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What will Pakistan's response be?

By Group Captain Murli Menon (retd)
February 27, 2019 09:41 IST

'Having spent four years in that country and been able to assess the thought process of their military up close, I am of the opinion that a reprisal is inevitable.'
'The Pak military lives in a high ego make believe world (even believing a nuclear war is fightable!) and I know they WILL respond soon enough,' says Group Captain Murli Menon (retd).

Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Line of Control, February 22, 2019. Photograph: www.ispr.gov.pk

IMAGE: Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the Line of Control, February 22, 2019. Photograph: www.ispr.gov.pk

There is enough chatter going on the electronic media about IAF air strikes on the Jaish e Mohammad's terror camp at Balakote. Perhaps one can deliberate more on the modus operandi once details emerge, which are scarce at the time of writing.

The important priority for Indian planners now must be to zero in on possible repraisal military actions by the Pakistan army and the Pakistan air force. The Indian Navy would, of course, have its own threat spectra and associated dynamics.

Activating of sleeper cells and increased terror strikes are a given even if the United Nations and other countries mount pressure on Pakistan to shut down terror networks operating in that country, the IMF, FATF or UN proscription of Masood Azhar notwithstanding.

Needless to say, India has to be geared for assymetric as well as conventional operations.

The military, I am sure, is already charged up and ready. The civilian establishment needs to prep themselves in terms of border management, increased interaction of authorities with villagers along the International Border/Line of Control and medical contingency planning.

Punjab may be a good example to follow for other states, given Captain Amarinder Singh's proactiveness and military thinking.

The railways and agencies such as India Post should be mobilised to contribute their mite to the response effort and passive defence measures.

Passive air defence measures and anti-sabotage actions are important for all commanders and local leaders.

 

Be that as it may, let us turn to the immediate air threat spectrum. I have heard several illustrious persona opining that Pakistan cannot afford a conventional military response given its international pariahood and financial dire straits.

Having spent four years in that country and been able to assess the thought process of their military up close, I am of the opinion that a reprisal is inevitable.

The Pak military lives in a high ego make believe world (even believing a nuclear war is fightable!) and I know they WILL respond soon enough.

Presently, the Pakis are of the unshakeable view that their cruise missiles and NASR short range nukes (tact nukes?!!) are invincible. But they also know their nuclear option doesn't really exist given India's proclaimed doctrine of 'massive retaliation'.

But that doesn't stop them from using these assets with conventional warheads mounted, a la what the Iraqi Scuds attempted to do in the first Gulf War. Even if it is only for harassment value. They may even toy with employing chemical warheads.

The Indian Air Force and Indian Army specifically need to adapt their air defence sensors and weaponry to shoot down these intruding missiles. The NASR would be more of a challenge to intercept given its steep angle at terminal stages and low radar cross section.

Cruise missiles (Chinese-given once again) are much slower, low flying and can be intercepted by fighters or even Hawk class of aircraft.

So this in my opinion is where our immediate focus needs to be. Our air defence, including the Phalcon/Netra AEW/AWACS is mainly oriented towards a fighter/bomber aircraft threat. This needs to change to include cruise/short range missiles and UAVs.

If some ground-based tactical radar need redeployment to cater for terminal air defence of VAs/VPs that should be done forthwith (I am sure it must already have been done!).

Airfields/army field HQs in the Srinagar valley and Punjab would be particularly vulnerable against cruise/short range conventional missiles.

The purpose of this column is NOT to tell the IAF or the Indian Aarmy its job, which I know they know full well. It is just a lead in for the airpower aficionado and the common man on what to expect across the IB/LoC in the hours and days ahead!!

Group Captain Murli Menon (retd)
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