India has embarked on an ambitious strategy deemed implementable in the ‘fog of war’. Some call it foolhardy. The mission is the irresistible desire to destroy Pakistan’s war fighting capabilities to rubble. It is a continuation of the Indian policy to evolve a war fighting strategy under a countervailing nuclear shadow initiated in 1998. This multi-pronged strategy implies a nuclear arms race, multiple redundant and multipurpose delivery systems, conventional arms buildup, regional isolation, sponsorship of terrorist activities inside Pakistan, regime change and economics. Indian propaganda depicting Pakistan a country sponsoring terrorism is a crucial plank of Indian policy. Prime Minister Modi and his Sang Parivar have worsened this doctrinal muddle.

Two years ago, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval enunciated an elaborate policy to contain Pakistan including stoking separatism in Balochistan.  On 15 August 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi went ahead by leaps and bounds, announcing support for the supposed oppressed people of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. This was an overt and covert declaration of war while Pakistan was being led by an India friendly Prime Minister. India was exploiting a notion that Pakistan’s political and military establishments were two different and opposing identities. Curiously, the planted Dawn Leaks fitted this perception.

But fighting a war in a multi-spectrum battle field is different from a sand model. The pressure exerted on the Indian defence forces to do something is evident from the willingness of Indian generals (both serving and retired) to join the anti-Pakistan jingoism with doctrines of Cold Start and Surgical Strikes. Post Uri, it dawned on Indian strategists, that hampered by serious imbalances in force structure, it was never possible to subdue Pakistan or catch it unprepared. Prime Minister Modi’s long presence in the Indian Military Operations Directorate created strategic ambitions lacking capabilities. Earlier, the doctrinal disconnect was highlighted by India’s National Security Secretariat, that stated, “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 operational doctrines are not nested in a realistic political context”. Easier said than done, India began talking of ‘First Use’ and elimination of Pakistan’s defensive strategy against Cold Start. The high command huddle also highlighted the serious deficiencies in force structure as impediment to its doctrines. In an emergency, India dispatched two separate teams of empowered committees to Russia and Israel to make ‘off-the-shelf purchases’ worth over $3 Billion. These emergent purchases are over and above the regular multibillion dollar purchases India makes from Russia and Israel. Despite the many technological achievements of India, the fact remains that Indian indigenisation efforts are always overshadowed by arm imports of knocked down kits India pretends to manufacture.

Six months later and in tandem with its objectives, India demonstrated its capability of eliminating Pakistani battlefield concentrations through test firing of 214 mm caliber multi barrel rocket Pinaka guided by a combination of inertial navigation systems aided by GPS up to a range of 65 kilometers. With the capability to alter the course of each rocket in micro seconds, India claims it can neutralise Pakistan’s tactical concentrations and nuclear launching sites of TNWs in the battle zone of Cold Start. This is a dangerous preposition fraught with risks and escalation control dilemmas.

The biggest challenge to this Indian war fighting strategy is Pakistan’s capability of ‘equal to task’. The Indian claims of strategic strikes were exposed within minutes. This was followed by Indian parliamentarians questioning the facts. Pakistan responded by test firing a tactical guided missile capable of carrying sub KT warheads. This implied a clear declaration by Pakistan to meet any Indian offensive with a full spectrum response. At some stage of this conflict, escalation control will get berserk and nuclear strikes inevitable. Firdaus Ahmed, a noted Indian nuclear strategist sums up the zero-sum game by writing, “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.”

India is already minimising Pakistan’s capabilities through defensive shields that include Israeli surveillance systems and missile defence. This means that Pakistani missiles will be intercepted well before they reach their intended targets. But Indian missile shield is limited and will take time and money to be truly effective.  In the meanwhile India is utilising its geographical depth, rented nuclear powered submarines, and high altitude long range bombers to bolster its second strike capability. Having chosen the plutonium route, Indian prowess at tactical weapons is limited. Indian space programme is quite advanced including re entry vehicles and civilian orbit based multi-warhead vehicles.

Pakistan has checks on Indian calculus. It remains ahead of India in miniaturization. It also test fired diverse delivery systems with varying payloads and range. Early this year Pakistan test fired a submarine launched cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The missile is equipped with state of the art navigational technologies of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) and Digital Scene Matching and Area Co-relation (DSMAC), which enables it to hit targets with pinpoint accuracy even in the absence of GPS navigation. Most it builds Pakistan’s second strike capability. This was followed by Pakistan’s successful flight test of Ababeel, a long range Surface-to-Surface Ballistic Missile with a range of 2200 kilometers. The missile is capable of delivering multiple warheads through Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. Ababeel is designed to defeat the hostile radars ensuring the survivability to hit deep targets in a growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment. This means that like India, Pakistan’s space programme is competitive and it is only a matter of time that Pakistan decides to launch space vehicles.

Indian use of non-state actors to punish Pakistan has not succeeded. Johann Chacko, a London based strategist, writes: “Despite Doval’s threats, Pakistan’s internal security situation has substantially improved in the same period and Army popularity has grown as a result… Pakistan has proved to be far more coherent and resilient than expected… Few states have shown any desire to endorse India’s position on Pakistan; there is little chance at present of isolating Islamabad, let alone winning support for military confrontation”.

But Modi does not think so. He is espousing strange bedfellows. Mandeep Singh Bajwa, an Indian security analyst commented in his tweet, “R-Day. 2016 we had a French contingent (ex-colonialists in India). Now we’ve got the Arabs who attacked us for centuries. What’s Modi up to?” India did win over UAE on its 68th Republic Day. However, this has little meaning and reflects the internal fissures amongst the Arab Kingdoms. The presence of the French contingent has more to do with the French desire of selling armaments to India than to become an Indian ally against Pakistan. Indian efforts to isolate Pakistan through SAARC and other regional forums stand overwhelmed by CPEC.

Indian security thinking under Modi is like a beast in musth. The only outcome is mutually assured destruction. With time, India will begin to realise the futility of its jingoism. Post Brexit, Chilcot and Trump, the world is going to change fast. India friendly regimes in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will be voted out. The prime minister of Pakistan may never have his way.

Pakistan’s armed forces and its nuclear capability are guarantors of its sovereignty.