US think-tank asks India to prepare against threats along northern borders


September 22, 2012

'India must prepare for conventional wars with Pakistan, China'

September 22, 2012

'India must prepare for conventional wars with Pakistan, China'

NEW DELHI: Holding that the possibility of future conventional wars of major consequence along India's northern borders with Pakistan and China persists, a prominent US think-tank says the Indian defence establishment "must plan and prepare accordingly".

In a 70-page report titled, "Airpower at 18,000: The IAF in the Kargil war", the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says the 1999 Indo-Pak conflict demonstrated on a strategic level that a stable bilateral nuclear deterrence relationship can markedly inhibit such regional conflicts in intensity and scale – if not preclude them altogether.

"In the absence of the nuclear stabilizing factor, those flash points could erupt into open-ended conventional showdowns for the highest stakes," it says. But the study goes on to add that the Kargil war "also demonstrated that nuclear deterrence is not a panacea", and consequently India must plan and prepare for the future.

The study also underlines — as is well-documented by now — some of India's military shortcomings. For instance, the gaping holes in the country's real-time intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability that allowed the incursion by Pakistani Army regulars and others "to go undetected for many days".

"It further brought to light the initial near-total lack of transparency and open communication between the Indian Army's top leaders and the IAF with respect to the gathering crisis. All things considered, the conflict was a poor test of India's air warfare capability," it says.

As earlier reported by TOI, the then Army and IAF chiefs, General V P Malik and Air Chief Marshal A Y Tipnis, squabbled with each other over the conduct of operations. Gen Malik has written how ACM Tipnis was reluctant to use airpower in the initial days of the conflict.

ACM Tipnis went on record to retort that an "embarrassed" Army was initially reluctant "to reveal the full gravity" of the situation, arising from the presence of Pakistani intruders in the Kargil heights, to the government. As the conflict progressed, both Army and IAF, however, got their act together. IAF pitched in with ground strikes by its MiG-21s, MiG-27s and Mirage-2000s to help Indian soldiers evict the Pakistanis from the icy heights.

The study says, "Despite the happy ending of the Kargil experience for India, IAF's fighter pilots were restricted in their operations due to myriad challenges specific to this campaign. They were thus consigned to do what they could rather than what they might have done if they had more room for manoeuvre." 

Courtesy: TOI