thus, the primary unit – his subunit - is the family of the Ganpat for the duration. The family has to await his return. The compensation in the form of money for this is useful but cannot be envied them. 

Finally is a return to homeland. There is an understandable strut in the walk of those returning from such deployments. Not only are they professionally rewarded in terms of experience, but personally in terms of memories. The UN ribbon on the chest is prized. They are now worldly wise, technologically aware and updated with world news. Not to forget, they also have a bank balance. This is wisely locked away by some units for a period, lest there be temptation to splurge or to leave the service. The Belgaum-Kolhapur-Pune-Mumbai belt, though a happening place, appears unwarrantedly alluring. Sensibly, commanding officers have to exercise persuasion and a bit of pressure to dispel simple notions of civil life in Ganpats. They have to be reminded it is back in the Indian army and to its well-worn routine of peacetime or field as the case may be.


Ahead, there is only more violence, with armed actors out to target the UN too. The UN is preparing a response, with the release of the report of the High Level Panel to coincide with its seventieth anniversary. The Marathas will have technology and a robust response UN doctrine at the peacekeeping frontline. But more importantly they have their intrinsic resilience and unit cohesion that will ensure that laurels keep rolling in

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

What the next war spells for Kashmir

Kashmir Times, Op-ed, 4 November 2015

The 1965 War’s fiftieth anniversary celebrations in India saw amateur military historians opportunistically claiming that India won the war. If Zhau Enlai’s view of history is taken as guide – in which when questioned on effects of the French Revolution, he is said to have remarked that it is too early to tell - it is somewhat early to celebrate 1965 War as a victory.

Whereas there have been two wars since – 1971 War and Kargil War – these have not been about Kashmir, even if Kashmir figured prominently in the former’s peace treaty and served as the site of the latter. In the 1971 War India cut Pakistan to size in the hope of creating the conditions for having it give up on Kashmir. It succeeded partially in this, in that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, firmly in saddle with the Pakistan army down and out, was ready to sign away Kashmir. Later the army hanged him for that, not for political murder. For its part, the Kargil War was an extension of the war in Kashmir, in its theater along the Line of Control. It extended Pakistan’s bloody fingers in the conflict by another three years.

Instead, the 1965 War was fought by both sides over the issue of Kashmir. Pakistan was stampeded into war by India’s political actions seeking to normalize its relationship with Kashmir in the mid sixties. India also took the opportunity offered by Pakistani military action to claim that having tried and failed to wrest Kashmir, Pakistan had lost raison d’etre in Kashmir. Going by the aims of the two sides, it cannot be said that Pakistan lost since it has kept its stake in Kashmir alive. Likewise, it cannot be reckoned India won since the Kashmir issue is not quite history.

That Kashmir continues as an ‘issue’ ensures it will figure in the next war.

That another war is not being ruled out by either state is clear from Pakistan’s foreign secretary acknowledging for the first time that its Tactical Nuclear Weapons are in response to India’s conventional war doctrine and capabilities. Within merely a week from his statement, India announced field maneuvers for its field army, Southern Command, and its strike corps, 21 Corps.

It is unclear if this is a preplanned exercise since the announcement has been without the usual publicity that attends such exercises. Incidentally, there is no name given to the exercise as is the usual practice either. It is also uncharacteristically the second exercise of a strike corps within the same year; 2 Corps having been exercised in early summer this year. Usually, the three strike corps exercise in rotation, with one being exercised each year. 

This bit of ‘signalling’ by both sides will no doubt keep both security establishments wary of war. Both hope to deter the other and can be expected to succeed. However, there is a ‘jack in the box’ that can upturn things.

India’s readiness to battle – evident from exercises this year across the frontage of its South Western and Southern Commands stretching from southern Punjab to Rann of Kutch – can only serve as incentive to jihadists. Should they attempt another mega terror attack, the favoured scenario of strategists would indeed play out: a terror attack followed by India’s conventional inroads into Pakistan forcing Pakistan’s nuclear trigger finger.

