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India’s Flailing Influence on South Asia’s Crisis Dynamics

Chakar The Great

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Key Points:
  • Spurred on by its economic power and global diplomatic heft, India has tried to pursue hegemonic ambitions and an offensive military strategy in South Asia.
  • India’s latest military tension with Pakistan (2019) and China (2020) shows that despite military modernisation push and doctrinal changes, the Indian military has its limitations and weaknesses that depreciate operational effectiveness of its forces including operational planning, preparedness, interoperability, jointness and training.
  • The Indian military has failed to deliver deterrent messages despite its aggressive action during the latest crises with its neighbours.
  • Balakot-Rajouri and Ladakh Crises demonstrate the Indian Army’s shortcomings in battlefield performance.
  • India’s regional assertiveness shows its national approach is likely to work towards a three-pronged strategy of technological modernisation, the threat of a full-scale war, and proxy war.
  • Experts believe that the prospects of a false flag operation and India’s two-front war theory to acquire political, diplomatic, and foreign military support add more vulnerabilities in the already fragile strategic stability of South Asia.


INTRODUCTION

India seeks to modernise its conventional and strategic forces to gain influence in shaping a favourable regional security landscape. It has engaged in constant efforts to transform its
outdated ground-centric army into high-technology forces with an increasing emphasis on the integration of tri-services.1 The launch of the offensive “Land Warfare Doctrine (LWD)-2018” validates the changes in the strategic thinking of the Indian Armed Forces that focuses on joint operations for naval, land and air power projection. Its offensive posturing and technological advancements reinforce New Delhi’s objectives to build a modern military.
India’s latest military tension with Pakistan4 and China5 shows that despite military modernisation push and doctrinal changes, the Indian military has its limitations and weaknesses that depreciate operational effectiveness of its forces including operational planning, preparedness, interoperability, jointness and training. In this regard, it is significant to explore the operational deficiencies in India’s vision of an offensive deterrence doctrine and the veracity of its military’s operational preparedness in the backdrop of the Balakot-Rajouri crisis (2019) and Sino-Indian Galwan Crisis (2020).


A COMPLEX SECURITY ENVIRONMENT

Geopolitics has always been a predominant feature of the South Asian security landscape. Currently, the strategic security triangle between China, India, and Pakistan, the United States (U.S.) power politics in Asia-Pacific, and the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership determine the course of the South Asian security dynamics.
Spurred on by its economic power and global diplomatic heft, India has tried to pursue hegemonic ambitions and an offensive military strategy in South Asia. India’s resort to a false flag operation against Pakistan, its territorial expansion in Nepal, and its construction of military infrastructure along the disputed region with China have demonstrated New Delhi’s assertive foreign policy in its neighbourhood.
The latest major South Asian crises have been the Indo- Pakistani Balakot-Rajouri Crisis of 2019 and the Sino- Indian Galwan valley clashes of 2020; both of which were outcomes of the Indian military's assertiveness. The former crisis resulted from the Indian airstrikes in the Pakistani mainland, which led to Pakistan’s retaliatory airstrikes in the Rajouri town of the Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Galwan clashes were the consequence of India’s illegal construction of road infrastructure in the disputed Ladakh region along the border with China. The Chinese and Indian soldiers exchanged fisticuffs in the Galwan valley that resulted in the death of over 20 Indian soldiers.6 Notwithstanding the deaths of soldiers, India refrained from escalating the conflict with China militarily, exposing its military incapacity to fight against Beijing.


KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE BALAKOT- RAJOURI AND THE GALWAN CRISES

Key takeaways from the Balakot-Rajouri and the Galwan crises are as follows. First, India’s conventional deterrence is compromised, and there is no space for a limited war in the region. Second, operational planning and military preparedness are not about strategic thinking only; they demand functioning on the battlefield. Third, Indian forces face training and interoperability challenges. Fourth, India’s recent crises indicate that its military planners were unable to manage its offensive deterrence doctrine, and a false sense of superiority might instigate the risk of miscalculations.


A compromised conventional deterrence

The Indian military has failed to deliver deterrent messages despite its aggressive action during the latest crises with its neighbours. Indian aggression in Balakot marked an “abnormal act of breaching the sovereignty of the opponent as a new normal”. India’s attempt to establish a new normal by carrying out a limited war with Pakistan fell flat as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) conducted a proportionate retaliation inside the Indian occupied territory. Later, owing to the
fear of uncertain escalation dynamics, India remained hesitant from launching counter-military strikes and instead threatened the use of nuclear-capable missiles. In essence, India’s conventional deterrence failed, and Pakistan successfully reinforced its conventional deterrence credibility. On the other hand, India’s failure to respond militarily against the movement of the Chinese soldiers beyond the previously delineated boundaries along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) underscored India’s military inferiority and inability to fight against or deter China.

Deficiencies in India’s operational planning and preparedness
The Balakot-Rajouri and the Ladakh crises demonstrate the Indian Army’s shortcomings in battlefield performance. Remarkably, the Indian air defence system, based on the Base Air Defence Zones (BADZ) and Air Defence Ground Environment System (ADGES),15 was unable to detect or target the PAF aircraft on February 27, 2019, and rendered the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) operational readiness ineffective. Additionally, the IAF personnel shot down one of their own Mi-17 V-5 choppers by hitting an Israeli-made SPYDER-MR surface-to-air missile,16 resulting in killing all six military personnel.17 Shooting down their own chopper when the IAF was on high alert, exposes the weaknesses of India’s Command and Control and the failure of its defense system during a crisis. Similarly, the Indian Army could not detect or collect intelligence regarding China’s movement of thousands of troops and military equipment toward the LAC, and was caught off-guard18, nor could it plan and prepare an effective counter-military response to thwart Chinese troops’ advance.

Trends in arms acquisition and interoperability challenges
Interoperability is vital in achieving tactical, operational, and strategic goals. Specifically, it plays a key role to boost operational readiness and effectiveness. It is defined as an ability of two or more militaries to operate together or among multiple units/systems in order to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of military operations as a component of the joint force. It can be achieved through joint military exercises, training, joint military planning and demonstrations.19 Trends in India’s arms imports from multiple arms suppliers and its acquisition of state-of-the-art foreign weapons and technology highlight the emergence of interoperability challenges in adapting these capabilities and undertaking joint operations in its area of strategic interest. In the last five years, India has signed more than 20 defence agreements or Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the U.S., France, Australia, United Kingdom (U.K.), and Israel to acquire military hardware and cybersecurity infrastructure (See Table 1). India’s acquisition of wider assorted military technologies with advanced capabilities have instigated integration and jointness issues, including technological disparities, lack of training initiatives, and bureaucratic challenges. To address the slow acclimatisation, India is increasingly conducting “joint military drills, tabletop exercises, and defense dialogues with the U.S...(sic)” However, the sclerotic process of the Indian forces to induct new military hardware prevents its forces from performing an effective operation and limits the desired scale of interoperability.



An increased risk of miscalculations
India’s offensive actions and posturing underline the risk of an accidental escalation or miscalculation that may spark a more serious conflict due to its false sense of superiority. Despite having the third highest defence expenditure21 in the world, India suffered a military defeat in the aerial clashes with Pakistan and border confrontation with China. A false sense of superiority raises the cost of conflict for India and lowers the threshold for the use of force in South Asia.
Unfortunately, the Indian military officials tend to pursue various courses to send warning signals by conducting missile tests, contemplating missile strikes, deploying ballistic missiles, policy and public statements, and high official meetings to counter “collusive threats” from the neighbouring states.22 These aggressive threats of use of force against Pakistan and China may trigger misunderstandings regarding India’s intentions among its adversarial state and could lead to intense clashes.23 Thus, signalling the use of force, while negating the adversary’s resolve to retaliate, raises the risk of a miscalculation that could be seriously destabilising for South Asia’s strategic stability.


FUTURE CHALLENGES

Indian national approach is likely to work towards a three-pronged strategy of technological modernisation, the threat of a full-scale war, and a proxy war against Pakistan. India’s technological modernisation along with the rearmament program
India is pursuing military modernisation to expand the scope of military operations and counter the presumed two-front “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan. India’s military modernisation focuses on three domains, including air, sea, and land. However, the country’s military planners are more concerned with enhancing its air power to counterbalance its capabilities. This was evident in the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements regarding the IAF’s disadvantage of not having French Rafale aircraft in the wake of thePAF’s Operation Swift Retort. Of its tension with China, India received the first batch of five Rafale aircrafts in July 2020, and the second batch arrived in November 2020. India’s technological modernisation along with rearmament, growing missile forces to conduct counterforce roles, and cyber and anti- satellite (ASAT) programs have drawn Pakistan’s threat parameters broad and fuelled an arms race in the region.

