Friday, January 27, 2017

How to Manage a MAD a Trois

India is modernizing their tank force facing Pakistan. Nuclear war now looms over every confrontation. This is perhaps where Cold Start comes in.

India's new and modernized tank corps would be the heart of any war with Pakistan along their long border. The nuclear angle shapes what India can do:

The Indian Army already maintains a sizeable tank force along the India-Pakistan border. However, the recent news that New Delhi intends to modernize its tanks formations along the border could indicate that India continues to methodically implement its so-called Cold Start Doctrine of limited conventional war with Pakistan.

This doctrine, which as The Diplomat reported has never been officially acknowledged until recently, calls for swift and decisive conventional offensive operations into Pakistani territory before the international community can intercede, and before Pakistan would feel compelled to launch tactical nuclear retaliatory strikes in the event of an invasion.

I think that the Kargil War shapes this thinking. Pakistan fought a narrow war that placed India at a disadvantage and India wants the ability to turn the tables.

I've discussed Cold Start a bit, and the lack of official acknowledgement perhaps explains the differing interpretations of the "doctrine."

It could be to lock in gains before the threat of nuclear war compels a ceasefire under pressure form both sides and the world.

Or it could be a plan to rapidly crush Pakistan in a general war as an automatic development apart from civilian control. That possibility seriously alarmed me.

Especially since Pakistan has opted to choose "tactical" nukes to cope with India's superior armed forces. What does "tactical" even mean when the battlefields are both of their countries?

The term meant something to America and the USSR during the Cold War, but you can excuse the Germans for not seeing the nuance when "battlefield" nukes would be going off on their territory like popcorn popping.

But this article that describes the breaking down of India's three "Strike Corps" (each with two mobile tank and one infantry formations) into division-sized combined arms units called "integrated battle groups" makes me feel better.

This is a reorganization away from the "crushing" concept and toward the bargaining chip option that grabs terrain while inflicting a military blow before the threat of nuclear escalation compels a ceasefire with India in an unfavorable position.

America could probably help the situation out by sending officials who still remember (or who can research) how America and the USSR competed under similar constraints when confronting each other during the Cold War.

Oddly, I found a relevant post scheduled for July 28, 2014 that did not post. Let me insert it here:

India is debating how their nuclear weapons fit into national defense strategy. Reading our 70-year-old debates should be part of their homework.

This is familiar ground:

This debate has been catalysed by a variety of factors. These include Indian disquiet at Pakistan's development of tactical nuclear weapons, a widespread sense that India's nuclear deterrence has failed in the face of state-sponsored terrorism, concern that India's ability to project deterrence against China remains inadequate, and a general sense that India has been slow to translate its national power into usable capabilities.

It is really a shock that nuclear weapons don't deter terrorist attacks?

Nuclear weapons deter threats to national existence--either major nuclear attack or conquest. Responding to attacks that don't threaten national existence with nuclear weapons just invites nuclear attack.

Do you really respond to terror attacks by launching nuclear attacks? Against even a state sponsor of the terrorists?

Anyway, India would probably do well to review our debates.

And remember we had the advantage of distance with the USSR. We had 20 whole minutes from enemy lay.change to impact. How long is ballistic flight time from Pakistan or China?

That fit in nicely. I knew I'd mentioned Pakistani tactical nuke stuff in this context. I just didn't mention it to readers ...

India and Pakistan should definitely understand that any lessons from our Cold War included a luxury that neighboring India and Pakistan can never have: a buffer zone of allies between us and the luxury of a whole 20-minute flight time of ICBMs launched by one superpower against the other before they hit.

Even a terrorist attack has the seeds to start a path to nuclear war.

Of course, India and Pakistan still have relatively small arsenals. So discussions of Mutual Assured Destruction can perhaps be put off to the second briefing.

And India has the problem of a third nuclear power growing near them--China. Which America did not face. The Soviets had the issue of British, French, and later Chinese nuclear weapons to consider. So maybe India should get Russia's view, too.

Have a super sparkly day.

UPDATE: Related discussion.

UPDATE: The Economist notes Cold Start after India officially admitted the doctrine.

I'd have thought the Kargil War would have highlighted India's problem and need for something like Cold Start. But no matter. The Economist sets out Cold Start as I think it makes sense. But is this what all of India's military thinks?

I've read that some think Cold Start is a way to clobber Pakistan without civilian interference until Pakistan is smashed.

But Indian moves make my impression (and The Economist impression) that the doctrine is to gain ground before nuclear escalation threats force a ceasefire seem more accurate. Of course, a doctrine and a military capable of carrying out the doctrine are two different things.

Still, what India wants to do (I think) fits with American experience during the Cold War that limited the time for conventional military action to achieve results.

India would be advised to review our well-documented history operating under that limitation.