|Pre-empting a Violent Kashmir Summer: Exercising the War Option against Pakistan||Printer-Friendly Page|
Violent Kashmir Summer: Exercising the War Option against Pakistan
Subodh Atal, Ph. D.
After September 11 last year, the thinly veiled Pakistani support for terror in Jammu and Kashmir and other parts of India stood exposed. The subsequent US all-out campaign in Afghanistan considerably lowered the threshold for India to take the war into Pakistan for the first time since 1971. In the last three months of 2001, as the Americans systematically dismantled the Al Qaida network and its Taliban and ISI support structure in Afghanistan, there was absolutely no indication that Pakistan would symmetrically reduce the level of its proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. On October 1, a suicide bombing targeted the Srinagar legislature building, killing dozens of people. The December 13 attack on the Indian Parliament came close to decimating Indiaís political leadership.
In response to this brazen attack, India responded hesitatingly. Military mobilization was ordered all along the border with Pakistan. These measures, in combination with half-hearted diplomatic moves, such as canceling the Delhi-Lahore bus, scaling down diplomatic staff and denying overflight rights, were supposed to be part of an aggressive strategy. For many countries around the globe, this would have been sufficient. But not so for Pakistan; for its five decades of existence, its entire polity has been focused on wresting Kashmir from India. Wars, jihad, terrorism have all been tried in this quest. The threat of war has never nudged Pakistan into peaceful coexistence. Its military, religious leadership and the ISI have too much invested in the grab-Kashmir-at-any-cost policy. Pakistan has also begun to believe firmly that its nuclear blackmail has beaten India into submitting to terrorism indefinitely.
Thus the response to Indiaís half measures has been a continued stonewalling by Pakistan. The terrorism continues, the infiltration continues, and the extradition of 20 top terrorists demanded by India is never going to happen. Essentially, the massive mobilization by India has failed completely in its objective. With the snows in the mountain passes likely to melt within the next few weeks, the infiltration will accelerate, bringing in large numbers of guerillas that escaped Afghanistan last year into Pakistan and are now regrouping. Due to the spotlight shifting to the Al Qaida being harbored in its territory, Pakistan needs a safety valve. One of Pakistanís primary aims is to disrupt the legislative elections slated for this fall in Jammu and Kashmir. Threats against participation in the polls have already been issued, and Hurriyatís Kashmiri Muslim leadership has hurriedly fallen in line. Pakistan may also be aiming at ratcheting up the violence in Kashmir to levels exhibited by Palestinians against Israel, hoping for similar pressure to build up on India, and possible US intervention.
At the Crossroads
Thus India now stands at the crossroads. It can continue the mobilization of troops at high cost with zero and even negative results, or it can finally take necessary steps to permanently remove the roots of terrorism export from Pakistan. Those roots lie in its military infrastructure, its ISI and its nuclear arsenal. Until these three spokes of the foundations of the terrorism remain intact and powerful, India can expect tens of thousands of more deaths in this decade, and perhaps September 11-like events.
Thus the need for examining the war option to dismantle the Pakistani military, intelligence agencies and its nuclear arsenal is imperative, and particularly significant before the summer months bring another violent reprise of the past several years. It is also necessary to head off a US intervention, if not this year certainly within the next several years.
The Nuclear Question
The knee-jerk reaction to any talk about an Indo-Pak war is that of raising the specter of a nuclear catastrophe. This is based upon Pakistanís oft-repeated threat of using its nuclear arsenal. But one needs to weigh the potential and dangers of such a conflagration against the interminable jehad being waged by Pakistan.
The exact size of each countryís nuclear arsenal is unclear. But it is commonly accepted that India has 50-100 warheads, while Pakistan may have 20-30. According to seismological evidence of the 1998 tests, Indiaís nuclear weapon yields were 20-40 kilotons, while Pakistani bombs ranged from 2-10 kilotons. An important aspect is the delivery systems, where Pakistan was considered to have an edge until recently. Its medium range Ghauri and Shaheen missiles, which would reach Indian targets in a matter of minutes, are based on solid fuel technology, while Indiaís short-range Prithvis are based on liquid fuel technology. That means that the Prithvis need to be positioned close to the border, and require several hours of fueling as opposed to the Pakistani missiles. India has remedied this asymmetry recently, with the testing and induction of the modified Agni missile. The Agni-II is solid-fuel based, and is medium range, thus it can be based deeper in India and would be an effective second-strike option.
The more relevant question is who would pull the nuclear trigger first? Most fear that it would be Pakistan, particularly if Indian forces make major gains, such as threatening to cut off Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Such an attack, if it did happen, would be missile-based. However, Pakistan must realize that if it did strike first, it would face massive retaliation from India. Such massive nuclear retaliation, possibly with a combination of Prithvis and Agni-IIs by India would undoubtedly end Pakistanís existence as a nation. Thus it is difficult to believe that a Pakistani first strike would happen. It is more likely that Pakistan will use ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads against Indian targets. The Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s set a precedent for such an exchange. The missiles fired by each country were more of a nuisance, with few cases of mass casualties. In the case of South Asia, one can argue that use of ballistic missiles against population centers could be more deadly, however, the international community is likely to take a dim view of such attacks. It is roughly estimated that about 100,000-150,000 deaths may occur in a single nuclear attack on a large city in South Asia. With non-nuclear missiles, particularly Pakistani missiles of Chinese and North Korean origin that have suspect accuracy, the toll is likely to be several magnitudes lower, but may be more effective as a weapon of terror. Indiaís Prithvi and Agni are considered to be more accurate.
If a nuclear or ballistic missile exchange does occur, it is likely to be aimed at advancing armies to avoid international consequences. In this context, the Indian military has done recent exercises to train for a nuclear war. Thus the Indian military is likely to survive such an exchange more effectively than Pakistanís smaller and less-prepared forces.
Any preparation for a nuclear exchange would have to include protection of the central government and political officials. In this case, Pakistan, where the political system is already decimated and disrupted, may be at a rare advantage. A sudden attack on the Indian Parliament building when it is in session could potentially remove the entire democratic leadership of the country. India would have to take extraordinary preventive steps to ensure that its political system can continue to function in a war with potential for nuclear exchanges.
The above discussion indicates that a nuclear war is unlikely, and thus conventional forces would decide the outcome of a war. Below is a comparison of the conventional strengths of the two nations.
The Pakistani Navy lacks an aircraft carrier, leaving its only port, Karachi vulnerable to air attacks from the Viraat, as well as to a naval siege that could put the economic squeeze on it during a war. The number of destroyers, frigates and submarines each in the Pakistan navy are approximately half that of India. During a war, the Pakistani navy would be hard-pressed to keep its supply lines open from allies, and as in the air campaign, most of the action would be in Pakistani waters.
The ground war is likely to be the most closely fought, but if India concentrates its land campaign on retaking POK, it may very well be able to wrest control of most of that territory and thus render untenable future Pakistani incursions into Jammu and Kashmir. A siginficant destruction of Pakistani military would be a big aim of the campaign, rather than taking territory (except POK). India would also be looking to neutralize or wrest control of Pakistanís nuclear arsenal and ballistic missiles. Success in these arenas would be a measure of how far the long-term goal of emasculating Pakistanís capacity to export terror is achieved.
Strategic Air Defense/and Air Theater Control
Arrow Anti-Ballistic Missile
Help from Pakistanís Arab allies
The US Decision: Which Ally to
The question remains of US personnel in Pakistan. Families of US diplomats have already been evacuated in the aftermath of the recent church attack in Islamabad. There are potentially thousands of FBI and CIA agents all over Pakistan, and the US military occupies air bases in western Pakistan. These personnel would need to be rapidly withdrawn, and some may get caught in the conflict. It is likely that the US has contingency plans since December, when the potential for war became serious. The US may introduce resolutions in the UN to stop military aid and oil to the two countries at the start of a war. Such a ban would more seriously affect Pakistan. India would have fuel reserves for 2-3 months, enough to complete its campaign, but Pakistan would fall short much earlier in both oil supplies and military hardware.
The nuclear threat, though real, has been overblown in western circles. The acquiring of an ABM system by India would significantly diminish the ability of Pakistan to incur unacceptable damage in a first strike, and leave the latter open to massive nuclear retaliation that would signal the end of the country.
A conventional war is thus the most likely scenario, with significant advantages to India, which would rapidly gain control in the air and sea. This campaign would likely result in wresting control of the crucial POK territory from Pakistan, which the latter uses for training and as a logistical base and staging area for terrorist infiltration into India. The war would provide an opportunity to significantly diminish Pakistanís military strength, and to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
India would do well to concentrate its ground thrusts to POK, with incursions into the rest of Pakistani territory limited to tactical gains and to air attacks or special forces raids on military command and control centers, communication facilities, ISI headquarters and jehadi bases such as the one in Muridke.
Before embarking on such a campaign, India needs to do the diplomatic groundwork to preempt any overt intervention by other countries.