The geopolitical enigma of India-Pakistan

Ammar Yasir Nainar is a first year student studying BA.International relations in the Department of War studies. He is currently a research analyst at the KCL Crisis team 2016-2017 and has also worked as a research volunteer for Mr.Maroof Raza (Consulting Strategic Affairs Editor Times Now) news channel in India. He follows the south Asia region with particular importance towards India-Pakistan relations and Sino-Indian strategic relations.


The world is increasingly being aware of the rivalry which exists between India and Pakistan. All the way from Pathankot to the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen leader Burhan Wani to the Uri attacks and surprisingly the much debated surgical strikes conducted by India on PoK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), these events have led to a conclusion: India-Pakistan relations are at their nadir. For someone who follows the South Asian region and in particular India-Pakistan relations, these events are not something new.

Tracing the origins of this rivalry

The India-Pakistan rivalry seems to be rooted in the historical narrative of the formation of Pakistan in 1947. The Quaid-E-Azam (Father of Nation) of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah used Islam as a political tool to bargain a separate nation for the Muslims in India. Once Pakistan was established, the state was unified on a tri colon which is succinctly put forth by Hussain Haqqani- a renowned Pakistani diplomat and author in his book “Pakistan: between Mosque and Military” where he argues “Islam, hostility towards India and the Urdu language were identified as the cornerstones of this new national ideology”. Thus, Pakistan since its inception has always had resentment towards India which explains the intensity of this rivalry.


What has India done?

The Indian national security establishment has always been in pursuit of a well-focused and robust policy towards Pakistan’s acts of state sponsored terrorism. Let it be the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament or the 26/11 Mumbai attacks or even the 1993 Bombay serial blasts, the Indian national security establishment has had vast number of debates on what should be India’s posture towards Pakistan? India always looks to mobilize international opinion for condemning Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism and diplomatically isolate Pakistan which the South block (Ministry of External Affairs, India) has recently been upping the ante on. Likewise, India has called off its participation in the SAARC Summit scheduled to be held during November 2016 in Islamabad. This strongly conveys India’s anger through recognized diplomatic channels.

Surprisingly, this has never motivated Pakistan to alter its foreign policy towards India or they aren’t even diplomatically isolated in the world. The Chinese have vested interests in Pakistan especially with the USD $46 billion for the China-Pakistan Economic corridor and the Gwadar port. Therefore, the Chinese are systematically trying to prevent Pakistan’s isolation in the world by vetoing many UN resolutions proposed by India which aim to declare Pakistan as state sponsor for terrorism.

The divergence of options:

Nevertheless, the recently conducted surgical strikes on terror launch pads in POK have signaled the world that India is no more “pussy-footing” on its policy towards Pakistan, perhaps it is going to adopt a muscular posture which could bring Pakistan to its knees for exporting terror on Indian soil.

I feel India has a spectrum of options in its hat for achieving this objective. Though the nuclear dimension of both nations discourage them from waging a conventional war like that of 1947, 1965, 1971 or 1999, it has certainly motivated India to look out for other innovative methods which could help accomplish its objective. Therefore, I am going to throw light on one such option which is the Cold Start Doctrine.

The Cold Start Doctrine:

The cold start doctrine was founded in 2004 post the slow mobilization of forces during Operation Parakram in 2001-2002 following the attacks on the Indian parliament by militants from Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The cold start doctrine embodies India’s limited war capabilities and allowed India to obtain an offensive posture vis-à-vis its usual defensive posture towards Pakistan. Dr. Walter Ladwig describes the Cold Start doctrine as

The goal of this limited war doctrine is to establish the capacity to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan that would inflict significant harm on the Pakistan Army before the international community could intercede, and at the same time, pursue narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.”

Emphasizing on the military jargon of the cold start doctrine the Indian army’s offensive power would be restructured into eight small division sized “integrated battle groups” that have the capability of launching multiple strikes into Pakistan from different areas (Ladwig). The Indian air force and naval aviation is also expected to pitch in and give close air support to the integrated battle groups which could literally bring Pakistan to its knees.

A very famous book “Not War, Not Peace?” written by Toby Dalton and George Perkovich also do throw light on the significance of the cold start doctrine to be a “provocative strategy” which could eventually compel Pakistani military and the rogue ISI intelligence organization to act on such terror groups whom they have been nurturing since the very formation of Pakistan. The cold start doctrine is an operational asset of the Indian army where even the UN Envoy to Pakistan Maleeha Lodhi has been on record to say that “India’s cold start doctrine should be contained”.

What lies ahead?

This arch-rivalry does seem quite enigmatic and complicated. However, looking at the current dynamics emerging in this relationship and certain assets of India like the Cold Start doctrine, I would like to conclude by saying that India does have the wherewithal to keep Pakistan at the bay.








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