The Indian Security Imperative is to defeat Pakistan Army Sponsored Covert War against the Indian Union. From Islamist Insurgency in Kashmir Valley, to Sikh malcontents or the LTTE in Sri Lanka, one has seen clear Pakistan Army involvement over decades. Beginning 1948, there have been multiple instances, where the covert involvement of the Pakistani Army has led to overt wars with India. Some resulted in stalemate, and others in mutilation of Pakistan, resulting in the birth of Bangladesh. Points further, Kargil was another such war fought under the nuclear blackmail threat, where Pakistan Army had to vacate its covert aggression, resulting in international humiliation, despite the self imposed moratorium by Vajpayee Government not to cross the LoC, or employ offensive air power or deploy the Indian Special Forces, in an offensive cross border posture.
The cost of Pakistan's irredentism to India and its citizens has been enormous, the direct involvement of Pakistan Army's ISI in Parliament, 26/11 Mumbai attacks in particular have provoked massive public outrage, and demands for a resolute, decisive, and punitive response. Cold Start or any other Indian Security innovation is an evolving paradigm that seeks to make consequences of such covert war unacceptable to Pakistan Army, and the larger political Islam influenced deep state in Pakistan.
The nebulous concept of Cold Start, was ostensibly prepped by Indian frustration with its conventional ORBAT inability to inflict punitive response on Pakistan, in a limited time frame engagement, before international pressure to stand down mounted. This frustration came to fore in Operation Parakram, when Indian Strike Forces failed to react in time, to press through an effective punitive response to the 2001 Parliament Attack. This shortcoming again repeated itself after the bloody 2002 Kaluchak Garrison (Jammu) attack where many military families were killed by Pakistan Army launched terrorists, creating an emotionally surcharged atmosphere.
The all or nothing, nature of such set piece conventional attack, in a Nuclear weapon environment, exposed obsolete equipment, and huge wastage in ammunition, lives during troop mobilisation. It brought many expensive lessons to the Indian Military, as well as India's larger Politico-bureaucratic, security establishment, stuck in the colonial era. The desire for mobile, deep thrust, fast battle groups was thus born. These Integrated Battlegroups with air cover were proposed, as limited time and space, punitive objectives in territorial aims, and as force multipliers, to increase the cost of Pakistan Army's covert posture, both in cross border raids, LoC and IB shelling, and terror operations centered around plausible denial.
Pakistan is situated in a convoluted neighbourhood of where, it has both, a logistical chokepoint power over US Military, as well as leverage, as covert host of the Afghan Taliban. It blackmails the United States and collaborates with it, selectively in providing bases to the US, as a key non-NATO ally. For this, it routinely extorts aid, often using nuclear blackmail as a bargaining chip.
Further Pakistan has yet another client state relationship with China, offering both natural resources, land, highways and a sea port, in return for Nuclear knowhow, arms, political patronage and influence, mostly employed against India, at international forums such as the UN. Pakistan today further seeks to build such hedges with the Arab States, with key sponsors in Saudi Arabia for its Islamic Bomb, and with Russia, offering its services, anointed as key influencer in Afghanistan, by the Obama State Department, looking to vacate Afghanistan as early as possible.
On this complex geopolitical canvas, comes the vibrant colour of India's new economic ascendency and its strategic realignment with America, under President Bush. The India and US relationship received further momentum under Narendra Modi, as India's new majority mandate Prime Minister, devoid of the Communist infested Nehruvian Restraint dogma, after 6 decades in power. India's moves in the international relations arena under Narendra Modi, both in its immediate neighbourhood, or the larger geopolitical arena have gone into an overdrive. Its responsible nature as a mature non-proliferating, Nuclear State, and an attractive market for US arms and business, has helped its entry into the Nuclear Club, as well as given it a tall stature internationally, given its strong contribution to peacekeeping both in the UN, Maritime Piracy and otherwise.
The Pakistan Army seeks to preserve its covert operations using nuclear blackmail, employing plausible denial, by use of such propaganda as non-state actors, without consequence in Indian reprisal. Its latest nuclear blackmail centres around illogical employment of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) to destroy Indian mobile battlegroups, launched as punitive action against large casualty, terror attacks, using Suicide Squads or Fidayeen, and other Islamist Mujaheddin type cross border commando action teams. It is with this background in mind, the security planners in India, view the periodic Pakistan Army utterances of Nuclear threats. This Nuclear posturing was earlier entered around broad Nuclear capability across Aircraft, and a plethora of Missiles with ranges, that spanned short to strategic.
