As in the case of the Indian army, the
Pakistani army possesses three armoured division and a number of armoured brigades. These
operate almost 2,500 Main Battle Tanks of a bewildering variety and from various
generations. The most recent acquisitions are 320 T-80 UD MBTs from the Ukraine. This deal
has been mired in controversy because of Russia's refusal to supply spares, including gun
barrels, and doubts over Ukraine's ability to provide spares and support.
The T-80UD is a major improvement over the existing Pakistani tank
fleet. The most modern units, until the arrival of the T-80UDs, were license made Chinese
T-85 II tanks. An indigenous MBT - the Al-Khalid - has failed to materialise. The rest of
the fleet consists of over a thousand T-69/-59 tanks of Chinese origin, which have been
upgraded with 105mm guns. The rest of the fleet is a mixture of 1950s & 1960s vintage
M-47/-48A5 tanks. These, while serviceable, are not really a match for even older Indian
armour. The Pakistani tank fleet lacks modern fire control equipment and advanced
night-fighting capabilities. It can be expected that Pakistan will attempt to rectify this
in the near future.
As in the case of its Indian counterpart, Pakistan's Regiment of
Artillery has undergone a tremendous re-organization and modernization programme. While
substantial quantities of new equipment have been inducted, large numbers of completely
obsolete artillery pieces - long since relegated to reserve/storage status in the Indian
army - remain in service.
Pakistan created the subcontinent's first artillery division using a
core component of two artillery brigades and an air defence unit. While Pakistan has far
fewer artillery tubes than the massive Indian artillery park, it is interesting to note
that it was responsible for this major organizational innovation.
The most noteworthy feature of Pakistan's artillery is the number of
155 and 203mm self-propelled guns. This gives Pakistani armour an integral artillery
capability that is currently lacking in Indian armoured units. Moreover, these guns are
more easily operated in an NBC environment than towed guns.
Pakistan's artillery also comprises an assortment of older pieces,
including some Second World War vintage 25 pounders. As in the case of the Indian
artillery, considerable progress has been made in the introduction of fire control
computers and other surveillance and target acquisition equipment. This, of course,
dramatically enhances the efficacy of artillery - no matter how old the guns are.
There is not much difference between Pakistani and Indian army infantry
formations. Pakistan has not developed an organization equivalent to the Indian RAPIDS and
has not attempted the massive modernization programme - in terms of modern night vision,
target finding and anti-tank weaponry - that the Indian army has recently undertaken.
The only really noteworthy aspect of the Pakistani infantry is the fact
that it was the first to introduce mechanized units to the subcontinent. These mechanized
infantry units are provided with over eight hundred M-113 armoured personnel carriers.
While not as capable as India's BMP-2 units, these older APCs provide Pakistan's infantry
with a reasonable degree of battlefield mobility. However, as far as NBC warfare is
concerned, these older APCs offer somewhat less protection than the BMPs.
Unlike the Indian army, Pakistan lacks any medium self-propelled
surface-to-air missiles and modern self-propelled air-defence guns. Pakistan's six air
defence brigades are equipped with a wide variety of shoulder-launched SAMs and thousands
of towed air defence guns. These are used with both Western and Chinese fire-control
It is not known if Pakistan intends to obtain any more advanced radar
and target acquisition equipment. The Pakistani army air defence units remain constrained
in their ability to obtain advanced self-propelled air-defence assets since Russia, the
principal producer of these items, will not sell these items to Pakistan. Strangely
enough, Pakistan does not seem to be making particularly vigorous efforts to rectify this
shortcoming in their army air defences.
Both the Indian and Pakistani armies are extremely well trained. This
is especially true up to brigade level. Both armies possess a high degree of tactical
skill and pride themselves on their ability to perform their assigned tasks. Using a
mixture of traditional methods and modern techniques and equipment, both armies are
extremely capable. In the area of NBC warfare, however, a rather confusing picture
emerges. Both countries frequently made mention of their ability to fight in NBC
conditions, but little hard information is available on the degree of NBC readiness.
In the 1980s, the Indian army began some tentative preparations for NBC
warfare. In the early part of that decade, a limited quantity of S6 respirators and
No.1Mk.3 NBC suits - both of British origin - was purchased. A quantity of NBC equipment
was imported from the USSR, but proved to be useless in Indian environmental conditions.
Moreover, India's defence research organization, in 1987, produced prototypes of NBC
suits, decontamination suits, facelets, overboots and NBC tents. This equipment has
entered production and service with the Indian armed forces.
As regards training, from 1987 onwards, the Indian army, through its
College of Military Engineering, began running familiarization courses in NBC warfare,
while scientist conducted courses at brigade level. Moreover, a series of studies were
undertaken to provide for both active and passive defence against nuclear attack for army
As regards equipment, the Indian Ministry of Defence has obviously
allocated high priority to the indigenous production of NBC gear. This has also involved
the participation of the private sector for the manufacture of both NBC suits and
respirators. In addition, the Indian army has retained its old Second World War
respirators - these are old, but would still offer significant protection. India would not
find it particularly difficult to produce enough NBC personal gear - respirators and NBC
suits - for its armed forces in a relatively short period of time - though this equipment
might be placed in storage. Mention should also be made of the fact that a new
decontamination vehicle has entered production.
While it is abundantly clear that NBC warfare has been accorded a much
higher priority in the Indian army, it remains unclear as to the exact status of NBC
preparedness and training in the Indian army. Attempts to contact senior military officers
on this subject proved unsuccessful, though some retired officers offered some vague
information that leads to the conclusion that some training is in progress.
It has become clear that India's Army Training Command has conducted
detailed studies into NBC warfare. Indeed, given India's perception of its nuclear threat,
it is not surprising that the Indian army schools of instruction and combat include NBC
scenarios. Moreover, the publisher of the prestigious Indian Defence Review stated that
the forces earmarked for use against Pakistan are well equipped to deal with NBC warfare.
It would be natural for India's Strike Corps to be the first to be
fully equipped and prepared for NBC warfare and there are some indications of this
beginning to occur. It is highly probable that at least one Corps is fully prepared -
trained and equipped for NBC warfare. The other formations would probably receive personal
NBC gear - but will be allocated a lower priority for receiving decontamination and
monitoring equipment. It should be pointed out that the RAPIDS require virtually no
modifications for deployment in an NBC environment.
It can probably be assumed that the state of NBC warfare in Pakistan is
in a similar state to that of India, except that Pakistan's industry is not yet capable of
meeting all NBC needs and that the country lacks the massive R & D infrastructure of
India. Indian sources assume that Pakistan has a nucleus of NBC trained personnel - with
Chinese NBC gear.
One thing is clear, however, both countries have now made NBC warfare
something of a priority and are making efforts - covertly - to train and equip themselves.
Nonetheless, there may be a large gap between what the military wants and reality.
While there is some reference to NBC warfare and the necessity to fight
under such conditions in both armies, there have never been any major NBC exercises
conducted by either side. It is therefore not inconceivable that the principal focus of
NBC training and equipment programs in both countries is more geared towards meeting an
emergency that might arise after one side uses such weapons. This would involve
stockpiling equipment and drafting rapid training instructions - aimed at rapidly
familiarizing troops who have to enter an NBC contaminated area. It does not seem that
either country intends to develop a tactical nuclear warfare doctrine.
One of the reasons for the lack of NBC exercises could be the extremely
severe environmental conditions prevailing on the South Asian battlefield. These
conditions range from the intense cold of the Siachen glacier to the blistering heat of
the Thar desert. Under normal peacetime conditions these climates pose great difficulties
for human endurance, if the troops were clad in full NBC gear and armoured vehicles
'buttoned-up', there would be more casualties from heat-stroke than from exposure.
This brings us to the other issue that needs to be considered - where
on the South Asian battlefield could tactical nuclear weapons possibly be used ? The
answer to this question will determine whether or not there is any battlefield use for
Theatres of Operations
Any India-Pakistan conflict will take place in four major theatres,
each varying in geography and, to a lesser extent climatically. The theatres of operations
1) Along the Line of Control - Northern Kashmir region
2) Southern Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab sectors
3) North and Central Rajasthan
4) South Rajasthan and Gujarat
When looking at these theatres of operations, it must be borne in mind
that the Line of Control in the Northern Kashmir region is not an internationally
recognized border. It should also be noted that Punjab and Kashmir are politically very
sensitive areas for the political establishments in both countries. It is, therefore,
hardly likely that any major loss of territory in either of these two areas would be
In the Southern Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab sectors, stretching down
into North and Central Rajasthan, there are a series of extremely formidable obstacle
defences, which are called ditch-cum-bunds by the Indians, and canals by the Pakistanis.
