Sunday, 16 October 2016

The future of ‘full spectrum deterrence’

If strategic commentary in India in wake of the surgical strikes in retaliation for the Uri terror attack is to be believed, it is not going to be business as usual either for Pakistani security handlers in Rawalpindi or for their foot-soldiers of both hues - regulars and irregulars - on the frontline.  While those at the frontlines would likely be up at night hereon, like their Indian counterparts over the past quarter century, the brass in Rawalpindi would likely be in a huddle as to what the implications of the surgical strikes are for their concept of ‘full spectrum deterrence’. This article is intended to assist them in their confabulations on the future of full spectrum deterrence.
First, what is full spectrum deterrence? Full spectrum deterrence is Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine adopted to rationalize its acquisition of tactical nuclear weapons. Their first nuclear doctrine mirrored India’s: minimum credible deterrence. However, with India’s shift in its conventional capability towards proactive operations – colloquially dubbed Cold Start - being demonstrated over series of exercises over the 2000s, Pakistan felt that it needed to deploy nuclear cover to paper over the growing conventional gap.
Unlike India, Pakistan has always subscribed to the NATO ‘first use’ philosophy of nuclear deterrence in that nuclear weapons are to deter war, including at the conventional level. In the early nuclear period, the nineties, mindful that India had three strike corps, Pakistan was liable to use nuclear weapons in the case of threat of being overrun in a conventional offensive by India. The lessons of 1971 for it were writ large on this doctrine. The possibility of nuclear use in extremis and was held out to deter India at the conventional level. Since India’s was a No First Use doctrine and India had the conventional capability preclude nuclear use, the premium on deterring India’s nuclear weapons was much lower. Quite like India’s doctrine, it was reckoned as one of city busting in light of few numbers of warheads and delivery systems.
Once it had the opportunity to go overtly nuclear, as a consequence of Pokharn II and presumably having more warheads and missiles in its armoury a decade and half since going nuclear covertly, its doctrine graduated to being one of using nuclear weapons in the eventuality of suffering ‘large’ losses in territory, forces, war economy and in case of externally generated internal instability. In one version of a graduated response, the shift was from counter city to also include counter military targeting. These were spelt out to reinforce deterrence at a time when India’s military was in a mobilized state in Operation Parakram. The noteworthy point was that the threshold was pitched somewhat high – to three of the four parameters ‘large’ had been tagged. Realizing that this gave a largish window to India’s forces below the nuclear threshold if pitched relatively high, Pakistan prevaricated soon after the famous interview by its then Strategic Plans Division chief, Khalid Kidwai. From counter-city
On retiring, Kidwai went on to put out a revised doctrine. The doctrine takes Cold Start more seriously than some Indian strategists. Pointing to the lack of military response to the mass casualty 26/11 attacks, these skeptical Indian strategists believe that India has not yet reached the capability levels called for by proactive operations since they posit a quick, telling, preferably jointly-delivered, blow, but not one that would make Pakistan reach for the nuclear trigger. Believing the cottage industry that built round Cold Start – that included this writer – Pakistan believed – perhaps self-interestedly – that India espied a window for conventional operations below the nuclear threshold. Pakistan then sought to draw the nuclear cloak more tightly round itself. The much-vaunted Nasr was trotted out - with a neutron bomb as warhead if its information warfare is to be taken at face value - to seal the so-called window shut. Now it is mostly counter military targeting in its  first blows, with counter city to serve as checkmate to India’s official formulation: ‘massive retaliation’. Last October, with a statement from its foreign office spokesperson and follow-on clarifications from its foreign secretary, Pakistan went public with this doctrine.
That India’s retaliation to the Uri attack was as precise as limited, might suggest to Pakistan that its doctrine is working. Lack of a heavier punch in the surgical attacks, might make it believe that it has managed to credibly extend nuclear deterrence to the conventional level. It needs timely reminding that such attacks are taken as below the conventional threshold, as defined in India’s subconventional operations doctrine. Though the doctrine characterizes these as subconventional, it does not discuss them any further owing to confidentiality.
From the internal political fallout of the attacks, these attacks are reportedly not quite a departure from earlier operations along the Line of Control. What appears different this time round is public acknowledgement of these. All that the pre-emptive attacks – retaliatory to some – imply is that while there is little change from earlier, implicit in the information operations attending them that there is messaging intrinsic to them.
The message is that these constitute a step up. In some analyses, these constitute a ‘crossing’ of some sorts; perhaps an internal psychological hurdle for Indian planners and decision makers. So while they may not by themselves herald the end of strategic restraint or beginning of strategic proactivism – as goes the debate – they suggest that more shall follow. Their success, its advertisement and political fracas that they have set off, incentivizes higher force packaging in successive iterations. This should ring alarm bells in Pakistan on the forthcoming blurring of the transition between the subconventional and conventional threshold. So, even if to Pakistan, deterrence works at the middle order and upper ends of the conventional threshold, its lower end stands frayed.
In Pakistan’s mind’s eye, full spectrum deterrence might have covered the subconventional level. Yet, the surgical strikes make clear that the nuclear deterrence cannot be stretched so as to cover that level. That such strikes have occurred earlier indicates that Pakistan is well aware of this already. By this yardstick, its term ‘full spectrum deterrence’ is somewhat of a misnomer. Pakistan’s own remonstrations with India on supposed Indian intelligence operations involving proxy Pukhtun and Baluch forces also surely prove to it that nuclear deterrence does not quite work at that subconventional level.
This is a trivial point to make since it is rather well known that nuclear bombs are unlikely to deter terrorism – as India so well knows. But then, ‘full spectrum’ is Pakistan’s claim, and hopefully, it is not self-delusive. Whereas so far India’s nuclear armoury has been unable to deter Pakistan at this level, the shoe is now apparently on the other foot, with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons unable – taking its allegations at face value - to keep India from putting its money where its mouth is: in Baluchistan for one.
To sum up, the change the surgical strikes have brought about is in removing the buffer between subconventional and conventional levels. In its review, Pakistan would do well, firstly, to revise its terminology – ‘full’ spectrum deterrence - since it is at best over a partial, even if a substantial, part of the spectrum. Secondly, given that heavier quantum attacks by India might succeed future terrorist outrages, Pakistan would be hard put not to retaliate conventionally. While not doing so would make its military lose face, the gainers would be jihadists claiming that they are the ones without bangles on. Consequently, conventional riposte – even if limited - by Pakistan, might force India to escalate conventionally, since Pakistan’s military does not have the luxury of hitting soft targets on this side. In other words, Pakistan would have itself dismantled its deterrent hedge at the conventional level. Lastly, India’s escalating in retaliation suggests that tactical nuclear weapons might not be able to prevent war after all. In case of their use in war, they cannot be expected to prevent nuclear retaliation either, even if the quantum of such nuclear retaliation invites debate in India.

From all this surely, it cannot escape Pakistan that full spectrum deterrence stands largely tattered by the surgical strikes. Should it now not be accorded a semi-decent military burial?  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

How much of a departure since Uri?

Both India and Pakistan have notched a point each from their showing in the Uri terror attack episode. While the Indian military true to form, executed a commendable military operation, following it up with an equally precise press statement by its military operations head, the Pakistani military was wily enough not to pick the bait.
If the story was to end on this note, with Pakistan being suitably impressed by Indian resolve and proceeding to wrap up the terror infrastructure, it  would be game-set-and-match for the Modi-Doval duo and their supposed junking of the doctrine of strategy restraint in favour of strategic  proactivism. However, it can be reckoned that consummate Pakistan-watcher Doval surely knows that this is not the case, at least not before much water flows down the River Jhelum, on the banks of which rests Uri.
If that be the case, it would be naïve to attribute the aim of the operation as being pressuring Pakistan to roll back terror. It at best perhaps heralds that the earlier perception of impunity of Pakistani terror handlers and perpetrators is on notice. Even this might be rather ambitious, since terror handlers are unlikely to be roughing it out in camps close to the Line of Control (LoC). Along the LoC, at best foot soldiers might be found, and even they if not well back, would here on be more alert.
Therefore, future  such operations will unlikely be as surgical as this time round, and might on the contrary, end up rather messy, not  excluding the targets hit who might  well turn out to be civilians with no choice but to eke out  an existence in dangerous places. If and since terror handlers, inciters and profiteers shall remain unscathed and foot soldiers incentivized by the promise of a befitting martyrdom, militarily strategic proactivism does not portend much by way of strategic dividend.
This begs the question of what then was the aim.
The advertised aim of conditioning Pakistan is only possible to pull off in case of follow through with more-of-the-same in case of future provocations. With the resolve having been demonstrated, it sets up a commitment trap of sorts that entails a progressive increase in violence of retaliation. However, from the very limited nature of the operation just concluded, it is evident that the Indian military is attuned to the escalatory dynamics more rigorous operations might entail. In effect, the operation was a one-off, and not replicable with like benefit. If it heralds a shift in strategic doctrine as vaunted, then the new doctrine is suspect, and to put it mildly in one famous phrase, is ‘un-implementable’.
There is one other dimension of a possible externally oriented aim. It could be influence the international community to pressure Pakistan. The efficacy of this is difficult to imagine in light of the problem external players have had in dissuading Pakistan from supporting insurgency in Afghanistan, where their aims were directly affected. They can lean on Pakistan to display restraint in reaction to such operations in future – as has been done on this occasion - but are unlikely to be able to go beyond their known remonstrations against Pakistani supping with terrorists. If India were to be more venturesome militarily, it would be left to fend for itself, with none to pull its chestnuts out of the fire. In case the situation does come to the crunch, not only will terror rollback figure, foregrounding international pressures on Pakistan, but so would ‘root causes’, implying India would not be left off the hook. Since alongside military operations, strategic proactivism entails obfuscating ‘core issues’, by diversionary references to PoK and other areas of erstwhile J&K, there is an inherent contradiction between the military and diplomatic prongs of the newly minted strategy. Unfolding of its military prong would impact negatively on the diplomatic prong.
Since all this could have been easily discernible from any strategic analysis preceding the trans-LC foray, the purported aims of the operation – as external oriented – come under question. In fact, the logic of the supposedly abandoned doctrine of strategic restraint was all along precisely this: that militarily little can be done; therefore, other ways to approach the twin problems of Pakistan and Kashmir, including by meaningful conflict resolution internally and externally, need being broached. In fact the timorous manner of the operation, that allowed Pakistan to pretend that it did not occur at all, indicates that the verities of strategic restraint remain sound. In fact, the strict limitations attending the military operation, including public mention that it is not being continued further, indicates a genuflection of the military operation to strategic restraint. This reveals the supposed shift to a new doctrine of strategic proactivism is more of an information war smokescreen.
This brings one back to the question as to the aim of the operation. The aim, not being externally oriented, can only then have been directed internally: towards the public. The somewhat decisive UP elections are nigh. The strongman image of the prime minister needed refurbishing, under the persistent challenge not only from Pakistani terror provocations but also from political opponents bent on calling the bluff. This implies a military operation has been undertaken with an eye on internal politics. In the event, all parties have jumped on the jingoistic bandwagon, even those that subscribed earlier to the doctrine of strategic restraint. Internal politics appears to have trumped strategy. While this is indeed an abiding possibility in democratic states, the fact needs acknowledging. Pointing this out helps clothe up timely.
In other words, the new Pakistan-centric doctrine of strategic proactivism has its impetus less in the external strategic environment, but more so in the internal politics of this country. The driver appears to be the need for democratically establishing an unassailable dominance of the right wing political formations, prerequisite for the wider cultural nationalist project. The external aspect of this project is to emerge as the regional hegemon, by vanquishing Pakistan. But the fact that strategic proactivism cannot bypass the parameters set by the nuclear age and relative strengths on the subcontinent, suggests strategic proactivism cannot but have an ideological pedigree. The discipline of Strategic Studies informs that ideology undercuts strategic rationality.  
The problem with strategic proactivism lies in its success. The more successful it gets, the more the insecurity. For instance, the success of the recent military operation might suggest military options have efficacy. The next one might be less mindful of limitations, preventing Pakistan from playing deaf. Success could prove pyrrhic. This formed the intellectually sustainable basis of the strategic doctrine of strategic restraint. So long as strategic proactivism is yet another information war gimmick, directed not so much at Pakistan but a media-lulled electorate, it may not be particularly troubling. It would get to be so in case strategic minders in Sardar Patel Bhawan take it as seriously as its votaries in op-eds.

Monday, 3 October 2016

The army officer corps: Missing Muslims

Milligazette, 1-15 October 2016

The Army’s response to the query of the Sachar committee, investigating the socio-economic status of India’s largest minority, on the numbers of Muslims in its ranks, was intriguing. The army had responded that it does not maintain such statistics. General JJ Singh, its Chief at the time, writes in his autobiography, A Soldier’s General, that when queried by the media on the army’s withholding of the information, unlike their naval and air force counterparts, he said: ‘the system for entry into the armed forces and for enrolment is based on merit and qualifications; on the ability of an individual to perform the task assigned. We never look at things like where you come from, the language you speak, or the religion you believe in ... Therefore we consider it important that all Indians get a fair chance of joining the armed forces.’[2]
This appeared questionable on two counts. One is that there are ethnic reservations in the army, since its infantry – the largest arm - still maintains a regimental structure. Secondly, the army certainly knows the religious affiliation of its members since in war conditions it needs to know whether to bury or cremate martyrs. Perhaps it has not aggregated the data religion-wise as apparently there is no call to do so: it being an all-volunteer army. However, even this is also hard to believe since bureaucracies – and the Army Headquarters is reputed to be no less awesome as any other – thrive on statistics.
Such caginess can only give rise to suspicion that it knows it has something to hide. I had in a previous article on this issue in this publication[3] had brought out that the figure is so abysmal as to be somewhat embarrassing if revealed officially in public. A figure dating to mid-last decade had it that there were some 30000 army men, of which most – presumably more than half were in about 25 infantry battalions with Muslim representation, some of which were of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAK LI). Thus, J&K with a merely five million Muslims offered up a larger proportion of Muslims in the army as compared to India’s other Muslim communities comprising some 34 times Kashmiri numbers. This contrasts starkly with the proportion of Muslim population in the country which the 2011 census puts short of 14 per cent.
Of the officer corps, Muslims reportedly comprised 2-3 per cent. Since the army is not parting with the figures, some unilateral spade work was required. My father, who was once Commandant of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), receives a complimentary copy of the twice-yearly IMA journal. The journal lists the names of the passing out course Gentlemen Cadets. In my previous article, I arrived at a figure of 2-3 per cent by counting Muslim names amongst the list of GCs passing out of the IMA. I counted about 45 Muslim names from lists of five passing out courses at the turn of the decade. Discounting the foreign GCs being trained at IMA from friendly foreign countries, about 40 Muslim GCs got commissioned in two-and-half years from IMA. About 600 officers get commissioned from IMA every year. Since officer commissions are also from the Officer Training Academy, while the absolute figure would go up, it is unlikely that the relative presence of Muslim officers increases by much. It can thus be said that about two per cent of army officers are Muslim.
A recent perusal by me of the latest journal – IMA’s Spring Term 2016 edition, led to ascertaining that the figure has remained static in the four years since. The figure from the current IMA journal is that of the 469 GCs of the 137 Regular and 120 Technical Graduates courses commissioned on 12 December 2015, 9 were Muslims, making a percentage of 1.9 per cent. Evidently, half-decade on, nothing has changed.
These figures by themselves do not spell discrimination. The figure for Muslims completing graduation is about six per cent, below that of Scheduled Castes advantaged by reservations. Consequently, they are unable to compete for a position at the IMA and OTA, the eligibility requirement of which is a bachelors’ degree. Muslim graduates, in particular from South India, are finding avenues elsewhere such as in the Gulf and therefore are not quite headed for Dehra-Dun, Chennai and Gaya, the pre-commission training establishments. Finally, there are no Muslim ‘martial races’, Indian ethnic groups that continue to be privileged over others by the quota for the regiments bearing their name. Muslim ethnic groups that were so privileged in the pre-Partition era have ended up in Pakistan. So, Muslim numbers being down in the army is easy to explain. But, the question is: should the numbers – revealing as they are - be explained away?
When I joined the NDA in the early eighties, I was one of six Muslims in my course of some 300 cadets. Little appears to have changed since, though the socio-economic indices of Muslims have registered a growth since and there is reportedly an appreciable and growing Muslim proportion in the middle classes. Clearly, looking towards the government may not be wise. The UPA-I heard out the army chief on the Justice Sachar’s inquiry without comment. By no means could Sachar’s team have turned in a recommendation of positive discrimination in Muslim favour in the military. At best it would have put forward a practical agenda on how to increase the numbers, without affecting the principles of secularism, professionalism and apolitical held by the army. The army certainly lost an opportunity to critically reflect on the larger implication of the absence of Muslims in its ranks. By not admitting to the numbers, the army denies itself an opportunity to take the measures to burnish its credentials as an equal opportunity employer.
The under representation of Muslims in the police and central police forces was remarked on in aftermath of the Sachar Committee findings and steps taken since have led to an increase in Muslims in these organisations to six per cent. This increase does not owe to positive discrimination - which is neither possible nor recommended – but to other measures that can only be taken once a problem is acknowledged to exist.
Simple measures can do the trick. One significant intake into the officer corps is from Sainik Schools and military schools across the country. In my five years at a reputed military school, I was one among three other Muslims of about 225 cadets. I later was horrified to find from a list of about 3000 cadets that had passed out of the school since Independence till early this decade, only about 30 were Muslims. A higher number of Muslim cadets in these schools will lead to a higher number of Muslim candidates for the National Defence Academy (NDA). Since these schools are under state governments, the states must increase advertising of entrance exams in Muslim areas and upping the numbers of examination centers in such areas.
Successful candidates are usually products of coaching centers. This explains the higher numbers of army officers from Uttarkhand, UP and Haryana, making up at a rough estimate over a third of army officers. Setting up such coaching centers through community initiative in Muslim concentrations - such as in Jamia Nagar, Azamgarh, Murshidabad, Srinagar, Goalpara, Kottayam etc - can result in increasing candidate numbers and their competence levels. Members of Parliament from Muslim populated areas and Muslim MPs can take the lead on this.
Since Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Jamia Hamdard and Jamia Millia Islamia organise successful coaching for the administrative services entrance exam, they could use the same model for upping the armed forces’ Muslim intake too. With the current focus, the community manages to put in 30 odd candidates into the central services yearly with an intake of about 800; of which about 2-3 per cent make it to the glamourous trio – IAS, IFA and IPS. This figure can be improved on by increasing the tally in the armed forces UPSC merit lists since these are taken out twice yearly.
Both levels of entry - one to the NDA and other services academies and the second targeting the UPSC’s combined services exam for graduate entry – can be targeted. The AMU initiative of starting schools with a public school ethos in Muslim majority areas, can server to send Muslim youth to NDA. Also, women candidates need to be encouraged since Muslim girls are apparently doing better at schools than boys. The likes of Sophia Qureshi, who commanded a training component in a multi-country military exercise, and Waheedah Prizm, the first Kashmiri naval officer, are inspiring, but cannot compensate for concerted community action aimed at increasing women officer candidate numbers. This might require a cultural change, but with avenues in the armed forces opening up, the change can be reinforced by such measures.
Measures ‘targeting them young’ will also serve to alleviating quality. A further perusal of IMA journal reveals that, Muslims are absent from achievers. Amongst the GC appointments of the passing out course, there was only one Muslim, and a relatively modest Cadet Sergeant Major at that. None figured in the list of end-of-term prizes and sporting achievements. It appears this lack of achievement carries over into service, with not a single Muslim officer figuring in the IMA faculty. There are only four Muslim instructors below officer rank, three of whom are outside the military mainstream serving in the physical training and equitation sections. Scarce numbers and limited capability on entry can only translate into absence up the hierarchy in the future. For the first time in a quarter century, a Muslim figures among the army commanders, with Lt Gen PM Hariz taking over Southern Command recently.
For the army, the gains from increasing Muslims in its ranks and that of its officers would be in dispelling stereotypes of the minority amongst its officers and prospective officers. Training alongside Muslims would negate negative images they may carry over from society, which has been increasingly exposed to Islam-sceptical narratives over the past two decades. This could have useful operational spin-off in case of military operations in areas of minority concentrations such as in Kashmir and in conventional war within Pakistan. The JAK LI, which has a reasonable proportion of Muslims from J&K, has acquitted itself well in counter insurgency operations in J&K owing to its feeling of ethnic affinity and the intelligence inflow that this enables, besides ‘winning hearts and minds’.
That said, the onus for increasing Muslim officer intake is not that of the army. However, the army can help with taking measures such as targeting Muslim areas with its recruiting publicity and setting up exam centers in such areas. To make such initiatives palatable, this can be done in conjunction with similarly targeting other thinly-represented ethnic communities, such as from the North East and South India.
For the nation, the gains imply a better endowed minority and it’s mainstreaming. The benefits for the community are in terms of heightened socio-economic indices and increased national participation. Quite clearly then, the onus of change is on the Muslim community – or the several Muslim communities across India. They must offer up their youth – both young men and women - for military service and enable their facing the competition on entry.  

[2] JJ Singh, A Soldier’s General, New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2012.
[3] Ali Ahmed, ‘The Army: Missing Muslim India’, Mainstream, Vol L No 27, June 23, 2012, available at, accessed 17 July 2016.

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 façade 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.

Links to dropbox downloads of commentaries on military, security and strategic affairs

Links below open up some 1300 pages of my published and unpublished writings on military and strategic affairs, IR, military sociology, military history etc. 

They might interest strategic and peace studies students, strategy buffs, military members, academics and the attentive public. They will hopefully deepen insight into the military and aspects of security, even though some points might be debatable.

They offer some points worth reflection on the state of the army, military and politics over the past quarter century. They deal with nuclear issues, doctrine, counter insurgency, India-Pakistan relations, army and society, leadership, Kashmir etc.

The pieces are not in any particular order, but browsing through would throw up articles/commentaries of interest on both mainstream and off beat topics/subjects.  

These 500 odd pieces are in addition to my selfpublished books.

Collectively they flesh out the liberal perspective in security/strategic studies. Views expressed are personal.

Please feel free to share the links with any social media groups you may be on and with anyone who might similarly find the material useful.

Published writings - 

Unpublished writings - 

IR relevant writings - 

Miscellaneous writings - 

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