Peace by Other Means

A multi-prong approach to encourage Pakistan to stop terrorism into India
Peace by Other Means It is well known that the Indian military services — the Army, Navy, Air Force, and more recently the Strategic Forces Command — have resisted cooperation or ‘jointness’ in elaborating military doctrine, coordinating procurement, and conducting military operations. In the words of Manoj Joshi, “There is no harmonization of the doctrines of the three military services. The former chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral D.K Joshi (no relation) confirmed this: ‘India has services’ doctrines, but these lack credibility and weight because they do not represent a comprehensive view of national priority. The US and other large military powers also experienced great difficulties in achieving jointness. Each service has its own history and culture, its own desire to be independent, its own favourite roles and missions. Yet, advances in reconnaissance technology, precision-targeting, and other technologies of warfare, along with increased global norms on the minimization of civilian casualties, have placed a premium on inter-service cooperation, especially between armies, air forces, and Special Forces.

In India, as in Pakistan, the Army historically has been the most important and influential service. There are many reasons for this. Among them, the government has depended on the Army to deal with insurgency and other potential internal security requirements, beyond conflicts with Pakistan and China. Whatever the causes, the Army’s central role in interfacing with civilian leaders and planning and conducting war in 1965, 1971, and the Kargil conflict in 1999 denied India the benefits that would have come from greater inter-service cooperation. As Benjamin Lambeth reports in his estimable study of the Kargil conflict, India initially suffered a ‘near –total lack of transparency and open communication between the Indian Army and the IAF with respect to the gathering crisis. Without question, the onset of the Kargil confrontation revealed a lack of effective air-ground integration in India’s joint arena at the most senior leadership level. Lambeth, an experienced fighter pilot and RAND Corporation expert on air power, adds that the Army, in first seeking to counter the Pakistani incursion alone, ‘failed to honor the reasonable proposition advanced four years earlier in the IAF’s first published air doctrine that “was are rarely won…by a single component of military force”.

The imperative of real cooperation among the military services still had not been appreciated by 2004 when the Indian Army pronounced a new proactive strategy, nicknamed the ‘Cold Start doctrine’. Cold Start was portrayed as a new military doctrine featuring smaller, quickly deployable ground forces that would conduct rapid, limited thrusts into Pakistan-controlled territory, abetted by support from the IAF. Yet the IAF was not fully involved in the development of Cold Start and, after the new doctrine was (unofficially) publicized, did not subscribe to its assumptions about the Air Force’s role in it. (The fact that the Indian political leadership did not officially endorse Cold Start is another matter.) Nor is it apparent that the Navy was brought into the development of Cold Start, even though a sound military strategy would need to plan for Pakistan’s countermoves and the likelihood that naval forces would be needed to quarantine Pakistani naval forces and ports to limit the potential for protracted escalation of conflict.

Informed Indians understand the need for greater interoperability among the services. Yet naturally, the Navy and Army still want to be self-sufficient in light air power, with their own helicopters, pilots and other assets. They do not want to rely on the Air Force to provide support, and the Air Force does not want to be an appendage to the Army and Navy. The Air Force reasonably takes precedence in acquiring and operating heavy aircraft, bombers, and deep strike systems, which are highly specialized systems. But in a major war, the Army and the Navy would want to have control over such air assets too. The resulting problems are circular and will not be straightened out and addressed without determined, informed, and sustained political leadership emanating from the prime minister.

More recent still, the planning of Indian nuclear operations also lacks inter-service cooperation. This is important because even if Indian leaders chose to respond with limited military force to a future terrorist attack attributed to Pakistan, India would still need to prepare for escalation of an ensuing conflict. If escalation mounted, most portentously through the projection of Indian ground forces into Pakistan, Pakistan could counter by preparing to conduct battlefield nuclear operations. In that event the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy would need to coordinate not only their conventional military actions, but also their roles in potential nuclear retaliation to Pakistan. Yet, as Iskander Rehman finds in a study of India’s nuclear submarine programme, ‘There is little intellectual cross- pollination in-between the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), and the Integrated Defence Staff, let alone between the different services. Furthermore, no higher defence learning institution imparts any substantive form of education to military officers on nuclear strategy and operations, and service headquarters continue to plan primarily for conventional war.’

Peace by Other Means

The Army’s traditional pre-eminence among the Indian military services is particularly problematic in the current situation with Pakistan and the shadow that nuclear weapons cast over it. The Army’s interest is to project ground forces into Pakistan. Putting Indian boots onto Pakistani territory in response to sub-conventional attack could be escalatory in ways that would invite Pakistani nuclear threats. Compared with airborne precision strikes, covert operations, and fomenting of insurgency within Pakistan, armoured force projection may be less advisable. But if the other military and intelligence services do not gain more influence and resources relatives to the Army within the Indian system, the liabilities of Army-centrism in the current environment will remain uncorrected. Moreover, even if and when the Air Force and Navy gain resources and influence, the challenge of interoperability will remain.

If Indian leaders conclude that air-centric options are better suited for retaliating to another major terrorist attack, the service- cooperation problem would arise in a different way, The RAW and the Air Force would identify targets and plan precision strikes, aware that Pakistani leaders could respond with ground operations. Thus, the Indian Army would need to plan and deploy as a facet of what would be intended as limited, precise air operations. The Air Force, in turn, would the need to dedicate some of its capabilities to protecting the Army deployment and potential operations. The cooperation and coordination required would not be trivial.

If the inadequacies of inter-service cooperation are well known, the real question is why this dysfunction persists. Arun Singh, one of India’s most experienced defence officials and observers, offers a succinct explanation and prescription:

If you want jointness, which we need, you find that others can kill it by saying that the services won’t agree. That’s true, but that just means the [prime minister] would have to impose his will and make it happen. But if you say the services will resist, then people decide it’s too much trouble and so they let it drop. To impose jointness and other reforms, politicians would have to take a decision. They haven’t felt it was important enough to do that and enforce it.

Time if of the essence, because if US experience is indicative, even with determined political leadership and legislative mandate, achieving effective inter-service cooperation takes many years.

George Perkovich and Toby Dalton
Oxford University Press, Pg 281, Rs 695


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