Will India resort to war with Pakistan?

  The world and human rights bodies have begun to take note of the atrocities in Kashmir and hardly a day passes without the foreign newspapers carrying stories and pictures of clashes in Kashmir. Many in India are saying that Kashmir is slipping out of the hands of India. Indian veterans have joined the critics saying that the counter measures taken are insufficient and more force should be used to frighten Kashmiris.

Not knowing how to deal with the uprising and to answer the questions of foreign critics, India has been trying to distract the attention of its home and foreign audiences by blaming Pakistan that it is abetting terrorism in Kashmir. While carrying out unprovoked firing across the LoC in Kashmir, engineering false flag operations and fake surgical strikes, Indian military leaders are heaving threats that India is considering punitive actions against Pakistan for allegedly supporting cross-border terrorism. Last year and this year, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged some of the heaviest fire in years along the Line of Control [LoC] in Kashmir.

The Indian army chief after threatening to carry out a hard strike at a place of own choice claimed on May 23 that it had destroyed several Pakistani posts across the LoC. He has often hurled threats of limited war based on Cold Start doctrine. The Indian air chief after alerting the IAF to be ready for a major task threatened to destroy Pakistani nuclear sites. Pakistan Army rubbished Indian claims and also gave befitting response to all acts of aggression.

RAW accelerated terror attacks in Balochistan and elsewhere with the help of its proxies including ISIS (Daesh) based at Nangarhar / Tora Bora. Besides signing defense agreements with USA in 2016, India has speeded up force modernization of Indian armed forces and is frenetically building up its nuclear and conventional defense and offence capabilities.

Ostensibly this is being done to make India a bulwark against China. But 80% of Indian strike formations are poised against Pakistan. The US Director Defence Intelligence Agency Lt Gen Vincent Stewart stated on May 23, ‘India was updating its military to better position itself to defend India’s interests in the Indian Ocean region and strengthen its diplomatic and economic outreach across Asia’.

To maximize pressure on Pakistan, India nudged Kabul and Tehran to heat up Pakistan’s western and southwestern borders. Donald Trump in his Afghan policy speech last August, maximized pressure on Islamabad by accusing it that it was involved in proxy war and still supporteed Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban. Mounting tensions lowered down as a consequence to visits of Khawaja Asif to Washington and Rex Tillerson to Islamabad.

For all the dogmatic war mongering hyped in every Indian media, India will never wage a war against Pakistan and if it commits the blunder, it cannot win the war. Verbose threats, surgical strikes, cross-border firing or boisterous bawling on TV channels are all signs of pent up frustration and an effort to let off steam. The sooner Indian hawkish leaders appreciate this politico-military reality, better it will be for India. Short of total genocide, no country regardless of its where withal, could hope to achieve a decisive victory with a “short war” in today’s world.

Pakistan has adequately compensated for its inferiority in conventional power by maintaining full spectrum nuclear deterrence and achieving nuclear parity with India. Indian stratagem of achieving superiority in men and material to overawe Pakistan is a weak strategy and has failed, Pak Army’s stunning gains against foreign backed terrorism has astounded the world and shot up its image. It is now the hardiest Army of the world and is looked upon with respect.

Despite Pakistan’s handicaps and India’s superior diplomatic clout, Pakistan has managed to sail past the rough patch and today it finds itself in a better geopolitical position and seems to have turned the tables on India which had schemed to destabilize it, denuclearize it, isolate and strategically encircle it and then deliver the military instrument to Balkanize it.

Decades of mutual cooperation, technology transfer, training, equipment sales, have bonded the two armies of Pakistan and China into a formidable joint force. The duo has achieved sufficient intimacy and understanding to carry out joint missions against India. Pakistan’s fast-tracked accomplishments in nuclear technology, missile delivery systems, logistic supply chain of equipment, and spares as well as new-age technologies such as cyber and drone warfare are all the result of close cooperation between the two countries.

In contrast, India has not even been able to integrate its three services, what to speak of assimilation with political leadership, industry, academia and indigenous defense capabilities.

While Pak Army having successfully fought the insurrectional war for 14 years is fully battle inoculated and motivated, Indian military has gained no such experience and its performance against Kashmiri freedom fighters, Naxalites and host of other insurgent groups in various parts of India is dismal. Indian Army is suffering from inertia, sagging morale and ever rising moral and discipline problems.

Indian armed forces still have over 60% of Russian origin defense arsenal which has become obsolete and absorption of western technology will take a considerably long time. This incongruity has affected India’s war preparedness.

