Pampore (Srinagar- Kashmir) terrorist attack on 25 June 2016, allegedly by LeT (Laskar-E-Taiyaba) operatives, is a reflection of a Pakistan’s Military Establishment’s gleeful self – admiration of the effectiveness of its “Full Spectrum Deterrence” (FSD) strategy. No wonder, then, Pakistan’s Ambassador to India, Abdul Wasit, was reported to have dismissed an India journalist, who had asked him on his reaction on Pampore attack, by saying that it was time to have “Iftaar Party” than discuss Politics. Even Pathankot Air base attack on January 02, 2016 was a demonstration trial of its “Full Spectrum Deterrence” or FSD strategy.
…CRS report has recently observed that chances of a nuclear conflict are more likely now because of aggressive and offensive attitude of Pakistan towards India.
After Pampore attack, Indian Home Minister, Sh. Raj Nath Singh was reported to have reacted by saying that India would make sure not to fire the first bullet, but even if one bullet was fired from Pakistan’s side, India shouldn’t even think about keeping a count on the bullets it would fire. Pakistan dismisses such threats as empty words because it thinks it has checkmated India from reacting violently because of FSD.
So, what is FSD or ” Full Spectrum Deterrence”? To understand this, we got to understand certain naked facts. It is a known fact that India and Pakistan are two Nuclear weapon states with mutual animosity and hostility stretching over the last 69 years. Any nuclear exchange/ conflagration between them will lead to unacceptable damage on both sides. It is called MAD- Mutual Assured Destruction. But the probability of a nuclear conflict can not be ruled out. So, what is the probability of such an exchange?
A US Congress Research Service (CRS) report has recently observed that chances of a nuclear conflict are more likely now because of aggressive and offensive attitude of Pakistan towards India. The manifestation of this aggression is evident through employment of her so- called “strategic Assets” or Non State Actors, likes of whom went on rampage in Pampore , the other day. CRS report observes such acts ,might wear out India’s patience and it might trigger a military conflict ending in a Nuclear exchange in South Asia.
Pakistan’s confidence arises from an alleged fact that it might have more nuclear Devices than India. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in its recent report has estimated that Pakistan might have 120-130 nuclear devices or even more against Indian possession of 110-120. It goes on to say that over a period of time, Pakistan might have 240 nuclear weapons or even more and thus become the third largest nuclear weapon state. It has estimated that against India’s 600 Kg of weapon grade plutonium, Pakistan is in possession of 3.1 metric tons of HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium), which will allow her to produce more weapons. However, there is a rider that India’s Plutonium is qualitatively much better as weapon grade material than HEU.
…by latching on to WOM, Pakistan has created a low cost military option between “Absolute Conventional war” and a “Nuclear War”. To do so, it has been using her so called “Strategic Assets” or “Irregular Soldiers”, trained in militancy and terrorist acts.
In the context of above statistics, two points need to be understood. First point is the optimum minimum quantity needed to unleash a horrific, crippling and unacceptable damage (HCUD) on your adversary. So, it does not matter , if you have 100 more devices or just minimum quantity to achieve HCUD. Therefore quality of devices is more important than the quantity. Second point is the quality of delivery system and second strike capability. In this, India is much ahead of Pakistan. Her space sojourn and joining of MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime) would further boost its delivery system and quality of its response. Induction of Nuclear submarines into Indian Navy would further enhance its second strike capability.
It is an agreed belief, both in Pakistan and India, that availability of nuclear weapons on both sides deter a full scale war of the kind of Bangla Desh. Pakistan had long realized that it can not win a conventional war against India because of India’s conventional military superiority. In fact, recently, Hina Rabani Khar, Pakistan’s ex Foreign Minister during Pakistan People’s Party Regime, in an interview to News Channel TV18, had remarked that Pakistan can not win a war over Kashmir. It is because of this realization that Pakistan’s ex Military ruler, late General Zia Ul Hague, had contrived upon a strategy to unleash “War by Other Means” (WOM) on India to not only avenge 1971 war humiliation but also wean away Jammu & Kashmir from India. General Zia, though died in a plane crash in August 1988, but Pakistan has been vigorously pursuing this strategy, not only in Jammu & Kashmir but all over India.
In short, by latching on to WOM, Pakistan has created a low cost military option between “Absolute Conventional war” and a “Nuclear War”. To do so, it has been using her so called “Strategic Assets” or “Irregular Soldiers”, trained in militancy and terrorist acts. It has been 26 years when Pakistan had first engaged India in this undeclared war. “Azadi Movement” in J&K and “Khalistan” movement in Punjab in the 90s decade of last century were its manifestations. Though both movements stand defeated today but her support to terrorist activities carry on unabated.
In a response to Pakistan’s WOM, India, some years back, had worked out a strategy referred to as “Cold Start Doctrine” or CSD . Though no one has exact details of CSD but it was assumed by Pakistan that it was aimed as a calibrated Indian military response to Pakistan’s WOM of the kind and the scale of Mumbai 26/11. In Pakistani military perceptions, three strike corps of Indian army would quickly undertake a punitive action against Pakistan’s ” Strategic Assets” without allowing time for Pakistan to respond. CSD, seeks its Battle groups to jump off from Cantonments; bounce the borders and attain its tactical objectives. Thus while Pakistan created an option of WOM, between two extremes I.e. Absolute Conventional war and Nuclear Conflict, so also, India has created her ‘course of action, for a military conflict between two extremes.
The concept of CSD was, perhaps, finalized in 2013 and this became a bug bear for Pakistan military. It sought to respond to this effectively. Pakistan’s strategists thus, came up with a counter strategy of FSD.
War strategies are often ” action and reaction” responses of adversaries. I wonder if Newton had this in mind when he evolved his third law of motion! The idea of CSD to Indian planners came from the aborted “Operation Parakaram”, launched in December 2001, after Pakistan backed terrorists had struck Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001. It was an attack on the sanctity sanctorum of Indian Democracy.
It is alleged that on January 07, 2002, leading elements of a strike Corps of India had jumped off the border in the deserts of Rajasthan, when President George Bush Jr. advised Prime Minister AB Vajpayee to pull back to avoid a nuclear conflict. Indian Prime Minister, at that precise moment was attending the SAARC summit in Kathmandu, Nepal. In a surprise move, on the morning of 07 January 2002, Indian troops were already 10-15 KMs inside Pakistan, when US military satellites picked them up.
It is a known fact that Pakistan was caught off guard by the rapidity of the advance and retreat by leading Indian troops. But this move by India might have seeded the concept of CSD, though the operation Parakaram remained a ” War without War” for a year and a half. Accordingly, India shifted the focus of its cantonments for strike elements closer to border so as to allow them to bounce the border; deliver a shocker punch to the enemy and quickly disengage.
The concept of CSD was, perhaps, finalized in 2013 and this became a bug bear for Pakistan military. It sought to respond to this effectively. Pakistan’s strategists thus, came up with a counter strategy of FSD. The underlying principle of FSD is the use of small yield nuclear weapons to checkmate the surprise attack by Indian forces. It is admitted by Pakistan that it can not cope with the Conventional military strength of India. Her answer to Indian conventional superiority is the ” First Use ” of nuclear weapons. And this principle it has extended to FSD. The objective is to deny India the option of undertaking a quick punitive action against the launch pads of her “Strategic Assets”. Pakistan thus feels that a deterrence has been fully achieved in all spectrums of conflict.
FSD is a provocative invitation for a full scale nuclear conflict. India will choose its time and place to try out its CSD. And when it does, it will tease Pakistan to try its FSD and if it does, there is nothing holding India from using its full nuclear might.
FSD is no doubts a flawed strategy. How does India responds to this strategy? Although, India’s pronounced nuclear strategy is “NO FIRST USE” , yet once the nuclear threshold is crossed, why won’t India respond with its full might to this first use of nuclear devices by Pakistan. India’s nuclear response won’t be graduated or yield by yield. The statement by Raj Nath Singh, Indian Home Minister after Pampore incident on 25 June 2016 is relevant. So is also the relevance of a probability of nuclear exchange given by CRS report to US congress.
It seems Pathankot Air base attack on January 02,2016 and Pampore incident are probing attacks to see as to how India reacts. This is where Pakistan military is miscalculating, because the day India reacts, it would be fully prepared for a nuclear conflagration. In January 2002, India had decided to call off the nuclear bluff of Pakistan. It was ready to allow Pakistan its first move from nuclear arsenal and then strike with its full might. It is pertinent to note that fearing a nuclear exchange, USA and West had, then, issued advisory to their citizens to move out of South Asia. Today, such a possibility exists more. It is subject to when India loses her patience and says, “Enough is Enough”.
FSD is a provocative invitation for a full scale nuclear conflict. India will choose its time and place to try out its CSD. And when it does, it will tease Pakistan to try its FSD and if it does, there is nothing holding India from using its full nuclear might. Ironically, Pakistan no more enjoys the advantage of “Strategic Depth” in Afghanistan, which it had badly sought when it had decided to launch WOM on India. By installing Taliban in Afghanistan in the 90s, Pakistan had thought it had acquired geographical depth and immunity against Indian nuclear strike and it became aggressive. In seeking for “Strategic depth”, Generals of Pakistan do not worry about the people of Pakistan but safeguarding themselves against a nuclear catastrophe. Since the collapse of Taliban in Afghanistan, Generals have lost this nuclear shield, yet they mistakenly believe that limited yield nuclear strike might deter India. The likelihood or unlikelihood of a nuclear exchange in South Asia is however subject to two conditions. They are : either fast wearing out of Indian patience or reigning in of Pakistan military by Pakistan’s Political leadership. Both scenarios seem possible.