July 24, 2016

Limited War with Pakistan: Will It Secure India’s Interests?

Last updated: July 30, 2008


Suba Chandran
Assistant Director (Research)
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies

ACDIS Occasional Paper series
August 2004

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This paper analyzes the concept of limited war as a potential Indian strategic doctrine towards Pakistan with the presence of nuclear weapons in both countries.

The current perception of limited war originated during the cold war. Amongst the two main actors of the cold war, it was in the United States that the concept of limited war became prominent as a political and military strategy vis-à-vis the former Soviet Union. Though the concept of limited war originated mainly as a limited conventional war in the 1950s and ‘60s, it expanded to include limited nuclear war in the 1970s.

Although the concept of a limited war between India and Pakistan gathered momentum in the post-Kargil conflict period, the idea is not new. Since the 1980s, there have been a number of inferences to its possibility on the subcontinent. Though India has been advocating it since the late 1990s, and Pakistan rejecting it, ironically it is Pakistan that first floated the concept in the 1980s.

Three major factors in the late 1990s aided the emergence of limited war as a strategy for India to deal with Pakistan. First was the failure of any sustained political dialogue with Pakistan, leading to an acceptable compromise on all issues including Jammu and Kashmir. Second was the emergence of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir and its continuance, irrespective of India’s efforts to combat it. Third was the Kargil War itself, which was perceived by a section in India as a limited war under the nuclear umbrella.