India will continue to pose an existential threat to Pakistan unless there was a drastic change in her mind-set. Her overt and covert acts of aggression since Independence are testimony to her perpetual hostility towards Pakistan. Forcible occupation of the Muslim majority state of Kashmir (thus negating the very principal and purpose of Partition) and blatant and un-provoked aggression to help breakaway “East Pakistan” are the two of the most glaring examples of the Indian aggression. So long as India nurtures the dream of “Akhund Bharat” and pursues its philosophy of “Hindutva”, there can never be any peace in the sub-continent. In fact, there would be all the possibility of yet another war leading to nuclear exchanges, sooner or later.
It is Pakistan’s nuclear capability that has so far deterred India from further committing open aggression as it did against “east Pakistan”- for obvious reasons. It has instead resorted to low intensity covert war through its notorious agency RAW based in Afghanistan, to undermine Pakistan from within – by aiding and abetting BLA, in Baluchistan, TTP in FATA and through its cells of hired assassins in Karachi for more than a decade and continuing.
India also continues to modernise her forces and to build a huge arsenal of modern arms, while the Indo-US Nuclear deal will enable it to amass a large number of nuclear weapons. This clearly shows India’s hegemonic designs in the region – which, it realises, will never materialize without first subduing Pakistan.
India’s Cold Start Doctrine, for a short, sharp surgical strike, while hoping to remain below the “nuclear threshold”, is indicative of her aggressive intentions. Because of the huge disparity in conventional arms, Pakistan would be forced to use nuclear weapons in an all-out war to defend itself against a force several times its size. However, Pakistan will obviously not contemplate using strategic Nuclear weapons on the drop of a hat. That would simply be MAD (mutually assured destruction). It may resort to low yield tactical nuclear weapons as an inter-mediate step. But even the tactical nuclear weapons may not be used if the incursion by the enemy was very limited. Thus, Pakistan would rely on its conventional force at least to start with. However, to defeat India’s Cold Start Doctrine, Pakistan would need to develop coordinated rapid response capability with conventional Arms.
Unfortunately, a rapid and coordinated response by our Armed forces may not be possible with the present system of command and control exercised by each service, which by its very nature tends to be slow, as had been demonstrated time and again. The creation of a Joint Staff HQ and establishment of the geographical commands by the Air force and by the Army (Navy’s fleet command already existed) may not to be able to fully address the need for rapid and coordinated response, as individual service commands are separately controlled by their own-service headquarters.
It is, therefore, imperative to review the existing system of command and control both at higher staff levels as well as for the field commands for timely coordination and rapid response to be able to successfully checkmate the Cold Start Doctrine of the enemy.
It may be mentioned here that we have already established a truly joint command called the strategic command comprising the nuclear missile forces, based on the Trident (tri-service) concept, whereby the Nuclear weapons can be delivered at a short notice by land, sea and air. However, that level of joint command was neither necessary nor desirable for the conventional response.
The existing command structures of Army and Air force comprise geographical commands i.e. the Northern, Central and Southern commands (and for the Navy the fleet command). These individual commands may be ‘converted’ into “partial” joint commands for operational purposes while the control of certain operational elements (like Air defence command) as well as overall administrative control would continue to be vested in the Individual service.
The resultant “partial” Northern, Central and Southern commands would each be headed by Army commanders (since the outcome of the war will depend on land war), while the counterpart Air commanders would act as their deputies for tactical Air operations only. (The Air force will continue to direct the Air defence elements itself, which are co-located with the Northern, central, Southern Air commands).
As for the maritime (partial) joint command, it would obviously be headed by an admiral of the fleet, while the coast- guards and specified elements of the southern Army command as well as the designated Air effort of the Southern Air command, would be placed under Maritime (partial) joint command to be operationally controlled by the fleet commander for tactical operations.
In this way, the much needed operational coordination for rapid response in the field would have been achieved for all tactical operations, while each service would still retain the administrative control of their respective service and certain operational functions.
Similar coordination would need to be instituted at the higher staff levels. The three service chiefs instead of being mere members of the joint chiefs committee (as at present) should be defacto ‘deputies’ to the chairman joint staff (henceforth to be known as Chief of Defence staff- CDS) for joint strategy, planning and joint conduct of operations as well as for joint budgetting, training and research. The CDS and the three service chiefs may also act as the apex advisory body to the PM for all National security matters.
The above suggested arrangements for creating (partial) joint commands at the field level as well as at the joint staff level shall bring about the desired coordination both in the field as well as at the higher staff levels and thus greatly enhance the tri-service operational coordination and rapid response capability. It would also avoid unnecessary service rivalries, duplication and wastages when jointly evaluating the threat and inducting weapon systems most suitable and cost effective to meet that threat rather than pursuing individual service preferences. The service chiefs would essentially remain responsible for their respective forces for induction of personnel, equipment, training and career planning etc.
Last, but not the least, keeping the nature of war between India and Pakistan in view, where the ultimate decision would rest on the outcome of land battles (barring nuclear war), the CDS should exclusively be from the Army, preferably the outgoing Army Chief, who after successfully completing his tenure be promoted to the rank of a five star general as Chief of the Defence staff. This arrangement would also ensure better continuity for the Army, which is the decisive-force in any Indo-Pak conflict.