The commander of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, recently claimed that his pilots have the capability to locate and eliminate nuclear and other strategic targets in Pakistan. He was speaking at the annual Air Force Day press conference on IAF response to Pakistan’s store of tactical nuclear weapons.
“As far as IAF is concerned, it has the ability to locate, fix and strike and that is not only for tactical nuclear weapons but also for other targets across the border,” he had said during the annual Air Force Day press conference on IAF response to Pakistan’s store of tactical nuclear weapons.
The Indian air chief is not the only one to hurl such warnings and publicly acknowledge the existence of Cold Start doctrine (CSD). On January 4, India’s Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat made a similar hawkish claim.
Before dissecting the actual claim of the trigger-happy generals, it is worth noting that such statements cannot be random slips of the tongue but delivered with consent at the highest level, i.e. Narendra Modi’s outrage against CPEC and solidarity with militants in Balochistan. Sushma Swaraj parroted the same mantra at the UNGA last month. With an assortment of RSS ideologues and practitioners such as Ajit Doval, Sushma Swaraj and Manohar Parrikar (to name a few), the Modi government has to beat war drum against Pakistan to make up for its failings while stirring the religio-communal cord. Thus, there has not been a clarification on the generals’ remarks.
Indian Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa made a few tall claims with pretty interesting timing. Currently, the Indian finance ministry is discussing various budget proposals, which will be placed before the parliament in January. His statement came days after Pakistan-China concluded the Shaheen IV drills whose unique feature was joint sorties by PAF and PLAAF pilots in Su-27 and Su-30 jets, whose similar versions are IAF’s offensive platforms of choice.
After the unveiling of surface-to-surface medium-range Ababeel ballistic missile and solid-fuelled Nasr tactical ballistic missile, strategists and analysts are questioning the efficacy of India’s Cold Start doctrine evermore. Understandably, the IAF chief’s press conference on Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons was aimed to publicly allay the widespread above-mentioned concerns.
Then comes the real question of India’s actual capability to locate and destroy Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and other vital strategic assets. Has Delhi’s surveillance ability surpassed Washington’s during the 1991 Gulf War?
Despite throwing B-52s Tomahawk cruise missiles, the US could merely hit Scud storage areas and factories. Over 2,000 sorties and missile attacks failed to take out Iraq’s Scud mobile launchers. Thus, the tall claim of locating, fixing and destroy is trashed as nothing more than a shallow brag. India’s dream of ‘Great Nasr Hunt’ has quite many chinks to remedy.
India’s missile arsenal is potent and poses a credible threat. However, the process of their activation and mobilisation can give away clues to watchful Pakistan and deny her the vital element of surprise. Islamabad’s LY-80 (or HQ-16) surface-to-air missile systems alongside shorter-range FM-90 SAMs will be the first to welcome any hostile object entering its airspace.
The increasingly belligerent posturing of India justifies Pakistan to reverse its decision of nuclear warheads from their delivery systems. The policy was adopted during Musharraf era as a confidence-building measure as part of Pakistan’s cooperative nuclear diplomacy.
India is building up the capability for German blitzkrieg-style attacks on the Pakistan soil and achieving the objectives within 96 hours. Besides, there are assumptions that Islamabad will not be able to mobilise its tactical arsenal well in time. Even if Pakistan manages to use short-range tactical weapons, they will be exploding on its own soil (which the IAF chief hopes to be neutralised in pre-emptive strikes).
Psychological warfare through international, mainstream national and social media is integral to the doctrine. Already, the phenomenon of corporate-sector funded pro-India papers is evidently justifying its military ambition while maligning Pakistan.
Delhi’s military establishment supposes that before Pakistan will go all-out nuclear; the international community will intervene for a ceasefire.