This is all the more plausible since the two sides would be relying on the US to pick their chestnuts out of the fire. US think tanks have extended the scenario into its post nuclear use phase and in a war game held in Dubai conditioned players from both states that external peacemaking initiatives would be necessary and inevitable in such a case. Indian participants have shifted their advocacy of dispatching Pakistan to oblivion for the temerity of nuclear first use to a softer nuclear response of throwing back merely a double of tactical nuclear tonnage. This non-strategic war will presumably enable de-escalation.

Kashmir will figure in such a war not only as a theater of war but also in its aftermath. However, no scenario lately has a mushroom cloud figuring over Kashmir. The last such cloud was conjured up in the early eighties when a threat of a nuclear bomb on Banihal blocking its access to Kashmir, enabling Pakistan to wrap up Kashmir, was used in scaremongering by nuclear hawks to push India into catching up with Pakistan in bomb making.

As a theater of war, India can employ its new mountain strike corps to wrest territory. This would be in keeping with its information war plank that taking back POK is what is meant by ‘outstanding’ issues of Partition. Since this could be a messy enterprise and would take longer than a ‘short, sharp war’ allows, it could at best straighten the Line of Control to its own advantage. It may be more forthright in advancing in areas that it can hope to control firmly later such as along the Skardu-Gilgit axis. The strategic gain from this would be in threatening the Pakistan-China link and proposed economic corridor in perpetuity.

It would be sticking its hand into a beehive in case it drives into the Punjabised areas to Kashmir’s west. Not only will these be difficult to wrest, but there would be an irregular war backlash even as the war progresses and prospects of failure in stabilization operations later. It would put Indian troops on the wrong side of their fortifications built over half century. Besides, the shifting of the Line of Control forward would open up spaces for infiltration the likes of which would put the infiltration of fidayeen in wake of the Kargil incursion seem a trailer. The consequence on revival of troubles in Kashmir can be easily imagined.

As for the aftermath of what was intended as a Limited War and ends up as a Limited Nuclear War, Kashmir can be sure to figure in the peace. Since, as mentioned, both states would be abdicating their accountability to respective citizens by outsourcing peacemaking in a war that goes nuclear to the US lead international community, the international community is unlikely to confine itself to humanitarian assistance and mediating a ceasefire. It could legitimately engage in structural peacemaking, meaning the elimination of structural conditions – root causes - that lead to war.

Since India as the status quo power – one in firm possession of its secular crown Kashmir – would not like to see external arm twisting over Kashmir, it needs deciding now if its inclination for the military option is in its best national interest. For Kashmiri nationalists, war might not altogether be such a bad thing. For jihadists it will be altogether a good thing. What’s good for them cannot also be good for India.

Clearly, the analysis here does not suggest that the current day militarized approach to Pakistan can protect India's interests as defined by itself. While somewhat late to inform Mr. Modi’s package for Kashmir to be rolled out on 7 November, there is a case for defusing Kashmir from within, rather than seeking to ‘resolve’ it through a 'final' military tryst with Pakistan. What needs doing, and urgently, is a change of tack: leavening an ideological strategy with strategic rationality.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Strange Silence Surrounding an Indian Military Exercise


In late September, India’s media reported on a military exercise to be undertaken by one of the country’s three “strike” corps, 21 Corps. Since then, Indian military watchers have encountered only silence on the exercise. This is uncharacteristic of India, on two counts.
One, India has always undertaken such exercises with a flurry of publicity, even if the military details are necessarily kept under wraps. There is sense in publicity in that it reassures the public of a vigilant military; it is good for the government’s image as “strong on defense”; and it sends a deterrence message in the form of military readiness to India’s neighbor, Pakistan. Yet this autumn’s round of exercises is an interesting shift in India’s information strategy.
The silence could well be for a mundane reason: During October the formation moved into an exercise location in the desert sector and is undertaking preliminary training. The exercise proper could build up to its climax in the near future with the relevant publicity and the attendance of high-level officials such as the defense minister and Delhi-based military brass.
Nevertheless, thus far, all that is known is that 21 Corps is on exercise along with the remainder of Southern Command. Even the name of the exercise – usually a martial one and sometimes with mythological roots – has not reached the public domain yet; and therein is the mystery.
Two, this is the second exercise involving one of India’s strike corps in the same year; the earlier one being held in earlysummer, in which India exercised 2 Corps, alongside the “pivot” 10 Corps. In effect, two field armies have been exercised this year: South Western Command earlier, of which 10 Corps is part, and now the Southern Command.
Usually, India exercises one strike corps a year. This owes to reasons such as the cropping pattern in exercise areas only allowing a window in early summer along with budget limitations. To exercise a second strike corps in the second seasonal window in late autumn/early winter the same year is a departure that, while indicating more budget availability, also suggests urgency.
Why the silence and possible urgency attending this exercise?
It can plausibly be speculated that the lack of publicity so far owes to a statement made by Pakistan’s foreign secretary on the eve of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to the U.S., namely that Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) have been acquired to deter and if necessary respond to India’s conventional operations.
Since strike corps operations are offensive and have strategic ends, their employment can be expected to flirt with Pakistan’s nuclear thresholds. Pakistan has now publicly acknowledged a low nuclear threshold. Therefore, for strike corps operations it can no longer be business as usual.
From India’s conventional doctrine and exercises, it cannot easily be discerned if India is sufficiently cognizant of the nuclear reality. Its doctrine is of post-Kargil War vintage, though officially adopted after Operation Parakram in 2004. Much water has flown under the nuclear bridge since, including vertical proliferation and the addition of TNW to Pakistan’s arsenal in 2011.
India’s military, in exercising two field armies and two strike crops this year, is indicating that it can activate the border theater, from the semi-developed terrain abutting the northern part of Rajasthan to the desert terrain in the south. Strategically, it is projecting to Pakistan that it is not deterred by TNWs.
Such muscle flexing cannot be seen merely as going about what armies normally do in peace time: train. This could well imply that India has an answer to TNW that enables it to believe that it can persist with conventional operations.
Thus far, India’s declaratory nuclear doctrine has been of “retaliation only” and predicated on deterrence by punishment. However, since this would be a disproportionate response to TNW and could trigger a strategic exchange, it is possible that India’s operational nuclear doctrine has shifted to “proportionate” response or “graduated” deterrence. That way it can provide nuclear cover for conventional operations by employing TNW in retaliation. This has been the thrust of the recent strategic debate in India.
The urgency of two field armies exercising in the same year consequently derives from India’s conveying to Pakistan’s military unmistakably that it continues to have options, even when confronted by a lower nuclear threshold.
At the same time, the accompanying public silence (at the time of writing) surrounding the exercise appears to be intended to keep the focus of both strategic analysts and the international community away from this message intended for Pakistan’s military.
Strategic analysts skeptical of the so-called Cold Start doctrine of 2004 have pointed to the truncation of the crisis response window that quick-off-the-block conventional operations portend as well as the subsequent nuclear dangers. With India’s next edition of the conventional doctrine of 2010 not in the public domain it cannot be critiqued adequately. The manner in which the military exercises unfold will offer clues as to potential nuclear risks. Keeping the lid on this aspect enables the military to go about its business without external scrutiny.
If strategic analysts are unable to blow the whistle for want of evidence, the advantage for India is the lack of alarm in the international community. Even India’s public is kept ignorant of nuclear dangers, allowing its politicians to enjoy the limelight from military prowess while obscuring the dangers.
India’s belief that there is a conventional reply for any mega-terror action from across the border has one positive: It could help deter any Pakistani covert intelligence engagement in any such action. However, the flip side is that should rogue or autonomous elements undertake such action, the two states could be at blows before peace has a chance to intervene.
While both militaries apparently envisage few TNW mushroom clouds, they need to be forewarned that this will only be so if they mutually put in place de-escalatory measures.

Friday, 23 October 2015

My chapter is:

'Indian Army’s flagship doctrines: Need for Strategic Guidance'

in Handbook of Indian Defence Policy: Themes, Structures and Doctrines

Edited by Harsh V. Pant

Routledge India – 2016 – 426 pages

Friday, 16 October 2015

The Diplomatic Dimension af a ‘Swift And Sharp’ War

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