On February 20, 1999 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Minar-i-Pakistan, Mausoleum of Allama Iqbal, Gurudawara Dera Sahib and Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. He affirmed that India respected Pakistan’s existence. The larger purpose was to pacify the world through multi-pronged CBMs between two rivals gone nuclear, while in the Sang Parivar, warriors worked to gel the nuclear strategy with its military doctrines to punish Pakistan.

This thinking was exposed on 15 August 2016. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stood at the symbolic Red Fort threatening Pakistan. Despite a curfew and excessive use of force against unarmed civilians in IHK, he announced support for the supposed oppressed people of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Hyped by its 24/7 media, India declared an overt and covert war. The time to punish Pakistan had come.

India wants to become a global power with a strategic outreach in the entire Indian Ocean Rim right up to South China Sea. It desires to dominate all its neighbours and traffic to Central Asia. It wants the West to believe that its massive force structure is China specific. With the arrival of Narendra Modi, this quest has acquired mythical dimensions powered by Ram Madhav’s Akhand Bharat and beyond. These two scouts of RSS are chartering a dangerous an undetermined course for India.

India’s race to modernising its military force structure, missile development, air defence and nuclear armament was supplemented by US-Indian cooperation in nuclear technologies including an implied nuclear umbrella. Simultaneously, Indian intelligence operations against Pakistan intensified in FATA, Balochistan and Karachi. In this Long War, India is backed by its allies willing to close their eyes to IHK and Indian sponsored terrorism in Pakistan.

Much happened in the intervening 17 years. Following 9/11, rather than allow Pakistan to become an impermeable anvil against US led operations in Afghanistan, Indian mobilisation forced Pakistan into a two front military deployment supplemented by internal instability. As admitted by Modi and Ajit Duvol, this form of interference will intensify.

India seeks to continuously portray a discredited, economically weak and a politically discredited Pakistan. India has coopted international sensitivities on terrorism that provide a twin purpose to call Pakistan a terrorist state and eclipse its abuses in IHK. False flags and overblowing militancy in India is part of this perception management. International economic manipulation and Pakistan’s compromised politicians and hitmen facilitate India.

In contrast, notwithstanding bubble growth of four years, Pakistan went into economic recluse and internal instability. During this dismal performance the reassurance comes in nuclear capability, improved doctrines, a stronger force structure and a battle hardy army. In these testing fifteen years, Pakistan held its own frustrating Indian designs proving the proverbial ant in the elephant’s trunk.

India is obsessed to bleed and teach Pakistan a befitting lesson into subjugation; something it has failed despite a prevailing nuclear capability, early warning and missile defence and a technologically superior military force structure; over six times Pakistan’s size. Indian hyperactivity reflects India’s inability to viably connect ambitions to policies and doctrines. India’s dominant desires are limited by its nuclear capability that is doctrinally ‘war avoidance’. It prevents India from using its conventional military capability in preemptive and strike modes. India’s doctrine of ‘deterrence by punishment’ is least credible. If Pakistan challenges it, India has no other options left.

This doctrinal disconnect was highlighted by India’s National Security Secretariat that stated in the Journal of Defence Studies that, “If the nuclear shadow demanded war avoidance as a political outcome, the operational sphere attempted to keep alive the notion of victory despite the risk of mutual annihilation”. Indian conventional Bonapartists like a Modi standing on recaptured Red Fort, fantasise to subdue Pakistan below a nuclear threshold. According to this journal, “Indian operational doctrines are not nested in a realistic political context.”

This raises two questions. First, what is a realistic political context? Secondly, does Pakistan’s defensive nuclear capability deter limited Indian offensives? India evades the first (Kashmir) and is hell-bent on making the second irrelevant. As Indian deployments, training and war games indicate, it is shifting from space-oriented to a destruction-oriented strategy through superior firepower and manoeuvre under a nuclear shadow.

Therefore, India leads the arms race in the region. It continues to upgrade its military force structure towards a lethal, effective and paralysing instrument of policy. It follows with frequent threats in the form of Cold Start, surgical strikes and verbosity. Most, its intelligence operations inside Pakistan have the Chanakyian aim of ‘reaching into the very womb’.

In terms of nuclear capability, India is building a second and residual strike capability. India thinks that this massive preponderance and a failed Pakistan will prevent a first strike. India hopes that once such strikes are launched, international environments will pressurise Pakistan to accept such punishment willingly. Both Khursheed Kasuri, Pakistan’s ex foreign minister and Imtiaz Gul, a defence analyst have pointed to such a pressure from USA in the past. Providing face-saving to India at the cost of Pakistan’s national honour is a weird preposition and a foolish concept. If Modi dares, Pakistan will respond and the entire region will be at the verge of implosion.

Then why is India desperately trying to reinvent the Cold War European nuclear theatre? Even then, fighting a limited war with tactical nuclear weapons remained untested and later abandoned. Pakistan is neither Eastern nor Western Europe that separated USSR and USA with enough warning times. Unlike the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Pakistan has a live line of control and a contiguous border with India. Nuclear brinkmanship and its calculus is an untested concept creating a doctrinal muddle.

But even in India there are sane voices. Firdaus Ahmed, a noted Indian analyst and nuclear strategist opines in ‘Modi worsens India’s doctrinal muddle’ that, “India’s military doctrine as outlined by Modi endangers India. A ‘swift’ war forces the nuclear genie out of the bottle. Inflicting ‘defeat’, would require wading into a nuclear-contaminated irregular war within Pakistan, setting the stage for a ‘long drawn battle’, particularly if India attempts to ‘win’.” He goes on to write that. “Retaliation will be in accord with India’s nuclear doctrine: ‘massive’ irrespective of the type of nuclear first use by Pakistan. Such an exercise of ‘political will’ by India’s Political Council of its Nuclear Command Authority would certainly be genocidal and since Pakistan has a lead on India in terms of warhead numbers, it would also be suicidal.” He goes on to write that “possible consequences are easily visible in the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US, which culminated years after George Bush declared ‘victory’ aboard USS Abraham Lincoln.” If implemented, warlords will prevail in the region.

Modi and his ilk are like anti-matter, obstinate in destroying the entire region. His version of Cold Start is a delusional suicidal tendency. Even his Balochistan manoeuvre is fraught with uncertainties. Greater Balochistan implies dividing Iran and Afghanistan.