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Cold Start doctrine: A 10-point guide to India’s military strategy against Pakistan

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-09-2017 Livemint

New Delhi: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s reference to the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine has rekindled interest in a strategy that India intends to follow in case of a war with Pakistan.

While responding to a question during an interaction at the New York-based Council of Foreign Relations on Wednesday, Abbasi said that his country has developed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine of the Indian Army.

Here is a 10-point guide to understand the Indian Army’s ‘Cold Start’ war doctrine:

1. The unprecedented escalation in Pakistan’s proxy war in the form of the 13 December 2001 attack on Parliament linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists led to widespread demands for punitive retaliatory strikes.

2. India mobilised its troops as part of the Operation Parakram in 2001-02 to initiate punitive action.

3. But, the Indian Army’s three Strike Corps took almost three weeks to mobilise and take up its position on the frontier, allowing Pakistan’s defensive formations to be deployed, raising the possibility of collateral damage and even the risk of a nuclear war.

4. The delay and the changed situation due to the US-led allied forces’ offensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan put substantial international pressure on India to desist from initiating any offensive action against Pakistan. Islamabad had become a front-line state for providing logistics for operations against the Taliban.

5. The failure to launch a swift response worked as a catalyst for the Indian Army to search for a military doctrine that takes care of tactical gains without resorting to a full-scale nuclear war.

6. Cold Start is conceived as a plan to attack Pakistan within 48 hours of any major provocation or terror attack on leaders, institutions etc and linked to Islamabad, without risking a major nuclear war.

7. The doctrine was based on two major elements. The first involved the readjustment of “Pivot” corps (defensive or ground holding corps) to make it possible to launch offensive operations virtually from a “cold start” to deny Pakistan the advantage of early mobilisation, Brig. (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, a noted security analyst, explained this in an article published in the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

8. The second element of the Cold Start doctrine conceptualises a number of integrated divisional-size forces launching limited offensive operations to a shallow depth to capture a long swathe of territory almost all along the international boundary, explained Kanwal.

The success achieved by the integrated battle groups (IBGs) would be exploited by one or more strike corps, where possible, but without crossing Pakistan’s nuclear red lines. The captured territory would act as a bargaining chip to force Pakistan to wind down its institutional support to militants.

9. Indian military analysts are convinced that when all the elements of the Cold Start doctrine are in place, Pakistan will be deterred from waging its proxy war for fear of effective Indian retribution, Kanwal added.

10. Pakistani analysts see the Cold Start doctrine as a dangerous doctrine that is inherently escalatory. It has been adversely commented upon by Pakistan’s military and political leaders.

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