National Interest
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Speaking at the founding day of the National Cadet Corps Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all India’s armed forces need to defeat Pakistan is seven to ten days.

Was he talking through his hat? Can the world’s fourth-largest military power defeat the fifth-largest in just about a week or so? Particularly when they are both nuclear-armed?

If the answer to all three questions is what seems obvious, ‘yes’ to the first and ‘no’ to the next two, we could be done with it with a 140-character tweet. We wouldn’t be wasting your time, labouring over 1,200 words.

The answers, therefore, are: First, that Narendra Modi is no delusional nutcase. If he wasn’t phenomenally smart, he wouldn’t have come this far. The second and third questions have one answer: Whether or not you can win a war in 7-10 days would also depend on how you define that ‘victory’.

The genuinely strategic issues do tend to be complex, and somewhat less fun than what prime-time debates on some commando-comic channels might want to make you believe. They can defeat Pakistan, maybe with China thrown in, in half-an-hour, leaving time for commercial breaks. In real life, we might need to explore history — strategic and political — and some non-classical definitions of victory and defeat. That’s why this week’s argument begins with Modi, will go back to the two Bhuttos, father and daughter, Indira Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and return to Modi.

The central truth is that a country or even a set of countries defeating another in the manner of World War II is now an impossibility. We don’t even have a significant instance of that happening since that war. The Americans, the mightiest of all, failed in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. A mere regime change isn’t a victory.

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The Soviets’ failure in Afghanistan ended their ideology and military bloc. Saudi Arabia, enormously richer and more powerful, has failed to defeat poor Yemen in almost five years. Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, hoping to take advantage of chaos in the wake of the revolution there. Eight years later, all the two countries had was corpses, cripples and prisoners of war, but no tangible gains.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. You might, for the sake of an argument, find an example here or there, such as Bosnia. But again, a regime change by a multinational force in such a small country wouldn’t really count for a victory in the sense of a nation defeating another.

Closer home, in 73 years marked with four large wars against two adversaries, China and Pakistan, two have ended decisively. It is easy to remember the one we won, in 1971 against Pakistan, and impossible to forget the one we lost, in 1962 to China.


Also read: IAF, Navy delaying procurement due to funds crunch. And lesser said the better about Army


The war India won, 1971, lasted all of 13 days. The defeat against China, in 1962, also came over about two fortnights of intense operations with a recess of sorts in between. This tells you something counter-intuitive to what our immediate reaction to Modi’s statement on NCC Day would be. So, don’t laugh at the idea that one strong country can defeat another in seven to ten days. Because our generation has seen exactly that at home, twice.

Which brings us to the nub of the issue. How do we define victory or defeat when modern nations fight? In 1971, the moment Dacca fell, Indira Gandhi offered Pakistan ceasefire in the more evenly-matched western sector. The moment Pakistan accepted, she could declare victory. Similarly, in 1962, China offered India a ceasefire unilaterally, even announced it was returning to its pre-war positions (except in some small parts of Ladakh). The moment India accepted it, vowing to fight another day, China could declare victory. The Chinese knew the risk of getting into an unwinnable war of attrition if they ventured into the plains, and Mrs Gandhi, sobered by Soviet allies, also understood the relative military parity in the western sector.

A war is won, therefore, not when a country is comprehensively defeated, brought down to its knees, as with Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan, or as the norm was in the medieval era. It is won when one nation decides it has achieved its objective. To win a war now, you first have to set your objective clearly beforehand. And then have the foresight to seize the moment to declare victory. The earlier the better.

Apply this test to some other familiar situations. Kargil was a relatively tiny war and India won it only because Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his counsels defined victory narrowly and precisely as the mere withdrawal of Pakistan to the Line of Control. Pakistan had initiated that war with the objective of grabbing crucial territory and forcing India to negotiate Kashmir. Vajpayee set defeating that objective as his target, and declared victory the moment it was achieved.

Both Pakistan and India claim 1965 as a win. Here is the equation if we follow the parameters we’ve just set. Pakistan started that war, with the objective of grabbing Kashmir. It had the technological, tactical and diplomatic superiority, and the strategic space and cushion to do so.

If India still denied Pakistan that moment, you can conclude who won or lost, although militarily, the war was a stalemate, the equivalent of a cricket Test petering off to a dull, pointless draw. Balakot is a more complicated case.

India bombed Balakot, deep inside Pakistani mainland, to deliver a strategic and political message. That objective achieved, it had nothing more to do except brace for a Pakistani counter. Whatever the score in the air skirmish on the following morning, the Pakistanis were left with an IAF pilot and the wreckage of his plane. This enabled both sides to declare victory.

A good example where no such thing happened was Op Parakram and ‘coercive diplomacy’, after the terror attack on Parliament. No clear objectives were set, and the build-up continued for so long, it became unsustainable. The moment to declare victory, however, had come very early in the day, on 12 January 2002, within a month of the Parliament attack, when Gen. Pervez Musharraf made his famous speech suing for peace. India missed it, and the entire venture was wasted.

The duration of a war is more a function of rhetoric than strategy. The clearest example of this is senior (Zulfiqar Ali) Bhutto vowing a 1,000-year war on India while his troops were surrendering in Dacca. His daughter Benazir renewed this in the war-like summer of 1990 (her “Jagmohan ko jag-jag, mo-mo, han-han kar denge” days).

It even provoked a weak-kneed pacifist like V.P. Singh, then prime minister, into asking in Parliament whether those who threatened 1,000-year wars could last even a thousand hours. That, by the way, adds up to 41 days and about 15 hours — more than the two wars, 1965 and 1971, combined.

How long you say you’d fight for, 1,000 years, hours or 7-10 days, is all rhetoric. The reality is simpler: Do you know how you define victory and have the foresight to seize the moment to declare it? In the India-Pakistan context, it could have come even after just an hour on the morning of 26 February 2019 or, latest, by noon the following day. But for that, India had to have a decisive, deterrent conventional edge over Pakistan. If that is built in the years to come, it might even be possible to defeat Pakistan in less than a week. You could even win with deterrence, without fighting. Not, of course, if you are still flying MiG-21s.


Also read: For awards’ sake, Indian military must separate ‘gallant’ act from getting ‘killed in action’


 

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44 Comments Share Your Views

44 COMMENTS

  1. India took around three months to regain the Kargil from Pakistan forces. Now they claim they can beat Pakistan in one week. It is just for domestic consumption and media story.

  2. Pakistan has 15th rank in largest military power in the world. Who told you that they are on 5th. Get yourself updated. Pak Never won a single war against in india. 10 days is quite long. The only days needed to provide troops and armed power to the force at the border. 4 days and entire pakistan wipe out by it self. Non tested nuclear weapon won help the even they will self blast them self with it…

  3. India can defeat Pakistan in 7 to 10 days seriously when a superpower like America still trapped in a poor country like Afghanistan
    And this is Great Pakistan you’re talking about
    So here’s the the thing forget 65 and 71
    If this time a war declare India will be a history
    Pak will wipe you out from this world map

  4. India is not the fourth largest military in the world. It’s the second largest and fourth most powerful army of the world. Update your knowledge and then write an article !

  5. SG asks for first defining the VICTORY. Here is my definition. Victory means disabling Pakistan’s fighting capability. India can cripple Pakistan’s defences in a week’s time. Total disarming Pakistan will take several weeks.

  6. 70% of India’s so-called “massive defence budget” goes into feeding it’s “massive” armed forces (literally) and the jawans are not happy with the “patli daal” and “jalay huay parathay”… so even that’s not in order. Secondly, armed forces need to agile and nimble, again a huge concern for India’s ageing military hardware which is no secret. Thirdly, and rightly pointed out in the beginning of this article (but never touched again anywhere in the 1200 words) is a nuclear deterrent. India may win a war in 7 days but it will lose it on day 8 when Pakistan decides there is no other option but to spray across a barrage of 200 nuclear warheds in it’s arsenal. Won’t be a quite a win then, would it? Political chest thumping and bravado is understandable but blowing it out of proportion in such articles and finding basis to equate Modi’s “intelligence” to his “belligerence” is outrageous, even for Print.

    • Unless Mr. Khan you brace yourself for total destruction of Pakistani punjab where if ever a battle is fought between Indian and Pakistan – it will lead to total annihilation of Pakistani punjab. You will not be able to fire a single warhead as by that time pakistan itself will be no more but 4 different states with 5 rump collapsing in India.

    • This is the kind of fluffy writing that Shekar Gupta encourages, who has a very limited understanding of strategy! He has a tendency to pass half truths as the Gospel truth, assuming his readers are fools. Having watched his interview with a couple of 90 year old veterans of the 1962 Sino-Indian war, it was not difficult to conclude that he has zero knowledge of military matters. His pieces are blatantly loaded in favour if Pakistan.

  7. In present day scenario Pakistan is not capable of going for all out war with India considering the strength of Indian defence forces and the level of diplomatic ,and business relations of India with all the major countries – be it USA,China,France,Russia , Saudi Arab or any other country that matters . Pakistan is used to indulging into proxy war since the days when it was under the boots of military dictators like Zia-ul-haq or Musharaf. India continued to suffer and got deep cuts and ignominy in the decade 2000 to 2010 with attack on its Parliament, attack in Mumbai and bombing at many others places . Since 2016 India under the leadership of Modi JI is able to and is giving fitting reply. Under the leadership of Modi ji it has taken bold step of dismantling the constitutional arrangement — like article 370 , 35A etc,–which most of the nationalists Of India believed to be irritant in complete integration of J.K. with India. Under the leadership of Modi Ji Indian armed forces have got confidence to display their latent power and ferocity as they have got upgradation of fire -power, clarity on defence policy and practices. Pakistan too understand that.Remember the time taken and the way IAF pilot Abhinanadan was released post-Balakot strike.

    What Modi ji has said it will be a week job to reclaim POK is not far from the present day reality. Many Leftist journalists may not understand the real implication of it. But Pakistan, China and policy makers in the various capitals of the world knew it. India too is Nuclear power. Old doctrine of “No first Use ” has been sent to cold storage. India will not wait for unfortunate defeat, retreat in any sector of war. She will be on front-foot to defeat any advancing unit with use of conventional or non-conventional weapons at her disposal. So if tomorrow If India decides to reclaim POK or decides to punish Pakistan for any Pulwama type mis-adventure , Pakistan s ruling Junta has to consider what Modi has proclaimed. It is not a threat, it is a simple assertion of real situation as prevailing today . This is likely to prevail as long as Modi and/or BJP are in power in India.

  8. USA could not defeat Iraq in 10 days, even though it destroyed its elite Republican Army in first 24 hours by jamming their radars and bombarding their fighter jets which couldn’t even take off because of that jamming. Pakistani radars are USA supplied and I don’t think India has the wherewithal to jam them. Narendra Modi should desist from such Rambo boasting. What if China comes to the aid of Pakistan? There are already rumors that in the guise of CPEC (China Pakistan economic corridor, I think that’s the name) workers, Chinese soldiers are already sitting in POK.

  9. Im laughing so hard, you guys are literally taking yourselves so seriously? Unbelievable alternate universe Indians live in. Guys, just pray you never try something so dumb, you have no idea whats gonna hit you.

    210 Million Pakistanis are primed to hit you full frontal.

  10. 7 to 10 day wars , means highly intense war from day 0, it means high mobility and cohesive units fighting different battles at the same time, indeed this is the need of the hour. It means reshaping the entire war plans and continuous gaming to be able to fight such objective wars….in fact one needs to thank the modi government from shaping the thinking, i am sure in next 5 odd years we may have acquired critical mass for such battles. Leaders like Modi don’t shoot there lips without thinking. All wars will have limited objectives without saying!

  11. India is turning into Nazi Germany as it hounds its own population while pakistan plays the role of a unifying Muslim nations, world war 3 could quite possibly be fascist India vs Islamic nations; Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan. The biggest problem facing India today might be the alienation of its own people

    • Most Islamic countries are already fascist. ISIS and Pakistan army being the spearhead.

      It better Islamic countries ask Indian Muslims to relocate.

    • BY THAT DUMB LOGIC PAKISTAN IS ALREADY NAZI COUNTRY, YOU HOUND YOUR MINORITY RELIGIOUS POPULATION AND THEIR WOMEN FOLKS BY FORCEFULLY CONVERTING THEM.
      Islamic Nations are themselves Fascists, and and those arabs, turks , persians don’t consider subcontinent converted muslims as any muslim, you are third grade convert for them. Anyways most are technologically garbage. Allienation of people? India has 106 crore hindus, 5 crores other dharmics. Allienation ? How?

    • Alienation of Muslims in a non-Muslim country is nothing new. they are alienated even in the west where a large number of them live on government handouts and bomb their buses.

  12. If at all we think of wars , they will be planned and conducted with realism. In the 1920s and 1930s Churchill’s was a lone voice in England , always warning of Germany’s strength and asking that England prepare herself. He didn’t boast about winning on 1,2 or 3 weeks. They didn’t listen to him. When war came in 1939, England was pushed back badly, until the US stepped in. The manufacturing might of US and determination of CHurchill turned the tide. Realistically, Pak has the supply and manufacturing might of CHina behind it and is rapidly augmenting artillery and submarine fleets. In India we are trying our best within budget limitations,but in a war Pak has no such limitations , with CHina behind it. The approximate parity of Pak with India might help ensure a fragile peace in the region.

    • This is a sensible comment.

      Although mind that China has a huge trade surplus with India as well as investments. Shutting down trade and confiscation of assets will be a huge blow. If China is not threatened, I think China will play the statesman and twist Pakistan’s arms.
      Remember even USA did not want to come in the war in Europe. Germany declared war because of Japan

      • @Krish: China will twist Pakistan’s arms for these Hindus who have went to war with China in 1962, and who have given asylum to Dalai Lama. A typical Hindu who always drink cowmootar and then suggest imaginary stories.

  13. In an era of ‘muscular’ nationalism Indian armed forces have become the latest poster boys to win elections and detract from more pressing problems on the domestic front. The days of winning a decisive victory at war has long since gone. As Mr Shekhar Gupta rightly points out, it is nowadays a matter of achieving strategic objectives, and it seems such objectives for Mr Modi is entirely for domestic consumption.We would be better served if our armed forces are left to do their job on the borders and the government instead declared war on poverty, unemployment, pathetic state of universal education and healthcare, and less time on divisive issues.

  14. And you still fell into the trap?

    Is there really a war like situation on the borders to be making such statements? Don’t we have enough problems of our own to sort out before going out playing fighting-fighting?

    These statements are made just to keep everyone pumped up and busy with these kind of pointless discussions, taking focus away from what we really need to talk about – fixing economy, ensuring Make in India, Skillong India, Smart Cities all actually work.

  15. Actually Modi is being generous, current state of Pak economy, it wont last 6 days! And those who will chime with Feb 28, please note 1 plane down doesnt mean anything, kind of like winning Champions Trophy once, but the team is still weak..but Pakis already know this reality! Worrying matter for Pakis should be of the day before, when planes went in deep into the country with pak having no knowledge and no stopping, like the OBL end!

  16. The Balakot incident, if one thinks logically, was India going in intentionally missing target (as 300-400 dead bodies would have become nuclear war risk), just to let Pakis know, that we know and this is proof we can..so better behave!! Next day was pure luck for Pak, but it was win win for both, as Pak could now gracefully exit! Did it work? ..Well so far there hasnt been any even near pulwama magnitude.. so draw your own conclusion!

    • Timeline of Indias Balakot Claims:
      We killed 300 terrorists and destroyed the terrorist camps…. Open source Satellite imagery exposed the Indian lies and showed no building had even been damaged muss less destroyed…… Then After these images came out Indians were saying we used Spice 2000 bombs (LOL) and we killed 20 or so terrorists….. Then after few days it became we cannot say how many killed and that wasn’t the objective AND now you are saying you intentionally missed the targets LOL. Is there a limit to your denials???

      Pure Luck for Pakistan??? Lol. That was no luck but a clear show of PAFs preparedness to counter within 24 hours and in broad daylight. The PAF totally outclassed the IAF on the 27th of Feb and showed the entire world PROOF of that. It should have been a wake up call for IAF and Indians after having lost 2 aircraft and shooting down their own helicopter in panic of PAF counter attack, but instead Indians started lying and making up stories to hide their embarrassment.

      Draw your conclusions now.

        • @Singh: Where is the wreckage, video or photo of F16? Have you seen it, or did your IAF ever show it to you that you have assumed it? A lolipop for illiterate Hindus like you to feel good.

          IAF shot down own Mi17 helicopter, and killed 7 Indian officers aboard.

      • Yes pure luck! Remember the world cup bowl out?..Pakis couldnt even hit a free wicket..LOL Forget shooting a plane! :-p

  17. Not sure why Shekhar took Modi’s statement with NCC cadets so seriously! Of course, Modi knows what he says and we can infer that with the focused all round upgradation of armed forces underway currently, India will soon have a decisive edge against Pakistan. And with whatever objective set, winning that war should be possible in the time frame set by the political leadership. And hence, Modi said what he said! Shekhar does not have to remind about MIG 21 to Modi; it is Modi who fast tracked Rafale purchase despite all the political nonsense that happened in the aftermath. Thankfully, our gullible voters did not take that non sense seriously; otherwise, Modi would be out in 2019 and we would still be flying MIG 21 for years to come.

    Having sorted out with Art 370, there is no doubt that Modi Shah are now working on POK. It is speculative to say what could be the strategy. It could be offering a revived Art 370 in its original form to only IOK & POK excluding Jammu but including Baltistan and Gilgit , under one nation two systems formula ! It could be offering Trump a deal for Indian forces in Afghanistan in return for India getting POK and Trump offering this as his solution under his meditation in Kashmir! Russia would also support this as it would cut China’s physical link to Pakistan. India would allow China to have link from Gwadar under CPEC as a friendly gesture! It could be directly helping Baloch and Pashtuns for their independence! It could be just a 3 to 7 day war in one or the other sector on western border started on some flimsy pretext or as a punishment for some terrorist attack in India. Shekhar should ponder over various options for Modi and come out with his insights on how Modi can go to war with Pakistan and win it, rather than telling us some elementary definition of how to define winning a war. Perhaps, he is confused between National Interest and Cut the Clutter!!!

  18. Article started well then petered into confusion. Reality is Modi’s power base comes from being anti muslim anti pakistan Through Facist hindutva idealogy and his threats are delusional.

    • You see the problem you Pakistanis have with Modi is that he is doing to you exactly what you specialize in, beating you at your own game. Unfortunately for India though is Modi is actually turning India into a Pakistan. Ironically it is Pakistan thats won him a majority in elections, the more you attack him the more Indians will get behind him..so when IK tweets his ‘after hours’ chemically induced tweets, he is doing Modi a favour!

          • BJP has very good line-up of leaders who can succeed Modi, and Shah as PM or party President. compare that with line up of Congress party –Rahul Priyanka, or Vadra s son and daughter . It should be clear whom Indian voters are going to trust in coming elections. of 2024, 2029.

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