India has an advantage in numbers but if war was simply a numbers game, then 75-80% of the wars through history, particularly in the early years of man when numbers mattered, would not have been won by the smaller, better trained, more disciplined and highly motivated fighting forces. At Yarmuk, Khalid Bin Walid led the muslims, outnumbered 7 to 1 by the Romans, to victory in one of the most decisive battles in the world.
Headquartered in New Delhi, the Indian Army has Artilleryman Gen S Padmanabhan, a South Indian, as COAS. On Dec 30, 2001 he took over in rotation as the Chairman Joint Chiefs. The Indian Army has five Commands, Northern Command with HQ at Udhampur near Jammu (looking after Kashmir), Western Command at Chandimandir (looking after Punjab and Rajasthan with borderline at Bikaner), Southern Command at Poona (looking after Gujrat and Maharashtra), Central Command at Lucknow with one Strike Corps for the western border and Eastern Command at Calcutta (looking after Counter-Insurgency in Assam and the NEFA border with China). In affect Pakistan is faced with the Northern, Western and Southern Commands even though troops are earmarked as Army Reserve in both Central and Eastern Commands.
Northern Command consists of three Corps, XV Corps at Srinagar comprising 19th Infantry Division (at Baramula), 28th (Gurais) and 57th Mountain Division (Sharifabad, reinforcement from Dimapur in Eastern Command), XIV Corps at Leh comprising 3rd Infantry Division (Leh) and 8th Mountain Division (Nimer) while XVI Corps at Nagrota (Jammu) is the largest Corps in the world today with 5 Infantry Divisions, 10th (Akhnur), 25th (Rajauri), 26th (Jammu), 29th (Pathankot) and 39th (Yol). It also has three Independent Armoured Brigades, the 2nd, 3rd and 16th. There is an Artillery Brigade with each Corps. Except for the 39th Infantry Division and the three Armoured Brigades which are engaged in Counter-Insurgency duties, all the other Divisions are deployed on the Line of Control (LoC). These forces have been joined by three Divisions as part of a I Corps Strike Force, moving from Central Command but still without its 31st Armoured Div, which has probably moved into Western Command area as part of Army Reserve to support 2 Corps operations.
Western Command consists of three Corps, XI Corps with HQ at Jullunder, deploying 7th Infantry Division (Ferozepur), 9th Infantry Division (Chandimandir) and 15th Infantry Division (Amritsar), 23rd Armoured Brigade and 55th Mechanised Brigade, the two Strike Corps being 2 Corps and X Corps with HQs at Ambala and Bhatinda. 2 Corps has 1st Armoured Division, 14th RAPID Division, 22nd Infantry Division and 14th Independent Armoured Brigade while X Corps has the 18th and 24th RAPID Divisions, 16th Infantry Division and 6th Independent Armoured Brigade.
Southern Command consists of XII Corps (Jodhpur) with 11th and 12th Infantry Divisions deployed at Ahmedabad and Jodhpur and the XXI Strike Corps (Bhopal) with 33rd Armoured, 36th RAPID and 54th Infantry Division. Eastern Command, which has already moved 57th Mountain Division from 3 Corps, has readied (and are probably on the move), 2nd Mountain and 27th Mountain Divisions as no Chinese threat was perceived at least till 3 days ago. In addition there are three Direct Reporting Units, 30th Artillery Division, which has moved to Western Command, 50th Independent Parachute Brigade and 333rd Missile Groups (India’s nuclear artillery unit having Prithvi missiles), already deployed from Southern Command Area to Punjab and Rajasthan.
The Indian Aerospace Forces (IAF) consists of five operational commands, Western Air Command (New Delhi) controlling air operations from Kashmir to North of Rajasthan, Southwestern Air Command located at Gandhinagar controlling air operations from Rajasthan to Maharashtra, Central Air Command at Allahabad, Eastern Air Command at Shillong and Southern Air Command at Trivandrum. In Pakistan we are concerned primarily with Western Air Command and Southwestern Command and the air deployments from the other Commands.
Western Air Command has an Air Operation Group at Udhampur (near Jammu) dedicated to Jammu & Kashmir including Ladakh. Its fighting units in Occupied Kashmir include 12 MIG 21s at Leh, 17 MIG 21s at Srinagar, 18 MIG 21s at Udhampur, 8 MIG 21s at Jammu, 17 MIG 23s and 24 MIG 21s at Pathankot (total 96 aircraft). In Punjab its bases are at Amritsar 18 MIG 21s, Adampur 17 MIG 23s, 16 MIG 29s and 16 MIG 21s, Halvara 17 MIG 23s, 18 MIG 21s and 8 MIG 23s, Chandigarh 18 Jaguars, 8 Canberras and 18 MIG 21s, Ambala 19 Mirage 2000, 18 Jaguar and 16 MIG 21s, Bathinda 18 MIG 21s and 8 MIG 23s, Sirsa 18 MIG 27s and 16 MIG 29s, Suratgarh 17 MIG 23s and 18 MIG 21s and Hindon 6 Canberras, 8 MIG 25s and 16 MIG 21s (total 332 aircraft).
Southwestern Air Command was previously under operational control of Western Command, it now controls air operations in Rajasthan and Maharshtra. Its fighting units include Bikaner 18 MIG 27s, 16 MIG 29s and 18 MIG 21s, Jaisalmer 18 MIG 27s, 16 MIG 29s and 18 MIG 21s, Agra 7 Canberras, Jodhpur 18 Mirage 2000s, 20 Jaguars and 18 MIG 21s, Uttarlai 18 MIG 27s and 16 MIG 21s, Jamnagar 27 Jaguars and 16 MIG 21s, Pune 10 MIG 29s and 9 Canberras (total 263 aircraft). To back these Central Air Command has two Squadrons of Mirage 2000H at Gwalior which can be switched to the other Commands facing Pakistan (36 aircraft). The 9 or 10 SV-30s received from Russia have not been fitted out, so that don’t count. Total deployment against Pakistan therefore is 753 combat aircraft, almost the whole of the IAF.
India’s Navy has three Naval Commands. Western Naval Command’s fleet is based at Mumbai and provides naval defence of Arabian Sea. A new naval base is coming up between Mumbai and Cochin at Binaga Bay. There is an advance base at Dwarka and the Navy’s Missile Boat HQ is at Colaba. Vizagaptam is the HQs of Eastern Naval Command, it has a submarine base also and provides naval defence of Bay of Bengal. The Southern Naval Command at Kochi is mainly a training base. It is obvious that both the Western and Eastern Naval Commands will be involved in operations against Pakistan. Their surface fleet, not presently under repair, consists of one aircraft carrier, 7 Guided Missile Destroyers, 7 Guided Missile Frigates, 3 Frigates, 4 Corvettes, 10 large patrol craft, 5 Fast Patrol Boats, 3 Fast attack Missile Boats and 18 Minesweepers. Presently they have 1 nuclear powered submarine and 13 diesel-powered submarines in service (1 Foxtrot Class, 9 Sindhughosh Class and 3 Shashikumar Class). India’s Naval Air Arm with HQs at Goa consists of a squadron of Jaguars and Sea Harriers each, other than 6x Sea-Kings and 20 Cheetahs. The Jaguar squadron (at Poona) is operated by the IAF.
According to Dr Thomas Burnett of US Naval War College, the Navy is presently a supplemental Service in India’s rivalry with Pakistan and like the old Soviet Fleet it focuses on anti-ship capabilities with an emphasis on attack submarines. It has the capacity to support a multi-service heliborne cum para cum amphibious operation, provided it has adequate air cover. This amphibious capability is built around 304th Army Independent Brigade at Vizagapatam. One of the battalions took part in the beach landings at Jaffna and Batticalao in 1984, they were led onto the beach by the Marine Commando Force (Marcos for short) of about 2000 based at Mumbai, Cochin and Vizagapatam. They have recently been concentrated now at INS Abhimanyu at Mumbai alongwith the 304th Army Independent Brigade. The Indian Navy has a heavy lift capacity with 2 new 5600 ton Magar Class Landing Vessels with 4 Landing Craft Vehicles and Personnel (LCVP) on davits and a stern helicopter platform, Four recent Polnochny Class vessels have helicopter platforms. They also have 7 locally built 500-ton Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and six Sea-King and about 20 Chetak Helicopters. They also have 11 Cosmos midget submarines of Italian origin that can ride the back of Foxtrot Class submarines. A few hovercraft are on order for fast short-range assault operations.
India’s Army and Aerospace Force combat strength is deployed against Pakistan, only 3 depleted Corps are deployed in the vicinity of the Chinese in NEFA and one of them is in Counter-Insurgency role in Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The Navy also is essentially earmarked for the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, it cannot be deployed against China. But if you were to hear Indian defence analysts (and that is all for western consumption), their main worry is China and not Pakistan. Well, we would rather they worry about us and deploy most of their forces against what they perceive to be their real threat, from China.
At the moment the Indians have deployed four Strike Corps against Pakistan, one each against the Southern part of Azad Kashmir, Central Punjab , Southern Punjab and one against Sindh. They have the necessary balance to focus their attack in a combination of two or even three Corps but time and space dictate they cannot move more than one Strike Corps on any axis. Moreover, they have to cater for our counter offensive. Their air deployment suggests that the focus of their Strike Corps could well be in the south (Western and Southern Commands) since no ground offensive is possible in the desert without heavy air cover. The same principle would apply for a combined heliborne, para and/or amphibious operation. An attacking force without total air cover would be sitting ducks from the air, even a few German aircraft created havoc for sometime on D Day on the Normandy beaches. Both the Indian Strike Corps, 2 Corps from Western Command at Jaisalmer and 21 Corps at Barmer from Southern Command have been reinforced with additional Divisions from Eastern Command (moving through Jodhpur) and have integral Helicopter Attack Squadrons, Engineer, Artillery and Air Defence Brigades. The deployment of the Army’s Direct Reporting Unit, 30th Artillery Division gives the fulcrum of the line of attack. Moreover, Jodhpur has a concentration of heavy lift MI-8/M-17 helicopters, supplemented by AN-32s at Agra, Gwalior and Chandigarh. Another Direct Reporting Unit, the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade, is peace stationed at Agra.
There has always been talk of a limited Indian offensive across the LOC in “hot pursuit” or the targeting of Mujahideen training camps in Azad Kashmir. This is mainly to contain the battleground to Kashmir, the premise being that the other Strike Corps are then positioned to go on the offensive if Pakistan does not opt for limited war and goes on an all-out offensive. However, with all 3 Armoured Divisions, with all 4 RAPID Divisions and at least 2 out of 5 Independent Armoured Brigades concentrated in Rajasthan, their present resource allocation makes their offensive targets obvious, either along the Jaisalmer-Rahimyar Khan axis or along the Barmer-Mirpurkhas axis. One of our best major generals has been moved by the President on short notice to take command at one such sensitive place, again an indication of Pervez Mosharraf’s instinctive leadership. They could also possibly attempt helicopter troop transportation/amphibious LST and then let XXI Strike Corps go for a link-up. They have been practicing this. The area between Badin and Sajawal east of the Indus thus becomes vulnerable. Given Pakistan’s counter-riposte potential this could end up being “a bridge too far”. According to Ravi Rikhye on Dec 30, 2000 after our defensive deployment all along, “Pakistan still has three Corps HQ (Army Reserves North, Center and South) with five divisions and four other Divisions available to GHQ even though some of these four Divisions may have given away Infantry Brigades to reinforce particular sections of the front. Pakistan has many independent brigades, and many divisions have extra brigades. This alone should suffice to show that India has no advantage on the ground, Pakistan has managed to keep half its Divisions in reserve”, unquote. Author of “The Fourth Round” between Pakistan and India, Ravi Rikhye is a brilliant defence analyst with the necessary credibility to go with it. He more often than not calls a spade a spade, obviously he is not underestimating the fact that Pakistan is well balanced to respond all along the front on any Indian adventure. Moreover, the Indian Navy cannot blockade Karachi Port with the same impunity they did in 1971, our Exocet-armed Mirages and enhanced submarine fleet will keep them well off-shore, even outside our 200 miles territorial limit. Our Navy would love to get the Indian aircraft carrier within combat aircraft range.
The joker in the pack are the missile mounted nuclear armament. They have moved another Directly Reporting Unit 333rd Missile Group consisting of 3 Prithvi Batteries with 4 launchers each to the border areas. Their two Strike Corps in the Rajasthan Desert ( 2 and XXI) provide a better target for a possible Pakistan tactical nuclear strike and the Indians should have no doubt about that. Because of our lack of depth, God forbid that our conventional forces at any point lose ground at any point threatening our North-South communications, we will use the weapons at our disposal without question.
Good leaders need luck, both Napolean and Nixon recommended it. Again Pervez Mosharraf has a win-win situation here. Both Jaish Mohammad and Lashkar-I-Tayyaba were on our hit list to be dismantled anyway as their activities within Pakistan were detrimental to the concept of the freedom struggle in Kashmir, which is largely indigenous. Thanks be to India we have a good enough excuse for us now to do it. Religious and ethnic parties that foment militancy of any kind, those that talk more about Kashmir from outside Kashmir but reserve their killings to internecine strife between themselves within Pakistan, must be banned. The Indian bellicosity has united the nation behind the President i.e everywhere except those on the cocktail circuit whose loyalty and patriotism is questionable even at the best of times. Feted in Beijing on his way to Kathmandu for the SAARC Conference in an unusual show of Chinese warmth at this critical time, Mosharraf has shown up India to be what it is, a regional bully engaged in dangerous nuclear brinkmanship for domestic political compulsions, mainly the elections in February in India’s most populous State, UP. The Indians are not bad, their leaders are obnoxious. For the first time in our history we have behaved maturely and not matched the Indians’ shrill rhetoric, their histrionics has exposed them to the world.
Those who have the greatest desire for war are usually those who have not heard a shot being fired in anger and know they are themselves not in harm’s way while sending young men to their death. War is fought on the ground by young men, good junior leadership is at the very core of winning battles. With 10000 plus young officers missing from their infantry and armour units, the Indians will have to send their Recruiting Officers to stand outside the Hall during BBC’s Question Hour, they can then catch the bellicose Indian youth literally aching to “destroy” Pakistan, just outside the door. Let some deeds match their words! Pakistan will certainly have grievous casualties and horrific damage in a conventional war even without a nuclear exchange, we have no desire for war but it is being forced on us. Because of it, we have no option but to fight. The Indian political leadership will not be able to withstand the injury we have the capacity to inflict on their military machine in case of war. That is not rhetoric, that is a commitment.
Mr. Ikram Sehgal is Publisher and Managing Editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan).