The net result of all the millions of daily discussions around the globe on India and Pakistan, the continuous flow of articles and speeches around the world on this subject, the narratives presented, terrorism in both Pakistan and India, the posturing and skirmishes between the two armies, and the trend of emotions of Indians and Pakistanis, point unequivocally to the certain future that war between India and Pakistan is inevitable, much to the dismay of all peaceniks. It is not anymore a question of “if”, but only of “when.”
The desire to put Pakistan behind India and the world is driven by wanting to fully close the chapter on terrorism – to pull out a thorn and move ahead with the task of economy building – to bring peace on Earth.
The overall issues in India-Pakistan relations are deeply intertwined such that they are knotted, with historical baggage going back a thousand years, and the knots simply cannot be opened or released. Instead, the knots are feeling tighter and tighter on a daily basis as terrorism increases, and as does China’s interest in Pakistan because of CPEC, the oil of the Middle East, and CPEC’s relation to OBOR.
The Time for India to Act
The time for India to act is getting more and more difficult as the years pass. For instance, it was relatively easy for India to take West Pakistan apart soon after the 1971 war, if India had so contemplated. To imagine that the USA would have invaded India in the early 1970s, had India invaded Pakistan or not returned the 93,000 prisoners, is most unreasoned, given that the USA was deeply embroiled in a war of its own in Vietnam, right up to its neck. Hence, the threats given by the USA to India were hollow, except that our leaders were hollower. It is well known that President Nixon gave a serious threat of military intervention to India should India not return the prisoners, and warned the USSR not to intervene, given the history of USSR submarines trailing the 7th fleet during the Bangladesh war. The USSR buckled, and imposed upon Indira Gandhi to return the 93,000 prisoners.
And, Indira Gandhi, who was a likely protégé of the USSR, preferred to pay heed to them rather than her own advisors. After all, when she declared emergency in 1975, she was given information by “heads of state” that India was in danger by “external forces”, who then suggested to her to impose the emergency, upon which she ruled like a dictator, much in the image of her Soviet superiors.
In any event, India could have dismembered West Pakistan once again in the early 1980s when it was occupied with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, things kept getting more and more difficult after West Pakistan made its own atom bombs, and sponsored a massive terrorist action in Kashmir.Things also became psychologically difficult after two political assassinations of prime ministers in India within a short span of ten years, which upset and distracted the political mind in India.
Through the 1990s and 2000s, Pakistan’s military was inferior to India’s, and still is inferior in the 2010s. Now, the possibility of nuclear war hangs as a shadow over the subcontinent, and Pakistan seems to depend on that to avert war. But, inasmuch as there are rationale actors on both sides that may only threaten nuclear war but not use it, the only match at this point is who has inferior guts and inferior will. The logic that nuclear weapons will deter conventional war is probably a full-blown myth. In other words, when war starts, Pakistan is likely to refrain from using nuclear devices.
India’s Defense Buildup
The present BJP government under PM Modi has embarked upon a major defense procurement program. The program could be better and more effective, but the buildup will assure India’s supremacy and victory in the inevitable war with Pakistan. Thus, India is buying sufficient numbers of 155 mm light howitzers and attack helicopters that are necessary and supreme in mountain warfare. A massive missile program, both indigenous and imported, promises to dent and destroy Pakistani tanks, aircraft, ships, and incoming missiles. This is coupled with a significant naval buildup of frigates, submarines, submarine hunters, and additional aircraft carriers. Pakistan’s efforts pale in comparison.
As soon as the buildup is substantially completed, by 2022 supposedly, and while PM Modi is likely to be in his second term, it is very plausible that India will exercise its muscle, whether Pakistan is prepared or not.
Justifications of the Pakistan Military
The Pakistani military has justified its existence in Pakistan on the basis of the Indian military threat. There are two parts to this threat, viz. (i) the Indian threat is real, or (ii) the Indian threat is imagined.
For the former scenario, Pakistan has rightly calculated that it must keep up its guard. But, to justify the latter in the eyes of the public, Pakistan must still pose as if to keep up its guard, and create a string of problems on the border with India even if none took place, so as to justify its own existence as an elite organization that is entitled to the lion’s share of the country’s resources. Hence, we see a proxy war fought by Pakistan in Kashmir that is continuing relentlessly till today.
In either scenario, the Pakistani military manages to maintain an elite status for itself and its officers, garnering immense respect in the eye of the public, such that the Pakistanis have come to depend on the military, notwithstanding that Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and Pervez Musharraff took them from one disaster to another. They have still not recovered the goodwill that Pakistan lost in the world after Musharraf’s ill-fated Kargil campaignon the world stage. But none of this daunts the Pakistani public, who depend on the Generals for their survival as a nation.
The Pakistanis Who See Through
However, there is a major segment of the Pakistani public, including intelligentsia, who understand that the present situation, starting from Pakistan’s 1948 expedition in Kashmir, is a result of Pakistani mischief. Every bit of international terrorism, the adventures in and of Kargil, 1999, East Pakistan, 1971, and the Indo-Pak war, Sept 1965 are a result of Pakistani aggression. They are honestly scared that Pakistani shenanigans can spiral out of control, result in Western sanctions on Pakistan, and culminate in a Pakistan broken into pieces.,
A Little Bit of Muscle Made a Big Difference
Recent changes in Pakistani media and a change in the tunes that Pakistanis sang, suffered a dramatic change with a small surgical strike by India. Up till now, Pakistan took as much advantage as they could of the quiet and cowardly behavior by India. Hence, Pakistan tried to press home its advantages so long as India did not retaliate — much like a bully in school keeping up his bullying tactics till confronted. The narrative on Pakistani talk shows began to change ever since the surgical strike by India, which even begs the question why India does not react more frequently, as does Israel against its belligerent neighbors. But overnight, Pakistanis went from assailing India to talking of peace. And, this happened with simply a small surgical strike by a mostly cowardly India. What would happen if India did something bigger than only a surgical strike? Surely, logic would dictate that Pakistan would reform itself. Sometimes, one has to slap a child to rectify behavior.
To a great extent, Pakistan draws its political strength from the voices of the public, not only its military. Hence, with a Pakistani public that sees a tiger in India rather than a mouse, the will of Pakistan stands a chance to change.Nevertheless, simply undertaking stronger and deeper surgical strikes at higher frequencies may not be the answer.
The fact is, there are multiple war scenarios, each of which cannot prevent war. An overall scenario, where the politicians on both sides, the military generals on both sides, the media on both sides, and the public on both sides do not want war is immensely hard to come by. Should only one of the above elements be lacking in either side, war is inevitable. Add to this mix, the Pakistani terrorist organizations fuelling the path to war, as well as ISI’s aid to Indian homegrown terrorists.
How any adverse combinations can be stopped by political action and negotiations defeats every analyst and politician, because efforts of 70 years have failed. In fact, their efforts to reconcile India-Pakistan differences, such as the return of territories in 1965 under Russian mediation; return of 93,000 POWs and territories in 1971 under American threats; and not crossing the LOC during the Kargil war, only delayed the inevitable, and brought no good to the region or the world in the interim. It appears that only war can solve this Gordian knot that strangles both India and Pakistan. The sooner this strangulation is released, the better for all the people on both sides.
There are 48 scenarios where the above combinations have at least one antagonist on the other side. This is excluding the terrorist combination, but if you include them, certainty for war simply rises. When there are two antagonists – one on each side – war has a very high chance; when there is at least one antagonist – which is all that one really needs for war – the chances are still high. Hence, the flat probability of at least one antagonist on each side is 75%. Further, the actual probability – not the flat probability — that all elements will not want war, given the deep hostilities and in-built feelings – is practically zero.
Thus, if the voice of the Pakistani generals, or voice of the Indian public goes highly in favor of war, war stands an increased chance; if the voice of the Indian politicians or Pakistani public increases for war, then war will ensue: from the Indian side, the politicians can give a direct order; from the Pakistani side, the public pressure can be felt on their politicians and military. The same theories work on both sides.
Anyone can analyze those 48 combinations. The theory behind them is that any strong voice from among the four elements – and terrorists as the fifth element – will influence the war-making decision-makers. Even the media can have a very powerful effect on the leaders of the country, especially in a small country like Pakistan. For instance, the tit-for-tat nuclear tests by Pakistan in 1998 were influenced very strongly by the public, parliament, and the media. The force in the Indian public appears particularly strong in that it wants Pakistan taken properly care of once and for all. The voices in the BJP also say the same.
Overall Chances of War
Given the inbuilt misgivings and distrust on both sides, the overall chances of war far exceed the chances of peace. The entire culture in which three generations have come up in India and Pakistan, and the continuing and misguided actions at the border, there is little to no chance to reverse this trend by trade, political deals, or person-to-person contacts. The deep differences between India and Pakistan are irreconcilable by any technique of alternate dispute resolution, despite all the efforts of 70 years. Alas, given that the odds favor war, the question is only when, not if.
Hence, war is inevitable, and India has no choice but to arm to protect its interests – this time with the aim of overtaking Pakistan fully – and swiftly. The only choice India faces is about how it wishes to win the war – slowly, with pain – or swiftly, before the world wakes up – or, in fact – to lose the war by neglecting its defense, as it nearly lost at Kargil, was caught unprepared in the Rann of Kutch in 1965, and actually lost in the 1950s to China by yieldinghuge tracts of Kashmir to Chinawithout a shot being fired because India did not even have observation posts on its borders.
Questions to also ask now, are: how well does India wish to plan the next war? Will it wait for a Pakistani or terrorist attack, or will it take the initiative on its own? Has India got the nerve and the willpower to want to move ahead or does it wish always to be pulled down in perpetuity by a Pakistan – much to the wishes of a modern China and erstwhile Great Britain?
The reading from the tealeaves is that all indicators at a political, military, public, and media perspective, points to war. At present, there is a strong call among the Indian public to demolish Pakistan and get over with the nuisance that Pakistan is. The major elements of the public, the media, the military, and the political leaders can combine in 48 different ways to create a strong, overwhelming route to war, and this is not even considering that terrorism is a strong fifth force.
Thus, war appears inevitable once again on the subcontinent. It is quite certain that the story will not finish on this till the story of Pakistan is finished in Indian eyes.
Gary Bass, “The Blood Telegram,” Random House, India, Oct 2013.
 Amarjit Singh, ‘The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence,” CLAWS Journal, Winter 2009, pp. 53-66.
 The one exception was the Rann of Kutch episode where Pakistani aggression was given currency by the International Court, which awarded the disputed area to Pakistan rather than to India. That does not mean India fared well in that episode. In fact, the Indian army was caught unprepared.
 “India is Very Powerful, Pakistan is Nothing,
”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeX6Av2DBJM, Feb 2, 2017.
 “India Is Big Power, Why We Are Jealous of It?”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pHSI8PLThs, Sep 28, 2017.
 Though this perception has begun to change after the tiny surgical strike, and after India stood up to China at Doklam.
 Though the Pakistani nuclear agencies probably had a plan to undertake those tests, anyway.
 But don’t put anything past India. If India has a chance to make a mistake, rest assured it likely will. Even now, dark clouds are showing in India unable to have a good complement of fighter aircraft in its air force, and its inability to create integrated commands. In the latter, it is behind in the current military thinking. Moreover, India has still not learned its lessons from the Kargil, 1971, and 1965 wars where there was extremely poor coordination between the army and airforce.