Pakistan-India military escalation
Mohsin Raza Malik
The military tensions between two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours have escalated since the attack in Pulwama. Instantly accusing Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi vowed a “crushing response”. He had given the armed forces a free hand to punish the masterminds of this suicide bombing.
Pakistan has strongly responded to India’s such warmongering posture. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised address last week, warned that Pakistan would definitely retaliate if attacked by India. He also called on India to provide evidence in support of its terror allegations against Pakistan. Later, in a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) chaired by the prime minister, it was decided to authorise the armed forces of Pakistan to respond “decisively and comprehensively” to any aggression and misadventure by India.
There has been a typical, and therefore predictable, the trajectory of the Pak-India military escalation in the region. Every major terror incident inside India has always been giving rise to such escalation. We witnessed similar escalation following the death of 18 Indian soldiers in Uri terror attack in IOK in 2016. Indian DG Military Operation hinted at responding “at a place and time of their choosing”. Later, India also claimed that it had conducted a “surgical strike” across LOC inside Pakistan. This strike, however, remained a laughing stoke as India couldn’t plausibly prove it.
Notwithstanding the current state of Pak-India military tensions, there is hardly any risk of an imminent armed conflict between the two countries. Nor is there any prospect that India would dare to attack Pakistan first. As a matter of fact, India is in no position to launch any significant military offensive against Pakistan as there exists a perfect balance of power between the two countries vis-a-vis both nuclear as well as conventional military fields. India currently has no substantial military edge over Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan possesses superior air power as well as a more accurate delivery system. Moreover, as part of its Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD) strategy, Pakistan has also developed a number of short-range-low-yield (SRLY) tactical ballistic missiles to issue a ‘qualitative response’ to India’s cunningly-designed military strategies against Pakistan such as the Cold Start Doctrine and ProActive Operations (POA).
A report published in The Economist in September 2016 has explicitly exposed the dark side of Indian armed forces. It revealed that India’s international ambitions were utterly incompatible with its military muscle. It said that much of the Indian weaponry was outdated or ill-maintained. It also maintained that almost 40% of the aircraft of the ‘world’s fourth largest Air Force’ were simply not fit to fly. Moreover, corruption had also become a major problem within the scandal-prone Indian military. The recent Rafale jet acquisition scandal just reinforces this report. Obviously, India is not as strong as the US. Nor is Pakistan as weak as Afghanistan.
Aimed at carrying out surprise hot pursuit against Pakistan below the nuclear threshold, India’s Cold Start strategy is replete with many flaws and shortcomings. India doesn’t possess any significant military superiority in conventional aspects over Pakistan to execute this plan. India also lacks the capability to instantly mobilise its troops, which is a pre-requisite for such an attack. India’s has three strike corps, and they all require considerable time to reach the international border. In 2001, India took 27 days to fully mobilise its troops to the international border. Therefore, the Cold Start Doctrine lost its relevance long ago.
In fact, India, as part of a well-thought-out plan, always try to exploit every terror attack on its soil to escalating military tensions between the two countries for multiple reasons. Firstly, it does this to divert international attention from public unrest in IOK besides the grave human rights violations committed by Indian forces in the valley. Secondly, it also tries to undermine Pakistan’s position to play a proactive role in highlighting the ongoing Indian atrocities in IOK. Thirdly, it generally highlights such terror attacks to advance its hostile diplomatic campaign to isolate Pakistan internationally. And lastly, Indian politicos mostly use them to gain some political leverage domestically. So, India chooses to resort to its oft-employed typical tool of Brinkmanship - a strategy to achieve the desired outcome by practicing a policy of pushing dangerous events to the brink of active conflict. India has already actively employed this strategy through its extensive military buildup along the international border under Operation Parakram following the 2001 Indian Parliament Attack.
Since India is currently unable to maneuver against Pakistan militarily, it is very probable that India would try to retaliate by intensifying its ongoing terrorist activities in Pakistan. At the same time, India would try to exploit Pulwama incident by launching a diplomat onslaught against Pakistan afresh. At this stage, any misadventure on the part of India against Pakistan would land it in severe trouble. Indeed, India is more vulnerable in the volatile valley than was Pakistan in its erstwhile eastern wing in 1971.
In the event of India’s failure to launch any major military offensive against Pakistan, it is very likely that hapless Kashmiris would be the target of displaced Indian aggression. They have already martyred many Kashmiris in various cordon-and-search operations across the valley following the Pulwama attack. On the other side, there are reports of Kashmiris being harassed and attacked by radical Hindu nationalists in other Indian states. Thousands of Kashmiris have returned Kashmir from these areas out of fear. In another unfortunate incident, a Pakistan prisoner has been beaten to death by the jingoist inmates in a jail in the Indian city of Jaipur.
In a massive crackdown on Kashmiri leaders, Indian law-enforcement agencies have arrested JKLF chief Yasin Malik besides large number Jamat-e-Islami leaders, including its chief Abdul Hamid Fayaz, in IOK. Indian administration has already withdrawn the security of 18 Hurriyat leaders and some 150 other political leaders in the valley. It is, however, now crystal clear that such Indian tactics can by no means deter Kashmiris from seeking their inherent right to determine their political future. Observably, India’s military strategies have badly failed to suppress the ongoing Kashmiri resistance movement. The pro-India Kashmiri politicians like Farooq Abdullah and Mehmooba Mufti are also critical of India’s so-called Kashmir policy to pacify this troubled valley. Both former chief ministers of IOK believe that the prevailing unrest in the valley is a direct result of an indigenous Kashmiri uprising against India. Therefore, now India must see the writing on the wall in Kashmir rather than burying its head in the sand like a self-deceived ostrich.