Mighty Athens had set out to quash the puny but independent-minded island of Melos during the Peloponnesian War. Overcome by the urge of self-preservation, the Melians begged to the canons of fair play and honour. The Athenians sneered, “The strong do as they will and the weak suffer as they must.” And suffer they did — all alone.
The Pune German Bakery blast on February 13th rent the air of uneasy calm prevailing post-26/11. The Kabul guesthouse attacks on February 26th were another reminder, for those Indians wearing blinkers that India is at war with radicalised militants. With more terror attacks on the horizon, the Union government must be riffling through the options on the table to counter Pakistan-bred terrorism.
Since Pakistan is going to be the darling of the international community till the US-led coalition forces decamp Afghanistan, Indias diplomatic leverage is bound to be severely circumscribed.
Since Pakistan is going to be the darling of the international community till the US-led coalition forces decamp Afghanistan, India’s diplomatic leverage is bound to be severely circumscribed. The consequent inflamed passions will trigger discussions on the military options to teach Pakistan a lesson, and one phrase that’s going to rebound unceasingly is ‘Cold Start’.
Deterrence Versus Pre-emptive Action
Few months after the November 26th seaborne invasion of Mumbai, I had an absorbing colloquy with Adity Sharma, a student doing her MA in international relations in the USA. Here I paraphrase her point: It’s but natural for an aspirant India, dreaming big about global stardom, to endeavour for greater influence in Asia first before spreading its soft power elsewhere. Forget Asia, first India needs to pull her weight to exert reasonable influence in her backyard — a hostile neighbourhood. For that, India needs to evolve an effective strategy of deterrence or wield the pre-emptive sword to thwart terror attacks with Pakistani imprimatur.
But! though they will almost definitely face elimination in the long run, terrorists are not rational creatures, and therefore incapable of seeing reason. Thus, deterrence will most likely fail to prevent them from acting against the state. And the efficacy of deterrence is further frustrated when the opponent does not deem the threat credible.
“¦terrorists are not rational creatures, and therefore incapable of seeing reason. Thus, deterrence will most likely fail”¦
Now, will it be more practicable for India to employ pre-emptive action that she can justify as self-defence to the world? Here the Pakistan Army will threaten to unsheathe nuclear weapons to stave off any Indian pre-emptive move.
Article 51 of Chapter VII of the UN Charter provides for the right of countries to engage in military action in self-defence, including collective self-defence (under a coalition). The law however does not specify about the type of attack that would give the state the justification to retaliate in self-defence. What is implicit is the victim of an armed attack has the right to employ military force against the aggressor after informing the Security Council. The use of force obviously has to be in tune with the principle of proportionality, and employed within a reasonable time frame.
In Indias case, Pakistan is the host state where from the terrorists operate unhindered. The terrorist groups have been at it, with the connivance of the state (Pak Army), for ages. That the Pakistani Government is clearly disinclined to trammel them only bolsters Indias argument to attack these venomous groups.
Article 51 was famously cited by the US in support of the Vietnam War.
In India’s case, Pakistan is the host state where from the terrorists operate unhindered. The terrorist groups have been at it, with the connivance of the state (Pak Army), for ages. That the Pakistani Government is clearly disinclined to trammel them only bolsters India’s argument to attack these venomous groups.
In December 2007, Turkey attacked the strongholds of the militant ethnic separatist group PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party; PKK, a terrorist organisation blacklisted by the UN and others, founded in the late-1970s to create an independent Kurdish state, has since been engaged in an armed struggle against Turkey). Turkey claimed to the world that the Iraqi government had proven incapable of shackling the rebels, which amply justified its counterstrike on PKK.
You do not get better evidence of Pakistani complicity than Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani national caught alive during the 26/11 terrorist attack. If India had chosen to launch surgical strikes ensuing 26/11, it could have done so under international law. And it would have been deemed proportional, timely.
Cold Start, A Primer
If one were to go by the recent commentaries of stalwarts across the border, Cold Start seems to have produced some cold sweat over there. So what is Cold Start?
Following the terrorist attack on our Parliament on December 13, 2001, the Union government ordered the armed forces to mobilise for action along the Indo–Pak border. Known as Operation Parakram, the mobilisation was so tardy that it took almost three weeks for even Indian Army’s elite strike corps to move to its op locations after ‘action stations’ was sounded.
Cold Start, an offensive exercise, reverses Indias historic defensive military posture.
What is informally known as the Sundarji doctrine had become the keystone of Indian Army’s war plan since the early-1980s. The three offensive ‘strike corps’ — I, II and later XXI Corps — based at Mathura, Ambala and Bhopal respectively, each with an orbat of an armoured division as spearhead, two mechanised infantry divisions in echelon, an artillery brigade, an air defence artillery brigade, engineer brigade and services, formed the heavy-duty sword-arm. Seven defensive ‘holding corps’ each comprising infantry and mechanised divisions, an armoured brigade, an artillery brigade and services, were deployed near the Indo–Pak border to foil Pakistani forays.
The Sundarji doctrine hinged on whopping conventional retaliation through the knockout blows executed by the three strike corps, which, under IAF’s air cover, would engage and destroy the Pakistan Army’s two strike corps (Mangla-based Army Reserve North and Multan-based Army Reserve South) in a ‘high-intensity battle of attrition’. Thereafter, the Army would press on to cleave Pakistan’s midriff into two.
Down the line, the doctrine underwent a policy nudge: instead of deep thrusts and high manoeuvres with mechanised forces, the focus shifted to inflicting maximum damage to the enemy forces, especially high-value targets.