The Pakistan Army practices coercion of its media, including killings of journalists, and use of blackmail to project itself as the saviour of the Pakistani people. Pakistan has predilection for Military Dictatorship, and its increasingly authoritarian Army Chief is due for retirement, and seeking extension. This period predictably is seeing an increasing subjugation of the Civilian Government with the latest being the appointment of a recently retired General as NSA, displacing the role of the civilian bureaucrat, Foreign Secretary. It has also seen the Pakistan Army usurping the role of Judiciary in draconian Terror courts that have seen a pronounced bias for fast capital punishment.
The demands for India to recalibrate its Nuclear Policy, in response to this TNW gambit of Pakistan Army, seeking to preserve its ability to use terrorism, as an instrument of its foreign policy against India, comes from usual suspects in the unemployed since cold war, Nuclear Disarmament woodwork. India, however under the new majority BJP Government, sworn in with election promises of an aggressive security focus, has seen unprecedented Military and Diplomatic action. A recent cross border raid into Myanmar by Indian Special Forces raised many eyes, including predictable howls of protests in Pakistan.
It serves no purpose for the Indian security establishment to limit its options in response to nuclear threat, tactical or strategic. India already lives under the Chinese Nuclear threat as well as those of its conventional forces. This manifests in frequent border incidents, eye to eye troop confrontations explained away as differing perception of the working boundary. Pakistan represents a far smaller, if troublesome problem.
Deterrence is about certainty of consequences, conventional, sub conventional, overt or covert, tactical or strategic, are semantics, all hinging on credibility of intent. The thing about Nuclear weapons, is that one crossing the deterrence threshold, is one too many, 100 or 1000 weapons, don't change the consequences of mutually assured destruction (MAD), tactical or strategic, nuclear blackmail, is just that!
The US had extensive experience in the development of Tactical Nuclear weapons during the Cold War, in the Eastern Europe theatre. It knows rather well that the dispersal versus concentration paradox, renders Tactical Nukes redundant, as does the complex nature of its delivery systems. No foreign policy objectives can justify massive death and destruction of your own population, as then West Germany realised in 1962. Despite this knowledge the US State Department keeps a hypocritical silence, as Pakistan Army coached spokespersons make silly TNW announcements at international forums, on the sidelines of a meeting with the US President.
Tactical Nuclear weapons are veritable loose canons, that pose political authorisation dilemmas, as well as an increase in the risk of unauthorised use. The impact of a tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons, both kinetic impact or radiation on mobile armour remains questionable, especially in Tanks with an ability to operate in an NBC environment. Anyway, the densely populated nature of the both the India and Pakistan, IB and LoC, make it impossible for any Nuclear weapon, Strategic or Tactical, to distinguish between friend or foe. Worse, any Nuclear attack on its own territory, and its consequent nuclear radiation fallout on population, and environment, signals a Pakistan Army readiness to sacrifice its own population, to stop an Indian Integrated battlegroup! That is not nuclear strategy but crackpot, Islamist bigotry, as the names of a dozen different Pakistani missiles seem to suggest.
India has suffered grievously from Pakistan sponsored terrorism given its deference to American interests. It has seen its responsible posture in Afghanistan being punished by both the US, as well as China, in curtailment of its strategic investments, as well as its economic, and foreign policy influence. The latest Russian pivot with Pakistan over India's migration away from Soviet-era Arms reliance, further heighten this sense of isolation. The US hypocrisy on Terrorism, especially after 9/11 and 26/11, has blackened its hand of friendship, as a natural ally for India. Indian foreign policy is turning muscular and its perception of global realpolitik will see diminishing returns in unilateral demands of the International Community and the UN.
The belief of the Pakistan Army of escaping consequences is a bluff that has recently been called, both in India, and internationally. The world fears for Pakistani Nukes falling in the hands of terrorists are not exaggerated and rehearsed US contingency plans for such an eventuality are no secret. Pakistan's Nuclear record is scandalous given its proliferation report card, with both North Korea and Iran. Instead of pursuing education, employment, healthcare and infrastructure development for its people, the Pakistan Army wants to run the State as feudal theocracy, led by a colonising impulse of Pakistani Punjab, over the Tribal Lands of Waziristan, Balochistan, Pakhtunistan, Mohajir, the Sindh, and erstwhile Bangla ethnicities. This colonising impulse has already led to the formation of Bangladesh following the East Pakistan genocide by Pakistan Army, resulting in the 1971 war with India, and Pakistan Army's humiliating surrender.
The United States remains key sponsor, weapons provider to Pakistan, in the process depressing its Civilian Government, and subverting the Pakistani Democracy, dependent as US State Department and Pentagon is on Pakistan Army, in Afghanistan. China has anyway flagrantly subverted its obligations, as a world power by winking at the Pakistan Army use of Terrorism, despite its own bloody Islamist Terror problem in Uighur. This hypocrisy is not lost on India, when it talks to the US as a natural ally and fellow democracy, or to China. Russia too is at the beginning of such an adventure with the sale of military helicopters to Pakistan, despite its injuries in Afghanistan, directly attributable to Pakistan raised Taliban. It is from the pulpit of this hypocrisy of individual national interest, that India receives the Nuclear, Terrorism doublespeak.
While it is clear to America, as it is to India, that Nuclear weapons are not for war fighting, Pakistan's TNW stand smells of continuing bluff and bluster, not sincerity in bilateral dialogue with India. In such a scenario, India stands well within its national interest, when it does not limit full scale nuclear strike, in response to a Nuclear strike on its IBG troops. Kargil already is a test case of conventional response fought successfully, though with great losses in men, under the nuclear threat umbrella or overhang.
India clearly is far more concerned about growing it economy, development and reform rather than any regional hegemony. It however has geopolitical interests that it needs to watch and protect. India's bigger strategic defence worry centres around an unsettled border, and economic rivalry with China, not with a self imploding Pakistan. But the 26/11 cross border raid changed the perception of Terrorism in India.
The soul searching in Indian security establishment has seen a quest for credible coercive diplomacy across the spectrum of options, including both conventional and sub-conventional deterrence, employing Indian Army Special Forces, in overt or covert, cross border operations. The cross border raids and black Ops, of the now defunct TSD (Technical Services Division) employing, Special Forces has further refined this cross border interdiction capability deep inside Pakistan, bringing Terror Infrastructure and Training Camps within grasp. Surgical strikes by deep strike aircraft or weaponised Drones, naval interdiction, nothing is off the table, as it should be for a nation that takes the security of its citizens seriously.
The famous master spy and now Indian NSA, Ajit Doval has laid out the dividends of peace for Pakistan but has said in the same breath, that India will speak in a language that Pakistan understands. This strategic duality is pregnant with meaning. It shows that the long standing, Nehruvian Restraint dogma accusation, of the Indian Military for its bureaucrat, and the long festering, post Colonial, civil-military disconnect, is giving away to less prevarication, and more logical coercive actions. Indian public opinion is deeply adverse to any talks with Pakistan, as long as terrorism, Pakistan Army aided infiltration, IB, LoC contact is a daily occurrence, with bodies of soldiers being cremated on Television.
The mood in India is both grim and angry. With massive asymmetric retaliation a given to any Pakistan Army IB, LoC artillery fire, to a virtual freeze on any official Talks, India has come far from Vajpayee and Musharraf bonhomie. Today the Indian NSA Doval, openly cocks a snook at Parvez Musharraf, the Ex Army Chief, later Military Dictator. The Indian NSAs riposte to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan deep state's reverence for Osama Bin Laden, Taliban, and the likes of LeT, with statements of contempt such as, "Like Hero, Like People", in both unusual and direct.
In the past the signature restraint and reticence of the Indian politico-bureaucratic complex, combined with international pressure mostly from the US, Russia and China, prevented Cold Start type of punitive response to Pakistan Army sponsored terrorism on Indian soil. With the Narendra Modi led BJP Government, Nehruvian Restraint has been discarded in favour of a more kinetic, asymmetric response. If Pakistan Army continues down the path of use of terrorism, matching any punitive Indian response with the illusion of tactical nuclear strike, it must face the horror of the consequences of leading Pakistani people down the path of the Nuclear stone age!