Thursday, 30 April 2015

book review of book on libya

By Christopher S. Chivvis 
Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 249, Rs. 495.00

Christopher Chivvis is the quintessential policy wonk having rotated in and out of government and the academia, so typical of the career profile of public intellectuals in the United States. Given that he needs the government for access to information and the policy high table, as much as the government needs his brains, it is inevitable that he would write up a favourable account of the US role in toppling Gaddafi. Billeted in the RAND Corporation that has over the decades provided the strategic community in America grist for its incestuous debates, he is as much an insider as a bystander. Consequently, it is entirely understandable that he concludes: ‘The results are far from perfect and postwar stabilization has faltered, but ultimately the choice to intervene was the right one (p. 205).’
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The book is an account of the events in 2011 in which the French and UK supported by the US initially launched Operation Odyssey Dawn to be followed soon thereafter by the NATO’s Operation Unified Protector. It covers the events leading up to the intervention; the diplomacy that attended the intervention; the military operations of the NATO; and US policy choices during the war. It makes the case that the regime’s actions in Benghazi in early 2011 created conditions for the intervention under the framework of the new fangled concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). As a slim volume priced affordably, it has something for everyone. But it is unlikely that readers in the region will find in it much to agree with.
In particular, the author’s answer that the intervention was right is rather glib. At the time of writing of this review three years after the intervention, primetime news has it that Tripoli’s airport has been shut down because of fighting between rival militia groups in the vicinity. This cannot but be attributed to the influx of weaponry and perfunctory training given by Special Forces troops to the tribal militias that sprung up in wake of the intervention. It shows how easy it is to engineer the conditions that can then be used to legitimate premeditated operations citing R2P. Similarly, regimes were displaced in Afghanistan and Iraq and there is a concerted move underway to displace the one in Syria. The human cost in volved has been borne by the societies subject to the ‘liberal’ attention of the West, but more likely subject to its incessant quest for strategic and commercial advantage.
In Kosovo, where liberal intervention made its debut, the Albanians continue to remain at odds with the Serbs both in Serbia and within their own state, now with a considerably thinned down Serb population. Kosovo, with runaway unemployment and poverty by European standards, even a decade and half since the liberal intervention there is far from a success story. The US ignominiously quit Iraq and TV screens today tell us in no uncertain terms the outcome. It is in the process of leaving Afghanistan and it is inescapable that an Iraq like future awaits that benighted state.
Therefore, the author’s conclusion that the outcome cannot be taken to gauge that an intervention is untenable. In fact, discerning the possible consequences is a prerequisite to intervention. Indeed it is a just war precept that the possibility of success must be considered prior to resorting to military means. The first precept in humanitarian affairs is ‘do no harm’, or do not proceed with anything that can make a bad situation worse. By this yardstick intervention was not only illegitimate but also immoral.
It is by now well known as to why this was so in the case of Libya. Though Gaddafi had mended fences with the West, yet the eagerness of France and UK to attack and displace him requires explanation. It is now common knowledge that the Libyan dictator had reportedly funded the campaign for Presidency by Sarkozy, detained at the time of writing of this review for political corruption. It is no wonder the French led the coalition, with the US in this instance ‘leading from behind’. ‘Old Europe’ was in the lead, with Germany keeping out due to reservations on the advisability of the intervention. That the author notes this as a useful extension of NATO’s out of area operations, begun in Kosovo and later extended to Afghanistan, itself is clue as to the motives behind the intervention. To then claim that this owed to liberal principles is to stretch credulity a bit.
A tenet of R2P that was violated was in such interventions ceasing when the conditions that give rise to them are reversed. Even if it is assumed that Benghazi was about to fall to the dictator’s atrocities, the threat to Benghazi had receded within a week of the intervention. However, continuing with the intervention was necessary. This was easily provided with the initial intervention itself providing the rationale for further protection necessary for the rebelling population at multiple centers across Libya. Easily fanned, these rebellions attracted Gaddafi’s military action, thereby providing cover for continuing operations and mission creep that culminated in displacement of Gaddafi as the aim of the operation, even though this was not envisaged in the enabling UN resolution. The regime’s chances of survival were sealed with NATO’s airpower dominating the airspace as were the hopes of any conflict resolution initiative, such as by President Zuma on behalf of the AU.
The author situates the intervention in the context of the unfolding Arab Spring that had by then rocked both neighbours of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. He reasons that it was necessary in order to preserve the Arab Spring’s momentum lest it be suppressed by dictators. By that yardstick what the Bahrainis did, with Saudi backing, and Saudis do to keep any fresh breeze out of their sheikhdoms should invite western liberal attention. Selectivity further vitiates the liberal intervention paradigm.
Clearly, if there are such potent arguments against the concept and its precedence setting practice by the West, there needed to have been greater engagement with these counter arguments by the author. By instead faithfully regurgitating what his Pentagon and Foggy Bottom informants feed him, the author has lost credibility. The crux of the matter encapsulated by the subtitle of the book— the limits of liberal intervention—remains unaddressed. Even in military matters, the book provides limited insight since the choice of the dictator to displace was made by the US-NATO combine: an isolated dictator earlier already defanged of his nuclear ambitions.
Clearly, the book is a propaganda tract, an example of how the academia-strategic community embrace in the US. This is important to register in India in the midst of a strategic partnership with the US, lest India’s intellectual distance from the US, that endlessly irritates the US, dissipates under the onslaught of not only such tracts but also of their universities and think tanks set to open doors into India.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015



A recent article on this website[1] carried mention for the very first time in the open domain that the revised versions of the Indian Army Doctrine (Doctrine 2004) (2004) and the army’s Doctrine for Sub Conventional Operations (DSCO 2006) (2006) were issued respectively in the years 2010 and 2013. Whereas the Doctrine 2004 and the DSCO 2006 were released and placed in the open domain, this has not been done with their revised versions. Furthermore, no mention was even made of the fact of issue of revised versions through press releases as is usually the case.[2] This implies that there are three degrees of transparency followed.[3] One is with the military releasing the doctrines publicly and keeping these non-confidential. The second is with the fact of doctrines being released being communicated through press releases, even while the doctrines themselves are kept confidential. And third, is keeping the very fact of existence of certain doctrines confidential as also their contents. It appears that the Doctrine 2004 and DSCO 2006 when initially released were of the first degree. While this was true  of the DSCO 2006, it was only partially so for the Doctrine 2004 in that apparently only Part I was kept non-confidential while Part II was not released in the open domain. It later turned out that Part II found its way into Wikileaks[4] and has since been placed in the open domain also.[5] The Joint DSCO is also of the first type.[6] However, a soft copy of the JDSCO has not been placed on the HQ IDS website, even though it lists the other two doctrines, Doctrine 2004 and DSCO 2006.[7] Even so, while a link is provided, it fails to open. The doctrines of the Air Force (2012) and Navy (2009) are in the public domain. Most doctrines of western armies are in the open domain. Incidentally, the HQ IDS website helpfully provides links to about fifty of these of the US, UK and France, while mentioning only two Indian doctrines. The second degree of transparency attends most joint doctrines such as for Special Forces, Psychological Operations, Air-Maritime and Land-Air operations. This is of a piece in light of a culture of confidentiality attending security affairs in India. Recall that official histories of most wars have not been released as yet even if their soft copies have been made it to the net.[8] A viable explanation is perhaps that the contents of these doctrines being narrowly military, there is little reason for placing them in the open domain. Doing so may also have adverse security implications in the enemy second guessing possible strategies that may derive from these by a close study of them. The third degree is of keeping the very existence of a doctrine under wraps. This sacrifices the function of communication that doctrines enable. The military can through its doctrines convey the manner it intends to fight the next war to the public and to the enemy. The former stands to be reassured that a doctrine exists and the latter is deterred. In this case, that the Doctrine 2010 and DSCO 2013 are not known to the public or to the enemy, these advantages appear missing. Take the case of Doctrine 2010. That there exists a revised version is clear from the article that cites from it. The reference in Para 5.2 on End State in terms of ‘qualitative improvement’ in Doctrine 2010 is at Para 5.1 in the 2004 version. Para 5.4 in Doctrine 2004 does not carry the term ‘facilitators’ and has a different content from that of Doctrine 2010 mentioned by the author. Therefore, it appears that Doctrine 2010 is different at least in some respects from Doctrine 2004. As to whether it is a new edition of Doctrine 2004 or a revised version it is not clear. Also the extent of the revision cannot be known since the very existence of the revision only now stands revealed. That the doctrine was under revision had found mention in the media in 2010 when media reported the formulation of a ‘two front’ doctrine.[9] But the outcome of the deliberations of the closed door seminar in New Delhi mentioned by the media in the form of a revised doctrine was never communicated by the army. Firstly, it is successor to Doctrine 2004 which was precedent setting as an open source document. It is interesting that the Doctrine was itself a successor to Fundamentals, Doctrine, Concepts – Indian Army (ARTRAC 1998). The 1998 document was in the open domain till it was made confidential. General Vijay Oberoi who guided writing of the 1998 document when heading the ARTRAC remained a strong votary of doctrines being in the open domain. Therefore, as the third edition of doctrine, if the 2010 document is not made available in the open domain and, one step further, that  a revised version of the 2004 document has been approved and circulated within the army suggests a step backwards. Seen in light of the information environment in the 21st century this is difficult to understand, leave alone justify. Second and more importantly, Doctrine 2004 attracted considerable attention, if not controversy.[10] It sparked off a veritable cottage industry on doctrinal writing, not only in India but also in Pakistan and the US.[11] So much so that at a point the government and the army chief had  to distance themselves from the so called ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, that the Doctrine 2004 came to be called colloquially.[12] In light of the public attention and analytical critique, it is only legitimate that its successor doctrine, in this case Doctrine 2010, would continue to be of interest. Given the nuclear context in which it is situated, whether the revised version has taken cognizance of the critique is a point of public interest. That the new version is an improved one can readily be granted. But the fact that it has been kept under wraps prompts the question: Why? It may even lead to the wrong answer to the question that the army has not been able to answer the critique adequately and therefore has attempted to avoid a discussion altogether. This would be unfortunate since the army has the intellectual resources to engage in debate and reassure skeptics that it is cognizant of the nuclear-conventional interface.[13]  Next is a look at the DSCO 2013. That this is also a reworked doctrine to an extent can be easily seen by the quote from the foreword by the Chief not being in the DSCO 2006. A changed foreword implies a reworked doctrine, and not merely a second edition. It goes on to cite from ‘principles’ of counter insurgency, which are missing from DSCO 2006. Incidentally, while principles find mention in the Doctrine 2004, they are omitted in the DSCO 2006 and apparently find their way back in DSCO 2013. The excerpt in the article from the principles does not however figure in the principles mentioned in JDSCO 2010: ‘The political authority must lay down well-defined, militarily achievable objectives. These should be framed in consultation with senior military commanders.’ Clearly, the very important issue of principles could do with some more clarity than brought out here. If the DSCO 2013 has done justice to this aspect then it would have been better to have this in the open domain, considering it an improved version of DSCO 2006 that was not without its critics.[14] Keeping the public in the dark on DSCO 2013 is questionable since the DSCO directly and non-trivially impacts the army’s relationship with the civilian domain: the provincial authorities and public. Given that the DSCO 2006 had unveiled the ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ philosophy,[15] the public cannot be reassured by the surrounding secrecy that this key facet has not been trifled with.    The foregoing discussion suggests that there are advantages in keeping the doctrinal space as open as possible. Where doctrines are narrowly military, there is no call to place these in the open domain. However, where there is a direct bearing on the civilian sphere and are relatively generic, such as the DSCO and Doctrine (owing to the nuclear context), these could be in the open domain. The benefits of this will be in a wider and better informed public discourse and commentary in the strategic community. It will force constructive engagement with the doctrinal space by the government that would be mutually beneficial to the civilian and military side of the security establishment.[16] The concluding recommendation is that the revised doctrines be placed in the public domain perhaps by replacing the non-functional links in the HQ IDS website and on the army website in emulation of its sister services that have  their doctrines on respective websites. - See more at:

Friday, 17 April 2015

'Conventional backdrop to nuclear foreground' in Scholar Warrior

Conventional Backdrop to the Nuclear Foreground


Accustomed as the military is to the phrase “conventional war against a nuclear backdrop,”1 the title here may require explaining. The media-conjured phrase usually accompanies articles describing the visit of the scribe to a military formation participating in a corps exercise or to its grand finale, usually witnessed by VIPs. The depiction is of conventional preparedness for operations in a nuclear backdrop. The message is that the nuclear factor, though not being wished away, is not overly intrusive since the exercises are validating the new doctrine of limited war under nuclear conditions.

The 2004 doctrine aims to achieve military objectives under the nuclear umbrella. The assumption appears to be that nuclear deterrence enables conventional operations, though with due cognisance of enemy nuclear thresholds. The second message is that the enemy’s effort at projecting a low nuclear threshold for deterring conventional operations are viable only to a limited extent, in that they may constrict the scope of the conventional operations without deterring them altogether.2 This way, India has managed to create a window between sub-conventional and nuclear levels for conventional operations in order to optimally exercise its military power.

Reversing the Backdrop

However, there is a case for also countenancing the reverse: conventional backdrop to nuclear operations. This is more by way of contingency and is in line with the military’s preference for including the ‘worst case’ in its deliberations. Such consideration takes Pakistan’s projection of a lower nuclear threshold, most obviously done in its acquisition of the Nasr ‘tactical’ nuclear missile system, at face value.3 It assumes Pakistan’s nuclear first use, the intent being to convey that India is prepared for the worst. While general deterrence may be expected to hold, preparedness so conveyed reinforces immediate deterrence. Such preparedness does not cast adverse light on one’s own deterrence credibility, but caters for a nuclear outbreak unintended by Pakistan’s National Command Authority as a result of the fog of war, miscommunication, accident, fear, panic or unauthorised use.4 There is also the scenario in which terrorists gain access while the nuclear system is most vulnerable in movement in conflict conditions. In any case, since the onus is on Pakistan to initiate a nuclear attack, it is not impossible to visualise a state and an Army known for past strategic misjudgements to make yet another strategic mistake. Therefore, to exercise with the nuclear factor moving from ‘backdrop’ to ‘foreground’ is to be prepared for eventualities, even those less likely.

Doing so has a salutary benefit in reinforcing deterrence. Noted nuclear watcher Manpreet Sethi writes, “It should also be made widely known that Indian troops have the ability to fight through tactical nuclear use.” This is necessary to “send a message of preparedness to handle such use without bringing conventional operations to a halt or even confronting the political leadership with the choice of war termination, as assumed by Rawalpindi.” This strengthens the concept of deterrence India subscribes to: deterrence by punishment.5 Knowledge of the fact that the Army can operate even in nuclear conditions makes nuclear use unnecessary for Pakistan since even its use would not prevent the Indian Army from achieving its political aims and military objectives. It would be preferable for Pakistan in this case to admit defeat at the lower cost of conventional punishment rather than its inevitability at a higher cost of nuclear damage to oneself.

In any case, the ‘worst case’ would be nuclear first use by Pakistan. Preparedness implies being prepared for the ‘worst case’ contingency even if it is least likely, alongside ensuring through operational plans not to trigger the contingency. The mantra since Gen Padmanabhan’s time has been, “The Indian nuclear strategy is Deterrence by punishment. Army will be trained to prepare for a nuclear war with an emphasis on weapons, tactics and war games even if it is unlikely to take place.”6 While the limited war doctrine has been adequately worked on7 , there is scope for going down the route further in conventional operations under nuclear conditions. Currently, the tactical and protective measures that need be taken are well covered. These, however, have to be taken forward to include operational level responses.

What are the implications for conventional operations? The questions that arise are: Does the Army need to shift to higher gear or be more cautious on a nuclear outbreak? Does it hold in the sector that has witnessed a nuclear attack and concentrate on gains in some other sector, for instance, shift its sights from the deserts or plains to the mountains and vice versa? How will troops in the line react? How should the communication zone be organised against counterstrikes? How does it cope with evacuation of families from cantonments? What will be the sub-conventional and asymmetric fallout of nuclear operations? This commentary does not answer these questions but attempts to discern the doctrinal direction that must necessarily precede the impending revision of all three doctrines – nuclear, conventional and sub-conventional – not only in the light of these questions but because, being a decade old, they are up for revision.8

At the Conventional-Nuclear Interface

That there is a mutually influential relationship between the two levels – conventional and nuclear – had been recognised fifteen years ago in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine.9 The draft had required India to maintain highly effective conventional military capabilities to raise the threshold of an outbreak of a conventional military conflict as well as that of threat or use of nuclear weapons. Further, the defence forces are to be in a position to execute operations in a Nuclear, Biological, Chemical (NBC) environment, with minimal degradation. Barring the exceptions in the official doctrine of January 2003, the draft has since been adopted as the nuclear doctrine.10 These stipulations of the nuclear doctrine, therefore, are operative for conventional operations.

The Army’s cognisance of this is clear. Take, for instance, its turn from defensive defence to active deterrence with the reconfiguration on the eastern front over the past half-decade. It has enhanced conventional deterrence and in the event of its failure, it can undertake operations without India resorting to the threat of use of nuclear weapons. This will keep No First Use (NFU) inviolate. Indian Army can fight through a tactical nuclear weapon use. In so far as continuing operations in a nuclear environment is concerned, press reports from the generally well covered corps level exercises indicate that the nuclear dimension is incorporated in the exercises in both the conceptual and physical facets.11 The conceptual facet is in the narratives reflecting a ‘Redland’ having a nuclear capability and the physical is witnessed in the decontamination drills, sometimes showcased for the press corps.

The usual understanding is that in case of introduction of nuclear weapons into a conflict, even at the lower order levels of nuclear first use and retaliation, the conflict is dramatically transformed from its original scope. The pre-nuclear use situation, specifically conventional operations in a nuclear backdrop, has, therefore, to change to one in which conventional operations form the backdrop for a nuclear foreground. This has two implications: one is that the nuclear operations will take precedence over conventional operations; and two, political and diplomatic strategies will acquire precedence over the military prong of grand strategy.

This implies that conventional operations will require deferring to nuclear operations and would be subject to a greater stringency in so far as supporting the political and diplomatic dimension goes. Clearly, with the political aims being modified in the light of the nuclearisation of the conflict, the military aims and conventional objectives would require review. Since this can be anticipated, the contingencies can be thought through for early and speedy realignment of conventional operations.

Visualising Conventional Operations

There are two conceivable directions for conventional operations: either, proceed with greater vigour under cover of the fact that Pakistan is in the nuclear doghouse; or, be more cautious lest conventional moves complicate the political positioning at the strategic level or trigger avoidable nuclear escalation. Since a nuclear war outbreak implies that conflict termination efforts will heighten, the possibility of quickly gaining a war termination position may entail a quickened tempo of operations so as to finish on top. Nevertheless, changing to top gear in the midst of nuclear operations alongside may not be possible. Speeded up operations may be more dangerous in a nuclear situation since, firstly, the enemy may get into a ‘use them-lose them’ dilemma; and, secondly, his resulting conventional paralysis may make him rely more on the nuclear card. Also, own nuclear retaliatory strikes will require space for execution, uncluttered by ongoing conventional operations. Settling for a more cautious approach to conventional operations may well be adopted.

It is likely that the tempo of conventional operations will be considerably degraded. While there would be immediate nuclear effects to cope with, shifting of gears in the form of rethinking priorities, weight along thrust lines, tactical pauses, etc. may be required. The priorities will rearrange around the nuclear retaliatory strikes and the communication zone will have to be reconfigured to prevent targets for a Pakistani counter-strike. In this consideration, while in-conflict deterrence will be predominant, the anticipated fallout on conventional operations of nuclear operations requires feeding-in into nuclear response considerations. In any case, quickening operations under conditions of mobility and logistics under nuclear conditions may not be readily possible. Also, the slowdown, to include tactical pauses, may help create conditions for nuclear retaliatory strikes. Since Pakistani counter-strikes can be expected, caution in movement and particularly in reconfiguring of the communication zone may be necessary to prevent targeting from counter-strikes. The greater the conventional adaptability, the greater will be the scope and confidence in execution of the retaliatory strike.

The retaliatory strike, while certain, may not necessarily be immediate. In the case of an enemy lower order nuclear first use such as a demonstrative strike, there could be a case for postponing nuclear retaliation and proceeding with conventional operations at a heightened tempo. As has been argued on the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) website in 2008 and recently in 201412, India’s nuclear doctrine lends itself to such interpretation. It states that nuclear retaliation will be of unacceptable levels in the case of a ‘first strike’. If India is to interpret ‘first strike’ as a higher order first use aimed at degrading India’s retaliatory capability, then India’s nuclear retaliation can be flexible – later and/or lesser. In case lower order strikes are met with a lower order nuclear retaliation, the scope for conventional operations potentially enlarges. From a politico-diplomatic point of view, India’s position to press on conventionally will be unassailable since Pakistan will be in violation of the nuclear taboo.13 India can retain the choice of punishing it either by nuclear means, by conventional means or both. In such a case, the retaliatory strike can be reconfigured to suit the conventional battle so as to together shape conflict termination.

At the Conventional-Subconventional Interface

From the manner in which wars of this century have played out, it is clear that the asymmetric dimension is no longer merely an irritant, but can possibly be the main prong of the enemy strategy. Israel and the US have faced up to the challenge in the midst of operations. For instance, the US came up with the Petraeus Doctrine half way through the Iraq War.14 While the Indian Army has a sub-conventional doctrine; it stops at the Line of Control. In its next iteration, it requires a chapter on how the Army will cope with the irregular war that will accompany conventional operations and which stands to be heightened by the nuclear punishment India will visit on Pakistan in case of a nuclear first use by that state.

There are two scenarios of sub-conventional possibilities in a nuclear aftermath. The first is in nuclear retaliation stunning the state and society into paralysis. Coping with this will absorb all the national energy. However, the second is that there could well be a heightening of irregular war in the captured territories. Politically, the jihadists will stand to gain as they are already better organised and with the state disrupted by the nuclear retaliation suffered, the nationalist-jihadist combine could mount an internal political challenge. They will attempt to gain legitimacy for this by taking the fight to the ‘invaders’. In either case, it can be seen that there may be an involvement of the Army in stabilisation operations.

In the first case, this may be benign, and with international support after conflict termination. It is the second that needs doctrinal reflection. The conventional-subconventional firebreak will disappear. Two scenarios can appear. First, even as the conventional operations continue, subconventional operations will have to be launched alongside. The second is that the conventional challenge may wither away, as with the Iraq Army in Iraq War II, to be replaced primarily with the sub-conventional one.

Add to both the humanitarian dimension. As the occupying power in the areas captured, the onus would be on India to cope. It also has no problem with the Pakistani people; therefore, it would be extending a helping hand to the people outside its reach since the Pakistani state would be prostrate and liable to be overtaken by jihadist forces. The point that emerges is that conventional operations may end up taking a back seat to sub-conventional and humanitarian operations.


Anticipating other down-flow effects from the nuclear level to the conventional and sub-conventional enables preparing for them. A collapsing of the three levels – nuclear, conventional and sub-conventional – otherwise visualised as distinct in the spectrum of conflict into one with the disappearance of the nuclear firebreak can be expected to occur. The sub-conventional dimension can be expected to Politico diplomatic strategy will take precedence during the nuclear war. heighten alongside the conventional operations on a battlefield gone nuclear. The doctrinal implications of this for both conventional and sub-conventional doctrines need thinking through. Anticipating this enables preparation.

In sum, the military prong of the grand strategy will take second place to the politico-diplomatic one. Conventional operations will be overshadowed by nuclear operations and stabilisation operations will be predominantly sub-conventional. So far, the military exercises have had the nuclear dimension as the background. This needs reimagining so as to come up with operational level options in a war gone nuclear.

One way to do this is to cease beginning exercises with an ‘I’ Day scenario in which ‘I’ stands for a mass terror incident. Instead, some exercises could also begin with an ‘N’ Day scenario in which ‘N’ stands for the day of nuclear first use. Preparedness such as this helps with deterrence as also with its breakdown. The outcome can be in the form of an explicit limited war doctrine for conventional operations under nuclear conditions. While conventional doctrine needs to acquire a new chapter on conventional operations under nuclear conditions, the nuclear doctrine would require examining which of the options of nuclear retaliation is better suited for India in the light of its conventional advantage: does ‘massive’ nuclear retaliation suit India better or is ‘flexible’ nuclear retaliation better? The answer can help in the revision, when carried out, of the nuclear doctrine. As seen, the principal effect in both cases of lower order first use – catalytic and operational – is that the conventional level is superseded by the nuclear level. Therefore, how the nuclear doctrine shapes up is of consequence for the military.

The military would require engaging with this if the traditional and unwarranted distinction between the nuclear and conventional spheres in India continues. Lastly, a post nuclear strikes scenario has the potential to rearrange the Army’s priorities. It would need to start thinking this through to remain, to quote the last Chief, “a very relevant instrument of national power”.15

Notes 1. S P Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent: Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Conflict in South Asia, (Singapore: NUS Press, 2009), p.55. 2. M Sethi, “Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India”, IPCS, January 18, 2014, available at, accessed on August 01, 2014. scholar warrior ä spring 2015 ä 21 scholar warrior 3. ISPR Press Release of April 19, 2011, available at asp?o=t-press_release&id=1721, accessed on July 13, 2014. 4. M Krepon, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Strategy and Deterrence Stability”, Stimson Centre, available at Strategy_and_Deterrence_Stability.pdf, accessed on July 14, 2014. 5. M Sethi, “Counter Pak Nuke Tactics”, New Indian Express, July 24, 2014, available at article2345369.ece, accessed on July 25, 2014. Also see by same author, n.2. 6. Harinder Baweja, ‘Readying for Nukes’, India Today, May 21, 2001, available at http://, accessed on January 15, 2015. 7. For a discussion on India’s Limited War doctrine, see Ali Ahmed, India’s Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge, 2014). 8. The conventional doctrine, Indian Army Doctrine, is a 2004 publication of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC). The Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations was released by ARTRAC in 2006. The nuclear doctrinal review has been promised by the government of the official nuclear doctrine of 2003. 9. National Security Advisory Board, “India’s Draft Nuclear Doctrine”, August 1999, Arms Control Association, available at, accessed on July 20, 2014. 10. Press Information Bureau, “Cabinet Committee On Security Reviews Progress In Operationalizing India’s Nuclear Doctrine”, Cabinet Committee on Security, January 03, 2003, available at html, accessed on July 20, 2014. 11. R Pandit, “Army Undertakes Major Exercise Along Western Front to Hone Combat Skills”, The Times of India, April 29, 2014, 12. A Ahmed, “The Need for Clarity in India’s Nuclear Doctrine”, IDSA, November 11, 2008, available at TheNeedForClarityInIndiaSNuclearDoctrine_AAhmed_111108.html, accessed on August 02, 2014; and Balachandran G and Kapil Patil, “Revisiting India’s Nuclear Doctrine”, IDSA, June 20, 2014, available at gbalachandran_200614.html, accessed on August 02, 2014. 13. A Ahmed, “Diplomatic Engagement in a Post Nuclear Use Environment”, Indian Defence Review, May 27, 2014, available at diplomatic-engagement-in-a-post-nuclear-use-environment/, accessed on July 12, 2014. 14. A Bacevich, “The Petraeus Doctrine”, The Atlantic, October 01, 2008, available at http://www., accessed on July 15, 2014. 15. IANS, “India ‘Gave Befitting Reply’ to Soldier Beheading”, The Hindustan Times, July 31, 2014, available at, accessed on August 02, 2014. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

book review of my book

Book Review by Vivek Chadha, Research Fellow IDSA

India’s Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia, by Ali Ahmed, New Delhi: Routledge India, 2014, pp. 260, INR 695

India has often been accused of not having a strategic culture and, more recently, of not clearly enunciating its strategic and doctrinal thought. More often than not, this has led to interpolation of brief statements, actions and speeches in public domain that create more doubts than answer questions regarding the country’s strategic formulations. Ali Ahmed attempts to dig deeper into India’s doctrinal underpinnings in light of nuclearization in the operational domain, a field that remains limited to patchy assessments in the past. As a former soldier, Ahmed’s quest for answers stems from contradictions witnessed during the course of his career in the Indian Army (p. xv), before he decided to formally undertake the rigour of research. This provides him a unique perspective of a soldier-scholar, with a clear focus towards questions that often bedevil soldiers in the field as well as the strategic community. Ahmed argues that India changed course in 1971 to shift from a defensive to an offensive military doctrine; yet, this increased the country’s insecurities instead of achieving the opposite (p. xvi). Elaborating on this, he assesses India’s military posture and its doctrines since 1971. He also elaborates upon the limited war doctrine in light of the potential of conventional conflicts against a nuclear backdrop. The author, while identifying the doctrinal evolution in India’s context, limits his focus to the Indian Army and its doctrine of 2004. This document, often called the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, came in the wake of perceived limitations to an all-out conventional war, instead focusing on a limited one. He contends that instead of the aim of war avoidance, the doctrine has lowered the nuclear retaliation threshold, which defeats the very purpose of such an exercise. Ahmed writes: These threshold are generally taken along four dimensions— military attrition, territorial losses, economic viability, and internal stability. Concerted offensive action by the Indian military would simultaneously nudge all four thresholds, directly and indirectly. The cumulative physical and psychological impact could unhinge and lower the nuclear retaliation threshold (p. 4). Ahmed analyses the shift in organizational culture of the Army in light of the Kargil conflict of 1999, followed by the Parliament attack in 2001, which led to a feeling of helplessness. This, according to him, ‘dented’ the military’s image and forced introspection. The limited war option evolved as a result of the same, with the army becoming determined to find opportunities to blunt the sub-conventional advantage held by Pakistan. This could have only taken placed by replacing the statusquo mindset, characterized by a defensive and attrition-based approach, with an offensive and manoeuvre orientation instead. Therefore, the deployment of the Army, previously focused at avoiding loss of territory, shifted to initiating an offensive and taking the battle into enemy territory. This required recasting the erstwhile defensive formations with an offensive capability and calibrating the risk assessment in favour of a proactive stance. However, Ahmed rejects the viability of the option of a limited war as suggested by the 2004 doctrine in light of its failure after 26/11. He further substantiates this on the basis of its rejection by the political class, as the course of events of the period indicates. He suggests that the attempt of the military to retain its salience through this option does not decrease, but rather increases, the possibility of first use of nuclear weapons by Pakistan (p. 150). Ahmed concludes his argument through the analysis of three principle drivers for doctrine formulation—structural, political and organizational—which influence its evolution process. He finds that structural-level drivers were responsible for the doctrinal response in light of the threat from Pakistan. At the state level, the shift in strategic culture led to the enunciation of the limited war doctrine. Finally, the doctrinal evolution at the organizational level was a result of the failure to force acceptable results during the Kargil conflict and Operation Parakram.

He concludes that the three factors have played a complementary role in shaping India’s doctrinal thought (p. 202). Ahmed suggests policy options to include an ‘explicit Limited War doctrine’, in light of the nuclear–conventional war interface. In pursuit of the same, he envisions the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) an essential prerequisite. He also finds the need to revisit the inclusion of the term ‘massive’ in terms of the envisaged retaliation, as part of the nuclear doctrine, in view of the negative impact it has had on the nuclear– conventional war interface. He instead suggests a ‘flexible retaliation doctrine’ for better escalation control. A revisit of the strategic doctrine from ‘offensive realism’ to ‘defensive realism’ is suggested, with a return to the policy of deterrence with a defensive bias on the Pakistan front (p. 207). This also entails moving away from Cold Start, given its short-fuse reactive nature. The importance of this publication stems from its endeavour to understand and refocus attention on India’s operational doctrinal evolution since 1971, and in attempting to decipher the current thinking on the subject. In doing so, the author differs from conventional wisdom on the subject, in view of its potential failure to either prevent war or lead to a desirable outcome. His recommendation of stepping back from offensive realism may be contested by votaries of a more robust policy against Pakistan. However, the attempt at objectively debating the subject is likely to result in greater clarity and understanding through this important addition to literature on India’s security. The book is recommended for both libraries and keen observers of India’s security. The assessment of the author can best be tested by an equally compelling analysis advocating and analysing the existing approach with justification for ‘offensive realism’. The absence of literature on these niche areas limits the ability of readers to benefit from the kind of rigour the subject deserves. Finally, the book could have benefited through a more careful editorial process, with typos as a result of words getting combined, both as part of the preface and subsequent text. This takes away from the otherwise high quality of production process employed by the publishers