Devious Designs, Cold Start Doctrine

By: | Muhammad Ali Azlan |

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“Cold start or Hot Start we are ready for any and all misadventure” The statement given by the recently outgoing Army Chief reverberates in the hearts and mind of most Pakistani’s addressing an event held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to mark the golden jubilee anniversary of the 1965 Pakistan-India war last year.

Cold Start was supposed to be a non-starter. At least that is what India’s political and military leadership had claimed ever since the doctrine was mooted by the Indian military, ostensibly as a means of retaliation against Pakistan in the eventuality of a terrorist strike in India.

Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, who this month became the first senior official to publicly confirm the existence of India’s so-called Cold Start doctrine, explained why he acknowledged this controversial term publicly.

Cold Start is a military doctrine developed by the Indian Armed Forces for use in a possible war with Pakistan. It involves various branches of India’s military conducting offensive operations as part of unified battle groups. The Cold Start doctrine is intended to allow India’s conventional forces to perform holding attacks in order to prevent a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan in case of a conflict.

Indian policymakers and officials have always downplayed Cold Start, partly because it urged Pakistan’s army into relocated defensive formations close to the Indian border acting more vigilantly, and into developing highly accurate “tactical nuclear weapons”.

India’s defense strategy from 1947 was, in the words of former defense minister George Fernandez, “a non-aggressive, non-provocative defense policy,” centered on “holding corps” to halt hostile advances. In response to the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, India initiated a full mobilization. Taking almost a month, the slow mobilization demonstrated the weakness of India’s then current policy. The long mobilization time resulted in sufficient international pressure preventing India from conducting a retaliatory strike.

Rawat, at a press conference in New Delhi, initially downplayed his acknowledgment of Cold Start, arguing that offensive plans are a part of India’s overall defensive strategy, aimed at safeguarding the country’s territorial integrity.

“We know that the future wars will be short and intense and, when short and intense wars are the future forms of combat, you have to be prepared to move fast. Now this is something which you can term in whatever way you want”, said Rawat.

He also clarified that publicly acknowledging Cold Start was a signal to the army to be prepared for that eventuality. “The other reason for coming out with this was, to communicate to the rank and file and field commanders the kind of preparations they have to carry out for future combat. That is the messaging that was meant to that statement that I made”.

“Weaknesses have to be overcome. And these weaknesses can only be overcome if you accept the strategy (Cold Start). If you don’t accept the strategy, then you will let your weaknesses limit you.

But when you enunciate a strategy you say: these are the weaknesses which I need to overcome to adopt success.”

Many in India have remarked upon the recent ‘coming out” of the New ICOAS with this bold a statement to be immature as they deem the Indian Military is, in no state to launch this “tricky” offensive against a well prepared and battle hardened Pakistan.

It is interesting to note that the Current Indian National Security Adviser, the New ICOAS and the new head of The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) all belong to Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand.

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