Geopolitics

Strategic Challenges from Pakistan and its Implications for India
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Issue Net Edition | Date : 21 Jul , 2019

Historically, India has been exposed to military threats and conquest from the north-west, and foreign policy and military strategy, therefore, have often been considered the two main thresholds of external security of India. Both mutually drive each other particularly when it comes to dealing with an irksome and not at all friendly neighbour like Pakistan.

India is a country most challenged by terrorism because unlike any other country, a nuclear armed state i.e. Pakistan is using terrorism as a form of asymmetric warfare against India. India is not engaged in military operations against Pakistan or any other Islamic country. It is not occupying Pakistani territory – even Pakistan acknowledges that Kashmir is “disputed” – or that of any other country. India has no military bases as symbols of domination in any Islamic country. India is neither interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs, nor abetting terrorism by local groups there. It has also eschewed a policy of reprisals against Pakistan despite intense provocations like the Mumbai terrorist attacks of 2008 or the recent attacks at Indian military camps/bases.

Pakistan’s current economic insecurity has resulted in its greater friendship or alliance with China and some Islamic countries. Therefore, Pakistan has the potential to create large scale regional turbulence.

Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism in India is a huge problem as Pakistan is not being sanctioned for its conduct either by India or the international community. On the contrary, it remains a non-NATO ally of the US, has a strategic partnership with it, and receives US economic and military aid.

Pakistan is truly the epicentre of terrorism in the region with its involvement also being observed in activities in Afghanistan. It was involved in attacks against Indian Embassy and other establishments housing Indians there.

Pakistan claims Indian Territory even now. It has not shed the animosity of over 70 years. It has used various means to pursue its feud with India, whether direct military aggression, infiltration, supporting insurgencies, stoking communal tensions or use of tensions or use of terrorism as instruments of its state policy. Pakistan’s current economic insecurity has resulted in its greater friendship or alliance with China and some Islamic countries. Therefore, Pakistan has the potential to create large scale regional turbulence. The security of its nuclear assets and its readiness to threaten India with its nuclear weapons is an issue of serious concern posing Indian security. Most of all, Pakistan strategically had continued to do proxy war at Jammu and Kashmir without any let up. Its propensity towards finding novel ways of keeping India on the defensive is often considered as one of India’s main security challenges.

Pakistan strategically aims to see that India is not being able to execute its policy and preventing it from achieving its aspirations as a nation. Pakistan cannot tolerate India’s progress and achievement in the world. In addition, retribution against India for the humiliating military defeat in 1971 and the loss of erstwhile East Pakistan drives its psyche. Keeping India militarily and diplomatically unstable and thus creating the conditions to integrate Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan remains one of its prime objectives against India. Its aim and goal is further strengthened by the proliferation of extremist religious groups in Pakistan, the inability and unwillingness of the government to deal with them, the nurturing of jihadi groups by the ISI, the fact that jihad figures in the motto of the Pakistani army, the legitimisation of jihad in school text-books, and the explosion in the number of madrassas, have raised questions about Pakistan’s future as a viable state. Instability in Pakistan is bound to spill over into India. Increased radicalisation of Pakistan is a threat to communal harmony in India as the threat of ISI and other elements fomenting trouble in India through proxy groups here could worsen.

Colluding with China to pose a two front threat to India, Pakistan is hopeful that in the event of a military standoff, it will be able to divide Indian military deployment sufficiently…

In order to execute strategy to achieve its India-specific aims, Pakistan works constantly to prevent decisive military asymmetry in India’s favour. With a population one sixth of that of India, Pakistan maintains an army that is half the size of India’s army. Colluding with China to pose a two front threat to India, Pakistan is hopeful that in the event of a military standoff, it will be able to divide Indian military deployment sufficiently to achieve a degree of advantage in force ratios on the Indo- Pak border and perhaps even in the hinterland areas of Jammu and Kashmir. It has created a bogey of first strike in nuclear domain if threatened even conventionally, and through a declared nuclear doctrine, Pakistan actively uses the nuclear card to pose psychological threats.

Pakistan is clearly aware of the vulnerable issues prevailing in India like, faith, religion, caste, extending to even linguistic, regional and ethnic domains. Therefore, Pakistan’s significant policy is to create psychological threat or disturbance by creating turbulence in the vulnerable issues of India.

Through the adoption and execution of its strategy against India, Pakistan appears to believe that it has foreclosed all options of Indian response. And this belief is reinforced by the introduction of the nuclear weapons in its nuclear arsenal and its continued projection that Pakistan will employ such weapons in first strike against any Indian adventurism across the border. There is no denying that doctrinally adopting the first-strike nuclear option, Pakistan has deterred India to some extent in the conventional domain of conflict. Doctrinally, India has had to limit its earlier ambitions of a resounding victory in the conventional conflict. However, the limitation that India had to adopt has also given rise to a proactive strategy in complete contrast to India’s earlier responsive doctrine. The proactive strategy could well be incident based, i.e. to Pakistan’s large scale terror strikes or simply punitive strikes in response to the cumulative effect of a series of smaller Pakistan sponsored strikes.

Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat recently stated “that India would not be restrained from responding to Pakistani aggression and questioned Islamabad’s red lines for nuclear first-use”. This was in response to a prevailing understanding that Pakistan would employ its nuclear weapons against Indian Integrated Battle groups at the very outset of a possible Indian limited response.

Kashmir symbolises the clash between India and these Islamic lobbies that has not ended despite our internal accommodation of Islam as part of our composite heritage…

However, in the earlier strikes from Pakistan, it is observed that India has a tendency at times to play down the threat to it from Pakistan, claiming that it is a much bigger and stronger country than its neighbour and can meet any challenge that it poses. Such a view misses out many dimensions of that challenge. Pakistan represents, in a sense, the unwillingness of Islamic lobbies to make definitive peace with India.  Kashmir, in turn, symbolises the clash between India and these Islamic lobbies that has not ended despite our internal accommodation of Islam as part of our composite heritage with which most Indians relate easily and oneself-consciously.

Now it can be assumed that Indian thinking revolves around the flexibility that India has chosen to project about its own second strike which could be of the magnitude of massive nuclear response to Pakistan’s employment of nuclear weapons. A level of deterrence against early use of nuclear option by Pakistan may have been achieved by India making known its intent.

It can be seen that potentially military standoff between India and Pakistan is characterised by an ever increasing spectre of uncertainty and complexity in which an erroneous assumption could spin the conflict in an uncontrollable direction.

From a military strategic point of view, this is an ever increasing challenge for the Indian Armed Forces stymied as they are by the non-availability of budgetary support for their optimisation to face the increasing complexity of threats in the South Asian region.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Abhinav Dutta

Post Graduate Research Scholar, MA Geopolitics and IR, Manipal University.

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left