Whatis cold start doctrine ?

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MUHAMMAD ALI BAIG

I S Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) dead or a failed con cept? Why and what made the former Indian Army Chief and incumbent Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat to admit the subsistence of CSD in his interview with IndiaToday on 4 January 2017? It is very much obviousthatmilitary weapons and hardware eventhemost 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, containment, 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) ofWorld War-II. The short distance doctrine not only increases the chances of its successful execution but also raises doubts about the swift response from Pakistan. In this regard I published a detailed research articletitled as “AComparative Study of Blitzkrieg and Cold Start Doctrine: Lessons and Countermeasures for Pakistan” IPRI Journal Vol. 18 no. 1 (Winter 2018). The Cold Start Doctrine was unveiled by the Indian Army in April 2004 and from that time up till now more than 12 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 a month to mobilize after the political decision was made. Consequently, Pakistan took the advantage and was quick to deploy and completely out-manoeuvred India. 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. However, Indian CSD 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. Itis worth-mentioningthattheModi Government overshadowed by Hindutva in India is completely frustrated in mainly three things: (i) the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); (ii) Pakistan’s tremendous 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. Also, “A Cold Start for HotWars” (2007) by aBritish scholarWalter C. Ladwig III also highlights the dangers of CSD. Ladwig argued that the political will may incline towards the use of CSD against Pakistan. Nonetheless, whether we like it or not, research-based opinion of scholars at-large believe that apart from India’slack of abilityin materializingCSD; 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 battlegrounds 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 from Washington, Brussels or Beijing. A few scholars in Pakistan may call it a “failed concept” or putting “cold water on cold start” 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 borrowed constituent element of German 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 War fighting (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. Military, civil, diplomatic analysts and strategists may disagree with one’s opinion but the author has credible knowledge on the subject with a research thesis on it. — The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

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