The direct exchange of hostilities between Pakistan and India on Line of Control, de facto international border and working boundary after Pulwama attack on Indian paramilitary in occupied Kashmir and Indian Balakot attack on Pakistan has resulted in a military standoff between nuclear-armed rivals in South Asia.

India has violated international airspace of Pakistan after Pulwama attack and claimed airstrike at Balakot which is an act of aggression and enunciation of war as India used fighter jets against Pakistan for the first time since 1971 war to escalate the conflict.

Pakistan has responded to this act of Indian aggression with massive retaliation while managed the conflict transformation ladder in its favour. Pakistan air force following the doctrine of massive retaliation conducted an airstrike on selected targets in Indian occupied Kashmir on February 26. Pakistan air force shot downed two Indian Air force fighter jets after hitting selected targets in IoK during engagement with Indian fighter jets.  Pakistan has responded the emerging full spectrum dominance military strategy of India with full spectrum deterrence strategy as threat thwarting mechanism.

International community especially US, UK and Arab states have carried out private diplomacy to de-escalate the hostilities between nuclear-armed states. Pakistan had arrested IAF Pilot commander Abhinandan after the destruction of his fighter set in Kashmir region by PAF fighter jet.  However, Pakistan released Abhinandan within 24 hours as “a peace gesture” to India. The underlying rationale of this gesture was to transform conflict toward de-escalation with gaining the support of evolving international perspective on the conflict in Pakistan’s favour.

While the underlying rationalize of Indian military strike strategy was to militarily coerce Pakistan, gather domestic political support for incumbent Modi regime following Jingoistic Hindu nationalism and project India’s image globally as a great power with masculine security and foreign policy.  It reflected changing pattern in the security posture of India from limited war cold start doctrine (CSD) to network-centric warfare (NCW) doctrine based on joint armed forces doctrine 2017 guidelines as the paradigm shift in doctrinal transformation and military strategy of India. This doctrinal transformation has its roots in India’s narrative of military surgical strike.

India is obsessed with the narrative of military power projection and surgical strikes against Pakistan since Modi came to power in 2014. This narrative is owned by BJP led political elite and security establishment of India as repeatedly mentioned by Indian army chief about military preparedness toward ‘two and half front war’. Media has been used as an instrument to disseminated this narrative by creating favourable political discourse for this strategic choice as consent building approach.

Corresponding interests of security and political establishment of India have shaped the strategic environment in favour application of power projection as a military strategy against Pakistan. The challenge to Indian domination and credibility of power in the region emerged from its failure to conclude military conflicts especially Kashmir issue with Pakistan on its own terms. Military modernization and effective military power projection as mean and measure were conceived by the Indian strategic community as the main source of developing military preponderance in the region.

Incorporation of future infantry soldier as a system (FINAS) technology-centric advanced troop warfare apparatus in the Indian army is a bid to revolutionize Indian conventional warfighting techniques. This strategic initiative was part of the Indian Armed Forces Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan (LTIPP) 2012-2027. It reveals contemporary strategic thinking in India that it is still shaped by immediate security concerns, particularly against Pakistan.

Indian controversial surgical strike claims against Pakistan in September 2016 and 2018 across Line of control in Kashmir valley can be viewed in this regard as sabre-rattling and muscle flexing exercise for power projection in its immediate neighbourhood. Pakistan has rejected these claims as erroneous and fabricated. Pakistan has gun downed two Indian drones across LoC in the first week of 2019 which is an evidence of Indian aggression across LoC. Indian Land warfare doctrine 2018 has focused on high altitude troop warfare as essential for military readiness.

Surgical strike as a war strategy in Indian joint armed forces doctrine 2017 and Indian land warfare doctrine 2018 has emerged as the manifestation of this paradigm shift of developing network-centric military operation capabilities. It entails integrated use of conventional and unconventional defence forces as a component of the contemporary military strategy of India. India seeks to operationalize FINAS technology savvy army operational capabilities against Pakistan across LoC in Kashmir valley which is a serious security threat.

India maintains military modernization in the same vein to project military muscle for recognition as the great power in the areas of its vital national interests including immediate neighbourhood (South Asia). Modi government’s jingoistic military strategy and narrative of the surgical strike has security implications for the region. It has resulted in deteriorating strategic stability and eroded conventional deterrence in South Asia while it has ensued arms race and spiralled up military spending trend in South Asia. India has tried to project its military potential in its immediate neighbourhood against potent nuclear weapon state Pakistan which is the perilous strategic adventure.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Muhammad Ayaz Nazar is an independent researcher having M. Phil in International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University. His areas of Interest are included geopolitics, politics of South Asia, especially focusing on India-Pakistan relations.