Dr. Nishank Motwani,a Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, the Australian National University, and Consulting Researcher for Armed Conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), wrote an article, “Be Prepared for an India-Pakistan Limited War” which appeared in the Diplomat on October 5. According to Dr. Motwani, there seem to be some shifts in strategic thinking regarding the use of nuclear weapons thereby affording an opportunity for a small conventional war. A short, sharp and a limited conflict. Recently, General Bipin Rawat had stated that Indian would not be restrained by Pakistan’s first use of nuclear weapons. In return the Pakistani spokesman had invited India to test its resolve! Earlier India had been formulating a strategy of Cold Start which involved short and sharp thrusts by armoured units. However, India has been held back by the declaration of General Khalid Kidwai of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division which is supposed to have short range Tactical Nuclear Weapons. These can be used to neutralise any short and quick armoured thrust.
Dr.Motwani after interviewing various people connected with defence and security on both the sides and strategists from abroad draws the implication that there is possibility of a limited conventional war between the two antagonists without crossing the nuclear threshold. According to him this prospect may seem attractive and workable for its advocates in Delhi. The surgical strikes are part of this strategy. Such a strategy may deter Pakistan from conducting proxy wars through terrorists as they would have to pay a price which they are avoiding at present due to threat of a possible nuclear escalation. The ideal location for such short and quick strikes is Kashmir across the mountains. The ideal months would be January and February when most of the passes get closed due to heavy snowfall. Normally, a conflict across the line of control does not escalate easily unless there are drastic incursions disturbing the entire status quo.
It has been generally observed that both the countries resort to external diversion when they face internal problems. For this side any clash is redeeming of the Hindutva pledge of one India, the real Hindu Rashtra. For the other side it is total Jehad! In such a clash, the people on two sides get emotionally charged regardless of the consequences. All internal problems get totally side-lined. It is a different matter that after a ceasefire which earlier resulted after the two sides exhausted their ammunition and now it can be due to external intervention to avoid a nuclear holocaust, the two countries will economically slip more than a decade or so. The populations below poverty line will considerably increase and both the countries will get heavy external debts.
Presently, there is a forthcoming event in India which can get a boost for the ruling side by a short war. That is the general election in May, 2019. The emotions generated by a short and sharp war with Pakistan will dramatically improve the prospects of the ruling party. It will act like opium and the emotionally highly charged people will forget all the bad consequences. Interestingly, many astrologers in India have been predicting the possibility of Indo-Pak war in the near future. These predictions have been there right from 2015. However, no one can be sure whether the effects of a future conflict between these nuclear armed countries would remain confined to the sub-continent. Some scientists have predicted that a nuclear exchange in the sub-continent will affect the entire world.
“If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide”.The warmongers in the studios including some retired generals need to be shown the Hollywood movie “The Day After” to fully gauge the effects of a nuclear war if it breaks out now in the sub-continent. Unfortunately, if one follows the confrontation track with some “surgical” or “non-surgical” strikes, there is every possibility of quick escalation which can end in a nuclear clash! There is nothing like a short and quick conventional war. There have never been any limits to a conflict if it really breaks out!
Unfortunately, the brunt of the ideological conflict between the two neighbouring countries is being faced by the Kashmiris for no fault of theirs. They are being used as guinea pigs by both the sides. Kashmir is losing another generation with dozens of youth being mercilessly butchered every day. It is the right time now to end all talk of “Surgical” and “Non-Surgical” strikes; bring down the “War Hysteria” and save Kashmir by giving relief to Kashmiris by restoring their fundamental human rights. The only choice is to hold an unconditional dialogue among all stakeholders to sort out the basic political problem once and for all. The alternative is a mass suicide!
The author is an I.A.S. (Retired) & Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir and can be reached at email@example.com