Soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, there was an incident with several gunmen entering the Indian parliament building and killing 14 people on December 13, 2001. India immediately accused Pakistan of involvement in the attack and vowed to respond militarily. Pakistan categorically denied India's accusations.
What followed was a massive mobilization of Indian troops to the Line of Control in Kashmir and the international border with Pakistan. It was dubbed "Operation Parakram" by the Indian Army. Pakistan responded with its own major mobilization of troops on its side of the LoC and the international border. Thus began the longest standoff between the two neighbors.
By October 2002, India began to pull back its troops along her border and later Pakistan did the same, and in November 2003 a cease-fire between the two nations was signed. Why did India back off from its explicit threats to attack Pakistan? A recent book "Defeat is an Orphan" by Myra McDonald answers this question as follows:
"Since partition, the Indian Army--with 1.1 million men compared to 550,000 in the Pakistan Army--had the advantage in terms of numbers. But it was a lumbering beast. India's vast size meant the army was spread more thinly across the country than in Pakistan, acting as a brake on mobilization. Its three armoured strike corps, designed to strike deep into Pakistan territory, were based in central India and took nearly three weeks to maneuver into position because of their sheer size. The slowness of the mobilization gave Pakistan enough time to prepare its defenses....Much of the equipment pressed into frontline service, from Vijayanta tanks of 1970s vintage to even older artillery pieces, was barely suited to fighting a modern war. It was only when the Indian Army began to mobilize that its slowness and shortages ---of road vehicles for deployment, missiles, ammunition, and war stores---became apparent. "The very first few days of Operation Parakram exposed the hollowness of our operational preparedness," said General V.K.Singh, who was then with XI Corps in Punjab. Having lost the advantage of surprise because of its slow mobilization, the Indian Army did not have enough superiority in numbers and equipment to guarantee a decisive victory. Nor could it rely on air power to make up for its weakness on the ground. At independence, India had abolished the role of commander-in-chief of all armed forces, replacing it with three weaker, co-equal, service chiefs who each had a tendency to go their own way. Thus though India's air power was superior to that of Pakistan in 2001-2002, the different branches of its armed forces were not integrated enough to consider a ground assault backed by air strikes and close air support. Had India pressed ahead with an attack on Pakistan that January--and in such situation is with the defender--it risked becoming quickly bogged down. "The slender edge that India had could have led to nothing but a stalemate and...a stalemate between a large and much smaller country amounts to victory for the smaller country, " said Brigadier Kanwal in an analysis of India's military preparedness. Nor did India have the capacity to dig in for a long war where its greater size relative to Pakistan could have eventually triumphed. Thanks to cutbacks, it had run down stocks of ammunition to save money. Even without Pakistan's possession of nuclear weapons to deter an Indian invasion, the balance of power in conventional forces was enough to give pause for thought."
India's Cold Start Doctrine:
The Failure of India's Operation Parakram forced some soul searching and a re-evaluation that gave birth to the Indian Army's Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). It is a limited-war strategy designed to quickly seize Pakistani territory without provoking a a nuclear conflict. Supposedly a secret strategy, Indian Army Chief General Rawat confirmed its existence in 2017. Here's an analysis by Indian analyst Meenakshi Sood of India's CSD and Pakistan's expected response:
"While Pakistan’s nuclear response to CSD (Cold Start Doctrine) has dominated the narrative, it is the conventional response that was devised first. In the last few years of General Musharraf’s presidency, especially between 2004 and 2007, India and Pakistan were engaged in backchannel negotiations and came tantalizingly close to finding a solution to the Kashmir issue. Then the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement forced Musharraf out of power and a new leadership took charge. With General Kayani as the new chief of army staff, the threat from India came back into focus, and so did the perceived risk of CSD. Given India’s military capability and its declared Cold Start Doctrine, Kayani believed that Pakistan could not afford to let its guard down as the country prepared according to “adversaries’ capabilities, not intentions.” He went on to give his assessment of the timeline by which India would be able to operationalize CSD — two years for partial implementation and five years for full — betraying the urgency he attached to a counter-response. Between 2009 and 2013, the Pakistan Army conducted military exercises codenamed Azm-e-Nau to formalize and operationalize a conventional response to CSD. At its conclusion, Pakistan adopted a “new concept of war fighting” (NCWF) that aims to improve mobilization time of troops and enhance inter-services coordination, especially between the Army and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). To this end, Pakistan Air Force’s aerial exercise High Mark was conducted alongside Azm-e-Nau III in 2010, which saw the participation of over 20,000 troops from all services in areas of southern Punjab, Sialkot, and Sindh along Pakistan’s eastern border with India. The 2010 exercises were the largest conducted by the Army since 1989. PAF’s exercise High Mark, conducted every five years, synchronizes the Air Force’s response with Army maneuvers, covering a vast area from Skardu in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. As per military sources, with the implementation of the NCFW, the Pakistan Army will be able to mobilize even faster than India. This should worry India as CSD’s raison d’etre lies in the short reaction time it requires to launch an offensive. If Pakistan is indeed able to mount a counter-offensive even before India fires the first shot, literally and figuratively, it blunts the effectiveness of the Indian military doctrine."
India's Conventional Superiority:
Professor Walter Ladwig III of the Department of War Studies at London's Kings College says that India's conventional edge over Pakistan is overblown. In a 2015 paper, Ladwig wrote that Pakistan’s conventional deterrence against India in the near to medium term is "much better than the pessimists allege". Here's an excerpt of Ladwig's paper titled "Indian Military Modernization and Conventional Deterrence in South Asia":
"In recent years, headline grabbing increases in the Indian defense budget have raised concerns that India’s on-going military modernization threatens to upset the delicate conventional military balance vis-à-vis Pakistan. Such an eventuality is taken as justification for Islamabad’s pursuit of tactical nuclear weapons and other actions that have worrisome implications for strategic stability on the subcontinent. This article examines the prospects for Pakistan’s conventional deterrence in the near to medium term, and concludes that it is much better than the pessimists allege. A host of factors, including terrain, the favorable deployment of Pakistani forces, and a lack of strategic surprise in the most likely conflict scenarios, will mitigate whatever advantages India may be gaining through military modernization. Despite a growing technological edge in some areas, Indian policymakers cannot be confident that even a limited resort to military force would achieve a rapid result, which is an essential pre-condition for deterrence failure".
Common assumptions about India's insurmountable conventional superiority over Pakistan are not founded in reality, according to military experts. Professor Walter Ladwig of the War Studies Department at London's Kings College believes that Pakistan’s conventional deterrence against India in the near to medium term is "much better than the pessimists allege". Pakistan's NCWF (New Concept of War Fighting) developed in response to India's CSD (Cold Start Doctrine) is designed to "mount a counter-offensive even before India fires the first shot", according to Indian analyst Meenakshi Sood. Ladwig sums it up well: "Despite a growing technological edge (over Pakistan) in some areas, Indian policymakers cannot be confident that even a limited resort to military force would achieve a rapid result, which is an essential pre-condition for deterrence failure".
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