Next War: India-Pakistan – Strategic Choices, part 4 (and final)

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Doug Bush finishes his Next War: India-Pakistan strategy series with this look at the India player’s strategic options. See Part 1 and Part 2 for a discussion of the strategic choices faced by the Pakistan player. See Part 3 for the first look at strategy from the Indian perspective.

In the first two articles of this series, I focused on the war depicted in NWIP from the Pakistan player’s side. In the third article I switched to the Indian player’s perspective on the defense. Here, I examine the choices  facing an Indian player in the four scenarios where they are on the offense (“Lahore”, “Enough!”, “Unification”, and “Loose Nukes”).

India’s Strategic Choices on Offense

As I mentioned, India is on the attack in four of the six scenarios in NWIP. It’s Army, once in the field, is substantially larger than Pakistan’s. It’s Air Force is two times as large, and has more capable aircraft. However, the Indian Army is not built for “blitzkrieg”, reflecting India’s long-held doctrine of fighting on the strategic defense with limited counter-attacks. It consists mostly of regular infantry units and artillery. While it has added armored and mechanized units in recent years, there aren’t enough of them to carry an offensive very far on their own. India also has a limited airmobile/airborne capability, with just one brigade of airborne infantry and a limited airmobile capability.

All that being said, if concentrated and supported, the Indian Army can be a powerful attacking force. This article will discuss a few of the choices they face on the offensive.

Choice #1 – Get help from your allies?

In “Lahore” (the partial map standard scenario), India is on its own. In “Enough!” (the full map standard scenario) India automatically gets a Russian intervention force at the equivalent of Level 4 (the air is built into the air points chart, and you get the 4 x Russian airborne brigades). Finally, in “Loose Nukes” there’s no need to choose allied support since you start with all of it on the map at the very start.


So, the scenario where the choice has to be made is “Unification”, the full-map advanced game scenario with India on the attack. I went into the Russian and American intervention options in detail in the last article, so I won’t repeat that here. However, I would say that you probably want either the US or Russia in the game on your side since they both provide significant offensive combat power in the form of highly mobile forces able to get behind Pakistani lines, and much higher quality strike aircraft. They both also provide a lot of cruise missile points to complement the Indian side’s advantage in ballistic missile points nicely. Note that the CW and French aren’t allowed in the “Unification” scenario, so it’s the US or Russia.

So which to choose? The United States force, once it arrives, can really blow open the game. If you’ve worn down the Pakistanis in one or two areas, the sudden appearance of the 82nd Airborne or 101st Airborne in the enemy’s rear areas can break the stalemate. And, just having those units in your off-map box means the Pakistani player has to garrison his lines of support and major cities, pulling troops off the front lines. Finally, the US light forces are especially useful up in Jammu & Kashmir, where their mobility really shines. However, by choosing the US you start in a big VP hole (25VP to the Pakistan player), so you have to hope for a longer game that allows time for the US forces to arrive and get on the offensive. In a shorter game (short perhaps because of limited Chinese intervention and/or the use of nuclear weapons by the Pakistani side) could end before the US arrives in force.

All of the above holds true of the Russian intervention force, albeit at a much lower VP cost. The two Russian airborne divisions are as much of a threat to the Pakistani rear areas as the US 82nd Airborne is. The Russians don’t provide as much in the air, however, so actually being able to use those cool airborne divisions may take longer than you planned if you don’t have control of the air.

Choice #2 – Where to Attack?

I’ll look at each sector of the front in detail, from an Indian player’s perspective when on the attack.

The “Punjab” front consists of the flat terrain from the left (south) edge of the board over to where the rough and rough-woods terrain starts near hex column 33 or so.

You only start with 2nwsc_p3_2 Corps on the map in this sector: X and XI Corps. Both have armor and mechanized brigades. However, both are mostly infantry and neither one has an armored division. And, you start a bit outnumbered since Pakistan has three corps to your front.

As a result, you will need the four (!) reinforcing corps that come into this area (I, II, XII, and XXI) in the mix before you can do much more than make an initial lodgement across the border.

The corps have some options. On the left, X Corps (reinforced by at least other corps) can go for the “straight up the middle” path that crosses the Sutlej River at Fazilka (1616) with the city of Okara (1711) as it’s primary objective. Taking Okara will cut off the main highway to the South out of Lahore, which will isolate it from the reinforcing Pakistani units that come in later. The other option for X Corps in this area is to swing far to the left via the cities of Bahawalnagar (1112) and Pakpattan (1311). From there, you can cut the highway at Okara or a bit to the South, or continue the offensive toward Multan. Doing so will draw off a lot of Pakistani units that would otherwise probably reinforce the Lahore sector, and there are a lot of cities/towns that direction, which will yield a lot of VP.

India’s XI Corps faces the most choices on the attack. Lahore is it’s obvious objective, but there are several ways to get there. The two most direct approaches shown above are the “left hook” or “up the middle” avenues of attack. The terrain is tough (fortified hexes, marshes, cities) though, so don’t expect to get too far with XI corps on its own. You will likely need at least two reinforcing corps, and possibly three, here to take Lahore. Doing so will likely be an attritional battle over several turns unless you get really lucky with combat rolls. However, you can improve your chances greatly by focusing India’s massive artillery support (six brigades total) here. Another option worth mentioning is the “right hook” avenue that requires a river crossing near Narowal (2816) and exploitation from there to the southwest to cut the Lahore-Islamabad highway. Once across the river, the terrain is a bit more attacker friendly here than going straight into Lahore itself. Turning
this flank will also pin down parts of Pakistan’s XXX Corps, which will have its handful with a likely offensive from the north. However, going this way requires leaving some of XI corps to cover Amritsar from counterattack.

Overall, this sector has a lot of possibilities given the flat terrain. My general approach is to use X and XI corps to secure lodgements across the border, and then, depending how the other side reacts, pass one or more of the reinforcing corps through to exploit the gap. However, attacking strongly on both main routes (to Okara and Lahore) may overextend the Indian Army and leave it vulnerable to counterattack. So, you may want to consider a feint with X or XI corps and then use all four reinforcing corps to support the one main attack. Alternately, you could keep one of the four reinforcing corps in reserve or send it to another sector of the front.


The four reinforcing corps, and six artillery brigades, the Indians receive add up to a very powerful offensive force. I and II corps, in particular, have tremendous punch with their big armored divisions (1st and 33rd). All four of those corps and the arty enter on the board edge in this sector, so using them here takes maximum advantage of their time on the board.

Next up is the “North Punjab and Jammu” sector. Here there two very different places to attack, which require different approaches. The first nwsc_p3_4and best offensive avenue here is an attack to the southwest between the cities of Narowal (2816) and Sialkot (3113). There is no major river to cross, so you effectively flank the river line and the stronghold of Lahore with an attack in this area. In the 1971 war the Indians launched a powerful offensive along this very route, which was only stopped by a massive Pakistani defensive work of minefields and flooded canals. Still, the Pakistani Army probably views this attack route as the most dangerous of all the potential Indian attacks.

There are some limitations, however. First, the only road into Pakistan in this zone runs through Sialkot. That means you have to take the city before you can get much deeper into Pakistan if you want to stay in supply. Sialkot is a city and a fortified hex, so that is 4 shifts in the defender’s favor (a whopping six shifts in the exploit phase). The second limitation is the powerful Pakistan I corps, which will menace the right flank of an attack in this direction. It’s Pakistan’s only corps with an armored division and a light infantry (airmobile capable) brigade. So, an attack here has to take that likely counterattack into account. If your advance here gets hammered, it could leave you open to a push by the Pakistan I Corps toward your twin cities of Jammu and Trikuta Nagar (3314/3315), which could both cut off the Jammu Highlands and the supply lines to Kashmir.

As you can see on the map, you start here with two Corps (IX and XVI). Both are initially strung out along the border, so during pre-game movement you’ll need to consolidate them for an
offensive push.

I show Indian II corps as a reinforcing corps here. It comes on in an area of the map that allows it to either reinforce an offensive in the Punjab area (discussed above) or move up this way and reinforce an offensive by IX corps through Sialkot and toward the Lahore-Islamabad highway. As mentioned earlier, India gets six artillery brigades. If you are considering an offensive here, you’ll need to route two or more of them this way. That will burn about a turn given where they come in, but they’ll be essential for knocking out Pakistani defenders in the cities in this area.

XVI corps guards the strategic towns and airfields in the Jammu Highlands. An attack in this area is unlikely to go far, but does have the advantage of not having to go very far to threaten Rawalpindi/Islamabad or the cities of Jhelum and Mirpur. It’s a risky attack, however, because if the Chinese airborne divisions are in the game, this is great terrain for them to operate and grab several valuable towns on your side of the border. Any attack by XVI corps will require a supply depot near the bordnwsc_p3_5er and the two “free setup” Indian units: the elite 50th Para brigade and the 6th Mountain Division. With those two units helping, an offensive here might just succeed or at least tie down a major portion of Pakistan’s I and X corps, which could help bigger offensive
pushes in other areas.

And finally we come to Kashmir. As one can see at a glance, this is not an area ripe for an offensive into Pakistan. For starters, the terrain is brutal, with mountains, high mountains, secondary roads, and fortified hexes covering the front. Second, there aren’t that many VP available. The towns up here are worth 2VP per SSR, but there are only four of them to take. And, even with a supply depot at the border, you are going to have trouble getting past Muzaffarabad (4904).

You also start with two corps that aren’t built for the offense. The XV Corps only has two divisions and the XIV Corps is a collection of mountain infantry brigades. The artillery brigades India gets are long way to the south after they get on the map, and can’t be flown in here.

On the other hand, there aren’t that many Pakistani forces here and they are a long way from any support. So, with some luck (and lot of air and helicopter support) you could possibly get through the initial defenses and push toward Islamabad/Abbottabad, which would definitely get the Pakistani player’s attention.

But… if there are Chinese airborne divisions in play then this area is highly vulnerable to an airborne or airmobile counterattack into the Kashmir Valley. Such an attack, even if only somewhat
successful, could easily offset your VP gains elsewhere.

If one did attack up here, you’d need to have both the elite Indian free setup units (50th Para and 6th Mountain) along with at least a couple other infantry divisions flown in by air transport into Srinagar in the early turns.

A limited attack up here would have the advantage of pinning down some of Pakistan’s X Corps, and possibly drawing off the reinforcing Pakistani XI Corps as well. So, a supporting attack here with the main attack down in Punjab would have the advantage of spreading the Pakistan Army very thin, so it’s worth considering.

Choice #3 – The Nukes are Loose…

My favorite scenario, “Loose Nukes”, is different enough to warrant a detailed discussion. In this scenario, the entire Indian Army, along with the full forces of the United States and Russia, start on the map. Their mission is to conduct a massive offensive into Pakistan to secure nuclear material (represented by clearing markers) before the Pakistan/China side can do the same. And, they are on a very tight schedule. The scenario can only last six turns maximum. As a result, the normal cautions about focusing attacks in only a couple sectors to avoid counterattacks is thrown out the window here. In “Loose Nukes” the Indian/US/Russian side has to go all out on all sectors right from the start.


I’ve shown in the image my preferred attack avenues and where to use the four (!) airborne/airmobile divisions you have at your disposal. Getting the US 82nd/101st and the Russian 98th/106th behind the Pakistani lines in the first turn is essential. The two areas where the US units go will have a lot of nuke material markers to grab, as well as having airbases for moving in reinforcements and using airborne supply. The two smaller Russian divisions are probably best use for a “close envelopment” since they are more vulnerable to counterattack once on the ground. They can still cause a lot of trouble behind the Lahore/Sialkot areas. For all the light units, they are more likely to find the nuke materials due to their high EF ratings and they also totally isolate the frontline Pakistani corps that will face an attack by seven Indian Corps, six artillery brigades, the US 10th Mountain, and a big USMC force in the Punjab.

Not shown here is another option: using some of your airborne divisions to go straight at the Islamabad/Rawalpindi area. The Chinese ground forces all start in that area, so an attack there in the early turns can pin them down and make them unable to reinforce the Pakistanis anywhere else. I also don’t show the CW/French contingents, but if you use the optional rules to include them, they can also add significantly to the airborne/airmobile mayhem behind the Pakistani lines. The Australian 1st Division sets up near the USMC force, so it can add to their already powerful capabilities.

This concludes the series of strategy articles for Next War: India-Pakistan. Hopefully, they are helpful in getting you started. As always, enjoy the games! – Mitchell Land


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