The guarantor of peace has always been a country’s prepared military, with dynamic and vigorous training, exotic vigilance, and wholehearted preparedness. This concocts the military for the impulsive circumstances, and whatsoever the crisis falls upon it. Pakistan has recently conducted various military exercises in various regions across the country. The show-casing of such rigorous exercises is not a part of any aggressive posture; instead, it incorporates towards the peace efforts. As evident from the historical perspective in South Asia, deterrence has always been a key factor in the evasion of war and conflict. Hence, such exercises with high standards of preparedness in peacetime become the guarantor of peace in the volatile South Asian region.
Pakistan has conducted numerous exercises including the multinational naval exercises, Aman 2021, with the aim to strengthen its control in the Arabian Sea; the exercise Jidad-ul-Hadeed, to strengthen its foothold in the desert areas; the exercise Taskskheer-e-Jabal to augment its preparedness in different offensive and defensive maneuvers in mountainous and semi-mountainous terrain. All of these were aimed at achieving the concept of defence through extraordinary preparedness and perfection in the desired areas. The Pakistan Army did arduous exercises to ace synergy in numerous components of the forces, and to sail through the exceptional response measures under conventional operations setting.
More than twenty years have passed since Pakistan and India stepped into the nuclear world; conventional deterrence, however, has remained essential to the maintenance of strategic stability in the South Asian region. India in its quest for achieving strategic aims and regional hegemony has always tried to disturb the strategic balance below the nuclear threshold and always made an effort to embark on limited war strategies. The limited window below the nuclear threshold could become a conflict accelerator, if at all the two nuclear states climb the rig, the strategic stability could be disturbed. Thus, to relieve this pressure by entangling non-nuclear means below the nuclear belt, would add up to the deterrence stability of the region.
John Mearsheimer explains the concept of conventional deterrence, as the strategy not merely about the defensive or offensive weapons, but also on the political planning and considerations, and military strategy. The rationale behind conventional deterrence is to delay the attainment of the aim of the adversary, by delaying or elongating the war. Thus, deterrence holds its significance, when the potential enemy believes that quick attainment of the objective is not doable. Thus, conventional deterrence deters the enemy from any misadventure under the nuclear overhang.
Pakistan was compelled to adopt a dual-track military strategy, both conventional and unconventional military preparedness, to overcome India’s aggressive designs at both levels. Pakistan’s unconventional deterrent posture of Full Spectrum has been successful in deterring India, as it withheld the chances of a full-scale war between the two nuclear rivals, however, the full conflict spectrum in south Asia still prevails. India, in its endeavor to create instability at the conventional level, with the soaring chances of low-level conflicts, the continuous Indian military modernization, and aggressive war doctrines has pushed Pakistan to remain more vigilant at the conventional end too. Pakistan requires unimpeachable military capability, training, and preparedness for making the war costlier and unthinkable for India. The incorporation and strengthening of conventional deterrence in South Asia will increase the cost of any misadventure and offensive maneuver for the Indian military, thus preventing the limited aggressive designs under the nuclear umbrella.
Given the evolving regional security threats, pragmatic and advanced training and exercises for operational readiness are imperative for the county’s military. Pakistan has to be prepared for any proactive war strategies or any counterforce ventures that could be waged from the opponent’s end. In this regard, it is quite worth mentioning that Pakistan has time and again nullified the practicality of the Indian much-hyped Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) through a combination of conventional and unconventional deterrence. This is further evident from the Pulwama-Balakot crisis of 2019; when Pakistan’s appropriate conventional response was quite significant and played the desired deterrent role despite the existence of credible nuclear deterrence.
Hence to summarize the whole debate, the all-encompassing Indian military modernization creates a security dilemma for Pakistan. Continuous military modernization and preparedness are essential to maintain strategic stability in South Asia and to prevent any future misadventures by the adversary. A strong conventional deterrence creates panic in the mind of the adversary, that the cost of the conventional limited war could possibly supersede the designed benefits, and could turn out to be a humiliating defeat. The conventional imbalance in the south Asian scenario is not worsening; in fact, it is aptly controllable for Pakistan. The incessant exercises at various topographies and stratum set off the military preparedness at the conventional stage. It augments the profound planning and befitting appliance of operational strategies and options to counter any future threat matrix.
*Amber Afreen Abid, Research Associate, Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad.