Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Arms Race Update - Asia, Again

India now appears to be on a permanent war footing, ready to respond to a simultaneous attack by China and Pakistan.  The strategy, known as "Cold Start" also envisions an optional surprise attack on Pakistan using blitzkrieg tactics.

Indian Army T-90s

The world’s second-largest army, which celebrated its 64th Army Day on January 15, is on the cusp of implementing a major transformation in its organizational structure and war strategies to meet a possible combined threat from China and its ally Pakistan.

The change follows more than half a decade of annual exercises involving one of India’s three strike corps and a desert corps, which have engaged in operations to fine-tune a strategy that would enable India to take Pakistan by surprise.

Pakistani F-16s

Under this concept, the defensive corps close to the border with Pakistan have been re-designated “pivot” corps, and have been handed enhanced offensive elements under integrated battle groups (IBG) that consist of division-sized forces comprising armor, artillery and aviation assets designed to swiftly hit Pakistan before the strike corps, located deeper inside India, would be able to mobilize.

While the Cold Start strategy contemplates initial, conventional warfare, there seems to be a clear nuclear dynamic to it also.

Cold Start’s subnuclear option recognizes the nuclear threshold explicitly.  The concept behind it is to fight below this threshold, if possible.  But Cold Start has a nuclear element, too.  Should Pakistan fire nuclear weapons at this Indian force, India can escalate with nuclear strikes of its own.

Cold Start provides fascinating insight into the dynamic interactions of the two military systems on the subcontinent.  It shows how both countries have shifted from conventional war-fighting to escalation strategies.  I do not believe this is a matter of a conscious choice by either country.  Rather, it is an emergent property of the interacting nuclear systems in South Asia.  They have little choice but to play the game this way, short of a sweeping arms control or disarmament initiatives.

Escalation as a strategy has come into being not because anyone wanted it to, but from the mutual interaction of both sides having nuclear weapons.  While escalation strategies have always existed in South Asia, they are now front and center.  This marks a fundamental change from the conventional attrition strategies of previous wars.

On India's eastern border, China's rearmament proceeds apace.   Having just demonstrated its first aircraft carrier landing and takeoff  with a Chinese-made combat jet, China has now unveiled its own attack drone below, oddly similar to the American Predator shown at bottom.

Chinese Wing Loong Drone

U.S. Predator Drone

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