Some Indian analysts do believe that limited war in the Indian context implies specifically targeted strikes across the LoC to destroy the sanctuaries provided by Pakistan and its army to the so-called mujahideen terrorists, including hot pursuit, so that they are unable to infiltrate and indulge in wanton acts of terrorism in J&K. They believe that such strikes could remain limited so that the strikes did not result in a larger conflict. Contrary to popular notions of civilisational dampeners like ahimsa, the Government of India has rarely shown any squeamishness while considering the application of coercive power in India's national security interests, with the singular exception of Pakistan's proxy war in Kashmir.
Coercive Power and its Limitations If war is the “continuation of politics by other means’, coercion is its half-brother. Since times immemorial, coercion has been used as an instrument of politics between states to impose one state’s will over another. In fact, it could be said that in the 20″ century, coercion and force became synonymous terms. [he four decades-long Cold War was at one level nothing but an attempt by the Western powers to impose their will on the Eastern bloc countries and vice versa.
This paper examines the application and limitations of the use of coercive force in the international context and analyses its usage in South Asia in the recent past.
Clausewitz had theorised that political considerations permeate everything about the use of force: whether to use force or the threat of force, how much force to use; where and when to use it; and, also, when to give in and offer to negotiate? The application of coercive force is not necessarily limited to military and diplomatic power. Other elements of national power like economic power and the psychological power of information superiority can also be employed coercively. In international relations, coercive power a essentially the capacity to bring about change in a state’s behaviour. Karl M. Deutsch has written:
Power is…neither the centre nor the essence of politics. It is one of the currencies of politics, one of the important mechanisms of acceleration or of damage control where influence, habit, or voluntary coordination may have failed, or where these may have failed to serve adequately the function of goal attainment. Force is another and narrower currency and damage control mechanism of this kind. Influence and the trading of desired favours – the traditional ‘playing polities’ of American colloquial speech – are still others…
Power has been defined as the “ability to coerce someone to do something he would not otherwise do.” This is a somewhat narrow definition and Louis Kriesberg enlarges it by postulating that “Coercion involves trying to make ms other side yield by reason of fear or actual force.”* Colonial regimes ruled through coercion, as did totalitarian regimes like that of the Nazis in Germany, Soviet Russia under Stalin and Uganda under Idi Amin.
According to John M. Handley and Andrew H. Ziegler, the instruments of statecraft are “usually perceived linearly based upon some version of a ladder of escalation, along this ladder include persuasion, inducement, deterrence, coercive diplomacy, and finally force.” Diplomacy is often associated with appeasement. The use of force has almost as many advocates – who see it as noble, heroic and glorious – as detractors ~- who see it as uncivilised, dirty, and repugnant. Beginning with the Opium War, when the British sent a gunboat up the Yangtze River to crush a Chinese rebellion against the import of opium, through President Roosevelt’s ‘gunboat diplomacy’ in the 1910s. President Woodrow Wilson’s occupation of Veracruz during Mexican Revolution and the frequent use of the United States navy to influence opinion in foreign capitals throughout the Cold War, “gunboat diplomacy’ has been a preferred form of coercion to further national security and foreign policy goals and interests.
The coercive use of force by a state, then, is a threat to hurt an opposing state so as to motivate it to avoid being hurt by complying with the demands of the threatening state or coercer. by seeking to persuade an Opposing state without physically destroying it, the coercive use of force leaves room for diplomatic bargaining. The threat must be clearly conveyed and understood and compliance must be visibly rewarded for successful coercive diplomacy. At the strategic level, coercion has two components: deterrence and compellance. While the aim of deterrence is to persuade an adversary to desist from initiating military action or face unacceptable punishment by way of destruction, compellance seeks to persuade an opposing state to change its behaviour in consonance with the diktat handed out to Gt During the Kargil conflict in 1999, India succeeded in compelling Pakistan to vacate its intrusions across the Line of Control (LoC). NATO air strikes compelled Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo and end his massacre of innocent civilians.
In a nation-state, coercive power and the threat inherent in it flows primarily from the power and strength of the armed forces. Samuel P. Huntington cites four major dimensions of a nation’s coercive military power:
Numbers: the men, weapons, equipment and resources.
Technology: the effectiveness and sophistication of weapons and equipment.
Organisational: the coherence, discipline, training and morale of the troops and the effectiveness of command and control relationships.
Societal: the ability and willingness of the society to apply military force effectively.
Ideally, as force has both kinetic and potential energy, should be accomplished without physical force actually having to be applied. The mere threat of its use should be sufficient to obtain compliance. However, in practice, the wielding of coercive power has had mixed cress, Its most successful example was during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 when the Soviet Union backed down after showing extraordinary belligerence by deploying nuclear-tipped surface-to-surface missiles aimed at the Us in Cuba. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq lost Gulf War I due to the vastly superior military power of the forces that joined hangs against it, but it continued to defy United Nations (UN) inspections for over a decade and the most dire threats, including economic sanctions, failed to coerce it into subservience. Similarly, President Bush’s clearly stated demands, threats and ultimatums failed to make Iraq capitulate despite the overwhelming military power o the United States and its allies in 2003. It has been the experience of the international community that UN sanctions have proved to be an ineffective tool in coercing a recalcitrant nation to change its behaviour.
A nation-state applying coercive force to gain its foreign policy objectives assumes that its opponent will act in a rational and predictable manner. However, the target nation may underestimate the coercer’s military power and consider its own military to be capable of inflicting unacceptable punishment on the aggressor; it may believe that the coercer lacks adequate public support for offensive military action; if may Overestimate the international community’s Opposition to coercion; and, like in the case of Saddam Hussein, its leader may be more concerned with perpetuating his own regime rather than his nation’s welfare.
Also, coercion may have the effect of rallying the people of the opponent nation to support even a dictatorial regime against a common enemy and may result in greater internal cohesion than may have existed before coercion was applied.
Morton Deutsch wrote about the USSR: “ample evidence suggests that a hostile competitive orientation to the outside world fosters internal cohesiveness and permits Soviet leaders to justify and exert repressive controls to inhibit internal dissidence and challenge to their leadership.”* The world famous photograph of a young Chinese dissident standing unarmed in the path of an advancing tank at Tiannenmen Square had a clear message: if people are willing to die rather than capitulate, the most powerful military weapons cannot coerce them into submission. This is as applicable to states as to individuals and groups. Under these circumstances, the application of coercive force is unlikely to achieve the desired objectives.
Pakistan’s Proxy War and the Kargil Conflict
In South Asia, both India and Pakistan, the main protagonists, have practised the application of coercive force with varied success. Not having reconciled itself to the accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to India, in 1947-46 and again in 1965 Pakistan attempted to settle the issue militarily but failed. With the experience gained by helping the Afghan tribes and warlords to fight and defeat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with CIA’s help during the 1980s, Pakistan army and ISI initiated a low-cost proxy war in 1988-89 by infiltrating armed mercenary terrorists to wrest Kashmir by bleeding India through the strategy of a thousand cuts. Pakistan did this by fanning the flames of a spontaneous people’s uprising after the blatantly ripped elections of 1988 in J&K. While claiming to provide only “moral, diplomatic and political support” to the Kashmiri people’s “freedom movement”, Pakistan actually provided arms, ammunition, military training, intelligence and organisational support.
The [SI’s henchmen systematically eliminated many Kashmiri political leaders who did not subscribe to the notion that Kashmir should join Pakistan. However, while sporadic acts of violence against the security forces as well as innocent civilians continued unabated, the so-called mujahideen lost the support of the people due to their high-handed and extortionist demeanour and exploitative conduct. Even after a decade of making this effort – Pakistan’s foremost foreign policy agenda – Pakistan failed to motivate the people of J&K to rise in revolt against India and failed to coerce the Indian government to yield on its unwavering stand that Kashmir is an integral part of India.
Pakistan then enlarged the scope of its military coercion by infiltrating large numbers of regular soldiers in civilian clothes to intrude across the LoC in the Kargil district of J&K in April 1999 with a view to eventually declaring a portion of the state as an independent territory; cutting off Ladakh from J&K as a quid pro quo for India’s occupation of the Siachen Glacier area in 1984; opening a new route for infiltration; and to give a fillip to the flagging “jihadi” movement. The overarching objective of the Kargil intrusions was to coerce India into negotiating the future of J&K with Pakistan from a position of strength. If Pakistan had succeeded in cutting off Ladakh and establishing some sort of “Government of Azad Kashmir” at Kargil on the Indian side of the LoC, much as India got the Mukti Bahini to establish a government-in-exile in 1971, India would have been forced to negotiate with Pakistan due to the internal political backlash.
After having been initially taken by tactical surprise, the Indian armed forces struck back with resolute determination and turned Pakistan’s intrusions into a strategic blunder. The Pakistan army’s forward posts like Tololing and Tiger Hill fell in quick succession even though India opted to limit the conflict to its own side of the LoC rather than enlarge it and risk nuclear confrontation. The Indian Air Force was employed to good effect and the Indian Navy moved both its Western and Eastern fleets forward to dominate the Arabian Sea. With the Indian army poised to throw the Pakistani intruders back across the LoC in the first week of July 1999, the Pakistan army prevailed on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seek American help to freeze the fighting in Kargil. However, due to India’s strong position, India succeeded in coercing Pakistan into withdrawing its forces completely and unequivocally. Though the Pakistan army was allowed to extricate itself, it had to suffer considerable loss of face. While Pakistan earned notoriety as an irresponsible nuclear power, India gained the respect of the international community for its restrained response.
Coercion during the 2002 Indo-Pak Military Stand-off
Even as the world was still reeling under the impact of the dastardly acts of terrorism enacted by the Al-Qaeda in attacking the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. on 11, September 2001, Pakistani terrorists attacked the J&K legislative assembly at Srinagar in October 2001. The Chief Minister of J&K publicly called for trans-LoC retaliation. However, besides some rhetoric for mass consumption, the Indian government continued to exercise restraint. The final act of denouement that almost led to war between the two countries was a partially successful attack on the Indian Parliament by Pakistani Jihadi terrorists even as it was In session on 123 December 2001. Indian public opinion was outraged, and this time the government felt compelled to take strong action.
On 16 December 2001, the Indian armed forces were ordered to mobilise for war.
‘Operation Parakram’, the first full-scale mobilisation since the 1971 war with Pakistan, brought the two nations close to war on at least two occasions. The first “window of opportunity”, as the armed forces and several analysts have come to call it, was in the first week of January 2002, soon after the Indian army had completed its lumbering mobilisation. In the snow-bound areas in J&K, the army have relatively few options in launching a major offensive across the LoC; but in the plains of Punjab and Rajasthan, the climatic conditions were ideal for an offensive military action.
However, the US and other Western governments stepped in with some astute diplomatic manoeuvres that led to General Musharraf’s commitment in a nationally telecast speech on 12 January 2002 that Pakistan will not permit any terrorist activity “from its soil”. This led India to back off but the troops remained in place in their deployment areas on the international boundary (IB) and the three strike corps remained poised in their concentration areas.
The second “window of opportunity” presented itself after a terrorist attack on the family quarters of the Indian army garrison at Kaluchak near Jammu on 14 May 2002. This time the summer weather was conducive for offensive action across the LoC in Kashmir Valley as well as the Jammu Division of J&K – south of the Pir Panjal mountain range. In Punjab and Rajasthan, even though the 40-degree plus temperatures were hard on both man and machine, the disadvantage was common to both the sides and major offensive action was possible. However, this time the Pakistan army had also mobilised and was poised in its defences. Several fighting units of Pakistan’s 10, 11 and 12 Corps had been diverted from the western front,” where these had been engaged in the joint fight alongside US forces against the remnants of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, to the eastern theatre against India. Under the circumstances, it was quite possible that even large-scale offensive action might have led only to a stalemate. Despite high-pitched rhetoric and sabre-rattling, war did not break out.
The army remained deployed on the borders, ostensibly to ensure that elections to the Kashmir legislative assembly were not disrupted by external intervention. Even though infiltration rates came down only marginally, and that too because the infantry battalions deployed on the LoC were now far better equipped in terms of surveillance devices like hand-held thermal imagers (HHTIs) and hand-held battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRs), the armed forces were finally given the orders to stand down by the government on 16 October 2002; and the 10-month long military standoff between India and Pakistan came to an end. However, ‘Operation Parakram’ continued for some time to enable the troops to clear anti-personnel and anti-tank mines that had been laid along the IB as a defensive measure.
Among Indian analysts, opinion is divided on the issue of the utility of a long-drawn deployment on the borders as an instrument of compellance. Maj. Gen. Afsir Karim (Retd.) has written:
The American ultimatum to Pakistan to either join the war against terrorism or be prepared to suffer the fate of terrorists was a perfect example of coercive diplomacy…. The purpose of deployment on Pakistan’s borders was never clearly enunciated and it did not amount to purposive use of military instrument to limit or adversely influence Pakistan’s strategic or tactical options. Pakistan’s ability to counter our threats remained intact because of the lack of purposeful action by our troops.’
However, K. Subrahmanyam is of the view that “continued deployment was necessary to contain Pakistan and raise the cost of terrorism.” [hough several analysts claim to be in the know, it is still a matter of speculation whether any military aims and objectives were assigned to the armed forces during “Operation Parakram’ by the Cabinet Committee on Security; and if such aims were assigned, what these were? “The government must have a clear and well-thought out objective before it gives such an order (i.e. the order to mobilise),” writes Lt. Gen. Pran Pahwa (Retd.). “In this particular case… the government did not have a firm and clear cut plan when it decided to mobilise the country’s armed forces.” Lt. Gen. S. K. Pillai (Retd.) has written that some of the following could have been considered as plausible aims at the time the mobilisation was ordered:
– To impose India’s will on Pakistan through military and diplomatic means to halt support for terrorism.
– Prevent Pakistani interference in India’s efforts to bring back normalcy through the democratic process in J&K.
– Re-capture portions of POK from Pakistan and leave the rest for the subsequent dialogue.
However, some Indian analysts do believe that limited war in the Indian context implies specifically targeted strikes across the LoC to destroy the sanctuaries provided by Pakistan and its army to the so-called mujahideen terrorists, including hot pursuit, so that they are unable to infiltrate and indulge in wanton acts of terrorism in J&K. They believe that such strikes could remain limited so that the strikes did not result in a larger conflict. This thinking is deeply flawed as such strikes will, firstly, be of little military consequence; and, secondly, will result in vigorous Pakistani retaliation at places where the Pakistanis hold the dominating heights on the LoC, which will then force the Indian army to also retaliate across the LoC. The situation would eventually spin out of control. B. Raman, a senior former intelligence officer, has written:
To talk of limited military action in the form of hot pursuit of terrorists, hit-and-run raids and air strikes on their training camps in Pakistani territory is to exhibit a surprising and worrisome ignorance of ground realities and a lack of understanding of a decade-long proxy war….
Whether or not the long military deployment achieved the laid down political and military objectives will remain a debatable issue for many more years to come. In fact, it is not at all clear whether any military objectives were actually assigned. When asked whether the deployment of troops was aimed at attacking Pakistan, General Padmanabhan, the COAS, had said, “There were many aims, which were fulfilled. The army chief also said, “I am in favour of the army’s re-disposition. Its mission in the border has been substantially achieved. I was quite happy that I could exercise my army during the period. The strength of the Indian Army is Clearly known to the enemy and the message that we are strong enough has been conveyed.” He then went on to add, “Whenever there is a situation calling for the army’s help, the latter’s role should be well defined to avoid confusion.”
General V. P. Malik, General Padmanabhan’s predecessor as COAS, had this to say: “ Despite speeches and international commitments…. General Musharraf’s efforts to rein in Jihadi groups operating against India have remained cosmetic and tactical… Infiltration across the LoC and other ISI operations continue… [here is no let up in terrorist acts….“”” Brahma Chellaney was more forthright:
The harsh truth is that the government played a game of bluff not just with Pakistan but also with its own military…. When a nation enjoys credibility, it can usually achieve its objectives with a mere threat to use force. However, when there are serious credibility problems, even modest objectives are difficult to accomplish. Vajpayee ended up practising coercive non-diplomacy.
The aim of politico-military coercion is to induce a change in an adversary s policies and actions through a credible threat of devastating punitive action in case of noncompliance. While trans-LoC terrorism from Pakistan continued, there was a definite reduction in its intensity. On the other hand, Pakistan steadfastly refused to either terminate the activities of the LeT and the JeM, detain their leaders and block their funds or to hand over even one of the 20 terrorists that India had demanded. Training camps and other facilities for terrorists also continued to operate in POK. Hence, the aim of “Operation Parakram’ was only partially achieved and the credibility of India’s coercive diplomacy and military superiority was seriously undermined.
Most strategic analysts in India were concerned at this development. Air Chief Marshal A. Y. Tipnis (Retd.), former Chief of Air Staff, said: “We have shown enormous patience, now it’s time to show we have resolve too. Inaction is damaging our credibility; people have begun to believe India incapable of taking any action.” Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar (Ketd.), Director, United Services Institute of India (a tri-service institution modelled on the Royal United Services Institution, London), a former DGMO and United Nations Force Commander in former Yugoslavia wrote: After all the posturing and jingoism, we have emerged true to type as a nation, which cannot take pain or injury where our self-respect is at stake. Asa result we capitulate to the pressure applied by our adversary in threatening retaliation with war should we attack the terrorist leaders and their cadres across the Line of Control or the International Border, and by raising the nuclear bogey…. Pakistan’s generals have convinced themselves of this attribute of our political masters and intelligentsia…. lam convinced that we have lost an opportunity to hit back at the terrorists who have been playing havoc with our system over the last few years. If anyone in the system seriously believes that assurances apparently given by General Musharraf to American interlocutors and commended for acceptance by our leadership are anything more than expediency to tide over the current pressure, they should have their heads examined.!”
Several analysts have recommended partial mobilisation and a graduated response to future crises to increase the options available and enable a more face-saving withdrawal if it becomes necessary. Lt. Gen. Pran Pahwa (Retd.) has written:
Mobilisation of ground troops is slow, cumbersome and expensive…. (Perhaps) only the Air Force should be out on full alert initially to exert pressure on the enemy and the ground troops should be mobilised later on if still required. Even for offensive action, the Air Force should be preferred to ground troops because its disengagement involves no problems and its actions can be terminated quickly. Ground forces get physically involved and it requires all sorts of preparation and negotiations before they can be disengaged from the enemy.
Another major reason for not having gone to war even when a casus belli existed and the international community would have supported at least limited trans-LoC offensive action and air strikes, if not a large-scale conventional conflict in the plains, was the lack of decisive conventional superiority. Over the last few decades, India’s defence budget has declined in real terms even as the commitments of the armed forces, particularly the army, increased manifold and no real modernisation has taken place. General V. P. Malik, former COAS, has pointed out the adverse consequences of a decline in the defence budget from 3.5 to 2.5 per cent of the GDP during the 1990s.
When mobilisation began in December 2002, Vijayanta tanks of 1970s vintage, artillery guns that were even older and many other obsolete or obsolescent equipment were In frontline service. Analysts pegged the overall Indo-Pak army combat force ratio at approximately 1.15:1.0 during ‘Operation Parakram’. Speaking as a MP in the Rajya Sabha less than a week after mobilisation was ordered, General Shankar Roychowdhury (Retd.), former COAS, blamed the “recurrent political controversies on military procurement in the last 15 years” for having “crippled the army’s weapons modernisation programme.”
The slender edge that India had could have led to nothing but a stalemate: and Indian defence planners are acutely conscious of the fact that a stalemate between a large and a much smaller country amounts to victory for the smaller country. Vice Admiral Premvir Das (Retd.) has written:
“The… constraint which has prevented us from being proactive is that we do not enjoy the type of asymmetry in military power against our adversary that we need to have. Without decisive superiority, it is just not feasible to undertake punitive measures of any real value.”
Lt. Gen. A. M. Vohra (Retd.) has also expressed similar views. “Operation Parakram came to a close without going to war because of the intrinsic limitations of military power of middle-order nations (like India) whose superiority 1s marginal.” Rear Admiral Raja Menon (Retd.) wrote: “India is reluctant to mount a cross-border operation because our strategy, our weapon systems don’t give us the capability to ‘prevent’ the operation from turning horribly messy. We don’t have surgical capability.” Some analysts started a scare scenario by saying that Pakistan had tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) that it would use against army columns early on during a war; and this was cited as another reason for the government’s indecision.
While territorial conquests have definitely lost relevance, the application of coercive force and limited war, if coercion fails, will continue to dominate events in South Asia. The destruction of vital components of the enemy’s military machine will remain a key factor in conventional conflict.
Deterrence will hinge on the ability to cause unacceptable damage to enemy forces, resulting in their paralysis and neat collapse, thereby forcing the enemy to the negotiating table.
However, such destruction will be caused not so much during the contact battle but by long range weapons systems such as those of the artillery, including SSMs, and air-to-ground strikes by FGA aircraft and attack helicopters of the air force.
Finally, it would be instructive to visualise the long-term impact of ‘Operation Parakram’. Lt. Gen. Vinay Shankar has written:
Our future strategy for dealing with Pakistan would depend on the answer to a single question: have the Pakistani military and political elite begun to change their belief that Kashmir can still be secured and India kept destabilised (sic) through its combination of covert war and nuclear blackmail? While some stray voices are being heard, it would appear that hardliners within the Pakistan establishment need further convincing.
Though the ongoing Indo-Pak rapprochement process 1s NOW being described as “irreversible”, a change of guard in the Pakistan leadership can and probably will turn the clock back again. As long as the Pakistan army continues to exercise a tight stranglehold over the country’s polity, unbridled control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, retains its unjustifiable size of approximately 500,000 personnel in uniform and enjoys American patronage as a frontline state and MNNA status – which brings with it new military equipment and loan waivers and rescheduling of loan payments on easier terms over longer periods – it will have no incentive to move towards genuine peace with India. [he Kashmir issue is only a symptom of a much larger fundamental malaise. The South Asian region is likely to continue to witness periodic bouts of hostility between India and Pakistan, tempered by short interludes of tentative peace. In as much as this, ‘Operation Parakram’ achieved only limited political objectives and a great opportunity to Strike at the remaining roots of terrorism in POK was once again squandered.
The employment of coercion as a tool to further national interests has not been limited to India’s relations with Pakistan. Soon after independence, Sardar ‘Iron Man’ Patel India’s first home minister, had coerced a large number of princely states to accede to India through a carrot-and-stick policy. Those like the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagadh who resisted diplomatic coercion and remained defiant were overthrown militarily. Similarly, the Portuguese did not succumb to India’s coercive efforts for a decade and a half. Finally, the Indian army was ordered to march into Goa and liberate it by force from foreign occupation. The merger of Sikkim with India was another successful example of India’s application of coercive force under the leadership of prime minister Indira Gandhi. Coercion has also been used as a foreign policy tool against Nepal like during the short but effective economic blockade imposed by India. India’s announcement late last year that the prime minister would not attend the forthcoming SAARC Summit at Dhaka could also be classified as an example of diplomatic coercion to compel the government of Bangladesh to cooperate on national security issues. Bhutan’s unstinted support of India’s foreign policy could to some extent be attributed to indirect self-coercion due to its overwhelming dependence on India for its development. Only Sri Lanka has remained immune to major Indian coercion though India’s huge size and looming presence in its neighbourhood does cast a shadow of diplomatic dominance on the island nation. It is, of course, a truism that, like people, nations do not like to be forced to do things against their will and this is the reason for India’s friendlessness in South Asia.
Finally, judging by Huntington’s four criteria of coercive power (numbers, technology, organisational cohesiveness and societal sanction of force), India’s practice of coercion as a foreign policy tool in its neighbourhood has been mostly successful, even though the political will to act decisively against Pakistan’s long-drawn proxy war is sorely lacking.
it is only against Pakistan that India’s coercive efforts have succeeded as often as these have failed. Contrary to popular notions of civilisational dampeners like ahimsa, the Government of India has rarely shown any squeamishness while considering the application of coercive power in India’s national security interests, with the singular exception of Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir. It is another matter that the government often attempts to cloak coercive measures under euphemistic terms like furthering mutual interests and the need to face common dangers collectively. This is as it should be. For long a reluctant power, since Pokhran-ll in May 1998 India is gradually learning to flex its new-found muscles to unabashedly pursue its own national interests rather than take recourse to the moral high horse that it rode without success and without real friends riding side by side for almost half a century.