Washington: India must prepare itself for future conventional wars with Pakistan and China since nuclear deterrence is not a panacea as demonstrated by the 1999 Kargil War, says a new report by a US think tank.
“On a strategic level, the Kargil War vividly demonstrated that a stable bilateral nuclear deterrence relationship can markedly inhibit such regional conflicts in intensity and scale-if not preclude them altogether,” says the report on the role of the Indian Air Force by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“In the absence of the nuclear stabilising factor, those flash points could erupt into open-ended conventional showdowns for the highest stakes,” says the report by Benjamin S. Lambeth, a senior research associate at the RAND Corporation.
“But the Kargil War also demonstrated that nuclear deterrence is not a panacea. The possibility of future conventional wars of major consequence along India’s northern borders with Pakistan and China persists, and the Indian defence establishment must plan and prepare accordingly,” adds the report titled “Airpower at 18,000′: The Indian Air Force in the Kargil War”.
“Only dimly appreciated by most Western defence experts-and barely at all by students and practitioners of airpower,” the report says the Kargil war “was a milestone event in Indian military history and one that represents a telling prototype of India’s most likely type of future combat challenge.”
“The Kargil conflict was emblematic of the kind of lower-intensity border skirmish between India and Pakistan, and perhaps also between India and China, that could recur in the next decade in light of the inhibiting effect of nuclear weapons on more protracted and higher-stakes tests of strength,” it says.
The experience offers an exemplary case study in the uses of airpower in joint warfare in high mountain conditions and is key to a full understanding of India’s emerging air posture, the report says.
“Without question, the effective asymmetric use of IAF airpower was pivotal in shaping the war’s successful course and outcome for India,” it says. “Yet the conflict also highlighted some of India’s military shortcomings.”
“The covert Pakistani intrusion into Indian-controlled Kashmir that was the casus belli laid bare a gaping hole in India’s nationwide real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability that had allowed the incursion to go undetected for many days,” the report noted.
“It further brought to light the initial near-total lack of transparency and open communication between the Indian Army’s top leaders and the IAF with respect to the gathering crisis.”