India’s Limited Options Against Pakistan
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Mar , 2016

Map depicting export of terrorism from Pak soil

To comprehend the magnitude of what Pakistan has been up to during all these years since independence, one has to only glance through its dastardly acts against the Indian state and its people. What hurts most is that it has been able to get away with its nefarious designs with total impunity. Attack on India’s Red Fort, symbol of its military prowess in December 2000  followed by equally audacious attacks on Indian Parliament, its temple of democracy in December 2001 and Mumbai, the economic power house in November 2008 devastated the Indian psyche.

Pakistan’s nuclear capability not only neutralized India’s traditional conventional superiority but also limited its response options. This opened the flood gates wide for cross border terrorism.

The regularity with which Pakistan has continued to violate India’s sovereignty is of grave concern.

The shame of India is that Pakistan has invariably got away without any reprisal whatsoever. India’s response more often than not has been limited to mere political rhetoric and in some cases calling of ongoing talks, only to be resumed a little later.

How is it that a small country like Pakistan with less than one fourth of India’s size, one tenth of population, one seventh of defence budget and one ninth of its GDP continues to be a source of harassment, unmindful of its adverse reaction? Obviously, Pakistan has not come to terms with its geo-political realities and hankers after equivalence with its much larger and superior neighbor? It finds it hard to concede dominant status to India in south Asian context and has thus developed a marked propensity to always challenge it. That is why perhaps despite the common history, geography, culture and language, the relations are plagued by suspicion and hostility.

In pursuance of its objectives, Pakistan took a bold step in early fifties and walked into the US led western camp, purportedly to fight communism but primarily to secure political, economic and military support against India. Subsequent to having lost all the wars that it initiated, it realized the futility of taking on India militarily. It found the answer in going nuclear with “First Use” option. This changed the strategic equation in south Asia all to gather. Threat of “First Use” of nuclear weapons assured Pakistan almost total impunity against reprisal. Thus, Pakistan’s nuclear capability not only neutralized India’s traditional conventional superiority but also limited its response options. This opened the flood gates wide for cross border terrorism. Simultaneous adoption of a strategy of stubborn deniability put India further on the defensive.

India has not been able to respond to Pakistan at the strategic level despite the fact that so far nothing consequential has worked out at the tactical (political) level.

The only time India reacted boldly was in the case of attack on the Indian Parliament which ended in a failure. Pakistan’s prompt recourse to nuclear brinkmanship put India on the back foot. India has not found an answer to tackle Pakistan effectively so far.  It is imperative that India evolves a comprehensive strategy for employing various components of National Power including the armed forces to convince Pakistan that the cost of aggression will outweigh the gains. Inability to evolve any worthwhile option to convey the risks involved in continuing with the policy of cross border terrorism has only encouraged Pakistan to indulge more freely in its bid to keep India under pressure. Somehow India has not been able to respond to Pakistan at the strategic level despite the fact that so far nothing consequential has worked out at the tactical (political) level.

The political leadership seems least inclined in matters military, a legacy that has its roots in Nehru_Krishna Menon era of early sixties. India’s first post independence Commander-in-Chief Gen. Lockhart was summarily dismissed by Nehru when he approached him on the question of threat perception. Then Army Commander, Eastern Command, Lt Gen Thorat’s threat assessment from across the northern borders went similarly unheeded by Krishna Menon. Later, Gen Thimayya’s experience with these very leaders was no different. They were not willing to listen to the advise from the military as was evident in 1947 and also 1962. This has unfortunately remained the pattern till date.

The government’s propensity to either bypasses the military or ignore its advise has resulted in significant strategic opportunities being lost in the past. Political leadership’s inability to comprehend the strategic nuances coupled with its lackadaisical attitude towards security matters tends it to rely on uninitiated bureaucracy rather than the professional military even on highly specialized issues like the defence and the National security. The political and the military leadership that ought to be largely responsible for working out the responses unfortunately stand hijacked by the bureaucratic interface.

Mired in the defensive mind set from centuries, India’s ability to take initiative remains highly curbed.  Indian army on the other hand fights defensive wars with its hands tied.

The fear of the military amongst the political class which had gripped Nehru post newly emerging states falling to the dictators continues to pervade the corridors of north and south blocks even today. No wonder, it’s the civilian Defence Secretary, Ministry of Defence who is responsible for the defence of India and parts thereof and not the Chiefs of the armed forces as stated in “Allocation of business, Rules 1961”. It’s a unique arrangement without a parallel anywhere in the world. The unfounded fear of the military has gone to the extent of making it almost irrelevant in the functioning of the government.  That’s how all powerful Chief of Defence Staff which could be of great help in evolving joint strategies and doctrines to tackle threats continues to be debated indefinitely without any effort on part of the government to push it through.

Pakistan army being a major player in government hierarchy that takes all important decisions has been able to continuously evolve strategies and the policies that suit its objectives vis-à-vis India. The Indian army on the other hand is largely constrained by devious factors including historical baggage that limit its initiative and the dynamic profile. Mired in the defensive mind set from centuries, India’s ability to take initiative remains highly curbed.  Indian army on the other hand fights defensive wars with its hands tied. We fought the Kargil war with major restraints and “with whatever we had”, not the best way to achieve the desired results.

Declaring the thresh hold of forbearance beyond which India must act could well be a viable option. But for it to work, can India convince Pakistan of its ‘Will’ to act. Otherwise, to keep Pakistan engaged in talks however inconsequential may perhaps be the only alternative.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Air Marshal RS Bedi

Former Director General Defence Planning Staff.

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6 thoughts on “India’s Limited Options Against Pakistan

  1. India will have to come out of this defensive mindset. You attack & you are going to be attacked. No one is going to take it lying down. Increase the cost for Pakistan / encircle it / launch military attacks / go for overt & covert action / coerce it / keep the threat of a larger & bigger military action open / make them spend more on defence and let them collapse on their own weight

  2. Unless we escalate with cruise missile strikes or other kind of retaliation with every terror strike, things will not change. The option of hitting garbage dumps where Islamic maggots breeding and congregate are always open to us to exercise. The options are always there, its the way of preparing them for execution where we (political class & bureaucracy) fail. The fifth column consisting of media, academic class and left intellectuals have done admirable job of digging the roots of our country.

  3. kaka bali do you know sultan ghouri? cutting head of indian dallal pirthvi?as you had and have and will have no water in balls attack on soldiers of Allah and pakistan. if you make mistake( as per Allah system of death) indian hindu will fight final war.detonation of hydrogen bomb in sea near bomaby will make india hell.

  4. And Pakistan did all this with the backing of India’s wannabe “ally” The United States and its NATO poodles. (Let us not forget reservations, extortion (aka corruption), I.K.. Gujral, Moraji Desai, The Raja of Manda, the Constitution, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Salman Khursheed, Siddaramaiah, JNU, the Communists, the Periyar-Ambedkat Cabal, the Nehru-Gandhi Clan, the Judiciary, the Police, the Bureaucrats, and other equally dangerous enemies of India.

    Pakistan’s nuclear armaments were brought to fruition under Chinese Advise, Saudi Funding and help from the United States via South Africa and its Dutch association. When it was first launched, it was pegged as the “Islamic Bomb”. Not without reason. Pakistan is an Islamic State. Islam is notorious for suicide bombers. Pakistan has the nuclear bomb. The Quran and the Hadiths that were created by Mahomet to build an organization of desert bandits inspired by vandalism, rape, slavery, and genocide to wreak his revenge on Mecca has now expanded Mahomet’s limited experience of civilization (all civilization of his world being Mecca) to all civilization of today. The purpose with which Mahomet created Islam was to build a military force to destroy all civilization and establish his own arbitrary rule upon it. Thereafter, or in this process, Mahomet sees Islam coming to an end. All it takes is to connect these dots to see where this is heading. There is only one way to deal with Islamic Pakistan. overwhelming premptive strikes that de fang this terrorist nation followed by massive reprisals whenever they get out of hand. India needs to treat its terrorist ghettos within India and Pakistan the way Israel treats the West Bank and the Gaza strip. To do so, India needs to become a Nation. To do this it must get rid of reservations and corruption and straighten out its Constitution to become both secular (stop persecuting the People of Dharma) and democratic (enforce equality under law and rule of law). This may never happen.

    • Very true. Its the western support of Pakistan that has made our lives difficult. The U$ is not our friend, never was and never will be. They dislike the very idea of a strong Indian state. They want to keep our wounds infected to harm us when they chose. The West is now trying to provoke an Indo-Pak war, the end goal being demise of Pakistan and the weakening of India.

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