India and Pakistan are two nuclear rivals glued in enduring territorial dispute over the State of Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian partition plan was designed to integrate the areas of Indian Subcontinent into newly formed nation states of Indian Union and Pakistan based on their geographic, religious, ethnic and political affinity. Therefore, the accession of Jammu & Kashmir was quite obvious based on its Muslim majority, but the Hindu ruler Maharaja Harri Singh clandestinely signed the instrument of accession with India, which gave birth to acrimonious relations among the two neighbors.
Subsequently, the both neighbors fought three full-fledged wars in 1947-48, 1965, 1971 and a limited conflict on Kargil heights in 1999. However, the two nations failed to integrate the Jammu & Kashmir militarily and ultimately waged the covert war against each other.
The covert warfare is largely fought through intelligence arms of armed forces of two states which are tasked to gather sensitive information and destabilization of domestic law and order through the attacks on key government installations and on public place to placate panic. But these tactics often brought New Delhi and Islamabad to the brink of nuclear war which is particularly dangerous for South Asian region and the world as whole.
To explain the episodes of military standoffs, the term ‘Hot-Cold Rivalry’ is relevant here. It means that bilateral relations of the two states often experience surprise abnormality and increase the military confrontation on the Line of Control (LOC) and sometimes on international border.
Being a major and emerging player in the regional and global affairs, it is normal behavior of India to accuse Pakistan for each and every incident of terrorism on its soil. The examples include; the 2001 Indian Parliament attacks and subsequent Indo-Pak military standoff, Mumbai Attacks, Pathankot, Urri and the Pulwama terrorism.
Back in 2001, without wasting time the Indian government alleged Pakistan for sponsoring attack and started war preparations. There are three key assumptions that India opt hot-cold strategy while dealing with Pakistan.
First India is a mighty power with huge landscape and military personnel’s. The Indian forces are stationed on various locations deep inside the territory, which can make difficult for New Delhi to deploy on Pakistani border in a short notice. India thinks that military deployment and a limited warfare can restrain Pakistan to use Jihadi outfits for destabilizing New Delhi. Therefore, to speed up military deployment, the Indian government has developed the “Cold-Start Doctrine”.
It is a Military doctrine that was developed to use in a possible war with Pakistan. The origins of this doctrine can be traced from the Sunderji Doctrine which was developed by seven “defensive Corps” of the Indian armed forces and deployed near the Pakistani border. Meanwhile, the holding corps under the Sunderji Doctrine were tasked to check Pakistani advance with limited offensive power. The offensive corps were made by mechanized infantry and artillery under the said doctrine. Contrary to defensive corps, the offensive forces of Sunderji Doctrine were deployed inside India which were unable to move abruptly on Pakistani border to launch the offensive. Therefore by acknowledging the flaws in existing doctrine, the military strategists in New Delhi has devised the Cold Start Doctrine.
This doctrine intends to allow Indian conventional forces to perform holding attacks to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a conflict. To fully implement the doctrine Indian forces has practiced for 10 times but weaknesses were observed in the strategy.
The aggressive military strategy has shaken the peace and stability of South Asian region. But to test its offensive power, India has launched the so-called surgical strike on Pakistan in 2016. The Indian claimed surgical strike was out of airdropped soldiers but on some points the Indian soldiers crossed the Line of Control (LOC) a de-facto border between two nations and hit some Pakistani border posts. But this cannot be claimed as surgical strike because the surgical strike can be conducted deep into enemy territory and the strikers should be dropped from air.
Again in 2019, the Indian Air Force crossed over Pakistani territory and dropped bombs on Pakistani city of Balakot. The Indian attack hyped the tensions between two nations and a day later Pakistan Air Force downed two Indian jets and captured one Indian pilot which was later released as showing the goodwill gesture.
Second, the International pressure often restrain India to launch full-fledged war against Pakistan. The Indo-Pakistan crisis of 2001-02 and subsequent tensions after Pulwama witnessed the shuttle diplomacy carried by various responsible powers. China, United States, Japan, Britain and Russia have played decisive role to cool down the recent tensions. The international community is aware that South Asia is a nuclear flashpoint and any miscalculated adventure leads to a nuclear warfare. Thus, these powers always seek a diplomatic solution for India-Pakistan disputes and urge two nations to resolve the tensions through diplomacy and negotiations. During the post Pulwama tensions, the United States President Trump claimed that the US had been mediating between the two sides and the US efforts were paid off through restraint expressed by New Delhi and Islamabad.
Another reason is Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence which control the Indian malicious designs against Pakistan. Pakistan has developed a credible nuclear deterrence to ward off the Indian conventional military superiority and is consistently improving its nuclear program. The National Command Authority disclosed that Pakistan has achieved the Full Spectrum Deterrence FSD) capability, which is more comprehensive with three elements including; full spectrum of nuclear weapons, with full range coverage of the large Indian land mass and its outlying territories”.
In other words, the FSD determine to utilize whatever methods are important to secure Pakistan. Pakistan has also introduced the short-range tactical weapons (TNWs), which according to General Khalid Kidwai of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division would remove India’s ability to wage a limited war against Pakistan. These short range ballistic missiles are designed to target major Indian installations without risk to full scale war.
In short, it can be claimed that chances of a full scale war between India and Pakistan are minimum, due to both countries doctrines. India has designed and developed the Cold Start Doctrine for a limited offensive against Pakistan. In the meantime, international pressure and shuttle diplomacy in the time of high tensions play positive role to restrain. Last but not least is Pakistan’s credible nuclear deterrence which further remove the threat of full-fledged war but left chance of hot-cold rivalry between two neighbors.
*Authors are MSC Students of International Relations at Women University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir Bagh, Pakistan