The recent Pulwama attack, wherein a suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF jawans, has tarnished Pakistan’s image yet again. Pakistan has been called out by multiple international parties for its ineffective approach towards curbing terrorism. Many have even accused the country of providing a safe haven to the extremists and separatists. The Pulwama incident, therefore, is a heavy blow to Pakistan. The attack has weakened Pakistan’s already tenuous relationship with India. In light of these events, many people have vociferously argued for violent retaliation, some going to the extent of suggesting that India should declare war on Pakistan.
A war with Pakistan would be disastrous to India, irrespective of the outcome, because of the sheer loss of lives and resources. A war would certainly pacify the vengeance felt by a nation in anguish. However, the country would have to pay an unfair price in exchange for revenge. India will lose many brave hearts, a price that a weeping country cannot afford to pay. The outcome of the war, if there will be one, is debatable. India has to judge the feasibility of engaging in a war with Pakistan. Assuming we gain victory in the war, it is important to realise that mere victory will still not negate the impact it would have on our economy, moreover on our nation’s standing in world politics.
One cannot certainly predict the outcome of the war, the people best equipped to make such judgements are defence personals and analysts. However, with the facts available, we can say that the Indian Army most certainly outnumbers the Pakistani Army with ease. The Indian Army is the primary land force of the Indian armed forces. The Indian Army numbers 1.2 million active duty personnel and 990,000 reservists, i.e. a total force strength of a staggering 2.1 million. The Pakistani Army numbers 650,000 active duty personnel and five hundred thousand reserves, i.e. a total strength of 1.15 million. The Indian Air Force is also substantially larger than that of Pakistan, possessing 2216 aircrafts as opposed to 1100 aircrafts. In the naval sphere also, India overpowers Pakistan, possessing 11 destroyers and 15 submarines with vessels such as INS Vikramaditya, INS Arihant and INS chakra, assuring India of its power.
This threatening disparity in numbers will force Pakistan to rely on the use of tactical nuclear weapons to aid its conventional forces. The disparity in forces, war plans on both sides and the presence of tactical nuclear weapons make a regional nuclear war a real possibility. Notwithstanding this evident disparity in numbers, certain experts do not place confidence in India’s ability to win the war. One of the concerns expressed is India’s inability to conduct joint operations between the Army and the Air Force, just like how they conducted separate missions during the Kargil conflict, where operation Vijay and Safed Sagar were carried out separately.
The war, if there is one, will not take place as an isolated event. A matter of concern for India is the close ties that Pakistan has been maintaining with China, a formidable foe. The presence of the dragon at our doorstep and the long-standing hostility between India and China will be a huge factor in determining the outcome of a war. China’s interest in Pakistan is clearly visible through the initiatives it has taken, like the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the One Belt One Road (OBOR). Pakistan possesses nuclear missile technology, logistics supply chain tech and modern techniques such as cyber and drone warfare, as a result of the cooperation between Pakistan and China. China invested $46 billion in the CPEC while Pakistan devoted 10,000 soldiers just for the safety of the corridor.
The only area where India could riposte Pakistan’s rising is Baluchistan. By involving China and tying Chinese interests to retaining control of Baluchistan, Pakistan has made India incapable of mobilising troops without threatening China. The same stands for Kashmir and Punjab as well, where any action by India that might harm the thousands of Chinese workers involved in the CPEC would invoke the wrath of China. Ergo, beyond a few farcical acts of retaliation, there is not much that India could do without fighting a war on two fronts. If there’s a war, it must be fought with Pakistan and China. To add to our woes, China and Pakistan have achieved joint operation abilities.
Given the number of stakeholders in the success of the CPEC and OBOR, any disturbance to the completion of these projects would be attributed to India’s truculence and not to Pakistan’s interference in Kashmir. China has projected the OBOR as a development project for all of Asia while Kashmir has been projected as a bilateral issue. India is at the risk of being perceived as the stubborn party who is not willing to let go of a minor tussle for a bigger initiative that would benefit all of Asia. With dark clouds hovering over their heads, each of the superpowers is busy tackling issues back home and do not have the gumption to get involved in a military conflict with China.
Lastly, if there is a war, India would lose the image of a peace-loving country. Engaging in a war contradicts India’s never strike first policy, a practice that the nation has striven to keep up for a long time, given the nation’s collective obsession to occupy the moral high grounds. India must realise that war is a game in which the winning move is to not play at all. For India especially, the war with Pakistan is a war best not fought.
Picture Courtesy- DNA India