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Responding to the Pakistani Challenge


Sub Conventional Challenge

      Pakistan has been fighting a proxy war with India since 1990. It has realised post the Kargil Conflict of 1999, that it is the best manner in tackling India which enjoys conventional superiority.[i] There have been a series of events with the crescendo being reached in Mumbai on 26 November 2008 and the last event recently occurring at Pathankot Air Force base in January 2016. In all these events it is interesting to note that events are launched by Non State Actors from Pakistan. They undertake these operations as Fourth Generation warriors and cause chaos, consternation and casualties in India’s hinterland. Pakistan perpetually denies any hand in these activities. Diplomatically, India has left no stone unturned in giving details to Pakistan about its covert support to the militants. The Pakistanis are good listeners and understand that issues get diluted with the passage of time. They continue protracted negotiations taking one step forward followed by a step backwards. The media and the Indian establishment speaks optimistically that issues would improve and soon a militant attack takes place and we are caught unaware as to how it happened. In the debates and statements Pakistan denies and at the same time cautions India, that they are a country possessing nuclear weapons and India should not cross the Rubicon and should settle outstanding disputes.

In such a situation where diplomacy does not work, India is left with the option to curtail water flowing into Pakistan or use Hard Power. These are often discussed at all forums but when push comes to shove, India buckles as a country. Now that the United States is going to treat India with the same respect as allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation[ii], it is time India changed her stance and stopped her sweet behaviour when fourth or possibly fifth generation warriors attack Indian police stations and Air Force Bases. It is assessed that these attacks are the handiwork of the ISI which functions directly under the Chief of Staff of Pakistan Army. Since the Army and the Pakistan Civil administration are not on the same page, these attacks will continue to keep the Indian Armed Forces bleeding. It is pertinent to note that for the first time in its history the Pakistan Army is fighting militancy in all its four provinces. This would continue as it continues to irrationally differentiate between a good and bad terrorist, little realising that both are one and the same.

Calibrated Response

It is gradually becoming clear to the entire country that the current methods only skirt the problem to deal with Pakistan using covert hard power and the Indian response has been a defensive reaction with limited results. It is time the approach changed and India started giving an effective response to these attacks. On the civilian side due to the current dry season India could calibrate the flow of water in a manner that Pakistan feels the pinch of receiving a lesser quantity of water. The next step is to activate the line of control. This should be done carefully after removing the civilians to safer places and use Artillery to hit his field works, Command and Control Centres as also his Gun Areas. Pakistan’s capability in terms of Guns and Ammunition is lesser than ours. He always prevents India from using her Artillery as he knows that the Indian Artillery is stronger and has the capability to undertake sustained fire which would play havoc with his Command and Control system, Line of Communications and his day to day routine in his defences on the Line of Control. With detailed knowledge of the enemy Gun Positions, India has the capability to silence his Guns and decimate other targets. To take our minds back to November 2003, when Pakistan unilaterally declared cease fire which we later accepted gracefully, it is essential to note that Indian domination of Artillery fire was complete and Pakistan was running out of its capability to undertake sustained Artillery duels.

The next aspect pertains to India’s superior conventional forces. If the Pakistani Army does not alter its path, byr domination of the Line of Control India must undertake Conventional operations which would entail use of Intermediate Battle Groups in the Mountains and Riverine terrain in conjunction with Deep Strikes in deserts. While the Battle Groups would be used in Shallow thrusts, the Strike formations would undertake Deep Strikes. Pakistan has lowered its Nuclear threshold and threatens to use Tactical Nuclear Weapons against these offensives.

The TNW is a Cold Tested weapon and its range being limited would have to be deployed in the field at about 40 Km from the Border making it vulnerable to own Air and missile attacks. Nuclear weapons of Pakistan are for deterrence, and providing parity with India in a politico strategic realm. The actual possibility of use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons is zero. Senior Pakistani officers have categorically stated that the Indian response to Pakistan’s first use would be total Holocaust. In late 2010 with 90 TNWs it was found difficult to stop an Indian Armoured Division moving dispersed on a 30 km frontage. There would be a minimum inescapable requirement of 436 TNWs to stop an Armoured Division. With the reported accelerated production of plutonium from three dedicated military reactors in Khushab and a fourth under construction it would result in an inventory of 200 warheads by 2020. To further compound to the existing problem, the issue of miniaturising the warhead to fit into the Nasr missile with a 30 cm diameter is a complex engineering problem. Further data shows that a TNW used against a Combat Group moving dispersed over an 8 km front would at best produce 25 casualties and damage to about four tanks. Accordingly not much should be read against the TNW and the Indian Army must retain the option of Deep Strikes particularly in the Southern theatre. The Artillery must work towards locating the Nasr and develop possibly with external assistance a Make in India project to destroy the Nasr in flight.

The entire response must be synergised and it is high time for India to take the fight back to Pakistani soil. The entire strategy calls for a changed Offensive Mindset which must work out the details and synergise the leaders, bureaucracy and the Armed Forces to meet the Pakistani challenge.



Pakistan’s Army calls the shots in Pakistan. It is essential India understood these issues and took bold steps to effectively counter terrorism emanating from Pakistan.


Maj Gen P K Chakravorty,VSM,(Retd),is a NCR based defence analyst.Views expressed are personal.

[i]  A Vinod Kumar, “Low Intensity Conflict under Nuclear Conditions. Institute For Defence Studies and Analyses, www.idsa.in, 08 May 2009.

[ii] Rajat Pandit, Times of India, 21 May 2016.

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Maj Gen (Dr) P K Chakravorty
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