- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2005

No conventional war between India and Pakistan will remain limited for long — it would gradually lead to a full-scale war and ultimately to a nuclear conflict, warns a study by a Pakistani defense official.

The study, presented recently at a Washington think tank, looks at various scenarios that could lead to all-out war between the two South Asian neighbors, which conducted a series of nuclear tests in May 1998 and possess nuclear-capable missiles.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947 and are still engaged in a 57-year-old conflict in the Himalayan valley of Kashmir, over which two of the three wars were fought.

Most of the potential war scenarios discussed in this study also focus on Kashmir, where most international observers believe even a small conflict could escalate into a bigger one.

Recently, India and Pakistan agreed to resolve their differences through dialogue and both have taken steps to lessen tensions.

The study by the Pakistani defense official envisages potential Pakistani responses to various proposals being discussed in Indian defense circles for dealing with the Kashmir insurgency, which India blames on Pakistan-backed militants.

The author, who did not want to be identified, argues that recently, India has put forward the idea of a limited conventional war aimed at achieving a specific political objective, such as putting down the uprising in Kashmir.

But the author warns that what India may see as “a limited conventional war” may not be acceptable to Pakistan. “Similarly, what India defines as ‘a limited political perspective’ may have a different implication for Pakistan,” he adds.

The author points out that most Western analysts and scholars are not comfortable with India’s limited-war doctrine, and they also believe that “a limited war between India and Pakistan cannot remain limited for long.”

Comparing nuclear policies of the two countries, the author says the central theme of Pakistan’s nuclear policy guidelines is to act in a responsible manner and to exercise restraint in the conduct of its deterrence policy. Pakistan, he said, also wants to ensure that its nuclear capability does not pose any threat to nonnuclear states in the region.

“Pakistan’s nuclear capability is very clearly for deterrence of aggression and defense of its sovereignty,” the author said.

India’s declared nuclear doctrine, he said, is based on “no first use of nuclear weapons.” India, however, retains the option of using nuclear weapons in retaliation against a nuclear, biological or chemical attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere.

“India’s doctrine contains an inbuilt offensive design. The most dangerous aspect of this policy is that it keeps the option open for a conventional war against Pakistan,” the author contends.

Asked why Pakistan resorted to a limited conventional war in Kargil in 1999, the author said Kargil is part of Siachen sector where limited battles have continued since 1984. Kargil, he said, was a continuation of the same ongoing skirmishes between India and Pakistan.

He explained various options India may exercise for launching a limited conventional war against Pakistan. These include:

• Surgical strikes conducted along the Line of Control in Kashmir against Pakistani troops and jihadi camps, which India says Pakistan is running on its side of Kashmir.

The Indians have already attacked along the LOC to prevent fighters from crossing into Indian Kashmir, but never obtained the desired results. So far, India has only used artillery for such strikes into Pakistani Kashmir, but under the new strategy they will also use air strikes to hit targets across the LOC.

• Hot pursuit that includes crossing the LOC and attacking jihadi camps or capturing certain areas. “It is an open option,” said the author. “In any war scenario, India can use it.

“But if they do so, Pakistan is not going to sit quiet. It will be an act of war which will not remain limited, and it can escalate to a full-scale war and ultimately it can lead to a nuclear conflict if Pakistan’s national interests are threatened,” he warned.

• A “cold start” strategy for which India has been raising eight to 10 combat groups to implement the new strategy. Each group would include forces from the army and the air force and, if required, from the navy.

Each combat group would have a hard-hitting force of 3,000 to 4,000 troops, and it should be able to achieve its objective in 72 hours, before Pakistan reacts or approaches the international community.

The author said Pakistan would not view such an attack by this new force as a limited war. “For us it will be a full-scale war, and Pakistan will respond with full resources, and if we fail to contain the Indians, the nuclear factor will definitely come in.”

Explaining how a conventional war can lead to a nuclear conflict, the author said: “In a full conventional war, India has the potential to create impact. And if it does so, it will force Pakistan to use its nuclear option.”

Before the two countries acquired nuclear capability, India’s strategy was to invade Pakistan and divide it into north and south. By severing all links between the two parts of the country, India hoped to force Pakistan to negotiate peace on New Delhi’s terms.

The Indians, the author said, also are considering a number of other options for initiating a fast but effective incursion into Pakistan without causing full-scale war.

“But in the final analysis,” he said, “all options to initiate war by India may look independent and workable but ultimately will lead to the same destination, which both sides would like to avoid as responsible nuclear states.”

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