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Denying India Space for Limited War under the Nuclear Threshold

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War that is limited in terms of territory, the end objectives pursued, choice of weaponry adopted and where the use of weapons of mass destruction is avoided is widely regarded as a limited war. Since the nuclearization of South Asia in 1998 however, the region’s security dynamics have changed with the threat of a conventional war increasingly moving towards a nuclear one.

It is widely argued that the presence of a nuclear deterrent between Pakistan and India has so far prevented a full-scale conflict. However, with India evolving its military doctrines to create ground for a more limited conventional war under the nuclear threshold, the prevailing status quo remains highly at risk. This notion has since paved the way for the Cold-Start doctrine of 2004, Joint Doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces of 2017 and Land Warfare Doctrine of 2018. All these military doctrines indicate a shift from a defensive to an offensive pre-emptive military posture specifically vis-à-vis Pakistan.

To enhance its pre-emptive and offensive military capabilities, India plans to train smaller, agile and more integrated battle groups with synchronized support from its Infantry, artillery and air force divisions. Its military planners are of the view that they would carry out quick punitive strikes inside Pakistan by using these newly developed limited battle-oriented divisions while keeping the conflict below the threshold of a potential nuclear exchange between both the countries. The formations of these integrated battle groups are a direct reflection of its limited war strategy that would strategically enhance India’s response time vis-à-vis Pakistan.

Over last few years, Pakistan has also revisited its nuclear doctrine by moving from minimum credible deterrence towards full spectrum deterrence in order to respond to these developments. These include taking measures to develop its own tactical nuclear capable missile systems focusing on accuracy, enhanced mobility and quick response times. The operationalization of this missile system has purportedly served as a viable deterrent to India’s ability to wage a limited war by significantly reducing the nuclear threshold.

It has been widely claimed that the addition of tactical nuclear weapons system such as the Nasr system has considerably limited the efficacy of India’s cold start doctrine. This has arguably compelled India to adopt its much-touted concept of ‘Surgical Strikes’ as a new strategy to keep the space for limited war with Pakistan open.

India’s surgical strikes narrative can be argued as being somewhat inspired by the US Special Forces’ 2011 Operation Neptune Spear which had led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The operation which has since been characterized as one of the most technologically advanced and sophisticated operations to have been carried out inside Pakistani territory has since left a lasting legacy on Pakistan’s relations with the US.

Since this operation was conducted India has repeatedly claimed that it also has the capacity and capability to carry out similar strikes deep inside Pakistani territory. This for instance was evident when India claimed its first ever surgical strike against Pakistan in response to the 2016 Uri attack. This narrative has since found widespread domestic support within India. Whereas Pakistan has repeatedly rejected these claims on the pretext that any form ofa surgical or conventional strike on Pakistani territory would be considered as a red line which in itself represents its nuclear threshold.

It was this aspect that was put to test following the Pulwama incident when, India once again violated the sovereignty of Pakistan by conducting air-strikes at Balakot which is almost 4 to 5kms from its eastern border with India. Dubbed by its media as surgical strike 2.0, these strikes were aimed at portraying India’s capacity and will power to carry out a conventional strike against Pakistan below the nuclear threshold. Pakistan regarded this asan act of aggression and a blatant violation of its territorial integrity. It however chose to respond via conventional means claiming that it would control the escalation ladder throughout the conflict. Whereas, tensions were diffused after the first ever aerial engagement between two nuclear weapon’s states, such kinds of misadventures have the potential to turn a limited conventional conflict to a full-scale nuclear war that could prove lethal for the entire region.

At the present, it appears that India, under the cloak of its offensive pre-emptive doctrinal strategies intends to upgrade, modernize and enhance the capacity of its armed forces by increasing its military budget. In terms of modernization, India has signed a$5.43-billion deal with Russia for the S-400 air defence system. There are also reports suggesting that the US is prepared to offer India its fifth-generation F-35 aircraft if India were to scraps its S-400 deal with Russia. The acquisition of either of these state-of-the-art weapon systems would not only add to the Indian air force’s penetrative and strike capabilities as part of its narrative of surgical strikes but also pose a direct threat to strategic stability in South Asia.

If India decides to start a limited war once again under the nuclear threshold there is a higher chance that it would have to face disastrous and lasting consequences as opposed to its more immediate objective of projecting power. Hence, because of its growing fascination with the surgical strikes narrative India runs the risk of potentially turning a limited war into an all-out conflict further risking escalation to nuclear strikes. Based on these dynamics it is imperative that strategic planners on both sides exercise restraint especially considering how such pre-emptive/ cold start and surgical strikes strategies are undermining peace and stability across the wider region.

The author is a Research Affiliate at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad and can be reached at musawar[at]thesvi.org

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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