A month after the Mumbai attacks, with the Indian government still working diplomatic channels to pressure Pakistan to clamp down on terror institutions, military action against Pakistan still remains an option, even in spite of the relative absence of the element of surprise.
The fact that the element of surprise would be probably be missing from any military action taken by India against Pakistan doesn’t bother Retired Indian Air Force (IAF) Air Marshal Kapil Kak, Additional Director of the Centre for Air Power Studies. “See, surprise actions are passé from a military point of view. These were last most prominently carried out by the Israelis in the ’60s when the launched surprise attacks on airfields and air forces in West Asia and gained mastery of the skies within a matter of hours. Now, there has to be a politico-diplomatic war before any military action,” says the Air Marshal.
And while the most obvious targets of such an action have been considered to be terrorist training camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), India actually has no dearth of targets as far as terrorist organizations are concerned and will not fight shy of striking them even if they happen to be in Pakistan.
“It is what is known as a target-rich environment. By terrorist infrastructure we don’t simply mean the camps in PoK. We also mean terror infrastructure in Pakistan, like headquarters and institutions of fronts for terrorist organizations in Muridke, government machinery supporting terrorism and all kinds of other assets of terrorist organizations,” says Kak, adding “Of course it is obvious that there is a distinction between attacking targets in PoK and attacking targets in Pakistan.”
The lack of surprise would not deter the Indian armed forces in their role in deterring Pakistan from supporting terrorism in India, especially keeping in mind the multiplicity of targets. Air Marshal Kak explains the concept of deterrence. “The objective is deterrence either by denial or deterrence by punishment. In the former, the adversary is denied the use of military and terrorist infrastructure and deterrence by punishment is to read them the riot act and drive home the message that this is a moment of reckoning for Pakistan not for India by carrying out punitive strikes.”
And the IAF will take the lead in any punitive deterrence action because of capabilities. “Deterrence by denial can be carried out against the bulk of their military infrastructure by all three of our armed forces. But the IAF has the largest role in deterrence by punishment. The kind of weapons delivery platforms and systems that the IAF has acquired over the last decade is more than adequate to carry out this role,” says Kak, adding, “The IAF has the ability to strike deep inside their territory. In the ’71 war I flew bombers deep inside Pakistani territory. And I had no problems coming back and landing in India. In any case, we have mid-air refueling aircraft that would take care of problems of range, if any at all,” says Kak.