India has the Edge Bruised in NWFP and FATA, Pakistan Army is in no Shape for

Pakistan has consistently failed to convincingly end terrorism emanating from its soil because India continues to shy away from exercising hard options, which include punitive military strikes. Large-scale conventional conflict is never a good option. In this case it will add to the complexity of the challenge of cross-border terrorism without in any way helping to resolve it. However, unless some punishment is inflicted on the real perpetrators of terrorism, they cannot be persuaded to terminate their low risk-high payoff strategy to destabilise and weaken India by “bleeding it through a thousand cuts”. 
There is, of course, some risk of limited military strikes across the LoC in Kashmir escalating to conventional conflict, with attendant nuclear dangers. In such a scenario, the Indian army and the air force will take the fight into enemy territory through their new concept of joint air-land offensive operations. This concept has been tested in a series of joint annual exercises that have included Poorna Vijay (2001), Vijay Chakra, Divya Astra, Vajra Shakti (May 2005), Desert Strike (November 2005), Sanghe Shakti (May 2006) and Dakshin Shakti-Brazen Chariots (March 2008). All of these exercises were aimed at concentrating and coordinating the firepower of all available assets and fine-tuning army-air force joint operations in a strategic setting premised on conventional operations in a nuclear environment. 
While the option to strike deep and call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff remains on the table, a new concept of offensive operations now under consideration is a combination of “Cold Start” and integrated battle groups (IBGs). During Operation Parakram the Strike Corps had taken almost three weeks to move to their deployment areas. The aim of the Cold Start doctrine is to move rapidly from the cantonments directly to battle positions to launch a number of potent strikes all across the western border without prior warning to give India strategic advantage. Army IBGs, based on combinations of infantry divisions and armoured brigades, are battle groups that are tailor-made for offensive operations and are capable of penetrating across the entire border over a wide front. Supported by massive firepower, IBGs can launch multi-pronged offensive operations into Pakistan without presenting large targets for nuclear strikes. 
After the experience gained in Operation Parakram, India’s strike formations are now better capable of launching offensive operations quickly. Within 72 to 96 hours of the issue of the order for full-scale mobilisation, a large number of IBGs based on strike divisions may be expected to launch offensive operations even as the defensive divisions are still completing their deployments on the border. Such simultaneity of operations will unhinge the adversary, break his cohesion and paralyse him into making mistakes from which he will not be able to recover. 
Each strike division battle group will be specifically structured to achieve designated objectives in the terrain in which it is expected to be launched and yet be flexible enough for two or more of them to be grouped for concentrated operations under a corps HQ. This will enable them to bring to bear the combined weight of their combat power on a common military objective deep inside Pakistani territory. The “pivot” or holding Corps have been provided significant offensive capability that is now integral to them. General J J Singh, former COAS, had stated that “they have been assigned roles, which are offensive as well as defensive…” 
Should the Pakistan army find itself unable to stop the Indian juggernaut, it may consider launching nuclear strikes against India’s mechanised forces operating inside its territory. However, Pakistan has a lot to lose by initiating nuclear strikes. Its military leaders are well aware that while India will sustain considerable damage in a Pakistani first strike, India’s massive retaliatory strike will completely destroy major Pakistani cities, industry and combat forces and Pakistan will cease to exist as a nation state. 
Under the circumstances, Pakistan’s “red lines” are not as close to the border as the Pakistan army has been trying to convince Indian military planners to believe. The nuclear tipping point in a conventional conflict is a matter of fine military judgment. A rational Pakistani approach would be to opt for a “graduated response” in case push comes to shove. Lt Gen Sardar F S Lodhi (Retd) has written about a demonstration warning shot followed by a low-yield nuclear explosion over Indian forces advancing inside Pakistani territory. If that fails to stop Indian offensive operations, Pakistan may choose to target a small border town in India. However, it will risk total annihilation. 
The Indian Army, equipped with T-90 main battle tanks, Smerch rocket systems and the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system, enjoys an edge over its Pakistani counterpart despite the slow pace of modernisation. The Pakistan Army has been badly bruised in the NWFP, FATA and the Swat Valley and is in no shape to fight a conventional war. General Kayani’s bravado should be taken as typical Pakistani bluff and bluster rather than a genuine threat.
In the end India’s conventional superiority will prevail and a future conflict with Pakistan can be expected to end on terms favourable to India. Hence, while war is not a rational option, there is no need to fear war and act timidly. India must act in its national interest and not continue to suffer the adverse consequences of Pakistan’s interminable proxy war.
Gurmeet Kanwal is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.