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Sunday, May 28, 2023

Three years of Operation Swift Retort: What’s Next?

Three years after the downing of two Indian Air Force aircraft and capture of one pilot, the IAF is yet to recover from the humiliation at the hands of a far smaller adversary – the PAF which exposed to the world the inherent military weakness of a “nuclear-armed” India.

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Islamabad celebrated the third anniversary of Operation Swift Retort (OSR) on February 27, 2022. The OSR was a retaliatory operation conducted by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on February 27, 2019, in response to India’s unprovoked violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty when two Indian Air Force’s (IAF) jets trespassed on Pakistani airspace.

The aerial dogfight thus ensued from Indian intrusion into Pakistan’s territory ultimately ended up humiliating India, which in addition to losing its two warplanes to PAF, also found its Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman arrested by the Pakistan army.

The befitting manner with which Islamabad carried the day by repulsing the attack launched by a much larger adversary demonstrated the resolve of the Pakistani nation and the preparedness of its military to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state in the face of all odds.

Read more: Youm-i-Takbeer: Pakistan’s answer to India’s Operation Shakti

Looking back at the excerpts from history

Ever since the division of British India in 1947, India has sought to assert itself as a regional power, subjugating and threatening its relatively smaller neighbors into toeing its line.

But both conventional and strategic superiority of Indian armed forces was neutralized when Pakistan acquired nuclear capability in 1998 weeks after Indian nuclear tests. Pakistan’s successful nuclear tests against all odds not only readjusted the regional balance of power but also delivered a body blow to India’s quest for seeking regional hegemony.

While it is true that nuclear deterrence remained a crucial factor in maintaining equilibrium between two arch-rivals for the next few years, the Indian military, however, mooted a new concept of ‘limited war’ by introducing the Cold-Start Doctrine (CSD) to wage a limited war against Pakistan without resorting to full-fledged nuclear warfare.

It compelled Pakistan to put in place Full Spectrum Deterrence, a broad pattern deterrence employed at all levels -tactical, operational, and strategic to counter India’s possible conventional and nuclear misadventures. After India’s CSD was poured cold water by Pakistan’s Nasr ballistic missile, it resorted to the idea of cross border surgical strikes. Pakistan’s swift response to the botched Indian attempt on February 27, 2019, established its Quid Pro Quo Plus strategy, a testimony to the efficient readiness of Pakistan in responding to aggression of every kind at all levels.

Islamabad, however, should not rest on its laurels and step up efforts to strengthen and advance its indigenous defense production to restore the balance of power in the region, which is being disturbed due to India’s expansionist designs. A nation bereft of a self-reliant and self-sustained defense industry easily becomes vulnerable to foreign aggression as has lately been witnessed in the case of the Ukrainian conflict.

Read more: India’s history of orchestrating false flag operations

Why Pakistan should focus on upgrading its defense force?

There are numerous reasons which should convince Pakistan to qualitatively upgrade its domestic war capabilities.

First, as we have seen in the Ukraine crisis that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleading for help did not bear fruit. No nation came to Ukraine’s help, neither did any institution extend a helping hand despite repeated reassurances offered by the West. It would be rather naïve to expect foreign nations or global institutions to reach out to Pakistan in case a war broke out with India.

Second, under the pretext of countering China, India is expanding and advancing its strategic capabilities through Western support. It will change the strategic stability in India’s favour and may pose threat to Pakistan in the future.

Third, as the incumbent government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has intensified its anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan campaigns to expand its electoral vote, this ongoing transition in the Indian political system from a vibrant democracy to a religious ‘extremist-cum-fascist’ autocracy further reaffirms the possibility of any such misadventure in the future.

Fourth, the Indian occupied Kashmir is a fundamental source of strategic instability in the region. India’s rigid stance toward the Kashmir conflict, an internationally recognized nuclear flashpoint, and discouraging dialogues as instruments of peace and prosperity will result in a new wave of hybrid war against Pakistan. A recent uptick in terrorist attacks in Pakistan, particularly after India lost its political clout in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban victory, further confirms these fears.

Fifth, the United States’ C3 policy against China – Containment, Competition, and Confrontation – may have strategic implications for the region. The US and China are engaged in a competition to consolidate their military presence and influence in the region particularly in the Asia-Pacific. The intensity of their strategic competition also strengthen the Indo-US strategic partnership and it will certainly demand Pakistan to keep its war capabilities advanced and maintain a balance of power.

Read more: India’s false-flag operation – Ikram Sehgal

Pakistan, after achieving conventional and nuclear deterrence, should keep on modernizing its domestic defense production and military capabilities to keep abreast of changing strategic and political developments in the region.

The writer is a Research Assistant, at Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI). The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.