India’s offensive designs and the dangers of war

India’s unilateral decision of the illegal annexation of the internationally disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the provocative statements of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ministers against Gilgit-Baltistan have strained the India-Pakistan relations and suspended the diplomatic dialogue altogether. In an inflammatory statement, Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar stated that India expected to have “physical jurisdiction” over Pakistan-administered Kashmir one day.26 Also, the Indian state-run television and radio channels started broadcasting weather updates of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan regions. The Indian Army also has intensified ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) and pursued the rhetoric of “launch pads” to conduct a false flag operation against Pakistan to justify the allegations of terrorist infiltrations.27 To counter such offensive designs, Pakistan has declared the policy of Quid Pro Quo Plus28 to deter conventional attacks and reduce the space for war in the region.

Sub-conventional warfare to destabilise Pakistan
India’s high-tech conventional power advantages have
been neutralised by China and Pakistan, over the years.
Due to Pakistan’s Full Spectrum Deterrence (FSD),

Indian policymakers are drifting away from their notions
of limited war to asymmetric warfare against Pakistan.
Evidently, India has remained involved in sponsoring
terrorist and insurgent groups in Pakistan by providing
funds, weapons, ammunition, and improvised explosive
devices (IEDs) to disrupt the internal security and the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
India’s
Security Advisor Ajit Doval, furnished a “grey-zone
more effective in countering the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership. Having bilateral engagement in three domains including advance air, land and maritime cooperation, joint military exercises, and joint ventures for military equipment production can serve as a stabilising force to neutralise India’s attempts to emerge as a dominant force in the region.



POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS
As the future challenges are explored, the following key recommendations are made for consideration:
  1. India’s shift from the traditional defensive posture to a more offensive posture against Pakistan compels it to formulate an unconventional countermeasure to avoid the arms race in the region. In such dynamics, Pakistan should remain committed to relying on its policy of full spectrum deterrence to counter external aggression instead of engaging itself in a tit-for-tat competitive cycle of missiles and arms race.
  2. Pakistan and China should enhance their bilateral economic and strategic cooperation to become more effective in countering the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership. Having bilateral engagement in three domains including advance air, land and maritime cooperation, joint military exercises, and joint ventures for military equipment production can serve as a stabilising force to neutralise India’s attempts to emerge as a dominant force in the region.
  3. Pakistan has suffered immensely at the hands of terrorism. Irrefutable proofs of the terrorist activities in Pakistan by sponsored terrorist organisations are contrasting to India’s self- portrayal as the victim. Growing antagonism to internally destabilise Pakistan requires a multi- pronged risk management strategy to counter the risk of terrorist activities. Though statistics show a decline in terrorist activities in Pakistan, however, its counter-terrorism strategy needs to be furtherrecalibrated in a way that prevents terrorist groups from spreading their ideology. It is important to choke their finances, and reform the criminal justice system.
  4. Signalling is viewed as a unique deterrence posture used many times with undeclared and declared nuclear weapon capability by India and Pakistan through different indirect means and styles. India’s threats of use of force during a crisis increase the risk of inadvertent escalations and miscalculations. Thus, under such circumstances, there is a pressing need for an institutionalised mechanism to de- escalate tensions instead of sending strategic signals of military power or resolve. Regional powers should inspire Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) or preventive diplomacy to diffuse tensions and reduce the risks of miscalculations among the conflicting parties.



CONCLUSION
The border standoff between China-India in Ladakh and India-Pakistan tension on the Pulwama incident underscores Indian forces’ difficulties in adopting technological advancements and incorporating military strategies as defined in its military doctrine. Prospects of a false flag operation and India’s two-front war theory to acquire political, diplomatic, and foreign military support adds more vulnerabilities in the already fragile strategic stability of South Asia. Thus, Pakistan-China’s expanding military and strategic relations comprising naval and military exercises, civil nuclear power cooperation, and growing economic ties under theCPEC is a viable strategy to counterweight destabilising impacts of the Indo-U.S. strategic partnership and maintain stability in the region.