India has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing tensions with regional rivals China and Pakistan and is the largest importer of arms. It is now planning to produce defense equipment locally. Defence and nuclear up-gradation is at the cost of alleviation of poverty in the country.

Praveen Sahwney has mentioned in his book “The Dragon on our doorsteps,” India has primarily focused on developing its military arsenal whereas Pakistan and China have been developing war waging capabilities, which is a synthesis of strength other than just military force.

Whereas Russia is still a strategic partner of India, however, warmth of yester years has cooled after India signed three defense deals with USA last year. Unlike the past, Russia is now a strategic partner of China and has friendly relations with USA under Trump. It is gradually getting closer to Pakistan and finding space in Afghanistan. Iranian coolness with Pakistan is fast fading and GCC States misunderstandings with Pakistan has faded.

Notwithstanding the Indo-US strategic alliance, the US cannot afford to lose Pakistan which certainly has a lot of say in Afghan tangle. It has no choice but to continue supporting Pakistan financially and militarily to ensure continuity of logistic supply for its troops and for its safe exit from Afghanistan. On the other hand Pakistan’s dependence on the US has reduced dramatically with China filling in the gap. Pakistan has clearly stated that it needs mutually beneficial trade and not aid.

China’s economic aspirations and access to the Arabian Sea through CPEC and Gwadar seaport is a strategic master stroke by Pakistan and China. 63% of CPEC is complete while Gwadar Port can get converted into a naval base in the event of war. Not only is it a win-win for the duo but it is also a “lose-lose” for India since CPEC has broken Indian plan to encircle and isolate Pakistan and has landed itself and Afghanistan into the mold of isolation. Full operationalization of CPEC can break the US strategic encirclement of China around South China Sea and Chinese dependence on Strait of Malacca.

Chinese One-Belt-One-Road (OBOR) project of which CPEC is the linchpin has welded the two neighbors into permanent partners. With its heavy economic stakes in Pakistan, China is bound to come to the aid of Pakistan whenever its security is threatened. Baluchistan, AJK, Gilgit-Baltistan and some vulnerable points along the CPEC in Punjab and Sindh marked as possible targets by India have become exceedingly perilous objectives for India in the wake of possibility of Chinese intervention, thereby precluding the possibility of Indian military action.

Indian former Army Officer Raghu Raman said “any Indian operation that endangers thousands of Chinese citizens working on the CPEC project in Pakistan will draw the wrath of China and give them the loco standi to initiate hostilities against India. So beyond shallow skirmishes all along the border, India really has no operational or strategic options without the risk of drawing China into a two-front war.”

Although India has posed a two-front threat to Pakistan, Pakistan military has correctly appreciated that the force levels which India will be able to muster against it will be more or less evenly matched, and in the event of Indo-Pak hostilities, it can depend on China for its logistic supply chain as well as splitting the Indian armed forces’ resources and focus by deploying PLA divisions along the border with India. This would in effect, pin down a substantial part of the Indian Army’s reserves to cater for the eastern front.

India also knows that now there are too many stakeholders dependent on the success of the OBOR / CPEC project and any disturbance in this area would be attributed to Indian truculence. Under these circumstances, Indian covert or overt intrusion to scuttle CPEC will earn her a bad name. Likewise, by staying away from composite dialogue with Pakistan to settle disputes will depict India as an obdurate country incapable of setting aside bilateral issues for the larger good of the region.

For the fulfilment of Modi’s ambition to improve Indian economy, the fulcrum for development is stable and peaceful environment and not war mongering and disturbed border. War clouds are an antithesis for economic investments. Even preparation for war costs billions of dollars in terms of resources. Already the covert and propaganda wars unleashed against Pakistan have cost India millions of dollars. India can scarcely afford to go to war when millions of Indian youth are entering the job market whose un-channelized energies are another potential risk.

For a nation to go to war, all its pillars of strength, including its military, economic prowess, industrial capability, external alliances and national will must be aligned in a singular direction to achieve meaningful success. India is engulfed in too much internal vulnerability and can ill afford to wage an all-out war with nuclear Pakistan.

As IOK is slipping out of India’s hands, the story is not different in Afghanistan where Taliban are gaining ground and turning the tide. India has lone option of Covert War supplemented with Hybrid War against Pakistan. At best it may resort to limited attacks close to the border and LoC, which will be effectively retaliated by Pakistan.

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About Asif Haroon Raja 11 Articles
The writer is a retired Brigadier, war veteran, defence and security analyst, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre.