Praveen Swami's reportage about the Kulbhushan Jadhav case will forever taint his journalistic credentials. A brave Indian went into the lions den with nothing but his wits and his two arms to defend himself. Jadhav did that to defend the sorry ass of Praveen Swami, and with his life hanging by a thread, Swami reported what he did. He is an extremely dubious charater.
But he has reported something from a former strike corps commander of the Pakistani Army, so probably worth going over.
Lt Gen Tariq Khan, former commander of the Mangla-based I Corps, Pakistan’s key strike formation, laid out the country’s new strategic dilemma in comments posted on a private WhatsApp group on Tuesday.
Each Indian cross-border strike, Gen Khan noted “erode our position of deterring war through our nuclear capability”—the keystone of the strategy of a weaker conventional power. That, in turn, means “we become more and more vulnerable to an asymmetric conventional threat”.
Thus, Gen Khan went on, “Our response should be to escalate and push the envelope of hostilities so that nuclear war is a likely outcome.” In his view, such an action “is not likely to escalate beyond reasonable boundaries because the rungs in the escalation ladder are so many that signatures leading to total war will reveal themselves well before [such a] war actually breaks out”. (In other words, Paks will back down as the 'signatures' of nuclear war make themselves visible)
India, he argues, “simply will not go down this road”: the larger, richer state, it has more to lose in an all-out conflict.
Ever since the 2001-02 near-war with India, Pakistan’s military establishment has argued that any Indian strike across the border, no matter how shallow, could be met with nuclear weapons, potentially plunging both countries into a nuclear apocalypse. Shireen Mazari, now a minister in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s cabinet, has argued “Pakistan has to go for a one-rung escalation ladder” -- that is, to reach for its nuclear weapons.
For the most part, Indian commentators have cast these claims as a bluff but seen through the optics of Islamabad there’s more than hyperbole.
“Deterrence,” Gen Khan argues, “is a mindset and never a tangible posture. It is an outcome of a possibility” [emphasis added]. For Pakistan’s generals, the real question is how to revive that possibility in Indian minds.
So what can the Pakis do to make nuclear war a 'likely outcome', while still controlling the thermostat of the conflict so the likely outcome does not become the actual outcome?
1. Further escalate the terror war using Jaish proxies.
2. An act of war so egregious, that public opinion makes an Indian response a near certainty.
2.b Shoot down/Hijack a civil airliner.
3. Conventional aggression, such as a surprise torpedoing of an Indian ship or a surprise raid on an airfield followed by a quick jaunt to the UNSC.
4. Deploy Nasr with crore commanders, while also raising the temperature at the IB/LoC.
I am scratching my head trying to figure out how this Pakistani general can achieve what he claims. Either there is a space for fighting a sub-conventional war, or there isnt. And if one participant can play in that gray zone, two can do so.
Each of these options that Pakis think are open to them will need a well thought out political, diplomatic and communication response and I have full confidence in our babus that they are on top of this. But I do think, there is still some time for this latest crisis to unroll and Pakis will want to have another throw of the dice.