Saturday, 10 September 2016

India-Pakistan: A war scenario examined
Agni May-Aug 2016 Vol. XIX No. II
Doctrinal shadowboxing
With the last India-Pakistan crisis almost a decade back – in November 2008 to be precise – it appears incongruous to discuss war scenarios. When crises appear to be well behind, wars can only be even more so. However, the periodic rise in temperature between the two states – most recently in the diplomatic spat over the Burhan Wani episode and more significantly over the Pathankot airfield terror attack – indicate that crisis can lurk just over the horizon. Unlike the monsoons that can be spotted and tracked across the subcontinent, crisis can instead appear as a cloud burst. In such circumstance, heeding Clausewitz is wise. Clausewitz rightly held that statesmen must be clear on the kind of war they embark on, lest they demand the impossible of the military instrument. If crisis was to turn into conflict then it must be to the extent feasible on one’s own terms. Therefore, a consideration of war scenarios is not without utility.
Precedence exists of such exercise proving timely. Immediately prior to the onset of insurgency in right earnest in the Valley over the turn of the nineties, a quasi factual scenario, Operation Topac, conjured up a scenario of Kashmir going into an ISI induced downward spiral. Six months on, the semi-fictional account could be credited with prescience. The scenario was so compelling that the doyen of Indian strategists, K Subrahmanyam, was misled into believing the paper was factual. Though he later issued an amendment, the episode suggests that scenarios – even if seemingly far-fetched in this decade of relative peace – may repay attention.
That said; several reasons are there to criticize scenario building as scare mongering. Pakistan is unlikely to initiate a war; fully knowing that it cannot win. Its army knows that this time round it may not be able to bounce back as it did after its 1971 drubbing. In case it does bite the dust, power would likely pass on to civilians. Given the record of Pakistan’s past civilian governments, power could well be contested by extremists taking advantage of the vacuum. Avoiding such a future, entails a war avoidance strategy by Pakistan. This suits India since it is on an upward trajectory that can do without distraction. As an aspiring great power, it would not like a war with Pakistan to re-hyphenate it to Pakistan, tying it down to its region, South Asia. Consequently, India appears embarked on a Pakistan strategy that  has the military relegated to third spot, following intelligence and foreign policy occupying the first two rungs in that  order of significance. This is in keeping with the Tsun Tsu dictum of winning without fighting. 
In effect, at long last, there is no kindle piled high in South Asia. With no kindle, the proverbial spark can at best sparkle and die out as a crisis, one easily managed in light of the experience of the two states in crisis management over the past three decades. The bonhomie between the two government heads adds an additional buffer. Since both powers with influence over Pakistan – the US and China – are wary of instability that besets it deepening, they would be available to act as dampeners, preventing crisis from turning into conflict. This puts paid to the scenario, staple for arm chair strategists over the past decade and half, of a mega terror attack sparking off, a potentially nuclear, war.
The scenario had been made plausible by Pakistan’s propensity for terrorism and India’s doctrinal movement from a defensive mode towards proactive operations. This ensured Pakistan largely turning off the tap of insurgency in Kashmir by mid last decade. It instead transferred the pressure to terrorism in the homeland, culminating in the 2008 Mumbai attack. However, India’s conventional makeover accelerating thereafter as a consequence, has suitably impressed Pakistan. This explains absence of a triggering event since. Even so, Pakistan has taken care to very visibly equip itself with tactical nuclear weapons.
India’s doctrinal response to this has been two fold. At the conventional level, it has played nonchalant, excising any mention of nuclear backdrop in its press handouts on military exercises since 2012. Alongside, at the nuclear level, while successfully maintaining a fa├žade of status quo, it has likely moved to a war-fighting nuclear doctrine as against its official version pronouncing nuclear weapons are political weapons for deterrence alone. This new – unstated so far – stance is that lower order nuclear weapons use not being ruled out, lower order nuclear strike backs are not only the best response, but also the best deterrent. The subtext is that thinking on nuclear weapons has moved from taking them as deterring nuclear weapons use to deterring higher order nuclear weapons use. At the conventional level the message is that despite the conflict environment being permissive of lower order nuclear use, conventional operations would continue, buttressed by lower order retaliatory options.
This movement does not necessarily enhance dangers in that the closer coupling between the two levels – conventional and nuclear – enhances deterrence at the subconventional level. Pakistan - attuned to the Indian doctrinal debate and movement – cannot miss the increased liability it would pay in case of its triggering off a crisis. This would enhance the ISI’s control over ‘good terrorists’. However, there are also ‘bad terrorists’, such as those that carried out the Peshawar school attack. Pakistan has been targeting these with vigour, assuming them to have Indian support in a bid by India to whittle Pakistan’s concept of strategic depth. With ‘good terrorists’ at best fed into the Kashmir cauldron in a controlled manner and ‘bad terrorists’ unlikely to turn on India, the ‘Incident Day (I-Day) scenario of a terror attack providing a trigger for war recedes further. Since this threat can be visualized - and since the Pakistani establishment is distanced from it - India can arrive at a crisis modus vivendi with Pakistan. Prior covert networking by the national security establishments on this score can be done; rather, should already have been done.
Scenario building
Even so, events can snowball. Take for instance a scenario in which India approaches the UP elections. The preceding social polarization based on communal lines gathers momentum, fed by majoritarian politics. Since this election is crucial to the subsequent national elections, internal politics is on a boil. Jihadists sitting across the border sense an opportunity. The excuse is to pitch for their underdog co-religionists.
These are neither ‘good terrorists’ nor ‘bad terrorists’. They are hardcore extremists wanting to expand unstable spaces that enable them to thrive in the resulting governance and democratic vacuum. Pakistan has the fertile demographic and socio-economic terrain. It has sufficient religious extremism already prevalent on the back of conservative religion inspired political formations such as the Jamaat and people vulnerable to be misled. Once a ‘frontline’ state, it has been frequented by such jihadists, providing the forum earlier for the formation of the Al Qaeda, the hideout for its chief, Osama bin Laden, and possible hideaways in ungoverned spaces for others. Such spaces have homegrown affiliates of the ISIS. Its cities often witness terror attacks on liberal opinion makers, testifying to the physical and psychological reach of new-age terrorists. The ISIS – at the receiving end of a combined great power roll back in its power base Levant – is attempting to expand the arc of instability to metamorphose and survive. There are many candidate Muslim inhabited areas, stretching from North Africa to Bangladesh. Pakistan is certainly one such in its sights. Pakistan, well aware, and sensing adverse relative strength is running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.
Under pressure elsewhere, they need a valve and an opportunity to break into South Asia. Whereas conservative political parties and societal tendencies towards religious extremism have prepared the entry points for such groups in Pakistan and Bangladesh, India has been relatively immune. However, India’s hothouse politics provides an opportunity to break in. The catalyst can be a monster terror attack. Under the circumstance of an upcoming election, the government – that prides itself on doing more for defence – would end up in a commitment trap. It has advertised itself as different from its predecessor that was in its view limpid in approach to terror, best evidenced by a seeming lack of response to Mumbai 26/11. It requires justifying a $100 billion investment over the past decade and the forthcoming $200 billion over the coming one. Consequently, domestic and reputation pressures take India down the well rehearsed conventional military response route to subconventional provocation.
India - believing it has escalation dominance - chances conventional war. A doctrinal reading suggests that the belief is not unfounded. At the subconventional level, India has the requisite numbers in place in Kashmir to keep a lid on terrorism, and, as witnessed lately, respond to civil unrest, albeit in a heavy handed manner. Its conventional forces are well practiced in the decade and half old doctrine of ‘Cold Start’. It has the tactical nuclear weapons: three of the five nuclear tests in Pokhran II were of subkilo ton variety and it has the delivery vehicles (Prahaar and Brahmos). This capability enables response to TNW use by Pakistan, relieving India from following through with its unnecessarily escalatory official nuclear doctrinal pledge of counter value targeting. Since it can trade nuclear ordnance – kiloton for kiloton – and such exchanges can only be to Pakistan’s detriment, India has escalation dominance that it can cash in on to deliver Pakistan a retaliatory blow.
Political compulsions favouring retaliation and with the military doctrine supportive, momentum could pick up for a ‘short, sharp war’. To be sure, deceleration will be there in the form of diplomatic interventions by a concerned international community. These can be fobbed off with India citing precedence in great power initiatives in anticipatory self-defence over the better part of this century. As for the argument that military force will only be counter-productive, in that, Pakistan would be more vulnerable to extremism in wake of a military defeat,  India can point to proactive operations undertaken by the US, NATO and Russia as precedence irrespective of potential consequence of expanding terrorist terrain, physically and psychologically. It can point to the limitations built into its conventional doctrine. It can use its official nuclear doctrine instrumentally to ensure diplomatic pressure on Pakistan mounts to stay that country’s nuclear hand. A war would be at hand.
Analysing the resulting war
Following from Clausewitz’s warning on foreknowledge of the war being entered into, is the imperative on war aims. Whereas war aims can be preset, war strategy involves grappling with another nation’s will and strength. This impacts war aims. A ‘better peace’ post-war is a fine desire, but needs translation into war aims that can then be further disaggregated into achievable military objectives. In this case, diplomatic warnings on the possibility that war could push Pakistan into an abyss need heeding. The counter argument that these powers have themselves resorted to war is not particularly incisive when seen against the results of such wars, be it in Iraq, Libya or Syria. Clearly, a restrictive parameter would be to ensure that the Pakistani state is not so impacted by military set back as to be dysfunctional thereafter. In other words, its military should not be administered a defeat that makes it lose face, cohesion and public trust. This is at odds with the logic of war, taken as a wrestling match in which the opponent is to be pinned to the ground. Clausewitz said not to demand of war as a means of something it cannot deliver.
Is war limitation, the answer? Can a limited war - with thrusts by land, sea and air, calibrated to hurt, but not defeat or destroy - both preserve Pakistan and serve as retaliation? Can these force Pakistan to rein in terrorists in its midst under a ‘Pakistan first’ strategy? Can the Indian government caught up in public pressures for dealing firmly with Pakistan, simultaneously also turn these off? This suggests three information operations thrust lines: one at external powers; the second directed at Pakistan; and the third, internal. The first entails reassuring the international community against escalation, even while using diplomacy to pressure Pakistan to adhere likewise. The second, directed at Pakistan, needs to announce the retaliatory aims. Aiming more, such as compelling a Pakistani crackdown on terrorists even while the war is on, would be ambitious. The third is more difficult. Since the scenario has as backdrop elections – provincial and national – domestic politics, not so much from the opposition as much as from within pseudo-cultural and quasi-political formations supportive of the government. These would attempt to link the ‘external Other’ to the ‘internal Other’ as part of their political project, using the war as catalyst. The government cannot continue being placatory to such forces. It would also require sensitizing the public to early war termination, even under less-than-ideal conditions. Prior conditioning can conjure up an image of responsible and mature war conduct and termination, preempting motivated criticism of going ‘soft’ or, worse, ‘chicken’.
Clearly, the military, tasked to deliver, would require being onboard. Past experience suggests its thrust could prove more expansive than the government can permit. In the Kargil War, partial mobilization led to selective manning of the border, even as the theater of operations was wisely restricted as per government policy to the intrusions alone. In Operation Parakram, the military perhaps over-interpreted the government’s policy of coercive diplomacy, best illustrated by the a few hundred casualties to mine laying and demining. The military operations planned after surprise was lost envisaged all three strike corps launching in the desert sector, an operation the government could scarce permit in light of the nascent nuclearisation of the subcontinent. While the military reportedly demurred owing to equipment shortfalls in 2008, these shortfalls were in relation to what the military wished to inflict rather than what could have been proportionate and timely. This indicates the potential for a Moltkaen tendency within the military – a belief that once the war commences it is the prerogative of the military to pursue  to its militarily logical conclusion. Over the long term, this requires senior level professional military education mitigating such tendency and in the event of war, requires tempering by the national security apparatus now reaching maturing, the National Security Council system.
The key question before embarking on war is whether a war would energise the Pakistani liberals or would it favour the extremists? The Kargil War forced a dash by Nawaz Sharif to Washington, enabling pulling out of Pakistani forces. Evicting them would have forced casualty figures up, leading to pressures from both the military and the public to widen the war. The Operation Parakram crisis brought out the liberal strand in Musharraf, culminating in the January 2004 Vajpayee-Musharraf agreement to wind down in Kashmir. To an extent, Pakistan can be said to have delivered, though India has understandably held out for more. The two precedents indicate that Pakistan and its army can put national interest, conventionally defined, above Islamic rhetoric. Pakistani society is also no pushover to Islamist overtures. This understanding of Pakistani resilience in face of extremism can act as a pull factor towards war.
The critical point would be how to turn Pakistan – under military attack - into an ally in the wider war against terrorism. Though Pakistan suffered US’ Operation Geronimo and stomachs its drone attacks, it would be less amenable to India doing likewise. Over the war’s duration, Pakistan would likely harness military power of terrorists, such as making consolidation and the stabilization phase of operations difficult. This would be a redefinition of sorts of strategic depth, hitherto envisaged in spatial terms. In case of military relocation by India – and leaving Pakistani territory eventually would be inevitable – Pakistan would, through information operations, project this as its victory. Face saving for the Pakistani establishment may enable it to take some credit, lest terrorists wangle it claiming that they blunted India’s vaunted military. The chief military problem in translation of political aims into military goals is: Can Indian military action put a Pakistani ‘el Sisi’ in place? Since the answer is of consequence not only to the region but also globally, it is not a war India can embark on prompted merely by domestic political compulsions or ideological impetus of majoritarian formations.
War: An option?
Whereas India has leveraged the conventional level to project power, Pakistan has attempted to neutralise this at the other two levels: nuclear and subconventional. A hybrid war with the three levels co-extensive can therefore be expected. This is a step-up from the two levels that have so far characterized hybrid war – conventional and subconventional. Where other professional and dominant militaries have failed spectacularly, such as the US and NATO, it would be imprudent to believe that India can prove more adept. The foes the other militaries chose were not well endowed – Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan is a nuclear power, even if one on the brink on failed state status. The latter fact enables Pakistan to hold a gun to its own head, one if let off can plunge not only Pakistan but also South Asia into at least half century of avoidable setback.
The aspect not discussed is that with the mainstreaming of majoritarian nationalism and its influence in the strategic debate lately, this may not readily be seen as avoidable. There are instead arguments for hastening Pakistan down to failed state status. Such ideology contaminated strategic advocacy must be seen for what it is, not so much about righting Pakistan as much as furthering a certain political project in India. The hidden agenda in such argument is not about externally directed war aims of retaliation, as much as internally looking war aims to take over India with finality. Consequently, even if war looms as an option because strategizing can make it feasible, it is not quite an option considering what it can potentially do wrought politically in India itself.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Speaking at an international conference organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies in New Delhi early this month, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said India was a ‘reluctant’ power in not being ‘pragmatic’ in its use of military power, especially the air force.
For the air force chief to use a forum on energising aerospace power to present the IAF’s corporate view about the underutilisation of airpower is understandable. However, since he also carries the onus of being India’s senior most military man as chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (COSC), his words bear additional scrutiny.
Critical of the end state achieved in the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war that in his view allowed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to end up as ‘a thorn’ in India’s side, he said the further use of force could have settled the issue in India’s favour. While the historical accuracy of this view is debatable, of consequence here is the air chief’s view on conflict termination.
As COSC chair, he is the officer the government turns to for military input on the end state. Though his position on India’s strategic approach is a longstanding one – and perhaps the more popular – it needs probing. While laypersons can be permitted this indulgence, professions need to consider the consequences of encouraging India into an avoidable strategic over-stretch. Instead, it is preferable that the military’s advice be tinged with prudence and practicality – especially so on account of the nuclear backdrop to conflict today.
The longstanding critique in the popular strategic discourse – voiced by the air chief – has it that India has constantly pulled its punches, encouraging adventurism in the adversary. The follow-on prescription usually has it that India needs to be ‘doing more’ militarily and with other coercive instruments of national power.
If the apex of the military brass is persuaded along these lines, the resulting military counsel on conflict management and its termination would tend towards being more assertive than warranted. This has implications for escalation control in a nuclear setting. As scholar-strategist Bernard Brodie opined early in the nuclear age, the principal purpose of military force is no longer to win wars, but to deter them.
The military needs strategic sobriety to inform its input in higher conflict decision-making. On this, Samuel Huntington, though infamous later for his ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis, was spot on in his very first intellectual intervention in the 1950s. In his classic book, The Soldier and the State, he outlined the advisory role of the military brass.
Huntington wrote that the conservative-realist military ethic urges ‘limitation of state action to the direct interests of the state, the restriction on extensive commitments, and the undesirability of bellicose or adventurous policies.’ Since this coincided with developments in the Cold War accelerating the nuclear age, his prescription is valid for South Asia in the formative years of its own nuclear era.
The fashionable argument that India needs to ‘do more’ strategically and militarily trespasses on this sage advice. In his talk, Raha weighed-in in favour of the 1971 war model of use of military force as against the model of strategic and military restraint that featured in India’s 1962 and 1965 wars.
The significant aspect of the 1971 war model was in the mission creep that resulted in India’s original war aims being jettisoned in favour of delivering a body blow to Pakistan. The difference in the two previous wars was in the political leadership favouring war limitation. Arguably, fascination with the latter model could prove fatal for belligerents in a future war.
The injection of uncertainty into India-Pakistan relations by the national security establishment makes war plausible. Ideological predilections embedded in the Modi-Doval security doctrine could result in contamination of conflict strategy. Under the circumstances, an apolitical military cannot be seeing as buying into the party line. Instead, it needs to maintain strict self-regulation over its advisory function. The timing of the air chief’s allusion to PoK leaves a worrying impression that the apex military leadership is not sufficiently sensitive to this need of the hour.
Further, conflict termination is based primarily on political parameters. For instance, the end state in the first Kashmir war was determined by Indian forces reaching the ethno-linguistic divide between the Kashmiri and Punjabi dominant parts of J&K at which ended Sheikh Abdullah’s influence. Such factors, being largely outside the military purview, tend to be under-appreciated by it and are brought into strategic deliberations by other wings of government.
Consequently, for the military to pronounce on issues outside its remit implies an agenda. Is this an avoidable political foray in which the military is genuflecting to its new politico-strategic minders? Even if the motives are more prosaic – such as being soon-to-retire Raha’s gambit for a post-retirement sinecure – his words are no less troubling.

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Saturday, 27 August 2016

War and what to do about it

War is not round the corner, but that is not reason enough not to engage with it as a phenomenon and as an existential threat in South Asia. The rhetoric of ‘responsible nuclear power’, much in evidence in India’s recent and ongoing Nuclear Suppliers Group bid, should not obscure clear and present nuclear dangers. Realists wish to husband power in order to deter war and in case one is imposed on India to preserve the national interest. The problem is that sustaining such power creates the conditions for conflict, which in crisis does not necessarily help avert conflict and in conflict might prove counter-productive to the national interest.
A popular scenario in strategic circles can help explain this paradox of more power not necessarily begetting greater security. Realists in control of the national security establishment and of primetime believe India’s unassailable power deters Pakistan. This is true in so far as conventional attack is concerned and also in incentivizing Pakistani control over ‘good’ terrorists. However, it is debatable to the extent Pakistan can control the entire spectrum of terrorists it is host to. Thus, India can figure in terrorist crosshairs. Assorted jihadists might like to express solidarity with the Kashmiri angst, if only to put one over the Pakistani state they consider as letting their side down by providing only rhetorical support. The military power India has would not deter them and, on the contrary, could even act as a pull factor in case they wish to destabilise Pakistan to expand their reach. In case the going gets too hot in Pakistan, they have the potential to provoke a regional war, which can then help them survive any immediate threat, and, in its duration and aftermath, to expand their constituency using religious nationalism as heft. The exercise of Indian military power in the conflict can only bring about Pakistani military discomfiture, enabling extremists thereby, and at not a little cost to India. Therefore, if war is insensible, the preparations for it are equally so. With India hardening its foreign policy, deploying information war strategies and possibly also indulging in covert operations against Pakistan, a reflexive regional war needs only a bunch of terrorists getting lucky. With UP elections coming up as trailer to national elections, the scene can only get more combustible.
In respect of China, conflict is certainly more remote. Yet, India appears well on its way to being a lynchpin in US’ ‘pivot’ to Asia. Taking cue, China could well up-the-ante at the next border incident. Though confidence building measures are in hand, to guard against incursions escalating, India has taken care to reportedly position armoured elements of the Mountain Strike Corps (MSC) on the Tibetan plateau’s extension into India in both Ladakh and Sikkim. It has simultaneously let onthat the MSC, 17 Corps, has been put on a back burner for economic reasons; a move necessitatedmore likely to allow time for border infrastructure to catch up. Consequently, India has the force in being to respond to a local border incident, but not enough to react in a border war. This summer China created joint theater commands,creating thereby not only a possible military edge but also psychological asymmetry with India that has its services fighting separate, if parallel, wars. In effect, India is liable to overreact to a border incursion by, for instance, positioning armoured elements dissuasively; thereby risking escalation, to which in turn it has little answer. This will build up military pressure on the political level, which in the context of elections in the Hindi heartland close by can lead to scare mongering such as indulged in by the Uttarkhand chief minister over a recent Chinese incursion. Political agendas can yet contaminate strategic decisions. But then strategic decisions might themselves be more assertive than necessary, stemming from India’s belief that China is looking to push India back into the South Asian box. China, sensing this, might just time and tailor its next border incursion, in a manner as to have India either take the bait and foul up or veer off and lose face. 
The good news is that such scenarios are not quite ‘worst case’, of the order of a ‘two- front’ war or a war gone nuclear. Scenarios being staple fare for strategists, these are also susceptible to being overlooked outside of their strategic circles. However, ignoring such scenarios can only leavethe peace lobby scrambling. The pattern of recurrent crises and border incidents has lulledboth the public and the peace lobby. Further, cautioning by peace activists is discountedbecause it originates in the public perception from the ‘usual suspects’, not associated with strategic expertise. It is not without reason, the government is setting up defence studies departments in universities and has placed the National Defence University bill in the open domain for public comment. The peace lobby is doubly disadvantaged; but just as militaries sweat in peace, it must in peacetime forge a broader front for this uphill and asymmetric battle.
How can a war shape up? Though press releases of the defence ministry hide as much as they let on, these are enough to go by. A recent press release had it that the Mathura based strike corps – Strike 1 - held a demonstration of opposed river crossing (Press Information Bureau (PIB) 2016 (a)). Earlier, its summer’s military exercise climaxedin a brigade of paratroopsenabling deep thrust(PIB 2016 (b)). This indicates that though South Asia is about three decades into its nuclear era, the military is just about perfecting war plans dating to the mid-eighties. Notably, press releases of military exercises since 2012 take care not to mention the ‘nuclear backdrop’ (Ahmed 2015). This appears prompted by Pakistan’s unfurling of its tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in 2011, an entirely anticipated development in light of the doctrinal movement in India over the previous decade. The seemingly slovenly military response to the mega terror attack on Parliament in December 2001 prompted the quick-off-the-blocks ‘Cold Start’, worrying Pakistan down the TNW route.Even if India appears nonchalant in order to bolster deterrence, the silence surrounding India’s response to TNW is also directed inwards. By minimizing nuclear dangers,India makes war appear fightable, thereby short circuiting opposition and keeping the public unwary.
A conventional attack on Pakistan can find India sandwiched between the other two levels– nuclear and conventional. The more successful it is at the conventional level, the more dangers at the other two levels will kick in. The nuclear level is fairly straightforward. Pakistani TNW usewould breach the nuclear taboo. This would leave India a choice to escalate or to respond at the same level of the nuclear ladder. The first choice is what it currently promises in its declaratory nuclear doctrine. However, the subcontinent being at the stage of Mutual Assured Destruction, India might settle for the second option, in favour of an unacknowledged operational nuclear doctrine of proportional response.At the subconventional level, Pakistan’s army could rely on irregular war. In a clarification on Musharraf’s threat of ‘unconventional war’, Pakistani military spokesperson made a reference to ‘unconventional forces’ presumably indulging in an irregular war (Bidwai 2003). To be sure, Pakistan’s response at these two levels would leave it worse off, but that is no reason for India to discount the possibility.The lesson from the Chilcot inquiry report in Britain is that thinking through the consequencesis important when picking a fight.
In the famous Clausewitzian Trinitarian frame, consequences owe to interplay of chance, passion and rationality. Ideally, if India embarks on war, it would prefer, in the words of the army Chief, a ‘short, swift’ conventional tryst (Dawn 2015).Any political space opened up by the retreat of the Pakistan army under Indian blows would be filled by extremists. If Kashmir continues to be heavy-going even today when Indian security forces confront only stone throwers, stabilisation operations in Pakistan would be exponentially worse. Unfortunately for India’s power enthusiasts, India does not have US’ power and distance or powerless Gaza as neighbor as does its emerging role model, Israel.
Michael Howard (1979) held that strategyplays out in the operational, logistical, social and technological spheres too. These are not all external oriented. Internal politics cannot be ignored as a conflict driver. Majoritarian nationalism in India will mirror religious nationalism in Pakistan. In India, the social outcome could be in further marginalization of the liberal spectrum and of India’s largest minority, its Muslims. Likewise, the economics of warmaking and recovery will likely see greater militarization of ‘Make in India’, with the military technology conduit deepening India’s American and Israeli connection.Thus, to some there can be a ‘good war’, with the war used to deepen the right wing grip over India.
If the conspiracy theorists are even half right, intelligence capabilities exist to engineer a trigger that can then be capitalized on militarily to wage a premeditated war. Intelligence agencies taking cue from the prime minister’s Independence Day speech, couldargue that Sindhis andBaluchis are ripe for disaffection. India could sieze the moment to push Pakistan down the Iraq-Syria route. The internal fallout of the intelligence dimension is far more problematic. Ideologically inspired policemen in the Vanzaramould would pursue ‘sleeper cells’ in Muslim mohallas across India. The information war will paint dissent as treachery.
A similar look at a hypothetical war with China yields up areas of equal concern. The loss half-century back continues to echo. The Air Force reportedly has plans for busting the permafrost holding up the train tracks that lend China a logistics advantage on the Tibetan plateau. This would be extension of the war on environment, currently underway in the name of strategic road building. Complementary intelligence games such as use by India of the Special Frontier Force and retaliatory arming by China of North East militants can only be to India’s at a disadvantage, besides setting up Tibetans for trouble. The good part is that both sides subscribing to No First Use and having matching conventional capability tamps down on the nuclear factor. However, horizontal escalation such as to the more sensitive Tawang tract or if India ups the ante in the Malacca Straits, can occur; raising the profile of the nuclear factor. In its outcome, a fair showing can prove cathartic, while a loss would hardly be as fateful as it proved for Nehru. A war would enablerationalizationto India’s defence outlays; deepen privatization of the defence sector; and ensure a foreign policy lurch towards US.India can only get uglier. Either outcome would embolden authoritarian tendencies, played out in scapegoating Maoists in Central India and assorted communities in the North East with‘subversive’ potential,and, closer homeof liberal voices critical of India’s unnecessarily assertiveChina policy.
War has benefits for political forces, diplomatic pulls and commercial interests. If the state takes it so seriously as to spend inordinately on its preparation, war must figure more prominently in critical discussion. It cannot be left to strategists of the realist school and a few liberals fighting an intellectual guerilla war. The 1965 War reprise last year made war appear enticing, with Amar Chitra Katha even bringingout a comic on ParamVir Chakra heroes.A defencecorrespondent, noted for proximity to the defence minister,rewrote the war’s history depicting India as victor. Recent and ongoingextended centenary observance of theFirst World War romanticises Indian participation, obscuring enduring of the wretchedness of the trenches in defence of a foreign power at Ypres, Gallipoli and Kut el Amara. With the public suitably conditioned, war drums can stir up public support of war. In face of this, how can a wider peace movement be created, especially when war appears a seemingly a distant possibility?
For sure, this cannot be done in face of crisis since lead times have specifically been truncated in the ‘Cold Start’ scenario. It cannot be done in war, when war drums will drown out sane voices. It has to be done now, when time and breathing space are available. War must be exposed for what it is; misrepresentations exposed; and the link between potential war-profiteers and war mongers, including haloed institutions, made visible. Deterrence ‘experts’ need to explain the paradox inherent in the reasoning that deterrence is only at an ever increasing cost in insecurity. The curious reasoning is that the more insecure both sides are from each other, the more secure they are since neither can chance instability.Considering this, at best, India can only replay the Chinese strategy of 1962 with a hard, quick knock to be followed by unilateral ceasefire declaration and rapid reversion to the start line. If that is all that can be reasonably done with the military power at India’s disposal, is there a case for demanding the nuclear peace dividend? In this the peace lobby has an unlikely ally, since arguments for going nuclear by nuclear advocates such as the doyen, K Subrahmanyam, talked of the peace dividend.Can the threat to peace, taken so seriously by defence minders as to commandeer the nation’s resources, also energise the peace lobby?
This requires broad front political action and educational investment. There are more important and urgent fights underway in the multi-pronged push back on conservatism’s self-interested alliance with Hindutva. There are several red-herrings – such as ‘love jihad’ - to trip up the fight back. Also, there is a legion of information warriors and trolls to be subdued, as the defence minister let on in his reference to an unnamed actor’s loss of contract. There is the output of well funded think tanks, operating in one case out of the heart of Delhi’s diplomatic enclave, that need refuting. Such a daunting enterprise needs a core group constantly at the key boards and an overlap with those already at the figurative barricades on minds. It is not an easy proposition to dig in one more trench-line. But an anti-war front is necessary,which under war clouds can ratchet up moderationand strategic sobriety into war rooms and the idiot box. Only then would it avoid forming a judicial posse in wake of cities turningradioactive cinder.
Michael Howard, ‘The forgotten dimensions of strategy’, Foreign Affairs, (Summer 1979), Vol. 57, No. 5, pp. 975-986
PIB (2016 (a)), ‘Ex MeghPrahar: Demonstration on Opposed River Crossing’, 16 July 2016,, Accessed on 17 July 2016
PIB (2016 (b)), ‘Chief of Army Staff Reviews Exercise Shatrujeet’, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, 22 April 2016,; Accessed on 17 July 2016
Ahmed, A. (2015), ‘Information Operations in Limited Nuclear War’, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, New Delhi, 14 December 2015,; Accessed on 15 July 2016
Bidwai, P. (2003), ‘Musharraf’s speech raises the nuclear danger’,; Accessed on 10 August 2016

Dawn (2015), ‘Indian army chief says military ready for short, swift war’, Dawn,  2 September 2015,; Accessed on 17 July 2016

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

A problem wider than Kashmir
By Ali Ahmed
India anticipates that it can get away with a heavy handed template in Kashmir. The summer of 2016 can join the other years now associated with the largely ineffectual public angst in Kashmir: 2008, 2009 and 2010. The problem is that just as events in 2010 brought about the turn in 2016 with Burhan Wani's exit from normal life dating to the events in 2010, the events in 2016 will no doubt add a lease of life to the troubles in Kashmir.

If 2010 gave a half decade lease of life to the insurgency, the consequence of 2016 will be around for longer. Children are part of the front line in protests. While right wing apologists on television explain away injuries to children as result of their being used as human shields, it is clear that children - quite like as other protestors - are angry with India.

It cannot be otherwise. On inquiry by the Srinagar High Court, the CRPF has let on that over a million pellets have been discharged at crowds, leading to over three score deaths and a few thousand injuries. Its Director General has indicated that pellet guns would only be replaced after an inquiry report is furnished. A timeframe of two months found mention.

That the government can choose to work faster than this has precedent. It fast tracked arms purchases in the Kargil War, importing Bofors ammunition from places such as South Africa even as the summer war progressed. That it has chosen not to bring the same efficiency to bear broadcasts that the crowds had better stay home. It can be read by watching Kashmiris that lives of Kashmiri citizens do not matter as much as of soldiers.

Can India afford such complacency? After the all-party meeting on Kashmir, the senior minister in the government, finance minister Jaitley, at a joint press conference with his colleague, home minister Rajnath Singh, intoned: "The change taking place in the world between 2010 and (20)16 ideologically has to play a role in the valley." The reference is obviously to the visibility of religious extremism since the Arab Spring went awry.

India's national security establishment has been in overdrive with its information war thrust line suggestive of an external link. The National Intelligence Agency chief highlighting the testimony of Bahadur Ali - a Pakistani terrorist caught sneaking into India - brought out that Ali had been coached to use the opportunity provided by the unrest to fire at soldiers from behind crowds. This marks the second and rather well known external influence - Pakistani interference - that can heighten the problem in Kashmir. At the all-party meeting, the prime minister appeared persuaded of the matter of Pakistani complicity, declaring that Pakistan will be paid back in the same coin. His Independence Day speech hinted at this, in its mention of Baluchistan, Gilgit and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in one breath.

From the 'political support' that the uprising has prompted in Pakistan it is clear that Pakistan is well aware of both interests in Kashmir. The first - religious extremism - is seen from the manner its adherents in Pakistan are organizing to drum up Kashmir as an issue in Pakistani consciousness, with last month's march by Jamaat ud Dawa from Lahore to Islamabad as example. The second is the rhetoric by Kashmiri militants based across such as Hizbul Mujahideen's chief Syed Salahuddin's call to nuclear war early this month.

In face of this combined threat, what is India's line? From inaction on 'root causes' in face of trouble continuing, it is stark that the internal well springs of the Kashmiri problem are not going to be taken as 'genuine grievances'. While the prime minister says he is willing to address these, placatory issues such as the sway of AFSPA, demilitarization, talks with separatists, progressing human rights inquiries etc. are not on the cards.

Consequently, India appears to have narrowed down to the hardline. That it need not have been so is clear from the fact that the ruling party, with a majority in the lower house for the first time since the insurgency outbreak in Kashmir, has the power to be responsive. Manmohan Singh, besides having a handicap in terms of numbers in the lower house, had the BJP breathing down his flanks.

While Mr. Modi has the numbers, he may not be ideologically inclined towards concessions himself. Notice how at his town hall preceding his Independence Day message, he took care to warn cow vigilantes off targeting Dalits alone; not Muslims who are greater victims. His record of hesitance in reaching out to Muslims - such as refraining from wearing Muslim headgear - suggests an ideological mental block, if not prejudice itself. The agitating Kashmiris just happen to be Muslim and cannot have their own talks process such as the extended one of Delhi with the Nagas. There are perhaps no American Christian evangelicals to catalyse these in case of Kashmir.

Secondly, his constituency is the right wing and, with consequential elections looming in UP, he cannot deviate from a line laid down for his party by its support base in the Hindutva combine. A hardline appeals to these political formations, since they are the foot soldiers in elections. The BJP has historically relied on the polarizing effect of anti-minority action. A softline towards either Kashmir or Pakistan now would be untimely.

Thirdly, the national security establishment has been taken over by those who are presumably conservative-realists, but who are in reality closet Hindutvavadis. Their writings are all over strategic discourse on how the shift to a hardline on Pakistan is warranted and Kashmiris, who are depicted as being inspired by religious extremism, deserve no quarter.

The manner the Kashmiri Pandits have unwittingly been roped into dampening any public sympathy for their Muslim counterparts, through a slew of articles highlighting their plight as a displaced community, is indicative. A Kashmiri Pandit and former diplomat is likewise busy extolling virtues of the policy shift, continuation of a hardline that attracted attention of no less than General Musharraf in his memoirs. As a former ambassador to Afghanistan, he must surely have a bone to pick with Pakistan. One former general - belonging to the Jammu belt and who once held the information war portfolio in Srinagar - is drumming up support for the hardline, prompting a student in the audience at an academic institution he spoke at to complain against his speech as inspiring hatred. Antecedents cannot be isolated from policy advice.

A sympathetic interpretation India's seemingly open interference in Pakistan - if on rebound - is that it is tactical. Bereft of ideas on what to do in Kashmir and unwilling to take the steps staring India in the face for at least a decade, a bit of diversionary tactics are called for. Also, the tactical gambit can warn off Pakistan from heightening physical support for Kashmiris. In any case, with elections round the corner, nothing else can reasonably be expected. Since the Pakistan policy has seen several swings over the past two years, this is just another one and can be righted once the electoral need passes and when Kashmiris settle down after their usual summer madness.

India needs warning-off buying into such rationale. Assuming that religious extremism has seeped-in in some measure into Kashmir, it can be surmised that the external links in Kashmir can only deepen. While the prime minister merely let on that India intends to canvass the diaspora hailing from the Pakistan held half of J&K to its discomfiture on the human rights front. This can but serve as cue for India's intelligence agencies to foster the conditions that will make for a worsening human rights situation. If Pakistani allegations are even half right, India's intelligence agencies already have a foot-in-the-door in Baluchistan and in relation to Paksitan's 'bad terrorists' in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.

Though relatively restrained for over a decade now, should India's proxy war spike, Pakistan would likely take advantage of receptive conditions in Kashmir. Currently, it is beset with fighting off assorted terrorists on its western flank. It would welcome an opportunity to divert their energies towards India. That it would find a willing partner is clear from its intelligence agencies alerting India of the move of about a dozen terrorists towards the border for disrupting Independence Day celebrations.

The government can no doubt anticipate this. Believing it can cope, keeps it off concessions in Kashmir. Worse, it might prefer a heating up of the India-Pakistan scene, forcing Pakistan to revert to its old tricks. This will make for a more convincing case for its hardline policy. Any jihadi turn has internal security connotation wider than Kashmir. By unnecessarily placing Indian Muslims on a potential front line, internal political dividends might accrue for the ruling party. For its wing pseudo-cultural allies, religious polarization is a perennial electoral strategy.

For pseudo-realists, who are cultural nationalists at heart, pushing Pakistan down-the-tube is an obsession. With the national security apparatus at their disposal, they are unlikely to pass up the opportunity. In effect, this is not a tactical shift. This is extant policy; only India has glimpsed it starkly through the information war smoke for the first time. Kashmiris suffer as collateral damage and the present India-Pakistan nosedive is only contingent. The real problem is ascent of majoritarian nationalism and its bid to stay aloft in perpetuity.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Kashmir Killing: When Soldiers Commit a Crime, Honesty is the Best Policy for the Army

The Northern Command of the Indian army is its largest formation, responsible as it is for the defence of Jammu and Kashmir on both the Pakistan and China fronts, as well as for internal security.With more than a third of the soldiers deployed under his command, the northern army commander’s job is a consequential one. The current incumbent, Lt General D.S. Hooda’s, latest intervention has been a public expression of regret over the death of a lecturerin army custody, picked up during a night operation by the troops. The general minced no words in accepting that it was an ‘unauthorised’ operation and that the death by beating was ‘intolerable’ and ‘unjustified’.
The operation in question was carried out by troops of the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), reportedly accompanied by special operations group personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir police. Apparently, there had been a bout of stone throwing earlier in the day against the army. Angry troops barged into homes by night and thrashed the residents, including women, resulting in 18 people being hospitalised. The lecturer was beaten and whisked away along with 30 others. Later, his body was handed back to the family.
Hooda went on to admit, “The instructions are there to exercise maximum restraint but these are difficult times. The security forces are facing tough times and sometimes things get out of hand.” Clearly, the situation is indeed getting ‘out of hand’ if normally stolid troops of the Kumaon regiment – who are seconded to the 50 RR – are affected in such a manner as to storm into a village for a night of mayhem.
Even so, there can be no excuse for this descent to barbarity. The army constantly reminds itself of its commitment, with one exhortation going, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ It is at junctures like these when discipline is tested that the army is expected to pass the test. Parade ground discipline is the easiest to display, for it is in peace time.
However, it would not do to blame those at the bottom of the food chain alone. Such actions by the Kumaoni soldiers on their RR tenure is difficult to comprehend in light of the reputation of the troops for discipline and solidity. Indeed, their sense of discipline is such that, in this case, it appears that they may well have obeyed illegal orders. The responsibility for this, then, must rest on the shoulders of their leaders.
The leadership of RR is largely drawn from the regiment, but there is also an assortment of other officers who are on their field tenure. The structural problem with the RR is that the officers and troops find themselves together for a field tenure. Not only do they have to get to know each other, but also have to do so under the challenge of counter militancy operations. As a result, the premium on leadership goes up. In this case, if the officers set the troops on a questionable operation, then they must bear the consequences. If instead, the operation went awry – with soldiers running amok – the officers are liable for not exercising leadership.
The buck cannot stop at the unit level. The command environment and command climate need probing too. The environment of command is set at a formational level by one or two star levels of brass. This level sets the bar in terms of ethical conduct – be it financial probity, social mores or operational rectitude. In terms of counter insurgency, this spells the difference between the prevailing doctrinal approach or a bean-counting approach, where officers at lower level take cue and either follow the leader, or their conscience.
In case of the Pulwama operation, the level to which the unit was pushed by a higher headquarters to dampen the stone throwing ardour in its area needs to be examined.
The command climate is set at the operational level. It is easy to spot the command climate in place by the spoken reputation of the generals at the apex. In the current case, the theatre commander has set very high standards. Even so, operational level commanders can only make a finite difference; especially in the face of a command culture that is wider than their swathe of influence. The culture of command extends across the army. This can be one of professional rectitude, moral courage or, of cut-throatism. This might explain the dissonance between Hooda’s desire for ethical conduct and the recurrence of avoidable incidents in the Valley.
Hooda’s public commitment to legal action needs to be swiftly followed up. There has been no closure for the case that occurred early this summer in which a girl was molested inside a ladies toilet, allegedly by an army man. Her forced testimony, exonerating the army, was over zealously coerced out of her and recorded by the police. It was unethically circulated by the army public information officer on social media. Promised results of the inquiry have not been made public. Even though the bunker has since been removed from the location near the public toilet, in case action is not taken against the errant soldier, the army would have a child molester in its ranks.
By taking appropriate action, the army must measure up to its public adulation and in so doing, it will set a model for the other uniformed forces. A case in point is the tardy action of the CRPF at the headquarters level in replacing pellet guns, while at the ground level, 500 injuries have resulted from pellet guns being fired vindictively rather than being aimed below the waist.
Hooda had set the bar high, having early in his tenure ensured judicial sanction in the 2010 Machil encounter case, taking strict action against trigger happy soldiers at a barricade in Budgam, where two teenagers lost their lives. His kind of military leadership makes India proud. The army must ensure a command culture that throws up such leaders. Doing so implies endorsing Hooda’s standards. Sweeping dirt under the carpet under the mistaken belief that morale would suffer or its image would go down, is quite the opposite.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Doctrinal dissonance
India’s strategic doctrine, not being available in a written form, is liable to varying interpretation. In the official, popular, version, it is a benign one with India seeing itself as a responsible and mature regional power.  For critics of the conservative-realist school, India is an overly self-effacing power and ought to be more assertive. Those of liberal-rationalist persuasion find India as both ambitious and tough and on that count prefer a mellower India (Bajpai 2002: 245-51). Given this divergence in views on India’s strategic doctrine, gauging it is difficult but not impossible. The broad direction of its strategic doctrine can be visible from its program on the conventional and nuclear fronts, at the heart of which are military doctrines: conventional and nuclear. Taken together these spell its strategic doctrine.
While the current day strategic doctrine is often described as strategic restraint (Dasgupta 2012), there is also a strategic doctrine in-the-works that appears, on the contrary, to be based on offensive realism. While the extant strategic doctrine is for the regional power it is, the incipient strategic doctrine is intended to place India among the great powers over the middle term. Consequently, there appear to be two doctrines at play in India transitioning from a regional to a great power status: professed and aspirational.
The interplay between strategic doctrines and military doctrines is mutually constitutive. While strategic doctrine impacts military doctrine, there is a bottom-up interaction alongside. To this interpenetration can be ascribed the degree of doctrinal dissonance visible in India’s strategic doctrine and its transmission to India’s military doctrines: conventional and nuclear. This paper seeks to trace the dissonance on the doctrinal front in India by looking at strategic doctrine and military doctrines, both conventional and nuclear.
The paper first lays out the theoretical linkage between strategic and military doctrines. Next, it dwells on the Indian doctrinal inter-linkage by outlining in brief its strategic orientation and the impact on strategic doctrine. This is a difficult undertaking for most states in general and is exceptionally so for India in particular for want of a written strategic doctrine in India. Thereafter, the paper looks at conventional and nuclear doctrines, separately and in their interface. It highlights the doctrinal dissonance in doctrines at both levels: strategic and military. It concludes that this dissonance is problematic from a point of view of how India ‘causes’ security for itself and for regional security.
The doctrinal linkage
Strategic doctrine and military doctrine are inter-twined. Strategic doctrine orients the state in terms of its power relationship within the region and in the broader international political space. It is blueprint for the state to meet its internal and external security compulsions. According to Kissinger, it translates ‘power into policy’. To him, ‘strategic doctrine must define what objectives are worth contending for and determine the degree of force appropriate for achieving them (Kissinger 1969: 4)’. Strategic doctrine identifies whether ‘the goals of a state are offensive or defensive, whether it seeks to achieve or to prevent a transformation (Kissinger 1969: 7).’
What strategic doctrine is to achieve, to preserve the status quo or revise, implies that it is itself informed by the state’s security policy. Whether a state is status quoist or revisionist depends on the state’s comfort levels with its security environment in relation to its political aims. It sets the compass of its government in terms of how it views threats and opportunities and how it wishes to deploy power in response. Security policies are thus informed by defensive realism or offensive realism.
Self-imposition of restraint in pursuit of power is defensive realism. States do not always endeavour to increase their power without limits or single-mindedly. In this understanding, states seek security. Threats are viewed in relation to relative power, proximity, intentions, and the defence-offence balance. As increments in capabilities can be easily countered, defensive realism suggests that a state’s attempts to make itself secure by increasing its power are ultimately futile in face of responses these generate among neighbouring states. Therefore, states seek an appropriate amount of power (Elman 2007: 17-8).
On the other hand, ‘offensive realism’ is when states facing an uncertain environment rely on generating capabilities to offset threats and in case their aims are ambitious, then to use power so created for shaping the security environment for themselves. Security consequently to them implies enhancing capabilities, or power, to the extent feasible (Mearsheimer 2001: 37). A state must be in a position to determine its security environment through exercise of power in all its facets. Here the restraint on power is only on account of limited internal resources, a factor that can only be partially overcome by external balancing. To the extent that aims are pruned in relation to capabilities it is only temporally so.
Strategic doctrine reflects and expresses the strategic philosophy of the state. This accounts for diversity in strategic doctrines. The nature of a state’s response to its security environment – internal and external – through its strategic doctrine enables placing of each state along a defence-deterrence-offence continuum. Heterogeneity of strategic doctrines of states is a function of the political aims along with geographical, technological and political constraints and opportunities it faces (Posen 1984: 40). This suggests that strategic doctrines could be defensive, offensive, deterrent or compellent, depending on aims, constraints and opportunities. The divergence in strategic doctrines is brought out by Posen thus: ‘Offensive doctrines aim to disarm an adversary – to destroy his armed forces. Defensive doctrines aim to deny an adversary the objective he seeks. Deterrent doctrines aim to punish an aggressor – to raise his costs without reference to reducing one’s own (Posen 1984: 14).’
A state practicing defensive realism would have its strategic doctrine inclining towards the defensive and deterrence segments of the continuum. On the other hand, a state with a security policy informed by offensive structural realism can be expected to favour offensive strategic doctrines. To illustrate, status-quoist powers usually have defensive-deterrent strategic doctrines, while expansionist or revisionist powers are more likely to have offensive-compellent ones. Since a status quoist power seeks to preserve, it would prefer to employ its power to stave off a challenge, while the latter seeking change would prefer employing power to reboot, if not reset, prevailing power equations.
Power itself is variegated and multifaceted: political, cultural, technological, human resources, information etc. Strategic doctrines while reliant substantially on military power, are never exclusively so. What a state does with its power to bring about security for itself can be seen in its grand strategy, the manner it concertedly deploys its power for its ends. A state’s grand strategy - orchestration of power instruments towards the national purpose - is facilitated by its strategic doctrine. Grand strategy apportions the amount of effort to each instrument and constantly reviews this in light of effectiveness and changes affected in the environment. How grand strategy works the power instruments, in particular military power, is a function of strategic doctrine. 
Military power being the ultimate arbiter is a consequential component. The effectiveness of the military instrument is a function of several factors such as military budgets, technological levels, martial spirit, political and military leadership and the civil-military interface etc. One among these, but of considerable import is appropriate military doctrine. Military doctrine has been defined as, ‘the underlying principles and specific guidance provided to military officers who produce the operational plans for the use of military forces (Sagan 2009: 222).’ Military doctrine deals with ‘what’ military means are to be employed and ‘how’ (Posen 1984: 13). Military doctrine is to military strategy what strategic doctrine is to grand strategy.
Military doctrine channels military power and aligns the military instrument with strategic doctrine. It provides the blue print for military strategy formulation and implementation. In providing the software for military strategy, it serves to link strategic doctrine and grand strategy at the politico-strategic level with the military level by shaping military strategy. Military strategy is formulated in the context of what eminent military sociologist, Morris Janowitz, termed as its ‘operational code’ or ‘logic’ of their professional behaviour (Janowitz 1960: 257). In other words, military doctrine forms the basis of military strategy, in turn deployed for the ends of grand strategy that is itself informed by strategic doctrine. Military doctrine therefore manifests the dictates of strategic doctrine by expressing it as either defensive, deterrent, coercive, offensive or compellent.
Indeed, the internal variegation does not stop at strategic doctrine. It is found in military doctrines too. For instance, a defensive strategic doctrine can well be manifest offensively in a military doctrine of offensive defence. This would imply an offensive bias to a defensive posture. Likewise, a deterrent strategic doctrine can either have a defensive or an offensive bias. A military doctrine based on denial would imply a defensive deterrent; whereas, one relying on punishment would amount to an offensive deterrent. Offensive doctrines at best rely on the defensive only instrumentally and for a duration, for instance to gain time or a rationale for an offensive. Therefore, even military doctrines of counter offensive, though awaiting the first punch by the enemy and liable to be included in defensive doctrines, can be categorised as offensive military doctrines. Furthermore, doctrines, while not dynamic, can transition from defensive to offensive and vice versa under influence of changes in strategic doctrine. Thus, for a period, doctrines can exhibit dual character. 
Strategic doctrines and military doctrines require interrogation in their inter-relationship for understanding a state’s strategic posture and behaviour. Strategic doctrine is a product of the security policy of a state that is itself informed by defensive or offensive realism. Strategic doctrines are therefore defensive, deterrent or offensive. Military doctrines, a function of strategic doctrine, consequently can be categorised as defensive-deterrent or offensive-compellent.
India’s strategic doctrine
It is a long-standing critique in India that it lacks a strategic doctrine in the form of a defence white paper or official strategic review document. This is attributed variously to lack of a strategic culture; domination of bureaucrats in the national security sector who are illiterate in strategy; and political ignorance of ministers making them oblivious of the need to insist that national security minders first produce strategic doctrine and the rest would follow. For answer to why India does not have an explicit strategic doctrine, the answer may perhaps lie one step up: Whether it has a strategic philosophy and whether this is informed by defensive or offensive realism?
Strategic philosophy
India’s self-belief is that defensive realism informs its security policy. It has to cater for collusive neighbours, with both having territorial ambitions on its territory. China uses Pakistan as its proxy in the region, while Pakistan readily lends its strategic location for such use in return for a Chinese assist in strategic balancing with India. China for its part wants to keep India boxed in the region in order that the pivotal status of India in Asia remains unrealised to its advantage in global power-play. Therefore, India believes that it needs to bolster its strength and eliminate deficiencies mistaken for strategic inadequacy by adversaries. Therefore, in its self-perception, its strategic repositioning owes more to defensive realism.
However, a slow but unmistakable shift can be seen from defensive realism to offensive realism from 1971 when it cut Pakistan to size to 1998 when it crossed the ‘rubicon’ (Rajamohan 2003). Since India continues being coy on this shift, its grand strategy may provide clues. Firstly, offensive realism is still in-the-works with India first catering for the capabilities it thinks necessary without provoking a security dilemma for its neighbours that would complicate its transition and security in the interim. India’s grand strategy appears to aim at transcending Pakistan and balancing against China through internal and external balancing measures. The aim is to have Pakistan wither away as a threat, thereby breaking out of the box of the South Asian security complex. Obviously, the power asymmetry against China implies that India’s strategic doctrine needs to be different. Against China, India has moved from a military doctrine of defensive defence to offensive deterrence over the past decade. Taken alongside its diplomatic outreach to the democracies ringing China, including the US, this implies a shift towards offensive realism (Malik 2012). However, in India not having stumped Pakistan or gained parity with China, its transition from defensive to offensive realism is likely continue, remain understated and, consequently continue to inject dissonance into strategic doctrine.
Strategic doctrine(s)
Whether lack of strategic doctrine is by design or default, articulation of the need for a strategic doctrine exists. Jasjit Singh stated that, ‘The central driving force for planning for defence, whether articulated in specific documentation or not, remains the strategic doctrine for defence that the country adopts… The twin goals of credible and affordable defence capability really grow out of the national strategic doctrine (Singh 2000: 1212-13).’ Despite cognisance of theory, a twofold problem exists in discerning India’s strategic doctrine. The first is the obvious one that it remains unarticulated. As a consequence, the second problem is that there appear two strategic doctrines co-extensive: professed, meant for the interim, and, the aspirational, for when India is deemed to have arrived as great power.
The professed strategic doctrine reasonably has as its aim a stable strategic environment in which India can progress its economic trajectory. This is understandable for an emerging power, one intent on harnessing its economic power in order to then derive military dividends that will propel it further into great power ranks. It protects prioritization of economic development and stability. It is in keeping with India’s strategic culture of resolve and restraint. However, conventional defence acquisitions and justificatory strategic commentary bespeak of an extra-territorial capability. This is evidence of great power ambition that cannot be attributed to or sustained by extant - professed - doctrine. Instead, it is evidence of the expansive – aspirational - strategic doctrine that India will scarce own up to. The professed doctrine tides India over the interim as in its build-up of the economic indices of power without triggering a security dilemma for its neighbours and detracting from its security in the interim.
Grand strategy is to hold threats from materializing into challenges by gaining time for India in order that when indeed they do materialize, India would be in a position to meet them. However, the aspirational doctrine detracts from this aim in setting India up against its neighbours. Neighbours that are themselves on power trajectories shaped by their security environments, of which India is part, are liable to view India’s growing capabilities with skepticism and act in accord with the concept of security dilemma (Herz 1950:157), to the detriment of Indian security.
In any case, the military’s significance in internal politics of its principal neighbour, Pakistan, leads Pakistan to view India’s professed doctrine with reservations. Pakistan therefore, albeit self-servingly for its military elite, readily bases its security response on the ‘aspirational’ doctrine. This explains the juncture in which India’s doctrinal shift is towards limited war under the nuclear umbrella, leading to Pakistan precipitately lowering the nuclear threshold in its introducing of tactical nuclear weapons into the regional military equations. Therefore, the dissonance in strategic doctrine carries a price tag of regional insecurity. Though strategic dissonance contributes to India’s insecurity, India, self-servingly, uses this as rationale for its doctrinal movement and power shift, arguing that, living in a hostile neighbourhood, it needs to cater for its own self-defence autonomously, justifying the shift from defensive to offensive realism. An advantage is in obfuscation by India of its strategic direction by way of which it can project a certain image even while taking advantage of ambiguity to get along an otherwise ambivalent strategic path.
Other than insecurity, there are significant drawbacks. Externally, an opportunity for reassurance that a written strategic doctrine could impart to neighbours is lost. Operating in the realist paradigm themselves, they would incline towards the ‘worst case’. Pakistan would see a regional hegemon, while China may see India as the US cats-paw. Internally, democratic accountability suffers. Manufacturing of consent of the attentive public is easier. Measures can be explained away as defensive and neighbours as aggressive, necessitating further movement by a self-regarding India. This leads to a democratic deficit in which public acceptability of India’s strategic direction is only seemingly democratic. Popularity of decisions, such as the nuclear tests, is mistaken as democratic endorsement of decisions that are otherwise taken, as Gaurav Kampani informs, by a secretive and narrow strategic elite (Kampani 2014: 81-2). Finally, military doctrine is doubly taxed. Not only must it cater for the current day clear and present dangers with what is at hand, but also cater for an India on-the-make and its security concerns. While admittedly both the present and the future are the temporal domains of military doctrine, leaving military doctrine without a valid start point, transmits dissonance in strategic doctrine to military doctrine.
India’s military doctrines
India’s professed strategic doctrine calls for offensive deterrence. However, its aspirational doctrine, aiming to transcend the regional box in which it is hemmed in by Pakistan and China, appears to approximate a quasi-compellent military doctrine in so far as its in-region challenger, Pakistan, is concerned. Consequently, it appears, further, as a differentiated strategic doctrine: with regard to Pakistan it is more assertive than it is in face of China (Ryan 2012: 39).
The conventional doctrine
In the nuclear era, limited war is the only kind of war-of-choice that India can possibly embark on. However, absent political direction to the military on this score, the army doctrine of ten years ago, does not explicitly articulate a limited war doctrine, even though it genuflects to the concept. While the basic doctrine of the air force is in the open domain, it is relatively sanitised. Professional discussion however centers on air dominance. It is clear that the first step – strategic doctrine articulation - not having been taken, the military has proceeded doctrinally without explicitly engaging with the requirement of limited war. Official imprimature to doctrines of the services is not reflected in annual reports of the ministry of defence. This means that the doctrinal space has been largely left to the military. This is problematic in the nuclear age since doctrine cannot but be a civil-military product. However, if civilians do not venture to construct strategic doctrine that is unmistakably within their ambit, with input from the military, they would unlikely be found engaging with what is largely a military product, but one that cannot be without civilian input and oversight. 
The upshot is that the military is undecided on weighing in unambiguously on the side of limited war. The World War II syndrome of large battles involving large fronts and several formations persists even though the region entered the atomic age arguably by late eighties and definitely by late nineties. Since communication of limited war intent can help raise the nuclear threshold for conventional force application, the non-articulation of limited war doctrine would appear surprising. Reassuring the enemy of a limited war can prevent stampeding it into nuclear use. While in the overall reckoning the conventional doctrines have the limited war stamp, that these stop short nevertheless, conveys a threat of total war.
Militaries conceptualise a spectrum of conflict, defined as ‘a continuum defined primarily by the magnitude of the declared objectives’, and plan to be capable of victory, across the spectrum. Consequently, escalation dominance or superiority at the highest level of force in use along a particular scale in the spectrum of conflict assumes importance. Capabilities and plans aim for generating asymmetry and, in case of financial or technological constraints, at a minimum, symmetry (Cannon 1992: 94-5). Enemy capabilities become the defining yardstick rather than intentions. Since India faces two fronts, with adversaries of differing relative capabilities, its strategic doctrine has of necessity to be sensitive to relative power across respective borders.
Escalation dominance strategies are sought with respect to Pakistan. The firming in of the so-called ‘cold start’ doctrine is to bolster deterrence (Shukla 2012). The ability to punish has been enhanced by the creation of a mountain strike corps, ostensibly for the China front, but one that can be dual tasked for the Pakistani front. Escalation dominance across the spectrum is seen as useful in keeping conflict limited, in that Pakistan realising that the situation cannot be very different at a higher level may throw in the towel at the lower level and at lower cost. Escalation dominance can be read as a way to deter ‘asymmetric escalation’ (Narang 2009/10). However, the reverse can well occur since a nuclear adversary may equally lower the nuclear threshold to undercut any attempt at dominance.
Strategically, it can be argued not owning up to the limited war doctrine officially is to prevent Pakistan gaining the notion that it can escape at lower cost, thereby emboldening it on the subconventional level. Spelling out a limited war doctrine may exact a political cost in making India appear aggressive. It could also enable cues for the enemy to formulate its counter, thereby checkmating India’s moves. However, lack of an explicit doctrine will make a nuanced offensive difficult and on that count can lead to inadvertent escalation. For instance, India’s keeping of its strike corps even though a proportion has been parcelled out as integrated battle groups for the initial phase, of the conflict, that employment of these formations in the subsequent phases could prove escalatory. India appears to be relying on the nuclear deterrence for continued conventional escalation dominance.
For the China front, the power asymmetry (Singh, R. 2013) moderates India’s aims, restricting these to preventing escalation dominance through offensive deterrence. At the conventional level, defences strengthened with two divisions and a mountain strike corps are in place, while at the nuclear level the triad with its missile leg able to cover all of China, is in the offing by decade end (Clary and Narang 2013). This means that measures for deterrence both by denial and by punishment are being put in place. This is termed active defence in light of the offensive content in the deterrence. While defences would be static based on strong points across the disputed border, there would be adequate reserves and these would be recreated as necessary. The road network is being expanded towards this end. Even if losses in territory result, these will be compensated by the mountain strike corps making gains elsewhere. Measures for nuclear parity in hand are to prevent nuclear coercion by China in light of its nuclear head-start. In case of adverse circumstance, the debate surrounding the No First Use (NFU) retention is an indication that India could reserve the right to rescind it at an opportune moment.
The nuclear doctrine
The short hand for India’s declaratory nuclear doctrine is credible minimum deterrence (Press Information Bureau 2003).  NFU is taken as its central pillar. However, the significant aspect from doctrinal point of view is in the nature of nuclear employment in case of breakdown of deterrence. Since NFU is in place this is a retaliation-only policy that can be easily be taken as defensive. However, the nature of retaliation promised is consequential in determining whether it is defensive or offensive. The retaliatory doctrine posits that in case of nuclear first use by an adversary in any manner against India and its forces anywhere, India will retaliate with a massive counter to inflict unacceptable damage.
In case of Chinese nuclear first use against India, for India to go massive in retaliation is incredible. Firstly, it does not have the capability (Narang 2013: 144) and secondly it would be suicidal. Aware perhaps of NFU on both sides, it can afford to make promises it cannot keep. The cost for its credibility, critical to nuclear deterrence, appears to be disregarded. In respect of Pakistan, massive nuclear retaliation against its nuclear first use of higher order proportions makes eminent sense. However, in case of nuclear first use by Pakistan restricted to a lower order strike, for India to go massive is arguably incredible in light of Pakistan’s vertical proliferation over the past decade. Pakistan incentivised to retaliate similarly is well able to do so since its nuclear numbers are reportedly in the range of lower three figures. Its unveiling of Nasr, a tactical nuclear missile system, suggests that whatever India’s belief in credibility of its deterrence, Pakistan views it through its own lens.  
When nuclear first use by the enemy is of such an order as to result in unacceptable damage to oneself, then it makes eminent sense to consider retaliation of levels that inflict unacceptable damage right back. But, in case the damage caused by the nuclear first use is not of an unacceptable order, such as in the popular scenario when it is a single warhead of low kilo-tonnage on a tactical level target, then inflicting unacceptable damage in return would be to run the risk of suffering unacceptable damage in return. This consideration rules in a ‘tit for tat’ nuclear response. It is conceivable therefore that in India’s case declaratory doctrine may be distinct from operational doctrine. The latter may be predicated on limited nuclear operations enabled by a flexible nuclear retaliation. This debate between massive and flexible retaliation votaries has been set off by recent mention in the conservative nationalist party, the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election manifesto expressing intent to revise the nuclear doctrine (BJP 2014: 39; Rajaraman 2014).
The second feature, NFU, has been under existential threat, so much so that the outgoing prime minister’s final address on strategic issues at the traditional venue for defence policy statements, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), was a call for a negotiated NFU between nuclear powers (Chari 2014). The position is unlikely to gather any momentum among nuclear powers addressed, especially since India’s own commitment to NFU is under question (Ahmed 2014). In effect, the reiteration of the NFU treaty may have been with intent of tying India down to the NFU by warding off the internal ideational challenge to NFU (Chari 2014). In the event, the election time controversy over NFU was however put to rest by the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Mr. Modi, ruling in favour of NFU citing the cultural rationale, indicating that it is of a piece with India’s historical tradition of military restraint in the world view of cultural nationalists (Reuters 2014).  
Whereas the NFU projects India’s nuclear doctrine as defensive deterrent, this is upturned, firstly, by the caveats that attend NFU (Ahmed 2014: 23), and, secondly, by the introduction of the term, massive, into the doctrine. Even if massive is disregarded, the intent to inflict ‘unacceptable damage’ has the effect of pushing the doctrine towards the offensive camp since deterrence by punishment is by definition offensive deterrence. This goes against the grain of India’s posturing on nuclear maturity. Further, it is strategically bereft, placing India in harm’s way of an equal counter strike. Since the doctrine is for deterrence, it is possible to infer that in case deterrence breaks down, a different, operational, doctrine may kick in. This could well countenance limited nuclear operations. It is here that dissonance can be detected in that India argues that limited nuclear war is an oxymoron (Shyam Saran 2013: 16).
The conventional-nuclear interface
With respect to Pakistan, the deterrence logic is that the likelihood, if not inevitability, of spiral of nuclear exchanges on introduction of nuclear weapons into a conflict, would see Pakistan worse off, while India owing to its size will survive such exchange(s). This would stay Pakistan’s nuclear hand. With Pakistan deterred, India can then proceed to administer conventional punishment for subconventional provocation. Since this would be a limited war, not intended to occupy territory, first use thresholds are to be steered clear of. Conventional assertion is to put an end to the ‘stability-instability paradox’ under which Pakistan, and its army, has impunity while India has suffered. The paradox has it that nuclear dangers having receded by mutual deterrence, Pakistan can get away with being venturesome at a lower level. By declaring an intention to go massive for Pakistan breaking the nuclear taboo, India has attempted to force upwards the nuclear threshold. This further under lines the offensive nature of India’s nuclear doctrine. Read in conjunction with the offensive content of conventional doctrine, this implies that against the grain of expectation, India does have quasi-compellent military doctrines. 
The emphasis earlier on unacceptable damage, reflected in the Draft Nuclear Doctrine using the term (National Security Advisory Board 1999) owed to a buffer existing through the 1990s at the conventional-nuclear interface. India’s conventional doctrine was defensive-offensive based on counter offensive capability. India had an extensive defensive line that would cushion Pakistani aggression and provide the openings for launch of strike corps that were, like India’s proverbial war elephants, not particularly quick or agile. Pakistan was expected to be quicker off the blocks since it had its cantonments within striking distance of the border. It followed a military doctrine of offensive defence, one brought about by its limited strategic depth. Therefore, the nuclear factor could only come into the conflict once India’s counter offensives made good progress. This could only be well into the war, an unlikely eventuality in light of war termination efforts by the international community energized by war between two states known to be covert nuclear powers.
This situation has changed dramatically over the past decade in light of a changed conventional doctrine in India. India’s military doctrine is one of proactive, offensive operations. Keeping with a limited war concept, these operations are only to be to limited depths. India’s readiness to be off-the-blocks in case of subconventional provocation is to deter such provocations in first place and to be responsive in case deterrence does not succeed. The doctrinal formulation covering conventional operations in enemy territory is that India will go massive even in case of Indian troops being targeted ‘anywhere’. This links the nuclear and conventional levels and can cumulatively be taken as coercion. After all, Indian forces in light of absence of a limited war doctrine may well tread on the nuclear threshold, thereby prompting a nuclear response by Pakistan.
With Pakistan’s introduction of the tactical missile system, but one with a strategic import in terms of nuclear messaging, nuclear outbreak can be in fairly short order. The nature of Pakistani reaction is only partially in Indian hands. Pakistan has demonstrated a capability for tactical nuclear employment that is suggestive of early nuclear first use in a low nuclear threshold mode and cannot be discounted by the argument that its ‘bluff’ needs being called. This makes India a party to Pakistan’s breaking of the nuclear taboo. This modifies the understanding that the NFU makes for a non-aggressive nuclear doctrine on India’s part. Being offensive at the conventional level as also at the nuclear level means India’s military doctrines are both offensive when taken cumulatively. This is the work of dissonance in India’s military doctrines. By implication its unstated strategic doctrine, subject to bottom-up influence, cannot but be taken as offensive in respect of Pakistan. 
India’s nuclear efforts are taken as motivated by the nuclear asymmetry with China (Narang 2013: 144). This helps India position itself in respect of the emerging superpower, China, rather than being hyphenated with Pakistan, a regional challenger. The NFU in place by both sides is useful to ensure that the situation of nuclear asymmetry does not overly disadvantage India. Nevertheless, India is in catch up mode with its nuclear ballistic missile submarine coming into action along with the Agni V and MIRV capable Agni VI by decade end (Subramanian 2013). However, the geographical disadvantage of a proximate heartland cannot be overcome. Consequently, India has taken care to up its conventional capabilities. These raise any resort to the threat of use of nuclear weapons on India’s part. The conventional capabilities are to action ‘active deterrence’ with defensive formations in a territory guarding role and reserves, constantly recreated and repositioned, by using the upcoming road network and air mobility capability, to compensate losses. This is reasonable under the extant, professed, doctrine of defensive deterrence.
The problem of dissonance kicks in with the possibility of horizontal expansion of the conflict. India’s aspirational doctrine appears to be relying on the sea front to compensate for any setbacks on the Himalayan front. Thus naval power is to activate to address the vulnerability of China at the Malacca straits. Since a limited war doctrine is not in place, the danger from such a strategic maneuver is under appreciated in India. While the idea appears to be to deter China with the threat of expansion and thereby keep conflict, expected to at best begin as a localized border incident, confined to its initial locale. A limited war doctrine could have explicated escalation control measures, exit points, firebreaks and saliencies, and benchmarks to recognize these and stimulate necessary action. Absent these, Indian deterrence appears to be relying on the ‘threat that leaves something to chance’ (Schelling 1980: 187). China is deterred from taking recourse to its advantages for fear of an escalation spiral, but attendant risks are higher.
Prospective doctrine review agenda
India is going in for a nuclear triad, working towards a ballistic missile shield and for missiles with extended ranges. These are taken as reinforcing its NFU pledge in that the enhanced survivability will help with assured retaliation. The numbers needed are reckoned as the minimum needed to inflict unacceptable damage after surviving a first strike. These are reckoned in relation to both adversaries and furthermore in light of the proverbial ‘bolt from the blue’ attack or the worst case scenario. In addition, there is to be a reserve. Such calculations tend to make the numbers climb, impinging on ‘minimum’. Already, numbers in the middle three digits are abroad intended to drive up numbers in any case. Besides, depending on how the missile shield shapes up, India, with its additional numbers, could position itself to even consider abandoning NFU. First strike considerations in light of surveillance capability and missile accuracy developments can be the next step. This possibility will enhance the ‘Will he, won’t he?’ apprehension on both sides, building in a tendency to preemption (Schelling 1980: 208). A preventive or preemptive war rationale, in deference to influence of global strategic culture, could appear.
The Cold War logic that may drive up numbers has so far been eschewed by India. India therefore has the opportunity of the nuclear doctrine review in the offing to rethink its nuclear doctrine. Other measures meriting attention are continuation of the NFU, rethink on the massive formulation and the nuclear cover provided for Indian forces anywhere. A holistic approach to the nuclear doctrine review could follow a sequential laying out of a strategic doctrine in a strategic review or whitepaper. The resulting strategic doctrine will then precede military doctrine.
Strategic doctrine remains amorphous, under-developed and little articulated. If this is the case with strategic doctrine that is essentially a civilian responsibility, inadequacies can only spill over to civilian engagement with military doctrine. The apex defence structure contributes to this firewall between the civilian and military. The ministry does not have either the ‘hardware’ (structure) or ‘software’ (doctrinal felicity) to think through linkages between the strategic and military doctrines. Further, the ministry is also not the site for nuclear doctrinal thinking, preserve of the National Security Council (NSC) system, comprising the National Security Council and its Secretariat (NSCS). The ministry also does not engage with military doctrines, seen as preserve of the military. Thus there is a structural disconnect. 
The logic underlying nuclear doctrine is that these are political weapons and not for war fighting. However, in practice, as seen, it is apparent that India ends up looking to do more operationally with nuclear weapons by attempting to push up the nuclear threshold for conventional force application. The conventional doctrine domain is seen as the preserve of the military. The military, being historically little integrated at the nuclear strategy making level, the interface between conventional and nuclear doctrine and strategy is limited. As a result the two are undertaken autonomous from each other (Koithara 2012: 1). The civilian component has been loath to incorporate the military lest the growing operationalisation of the deterrent lead to rebalancing in civil-military equation in a way that would favour the military (Saran 2014).
However, cognisant of the potential for disconnect, an organisational innovation has been the creation of the Strategy Programs Staff within the NSCS (Saran 2013: 11). This comprises a multi-disciplinary staff to oversee the quality and growth of India’s deterrent. However, its charter does not mention operational planning other than having an intelligence role. This means there is an operational gap. India does not want to replicate the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) of Pakistan’s National Command Authority in its structures, knowing that the SPD is Pakistani military’s way to control Pakistan’s nuclear trajectory and trigger. However, lack of operationalisation keeps the military out, at the price of closing limited nuclear options, which as seen here, may require being ruled in. A start point on this exists for the review to follow up on the Naresh Chandra Committee’s recommendation of creation of a four star permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee (Sarin 2014). The nuclear staff under the general could provide the operational picture at the interstices of nuclear and conventional levels, while the NSCS Strategy Programs Staff, duly mandated, can help integrate the strategic picture for input by the National Security Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority’s Political Council. 
Finally, and more importantly, the doctrine review if holistic to include a strategic policy review would help end dissonance surrounding India’s strategic doctrine. The conservative nationalist party has ideological anchor and political strength currently to be able to outline its strategic doctrine. This will enable the cue for military doctrines, thereby allowing doctrines to be rationally arrived at. While dissonance will ebb with aspirational doctrine finding voice, it is debatable whether the resulting doctrines will be in consonance with India’s national security. 
Way forward
A regional nuclear war will have consequence not only for the region but the planet (Helfand 2013). Further, India is hardly likely to survive unchanged, even if territorial frontiers remain unchanged. While there is little doubt that both states, India and Pakistan, have an assured retaliation capability, India may question Pakistan’s ability for assured destruction in light of India’s size. However, if not viewed in Cold War calculations of assured destruction, Pakistan can be expected to have the capability of counter strike(s) able to indubitably set India back in its ambitions in relation to China and in Asia. By this yardstick, the review needs to proceed on the assumption that Pakistan has assured destruction capability, as does India. Doing so will ensure a nuclear doctrine based on rational assumptions. The problem is in ideological blinkers of the cultural nationalist strategic subculture currently ascendant in India preventing acknowledgement of the fact that nuclear weapons as equalizers have leveled the strategic playfield in South Asia.
This implies that more needs doing to prevent war beyond deterrence. Firstly, nuclear and conventional doctrines cannot any longer be arrived at in isolation of each other; secondly, India must recognize that civilian and military domains overlap in doctrine making; and lastly, the political implications of the nuclear age compel overriding strategic and military compulsions that hitherto informed doctrine. Given this, the coming review cannot be left to experts alone.
India needs ensuring limitation in both conventional and nuclear doctrines (Ahmed 2014). It has to abandon the understanding that nuclear use inevitably triggers a spasmic nuclear exchange. It needs to ensure that the nuclear war is brought to a speedy close at the lowest levels of nuclear use by either side. Going a step further, counter-intuitively, a nuclear war entails cooperation with the enemy for escalation control and conflict termination. Therefore, the doctrine making exercise, even if national, needs a forum for exchange with the adversary in the form of a nuclear risk reduction center. In the case of India and Pakistan, the existing track in the dialogue process envisaging doctrinal exchanges needs being energized. More importantly, the region must arrive at a modus vivendi on the issues that could take the region down the nuclear route. Instead of an interminable and risky search for the elusive position of strength, politically negotiated deals envisaging a mutual give and take over Kashmir and the India-China border problem will mitigate the potential for conflict in the region. That is the inexorable logic of the nuclear age.
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* The unpublished paper was submitted for the SIPRI Project ‘Emerging Military Technologies and the Implications for Strategic Stability in the Twenty-first Century’. The author thanks Arko Dasgupta for research assistance.