NASR in reality is the obsolete Chinese supplied Weishi-2 ballistic missile renamed as the Hatf-IX

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s successful ‘training launch’ of short range, nuclear-capable NASR missile has frustrated the Indian Army Chief idea of having integrated battle groups (IBGs) to launch a quick, conventional assault on Pakistan.

The NASAR’s launching has unnerved Indian commanders. The IBGs are closely associated with the Indian Army’s Cold Start doctrine that came about in the aftermath of the failure of Operation Parakram (2001-02).

A surface-to-surface missile, NASR’s range is 60 kilometres. But, it is no surprise that this launch follows so closely on the heels of Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat’s announcement on reviving the idea of IBGs. General Rawat has now brought the idea up front and centre. He is saying the IBGs will be war-gamed and physically tested by May.

An Indian newspaper has put up a write-up suggesting that essentially the tussle between Pakistan and India is about fighting their favourite wars. India claims to be conventionally superior and wants to confine its war with Pakistan within the conventional realm.

Pakistan wants to keep the conflict either in the sub-conventional realm where it enjoys the monopoly in this dyad, or escalate it to the nuclear realm where it has parity with India bypassing a conventional war entirely.

The Indian Army evolved the Cold Start doctrine of a limited conventional war because it realised that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would not allow for a full-scale, conventional war.

The doctrine was never endorsed publicly by the Indian government but it provided Pakistan justification for building short range, nuclear-capable missiles, like NASR, to target Indian formations undertaking conventional strikes. India’s non-response to 26/11 showed that either the Cold Start had not been operationalised or the Indian Army wasn’t confident of pulling off such strikes in a crisis situation.

General Rawat has now brought the idea up front and centre. He is saying the IBGs will be war-gamed and physically tested by May. This could enhance the credibility of the Cold Start doctrine. Playing exactly to the script, Pakistan is now flaunting NASR. The use of NASR carries a number of risks like early use by on-field commanders. Moreover, its use doesn’t guarantee that a large number of Indian Army personnel can be taken out. However, deterrence is often in the adversary’s mind. As long as Indian leaders continue to be deterred by NASR, it will continue to be effective.

In the meanwhile Indian Army chief has hinted to reduce the number of brigadiers in Indian Army. In an interview he has hinted that Colonels of the Indian army would be promoted to the rank of major general directly others than who will be deputed for commands with elevation.