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
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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Avoiding Nuclear War in South Asia

Two nuclear war scenarios have figured in the strategic discussion lately in South Asia. Both emerged from a war game conducted by the US National Nuclear Security Administration in Dubai that brought together experts from India and Pakistan. Two Indian analysts who attended the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory organised war game subsequently wrote uptwo different scenarios.
The first raised the interesting, and certainly welcome, possibility that nuclear war outbreak may not occur despite a conventional war. The second scenario, following the script of the war game, depicts a couple of tactical nuclear weapon strikes by Pakistan responded to with four tactical nuclear weapon strikes on military targets by India. Even so, it depicts a relatively desirable end state, with the two sides pulling back from the brink of all-out nuclear war despite the limited nuclear exchange.
The war game – and the second scenario - follow the by-now well-worn script of Pakistani terrorist provocation instigating Indian military reaction. India’s launch of conventional forces prompts ‘minor’ Pakistani nuclear first use, targeting Indian troops within its territory. While India does retaliate, the counter is not against strategic - counter value – targets, read cities. India thereby eschews its nuclear doctrine’s promise of ‘massive’ retaliation designed to inflict ‘unacceptable damage’.
In the first scenario, Pakistan resists the temptation to go nuclear, though one weapon is depicted as going-off accidentally. In the second, the war that has gone nuclear, is wound up while still a ‘limited nuclear war’, through the good offices’ intervention of the US-led international community.
While clearly the best case scenario is one in which there is no military confrontation between the two nuclear powers that the war game was conducted suggests continuing apprehensionsthat war clouds can beset South Asia in short order.
The key questionsare: How to make such a war follow the first scenario: keep it from going nuclear? Should it ‘go nuclear’, how to make it end in line with the second scenario? Finally, and more importantly, how to assure the best case scenario?
Since India has a No First Use pledge in place and is the stronger conventional power, it is not one seen as initiating a nuclear exchange. If a war is to stay non-nuclear, the onus is on Pakistan. However, the onus for incentivizing Pakistan lies with India.
India has for its part been practicing a limited war doctrine for about a decade now. The doctrine is reportedly cognizant of nuclear thresholds and keeps its limited offensives below these. Nevertheless, this does not appear to be enough since the second scenario depicts even such offensives attracting a Pakistani lower-order nuclear strike.
This owes to the scenario depicting a week-long prelude to war between the mega- terror attack and war outbreak. The interimwitnesses the Indian military having a crack at the Pakistani military, designed to create conditions for launching its limited offensives. Consequently, by the second day after these are launched, it is easy to see why Pakistan reaches for its nukes.
Clearly, if it wants to keep the war non-nuclear, India must avoid using the opportunity of war instinctively, to degrade the Pakistani military. This is counter-intuitive in the Clausewitzian framework, in that war is taken as meant for just this purpose: to militarily grapple with and hurl down the enemy.
However, Clausewitz needs adapting to the nuclear age. In the nuclear age, Clausewitz’s foremost principle – that the political retains primacy over the military even in war – dictates that nuclear war avoidance continues to make sense even when engaged in military hostilities.
This implies India’s strategic response should not be military-centric and military-led, as much as have the military play second fiddle to a more significant politico-diplomatic prong of war strategy. The latter must be weighed in a manner as to beget war aims, with the military posturing at best to strengthen the political hand. Adapting war strategy to the nuclear age implies ruling out a military-dominant war strategy. 
The political hand in such a case understandably entails a tradeoff: Pakistan to roll back terror with a tacit Indian promise to meaningfully address ‘outstanding issues’, shorthand for Kashmir. Foreign interlocutors agreeable to both and the back channel can serve as conduit. Internally, the public may need to be conditioned to get off the war horse. Such political exertion alone can bring about the first scenario: of nuclear non-use by Pakistan.
Military application in this case would then begin and end with the limited offensives by India’s pivot corps, corps deployed along the border in a defensive role but with an offensive bias. In the second scenario, Pakistan’s hand is forced towards the nuclear button owing not so much to the limited offensives, but due to India’s three strike corps shown as mobilizing in the wake of these limited offensives.
For staying relevant, scenario building usually reflects current thinking. In the second scenario, not only is the Pakistan army degraded starting ‘I’ Day (Incident Day) - the day of the terror attack - but is mauled further in the duration of the conflict. Even after the exchange involving six nuclear weapons – two of Pakistan and double that number of India – India proceeds to up-the-ante by launching its three strike corps to force Pakistan’s hand into capitulation.
This suggests a delusional intent to prevail in a nuclear war. While the scenario ends happily without prompting a strategic nuclear exchange, it is dangerously over-reliant on American intercession.
The second scenario, in as much as it reflects current thinking, emphasises a military dominant strategy that not only prompts nuclear war but also rules in catastrophic nuclear consequences. It thereby misleads that war is fightable and winnable, and indeed, so is nuclear war.
The best case scenario is therefore the only way out. Getting there is through jettisoning the misreading of Clausewitz that war is politics by military means, by a return to Cluasewitz’s original thought that war is politics but with only an admixture of military means.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Kashmir: Potentially back with a bang
In his book, The Future of Land Warfare, Brookings’ expert, Michael O’Hanlon uses an illustrative scenario to argue for maintaining a U.S. land warfare capability. To O’Hanlon, one utility of land forces would be in “handling the aftermath of a major and complex humanitarian disaster superimposed on a security crisis – perhaps in South Asia.”
In O’Hanlon’s scenario, India and Pakistan come to the threshold of all-out nuclear war. He considers this scenario “all too plausible” and a “real possibility today.” O’Hanlon is right that a nuclear confrontation would be devastating to South Asia, for the global economy and environment, and for “loose nukes.” While its probability is an open question, O’Hanlon presents the threat for his own purposes: to get the U.S. to maintain a large standing army.
Of consequence for South Asia is O’Hanlon’s belief that a nuclear exchange would result in a changed political scenario in which international intervention, with U.S. participation, will be eminently justifiable and therefore is well nigh plausible. A nuclear conflict could trigger external intervention in the form of a UN mandated international force to help stabilize the situation, being deployed in Kashmir. To him, India may be amenable to this if it “seemed the only way to reverse the momentum toward all-out nuclear war in South Asia.”
What this suggests is that a war would bring Kashmir center stage as nothing else would. This brings into question why India is leveraging hard power – intelligence and military – in its Pakistan strategy.
India is widely taken as the status quo power since it has the prize, Kashmir. Pakistan is considered revisionist, since it wishes to overturn the status quo on Kashmir. As the status quo power, keeping Kashmir off the radar screen is in India’s interest. For Pakistan, keeping Kashmir in the news for the wrong reasons is enough. A war would concentrate international attention like nothing else.
There is convincing evidence to suggest that even a regional nuclear conflict with just a few weapons opens up the possibility of environmental catastrophe, potentially causing more than a billion casualties worldwide. Therefore, if Kashmir is at the root of a conflict that threatens such a prohibitive cost, calls for forceful international intervention would be justifiable.
It can be argued that a war such as Kargil did not catalyze the international attention Pakistan expected. Instead it redounded on Pakistan, enabling India to over time dehyphenate from Pakistan.
However, the two countries’ nuclear arsenals were then in their infancy. Today the numbers are not only in the triple digits for both sides, but there are elaborate doctrines and structures in place. Nuclear weapons have to be usable to deter. The readiness to use nuclear weapons is useful in so far as deterrence goes, but it is also the Achilles heel of the whole deterrence enterprise.
Pakistan for its part has proclaimed that it would be quick on the draw. India’s response promises to be fast and overwhelming. The two doctrines are like the interactions of two unstable substances.
India has lately shortened its fuse. By calling off the National Security Adviser talks last month, India has chosen remove negotiations as a buffer. It can no longer call off talks to show it is “doing something.” Instead, it will have to actually “do something,” using its hard power, in the face of any Pakistani provocation.
This can serve to deter the rational element in the Pakistani establishment. However, it is well known that there are contending power centers in Pakistan. There is the “deep state,” the “rogue elements” and “good terrorists.” These stand to expand their power base under the shadow of crisis and chaos of war.
That India does not rule out future provocation is evident from the extraordinary lengths it has been going to deter such provocations over the past year. At a joint services seminar commemorating the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India’s Army chief said that the Army is prepared for a short, sharp war to be launched in quick time. As O’Hanlon reckons, this will drag Kashmir center stage.
There is another “pull factor” in play.
In case of war, India can at best get back at Pakistan. It cannot get Pakistan to roll back elements that, in striking India, have endangered Pakistan. Such a roll back cannot be in the face of visible Indian military coercion and would not be achieved without something on offer.
In effect, Kashmir stands to figure twice over in the denouement. India will have to throw in a “solution” to Kashmir as an incentive for Pakistani action against terrorists who have gone over the top. And, second, India may be forced to use Kashmir as a de-escalatory chip. This is the price for having gone nuclear.
Kashmir would be back on the agenda, something Pakistan could not manage after either the war fifty years ago or the more recent Kargil War.
Pakistan’s ruling out talks without Kashmir figuring in them leaves India with only one choice: hard power. Whereas India justifies this as essential for deterrence, it bears reminding that if deterrence fails, Kashmir will be back on the agenda and with a bang. If this is not to be a nuclear one, India had better get those “first ever” NSA level talks back on track sooner rather than later