What is Cold Start Doctrine?

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Muhammad Ali Baig

IS Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) dead or a failed concept? Why and what made the Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat to admit the subsistence of CSD in his interview with India Today on January 4, 2017? It is very much obvious that military weapons and hardware even the most sophisticated ones have always been used at the political will. In other words one can say that military weapons are in fact political weapons primarily used to create deterrence, balance of power or even balance of threat. It is important to criticize or perhaps disapprove of one’s enemy for the sake of creating a strong counter-narrative but it would be a foolish move to consider the opponent as impotent or weak. The thing that makes CSD dangerous for Pakistan is its genesis being the German Blitzkrieg (lightning war) of the Second World War. The short distance doctrine not only increases the chances of its successful execution but also raises doubts about the swift response from Pakistan.
The Cold Start Doctrine was unveiled by the Indian Army in April 2004 and from that time up till now more than 10 military exercises have been conducted to fully operationalize the concept. It is pertinent to mention here that CSD was mainly conceived in a completely reactionary manner due to the humiliation faced by the Indian military and civil establishment due to the apparently failed Operation Parakram. The Indo-Pak Military Standoff of 2001-2002 was an eye-opener for the Indian Army when its three strike corps took almost more than a month to mobilize after the political decision was made. As a consequence, Pak Military took the advantage and was quick to deploy and completely out-manoeuvred Indian Military. Also, the slow and sluggish movement of the Indian Army along with many accidents and resultantly loss of men and material was among those elements which made CSD theoretically possible. The predecessor of CSD was Sundarji Doctrine. The Indian concept of division-sized Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) was first conceived by the father of German Blitzkrieg – General Heinz Guderian in his book “Achtung Panzer” (1937). IBGs and their positioning near the Pakistan border is the real essence of the doctrine that would not only reduce the mobilization time of the Indian Military but may also succeed in capturing more Pakistani territory.
The Modi-Government overshadowed by Hindutva in India is completely frustrated in mainly three things: i) the rapid development projects in Pakistan, ii) Pak Military’s tremendously and unparalleled resilient fight against terrorism and iii) Pakistan’s growing regional and international influence. It wouldn’t be a surprise that New Delhi out of its frustration and disappointment may employ Cold Start Doctrine against Pakistan. An Indian-origin scholar Shashank Joshi in his article “Indian Military Instrument: A Doctrine Stillborn” (2013) has criticized the inability of Indian Army in materializing the concept. He and many other authors maintain that the doctrine itself is ambitious and a dangerous one. “A Cold Start for Hot Wars” (2007) by a British scholar Walter C. Ladwig III also highlights the dangers of CSD. Ladwig argued that the political will may incline towards the use of CSD against Pakistan. Whether we like it nor not, research-based opinion of scholars at-large believe that apart from Indian Military’s lack of ability in materializing CSD; it is a well chalked-out and very feasible military doctrine. The plains and deserts of Pakistan in Punjab and Sindh adjacent to the Indian border are perfect for armoured thrusts while achieving maximum speed for a swift execution of the CSD. And at the same time denying Pakistan from any international help neither from Washington and nor from Beijing.
People may call it a “failed concept” but even the worst or perhaps ostensibly unfeasible concepts may prove unpredictable in war. The most important point to ponder for the civil and military establishments of Pakistan is to look for ways to discourage India in employing CSD. The psychological warfare, network centric warfare and the use of Special Forces to be parachuted deep inside Pakistan’s territory are focused to break the cohesion of the Pak Armed Forces. It is obvious that opening up of many battles for the conclusion of one major war is the cornerstone behind the concept; again a burrowed constituent element of Blitzkrieg. It can be argued with firm confidence that CSD is not an outdated or a buried military instrument and is a “clear and present danger” for Pakistan. The political and military connotations attached with CSD may soar and take the limited conventional war to a nuclear one. CSD being alive reaffirms and justifies Pakistan’s development of New Concept of Warfighting (NCWF), Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) with advancement of its conventional strength, also the continuous acquisition of defence equipment and the steady increase in military spending to achieve strategic parity in relation to its antagonistic neighbouring India; to maintain peace and security in the region and beyond. How dangerous CSD may sound, it is an established fact that India retains the capability to start a war but it is highly doubtful that it may translate it as a strategic victory.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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