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Defence Doctrine in the Indo-Pak Context

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  • February 12, 2009
    Round Table
    Only by Invitation

    On 12 February 2009, the Military Affairs Cluster organised a Round Table to discuss Defence Doctrines. The aim was to reflect on implications of inter-relatedness of conventional and nuclear doctrines in the India-Pakistan context. A presentation was made by Ali Ahmed, Research Fellow, IDSA, to flag the issues and elicit views of the participants. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) V. Patankar and Lt. Gen. (Retd.) V.K. Kapoor participated in the discussion along with representatives of service HQs and members of the Cluster. The Military Cluster Coordinator, Dr Thomas Mathew, Deputy Director General, chaired the three hours long session.

    The issues reflected on included the doctrines of the three services and the joint doctrine, the nuclear doctrine and the interrelatedness of doctrines at the conventional and nuclear levels. Implications of Pakistan’s nuclear threshold for conventional doctrine and the impact on India’s nuclear doctrine were also discussed. Alternative nuclear doctrines such as ‘flexible’ nuclear retaliation options and the Sundarji nuclear doctrine were reflected upon. Credibility issues centred on India’s nuclear doctrine of ‘massive’ punitive retaliation against first strike/first use were also dwelt on. India’s possible responses to future terrorist attacks like the Mumbai carnage were discussed in the context of the escalatory ladder that would attend resort to the military option. Pakistan’s resort to Asymmetric War strategies in the face of India’s conventional operations and its counter were also covered. The discussion was stimulating and fresh perspectives were offered by participants.

    The following points, among others, emerged:

    • A degree of ambiguity attending nuclear doctrine is essential for its credibility.
    • The military option cannot be ruled out in face of future provocative terrorist attacks originating in Pakistan. The military means will have to be calibrated against political objectives required to be achieved.
    • Since India regards nuclear weapons as political weapons meant for deterrence, limitation to conflict before it reaches the nuclear level has been accepted in India’s Limited War doctrine. This would entail communication to the adversary and keeping communication channels open in conflict.
    • Jointness in military operations would be essential in any future military conflict.
    • The emerging instability in Pakistan would require close monitoring on India’s part and a strategy has to be evolved in conjunction with the international community to respond to it. The objective of terrorists and their backers in the Pakistan establishment to initiate a conflict between India and Pakistan so as to derail the GWOT would require to be guarded against.

    Prepared by Ali Ahmed, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.