Random Thoughts

A Simplified Defence Strategy

India like America is blessed in having a long coastline on two of its four sides with no threatening nation within invading distance. Its weakness as compared to America is the presence of two powerful and belligerent neighbors along the northeast and northwest borders. To halt possible aggression from Pakistan and China, it needs a strong and well-equipped army. Fortunately after the debacle of China and Nehru's disastrously miscalculated utopian dreams, the army has a sufficient number of battle tanks, howitzers and missile launchers to counter any thrust by China or Pakistan. It still would not hurt to increase these assets with the perfect understanding that some of the terrain in Kashmir and Assam is unsuitable for tanks and howitzers. Thus a definite increase in Alouette light helicopters suitable for high terrain and Hinds used by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan is needed.

The navy hopes to have the aircraft carrier Gorshkov to supplement the aging and somewhat outdated sole remaining carrier, which will be replaced by the indigenous carrier under construction. A carrier needs support and protective vessels to send out helicopters for anti-submarine warfare and the newest frigates and destroyers are capable of doing the job but still not adequate in number. The serious deficit is in fixed wing reconnaissance and ASW aircraft like the P3 Orion or its Soviet version. A series of sonar buoys, as additional tracking equipment closer to the shore within the twelve- mile nautical limit would help. A series of naval airbases from Saurashtra along the coastline all the way to Cochin and from Chennai to Vishakhapatnam or even Calcutta with three or four updated P3Orions or equivalent based at ten different ports along the Western to Eastern coastline via the southern route is a must for protection at close quarters. In addition a doubling of the submarine fleet with more modern attack submarines diesel and nuclear, would extend the defense perimeter further outwards.

Land based anti-aircraft guns and missiles need to increase with batteries and radar detection to leave no gaps in the air defense. Even more importantly it is critical to develop a ground to air missile with speeds greater than Mach 2 and a range of 25 kilometers or greater and a lethal altitude of 15 to 20 kilometers to threaten and neutralize the high altitude bombers. An air force fully armed with BVR AAM missiles is being developed to prevent missile attacks from 500 kilometers, but training and contingent plans should have appropriate dogfight capability at visual range as a second line of defense for successful penetration by enemy fighter bombers. The acquisition of the Phalcon AWACS system and its multiplier effect will help, but a larger number of these planes from Israel are needed. The Green Pine radar system will help but there should be no gaps in its coverage of the entire border.

A land, sea and air based triad of nuclear weapons is essential to match a threat from a nuclear power with similar ICBMs. Currently the enormous expense of ABM defense is beyond India's financial capabilities and far from foolproof as problems with the American patriot missile and yet to be resolved problems with India's purchase of the Barak system show. The Arrow is also not yet sufficiently proven optimally functional and the best strategy for India to counter China and Pakistan is still the true and tried Mutually Assured Destruction. As Iran is preparing it is imperative to have an almost impenetrable air defense to discourage risky misadventures by some big power intoxicated by visions of air superiority. India is not in the class of America, Russia or even China, nor is it easy or possible to match the economically and technologically superior powers. It is just necessary to take a lesson from evolution that confrontation while causing fatal damage to the weaker is likely to make the stronger a sufficient invalid by having to tolerate a crippling loss. There are as yet no viable or economically feasible defenses against nuclear and cruise missiles attacking from distances greater than 1000 kilometers. The only strategy is to match the opponent's capability partially, if not fully.

Isn't that what Pakistan has been using as its strategy all this time? Isn't that what a Chinese general threatened America with when he said, "Are you willing to lose Los Angeles to save Taiwan?" Asymmetric warfare, terrorism and desperate threats are weapons of the weak. They can be successful if there is popular support and familiar territory as Washington proved by defeating the British in America. They fail when the opponents are committed and willing to suffer disproportionate losses as Vietnam proved and Iraq, Afganistan and the West Bank seem to show. This is why in an earlier article I recommended using the Nash equilibrium strategy by clearly enunciating that there would be a limited conventional attack against terrorist camps in occupied Kashmir against the terrorism of infiltrating Islamic extremists. Right now India has suffered nearly 80,000 casualties compared to a few thousand diehard fanatics by Pakistan. Unless and until there is a genuine fear of lethal regional or national damage Pakistan will persist with its low cost strategy. Nuclear Escalation by Pakistan would be met with overwhelming nuclear saturation bombing. Ultimately any negotiation has to bank on the rationality of both parties. If one side is irrational and suicidal there is no way to thwart or block it completely and one has to prepare for Armageddon. This is one rational defense of preventive pre-emptive strategy that America and Israel are proclaiming and practicing. Of course there is no guarantee of success in massive retaliation, but it is foolish to continue suffering endless and greater losses, and the only rational hope of overcoming terrorism is decimation of the terrorists especially if they are nationals of an enemy, while improving the domestic situation of Kashmiri Muslims to win them over and make them stop supporting terrorists.

The price we are paying is for the self-aggrandizing expedient policies of a power hungry Nehru and his daughter. The problem is when a superpower indulges in extremes it is like the Angel Gabriel trying to blow the horn given by god to destroy the world. So we come back to age old, unresolved quintessential question posed by Plato, "Who shall guard the guardians", the dialogue between the Melians and Athenians prior to the Peloponnesian War and the Arjuna-Krishna dialogue of just war in the Gita?  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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