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Sunday, July 19, 2009

#1104, 22 August 2003
The Post-Parakram Peace Agenda Firdaus AhmedFreelance Security Analyst
Pakistan has not released any document purporting to be its nuclear doctrine. However, it has over the years identified the contours of this doctrine. It has not accepted ‘no first use’; it is hence assumed that it countenances ‘first use’. This could amount to the ‘green field’ option in which it fires a nuclear ‘shot across the bow’ of advancing Indian forces or a maximal ‘first strike’ in a ‘use it or lose it’ mode if the regime or state is threatened with destruction by an Indian attack in search of a ‘decisive victory’. The General in charge of its Strategic Plans Division briefed a visiting delegation from an Italian think tank about the possible nuclear triggers. According to him the nuclear redline of Pakistan would be crossed should Pakistan be subject to economic strangulation, military defeat resulting from destruction of its forces, massive political instability instigated from without or territorial losses in areas of strategic importance. Consideration of these aspects would indicate whether the ‘limited war’ option under consideration by India as evidenced in Operation Parakram would breach Pakistan’s nuclear threshold. The fact that needs to be factored into consideration is that ‘it takes two to tango’.
While militaries are naturally reticent about their operational plans, a recent book ‘The Unfinished War’ by seasoned authors with connections within the military reveals that the Indian Army readied two plans during Operation Parakram. The first was limited in geographical aims and envisaged the launch of the Indian infantry into POK for territorial gain and destroying of terrorist bases there. The mobilization along the border was designed to dissuade Pakistan from expanding the conflict. A possible outcome of such an undertaking by India would have been a bloody and long drawn out struggle in the mountains. With an additional one hundred thousand mujahideen irregulars being used by Pakistan, heavy civilian casualties in the populated mountain region would have been unavoidable. If experience in Kashmir is any guide, holding onto gains made would have been equally problematic. To cope with this situation India would have been forced into expanding the conflict by increasing firepower, troops committed or areas invaded. Escalation could also have resulted from Pakistan’s national capital region losing the depth it has in POK to Indian forces. Thus, despite limited political aims and military objectives being sought, the likelihood of escalation is considerable.
The book notes that by mid-2002 India’s plans had become more ambitious, with India hoping to capitalize on its superiority in having three ‘strike corps’ to Pakistan’s two. The theatre was intended to be Pakistan’s Thar Desert where its armour was to be enticed and destroyed ‘in detail’. The logic was that with its military facing defeat, Pakistan would be politically vulnerable and amenable to moderating its stance on Kashmir. Clearly, there appears to have been a misreading of Clausewitz in this search for the grand tank battle in the tradition of Soviet-German encounters during World War II. That the success of this enterprise would have most definitely breached the conventional-nuclear firebreak seems to have been lost on Indian military planners.
Obviously, therefore, both Indian plans appear to have escalation inbuilt in them. These appear to be based on the reading that Pakistan would be suitably deterred by India’s nuclear doctrine of ‘massive retaliation’; and would therefore not resort to a nuclear first use. While it is possible that Pakistan may have used conventional means to cope with India’s offensive, the greater the Indian success the less likely would Pakistan’s aversion to nuclear use become. The political pressure on its military to save face would mount with each reverse, since losing yet again to India would permanently end its preeminence in Pakistan’s power structure. Likewise, any reverses suffered by India would mount pressure on its political and military leadership to expand the conflict to bring to bear Indian superiority on the battle. Lastly, war has a dynamic all its own as can be learnt from the experience of World War I. Therefore, the attitude of the security establishment, specifically in India to be dismissive of the Pakistani nuclear deterrent and for Pakistan to rely on it to avert war requires to be redefined.
It is said that armies in peacetime prepare for fighting the ‘last war’. The ‘last war’ has been termed as the ‘unfinished war’ in the book. It is likely that plans are being refined for the ‘finish’ next time around. It is therefore important that the peace lobby be equally active in the interim in analyzing the plans and underlying assumptions on both sides, lest it finds itself overtaken by events leading up to the next crisis.

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