By Adnan Gill
Will India launch punitive strike(s) against Pakistan? Highly unlikely. India would have already struck if it had a choice. It doesn’t have a choice for two major reasons:
1. Indians know, they can start a conflict, but where and how the war ends will not be in their control.
2. By tangling themselves in a war, they run a too realistic risk of delivering a mortal blow to their service-based economy, which may not even survive the brinksmanship Indians are engaging in.
Arguably, Indians suffer from the ‘white man’s complex.’ Urbanite Indians love to mimic the American way of life. They imitate the ‘goras’ in ways ranging from their attire to their manner of speech. So much so, they have named Bombay film industry after an American icon, namely the Hollywood. Somewhere during the last decade or so, Indians became so engrossed with the ‘gora complex’ that they began imagining India to be an economical powerhouse and military superpower equating the Americans. Perhaps, it’s this complex which sullied the better judgment of Indian urbanites and their media in demanding punitive strikes against Pakistan.
Nevertheless, after the initial hysteria will ware down, at least some sane Indians will ask, if India could afford such an arrogant behavior? That when the reality will hit them rudely, like ton of bricks, that neither India is America nor Pakistan is Afghanistan.
Despite the ferocious appearance of the Indian military, largely on paper; the fact remains, over 80% of its obsolete hardware is a carryover from the Soviet-era. Indian handicap of obsolete hardware was highlighted during the 2002 India-Pakistan standoff. It was a humiliating experience for the Indians. Operation Parakram cost India about $2 billion in cash and 798 in human cost, and that too without a single shot fired from the Pakistani side.
It was also a disastrous Indian deployment, because even after one year of hostile posturing, they could not cross the border, fearing an all out war ending in a nuclear exchange. That is when India truly lost its supposed conventional superiority over Pakistan. The humiliating pull back effectively closed the doors on India for any future conventional war endeavors; because Pakistani nuclear arsenal was here to stay. However, during the same time Pakistanis were modernizing its arsenal through the rapid induction of modern weaponry like F-17 fighters and precision weapons like the Hatf-8 cruise missiles.
Since then, India has dabbled with nonstarters, like ‘cold start’ doctrine. The idea was to catch Pakistan off-guard by sending a comparatively smaller but highly mobile force across the border at a moment’s notice. It was a nonstarter because of Pakistani equalizer (its nukes); plus they realized they would still have to deploy a considerable amount of logistics and men at the front positions, where they would have remained juicy sitting-ducks for the preemptive PAF air strikes.
The other reason India cannot afford a war with Pakistan is, its economy is too young and still too small to survive through a round of war. Regardless, the havoc it will run on the already distressed Pakistani economy, the war will for sure spell an end to the largely service-based economy, which depends on the foreign investments; and the foreign investments inherently depend on peace driven stability.
A brief look will abundantly expose the facade of the Indian economy; which will collapse at the first signs of uncertainty or instability. In 2008, its external debts increased to around $221 billion. In 2007, Indian exports stood around $145 billion, while imports were around $217 billion; a deficit of $72 billion in a single year.
Its factory output account for 27.6% of the GDP and employs 17% of the total workforce. Rest of the workforce is largely dedicated to the agriculture sector. According to a 2008 World Bank report, 75.6% Indians live on less than $2 per day. It suffers from higher rates of malnutrition than Sub-Saharan Africa. Over 70% its population is either illiterate or educated below the primary level. Indian tourist industry is 1/6 of Las Vegas. Recently, Standard & Poor’s announced, India risk a downgrade from BBB-minus rating to the lowest investment-grade rating. Clearly, Indians are hardly in a financial shape to even contemplate on waging a war.
Indian service industry accounts for over 55% of its GDP. Bangalore is called the Silicon Valley of India. A large number of Information Technology companies are located in the city. It is the largest contributor of India’s $33 billion IT exports (2007). IT giants like Infosys and Wipro are headquartered in Bangalore. Other undertakings headquartered in Bangalore are Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to name the few.
Bangalore is also called the world’s call-centre capital. Foreign IT giants like the IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Cisco have also heavily invested in the city by opening call centers there. These call centers bring in major amounts of service-generated foreign revenues. Their 24/7 operations provide the customer support throughout the globe. An interruption of operations for even for a single day could mean loss of millions of dollars for the foreign investors.
As ugly as it may sound, but that’s what wars are, brutal and ugly. Imagine: far short of nuclear strike, only a couple of bombs or Shaheen-II (with an accuracy of 200m) armed with conventional warheads are dropped on the outskirts of Bangalore. Will even a single foreign company think twice before closing their operations for good? Would they stay around to see if they will get lucky during second round too?
Feel-good slogans like ‘shining India’ don’t help the arrogance clouding the good judgment war-mongering Indians. They can try to start a war on their terms, but it will definitely not end at their terms. Unless India has somehow overcome their fear of far-superior Pakistani nuclear arsenal, or they have found a way to move whole India under kilometer deep nuke-proof shelters, it will not dare to start a war.