General Bipin Rawat the Army Chief of the Indian Army, in an interview to ‘The Print’, has revealed a lot about Indian army planning, when it comes to Pakistan, including how they plan on fighting the next war. General Rawat has revealed the 10i strategy for Pakistan, which translates to 10 days of “Intense” warfighting with the goal to cripple Pakistani forces and there after reaching a surrender on own terms. This concept has basically evolved from cold start doctrine, which is the foundation of this strategy.
Now to be fair, the idea is a good one in theory, however too fat fetched when practically applied. This is because Indian Army is unprepared for conventional war fighting. Secondly, The Pakistan Army has effectively developed counter measures to this cold start doctrine. Even renowned Indian defense analysts like Prawin Sawhney and Colonel Ajai Shukla are in agreement that Pakistan has effectively countered cold start doctrine. We will discuss the Pakistani counter measures later in the article, but first we will have to understand why Indian conventional warfighting capability is in perils.
Indian Ammunition and Ration Storage Capacity
First of all, the Indian Army leadership believes that the next conflict must end in 10 days of intense war fighting otherwise they will run out of ammunition stores. This is evident from the statement of General Rawat to the Print journalist where he says Indian Army has achieved ammunition and ration stores to last 10 days of intense war fighting with Pakistan. However, if Pakistan manages to drag the conflict a few more days, India will be under great stress and may even lose the edge. Now some people might argue what is the Pakistani ammunitions and ration capacity, to that, Pakistan also has similar stores, however, due to the smaller troop strength, the stores are predicted to last 15-20 days. This is especially more of a fact, as during General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani’s tenure as COAS, Pakistan Army doubled its supply and storage capacity. Hence Pakistan will not face ration or ammunition shortage during the conflict, whereas ironically, the superior numbers of Indian Army will be the critical factor that jeopardizes their warfighting capability.
Integrated Battle Groups and the Pakistani Counter Measures
General Rawat also takes much pride in the newly formed integrated battle groups(IBGs), under the 9and 33 corps of the Indian Army. Integrated Battle groups are supposedly, war gamed and planned to deliver swift, effective, shallows thrusts inside Pakistani territory, each having their independent Armor, Artillery, and Support units for better synergy. Now the 9 Corps has been deployed on the border with Pakistan to deliver the strike punch. However, each war game has clearly showed that synergy is a huge issue in IBGs. Synergy not with itself, but with the Indian Army as a whole and the Airforce. This is mainly due to the autonomous nature of the IBGs which allows it to operate independently and most of the time in the heat of the battle, these IBGs disregard maneuvers that require coordination. This is a huge cause of concern as in the heat of the battle, any loosely planned decision of the field commander can lead to huge blunders. Moreover, Pakistan has increased Armor and infantry troop strength in the defensive formations with atleast one third of the troop and assets ready for deployment at all times, if an attack may occur. Along with this Pakistan has a forward posturing, Sialkot, Mangla, Kharian, Lahore, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, PanoAqil, Multan all are forward posturing Garrisons near border, meaning our deployment time is very short as compared to India. In simple words, Pakistani tanks will be the ‘surprise welcome Party’ for the Indian IBGs when they reach the International border.
Disagreement between Indian Army and Indian Airforce
There is a well-known disagreement between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force as to who should be lead in a war with Pakistan. The Indian Army Chief General Rawat has explicitly said that he believes Indian Army should be lead in war, however the Indian Air Force former Chief ACM B.S.Dhanoa, has been very clear that the Air Force as an institution believes that it should be lead in a war with Pakistan. This disagreement still exists today as ACM Bhadauria takes charge of the IAF. The recent statement of Indian Airforce chief Bhadauria when asked if Airforce will be a part of the newly formed IBGs, he said ‘No! We have our own plans’ verbatim, is evident of the same mentality. This can seriously trigger lack of synergy and cooperation between the forces in case of a conflict.
Acquisition of Weapon Platforms
The Indian Air Force acquired Apache attack helicopters from the United States. A few numbers, less than a dozen are expected to be inducted in the Indian Army as well. However the major bulk of these helicopters have been inducted in the Indian Air Force. This has caused a lot of hue and cry among the Indian defense analysts as ideally this should have been a platform operated by the Indian Army Aviation, since they require synergy with armor and infantry units for Close Air Support (CAS) missions. Their induction in the Indian Air Force does not make sense, as even though labelled as a CAS platform of the Indian Airforce the ability to achieve maximum benefit from these platforms during combat will suffer.
Emphasis on Counter Insurgency Ops led to Decline in Conventional Warfighting capability
The Indian Army was a conventional war fighting machine up until the Early 1990s. However this changed drastically, in 1993-94, when the then Army Chief General of Indian Army General Bipin Chandra Joshi appointed himself as the Colonel of the Rashtriya Rifles Regiment. Now before this development, no aspiring career officer of the Indian Army wanted to be posted in the newly formed RR as they did not know how a tenure in RR will contribute towards their career advancement. Hence after the Army Chief became Colonel of RR, now all career officers wanted a posting in the RR as it had direct supervision of the Army chief hence a career opportunity. This along with internal security situation led to a focus on counter insurgency rather than conventional war fighting. This emphasis on CI operations was observed to such an extent that the young officers, infantry basics and other advanced training courses were re-structured to include a major portion on counter insurgency tactics and studies, and as a consequence conventional was fighting training suffered. This is also because the last conventional war India fought was in 1971, and from that point onwards, the immediate threats to Indian Union have been from homegrown insurgencies. Hence this extreme emphasis on CI has been a major causeof deteriorating war fighting capacity of Indian Army, as it was exposed in Operation Parakram, and many analysts hold the opinion, the IBGs problem has not yet solved the ‘late deployment’ problem of the Indian army. This is also true because the IBGs are an offensive force, whereas the defensive formations have found no solution if Pakistan pre-emptively attacks or a Pakistani strike corps decides to take initiative to take the battle to the Indian soil.
This is the reality of Indian Army warfighting capability and hence, the warmongering and narrative that India will easily take on Pakistan,is either political point scoring or simply delusional attitude, and those who believe it are too naïve. Pakistan has increased troop readiness by forward posturing, and by maintaining a specific number of troops at all times in the defensive formations. This has been complimented by increasing armor and infantry units, and incorporation of battlefield use nuclear weapons. This has rendered Indian numerical superiority useless. Pakistan has had clarity all these years as to how India is the primary threat to its existence, hence it has prepared for the very scenario we are facing today. India should act more sanely under the Modi regime and pull itself out of the delusion as a war between the two counties is going to bring nothing but destruction and suffering.
The Author is an Open Source Intelligence and Defence Analyst. He tweets @haiderwrites