 

GumNaam

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india's biggest military limitation is the indian dna...let's face it folks, they are just not the fighting types...I mean c'mon, kung fu creators to the north & jihadis to the west while they themselves are a kamasutric civilization! their indian army officers are more concerned with running after the wives of their ncos & jcos & pocketing the defence budget rather than fighting...
 

Leishangthem

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They did ok in ww2 with record number of Victoria,crosses


Indians formed the back bone of British military power when Britain ruled the world.

They took east pakistan in 10.days and 100000 prisnors of war

occupied saichen and recaptured kargil.

and now stood down 150000 chinease troops in ladakh that came to annexe ladakh . The superpower left with their tail between their legs

only blot is 1962.

rest is better than most

and 65 billion dollars a year defense budget is 7th largest in the world so I think they mean to have their say if needed

so make no mistake they want peace but will not budge an inch
India can procure lots of advanced firepower with the huge resources from taxing foreign investment and 1.4 b people, hence is definitely a force to be reckoned but

LOL
Indians will even seek glory from their colonial masters.Great Indians helped British conquest!!!!

Pakistan,Bangladesh,these are some of the poorest nations in world and part of south asia.While India had far superior resources and manpower.

India got 20 soldiers martryed and had to push back its original LOC ,in mere confrontation started by fully equipped Indian military in assault gear, attacking and killing unarmed , unarmoured Chinese negotiators,yet it's Indian gain!!

1962 was a blip?In 1962 when China was crippled after foreign invasion and internal instability,still managed to wipe out full 3 army brigades and captured a plethora of soldier,that's the only confrontation of India with a non south asian nation.

Indian military's hidden power must be something out of " mythology" since definitely not due to rectitude,discipline,aptitude,IQ,training,logistics or technology.
 
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samv

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India has been a curse to the region.

It has sponsored terrorism in neighbouring countries and tries continuedly to interfere in the internal political affairs of these nations.
 

waz

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They did ok in ww2 with record number of Victoria,crosses


Indians formed the back bone of British military power when Britain ruled the world.
Erm what? Near 50% of that army was Muslim, virtually all from Pakistan. Many the VC’s were won by them, Gurkhas from Nepal , and of course proper Indians.
The Muslims from what would become Pakistan fought in far, far greater numbers compared to the Indians of the time. Only the Gurkhas of Nepal and Sikhs had similar per capita numbers.
Your leaders boycotted the war remember.
My grandfather and entire elder generations were vets. Stop stealing history which doesn’t belong to you.
 

waz

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I'm.a,sikh my friend
jat punjabi
Fair enough, your people did contribute a great deal. My grandfather spoke fondly of them and had good ties.
But the point stands they were not representative of the Indian people.
 

The Maverick

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Fair enough, your people did contribute a great deal. My grandfather spoke fondly of them and had good ties.
But the point stands they were not representative of the Indian people.
when it comes to fighting you people will.not fighting those Gujarati or meek mild South Indians.

we punjabi have to fight for them.but their are other Indians with a fine fighting tradition be it rajput be it even remote small minorities, like the Tibetans or nepleasw.

anyway war is now hi tech were brains and ingenuity are more important than muscle and heart the latter which punjabi are renowned for on both sides,of border. but the lale as we jat boys call Hindus maybe darpokh but they have science and engineering behind them.
when you see an Astra bvr hit a target from.100km it's the South India that did it.

but the 6ft 2 inch sikh guy or jat punjabi on the border is from my town jalandher
 

PaklovesTurkiye

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Fair enough, your people did contribute a great deal. My grandfather spoke fondly of them and had good ties.
But the point stands they were not representative of the Indian people.
Sir, please have a look here

 

SrNair

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when it comes to fighting you people will.not fighting those Gujarati or meek mild South Indians.

we punjabi have to fight for them.but their are other Indians with a fine fighting tradition be it rajput be it even remote small minorities, like the Tibetans or nepleasw.

anyway war is now hi tech were brains and ingenuity are more important than muscle and heart the latter which punjabi are renowned for on both sides,of border. but the lale as we jat boys call Hindus maybe darpokh but they have science and engineering behind them.
when you see an Astra bvr hit a target from.100km it's the South India that did it.

but the 6ft 2 inch sikh guy or jat punjabi on the border is from my town jalandher
Its not always like that.
Remember Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan , Lt Col Niranjan etc.
Brits once told about air warriors known as Sikhs and Army warriors that one community from South .
Besides agree with S&T .
 

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