Saturday, May 14, 2016

Warming Up Cold Start

India and Pakistan are grappling with the consequences of nuclear weapons without the luxurious 20 minutes of time that America and Russia had with the time it would take ICBMs to cross the Arctic Circle.

India is prepared to grab chunks of Pakistani territory to compel a cleanup of anti-Indian terrorists operating from Pakistani territory:

Since late March the Indian armed forces have been conducting training exercise on the Pakistani border. Here India is testing its new doctrine, which abandons the old “just defend” against any Pakistani ground attack to a new doctrine of simultaneously stopping a Pakistani advance while also making a high-speed advance into Pakistan using ground troops and airborne forces. ...

Pakistani generals believe India can’t really do anything major because of the risk of nuclear war. But more and more Indians are turning that around and theorizing that if Indian troops crossed the LOC (Line of Control) and seized the Pakistani half of Kashmir and all the Islamic terrorist bases there they could at least get Pakistan to agree to shut down their “good” (only attack India) Islamic terror groups. The Indians believe the Pakistanis would not start a nuclear war over this and that sort of talk showing up in Indian media with increasing frequency has got Pakistani leaders concerned. Pakistan is now saying it would go sort-of nuclear with its tactical nukes and does not think India would escalate to all-out nuclear war.

India believes Pakistan won't resort to nukes if India takes only a small amount of territory.

Pakistan thinks they could use "tactical" nukes if India invades with even a small goal such as that.

This, I assume, is the ongoing development of "Cold Start" doctrine of India. This assumes India can carry out a land invasion of parts of Pakistan with little to no warning. You may recall I mentioned it quite some time ago:

Cold Start is not, I think, a doctrine for conquering Pakistan. It is a doctrine designed to cope with the constraints against achieving victory that we faced during the long Cold War. It is designed to allow India to quickly gain a military advantage in a limited conflict before pressure to end the war out of fear of nuclear escalation kicks in.

Think Kargil in 1999. Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability kept India from escalating a localized battle into general war. And India was not, I think, happy with the situation that kept them battling on a narrow front without applying their full superior military capabilities.

A bit later, it seemed that Cold Start had a broader objective to destroy the Pakistani military because Cold Start had a:

Focus on the destruction of the Pakistani Army and its military machine without much collateral damage to Pakistani civilians.

Which because both sides had nuclear weapons was alarming as a goal even if way out of reach in practice, since carrying out the plan may have assumed that political control of the Indian armed forces ended once war started to allow the military to inflict the killing blow.

Yet Pakistani assumption that they can use "tactical" nukes to hold off the Indians is insane.

Call me simplistic, but is Pakistan going to nuke Indian army units inside Pakistan?  I doubt Pakistan wold nuke themselves. So Pakistan really wants to use "tactical" nukes on Indian soil against Indian military units.

Do nukes going off inside India not count because they are "tactical?" In what way are they different from "strategic" nukes going off inside India? Why would the Indians reply with nukes with the latter but not the former?

Face it, both sides have nukes. Why does it make sense to resort to them absent threats to national existence when the use of nuclear weapons will prompt the other side to reply in kind, risking escalation to city attacks? When the other side responds to your use of nukes with their use of nukes, the threat to national existence is created.

In a way it is kind of funny to see countries pursue nukes as if they are magical shields only to discover that even with nukes you still need a conventional military to win a war because the conditions to justify the risk of using nukes are actually rare.

If India views their new doctrine as a way to gain ground quickly before the threat of nuclear escalation compels a ceasefire in place for negotiations, I think they are on the right track.

But India should remember that China could do the same to India in the northeast. Pakistan just isn't the main enemy any more.