India’s Military Doctrine Shifts and Regional Security

India's Military Doctrine Shifts and Regional Security

Through its various military strategies, India has always tried to coerce Pakistan and sometimes even to inflict some backbreaking damage to the latter’s territorial integrity. Historically, Indian policymakers have treaded the path of aggression and subversion preached by their political forefather Kautilya. Making Kautilya’s thoughts their baseline, Indians kept on trying and employing different ways and means for dominance and superiority in this part of the world. From Sundarji Doctrine to ultra-aggressive Cold Start; from sub-conventional strategy to the 5th generation hybrid warfare; from no first-use policy to indications of first using nuclear weapons, Indians seem suffering from an ageless paranoia to ‘deal’ with Pakistan. India’s doctrinal somersaults have created serious implications for the security and stability of the South Asian region, and the world at large.

Sundarji’s brainchild was tested in 1986-87 through the launch of Operation Brasstacks – a major military exercise of the Indian Army in Rajasthan. This massive military mobilization of armed forces was aimed at implementing the doctrine through a “blitzkrieg-like” offensive. However, the Indian plan failed due to prudent cricket diplomacy and General Zia’s downright signalling of nuclear escalation to Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Sundarji doctrine, however, breathed its last with India’s failure in achieving the objectives of the so-called Operation Prakaram – the mobilization of Indian military against Pakistan in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Indian Parliament, in 2001, allegedly by some Kashmiri militants. Despite massive troop mobilization the operation flatly failed as it was ill-conceived and lacked clarity of objectives. Although India had mobilized over 500,000 troops to the Pakistani border and its ‘strike corps’ and other units stayed there for about 10 months, they only incurred massive losses in the form of men and material. Even former chief of the Indian Navy Admiral Sushil Kumar admitted that the “military mobilization was premature, ill-conceived and led instead to a punishing mistake because the entire effort was without a political mission or objective.” The failure of Sundarji Doctrine in tackling the challenges like the 2001 Parliament attack in the environment of nuclear overhang moved the Indian thinkers to revisit the war doctrine.

For that purpose, the Indian army came up in 2004 with a limited war strategy – the (in)famous Cold Start Doctrine. The Doctrine, also called “proactive strategy,” was anticipated as an offensive strategy. It was expected to enable Indians to respond potently to any attack from Pakistani side while keeping the conflict below the nuclear threshold. The plan envisaged launching a strike against Pakistan within 72 hours of an incident, immediately hammering the Pakistan Army and the militants harder with so-called Integrated Battle Groups. Moreover, it suggests occupying a tract of land inside the Pakistani territory as a bargaining chip, through India’s supposedly superior conventional military force. In all, India imagined to punish Pakistan before international community intervenes.To simulate wartime operations by employing the Cold Start Doctrine, Indian armed forces has so far done as many as 28 military exercises and employed all the coercive elements they could to inflict maximum damage to Pakistan. However, as Professor Walter C. Ladwig of Kings College London puts it, Cold Start “as the notion of a limited war in South Asia is a risky proposition,” Even a senior Indian defence analyst Bharat Karnad dubbed Cold Start as ‘“blind alley” and a waste of India’s defence and financial resources. Seemingly, as a result of confusion created by various studies conducted and questions raised on the doctrine, in 2010, India’s then army chief, Gen. VK Singh, denied the presence of any Cold Start Doctrine. Conversely, however, the current chief of Indian army, General Bipin Rawat, not just acknowledged the existence of Cold Start but also reiterated the possibility of its early materialization.

A look at the ground realities suggests something else, however. Indian Army direly lacks resources and capability to carry out an assault of magnitude and sophistication the Doctrine envisages. Indian military planners got perplexed further when, Pakistan tested, in 2011, its tactical nuclear weapon the NASR Weapon System that in the words of Lieutenant General (r) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai, the then Director General Strategic Plans Division, “now provides Pakistan with short-range missile capability in addition to the already available medium and long range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in its inventory.”

The rapidly-shrinking options to quench its thirst to knock down Pakistan, the Modi government opted to pressurize Pakistan and its defence forces psychologically so as to mitigate the domestic public pressure that was mounting in the wake of the Uri incident. So, it, out of the blue, claimed in 2016 to have conducted surgical strikes inside Pakistani territories “as part of its sub-conventional strategy.” But, to date, Indian army have not been able to provide even an iota of evidence to support its claims. As the Indian general elections 2019 are fast approaching, Narendra Modi and his cohorts are in a haste to offer their people something tangible in order to bait them in the election campaign. This is not hearsay or an allegation only; if one observes Indian media regularly, one would conveniently come to the same conclusion. Apart from Indian designs for regional domination under the American patronage, Modi, this time, seems completely paranoid and is hell bent on playing some ‘historic’ role not only against Pakistan but China also. This might simply seem ‘India bashing’ but this assertion is based on facts. Militarization and nuclearization of the Indian Ocean, which has buried the dream of ‘Indian Ocean Zone of Peace’ initiative, and India’s ruthless killings of Kashmiris to muzzle their aspirations from freedom, its role in Afghanistan and support to TTP to foment extremism and terrorism inside Pakistan, and its grand designs to disrupt CPEC through Kulbhushan-like RAW operatives, are no conspiracy theories; they are undeniable facts. India is responsible for the ongoing arms race in South Asia as Pakistan is always struggling to resolve its security dilemma vis-à-vis India.

It is an indisputable reality that Indian military strategists remain searching for options to screw and squeeze Pakistan. In the present age of ‘hybrid warfare’, besides psychological operations (Psyops), Modi government is busy in dangerous subversion tactics especially to thwart collective initiatives of Pakistan and China so as to pursue regional peace, prosperity and development. The hybrid war is the newest Indian strategy to deal with Pakistan and China. But the truth is that India, despite all its efforts and resources, is unable to deal any serious blow to Pakistan – the latter has always successfully managed the balance, how costly it might be.

In a nutshell, India’s incessant doctrinal shifts and the resultant massive military modernization with alarmingly-aggressive postures have turned the region virtually into a nuclear flashpoint. Modi government, just for the sake of power politics, has brought the whole region on this new route of highly costly nuclear arms race and the risk of unaffordable disaster increases with every new development while the poverty-stricken people of both countries are, unfortunately, denied their unalienable rights. This short-sightedness and the military myopia must be discouraged by the world community. It is high time the sanity prevailed and the South Asian tug of war ended for the sake of sustainable peace and stability in this part of the world, and the whole world at large.

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