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Sunday, May 08, 2016

World War II redux in the nuclear age

http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

Media reported that at the late April culmination of the Mathura based 1 Corps Exercise Shatrujeet, the parachute brigade comprising 3000 soldiers was air dropped from the heavy-lift C-17 Globemaster-III, C 130 J Hercules, IL 76 and Antonov 32 aircrafts ‘deep inside the enemy's territory’.
The media goes on to quote Major General PC Thimmaya, the divisional commander of Red Eagle Division which is part of the corps being exercised, as saying that it was ‘somewhat closer to what the allied forces did against Germany in the World War II’. He reportedly said, "It reaffirms the Indian Army's strike capabilities with impunity." 

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

In his reference to World War II, Maj Gen Thimmaya perhaps had the popular image in mind right out of Operation Market Garden. In that battle, Gen Sir Brian Horrocks XXX Crops led Montgomery’s 21st Army Group across Netherlands into Germany. 

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

The second image is of the fabled drop of the parachute battalion, 2 Para, at Tangail in a bid to hasten the dash for Dacca. The Paras were to cut off a retreating Pakistani brigade at a river bridge. The urgency of reaching Dacca owed to rumours of the American 7th Fleet setting sail from the Pacific for the Bay of Bengal. Ending the war with the early capture of Dacca became priority, whereas the initial war plan was only to capture enough territory to set up a Bangladeshi government.
The third image conjured up is from Gulf War I in which the US military doctrine of the Cold War years, the AirLand battle – combined air and ground operations – was tested. General ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Shwarzkopf’s Operation Desert Storm  had as its trump card the ‘Hail Mary’ maneuver. 

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

Finally, there is one more scenario, albeit a fictional one. General ‘Paddy’ Padmanabhan post retirement put his thoughts into his somewhat ambitiously titled book, The Writing on the Wall: India Checkmates America 2017

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

The four scenarios need to be seen against the single most significant factor in crisis and conflict today, the nuclear factor.
A World War II Operation Market Garden like scenario presumably would enable the strike corps 1 Corps, known to operate under the South Western Command, to gain the green belt astride River Indus once it gets past the semi-developed terrain opposite northern Rajasthan. To expect that this can be done with ‘impunity’ – presumably implying lack of nuclear threat or response from Pakistan – is self-delusional.
The second scenario has the Paras enabling quicker war termination on advantageous terms. In 1971 War, the war aims expanded in scope with the success achieved by forces on the ground. If the Paras, now designated as Special Forces, are to be so employed today, they risk a quicker lowering of the nuclear threshold by Pakistan.

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

The paradox is that the closer India gets to conventional military success the more vulnerable it gets to nuclear deterrence failure.

The third scenario resembles closest the possible employment of the parachute brigade practiced in Exercise Shatrujeet. 

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

In his book, Paddy has the army cutting into Sindh. This can be enabled by the parachute brigade deploying ahead in ‘pivots’ or defended areas in enemy territory to, for instance, prevent counter poising movement by Pakistan’s reserves. This could enable the strike corps to strike deep. Alternatively, it can be landed in aid of Baluch rebels further to the rear of Pakistani forces. If Pakistan’s posturing of its tactical nuclear weapons is to be taken seriously, such attempts would trigger its nuclear response. Not to take it seriously is to seriously misread nuclear weapons.
Finally, is the seemingly benign scenario in which Indian – and US – Special Forces take over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. 

FOR FULL ARTICLE SEE http://indiatogether.org/world-war-ii-redux-in-the-nuclear-age-op-ed

... it could trigger unpredictable consequences. Pakistan’s paranoia dates to the supposed Indian-Israeli threat to its nuclear status of the early eighties. Pakistan is already on record threatening retaliation towards India, whatever the source of the threat.
This analysis suggests that having the capability of deploying a para brigade into battle, howsoever impressive, is not an unmixed blessing. The intent is perhaps to deter Pakistan by showing it that India can dismember it once again as was done in 1971, irrespective of its tactical nuclear weapons.

However, ‘Shatrujeet’ - the exercise name - means ‘one who conquers enemies’. Attempting such conquest now is only to risk mutual defeat. That this has not been grasped fully by the Indian military suggests that India has not quite moved into the twenty first century and the nuclear age.

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