S Qamar Afzal Rizvi
VERITABLY, the Modi government’s euphoric design of waging a limited war/surgical strike against Pakistan—thereby underestimating our armed forces’ professional strength— is India’s false dawn. India has no match with Pakistan military in terms of its professional performance, operational and nuclear capabilities. An examination into a war strategy prognosticates that if India imposes war on Pakistan it would suffer a fatal blow since Pakistan Army, Navy, and Air Force are fully prepared to give an unprecedented response to any Indian posture that poses a threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Given a GFP comparison index India is ranked 4; whereas Pakistan is ranked 13 in the world. But this conventional weapons’ superiority that India holds over Pakistan is by no means a guarantee that it can win a war against Pakistan. India’s on-going military modernization and headline-grabbing increases in defence spending unquestionably upset the delicate conventional military balance in the region. And needless to say Pakistan recent embrace of the utility of tactical nuclear weapons and broader Pakistani efforts to enhance the quality and quantity of their nuclear arsenal is a result of India’s growing conventional capabilities and its more proactive military plans.
First, India’s substantial quantitative and qualitative naval superiority is unlikely to be an important factor in a short, limited war. India has twelve frigates to Pakistan’s six, an aging aircraft carrier and ten destroyers where Pakistan has none, twenty corvettes with anti-ship missiles compared to Pakistan’s six smaller missile boats, and fourteen diesel-electric submarines compared to Pakistan’s five. But the question is not which navy would win a maritime war, but rather whether the Indian Navy could beat its Pakistani counterpart— so decisively and quickly that it might alter the strategic situation on land—seems a remote possibility.
Second, given an Air Force comparison: although India has three times more air crafts than Pakistan, yet Pakistan is ahead of India in terms of the modern AWACS aircraft. The use of AWACS planes is extremely important in modern warfare as they are equipped with radar and can give information about enemy planes, ships and missiles. India currently has only three AWACS while Pakistan has nine of these planes. If the Pakistan Air Force perceives that it cannot successfully use airpower in a reprisal raid following an Indian air strike, Pakistan may use conventionally armed cruise and ballistic missiles. India’s air and missile defences would not be able to stop a missile attack and might not be able to prevent a Pakistani air strike—thus, breaking an escalatory spiral of dueling air or missile strikes would prove daunting.
Third, the ground forces balance has received the most attention from outside observers, in large part because the Indian Army has publicized its efforts at doctrinal innovation, most often referred to under the Cold Start doctrine. However, India’s ground superiority is unlikely to be sufficient to achieve a quick victory. The psychological and professional fitness of Pakistan military soldiers and officers has an edge over the Indians. Pakistan’s elite special forces unit, army’s Special Services Group (SSG) has been listed as the best special forces group, ahead of units such as the US Navy SEALs and the British Special Air Service group. Former Indian army chief Gen Bikram Singh admits that Pakistan Army is among world’s best force.
Fourth, Pakistan is reported to have 90 to 100 nuclear warheads; India has about 80 warheads. Pakistan has tactical superiority in terms of missile technology. Pakistan nuclear weapons mobilization capability is more update and prompt than India’s. As for India’s surgical strikes against Pakistan, a study has suggested that Indian military modernization has been threatening Pakistan’s conventional deterrence and pressuring Islamabad to embrace battlefield nuclear weapons as a tool of self- defence. Yet, this line of thinking overlooks fact that Indian military is beset by wrong calculations.
Whatever advantages India may be gaining through military modernization: terrain is not conducive to rapid successes in areas of significant strategic value, and in the most likely conflict scenario, it appreciates to be impossible that India can achieve the strategic surprise necessary to make a limited offensive succeed. Given the terrain advantages accruing to a defender in Kashmir and the Punjab, even a partial mobilization of Pakistani forces is likely to act as a significant bastion against both a limited or unlimited offensive. In equal measures, the Indian policymakers seem not confident that even a limited resort to military force would achieve a rapid result, which is a sine qua non for deterrence failure. With huge Pakistani Army’s divisions stationed and forwardly deployed in defensive positions— in provinces adjacent to the international border—Pakistan’s military is poised to repel an Indian attack via tour de force. Pakistan military has also taken initiative in recent years to improve its crisis response capability so that it can capitalize on any warning it receives. Nonetheless, in a long war scenario, China, Turkey and Saudi Arab would be Pakistan’s supporters; while India would have to all and all depend on the US support. And yet it is not an out of box scenario that in a warranted situation, Pakistan might use nuclear technology against India. A nuclear war between India and Pakistan would set off a global famine that could kill two billion people and effectively end human civilization. Even if limited in scope, a conflict with nuclear weapons would wreak havoc in the atmosphere and devastate crop yields because of the releasing of black carbon aerosol particles that would cut U.S. corn and soybean production by 10 percent over a decade, a study noted.
To conclude, it logically appeals that the interlinked A-B-C scenario— of a limited war/full scale war/nuclear war between the two belligerent states India and Pakistan, the harrowing war would transform South Asia into a region of tears, blood and devastation. Modi’s illusionary smokescreen— that on the pretext of war hysteria or evil hydro-politics, India can pressurize Pakistan to change its Kashmir policy or that India can snatch Kashmir from Kashmiris by dint of force — needs to be exorcised with a pragmatic volte face in India’s Kashmir policy to honour Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
— The writer is an independent ‘IR’ researcher based in Karachi.