What if Pakistan and China declare war against India today?
The scenario wherein India is engaged with its traditional opponent in the western sector and the Red Dragon opens up the eastern front, or vice versa is a ‘sticky wicket’ to play on. Questions have been asked, war games have been played and strategies have been built around this scenario to get a feel and predict the requirements so as to be prepared for addressal in future. If an analysis of the probable situation is to be done the first item needing attention is the reality and the efficacy of a two-front war. Is it possible to have one and how effectively can the opponent(s) run the campaign?
Yes, a two-front war is a definite possibility in the Indian context nevertheless, the war envisaged, would be very difficult to coordinate and execute by the opponents. The worst-case scenario for India is, both, the western as well as eastern fronts being attacked simultaneously, thus forcing her to divide the war efforts. Any more coordinated effort by the enemies would require centralized command and control structures, aka WW II, which is envisaged not to be a possibility in the present situation.
The Indian military will go on full alert and will deploy troops, tanks and missiles closer to the Chinese border in Arunachal Pradesh, Aksai Chin and Ladakh region. The vast flat valleys along the mountain ranges in the Ladakh area will allow for armored movement by both sides across the border.
The Chinese Air force in the Tibet region will launch airstrikes against Indian troops along the McMohan line- Arunachal Pradesh/ Zangnan- Aksai Chin area. Also, a contingent of Chinese fleets would deploy to the Greater Indian Ocean to confront the Indian Navy which may attempt to block Chinese oil supplies from entering the Strait of Malacca. China would utilize a large fleet of frigates, destroyers, and submarines due to the vast Indian Ocean.
The Militaries of U.S., Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea will go on high alert, to match the posture of the Chinese armies. If Chinese missiles hit Japan or South Korea, expect both countries and the United States to retaliate in kind.
Russia may do the following:
- If it sides with India, its strategic and economic partner, then China will be surrounded from all possible sides, clearly not a desirable position.
- If it sides with Beijing, India will ally with Japan, Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea; with the support of US Military Power.
Russia would stay out of the fight but will undermine China. Russia already has pending border issues with China and is quite aware that if China defeats India, Russia itself could be the future target.
Chinese Navy v/s. Indian Navy
The U.S. military will go on full alert in Japan, South Korea, the Persian Gulf, Guam and Diego Garcia. U.S. spy satellites will be monitoring nuclear silos in China, India, North Korea, possibly Russia and Pakistan. The U.S. will support India in the conflict by blockading the Strait of Malacca with its aircraft carriers, submarines, and destroyers; thereby obstructing China’s oil supplies.
The response of the Chinese will be to send its frigates, destroyers, conventional diesel-electric submarines and nuclear-powered attack submarines to the Indian Ocean where it would be vulnerable to the U.S. and Indian Missile Batteries. Military pressure on China would mount as it combats the U.S. and India in the Indian Ocean and the U.S., Japan, and South Korea in the Pacific – South China & East China Sea region. China will be fighting on two fronts.
Indian Navy’s 2 Carrier Battle Groups will pose a serious offensive threat to the surface fleet of both the Pakistan and Chinese navies. A naval blockade of India is unthinkable since this will bring the entire surface fleet of the PLAN and PN within strike range of shore based bombers and strike aircraft of the Indian Navy and air force. Unlike the US Navy or even the Royal Navy, PLAN lacks the air support firepower (no.of air craft carriers and their ability 2 withstand in the Indian Ocean) needed to protect its fleet from offensive ground based air operations.
India has a very strategic position in the global oil flow. East Asia’s oil pass through India. At the start of any major war, India could throttle China’s oil supplies and merchandise exports. India could also use its ally Iran at the head of Hormuz and South East Asian allies around Malacca to further the blockade.
Chinese Airforce v/s. Indian Airforce
That brings us to the role of Air Forces where PLAAF has a distinct advantage at least on paper. With 3000+ combat aircraft supported by mid-air refuellers the PLAAF is a force to content with. However apart from 250+ SU30MKK’s, 200+ Su-27s and 200+ JF-17’s rest of these aircraft are vintage Chinese variants of MiG 19 and MiG 21s. In the context of Sino-Indian conflict China has primarily 6 airbases to launch strike aircraft from. However, all of these have altitudes in excess of 4000 ft, which means the strike aircraft taking off will be carrying lesser payload. A PLAAF Su-30MKK for example will take off with 6 AA missiles rather than 8.
All IAF airbases bordering China primarily those in Bareilly, Tezpur, Hindon and Bagdodra all at near sea level allowing Indian Su30MKI to takeoff at full payload. IAF has reserved most of the 150+ modern Su30MKI ( a more lethal aircraft than Su30MKK due to superior Radar and electronics) for the Sino border, while 300+ modernized MiG 21, MiG 27’s,MiG 29 and Jaguar’s can take care of the PAF. In addition the IAF has 50+ Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft which have superb ground combat and electronic capabilities and these may be used for the Sino border too.
On top of this the IAF has a force multiplier than neither PAF or PLAAF have, i.e. AWACS. Apart from Israel, IAF is the only asian airforce with Phalcon AWACS mounted in IL-76 platforms. This gives IAF the capability to look 1500 kms deep inside Chinese and Pakistan territories while flying in safe Indian air space. IAF will be aware of every PLAAF and PAF as soon as it takes off, given sufficient time for action. This is a serious issue for both PAF and PLAAF, and taking down the Phalcon’s should figure top in their air battle strategy.
The news media around the world will broadcast the conflict. They will be a global protest to end the war.
The stock markets around the world will tumble very hard. Oil prices skyrocket as the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca, the busiest oil shipping route, is blocked off; Gold prices will skyrocket, the Chinese and American currency will fall hard, and inflation will swell.
The UN Security Council will convene an emergency session within days. Russia will lead the efforts to end the war. The U.S would blame China for the conflict and may threaten weapons supplies to Taiwan and support Taiwan’s declaration of independence.
European NATO members have learned their lessons in World War 1&2 . Thus would not intervene during the war.
As the war drags on, China will use its land and sea-based missiles on Indian cities and troops & against U.S. targets in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. China will also target U.S installations in Japan and possibly Tokyo. India and U.S. will target Chinese cities as well.
Pakistan will be tempted to join China as Indian towns suffer significant damages. Pakistan will hope this will enable them to take over Kashmir finally.
In the plain desert of western India Pakistan’s 1900+ tanks will be met by India’s 3000+ tanks and its .5 million troop army by units of the Indian army backed by the para military BSF (with estimated 300K troops meant for the Pakistan border only).
With China facing India in Ladakh, the United States in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, plus other rivalries (Japan, Vietnam South Korea) and neutral Russia; China and Pakistan may be tempted to use nuclear weapons. If they use nuclear weapons, the U.S, Russia, France, and U.K. will respond in Kind. If this scenario occurs, well good luck to humanity.
India will also get involved in China’s autonomous regions: Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet.
India has the powers to foment trouble given a huge domestic Muslim and Buddhist population. India could also use its traditional links with Mongolia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan to encircle China in a covert war. Chinese society is precariously balanced especially when it comes to the non-Han minority and given all the economic tensions in the fast growing nation, it is easy to set the cat among the pigeons. In the same way, China could also do it in India, although with a little less success.
All three countries have ballistic missiles and each one can hit every corner of each other with nuclear weapons. So this will probably be the last resort. However, here too the Indian’s posses a potential lethal edge that not many are aware off.
The Indian research arm for ballistic missiles has consistently demonstrated the accuracy of its anti-ballistic missile system, where in 3 trials it has demonstrated critical success. What is even more remarkable that inbound missiles were also hit in exo-atmosphere, a capability known only with the US. Of course what helps the Indian is the Green Pine radar that US and Israel shipped to India in a low key event. If the anti ballistic missile system does work, rendering Chinese and Pakistani ballistic missiles useless it gives India an edge that the attacking neighboring can’t match. Note PLA only has a demonstrated capability to blow satellites which was widely publicized. However, satellites have a known trajectory and it is relatively very simple to blow them up without using sophisticated radars.
In a week, it will be clear to everyone that it makes little sense for China to attack India (other than in isolated border skirmishes). The two countries are separated by enormous natural obstacles, don’t have the ability to move a lot of troops and supplies abroad, but have a lot of weapons useful for defense, including active anti-ballistic defense programs. In other words, offensive operations won’t accomplish much.
Given the enormous damage caused to the economy with every day of a freshly declared war, China will either call it off quickly or clarify that it did not intend to start a full-scale war. In the meantime, cyber-warfare will intensify.
Consequences – With Nuclear weapons
- India’s Nuclear weapons will destroy Pakistan
- A third of China mainly in the west devastated
- New Delhi, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo destroyed
- Total casualty: 300 million dead.
Consequences – Without Nuclear Weapons
- China’s economy will suffer; revolt will start in Tibet and Hong Kong leading to its breakdown like USSR.
- The PLAN Naval strength will be significantly diminished and so would be China’s claims in South China and the East China Sea.
- India’s economy will suffer worse than China, especially in North East India.
- The United States will be victorious. No China to challenge them economically or militarily in the long run.
- Taiwan will declare independence knowing that Beijing won’t respond.
- Finally, they will be a global economic depression.
Fortunately, all parties are fully aware of the consequences and will avoid war at any cost.