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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Dangerous implications of India’s cold start doctrine

Dr. Zafar Jaspal |

India’s Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat’s, confirmation about the existence of the’ Cold Start Doctrine’ verified Pakistan’s serious concerns about India’s armed forces modernization.

At the same time by admitting this, General Bipin has destroyed, pro-India, American intellectuals’ claims that India was not working for the institutionalization of the Cold Start Doctrine.

Indeed it is now clear that the continuation of the Cold Start Doctrine since 2004, justifies Pakistan’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons or tactical nuclear weapons.

General Bipin Rawat, India’s new Chief of Army Staff, in an interview to India Today acknowledged India’s Cold Start military doctrine. He stated,  “Cold Start doctrine exists for conventional military operations.”

No Surprise for Pakistan

In reality, the technical admission of the existence of Cold Start Doctrine will have no impact on Pakistan’s defense strategy. Pakistan’s has always taken into account the modernization of Indian armed forces, its capacity and operations they use, as part of its own defense strategy.

Pakistan army has never taken seriously, the views propagated by American experts on South Asia, on the non-existence of Cold Start Doctrine. However, the announcement of General Bipin will have political and diplomatic consequences.



Cold start doctrine visualizes a “tri-service doctrine”, which will reorganize the Indian Army’s offensive power into eight smaller division-sized “integrated battle groups”

Since the failure of Operation Parakram in 2002, after the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, New Delhi has been modernizing its ham-fisted armed forces to establish its hegemony in South Asia. On April 28, 2004, the then Indian Chief of Army Staffers, General Nirmal Chander Vij unveiled the Cold Start doctrine during the Army Commanders Conference.

Read more: Cold War new norm between India & Pakistan..?

Cold Start Doctrines marks a change in military posture for India

The Cold Start Doctrine marked a break from the fundamentally defensive orientation that the Indian military had employed since independence in 1947.

According to the published sources, Cold start doctrine visualized a “tri-service doctrine”, which necessitates the restructuring of Indian Army and reorganizing the Indian Army’s offensive power away from the three large strike corps into eight smaller division-sized “integrated battle groups” (IBGs) that combine mechanized infantry, artillery, and armor.

The eight Indian battle groups would launch multiple strikes into Pakistan along different advancing axes, to destroy its defensive and offensive Corps. The ground operations of the IBGs will be integrated with getting air support from the Indian Air Force and naval aviation assets to provide highly mobile fire support. In addition, the holding corps would be redesigned 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.

Primary Objective for Cold Start doctrine

The primary objective of the Cold Start doctrine is to enhance the speed of both deployment and operations to multiply Indian Army’s war fighting capability against Pakistan. It prepares Indian armed forces to ‘conduct quick, punishing strikes into Pakistan, hopefully without crossing Pakistan’s fuzzy red lines for a nuclear response.

The vague red lines include cutting off a major supply route, seizing key territory, defeating a major Pakistani military group, or blockading Karachi with Indian naval forces.

Indian planners believe they can achieve a quick military victory and sue for peace without Pakistan resorting to nuclear weapons.’Perhaps, it is a very ambitious and devastating offensive doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces to defeat a nuclear-armed adversary.’ General Nirmal Chander Vij

Cross board support for Indian use of limited warfare

Since last year, the Indian ruling elite has been giving an impression that New Delhi would use the limited war (because of its conventional weapons advantage) option to punish Pakistan.

For instance, for the sake of domestic consumption, and for generating psychological threat for Pakistanis, the Indian leadership, political and military, had claimed India’s conducting surgical strikes against Pakistan in September 2016. Luckily, instead of a tit for tat reaction, Pakistani leadership acted rationally.

Islamabad simply rejected the claim of surgical strikes and also asked New Delhi to share with it specific evidence of these surgical strikes. The responsible attitude taken by Pakistan and India’s failure to substantiate its surgical strike claim prevented the escalation of the conflict between the two nuclear-armed belligerent neighbors.

Read more: Modi’s ‘Surgical Strikes’ On Whom? & Why?

How Does India think it will address conflict escalation

General Bipin in his interview while highlighting the advantages of Cold Start Doctrine failed to address the dichotomy India faces. Under Cold Start, India may be able to launch a limited military operation against Pakistan, but it is still incapable of controlling the subsequent escalation of the conflict and which may even turn nuclear. Thus, both Indian Prime Minister and his chosen Army Chief ought to realize the overall strategic import of the doctrine they are favoring.

Thus, the reemphasize on Cold Start Doctrine by the Indian Army Chief could lead to unthinkable—a nuclear clash between India and Pakistan.

The Cold Start Doctrine brought a shift in India’s defensive-defense strategy and also in the configuration of both the striking and defensive Corps deployed on India-Pakistan border.

The modernization of India’s armed forces obliges Pakistan to revamp its defensive strategy. It was in response to cold start that Pakistan conducted a short-range ballistic missile (NASR) test in April 2011. While, the NASR missile test added a new dimension in the regional strategic environment, it seems five years on it did not stop Indian’s from allegedly conducting ‘surgical strikes’

To conclude, the Indian strategic pundits, military industrial complex’s profiteers, and above all Indian military establishment itself have been endeavoring to use the current tension between India and Pakistan for increasing the 2017-18 India’s Defense budget.

Since the main beneficiaries of the increase in the Indian Defense Budget would be its armed forces. It is not surprising that General Bipin made the announcement about the existence of Cold Start Doctrine.


Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This piece was first published in Pakistan Observer. It has been reprinted with permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.