Nuclear weapons for nuclear deterrence and a powerful conventional force for dissuasive deterrence must remain the pillars of our military strategy. Therefore notwithstanding Pakistan’s nuclear threshold we should maintain our focus on strengthening both pillars.
The doctrine and capability definition that flow from such thinking can have an immeasurably debilitating effect on our entire military posture with the potential for disastrous consequences. Firstly it pushes us back into the old jacket of being totally defensive in our posture (it took us many years to get out of that mindset). Because whatever offensive capability we retain would be rendered virtually ineffective due to the fear of crossing Pakistans nuclear threshold. And look at the enormous military advantage we transfer to Pakistan because of such thinking.
Firstly it can continue to needle us by supporting terrorism and militancy without fear of any reprisal. Parakrama may well have reinforced this belief. Secondly in the event of war knowing that our offensives will be restricted to a few kilometers Pakistan can hold the front lightly with Para- military forces or with minimum regulars and then have the flexibility and freedom to concentrate forces to hit and hurt us at places of its choosing. Our nuclear doctrine of “no first use adding to the comfort level of Pakistans military planners.
There are similar problems with the notion of “˜ limited war. In some sense or the other all wars are- limited. At a ridiculous level it can be argued that even the World Wars were limited. The catch is in defining limited wars and the conclusions we draw from such definition. Broadly, limited wars imply limitation of time, space and the use of force ( essentially weapon systems) In 1962 we did not employ our air force; neither did the Chinese. During the recent Kargil war the conflict was kept confined to the Kargil Sector and we also refrained from crossing the Line of Control.
In 1971 we limited the war to the capture of Dacca. Even way back in 47/48 we chose to limit the duration of operations.(many today believe that had we carried on, the history of the subcontinent would have been different ).
So what is new now? Yet especially after the Kargil War we have many from our strategic thinkers community emphasizing that since future wars are likely to be “˜limited either by choice or due to the pressure of the UN/US our force structure ought to be suitably tailored. Implicit in such thinking is the belief that we can reduce force levels. This is a slippery route. And perhaps dangerous. As a matter of fact instead of considering scaling down because of restrictions that may be imposed we should seriously consider scaling up so that we acquire the capacity to impose limited fighting (strikes) like Israel or the US. Such a capability acquisition should be possible- at least- against some of our likely adversaries.