Time to Warm Up
Is India’s Cold Start doctrine a myth or reality?
  By Lt Gen. B.S. Pawar (retd)

A military doctrine provides the basic principles that shape the way a nation’s military forces are employed to achieve national objectives and creates the appropriate framework for response to national security issues. Doctrinal assessments are self-administered and require significant input in both the military and political spheres. The resulting declared doctrine is, thus, a carefully crafted article having been scrutinised at both political and military levels. A doctrine gives a clear insight into the kind of wars/conflicts states may anticipate and choose to deploy/employ the military force. In short, understanding the use, importance and reliance on doctrinal formation is critical to how states weigh military/national capabilities.

Cold Start Doctrine
India’s Cold Start War doctrine unveiled on 28 April 2004 was a radical departure from the fundamentally defensive military doctrines that India has employed since gaining Independence in 1947 — non aggressive and non-provocative defence policy. This new war doctrine was necessitated by the military lessons learnt from the Kargil War and India’s slow and prolonged war mobilisation during ‘Operation Parakaram’, following the attack on India’s Parliament by Pakistan based terrorists.

This doctrine was also necessitated by the need to operationalise Indian Army’s war fighting in a nuclear, biological and chemical environment and to incorporate technological advances in the fields of command, control communications, computers, intelligence and information technology — network centric warfare. The Cold Start doctrine is based on the concept of pre-emptive strikes with rapid deployment of Integrated Battle Groups comprising major elements of the army with the close support of the air force and the navy if the situation so demands — the emphasis would be on speed and overwhelming firepower. Cold Start is not a plan for a comprehensive invasion and occupation of Pakistan — it basically envisages a rapid, time and distance limited penetration into Pakistan territory, with the implicit goal of quickly punishing Pakistan, possibly in response to a Pakistan linked terrorist attack in India.

The principle thrust of Cold Start was to overcome the operational deficiencies of India’s previous conventional military doctrine by rapidly mobilising shallow, cross-border strikes in response to low-level attacks by Pakistani insurgents. Under this new limited war doctrine, Indian forces would be able to stage a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan within 48-72 hours of occurrence of an incident, with the aim of inflicting significant punishment while at the same time pursuing narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level. Main attributes of this doctrine are:

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