It is 2022. India’s economy is poised for high growth in its 75th year of independence. China and Pakistan have serious security, economic and domestic problems. They may decide to collude against India and start a war.
A victory over India in a carefully planned, limited war, would hurt the Indian government enough to lose an election and bring in a government more amenable to making concessions on the border issues, trade and Kashmir.
What is the 2.5 front war and its likely implications on India’s security framework? Will the challenges from China and Pakistan, their collusion to tie down India’s army along the eastern and western fronts succeed? What efforts have been taken up till now and is security doctrine of the country ready to meet the challenges of 2.5 Front War? In this article following aspects will be covered:-
Security Doctrine 2.5 Front War Armed Forces
- Likely Contingencies Leading to 2.5 Front war
- India’s Counter for 2.5 Front War
Security Doctrine 2.5 Front War Armed Forces
General V. K. Singh, referred to Pakistan and China as “two irritants” in October 2010, and indicated that the armed forces were preparing for a contingency in which they might have to confront China and Pakistan simultaneously.
In September 2020, Chief of Defence Staff(CDS) General Bipin Rawat acknowledged, “Chinese continued military, economic and diplomatic support poses the threat of coordinated action along the northern and western fronts, which we have to consider in our defence planning. India is ready for a ‘two-and-a-half front war’, CDS General Bipin Rawat had said referring to Pakistan, China and the internal conflicts.
At his annual press conference held on 12 January 2022, army chief General M.M. Naravane outlined that an active ‘two and a half front war’ is now a reality. The two fronts are China and Pakistan and the half front is counter-insurgency. “There is increased cooperation between Pakistan and China, both in military and non-military fields.
However much has changed in terms of our capabilities. The Army, Navy and IAF are now very much prepared for 2.5 front war. These remarks are reassuring messages from the top military leadership.
Likely Contingencies Leading to 2.5 Front war
Various contingencies for start of war could be as under:-
- China and Pakistan could collude to launch a surprise-coordinated attack from both India’s north and west.
- China could engage in strategic opportunism in an India-Pakistan conventional military engagement.
- A variation of that could be a scenario in which a significant conventional conflict between India and Pakistan threatens CPEC assets and Chinese citizens in Pakistan, giving China motivation to distract India by starting a separate conflict along the LAC.
- Another variation could be the use of Chinese naval power to divert and distract the Indian Navy’s efforts to blockade Pakistani ports as part of its coercive strategy.
- Pakistan could take advantage of an India-China conflict to mobilize its military against India.
- China can take on India directly, militarily without Pakistani assistance. But its hand could be forced for geostrategic reasons, such as sending a message to other smaller countries in the region.
- In a border war between India and China that Pakistan could exploit to open a front across Kashmir to compensate for its disadvantages versus India.
- Short of joining a war, even a military mobilization by Pakistan could tie up Indian troops on that front. This was not done by Pakistan during the Ladakh border crisis between India and China, a fact acknowledged by Indian Armed Forces leadership.
- An armed conflict with China is most likely to lead to India facing a 2.5 front war scenario, drawing in Pakistan either of its own or under Beijing’s pressure.
India’s Counter to 2.5 Front War
The Indian Armed Force’s plan for dealing with a 2.5 front conflict revolves around the identification of a primary and a secondary front.
In January 2020, General M. M. Naravane reiterated that in the case of a simultaneous 2.5 front threat on the country’s northern and western borders, there would be a primary front and a secondary front: “Most of our aggression will be concentrated on the primary front and we will adopt more deterrent posturing on secondary front.
We have formations which can quickly be moved from the east to west or vice-versa. In this manner, we will be able to deal with both fronts to ensure territorial integrity is not compromised.
Indian strategy in case of a 2.5 front war will be as under:-
- No territorial loss is acceptable on either front.
- The Indian Armed Forces would assume a more offensive posture against one adversary (China) while holding the defences, and a simultaneous threat of limited military punishment against the other (Pakistan) to prevent a loss of territory. Deterrence means India will prevent Pakistan from initiating a 2.5 front threat by means of the threat of reprisal.
After the 2020 Ladakh border crisis, the Indian Army has initiated a rebalancing strategy, under which it has moved troops from the Pakistan front against China. It has converted one of the three existing strike corps (offensive fighting formations launched in enemy territory) meant to operate along with Pakistan into a China-facing mountain strike corps. This will give the army two mountain strike corps against China, one in Ladakh and another in Arunachal Pradesh.
In January 2020, Gen Naravane said that Siachen and Shaksgam Valley are the places where the territories of these two countries meet. Therefore, it is important to be on guard and keep that area in our possession.” This is the area where the Ladakh border crisis with China occurred in 2020, and the standoff remains unresolved.
In the second part of the article, we will cover the Conduct of the 2.5 Front War, the Role IAF, and Navy in 2.5 front war, Time Frame For 2.5 Front War, Use of Nuclear Option and dealing with Additional ‘Half-Front’.