It is a week since the dastardly attack by Pakistan-aided militants in Uri. Common refrain like in all such past incidents is "Pakistan ne soye hue sher ko jaga diya hai". Most defence analysts worth their salt are crying "war" with the masses echoing the sentiments.
Election rhetoric by important functionaries of the government in power is now haunting them - and they are being widely circulated to highlight the gap between speech and action.
|Indian Army soldiers patrol past a barbed wire fence near Line of Control in Silikot in Jammu and Kashmir. Photo credit: PTI|
In scenes reminiscent of the "Junior Command Course", TV studios have set up elaborate sand models with the anchors taking up role of "Directing Staff" and retired services officers that of keen "young Captains" trying to catch the attention of the Directing Staff by trying to talk the most.
But is war the answer to all our problems with Pakistan? If so, what would be the military and political objective of such a war?
Is it the objective dismemberment of Pakistan and would this resolve all outstanding issues with our neighbour? Dismemberment - with present day balance of military capabilities and the absence of public support to Indian Force - unlike in Bangladesh in 1971 - is an impossible goal to achieve. Moreover, Balochistan - most eager to separate from Pakistan - is not contiguous to India.
The next issue to be considered is the conventional military and nuclear capability of the two countries. We might boast of heavy conventional military superiority over Pakistan. But this is offset to an extent by the imponderable of what China is likely to do. Firstly, the borders with China cannot be left unguarded and that will leave a large portion of our Army committed. Secondly, any action by Beijing to move troops closer to the borders during conflict, if any, with Pakistan will effectively prevent New Delhi from committing our reserves in the conflict.
The present-day military capability of Pakistan, the reserves of equipment and ammunition, et al perhaps make it difficult for the country to fight a sustained war of more than about 20 to 30 days.
However, during this period, it has the capability of giving the Indian forces a tough fight and defend what may be termed as its most valuable land consisting of the plains of Punjab and to the North. Pakistan, as it had done in previous wars, appears to have this as its doctrine of war - and rightly so. It will deploy fewer forces to defend the desert area of Sind, which has less population density, and focus on defending the land to the North considered prime.
If, by 15-20 days or so, the war is not over, it is likely that the world powers will come into play and force a cease fire on two nations because of the fear of the use of nuclear weapons. While India has a very balanced approach to use of nuclear weapons, and a no first-strike policy, the same is not true of Pakistan.
It is more likely to resort to first strike in case the Indian advances become far too deep, and in the event that the cease fire is not enforced and the prime land in the north is threatened. It is likely that, in this scenario, Pakistan may resort to a low-yield tactical nuclear weapon on the advancing Indian troops. In fact, this is most certainly likely to bring the war to an end with the super powers' intervention. A second-strike by India in such scenario, especially in the event of a nuclear strike by Pakistan on its own soil, is also unlikely.
The economic impact of the war is another factor to consider. India's economy is growing at a fair rate and the effort of the Modi government is to invite as much investment as possible. The stock markets indicate that India is an attractive FDI destination. All this will change in case the war breaks out. Investment can take place only in an atmosphere of peace and stability. The war will lead to the flight of capital followed by a stock market crash.
The economy will suffer a setback and the requirement of finances for reconstruction of war-ravaged areas will cause a heavy burden on the limited resources of the country. The benefits of decades of high growth witnessed by the economy will be neutralised, and it will take decades for recovery.
Therefore, while the general outcry is for war with Pakistan, it is perhaps not a viable option in the present-day strategic scenario in the subcontinent. I would, therefore, suggest to TV-anchors-turned-generals that they step back. If they were meant to be the strategists they pose to be, they should have been in the Army, not TV.
I will end with a couplet by Sahir Ludhianvi: