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The National Identity III : The Cold Start Doctrine and the Civil-Armed Forces feud in the North Block

On der Wille

India stood at a cross-roads in December 2001. India's Parliament had been attacked by Pakistani backed and Pakistani trained gunmen and India's response, a mere two years after the Kargil war, would shape India's military and political response to Pakistan's proxy war for a generation to come. Half a million troops were mobilized across the International Border and the Line of Control in Kashmir. The service chiefs wanted to strike at the heart of Pakistan and divide it into two separate battle theaters. This would ideally call for a blitzkrieg within 72-96 hours of the Parliament attack. It took three weeks until India's Strike Corps from, Ambala, Mathura and Bhopal (in the hinterland) were able to amass the required columns across the border. Once mobilized, the Service Chiefs' plans of slicing Pakistan into two was rejected by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The Indian armed forces gifted the Indian elected leadership their own worst enemy - time. Time to dither, time to look for diplomatic solutions, time to bow down to international pressure and time to eventually develop cold feet. Without any tactical or operational victories, there is little hope of securing a political and strategic victory and absolutely no hope to garner concessions from Pakistan. Thus Operation Parakram, the largest mobilization of troops since 1971, turned into a colossal and costly failure.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, famously, uttered these words in response to Indira Gandhi's plans of a monsoon invasion of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1971. Indira Gandhi paid heed and instead on the Field Marshal's say so, India put in proper planning through the year and won a decisive victory in East Pakistan and liberated them in December 1971. India also decimated Pakistan on the Western front, thus compelling Pakistani Premier Bhutto to engage with India at the Shimla summit in 1972. After scoring a decisive operational victory in both the Western and Eastern theaters of war, Prime Minister Gandhi failed to usher in concessions from Pakistan and handed back important mountain passes, territory and PoWs on a platter. This stands as an example of poor political leadership, despite an operational victory, The civil leadership doubted our military capabilities to enforce lasting peace and thus never had a vision of a "political victory", and thus India failed to enforce her terms on Pakistan. Pakistan was left free to start planning for taking the Siachen Glacier and to fester unrest in Indian Kashmir in the decades to come.

All of India's wars show a glaring gap between what the political leadership knows of the Indian military's capabilities and what the military knows of the elected leadership's strategic goals. After the bitter truths learned in the aftermath of the costly mobilization of early 2002, the Indian Army wasted little time in developing a military doctrine which could ensure complete operational success.

The National Identity IV: India's original "Cold Start" and the day the Indian military nearly went rogue

On der Wille

Arun Singh strode away into the mountains of Almora, the heartland of Kumaon. If it felt like a betrayal of his close friend Rajiv Gandhi, it was at least a decision taken with a heavy heart. Thrice, he had been persuaded by Prime Minister Gandhi to continue as Minister of State for defense, but with the weight of the Bofors scandal sagging shoulders in the Ministry of Defense, he thought it was best to go. He had wrenched himself away to an altogether different world, far removed from Delhi not just in distance but even more so in time, and he had no intention of returning.

The year was 1988. A year earlier he helped oversee an operation which brought a freshly nuclear armed Pakistan and India to the brink of war.

The intervening years between 1974, when India displayed her nuclear might, and 1987 were largely peaceful, in the conventional sense. India and Pakistan didn't engage in open conflict, but as the arms race between the two neighbours heated up, so did the misadventures. In Operation Meghdoot in 1984, India wrestled control of the highest battlefield in the world, Siachen Glacier. With the Simla Agreement in 1972, failing to demarcate Indian and Pakistani territory, India for once, assumed a defensively-offensive posture to capture the area beyond point NJ9842, referred to as "thence north to the glaciers" in the Simla Agreement. As India had preempted Pakistan, India had the advantage of commanding the heights and used it to devastating effect to counter wave after wave of Pakistani attempts to gain a foothold on the glacier. More than thirty years on, India still controls the entire Siachen Glacier.

Perhaps buoyed by this daring manoeuvre, the Indian Army wasted little time in developing blueprints for future "preemptive" and "defensively-offensive" strikes. The Indian Government had, since Independence, assumed a purely defensive posture but under Chief of Army Staff General Sundarji, the military was at least ready to showcase its conventional might, as a sign of deterrence to Pakistan.

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