India’s Cold Start Doctrine or Madness

By Brig Imran Malik(Retd)

_DSC0030India’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) is a Pakistan specific destruction oriented one essentially aimed at destroying Pakistan’s Armed Forces – its center of gravity. The Indians intend to inflict crippling degradation on them thus nullifying their viability as a competing and potent fighting machine.

The Indian Armed Forces opted for the CSD in the backdrop of the failure of General Sunderji’s utopian plans to attack Pakistan South of the Sutlej, cut it into two and then defeat it in detail. Those plans faltered due to the pedantic Indian mobilization system and a resultant failure to achieve strategic surprise. This allowed Pakistan to mount its response and defeat Indian strategic designs in time and space. These failures were repeated later.

The Indians thus needed a doctrine that would overcome these flaws, cut Pakistan to size before it could mount any meaningful (including nuclear) response and before the international community could intervene.

Thus the CSD was born in 2004.

The CSD stipulates that the Indian Armed Forces would launch synergetic joint operations in multiple thrusts (eight or so) on wide frontages. Each thrust will be launched by an Integrated Battle Group (IBG) comprising assorted combinations of armoured, mechanized, RAPID (Strike) divisions, independent armoured/mechanized/artillery/infantry brigade groups with supporting arms and services at compatible level. These IBGs would primarily be drawn from the Holding Corps (aka the Pivot Corps) up to two-thirds of their strength. Of their three Strike Corps the Indians are likely to employ at least two in these IBGs and retain one for strategic balance. Each IBG could thus muster strength of upto a Corps! These thrusts would be launched in conditions of complete air supremacy. The Indian Navy would conduct joint operations along the coastlines.

The Indian Armed Forces would aim to achieve strategic surprise, generate unacceptably massive multidimensional firepower and achieve their deliberately shallow land objectives without breaching Pakistan’s nuclear threshold and well before Pakistan’s conventional responses materialize.

A vast, multidimensional, modern and hi-tech arsenal is being collected, ostensibly in anticipation of India’s “anointed by the US role of a global super power,”  albeit its use against Pakistan is a foregone conclusion. If India wants to make any impact on the global level it must first free itself of this debilitating Pakistan Syndrome. To that end it must settle all its affairs with Pakistan including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water, trade, et al. This will neutralize all the centripetal tugs and pulls that the strategic environment in South Asia keeps exerting on it and pegging it down in its search for extra regional and global relevance.

However, India’s CSD is genetically flawed, predicated as it is upon outrageously fallacious assumptions.

The Indians intend to achieve strategic surprise. Pakistan is aware of the threat and has already taken steps to thwart it. It has already given the necessary forward bias to its deployments and posture thus reducing its reaction time. Amongst other tangible measures it has also unveiled a hi-tech short range tactical nuclear missile (Nasr) specifically meant for such an eventuality.

Further the CSD assumes that the Indian Armed Forces would be able to achieve their strategic objectives while remaining below Pakistan’s perceived nuclear threshold. This is an astonishing assumption! They can only stay below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold if they KNOW what, when and where it will be! And even if they knew where Pakistan’s military (and geographical, economic and political) threshold(s) of pain rested what guarantees do they have that these would not change during the course of the battle? These will fluctuate with the run of the battle and continuously create strategic uncertainties for India.

The Indians further assume that the Pakistanis would not react strategically till its thresholds were actually threatened or breached. On the contrary the Pakistanis will definitely consider all possible operational contingencies, including pre-emptive ones. The conflict could thus arguably assume nuclear dimensions even before a single shot has been fired in anger. India’s misplaced bravado could thus have disastrous ramifications (strategic restraint -?) for the subcontinent and beyond!

Further, India’s IBGs will attempt to overwhelm Pakistan’s defenses and its strategic responses at a very early stage in the battle. It is to be understood that Pakistan’s dependence on its nuclear assets is directly proportional to the differential in conventional forces of the two countries. In simple words, the larger the difference in the conventional forces of the two countries the greater will be Pakistan’s reliance on its nuclear arsenal. And the speed with which this difference in conventional forces starts becoming more and more tangible during battle, that much faster would Pakistan be forced to resort to its strategic assets. For Pakistan its nuclear arsenal acts as an equalisor – nullifying India’s conventional superiority in numbers and technology.

Even Pakistan’s conventional responses will be force oriented too. Pakistan will cause unacceptable destruction and losses to the aggressor’s military potential through the adroit use of terrain and massive multidimensional firepower. That in turn would set India’s pretensions to global status back by a few decades if not more; ironically, that would be the very thing they would have set out to forestall in the first place!!

The Indians seem to have misjudged Pakistan’s resolve as a nuclear power and the international community’s capacity to influence Pakistan when it is faced with existentialist threats. Nuclear weapons have actually introduced the balance of terror and mutually assured destruction (MAD) factors in the subcontinent. Both will act as the biggest deterrents to any impetuous, ill-conceived and militarily unsustainable expeditions emanating from the East. Pakistan’s declared nuclear policy needs to be heeded.

Instead of wasting time, effort, money and resources in pursuit of clearly unattainable and unrealistic strategic goals, India should aim at reaping the peace dividends of our respective nuclear prowess. It must settle down and resolve all outstanding issues with Pakistan. It must not fall for the lure and illusions of promised or borrowed greatness!

In all probabilities Pakistan would make such an adventure militarily, economically and politically unviable. India would be well advised to not start something it cannot control or finish effectively. The alternative will bring nothing but disaster for the region and the world at large.


The author is a retired Brigadier and a former Defense Attache to Australia and New Zealand. Currently  he is a Faculty Member with NUST (NIPCONS).

The article was directly sent to the Blog Moderator.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Khalid Rahim  On January 30, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Very well expressed, except how would you convince those members of this group who think anything stated against India comes under ”Conspiracy Theory” as frequently expressed by some well known Intellectuals of the civil society!!

  • Rizw Saleem  On January 31, 2013 at 2:36 am

    agree fully with the author on this article, but some things i would like to point out

    The Indians are making very heavy purchases of modern conventional weaponry which will give them a very big advantage over us.

    The induction of Globe master heavy lift air craft along with the C-130 special ops versions has given the Indian army and air force a tactical leverage for covering air space and deployment.

    their sub and super sonic missile program is now at a very advanced stage which included sea based missiles than can be used as a blockade weapons towards Khi and Gwadar.

    Pakistan is now lagging behind in conventional weaponry due to the miserable condition of our economy which forces us to accept hand me downs from the US and selective weaponry from China.

    The infantry must be reformed forth with to include modern arms and fast attack vehicles with quick deployment units that must also be equipped with the latest helicopters (our cobras and Russian M-I 7s are way past their performance dates), this has been evident in our operations in the northern areas where we have suffered heavy casualties.

    The cold start doctrine is based on the assumption that the first advance of the Indian assault will meet little resistance which is false, but only if we modernize our armed forces and equip them at the same pace as India. We cannot leave our army stranded in the face of heavy odds.



  • Wajahat Hussain  On January 31, 2013 at 2:37 am

    I think the leaders are getting Pakistan ready for sale on Ebay.

    Syed w. Hussain

  • Admiral Sirohey  On January 31, 2013 at 10:19 am

    CSD should be studied carefully. In addition to preparing appropriate response TRIP WIRE POLICY should be declared.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: