Cold Start — a dubious deterrent

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NEWS & VIEWS

Mohammad Jamil

LAST week, US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Director Lt Gen Vincent Stewart briefing the Senate
Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on worldwide threats said: “India has sought and continues to move to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and is considering punitive options to raise the cost to Islamabad for its alleged support to cross-border terrorism.” Earlier, on 16th March 2017, General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, told the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee at a hearing that attacks in India from terrorists based in Pakistan and the reaction “likelihood for miscalculation by both countries” and “India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations”. In December 2016, Army chief Bipin Rawat had admitted the existence of Cold Start doctrine, which is a limited-war strategy designed to seize Pakistani territory swiftly without, in theory, risking a nuclear conflict. But risk factor cannot be eliminated.
Walter Ladwig, a scholar at King’s College London, said: “By pursuing Cold Start (after a terror incident), India’s response would lack the element of surprise. That makes Cold Start a dubious deterrent. And Mr. Rawat’s recognition of the doctrine’s existence provides further reason for Pakistan to develop tactical nukes.” One reason for India to keep its cards close to its chest is that it may not be capable of acting on Cold Start. Indeed, India’s army chief admitted to civilian leaders after the 2008 attacks that his battalions were “not ready for war” with Pakistan. India’s concept of limited war dates back to 2009 and even earlier. In the first week of November 2009, Pakistan’s defence analysts had reported about India’s planning for so-called ‘Cold Start’ strategy and preparing for a limited war against Pakistan. But Pakistan has spread its forces in a manner that India would not find any vulnerable point.
Former Indian army chief Deepak Kapoor and later chiefs of staffs committee (COSC) had indicated that India was setting the stage for a limited war against Pakistan since long. Indian politicians and top Generals must understand the implications of war-mongering and warnings to peaceful neighbor, who is equally equipped to respond effectively, could prove disastrous for both the countries as well as the region. According to Indian newspaper’s report in December 2009, Indian Army was revising its five-year-old doctrine to effectively meet the challenges of war with China and Pakistan, deal with asymmetric and fourth-generation warfare, and enhance strategic reach and joint operations with IAF and Navy. The head of the then command Lt. General A.S. Lamba went so far as to say that a massive thrust in Rawalpindi could quiet Pakistanis within 48 hours of the start of the assault.
On 1st September 2015, the then Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh had said that “its armed forces are capable of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country against any foreign aggression. We are acutely aware that the swift and short nature of future war is likely to offer limited warning time, which calls for maintaining very high levels of operational preparedness at all times.” However, these statements are mere rhetoric and there is no possibility of a limited war between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. It means if there is war, it will be a full scale war, and can be limited in a sense that in case of use of nukes there will be no concept of the victor and the vanquished. Cold Start Doctrine was reportedly developed by the Indian Military Command (IMC), specifically for Pakistan to replace the outdated ‘Sundarji Doctrine’, which miserably failed during 2001-2002 standoff with Pakistan.
Work on the new war doctrine – to reflect the reconfiguration of threat perceptions and security challenges – was already underway under the aegis of Simla-based Army Training Command. India has been upping the ante through continuous violations at LoC and working boundary, and provocative statements by civil and military leaderships. Recently, the chief of the Indian Air Force has asked its 12,000 officers to be prepared for operations at “very short notice.” It was for the first time that an IAF chief had sent out personal letters to the entire officer fraternity of the force. Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa’s personal letter has given rise to speculation about the current security situation, and was seen against the worsening situation in Kashmir and along the India-Pakistan border. Asking the officers to be “combat-effective professionals,” the IAF chief said there was “no choice but to keep abreast of new technological advancements.”
Last month, speaking at Naval Commanders’ Conference, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba urged the naval commanders to expand the Navy’s operational footprint so as to be a stabilising force in the Indian Ocean Region, and emphasised the need for continued efforts towards modernization and indigenization of weapons. The Conference was also attended by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar. The commanders also interacted with Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and IAF Chief B. S. Dhanoa who shared their views on the security situation and the way forward for enhancing tri-services synergy. They reckon that the swift and short nature of future war is likely to offer limited warning time, which calls for maintaining very high levels of operational preparedness at all times. If India tried to implement Cold Start Doctrine and infiltrate in Pakistan territory, it will become graveyard of their ruined dreams.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.
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