Every war has two visible and direct costs – lives lost and money spent. There are several indirect and collateral costs some of which are to be incurred and amortised over long periods of time.
Lives could be of civilians or soldiers. Lives could be lost at the boarders or inside the country. Money spent could be in terms of running costs of operations, depletion and loss of military and civilian assets and infrastructures, replacement costs, disbursal of immediate and long-term compensation and so on. Indirect and collateral costs are immediate or deferred over short, medium or long-term and may include loss of opportunity, productivity, rehabilitation, renewal and reinforcements, diplomatic costs paid by the country, political costs paid by ruling parties, social and psychological costs paid by citizens and so on.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been defined by the violent partition of British India in 1947, the Kashmir conflict and the numerous military conflicts fought between the two nations. Consequently, their relationship has been plagued by hostility and suspicion. According to a 2017 BBC World Service poll, only 5% of Indians view Pakistan’s influence positively, with 85% expressing a negative view, while 11% of Pakistanis view India’s influence positively, with 62% expressing a negative view.
Pakistan is at War with India since 1947 whose scale and scope has been swinging like a pendulum between extremes of hostility and bonhomie. Pakistan recognises the odds against them. They don’t expect to defeat India in a full scale war. The Pak doctrine of a thousand cuts must be seen in the light of the available alternatives before it since its defeat and dismemberment in 1971 which was the biggest national economic suffocation and humiliation suffered by Pakistan at the hands of India.
The doctrine of a thousand cuts emerged out of Pakistan’s drive for national glory and economic security via the conquest of the support of the Islamic world, China, the US and the belief of Pakistan’s rulers that they could check India’s bid for a regional dominance via foreign aid and military deployments. As Pakistanis sought to free themselves from their diplomatic dependence on the United States, the Americans sought to use that dependence to contain imperial ambitions of Russia, China and the Islamic countries in the region.
Given the size of economy, India is able to afford the monetary costs of the ongoing war with Pakistan but it is unaffordable for Pakistan. The cost of lives is where the actual Paki-game is being played. Loss of lives away from the civilian areas does not result into as much of collateral costs of political opinion, public opinion, social and psychological costs as against the costs which the loss of lives amidst civilian milieu result into. Thus, simply put, Pak tries to generate a spectre of loss of lives in non-military zones which cannot be created by Pakistani men in uniform. Pakistan has therefore created specialised regular combat troops to execute such battles and similes who do not wear a regular uniform. Some of these operations are at best projected to have been out-sourced or franchised. India mistakenly calls them terrorists.
A dispassionate look at the events of the last few days would establish the point. India attacked the so called terrorist-training establishment but Pak Military retaliated. If terrorists were free agents, there was no reason for Pak to retaliate using regular military assets.
The retaliatory action of Pakistan is actually an act of unprovoked aggression on Indian military establishment and a war on India. This was immediate. In such immediate reaction, the assumption was that time was working against Pakistan – i.e., the longer Pakistan waited to retaliate against India, the dimmer its prospects for success. This assumption was grimly realistic.
Pakistan had little chance of preventing further strikes from India and India’s great military superiority would eventually bury Pakistan. The global diplomatic opinion developing in favour of India drove the Pakistanis into the logic of preventive attack: given inevitability of more strikes by India and Pakistan’s feeble military power relative to India’s, Pakistani leaders reasoned, better attack now than later. If Pakistan had any chance of fighting a military battle with India to some kind of successful conclusion, it had to bring military operations to a head as soon as possible. Short-war Pakistan was going to pick a fight with a long-war India.
India has not yet reacted to the Pakistani military aggression and invasion. Wing Commander Abhinandan has been returned as a POW. By swiftly seizing the opportunity to retaliate to Indian air-strikes, Pakistan has forced India into a murderous, location-by-location slog that could eventually exhaust India’s political will to fight on to total victory.
Pakistan has tried to raise the blood and treasure costs of the war beyond India’s willingness to pay. The Pak theory of victory amounts to the hope that India would judge the cost of defeating Pakistan to be too heavy, too disproportionate to the worth of the interests at stake.
How India deals with these developments will shape the future of Indo-Pak war for a long time. India needs to craft her strategy very quickly, circumspectly and brilliantly.
This follows an earlier posting on 15 February 2019, titled “Pakistan is at war with India: Pulwama, Uri or Mumbai are tactical offensives” which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ProfMukulGupta/posts/704635659930365.
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