India’s Cold Start Strategy: Limited Strikes Against Targets vs Hot War Leading To Nuclear Armageddon


by Moin Ansari | Rupee News

Much of this so called “Cold Start Strategy” is based on the Israeli strategy which it tried to implement in Lebanon. Israel was unable to implement its objectives in Lebanon and had to withdraw even from the Litani River. Israel failed to achieve its goals in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Israel was unable to stop the barrage of missiles from Lebanon even on the last day. Many consider this Israel’s defeat. Alert: Indian Army Ready For War Against China And Pakistan Simultaneously


India’s Strategic Military Objectives Needs to be Made Clear: India’s strategic military objectives need to:

  • Shift from capturing bits of Pakistan territory in small scale multiple offensives to be used as bargaining chips after the cease fire.
  • Focus on the destruction of the Pakistani Army and its military machine without much collateral damage to Pakistani civilians.
  • All the three armed forces have to synergise operations towards destruction of the Pakistan Army as it is that which enslaves Pakistan, impedes democracy in Pakistan and indulges in military adventurism against India, including proxy wars and terrorism.
  • “India’s Defence Policies and Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis (reviewed on SAAG website as Igniting Strategic Mindsets in Indians:; SAAG paper no. 657 dated 09-04-2003)

While engaging the Kashmir question must be the priority, a much more serious problem is that in less than a decade India has twice threatened us with all-out war in less than a decade, in December 2002 and 2008, using terrorist action by non-state actors as a pretext both times. As the name suggests, the Indian “COLD START” strategy envisages moving Indian forces without any warning or mobilisation into unpredictable locations at high speeds against Pakistan (on the Israeli pattern of 1956 and 1967) seeking to defeat Pakistan by achieving total surprise at both the strategic and the operational levels (remember Pearl Harbour), striving for a decision before the US or China could intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. An unspoken assumption seems to be that “rapid operations would prevent India’s civilian leadership from halting military operations in progress, lest it have second thoughts or possess insufficient resolve”. Does this particular Indian military psyche conform to the so-called civilian.

Map of possible war with Iran Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan
GWOT: Map of possible war with Iran Iraq Afghanistan Pakistan

Does Pakistan have a Hizbullah type of defense against invasions? Only day dreamers can imagine that this is not so. In Lebanon, non-state players gave the largest army in the world a hard time. Pakistan is ready to give Indians Cold Strategy a warm welcome. Crossing Wagah, Sialkot, Ran of Kutch or Kashmir point the Indian army would not only face the Pakistani Army but a very hostile and armed population.

Islamphobe and Anti-Pakistan thinktanker Stephen Cohen, author of “The Idea of Paksitan” predicted a Military crisis in South Asia developing in the next two months. He leaked the Indian strategy viz a viz Pakistan. He called it a “Cold start Strategy“. Stephen Cohen defined India’s strategy a “A Short Cross Border punishing raid in response to a major terrorist act.”

Legal India Pakistan map. Map of India. Map of Pakistan. Map of Bangladesh

Legal India Pakistan map. Map of India. Map of Pakistan. Map of Bangladesh

India knows that it can never win a conventional warfare because of the Nuclear Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). However it still harbors notions of winning a sort of a mini war. India may think it has a Cold Start Strategy, but it may end as a hot nuclear war. Indian Defense planners cannot guarantee that a limited strike wil not escalte into a full fledged war. A full fledged war with a nuclear armed labor may destroy both countries.

Indian insurgencies map.Hindustan India Maoist Naxalite insurgency map
Indian insurgencies map. Hindustan India Maoist Naxalite insurgency map


The main weakness of Indi’a Cold Start Doctrine is that India needs 70 or 80 squadrons of aircraft. Indian Airforce crying wolf? or facing shortage of jets?. It also assumes that Pakistan will not use tactical or full-fledged nuclear weapons. The other weakness of the India’s military thinking is that the Doctrine is that doctrine assumes that the Pakistani Military will fold instantly and the Indian forces will be able to destroy the Pakistani forces without inflicting damage to the Pakistani civilian population. The Doctrine is based on cold water strategies and does not take into account the irregulars in the that defend Pakistan. Pakistani irregular number a bout 200,000 and then there are the forces energized in FATA and NWFP which would be mobilized. The Doctrine does not take into account the effect of Pakistani missiles, and nuclear assets. However there is much emphasis on “wiping out Pakistan”. The Doctrine fails to understand the problems that India faces in Kashmir, Assam and the Maoist insurgency.

Rupee News considers India’s Cold Start strategy based on wishful thinking, a lot of luck, a wink, a nod and song and a prayer. We now present the Doctrine in Detail as presented by various authors.

A limited "Cold Start Doctrine" will surely end up as a Full Fledged Hot War ending up in 250 Nuclear Mushroom delivered by Pakistan to Indian cities. Mutually Assured Destruction. No Indian General can guarantee that a limited strike will not end up as a hot war leader to a nuclear exchange and the end of life in South Asia for a thousand years

A limited “Cold Start Strategy” will surely end up as a Hot War leading to 250 mushroom clouds in India. No Indian General can guarantee that a limited airstrike on Pakistani targets will not turn ont a full scale war a a nuclear exchange that ends all life in South Asia


The Indian concept of “Cold Start” is more or less what every major military is undergoing as part of a review.The Russians actually started it in the early 80’s with the prototype “RMA” That was a legacy of seeing that huge forces were unwieldy and cost prohibitive. They never really implemented it and have only just started it in the last 6 months.

The US looked at the Russian RMA model and had the seeds of it developing in 1989, by 1999-2000 they had it in substantial place.China has dramatically changed it’s force structure since assessing the US approach to Kuwait, the Gulf War and Afghanistan (which showed how specforces could be used in a surgical masse manner)

The UK, Australia, France, Germany are all going through force restructure.In a real sense it’s not unexpected that India and Pakistan go through the same review process.The days of keeping large standing armies on hold are probably gone for battles that were designed around force majeur and massed meeting engagements – and maybe the only ones who haven’t realised it are the North Koreans and Myanmar.

In 2003 Pakistan dismissed the Cold Start Strategy.

Pakistan studying ˜Cold Start Doctrine” of Indian Army

Islamabad – Pakistan said that it is closely studying the implication of the ˜Cold Start Doctrine, which according to media reports here was sought to be implemented by Indian Army during the 2002 border tensions with Pakistan.

Pakistanâ’s Defence spokesman Maj Gen Shoukat Sultan said even though Pakistan do not feel threatened by the doctrine, it was studying its implications. ˜Cold Start Doctrine” meant launching lightning ground and airstrikes and take over of the enemy country without giving much time for the rival army to hit back. According to media reports, Indian Army considered the implementation of the cold start after massing the troops along the Pakistan borders during the tensions that followed the attack on the Parliament in December 2001.

˜We cannot out rightly ignore the cold start doctrine, but we strongly believe that it is not a viable proposition in the case of Pakistan, ISPR chief told reporters while answering a question. ˜This could perhaps work for a banana republic or for that matter a small state, where operating under this doctrine foreign forces could land one fine morning without any warning and fulfil the objective by capturing strategic positions, he said, adding that Pakistan’s case was altogether different.


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India has already cold tested its cold Start strategy in 2006.

NEW DELHI, APRIL 14: The Army’s most complex offensive Corps-level exercise, to test parts of the new war doctrine that relate to Cold Start strategies, gets underway next month in Punjab by Ambala-based 2 Corps.

The exercise, to be held in the general area of Jalandhar, will be the first component exercise to test newly authored strategies of the revolutionary Cold Start war ethic ingested by the force in 2004.

Two years ago, the Army began to progressively indoctrinate its formations in the plains with the Cold Start strategy, a war ethic that primarily envisages lightning offensives by tri-service integrated thrust formations – so quick that they preempt a nuclear retaliation – instead of laborious and time-consuming massing of troops led by the strike corps.

Considered to be the brainchild of former Army Vice-Chief Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, in 2004 Pakistan said it had rejigged its own offensive structure to absorb the implications of an Indian Cold Start.

The 2 Corps exercise, involving massive deployments, including an armoured division, an independent armoured brigade and two infantry divisions, will torture-test a part of the Army’s renewed war doctrine that propounds a short but blistering armoured and artillery assault followed by lightning infantry and mechanised infantry operations assisted by battlefield helicopter cover in a nuclear, chemical and biological (NCB) backdrop.

Army Chief Gen J J Singh will visit the area during the exercise, considering that some new parts of the Army’s new doctrine were authored by him when he was commander of the Shimla-based Army Training Command (Artrac). The last Corps exercise by the Ambala-based formation was in 2003.

The 1st Armoured Division, 14th Independent Armoured Brigade, 22nd Infantry Division and the 14th RAPID Division will take part in the exercise next month. The Army will have 10 days to complete the exercise – the only window it gets between harvesting and the next sowing – on the expansive plains.

This is the Soviet Doctrine of the 100 Gun concept:Test of fire

If the Indian Army succeeds with the 100-gun concept, it could change the rules of engagement with Pakistan. By Our correspondent

18 January 2003: The Ambala-based headquarter II corps (one of the strike corps) has been tasked to carry out an exercise over the next couple of months which, if successful, could result in a paradigm shift in the Indian Armyâ€TMs firepower strategy

Known as the 100-gun concept, it finds its origin in the military doctrine of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The concept aims at effecting maximum destruction on the enemyâ€TMs military and key civilian assets before the infantry can physically move in and capture territory.

Labeled as being rather expensive, this concept was buried by armies across the globe after the Soviet collapse. The concept involves 100 or more artillery guns to provide support to three infantry battalions as opposed to the Western doctrine of 64 guns for three infantry units.

The problem with the Soviet doctrine was that if the enemy were to open more than a couple of fronts, moving artillery pieces and other firepower assets would prove not just expensive but also cumbersome and predictable. In fact, opening several small fronts by way of swift manoeuvres lay at the heart of NATOâ€TMs strategic doctrine against the Soviets.

This concept, however, has found new life in India. During the Kargil conflict, between 100-120 guns on an average supported three infantry units. This was complimented by air power, namely laser-guided bombs. Together, the firepower component in Kargil was able to inflict a telling damage, officials said, on enemy positions making it easier for an infantry assault.

Recently, during Operation Parakram, the strategy of degradation operations in the Northern Command involved complete and thorough destruction of the enemyâ€TMs war-making capabilities, officials added.

Here too, a combination of artillery and air power formed the centrepiece of the strategy.

According to officials, the future India war scenario will be sectoral in nature, given the political compulsion not to escalate the conflict beyond a particular region. This would allow India to shift firepower resources, say, to the LoC from other sectors. This, in turn, would reduce the guns-to-men ratio enabling the implementation of the 100-gun concept.

Moreover, since the capture of territory is ruled out due to political compulsions, the destruction of enemy assets has emerged as a key marker of success in war these days, officials added.

Insiders also say that the successful execution of this exercise could impact future procurement of artillery and armour and increase the stress on air power. But this change would require more than a few successful exercises — and not before the Indian military is convinced that Pakistan wonâ€TMt counter the 100-gun concept in novel ways.

Here is a detailed analysis of the India’s Cold Start Strategy.


Introductory Observations: India unveiled officially its new war doctrine on April 28, 2004 at the Army Commander’s Conference that took place last week. Obviously, the need for a new war doctrine was decades-long overdue, but it seems that the lessons of the Kargil War reinforced by the severe limitations imposed on the Indian Army in the run-up to and during Operation PRAKARAM in 2001-2002 hastened the Indian military hierarchy towards this end.

General Padmanabhan the Chief of Army Staff at the time of Operation PRAKARAM had initiated the process of formulating a new war doctrine and the fruitation now seems to have taken place after a series of major joint exercises between the Indian Army and Indian Air Force including massive live fire power demonstrations.

It seems that the new Cold War Strategy would now be discussed at various levels of three Services and fine tuned. Needless to say that in any future conflict scenario where a “blitzkrieg” type strategy is going to be followed; joint operations involving the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy would be an imperative.

Security requirements did not permit the spelling out of adequate details of the “Cold Start Strategy” by the Chief of Army Staff. However, it is not difficult to visualize what this new war doctrine conceptually incorporates as it is said to revolve around the employment of “integrated battle groups” for offensive operations.

Such strategy did exist in NATO and was being taught at the Royal British Army Staff College. Camberley, UK which the author attended in 1971. In NATO terminology, “integrated” groups for offensive operations existed at three levels. The highest was “combat group” and “combat command” based on a divisional or brigade Headquarters (armoured/infantry mechanised) under which were a flexible number of battle groups” (based on an armoured regiment/mechanized infantry battalion Headquarters) and the lowest was the “combat team” (based on an armoured squadron/mechanized infantry company Headquarters). The groupings at the each level were task-oriented in terms of varying composition of armour and infantry elements with integrated attack helicopters of the Army Aviation and the Air Force besides close support of ground attack Air Force squadrons. Also, was integrated Army Aviation surveillance helicopters. Command and control helicopters were available too.

Media, reports indicate that the new “Cold Start Strategy” visualizes the use of eight “integrated battle groups”. For the purposes of this strategic review the eight “integrated battle groups” being talked about will be taken to mean eight integrated armoured division/mechanized infantry division sized forces with varying composition of armour, artillery, infantry and combat air support- all integrated. This would be a fair assumption to be made for our discussion in case the intended aim of this new war doctrine is to be achieved.

The unveiling of a new war doctrine throws up a host of factors for discussion in terms of why a new war doctrine is required, what are the attendant factors in putting it into operation, the limiting factors that may come into play, the responses of the enemy to such a new war doctrine and a host of other associated considerations.

  • Cold Start” War Doctrine-The Strategic Conceptual Underpinnings: In the absence of more details, and rightfully not spelt out due to security reasons, the strategic conceptual underpinnings of India’s new war doctrine can be envisaged as under:
  • Indian Army’s combat potential would be fully harnessed. The distinction between “strike corps” and “defensive corps” in ground holding role will be gradually diminished.
  • The offensive military power available with defensive corps in the form of independent armoured brigades and mechanized brigades, by virtue of their forward locations would no longer remain idle waiting to launch counterattacks. They would be employed at the first go and mobilized within hours.
  • Strike Corps may be re-constituted and reinforced to provide offensive elements for these eight or so “battle groups” to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan, fully integrated with the Indian Air Force and in the Southern Sector with naval aviation assets.
  • Obviously, then, India’s strike corps elements will have to be moved well forward from existing garrisons. It also means that Strike Corps would no longer sit idle waiting for the opportune moment, which never came in the last three wars. The Strike Corps remained unutilised.
  • On another plane that is at the politico-strategic or politico-military level this new war doctrine seems to be aiming at the following:
  • Cutting out long drawn out military mobilization running into weeks.
  • The above results in loss of surprise at the strategic and military level.
  • The above also gives time to Pakistan’s external patrons like USA and China to start exerting coercive pressures and mobilizing world opinion against India as witnessed in Operation Prakaram.
  • Long mobilization time also gives the political leadership in India time to waver under pressure, and in the process deny Indian Army its due military victories.
  • The new war doctrine would compel the political leadership to give political approval “ab-initio” and thereby free the Armed Forces to generate their full combat potential from the outset.

Cold Start Strategy is Aimed at Pakistan and is Offensive Oriented- The Pakistan Army, (not the Pakistani people) has a compulsive fixation for military adventurism against India, notwithstanding the Islamabad Accord January 2004.

India in the past has been hamstrung in cutting Pakistan to size due to a combination of United States pressures coming into play in the run-up to decisive military action and the hesitancy of India’s political leadership. Military surprise was lost due to long mobilization times. The “Cold Start Strategy” can be said to be aimed militarily at Pakistan and is offensive-operations specific.

Cold Start Strategy“- The Indian Political Parameters That Need to Come into Play: Such an offensive strategy can only be successful if the Indian political leadership at the given time of operational execution of this strategy has:

  • Political will to use offensive military power.
  • Political will to use pre-emptive military strategies.
  • Political sagacity to view strategic military objectives with clarity.
  • Political determination to pursue military operations to their ultimate conclusion without succumbing to external pressures.
  • Political determination to cross nuclear threshold if Pakistan seems so inclined.

If the above are missing, as they have been from 1947 to 2004, Indian Army’s new war doctrine would not add up to anything. For more detailed views on this subject, see the authors recent book: “India’s Defence Policies and Strategic Thought: A Comparative Analysis (reviewed on SAAG website as Igniting Strategic Mindsets in Indians:; SAAG paper no. 657 dated 09-04-2003)

India’s National Military Directives Need Change: Indian Governments, irrespective of political hues have shied away from enunciating India’s national interests from which flows all military planning. However, what can be called as a sort of national military directive, which the Indian Army under political compulsions stands fixated is “No Loss of Territory, Not Even an Inch”. Heads have rolled in the Army on this account in past wars.

Cold Start Strategy” with its inherent character of mobile warfare using mechanized military formations, and especially where defensive formations may be called upon to undertake such operations, may at times involve some loss of territory in plains warfare.

If the above is not acceptable then strategically and militarily the status quo needs to be maintained with Indian Army fixated on linear defences. This author had argued against this as early as 1985 in an article “India’s Linear Fixations” in the Combat Journal of what is now called the Army War College.

India’s Strategic Military Objectives Needs to be Made Clear: India’s strategic military objectives need to:

  • Shift from capturing bits of Pakistan territory in small scale multiple offensives to be used as bargaining chips after the cease fire.
  • Focus on the destruction of the Pakistani Army and its military machine without much collateral damage to Pakistani civilians.

All the three armed forces have to synergise operations towards destruction of the Pakistan Army as it is that which enslaves Pakistan, impedes democracy in Pakistan and indulges in military adventurism against India, including proxy wars and terrorism.

It is for nothing that the Pakistani military rulers and the Pakistani Army have hid from the Pakistani nation the causes of their military failure against India in 1971, 1999 (Kargil) and a catastrophic defeat in January 2002 if India’s political leadership had not restrained the Indian Army during Operation Prakaram. “Cold Start Strategy” should therefore be aimed at the destruction of the Pakistan Army’s military machine. India’s Army Commanders can infer what this implies.

Cold Start” War Doctrine-The Imperatives of Dedicated Air Force Close Air Support and Dedicated Ground Attack Squadrons: The Indian Air Force (IAF) would have a very crucial and critical role to play in the successful implementation of this new war doctrine. The “Cold Start” eight or so “battle groups” cannot undertake “blitzkrieg” type military operations without an overwhelming air superiority and integrated close air support.

The IAF would therefore have to proportionately assign its combat assets to cater for the following:

  • Achieve overall air superiority so as to paralyse the enemy’s Air Force or render it so ineffective as to be unable to seriously affect the area of operations of the “Cold Start” offensive “battle groups”.
  • Dedicate a fair portion of its combat assets for the air defence of the Indian homeland.
  • Earmark dedicated close air support and ground attack squadrons in direct support of the “battle groups”.

The IAF would be hard pressed to execute the tasks from within its existing combat assets. Earlier, the IAF could initially allocate all its combat assets to achieve air superiority as any operations by “strike corps” would hope to subsequently follow.

In the new war doctrine scenario all these tasks would have to be concurrent. It was such a visualization that made this author in his strategic papers (India’s Strategic and Security 2004 Imperatives: SAAG Paper no 884 dated 06.01.2004) reiterate that the IAF needs at least 70 combat squadrons. India has the financial resources to afford them. In any case even disconnecting from the new war doctrine requirements the IAF needs 70 combat squadrons in the context of India’s revised strategic frontiers discussed in an earlier paper of this author.

Indian Navy Aviation Support for “Battle Groups”: Besides its traditional tasks of sea control, naval blockades etc. the naval aviation support for the “battle groups” operations is a welcome step in filling some of the voids of IAF combat assets besides dividing the enemy’s aerial combat strength.

The Indian Navy, more importantly should concurrently be focusing in the new war doctrine scenario on amphibious operations deep in the enemy’s rear, so that Pakistan is forced to fight on three fronts, and in the process its resistance is fragmented.

India Will Have to Use Conventional Short Range Battle Field Missiles (SRBM) and Cruise Missiles: The entire success of “Cold Start” war doctrine would overwhelmingly rest on the application of long range devastating fire power and this would perforce have to include conventional SRBMs and cruise missiles.

Use of SRBMs and cruise missiles will not only help in softening enemy’s “Vulnerable Areas” and “Vulnerable Points” but also thicken fire support assisting “battle groups” operations. These assets would more increasingly be required in support of “battle groups” operations in case of bad weather when IAF combat power cannot be applied.

Associated with this would be India’s imperatives to accelerate her ICBM development and production which is India’s sovereign right. “Cold Start” war doctrine without ICBM back up would be susceptible to external pressures.

Inventories of these weapons have to be significantly expanded and the time is now to jump-start India’s defence production apparatus to this end.

Special Forces and Air Assault Capabilities Expansion and Employment in New War Doctrine: The successful implementation of the new war doctrine for force multiplication effect, for reinforcing the offensive punch and for exploitation of fleeting apparatus in fast paced military operations would call for sizeable employment of :

  • Special Forces
  • Air Assault Divisions.
  • Air Cavalry brigades.
  • Light infantry divisions with air-transportable combat power.

In the “Cold Start” war doctrine scenario widespread use of the above forces including the capture and holding of airheads behind enemy lines would confuse the enemy, divide his reaction and counterattacks and spread panic. The Indian Army’s capabilities in this direction are limited and need to be comprehensive enhanced.

Logistic Support For Cold War Doctrine: Such operations which can be expected to be swift, fluid and rapidly changing directions of attack cannot rest for logistic requirements on Indian Army’s conventional logistic support which is ground based and wheel-based and incapable of swift cross country mobility.

Indian Army’s own aviation assets and heavier utility helicopters of the IAF would need significant mustering for logistic support of “Cold Start” battle group.

India’s strategic stockpiles of fuel, ammunition and military hardware spares along with “War Wastage Reserves” will have to be maintained at full levels at all times to enable “Cold Start” war doctrines to take off. Without these at full levels “Cold Start” operations may end up as cold start.

Pakistan’s Responses to India’s “Cold Start” War Doctrine Enunciation: India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine stands discussed in a recent Corps Commanders Conference of the Pakistan Army, and even amongst their strategic experts. Curiously, the discussions of the latter seem diverted to Pakistan’s special relationship with USA post 9/11 and there appears to be an implied assurance that the “special Pakistan-USA military relationship” would take care of the challenges posed to Pakistan by India’s new war doctrine. Pakistani strategic analysts view the enunciation of India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine as :

  • Putting pressure on Pakistan prior to peace talks.
  • The growing Pakistan-Bangladesh nexus is also curiously drawn in as an Indian concern requiring new war doctrines.
  • Surprisingly, no major military analysis has emerged so far Probably, it would take time to digest and come up with responses.
  • Pakistan’s Military Challenges Arising From India’s “Cold Start” War Doctrine: Strategically and militarily, it can be visualized that Pakistan would be faced with a number of military challenges arising from India’s new war doctrine, namely:
  • India’s “surprise” factor in terms of when, where and how “Cold Start” battle group would be launched.
  • Fighting the air-battle in an environment where the IAF has a significant superiority in numbers and quality of numerical strength.
  • Devising a credible anti-ballistic missile defence.
  • Re-constitution of Pakistan’s “strike corps” and its three “Army Reserve” formations which were so far configured and located to take on India’s three “Strike Corps”.
  • When and how does Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and its doctrine of “First Use” comes into play.
  • How to offset India’s overwhelming long range artillery fire support.
  • How to counter India’s force projection capabilities deep in Pakistan’s rear.

Pakistan cannot combat the Indian challenges by the oft-repeated bravado statement that “One Pakistan Soldier is equal to ten Indian Soldiers” leading to strategic wags countering “what happens when the Eleventh Indian Soldier emerges”.

If the “Cold Start” doctrine is applied in its purist form, then in terms of military operations it does not become a game of military numbers but a game in terms of military technological superiority in terms of weapon systems, firepower and aerial combat assets besides the force multiplication effects of the Indian Navy.

Pakistan would have to divert sizeable financial resources for its weapon systems build-up to counter this doctrine. Of course, it can look to its external strategic patrons like USA and China for assistance and military largesse, but there is a limit here.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Deterrent and the Myth of Pakistan’s Low Nuclear Threshold: The Indian political leadership and its national security establishment fed on US academia planted stories (probably officially inspired) of Pakistan nuclear deterrent and Pakistan’s low nuclear threshold have been inordinately awed by its fearful consequences.

Though this aspect is a subject of detailed analysis in a separate paper the following observations can be made:

  • Pakistan has declared that it will go for nuclear strikes against India when a significant portion of its territory has been captured or likely to be captured. Secondly, when a significant destruction of the Pakistani military military machine has taken place or when Pakistani strategic assets (read nuclear deterrent) are endangered.
  • India’s “Cold Start” war doctrine does not seem to be allowing Pakistan to reach at the above conclusions by indulging in deep long range penetrative strikes.
  • The Indian doctrine seems to be aimed at inflicting significant military reverses on the Pakistan Army in a limited war scenario short of a nuclear war.
  • Nuclear war fare is not a “commando raid” or “command operation” with which its present military ruler is more familiar. Crossing the nuclear threshold is so fateful a decision that even strong American Presidents in the past have baulked at exercising it or the prospects of exercising it.
  • Pakistan cannot expect that India would sit idle and suffer a Pakistani nuclear strike without a massive nuclear retaliation.
  • Pakistan’s external strategic patrons can coerce or dissuade both sides to avoid a nuclear conflict, but once Pakistan uses a nuclear first strike no power can restrain India from going in from its nuclear retaliation and the consequences for Pakistan in that case stand well discussed in strategic circles. Pakistan would stand wiped out.

When the obvious intention of India’s new war doctrine is not to cross the nuclear threshold, and it seems declaratory in content, then a higher responsibility rests on Pakistan’s external strategic patrons that their wayward protege does not charge foolishly and blindly into the realms where even fools or the devil do not dare.

Pakistan’s crossing the nuclear threshold has crucial implications for USA and China too. In fact a USA-China conflict can be generated which may have its own nuclear overtones. Therefore it is incumbent on both USA and China to strategically declare that they would not countenance any Pakistani first nuclear strike against India i.e. crossing the nuclear threshold.

Pakistan proclivities to threaten nuclearisation of an Indo-Pakistan conventional conflict is more of a blackmail to force USA and China’s intervention. And if sincerely both USA and China are interested in South Asian peace and global security then Pakistan’s nuclear proclivities have to be pre-empted now with a strategic declaration against Pakistan as above.

India, in any case, has to be prepared militarily, eitherway, notwithstanding any such caution that may be imposed on Pakistan.

Concluding Observations: From the Indian perspective, enunciation of a new war doctrine was long overdue and it is significant for the following reasons:

  • India now plans and is ready to act offensively against Pakistan for any perceived acts of strategic destabilization of India and proxy war and terrorism
  • India moves away from its defensive mindset of last 50 year plus.
  • India will now prepare to undertake offensive military operations at the out set.
  • India has in declaratory tones enunciated that it will undertake offensive operations short of the nuclear threshold

The Indian Army, despite any limitations in its hierarchy of not being forceful to make the political leadership in the last 50 years plus to adopt strategies which are strategically desirable but may be politically distasteful, has done well this time to bring India’s war doctrine in public debate. The vast majority of the Indian public will be in support of any war doctrine that puts Pakistan into place and forces it to desist from proxy war and terrorism against India.

From the Pakistani perspective the following needs to be recognized with the enunciation of India’s new war doctrine:

  • India will undertake offensive operations against Pakistan without giving Pakistan time to bring diplomatic leverages into play against India.
  • India has declaratorily implied that in such offensive operations against Pakistan it will not cross the nuclear threshold nor prompt Pakistan into crossing it. Should Pakistan opt for crossing the threshold the onus lies squarely on Pakistan.

The United States and China have not come out with any response so far. Nor should they since national security interests of India need to be respected, as those of a responsible, politically stable and a mature regional power which has exercised restraint even to the extent of being ridiculed for its restraint.

Since a nuclear conflict initiated by Pakistan has global overtones and has the potential to bring them to conflict with each other, both the United States and China need to strategically declare that they will not countenance Pakistan, initiating a nuclear conflict in South Asia. Alternatively both USA and China, as Permanent Members of the UN Securing Council initiate steps jointly, to bring Pakistan’s (failed state WMD proliferator) nuclear assets under international control to be released only in the event of a nuclear threat.

Lastly, it needs to be reiterated that India may never have to put into effect its new “Cold Start” war doctrine if the United States and China restrain their wayward military protege i.e. Pakistan from military adventurism and military brinkmanship. Also if United States and China wish to add value to their relationships with India, they need to desist from equating India with Pakistan when it comes to the prospects of the nuclear conflict in South Asia. India’s strategic maturity is not in doubt; it is Pakistan’s strategic maturity, which is in doubt. A nuclear conflict will take place in South Asia, only if the United States wants it and lets Pakistan permissively cross the nuclear threshold.

(The author is an International Relations and Strategic Affairs analyst. He is the Consultant, Strategic Affairs with South Asia Analysis Group. Email drsubhashkapila


This is the html version of the file,%20Cold%20Start%20NPS%20Paper.pdf.

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May 2008
An Overview and Assessment of the Indian Army’s Cold Start Strategy
Walter C. Ladwig III Merton College University of Oxford
A paper prepared for Cold Start: India’s New Strategic Doctrine and its Implications Naval Postgraduate School 29-30 May 2008 Monterey, CA
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In April 2004, the Indian Army announced a new limited war doctrine that would allow it to mobilize quickly and undertake retaliatory attacks in response to specific challenges posed by Pakistan’s “proxy war” in Kashmir. This Cold Start doctrine marked a break from the fundamentally defensive orientation that the Indian military has employed since independence. Cold Start represents a significant undertaking for the Indian military as it
requires combined arms to operate jointly with airpower from the Indian Air Force. This study explores the origins and details of the Cold Start concept and raises several questions about its potential impact on strategic stability on the sub-continent.
This paper has five parts. The first section provides an overview of the Sundarji doctrine and its perceived failure in Operation Parakram which took place in 2001-2002.

The second section explains the pressures for doctrinal change that emerged following Parakram’s conclusion.

The third section outlines the significant features of the Cold Start doctrine.

Section four explores a number of outstanding organizational, political,
and strategic questions about the Cold Start concept.

Section five identifies important contradictions between Cold Start and India’s broader strategic goals vis-à-vis Pakistan and suggests that the strategy may do more harm than good for India’s interests. The Failure of the Sundarji Doctrine in Operation Parakram Following the successful operational innovations displayed during the 1971 war, the Indian Army underwent a reorganization in the 1980s that was principally directed by Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Krishnaswamy Sundarrajan.

Under Sundarji’s strategy, the international border was protected by seven defensive “holding corps,” which consisted of infantry divisions for static defense, mobile mechanized divisions that could respond to enemy penetrations, and a small number of armored units.
Although possessing limited offensive power, as their name implies, the primary role of the holding corps during a war was to check an enemy advance by manning the extensive defensive obstacles constructed in the border region.

Sundarji concentrated the army’s offensive power into three mobile armored columns that were capable of striking deep into Pakistan. Each “strike corps” was built around an armored division with mechanized infantry and extensive artillery support.
In a war, after the holding corps halted a Pakistani attack, the strike corps would counterattack from their bases in central India (I Corps in Mathura, II Corps in Ambala, and XXI Corps in Bhopal) and penetrate deep into Pakistani territory to destroy the Pakistan Army’s own two strike corps (known as Army Reserve North and Army Reserve South) through
“deep sledgehammer blows” in a high-intensity battle of attrition.
The strike corps would operate under the protection of the Indian Air Force, which would be expected to

Stephen P. Cohen, The Indian Army: Its Contribution to the Development of a Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 207-9. Initial aspects of the “Sundarji Doctrine” were tested in the early 1980s under the tenure of General Krishna Rao, however Sundarrajan is given credit for refining the
V.R. Raghavan, “Limited War and Nuclear Escalation in South Asia,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Fall/Winter 2001), p. 8.
Pravin Sawhney and V. K. Sood, Operation Parakram: The War Unfinished (New Delhi: Sage, 2003), p.81.
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first gain air superiority over Pakistan and then provide close air support to ground operations. Although innovative, the Sundarji’s doctrine proved poorly suited to respond to the challenges posed by Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir. Following the December 13, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi by suspected Kashmiri militants, India attempted to compel Pakistan to ban the Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, extradite twenty named individuals accused of terrorism in India, and prevent militants from crossing the line-of-control into Kashmir by launching Operation Parakram (Operation Valor) on December 18, the largest activation of Indian forces since the 1971 Bangladesh war.
Although uncertainty still surrounds the actual objectives of Operation Parakram, at a minimum, India clearly intended to signal to Pakistan that, nuclear weapons or not, it was willing to go to war to end Pakistani support for militants in Kashmir.
After the attack on the heart of its government, “something concrete needed to be done to show people at home and in the international community that India meant business.”
Unfortunately for India’s efforts, the decisiveness of its message was undercut by the inability of the Indian Army to present a timely threat to Pakistan. The armored columns of the strike corps took nearly three weeks to make their way to the international border area after the mobilization order was given. In this intervening period, the Pakistan Army was able to countermobilize on the border, and more important, major powers became increasingly concerned by the extent of India’s military mobilization and counseled New Delhi to exercise restraint.
Although initially sympathetic to India in the wake of the December 13 attack, the United Kingdom and the United States, which was conducting military operations in Afghanistan from support bases in Pakistan, were troubled by Delhi’s increasing forcefulness as well as the subsequent diversion of Pakistani forces away from operations along the Afghan border that occurred in response to Parakram. Senior British and American officials urged theIndian government to refrain from military action until Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf delivered his “about turn” speech on January 12, 2002. In a nationwide address Musharraf denounced terrorism in the name of Kashmir and pledged a renewed rackdown on militant groups in Pakistan.
By the time the strike corps had reached the border region, India’s political justification for military action was significantly reducedas a result of Musharraf’s declaration, and Operation Parakram quickly lost momentum. The result was a ten-month standoff, which cost an estimated $2 billion and ended with India’s quiet withdrawal rather than a military clash.
For a detailed account of Operation Parakram, see ibid.
For supporting evidence that Pakistan has the ability to control the militant groups in Kashmir, see C. Christine Fair, “Militant Recruitment in Pakistan: Implications for Al Qaeda and Other Organizations,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 27, No. 6 (November 2004), pp. 489-504.
Sawhney and Sood, Operation Parakram, p. 10.
Countries urging India to halt its military buildup included France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. P.R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema, and Stephen P. Cohen, Four Crises and a Peace
Process: American Engagement in South Asia (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007), p.164.
“Musharraf Speech Highlights,” BBC News, January 12, 2002,

Chari, et. al., Four Crises and a Peace Process, p. 162. Page 4
Assessment of Operation Parakram’s outcome within India was mixed. Senior government officials, including the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and the National Security Advisor have all claimed that the mobilization was a successful exercise in coercive diplomacy as it pressured Washington and Islamabad to take action against Islamic militant groups based in Pakistan.
In contrast, a number of independent observers believe that Operation Parakram was a less successful endeavor. For example, former COAS Shankar Roychoudhry called the mass mobilization a “pointless gesture”
that had harmed India’s credibility while journalist Praveen Swami went further in denouncing Operation Parakram as “arguably the most ill-conceived maneuver in Indian military history,” which “ended as an ignominious retreat after having failed to secure even its minimum objectives.”
Bolstering the critics’ case is the fact that India had failed to achieve either the extradition of the wanted criminals or, despite Musharraf’s
public statements, a permanent end to Pakistani support for terrorism within India. This latter failure was made clear in the years following Operation Parakram as the death toll from terrorist attacks in Kashmir continued to rise.
Pressure for a New Operational Concept The Indian Army’s postmortem analyses of Operation Parakram identified three principal failings with the performance of the Sundarji doctrine:
1. The enormous size of the strike corps made them difficult to deploy and
maneuver. By the time the strike corps had reached their forward concentration areas, President Musharraf had given his “about turn” speech, and the international community was putting significant pressure on India to restrain its response. In the eyes of many senior Indian officers, this allowed Pakistan to inflict a high-profile attack on the Indian capital via its proxies and then exploit the Indian Army’s long deployment time to internationalize the crisis in a manner that allowed Pakistan to escape retribution. Even those in the Indian government who claim that Operation Parakram was never intended to be anything more than an exercise in coercive diplomacy had to be disappointed in the long delay between policy decisions and military action.

2. The strike corps lacked strategic surprise. Pakistan had its intelligence agencies focused on the three strike corps, so that any action on their part would be quickly noticed-particularly given their large, lumbering composition. Furthermore, once the strike corps mobilized, their progress and destination could be easily deduced by Pakistani forces, which could move to counter any intended attack.
See the comments by Vajpayee, Fernandes, and Mishra in S. Paul Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent: Nuclear Weapons Proliferation and Conflict in South Asia (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), p. 136. For an external assessment that suggests India gained its political objectives in Operation Parakram, see Alexander Evans, “India Flexes Its Muscles,” Foreign Policy, No. 130 (May-June 2002), pp. 94-96.
Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent, p. 136-7.
Sumit Ganguly and Michael R. Kraig, “The 2001-2002 Indo-Pakistani Crisis: Exposing the Limits of Coercive Diplomacy,” Security Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2 (April-June 2005), p. 307.
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3. The holding corps’ lack of offensive power was a cause for concern. Although these units were forward deployed in the border regions, they could carry out only limited offensive tasks. In the eyes of senior Indian Army officers, the total dependence on the strike corps for offensive power hindered India’s rapid response to the December 13 attacks.
Part of the blame for Operation Parakram’s failure to achieve significant political aims fell on the Indian political leadership, which failed to define any strategic objectives for the mobilization. As Sawhney and Sood note, “Operation Parakram was ordered without giving any political direction to the armed forces about the target to be achieved.”
However, there were a number of additional factors that motivated the demand for a new operational concept capable of responding promptly to contingencies requiring limited military force in a nuclear environment:
§ Military Utility. A war-fighting strategy that called for massive armored
thrusts to dismember Pakistan was too crude and inflexible a tool to
respond to terrorist attacks and other indirect challenges.
Furthermore, it was recognized that mobilizing the entire military was not an appropriate policy to pursue limited aims.

Desire to Avoid External Intervention. The long delay between the
mobilization order and the actual deployment of the strike corps allowed
outside powers, particularly the United States, to intervene before India
could bring military force to bear. Rapid mobilization would be necessary
to achieve a decisive outcome in a future crisis before Pakistan could
internationalize the dispute.

Military Autonomy. It has been argued that the delay between the
mobilization order and the commencement of military operations created a
gap which allowed India’s political leadership to lose its nerve.
For its part, the army was reportedly “furious” when it was told that there would be no war with Pakistan.
It is believed that the ability to rapidly mobilize and commence offensive operations will oblige the political leadership to define strategic goals ahead of a mobilization and prevent interference once military operations are underway.
See the comments of the COAS during Operation Parakram, General Sundararajan Padmanabhan in Praveen Swami, “Gen. Padmanabhan mulls over lessons of Operation Parakram” The Hindu, February 6, 2004.
How the mobilized army was to achieve India’s demands was similarly unspecified. Sawhney and Sood, Operation Parakram, p. 73.
Y.I. Patel, “Dig Vijay to Divya Astra: A Paradigm Shift in the Indian Army’s Doctrine,” Bharat Rakshak Monitor, Vol. 6, No. 6 (May-July 2004),
Subhash Kapila, “Indian Army’s New ‘Cold Start’ War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed,” Paper No. 991 (Noida, India: South Asia Analysis Group, May 4, 2004)
P.R. Chari, Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Stephen P. Cohen, Four Crises and a Peace Process: American Engagement in South Asia (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2007), p. 171. Page 6
Interservice Rivalry. The past decade has seen the Indian Air Force and
Navy enhance their relative share of the defense budget at the army’s
Moreover, defense analysts suggest that airpower and sea power will play an increasingly important role in India’s national security, while the army finds itself increasingly relegated to internal security missions.
A new limited war doctrine that makes conventional force relevant to India’s national security could justify the army’s own modernization program vis-à-vis the air force and navy.

Cold Start
The Chief of Army Staff unveiled the new Cold Start concept in April 2004. The goal of this limited war strategy is to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan before the international community could intercede, one that would inflict significant harm on the Pakistan Army while denying Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.
Cold Start seeks to leverage India’s considerable conventional strength to respond to Pakistan’s continued provocation.
This concept requires a reorganization of the Indian Army’s offensive power from the three large strike corps into eight smaller division-sized
“integrated battle groups” (IBGs) that combine mechanized infantry, artillery, and armor in a manner reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s operational maneuver groups.
The eight battle groups would be prepared to launch multiple strikes into Pakistan along different axes of advance. The ground operations of the IBGs require integration with close air support from the Indian Air Force and naval aviation assets to provide highly mobile fire support. According to Gurmeet Kanwal, director of the Army’s Center for Land Warfare Studies, India is seeking to “mass firepower rather than forces.”
In addition, the holding corps are redesignated as “pivot corps” and would be bolstered by additional armor and artillery. This would allow them to concurrently man defensive positions and undertake limited offensive operations as necessary. Under the Cold Start concept, all elements of
the Indian military would engage in continuous operations, day and night, until their military objectives were achieved.
In the 2008-2009 defense budget, the Army receives 47%, the Air Force 29% and the Navy 18%, with 6% devoted to Defense R&D. For the Army, this is a notable step down from the 70-20-10 rule that used to define Indian defense budgeting. Laxman Kumar Behera, “India’s Defence Budget 2008-09″ IDSA Strategic Comment, (New Delhi: Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, March 19, 2008),
See the comments of Kapil Kak in Vishal Thapar, “A ‘General’ Unrest in Forces; Army, Navy, IAF at War,” CNN-IBN, September 21, 2007.
For a representative view, see the comments made by a senior Indian officer ahead of the April-May 2007 Ashwamedh wargame, “Army’s Wargames to Test Reflexes Against Nuke, Bio Attacks,” Times of India, April 6, 2007.
Christopher Langton, ed., The Military Balance, 2006 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2006), pp. 230-240.
Patel, “Dig Vijay to Divya Astra.”
Gurmeet Kanwal, “Strike Fast and Hard: Army Doctrine Undergoes Change in the Nuclear Era,” Tribune (Chandigarh), June 23, 2006.
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Rather than deliver a catastrophic blow to Pakistan (i.e., cutting the country in two), the goal of Cold Start would be to make shallow territorial gains, 50-80 kilometers deep, that could be used in post-conflict negotiations to extract concessions from Islamabad.
Some commentators have emphasized the ability to quickly mass ground and air firepower to deliver a punishing blow to the Pakistan Army, perceived to be the source of much of Pakistan’s aggressive foreign policy, while not harming civilian centers.
Although the operational details of Cold Start remain classified, it appears that the goal would be to have three to five IBGs entering Pakistani territory within seventy-two to ninety-six hours from the time the order to mobilize is issued.
As Kanwal argues, “[the IBGs] should be launching their break-in operations and crossing the ‘start line’ even as the holding (defensive) divisions are completing their deployment on the forward obstacles. Only such simultaneity of operations will unhinge the enemy, break his cohesion, and paralyze him into making mistakes from which he will not be able to
A major emphasis of Cold Start is on the speed of both deployment and operations. By moving forces into unpredictable locations at high speeds and making decisions faster than their opponents can, the IBGs would seek to defeat Pakistani forces in the field by disrupting their cohesion in line with the tenants of maneuver warfare. The Indian Army would also seek to take advantage of surprise at both the strategic and the operational levels to achieve a decision before outside powers such as the United States or China
could intervene on Pakistan’s behalf. There also appears to be an unspoken assumption that rapid operations would prevent India’s civilian leadership from halting military operations in progress, lest it have second thoughts or possess insufficient resolve.

The perceived advantages of the Cold Start doctrine over its predecessor are six fold:

1. Forward-deployed division-sized units can be alerted and mobilized more quickly than larger formations.

If the battle groups and the pivot corps start closer to the international border, their logistics requirements are significantly reduced, enhancing their maneuverability and the ability to surprise.

2. Even though division-sized formations can “bite and hold” territory, they lack the power to deliver a knockout blow. In the minds of Indian military planners, this
Firdaus Ahmed, “The Calculus of ‘Cold Start’,” India Together, May 2004,

This is particularly important as the majority of the Pakistan Army is based near the international border region and can mobilize to their wartime positions within seventy-two hours. S. Paul Kapur, “India and
Pakistan’s Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia Is Not Like Cold War Europe,” International Security, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Fall 2005), pp. 138-139.
Gurmeet Kanwal, “Cold Start and Battle Groups for Offensive Operations,” ORF Strategic Trends, Vol. 4, No. 18 (June 2006),
Subhash Kapila, “Indian Army’s New ‘Cold Start’ War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed-Part II (Additional Imperatives),” Paper No. 1013 (Noida, India: South Asia Analysis Group, June 1, 2004),

In a short duration conflict, India would be hard-pressed to leverage the numerical superiority of its conventional forces to achieve a decisive outcome. As a result, increased emphasis is put on rapid mobilization of forces in an effort to quickly achieve victory.
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denies Pakistan the “regime survival” justification for employing nuclear weapons in response to India’s conventional attack.

3. Under Cold Start, the Indian Army can undertake a range of responses to a given provocation rather than the all-or-nothing approach of the Sundarji doctrine. This has the potential to enhance India’s ability to deter Pakistan, as Cold Start presents a significantly more credible threat of retaliation which can create uncertainty in the minds of Pakistani decision-makers about the level of impunity their nuclear deterrent provides.
4. Multiple divisions, operating independently, have the potential to disrupt or incapacitate the Pakistani leadership’s decision-making cycle, as happened to the French high command in the face of the German blitzkrieg of 1940.
Indian planners believe that when faced with offensive thrusts in as many as eight different sectors, the Pakistani military would be hard-pressed to determine where to concentrate its forces and which lines of advance to oppose.

5. Having eight units capable of offensive action rather than three significantly increases the challenge for Pakistani intelligence’s limited reconnaissance assets to monitor the status of all the IBGs, improving the chance of achieving surprise.

In a limited war, India’s overall goals would be less predictable than in a total war, where the intent would almost certainly be to destroy Pakistan as a state. As a result, Pakistan’s defense against Indian attacks would be more difficult because the military objectives would be less obvious.
6. If Pakistan were to use nuclear weapons against Indian forces, divisions would present a significantly smaller target than would corps. The dispersed operations by highly mobile units envisioned by Cold Start are the kind that would be required on a nuclear battlefield.

From a tactical and operational standpoint, Cold Start is a creative attempt to formulate a military solution to the security challenges on India’s western border. However, the problems India faces are both political and military in nature. As a result, it is not clear that limited war can enhance India’s ability to achieve its strategic goals. This issue, along with several others is explored in the subsequent section.
The role of nuclear weapons in emboldening Pakistan’s revisionist aims is taken up in Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent, p. 132.
Highly mobile panzer units drove deep into French territory along multiple lines of advance, bypassing defenses and strong points. The presence of German troops behind French lines disrupted the French command and control systems. Although the French still possessed numerous troops in the field, the French high command was paralyzed and unable to respond to the quickly changing events on the ground-the result of which was France’s catastrophic defeat and occupation. John R. Boyd, Patterns
of Conflict, ed. Chuck Spinney and Chet Richards (Atlanta, Ga.: DNI, September 2006), pp. 69-89.
One potential rebuttal to this argument is that the forward deployment of IBGs largely constrains them to certain areas of operation, thereby reducing, rather than increasing, uncertainty about their likely axis of
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Five Questions About Cold Start
As of mid-2008, Cold Start is in the experimental stage of development, having moved beyond mere speculation, but still more than a decade away from achieving full implementation.

As a result, there are a number of outstanding questions about the
employment of Cold Start that remain to be answered. This section explores five of the
most pertinent issues surrounding the limited war concept.
1. Does the Indian army possess the resources necessary to execute Cold Start?
There is significant disagreement as to whether India possesses sufficient conventional
superiority over Pakistan to warrant discussion of a limited war strategy.

Fighting on
the defensive, Pakistan would have the advantage of shorter lines of communication as well as a network of linear obstacles and prepared fighting positions designed to blunt India’s advance. In these circumstances, some analysts point to the conventional wisdom of a 3 to 1 superiority in offensive strength at the tactical level as a requirement for successful breakthrough operations and note that India’s deployed forces in the West
achieve only parity with their Pakistani counterparts.

Others suggest that a 1.5 to 1
superiority in forces at the theatre level, which India possesses, would “guarantee” an advantage in combat power ranging from 5 to 1 to 6 to 1 “on 3 or 4 decisive strike axes.”

As Stephen Biddle has noted, however, “Even outnumbered invaders can create a large local advantage on a chosen frontage” by differentially concentrating forces against a small section of the battle line and deploying fewer troops elsewhere.

Turning to the quality of the forces on the two sides, some experts have argued that the Pakistanis are qualitatively superior to the Indians, which could make up for their numerical inferiority.

Others observers believe that when quality and sophistication of weapons
systems are taken into account, India’s relative superiority in military forces is increased.

Yet, still others contend that “neither side can undertake a major
conventional attack with a high degree of confidence in its success.”

It is beyond the

The analysis that supports this judgment can be found in Walter Carl Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Winter
2007/08), pp. 175-190.

Khurshid Khan, “Limited War under the Nuclear Umbrella and Its Implications for South Asia” (Washington, D.C.: Henry L. Stimson Center, May 2005), p. 21.

Arzan Tarapore, “Holocaust or Hollow Victory: Limited War in Nuclear South Asia,” IPCS Research Papers, No. 6 (New Delhi: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, February 2005), p. 16. For a general discussion of the 3:1 ratio, see John J. Mearsheimer, “Assessing the Conventional Balance: The 3:1
Rule and Its Critics,” International Security, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Spring 1989), pp. 54-89.

Kim R. Holmes, “Measuring the Conventional Balance in Europe,” International Security, Vol. 12, No. 4 (Spring 1988), p. 166.

Stephen D. Biddle, Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 40.

“Pakistan Has Quality Army, India Has Quantity, Say Experts,” Agence France-Presse, May 22, 2002.

John E. Peters, James Dickens, Derek Eaton, C. Christine Fair, Nina Hachigan, Theodore W. Karasik, Rollie Lal, Rachel M. Swanger, Gregory F. Treverton and Charles Wolf, Jr., War and Escalation in
South Asia (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2006), pp. 36-37.

Stephen P. Cohen, “South Asia,” in Richard J. Ellings and Aaron L. Friedberg, eds. Strategic Asia 2002-03: Asian Aftershocks (Seattle, Wash.: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2002), p. 287.
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scope of this section to render a definitive judgment on the matter, rather it simply seeks to highlight the considerable uncertainty surrounding the existing conventional balance.

Looking within the Indian Army, at present there appear to be significant material shortfalls that call into question its ability to execute Cold Start in the near-term. The army’s tank corps suffers from a low operational readiness rate because much of its equipment is at the end of its service life. Although several hundred T-90 tanks recently acquired from Russia possess significant battlefield capabilities, they are at best a “silver bullet” force. Similarly, the integrated battle groups will require organic self-propelled
artillery to have the mobility and firepower necessary to accomplish their mission. Yet, by one estimate, the army possesses only 10% of the self-propelled guns it needs.

In addition, there are serious questions as to whether the army possesses the mobility and logistical capability to implement Cold Start. It is estimated that only thirty-five percent of the army is equipped to move about India, and an even smaller portion possesses the mobility to mount cross-border operations.

Similarly, one recent assessment suggests that the armed forces possess less than 15% of the helicopter airlift capability Cold Start would require to move men and material.

Limited supplies of spare parts, primitive logistical networks, and inadequate maintenance facilities will also hinder offensive operations.

The army is attempting to gain the necessary funds to address these issues
as part of its modernization program, however, India’s defense budget is limited, and both the air force and the navy are pressing their own competing claims.

Even more deficient than the Indian Army’s material shortfall is its lack of officers capable of executing Cold Start operations. A Cold Start-style maneuver doctrine requires high-quality junior officers who possess the initiative and flexibility to react to changing circumstances on the battlefield without explicit instructions from their superiors. This poses a significant challenge for the army which, as an institution, has demonstrated an unwillingness to entrust authority to junior officers and NCOs.

Furthermore it faces a shortage of more than 11,000 junior officers, while those it does have are the product of a military education system that emphasizes rote learning and the careful implementation of “schoolhouse solutions” rather than free thinking.

conservative institutional culture that is resistant to change with subordinate units tightly controlled by higher command does not foster the initiative and creativity demanded by maneuver warfare.

John H. Gill, “India and Pakistan: A Shift in the Military Calculus?,” in Ashley J. Tellis and Michael Wills, eds., Strategic Asia 2005-06: Military Modernization in an Era of Uncertainty, (Seattle, Wash.: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2005), p. 244.

Ibid.; and A.Z. Hilali, “India’s Strategic Thinking and Its National Security Policy,” Asian Survey, Vol. 41, No. 5 (September-October 2001), p. 745.

Sandeep Unnithan, “Fast and Furious,” India Today, April 7, 2008, p. 60.
Ashok K. Mehta, “War or Peace?,”, January, 18, 2002,

Gill, “India and Pakistan,” pp. 247-248.
Sunil Dasgupta, “The Indian Army and the Problem of Military Change,” in Swarna Rajagopalan, ed., Security and South Asia: Ideas, Institutions and Initiatives (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 105-6.
Sandeep Dikshit, “Major Shortage of Army Officers: Antony,” The Hindu, March 6, 2008.
V.K. Kapoor, “Indian Army-A Perspective on Future Challenges, Force Development, and Doctrine,” USI Journal, Vol. 134, No. 3 (July-September 2004); Stephen Peter Rosen, Societies and Military Power: India and Its Armies (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 233; and Tellis, Stability in South Asia, p. 24.
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2. Have the other services embraced the Cold Start concept?
As an army concept for warfare on land, Cold Start places the other two services in a subordinate combat role. This is particularly true of the air force. Cold Start employs airpower according to the army’s own vision of joint warfare, where elements of all three services are under the control of a unified (presumably army) commander. As Y.I. Patel notes, this plan runs counter to the Indian Air Force’s own concept of joint operations,
which involves the services fighting wars separately but according to a coordinated plan.
Furthermore, the air force believes that attaching aircraft to specific ground units in a defined geographic space, as the integrated battle group concept requires, is a fundamental misuse of airpower that fails to leverage the air force’s numerical superiority over its Pakistani counterparts.
Given the army’s previously mentioned shortages of self-propelled artillery, close air support takes on an ever more vital role in Cold Start as
the IBGs will require highly mobile firepower of the type provided by attack helicopters and ground attack aircraft.
This issue is unlikely to be resolved quickly, as the air force continues to focus its efforts on air-to-air combat and strategic bombing while downplaying the importance of close air support as a core mission.
This can be seen in the IAFs recent acquisition pattern which has focused on air superiority platforms such as advanced fighter aircraft and airborne early warning systems. Moreover, the focus on the IAF’s own new
doctrine, which reportedly emphasizes deep attack and strategic reach, appears to be moving further away from the types of missions Cold Start would require.
An operational Cold Start capability would, therefore, require the air force to support the strategy at a level at which it has heretofore been unwilling to do. In the absence of the appointment of a chief of the Integrated Defense Staff, India’s three services function largely autonomously. Strong joint leadership would be required to force the army and the air force to integrate their wartime strategies and plans and overcome inter-service rivalries. Such leadership is unlikely to be forthcoming in the near term, suggesting that service-specific rather than joint warfighting strategies will
continue to proliferate within the Indian military.
3. Does India posses the civil-military structures necessary to manage limited war in a nuclear environment?

Policymakers contemplating limited war must craft a strategy and related objectives that are achievable by the use of military force yet sufficiently limited to ensure that the conflict does not escalate to the nuclear threshold. Clear policy objectives are of utmost
Patel, “Dig Vijay to Divya Astra.”
Ahmed, “The Calculus of Cold Start.”
Oberoi, “Air Power and Joint Operations”; A.Y. Tipnis, “Indian Air Force 2020,” Security Research Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (January 2005),; and
P.K. Vasudeva, “Integrated War Doctrine Required,” Tribune (Chandigarh), January 18, 2005.
Rajat Pandit, “IAF Plans War Doctrine to Expand Strategic Reach,” Times of India, August 2, 2007.
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importance in limited wars because they must overcome both internal and external pressures to expand the scope of a conflict. Wars have a way of taking on a life of their own: Once lives have been lost, money has been spent, and territory has changed hands, leaders could face tremendous pressure to expand the scope or objectives of a conflict. In theory, clearly defined strategic objectives with a properly developed correlation between
means and ends could be an effective way to prevent the escalation of a conflict. In practice, the selection of ways and means to conduct a limited campaign can be challenging for a national security bureaucracy such as India’s, which is characterized by a high degree of disconnection between civil and military authorities.

In peacetime, the country’s elected leadership is often disengaged from security matters and provides the military with only vague planning guidance.

Within India’s defense community, civilian bureaucrats at the Ministry of Defense dominate decision-making, while the uniformed military is largely excluded from the security policymaking process. The impact of this disconnect between politicians and the military is apparent when evaluating Operation Parakram, which lacked clear objectives and terminated with
inconclusive results. This raises questions about the ability of India’s civilian leaders to set the kind of concrete objectives and associated military tasks that would be necessary to successfully engage in limited warfare between two nuclear powers.

4. Where would Cold Start be employed?
At present, it is not necessarily clear where a Cold Start-style limited military operation would be directed: Against jihadi training camps in Kashmir or their support bases in Punjab and Sindh? In pursuit of militants crossing the line-of-control? Against vulnerable parts of Pakistan as part of a response to a terrorist attack within India? There is an implicit assumption behind Cold Start that punishment inflicted by limited conventional strikes can persuade Pakistan to halt its support for Kashmiri militants.

Theorists of both limited war and coercion have suggested that an asymmetry of interests in the particular issue being contested is an important pre-condition for the successful use of limited force to change an opponent’s behavior.

Yet, the issue of Kashmir is not a peripheral one for either India or Pakistan. As Paul Kapur notes, the disposition of the disputed territory has both important symbolic and strategic implications for the two

A number of observers have identified significant flaws in India’s defense management system. See for example, Vijay Oberoi, “Air Power and Joint Operations: Doctrinal and Organisational Challenges,”
USI Journal, Vol. 133, No. 1 (January-March 2003), pp. 3-22; and Ayesha Ray, “Civil-Military Relations in India: Questions and Concerns,” ORF Issue Brief, Vol. 1, No. 6 (September 2004), pp. 4-6.

India does not publish a national security strategy and subsequently the armed forces have little on which to base a national military strategy.

The concept of deterrence by punishment is explored in Glenn H. Snyder, Deterrence and Defense: Toward a Theory of National Security (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. 9-16. For
a discussion of why punishment is unlikely to change Pakistani behavior, see Ganguly and Kraig, “The 2001-2002 Indo-Pakistani Crisis,” pp. 316-317.

See, for example, Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1957), p. 145 and Alexander L. George, Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy As an Alternative to War (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1992), pp.69-71.
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As a result, it is not necessarily clear that a sufficient level of punishment can be inflicted on Pakistan to change its behavior without crossing its nuclear threshold.

5. Can India undertake limited conventional operations against Pakistan without triggering a nuclear response?

Preventing escalation in limited war requires clear signaling of intentions by both sides. However, by its very purpose, maneuver warfare seeks to surprise, confuse and disorient the adversary’s decision-makers. Furthermore, it is not necessarily clear that political-military objectives that are considered limited in New Delhi will be viewed the same way
in Islamabad or Rawalpindi. Cold Start envisions “limited” thrusts into Pakistan to a depth of 50-80 km. Yet as Raja Mohan notes, “in no past war [between India and Pakistan] has there been a penetration of the territory of the other side beyond 15-20 kilometers.”

Given that a number of important Pakistani cities, as well as transport
networks and lines of communication, lie close to the international border, it is easy to see how these limited offensives could be perceived to be quite unlimited.
Moreover, it is not at all clear that in a future conflict Pakistan would play by India’s rules. As one Indian official has noted, “The idea that Pakistan will cooperate in a conflict and comply with India’s wishes to fight a limited war is ridiculous. It will be naturally in [Pakistan’s] interest to keep any conflagration as unlimited as possible.”

Although the exact conditions under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons remain ambiguous, it has not ruled out employing them in response to a conventional attack. The clearest articulation of Pakistan’s “red lines” comes from Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who, while head of the Strategic Plans Division, outlined the general conditions under which nuclear weapons could be used: India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large
part of its territory; India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces; India blockades Pakistan in an effort to strangle it economically; or India pushes Pakistan into political destabilization or creates large-scale internal subversion in Pakistan.

The development of the Cold Start doctrine and associated improvements in the army’s conventional war fighting capabilities has significant implications for stability on the subcontinent. Analysts such as Ashley Tellis have argued that the cornerstone of the “ugly stability” that has persisted between India and Pakistan is a product of the incapacity of either side to gain its political objectives through conventional war.


the asymmetry between India and Pakistan’s conventional military power grows,

Kapur, Dangerous Deterrent, p. 48.

Mohan, “Conventional Arms Race in South Asia,” in Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema and Imtiaz H. Bokhari, eds., Arms Race and Nuclear Developments in South Asia (Islamabad: Islamabad Policy Research Institute, 2004), p. 9-10.

Quoted in Ganguly and Kraig, “The 2001-2002 Indo-Pakistani Crisis,” p. 311.

Paolo Cotta-Ramusino and Maurizio Martellini, “Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Stability and Nuclear Strategy in Pakistan: A Concise Report of a Visit by Landau Network-Centro-Volta,” (Como, Italy: Landau Network, January 2001), p. 5. A subsequent discussion of Pakistan’s nuclear program, sanctioned by the Pakistani government, that attempted to create more ambiguity about the conditions under which Pakistan would employ nuclear weapons can be found in Mahmud Ali Durrani, “Pakistan’s Strategic
Thinking and the Role of Nuclear Weapons,” Cooperative Monitoring Center Occasional Paper, No. 37 (Albuquerque, N.M.: Sandia National Laboratories, July 2004), pp. 1-54.

Tellis, Stability in South Asia, p. 5.Page 14

Pakistan will come under increasing pressure to rely on its nuclear arsenal for self-defense. An operational Cold Start capability could lead Pakistan to lower its nuclear red line, put its nuclear weapons on a higher state of readiness, develop tactical nuclear weapons, or undertake some equally destabilizing course of action.

As the five questions explored in this section indicate, there is still a considerable need to think through the implications of Cold Start for India’s national security goals. Fostering public discussion of these types of national security matters can help ensure that India’s military doctrines are well aligned with the country’s grand strategy. That issue is explored in the subsequent section.

Cold Start and India’s Grand Strategy India’s national security establishment faces significant difficulty in linking its grand strategy to the development of its military doctrines and plans. As a result of the grand bargain struck at independence, Indian civil-military relations appear to conform to the
Huntingtonian model of separate political and military spheres: Indian service chiefs have been granted operational autonomy in return for extremely limited input into national security policy-making at the highest levels.

Barry Posen has argued that the intervention of civilian leadership is necessary to ensure that a state’s military doctrine is well integrated with its grand strategy, a situation that does not appear to be the case with Cold Start.

Within India, few politicians are well versed in military affairs, and the actual
expertise in defense matters possessed by civil servants in the Ministry of Defense is “patchy” at best.

Moreover, following Nehru’s blundering political interference in the
1962 war, Indian politicians have been wary of intervening in the details of military matters.

As a result, the armed services are often left to develop their strategies and
plans without significant civilian direction, a practice that is unlikely to result in the fusion of strategic and military goals.

While this structural-bureaucratic problem is unlikely to be resolved in the near term, the Indian Army can take steps to address many of the issues raised in this paper by adopting a more transparent stance on Cold Start. The available evidence indicates that the Indian army developed Cold Start with minimal guidance from the country’s political leadership. Refusal to engage in broader-based discussions of the Cold Start concept on
the grounds that it is a warfighting strategy is myopic. If Cold Start is indeed a real concept for limited war rather than just a bureaucratic justification for army modernization programs, its strategic and policy implications deserve to be assessed by both India’s political establishment and its strategic community. In particular, there needs to be a rigorous examination of the impact the development of an organizational

It has been suggested that Pakistan’s nuclear escalation ladder has only “one rung.” Shireen M. Mazari, “Nature of Future Pakistan-India Wars,” Strategic Studies (Islamabad), Vol. 22, No. 2 (Summer 2002), pp.1-8.

Cohen, The Indian Army, p. 219; Raju G.C. Thomas, Indian Security Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), p. 122.

Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine, p. 241.

Cohen, The Indian Army, p. xii and 173.

Dasgupta, “The Indian Army and the Problem of Military Change,” p. 93.
Page 15

Cold Start capability would have on India’s strategic goals vis-à-vis Pakistan. Active pursuit of a limited war strategy runs the risk of upsetting favorable trends within Pakistan, most notably improved bilateral relations between India and Pakistan and the Pakistan Army’s fight against domestic militancy.

Indo-Pak relations have improved considerably since the Composite Dialogue was initiated in February 2004. Although progress has been slow, the effort to promote a normalization of bilateral relations has resulted in the establishment of direct bus services across the line of control in Kashmir as well as confidence-building measures such as a ban on nuclear testing and a notification regime for ballistic missile tests. The new civilian Pakistani government, elected in February 2008, has signaled a more pragmatic
approach to relations with India, which suggests that it may be possible for both sides to make progress on Kashmir and other outstanding territorial disputes. As Pakistan’s first civilian government in years, the present coalition retains an unstable position, albeit one that has been helped by the Pakistan Army’s decision to take a step backward from its visible intrusion into the country’s governance. The perception of a renewed conventional threat from India could have the pernicious effect of reversing gains that
have been made in the Composite Dialogue and encouraging the Pakistan army to reassert itself in the domestic political sphere.

The spread of Islamism and militancy from Pashtun tribal areas in eastern Pakistan has been a continual source of instability in Afghanistan and one that increasingly poses a threat to Pakistan itself. Over the past four years, the Pakistan Army has been focusing its attention on the Afghan border region and the associated challenge posed by domestic terrorists/insurgents in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and North-West Frontier
Province. While some Indian observers may gleefully welcome the sight of suicide bombers attacking the Pakistan Army as well-deserved “blowback” from Pakistan’s past sponsorship of Jihadis in South Asia, the fact remains that it is in New Delhi’s long-term interest to see Pakistan succeed in containing the spread of Islamic militancy. As a result, any action on India’s part that leads the Pakistani government to concentrate its forces on
a future Indo-Pak conflict rather than domestic counterinsurgency will be self-defeating.

As the analysis above indicates, the Indian Army’s leaders must broaden their vision beyond the narrow military imperatives of responding to proxy war and consider the degree to which Cold Start fits in with India’s broader strategic goals. At the same time, India’s political leadership needs to engage with the Cold Start concept and think through the political and strategic implications of such a warfighting strategy.

It is a well-worn military axiom that no plan survives contact with the enemy. Cold Start is an example of creative military problem-solving in response to Pakistan’s support for terrorism and stated rejection of a no-first-use nuclear doctrine. By moving away from the Sundarji doctrine, the Indian Army believes that it is developing the ability to respond to a Pakistani proxy war with conventional force, while remaining below the nuclear threshold. While Cold Start represents a significant advance in India’s conventional capabilities, it is a concept that is poorly aligned with India’s broader strategic goals. In the near term, active pursuit of Cold Start could have a pernicious impact on India’s burgeoning relations with Pakistan. In the longer-term, if Cold Start were operationalized, it could risk provoking or escalating a crisis on the subcontinent that could breach the nuclear threshold.

5 Responses

  1. JESUS DID NOT DIE {HE (peace be upon him) WAS RAISED} says:

    KAFIRS WILL BE KAFIRS. MOMINS WILL BE MOMINS. Momins do not not look at numbers’ game and have proven themselves over and over during the past 1430 years. Momins get their feed from THE ‘Imaan’ (the absolute teachings from Allah (via Quran and authentic Hadith). One perfect example is, Muhammad Mustapha (Sallahu Alayhi Wassallam, our greatest hero of all times) never went to Harvard or any other supposedly top schools and detested Taghut like UN (such as a zionist org. to help future & eternal hell-dwellers); but when you start comprehending Quran, the ‘Ayaat’ perfectly established and substantiated the scientific findings (not to mention other important teachings even after 1400 years (e.g. Read The Bible, The Qur’an and Science. by Dr. Maurice Bucaille), yes, coming from an truly enlightened human being, our beloved prophet who, neither went to a formal school nor could read or write, yet the MOST KNOWLEDGEABLE person and the GREATEST LEADER of all times.

    Muslims, look around you and see as an example, how the most-hated nation of all times is ‘DISGUSTING YEHUD’, be it by Christians of Europe, America or the other nations like Muslims, Chinese, Japanese, were Humiliated out of Lebanon by a handful of Muslims (Lebanese Shia Muslims because they have Imaan). These ‘yehud’ have looted Europe, America, Palestine and virtually all other nations around the world (via scheming, bribery, fraud etc. in fact, Judaism the gutter religion teaches its eventually-to-be-wiped-out people; the examples are loaded).

    We Sunni Muslims can do the same instead of submitting to THE BIGGEST CRIMINALS like BRIT-SHIT, YANKEE-SHITS and HOLO-HOAX Yehudis; Hindus are not even in the equation because, believe me, this is 6000 year old rock-worshiping nation who to-date are born-slaves. In fact, they have a big mouth now since they are getting heavily funded by Israel and America. They can be taken care of in a swipe, they are worthless creature. WE MUSLIMS HAVE THE ABSOLUTE BEST HISTORY AND HELD THE BIGGEST EMPIRES (including ruling the submissive chickens for 1000 years).

    So, attention contributors, lets talk about Islam’s achievements and the time of KHORASAN expeditions when Muslims will take over Hindu Criminal-doms and head West to take care of Israel and its supporters (READ Revelations about it in Hadith – somethings true Muslims believe in and Kafirs and Munafiqs belittle it).

    MAY ALLAH bring our Muslim hearts together and instill the teachings of Allah in the lands of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to begin with and as a role model. AAMEEN……ALLAH-o-AKBAR

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