These defences, combined with the existing natural ground features make large-scale
mechanized operations virtually impossible. These linear defences are extremely
formidable, since the ditch-cum-bunds are liberally laced with diffused and well concealed
concrete bunkers which have considerable defensive firepower and are difficult to locate,
even with thermal imaging. This effectively limits operations to defensive positions with
only local offensive capability.
The Rajasthan and Gujarat regions present an entirely different
scenario. In the Northern/Central Rajasthan theatre, considerable scope exists for the
large scale use of mechanised formations in the desert and semi-desert sectors. It is in
these sectors, the Thar desert and the Rann of Kutch, that the major armoured battles of
the next India-Pakistan war are likely to be fought. It is, therefore, not surprising that
a complete Indian Strike Corps is earmarked for use primarily in this area.
The Thar Desert and Rann of Kutch also present the best possible place
for tactical nuclear warfare. The barren desert areas are ideal in that so-called
collateral damage could be reduced. Moreover, any meaningful Indian gains in this area,
that is beyond the major river lines, would threaten the very existence of the Pakistani
state, thus prompting Pakistan to actively consider using nuclear weapons in the event of
a major Indian breakthrough.
On the other hand, since the Indian Strike Corps will be operating in
this area, so will be the bulk of India's formidable Corps of Air Defence Artillery. This
means that any Pakistani attack against a major Indian formation would be met with heavy
resistance from extremely dense and sophisticated CADA assets - not to mention fighter
squadrons from the Indian Air Force. Therefore, any Pakistani attack stands a good chance
of being repelled without reaching their assigned target.
India could also reduce the risk of nuclear retaliation by limiting its
advance to the major river lines, or to between 60-80 km in the North/Central Rajasthan
sectors. This would mean that the existence of Pakistan would no longer be threatened
while India would still occupy chunks of territory. Pakistan would probably be less
willing to cross the nuclear threshold for such a limited Indian advance.
It is unlikely that either India or Pakistan would initiate nuclear
warfare in either the Punjab or Kashmir regions purely for tactical gain. Indeed, for
Pakistan the use of such weapons in Kashmir would almost certainly alienate the Muslim
population of the Kashmir Valley. In the case of Punjab, Pakistan's military and political
elites are largely drawn from that Province and as such it is extremely unlikely that they
would take a risk as large as this for limited tactical gains. From a purely military
standpoint, it should also be pointed out that the ditch-cum-bund defences and their
network of concrete bunkers would probably survive a nuclear attack. This would render a
nuclear attack in this sector virtually useless.
Therefore, the only area in which nuclear weapons would be tactically
useful is in Rajasthan and Gujarat - for reasons which have already been given. Yet that
land , especially in Rajasthan, Thar Desert sector, is of virtually no strategic
importance. Would any militarily sane nation risk revealing the full extent of its covert
nuclear program unless its very existence was threatened ? The answer is clearly no.
Therefore, if India limits its territorial gains in this area, Pakistan would have no
reason to resort to nuclear weapons.
There is one wild card in this scenario - the Line of Control. If India
were to launch a major assault along the LoC - would Pakistan use nuclear weapons ? An
examination of a possible war scenario will perhaps illustrate Indian planning more
In 1987, the India army conducted a massive military exercise,
'Brasstacks', which outlined what was then a new tactical doctrine. No longer would the
Indian army concentrate on operations in Punjab, as it had during the 1965 war, but would
deploy massively powerful armoured formations in the Rajasthan sector with the aim of
bisecting Pakistan at its weakest point in the Sindh Province.
This has been the model most often used and quoted by scholars in the
literature available on possible war scenarios. Moreover, it has been further argued that
thanks to Pakistan's nuclear capability, an Indian offensive in the Sindh that met with
success would be answered by a Pakistani nuclear strike. Since the defences in the Punjab
are strong, it was therefore argued that as India's military superiority was hardly
overwhelming, the nuclear factor may be creating an environment where war was almost
This model is, however, obsolete and far from creating a certain
conventional stalemate, has simply led to the Indian army re-thinking its tactical
doctrine. No longer will the Indian army attempt to make major territorial gains, but it
will concentrate on occupying a small stretch of territory, not enough to threaten
Pakistan's existence, but enough to force Pakistan to commit its forces where they will be
met by superior Indian firepower which will then inflict maximum attrition. The reason for
this in part lies in the risk of nuclear warfare, but the main reason lies in the fact
that previous wars in 1965 and 1971 have shown that major territorial gains are unlikely
in a short war.
If a major Indian offensive occurs, it will occur in Kashmir. Never
before has the Indian army attempted any offensive in Kashmir, but this time, thanks to
the massive influx of troops into the State, an Indian offensive along the Line of Control
is very possible. It could be argued that these troops are primarily for
counter-insurgency operations. However, this does not explain why the formations coming
into Jammu and Kashmir are bringing their artillery with them. Any fighting will in
Kashmir will centre around a clash of infantry and artillery and as such, the induction of
substantial artillery assets into the region must be seen as significant.
At the outset one thing must be made clear. Neither India or Pakistan
believes that anything would be decided in a war lasting less than four weeks. India bases
its plans on a period of intense fighting lasting six to eight weeks followed by a period
of major, but less intense fighting lasting up to four more weeks. War Wastage Reserves
are calculated on this basis and so if a war lasts only two weeks or thereabouts, the most
that can be hoped for is for heavy attrition of the enemy forces.
India has therefore moved away from the Brasstacks plan of bisecting
Pakistan in the Sindh and threatening Islamabad with encirclement to a more modest
objective of destroying as much of the Pakistani military as possible. Pakistan's nuclear
weapons provide some deterrence against any Indian move to make deep thrusts into its
territory and against any possible bisection of Pakistan, they are of no use in a war
aimed solely at inflicting maximum attrition against Pakistani military forces.
The Indian army has two Strike Corps, 2 Corps & 1 Corps, assigned
to the Rajasthan and Punjab sectors respectively. The Strike Corps are described in an
earlier section, but each is composed of one armoured division and several infantry
divisions and supporting units. Each will also have an artillery division attached. There
is another Strike Corps - 21 Corps which is not yet fully operational.
In the Brasstacks model, these were the two formations Pakistan was
most concerned about and their continued presence in the Rajasthan and Punjab sectors will
ensure that Pakistan cannot consider any major troop redeployments in either sector. Under
current plans, India intends not to advance more than 60-80km in the North/Central
Rajasthan sector and only up to the major river lines in South Rajasthan/Gujarat,
Pakistan's existence would hardly be threatened.
However, it must be remembered that India and Pakistan will be fighting
a political war as much as a military one and any loss of territory is considered a major
political embarrassment. This means that Pakistan would invariably have to attempt a
counterattack against Indian forces occupying any of its territory. Its forces would then
be drawn into a battle of attrition against Indian forces, a battle that they would lose.
If the current build up of air defence assets, upgrading of armour and anti-tank munitions
and the increase in artillery within the India army is seen in light of this
post-Brasstacks tactical doctrine, it is abundantly clear that India is building up its
forces to ward off any Pakistani counterattack, inflicting devastating losses on the
In the Southern Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab sectors, the huge fixed
fortifications described previouslyr effectively limit the scope of any Indian operation.
India is highly unlikely to attempt a major offensive in this sector for two reasons. The
first is the extent of the fortified defences in this sector, but the second is far more
significant and goes to the core of Pakistan's vulnerability versus India.
The real vulnerability of Pakistan lies, not in a lack of 'strategic
depth', but in the fact that so many of its major population centres and politically and
military sensitive targets lie very close to the border with India. As was mentioned
earlier, this negates the tactical use of nuclear weapons in the Punjab sector in
particular. However, should India threaten Lahore, for example, Pakistan could be
compelled to attempt a nuclear strike against an Indian civilian target. As such, it is
hardly likely that India would want to risk a major advance in Punjab. Aims in this sector
would be limited to holding Pakistani forces in a defensive deployment pattern while
inflicting maximum attrition with 2 Corps and 21 Corps.
Along the Line of Control, however, the situation is very different.
One of the consequences of the Kashmir insurgency is that India has transferred several
divisions to the area to reinforce the troops already there and bringing total troop
strength in this sector to over 250,000. The Indian divisions and brigades also brought
their supporting artillery with them and this combination - which is far in excess of what
is needed for defensive operations - enables Indian planners to contemplate a major
offensive along the Line of Control with every chance of success.
The importance of the term Line of Control cannot be understated.
Pakistan clings to the illusion, in official pronouncements at any rate, that its part of
Kashmir is not really part of Pakistan. As such, it has always refused to recognize the
Line of Control as the international border with India. This is something that India
intends to exploit to the fullest. Pakistan, on the other hand, appears to work to a
different strategy. From the time of the 1965 and 1971 wars, up until India's Brasstacks
exercise, emphasis was placed on the static defence of the Line of Control and the border.
However, in light of India's substantially enhanced offensive capabilities, Pakistan
realised that this 'stand and fight' doctrine would lead to serious Indian penetration of
Pakistani territory with the Pakistani army being unable to manoeuvre to meet the threat.
Counterattacking formations would then be destroyed piecemeal.
Pakistan has therefore adopted a new strategy - the Riposte. This is
remarkably simple in concept in that Pakistan would accept the loss of territory in Indian
penetrations, but would conduct a limited advance along narrow fronts with the aim of
occupying territory near the border to a depth of 40-50km. Pakistan believes that this
would give it a bargaining chip to be used in the aftermath of a ceasefire brought about
by international pressure after 3-4 weeks of fighting.The Pakistanis, to some extent,
still assume that India will attempt deep penetrations into the territory. Moreover, it
appears that though the Pakistani army is well prepared for this new doctrine, there is an
inadequate appreciation of the threat posed by Indian air power to the attacking
formations. Some planning has been based on the highly unrealistic assumption of local air
superiority and as such these plans may go seriously awry.
So what will a future India-Pakistan war look like ? There are a number
of good books on the 1965 and 1971 wars and some excellent accounts of the tactical
thinking behind Exercise Brasstacks are available. These, however, are not of much use at
present. However, perhaps the best and most realistic war scenario was painted by defence
journalist Pravin Sawhney in the Asian Age newspaper in November 1994.
Holding formations in both India and Pakistan can man their forward
defensive positions and fortifications in less than 24 hours. However, Corps level
reserves with large stockpiles of munitions will take between 24 to 72 hours for
mobilization after being given their orders. In this regard, both armies will be evenly
matched in the first 24 hours since the Pakistani units have to travel a shorter distance
to their forward positions.
Pakistan's Army Reserve North is based in the Kharian/Mangla complex
and would need to travel only 200km to its forward concentration areas or even their
assembly areas where regrouping before an offensive is done. This could be done at
extremely short notice and is consistent with Pakistan's pre-conceived offensive plans as
outlined in the Riposte doctrine. Army Reserve South, which is based in the Multan area
can also be available for operations in a similar time. While many of India's formations
may take up to 72 hours to be fully deployed, two out of India's three Strike Corps, 1
Corps & 2 Corps, are so positioned as to match the mobilization timings of Army
Reserve South. As of now, it is not known if the third Strike Corps, 21 Corps, will be
available at such short notice.
India could, in theory, disrupt the early deployment of Army Reserve
North if the Indian Army's Northern Command denies deployment space with the pre-emptive
mobilization and deployment of Northern Command's theatre reserves. In 1994, Sawhney was
unconvinced that this was possible owing to the employment of so many units of the Indian
army on internal security duties in Jammu & Kashmir. However, since 1994, the number
of paramilitary units in Jammu & Kashmir has grown and the Indian army has deployed
almost thirty thousand men from its Rashtriya Rifles battalions. These would take at least
some pressure off the regular army in counter-insurgency operations. Moreover, the number
of regular army troops in the state seems to have grown. These could provide the Indian
army with sufficient troops in theatre to deny Pakistan's Army Reserve North deployment
space, thus neutralizing any advantage Pakistan had in this regard.
The problem with assessing whether or not Indian troop strength is
adequate to the task of neutralizing Army Reserve North's deployment is that the internal
security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is very variable. It is possible that the
paramilitary forces and the Rashtriya Rifles will free a large number of troops for
conventional operations. Moreover, it is possible that up to three divisions, with over
forty thousand men, could be moved from the China border without seriously degrading
India's defences against a Chinese assault. These troops are held by Central and Eastern
commands, and have actually been earmarked for out of theatre operations.
In the case of Army Reserve South, the Indian Air Force has the
potential to cause havoc with their deployment by beginning an intensive interdiction
campaign in the Gujrat (Punjab)-Sialkot-Gujranwala area. However, this would make India
the aggressor in any conflict. Sawhney argues that this would make the Indian government
reluctant to permit this, however, that is not at all certain. The Indian government may
well engineer incidents to give an excuse, however flimsy, for the Indian Air Force to
begin such an interdiction campaign.
In order to further reduce the risk of a Pakistani nuclear strike, it
is possible that India, through the United Nations, might make certain pledges to
Pakistan. These might include a pledge not to deliberately attack a civilian target, to
refrain from attacking civilian nuclear installations and a promise not to initiate the
use of weapons of mass destruction unless attacked with such weapons. India could also
make it clear that it would abide by these terms only if Pakistan agrees to do the same.
Should Pakistan not agree, India would probably assume that a nuclear strike would be
Let us for the moment assume that India does not deny Army Reserve
North deployment space and that the Indian government does not sanction the launching of
preemptive air strikes. Both India and Pakistan will have a relative parity in manpower
and combat formations at the start of any conflict. India will be able to bring up some
very large combat formations from central and eastern India, but Pakistan would be almost
fully committed. A force of three infantry divisions plus some independent brigades under
11 & 12 Corps would be transferable from the Peshawar and Quetta areas respectively,
but with very little artillery and armour. Moreover, if there is any serious escalation of
fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan may be less willing to denude its Afghan border of all
regular army formations.
The Indian objectives in the Northern sector, in Jammu & Kashmir,
are somewhat unclear. The Indian Defence Review Research Team argued that the capture of
Skardu to cut off the main glacier zone in Baltistan would be a major objective. Moreover,
a strong offensive aimed at capturing Muzzafarabad from the North and the South of the
Jhelum, and the neutralization of the Haji Pir (Bedori ) Bulge would have to be
undertaken. The Indian army would also attempt to capture the Mirpur-Mangla Complex with
the view of presenting a clear and present threat to the Pakistani national capital
region. Finally, to cope with the threat posed by Army Reserve North, Indian formations
would make a penetration into the Sialkot sector with the sole aim of bottling up and
denying deployment space to the Pakistani formations, thus ensuring its eventual
The scenario described above leads to the question as to whether
Pakistan would launch a nuclear strike in response to the threat posed to its national
capital. The Indian Defence Review Research Team does not answer this question in any way.
Pravin Sawhney describes a far more detailed scenario which, while essentially similar in
concept, seems to differ in some major details.
Sawhney, in his scenario, argues that the Indian army would have a
choice - attacking into either Ladakh-Baltistan or into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir ( POK )
and that the army would prefer an ingress into the latter along the Line of Control. He
also argues that the main thrust would be in the Jammu division between Poonch and Chammb
with a secondary thrust into the Tithwal-Keran sectors.
Northern Command might also suggest that a limited offensive be
conducted to the west of Zojila in the Dras-Kargil sectors. The aim here would be to cut
off the lines of communications of the Pakistani brigade based near the Shingo and Indus
Rivers. These operations will call for troops specially trained and equipped for
operations in mountainous and hilly terrain and to this end, the three divisions
previously earmarked for use against China would be invaluable. Moreover, select
formations from these forces already send divisional reconnaissance groups into Kashmir
for terrain familiarization.
That these divisional reconnaissance groups have been conducting
terrain familiarization for quite some time gives rise to the idea that India has been
planning for a major offensive in the Jammu & Kashmir sector for a long time.
Pravin Sawhney assumes that the attack in Kashmir would be launched
first with two mountain divisions concentrated to begin operations in the directions of
Jhanghar-Mirpur and Nowshera-Bhimber with the ability to switch between the two. A third
division would be allocated to the Mendhar-Kotli-Mirpur axis in two columns. Pakistan
would probably understand that some move was afoot at this stage to the sector defended by
19 Infantry Division. The Pakistanis would then move the 7 & 9 infantry divisions
based at Peshawar to assist in their defence. However, it is not certain that these two
divisions would be available entirely since the Afghan border is volatile at the best of
times and the situation in Afghanistan is very fluid.
Nonetheless, assuming these formations begin an eastward movement,
Pakistan's Army Reserve South would start mobilizing at Multan. At this stage, India's
three Strike Corps would begin a forward movement. The plan as envisaged by Indian
planners is for 1 Corps to face Army Reserve North and 2 & 21 Corps to face Army
The offensive would begin in the Ladakh sector with two brigades
attacking from Kargil along with two brigades from the Northern Kashmir holding division
tasked with straightening the Line of Control in the Tithwal-Bugina bulge sector. The
three mountain divisions mentioned earlier would then commence their offensive which would
probably face extremely stiff resistance from the Pakistani infantry divisions facing
them. Compared to the dashing manoeuvre warfare employed during the Brasstacks exercise,
the current Indian army high command is fully convinced that their present offensive plans
would be more akin to the 'meat-grinding' assaults of the Second World War.
As Pakistan's strategic depth was eroded around Islamabad and with its
Army HQ at Rawalpindi fixed on the worsening situation at Mirpur, Army Reserve North would
be committed to action. ARN would attempt an offensive aimed at the Jammu-Pathankot
corridor while crossing the river Ravi aimed at threatening Gurdaspur-Pathankot.
These operations would be met by India's 1 Corps which would engage
Army Reserve North in a savage battle of attrition, forcing Pakistan to move 9 division to
the Mirpur sector, where the Indian offensive continues, while 7 division moved, along
with 30 Corps, to reinforce Army Reserve North. In the meantime, the Indian and Pakistani
air forces would engage in their own battle of attrition, with the former waging a heavy
counter-air offensive whilst engaging in a massive offensive-air-support operation for the
With the Indian offensive overcoming its opponents in the Kashmir
region and Army Reserve North, and its reinforcements, engaged with India's 1 Corps in a
battle of attrition, Pakistan's army high command would prefer that Army Reserve South be
kept out of action as long as possible. However, since the whole object of the Indian plan
is to inflict heavy attrition on Pakistan's armed forces, it would be essential for Army
Reserve South to be neutralized.
Sawhney believes that India would use its Desert Corps (12 Corps) to
draw ARS into action. 12 Corps would launch a limited offensive aimed south of Rahimyar
Khan to which Army Reserve South would respond with a thrust to its north. The Indian
Holding Corps, with their RAPIDS, would probably find themselves under heavy pressure from
the powerful ARS. At this stage, with ARS fully committed, India would spring its trap
with 2 & 21 Corps, along with massive air support, launching out together along a very
narrow front aimed at punching through 31 Corps and falling on the soft under-belly of
Army Reserve South which would then be destroyed in detail.
In this scenario, the fighting which has lasted between two and four
weeks, has left Pakistan's armed forces severely depleted, if not almost destroyed. Army
Reserve South has been destroyed along with the Pakistani formations in the
Rajasthan/Gujarat sector. Indian forces have made gains along the Line of Control,
severely eroding Pakistan's strategic depth in the region of Islamabad and Army Reserve
North and its reinforcing formations have been mauled by 1 Corps, Indian Holding Corps and
the Indian Air Force.
What is significant is that Pakistan would not have suffered any major
territorial losses. No Indian offensive actually seized much land and in no case was the
existence of Pakistan actually threatened. While nuclear threats and counter-threats might
be traded, Pakistan would probably not feel quite so compelled to go nuclear as it would
if its very survival was at stake.
India's gamble is that with such a mauling of its military capability
and since Pakistan has neither the money or the resources to re-build such a large and
powerful military machine again, Pakistan might be far more amenable to a permanent
settlement of the Kashmir dispute and other outstanding matters. Since India would hold a
major advantage in that Pakistan could no longer rival India militarily, such a settlement
would probably go in India's favour. At least that is the Indian plan. Whether or not any
permanent settlement over Kashmir can be achieved after such a war remains a matter for
The most important point to note in this scenario is that in no case
would India be seeking to grap large areas of Pakistani territory. Pakistan's existence
will not be endangered so would Pakistan risk using nuclear weapons on the battlefield ?
Having said this, it should further be pointed out that there is a lot of room for
misinterpretation in this scenario. For example, will Pakistan be able to distinguish
between a limited Indian advance and a full scale invasion? At what stage would Pakistan
consider its existence to be threatened ?
After discussions with a number of retired Indian officers -
specifically about this question of misinterpretation - the only answers that could be
provided revolved around the fact that a limited Indian penetration would be along a broad
front and have limited depth while a full invasion would have areas of narrow but deep
penetrations into Pakistani territory. The officers believed that Pakistan would have no
difficulty in differentiating between the two and as such the question of
misinterpretation did not arise.
The Tactical Use of Nuclear Weapons: Advantages &
Having looked at the areas in which nuclear weapons might be applied,
it is now appropriate to examine the 'pros' and 'cons' of using nuclear weapons on the
South Asian battlefield. The first question that has to be answered is how nuclear weapons
can be used tactically ?
Like the American and Russian - and possibly the Chinese - armed
forces, the Indian and Pakistani military establishments, since the tests of May 1998, are
likely to eventually have access to weapons in the very low yield - 0.1 - 4 kiloton -
range. However, the nuclear weapons most likely to be used on the South Asian battlefield
might range between 5 and 20 kilotons owing to difficulties in minaturization. These
weapons are fairly large - by Western battlefield standards - and it is extremely
difficult to differentiate between 'tactical' and 'strategic' nuclear weapons in the
For defending forces, either Indian or Pakistani, nuclear weapons might
be used to block attacking units crossing obstacles - e.g. rivers. To this end, the
defending forces would adopt a mobile defence posture, which would present a difficult
target for a retaliatory nuclear strike. The nuclear weapons would be used as the
attacking force concentrates to overcome a defensive position or obstacle. This would
require a degree of advanced warning to the defending units and this might be detected.
As far as offensive operations are concerned, these would necessarily
be planned around the use of nuclear weapons. The attacking forces would remain dispersed
and only concentrate rapidly to attack. The objective of this is to present as few
worthwhile nuclear targets as possible. In addition, the attacker would aim to destroy the
enemy's nuclear capability and, perhaps more importantly, the controlling Headquarters.
In order to perform these tasks, in both defence and offence, the
armies must possess mobile reserves and strike formations with a preponderance of armour
and mechanized infantry and possess excellent intelligence. In this regard, both the
Indian and Pakistani armies have such forces in sizeable numbers, the Indian Strike Corps
and RAPIDS and Pakistan's Army Reserve North and South. This mechanization was carried out
as part of the evolving conventional military doctrine, but, as can be seen, also prepares
both armies for the use of battlefield nuclear weapons in South Asia.
However, there are a number of very serious constraints that mitigate
against the battlefield use of South Asia. The first, and perhaps the most important, of
these is the stigma attached to being only the second country in the world to use nuclear
weapons. Certainly India, for example, would be very much restrained from using nuclear
weapons in the initial stages of any attack on Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan would be very
wary of using nuclear weapons for tactical gain. Both sides would only use nuclear weapons
in the event of their very existence being threatened, not just to gain a battlefield
In addition to this, there are limitations to the success of a nuclear
strike on an enemy position. A Pakistani attack on an Indian Strike Corps, as mentioned
earlier, would be met by intense anti-aircraft fire - in addition to Indian fighters. This
does not apply, at least not to the same extent, to an Indian attack on a major Pakistani
formation, owing to the limited variety of air defence weapons available to the Pakistani
An attack on a well dispersed, mechanized combat force would not be
catastrophic. Armoured vehicles in both armies are designed to operate in NBC conditions
and furthermore, unless the unit is almost at the centre of the blast ( 'Ground Zero' ) it
is highly possible that the MBTs and APCs would provide significant protection from the
blast and radiation effects. This means that the principal offensive formations of both
armies would be rather less vulnerable targets than would be ideal. The holding formations
- heavily dug in and in well-constructed concrete bunkers and behind the ditch-cum-bund
and canal defences - would be more vulnerable.However, even these, with the protection
afforded by the fixed defences might not suffer as much as hoped as these defences would
probably survive a nuclear strike. The most vulnerable units would be lone battalions or
brigades in isolated areas. Moreover, weapons in the 0.1-4 kiloton range would be of
little utility against these fortifications and substantial portions of the defences may
be able to survive blasts up to 20 kilotons.
There is also a major problem of providing intelligence to friendly
forces in the area of a nuclear blast. It is unlikely that either army would want to have
sizeable numbers of friendly forces caught either at the centre or in the vicinity of a
nuclear strike. In order to prevent this, instructions for dispersal, issuing of
protective equipment and constructing shelters would have to be given. There may also have
to be large scale issues of NBC protective gear and decontamination and monitoring
equipment. Moreover, medical units would also have to be alerted to the possibilty of the
use of nuclear weapons so as to cater for battlefield casualties.
These preparations would probably be noticed by the enemy, thus
eliminating the essential element of surprise. In addition, given the fact that only the
Southern Rajasthan/Gujarat sectors are really suitable for tactical nuclear warfare, the
disastrous effects of using NBC gear on combat efficiency would have to be taken into
Perhaps the ultimate deterrent to the tactical use of nuclear weapons
is the threat of massive retaliation. In the absence of a clear nuclear doctirne, neither
side is fully aware of where the nuclear threshold lies. Would either India or Pakistan
risk a concentrated nuclear attack on each other's cities in retaliation for a nuclear
strike on a battlefield target ? This is hardly likely, however, in the absence of clearly
stated policies and nuclear doctrines, such a miscalculation cannot be ruled out.
Ultimately tactical nuclear restraint revolves around the vulnerability of South Asian
population centres - civilians will pay the price for any nuclear miscalculation on the