Defence Doctrine Facing up to war on two fronts

THE Army Chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor's statement during the Army Training Command doctrine seminar in end-December 2009 that the Indian Army must prepare for a "two-front war" stirred a hornet's nest. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi termed the statement "irresponsible". 
Pakistan's official spokesman said such statements betrayed a hostile intent as well as a hegemonic and jingoistic mindset that is out of step with the realities of the time. "No one should ever underestimate our capability and determination to foil any nefarious designs against the security of Pakistan." 
The Pakistani media also went ballistic. In fact, if any jingoism was displayed, it was by the Pakistani media. Ayesha Siddiqa wrote in Dawn on January 8, 2010, "Taking on two neighbours militarily and ensuring a ceasefire on its condition is New Delhi's dream." 
Another commentator wrote, "Boasting of acquiring a capability for simultaneously taking on China and Pakistan, General Kapoor is bestowing a status upon India which, though highly desirable from an Indian perspective, simply belongs to the realm of impossibility." 
Though the Chinese government did not react formally, Chinese analysts have been expressing their concerns for some time about a shift in India's military posture from defensive to "active and aggressive". 
Hao Ding, an analyst at the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, wrote on November 27, 2009, in the party-affiliated Chinese language paper China Youth Daily, "From the point of view of strategic guidelines, India has shifted to a line of 'active and aggressive defence', as a departure from the past position of 'passive defence'… In matters of strategic deployment, India has shifted to a strategy of stabilising the western front and strengthening the northern front as well as giving equal emphasis to land and sea warfare, in contrast to the earlier stress only on land warfare." 
Pakistan and China's reactions notwithstanding, every single officer in India's armed forces is convinced that if there is another conflict, China and Pakistan would collude with each other and so India must prepare for a two-front war. 
Even though no one actually wants a war, it is clear as daylight that if there is one, both of these military adversaries will act in concert. The reasons for this conviction are self-evident as the collusive nuclear-missile-military hardware nexus between China and Pakistan poses a major strategic challenge to India. 
China is known to have provided direct assistance to Pakistan for its nuclear weapons programme, including nuclear warhead designs and enough HEU (highly enriched uranium) for at least two nuclear bombs. 
China is known to have provided assistance and transferred dual-use technology and materials for the development of nuclear weapons. 
China has also helped Pakistan to build a secret reactor to produce weapons-grade plutonium at the Chashma nuclear facility. China has transferred M-9 and M-11 nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and has facilitated the transfer of Taepo Dong and No Dong ballistic missiles from North Korea to Pakistan. 
China and Pakistan have jointly developed a fighter aircraft - JF-17 Thunder/ FC-1 Fierce - and a main battle tank - Al Khalid, besides other military hardware like anti-tank missiles. 
China has "guaranteed Pakistan's territorial integrity" and in the words of the leaders of the two countries, their friendship is "higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans." 
As part of its "string of pearls" strategy in the Indian Ocean, China has built a port for Pakistan at Gwadar on the Makran Coast. This port could be upgraded to a naval base for Chinese naval vessels with minimum effort. 
China is clearly engaged in the strategic encirclement of India. During the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, China had made some threatening military manoeuvres in Tibet in support of Pakistan. 
It is also noteworthy that during the Kargil conflict in 1999, Chinese military advisers were reported to have been present at Skardu in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. 
China and India have failed to satisfactorily resolve their territorial and boundary dispute since the two nations fought a war over it in 1962 despite 14 rounds of talks between political interlocutors and many meetings of the Joint Working Group. 
Even the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has not been clearly demarcated on military maps and on the ground due to China's intransigence. Patrol face-offs are common and an armed clash could take place any time. If it is not contained quickly, such a clash could lead to another border conflict. 
Of late, while stability prevails at the strategic level, China has exhibited marked political, diplomatic and military aggressiveness at the tactical level. This has led to anxiety about Chinese intentions. 
Hence, Indian analysts have concluded that during a future Indian military conflict with China, Pakistan is likely to come to China's military aid and vice versa. While the ability to fight on two fronts may be aspirational rather than real at present, recognition of the need to prepare for such an eventuality will drive future doctrine, strategy and force structures. 
If the defence budget cannot sustain the capital expenditure that will be necessary to prepare for a two-front scenario, Indian diplomacy must ensure that the armed forces will never be required to face two military adversaries simultaneously. 
And, if the Ministry of External Affairs cannot provide such a guarantee, India should be looking for a military alliance, despite the fact that Indian policy-makers dislike that term and not joining military alliances is a key element of India's foreign policy. A nation's foreign policy and national security policy must reflect the prevailing strategic environment. 
The writer is the Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi.