Is the Indian Military Capable of Executing the Cold Start Doctrine?


Is the Indian Military Capable of Executing the Cold Start Doctrine?
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The Indian Army’s so-called Cold Start doctrine (CSD), also known as Pro-Active doctrine, a doctrine geared toward swift offensive operations into enemy territory, will be war-gamed in February, followed by field exercises in May, according to Indian media reports. News of the war games and military exercises earlier this month were followed by the test of the nuclear-capable Nasr close-range ballistic missile by the Pakistani Army Strategic Forces Command in late January. The development and deployment of the Nasr is seen by many analysts as a direct response to India’s plans to implement Cold Start in the event of conflict with Pakistan.

For a long time, India officially denied the existence of CSD. However, in January 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat for the first time publicly acknowledged the doctrine in an interview: “The Cold Start doctrine exists for conventional military operations. Whether we have to conduct conventional operations for such strikes is a decision well thought through, involving the government and the Cabinet Committee on Security.”

The remarks came as a surprise to many given that the Indian Army had apparently scrapped its limited war concept following then Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh’s public announcement that CSD did not exist, although he did acknowledge that the Indian Army possessed a “pro-active strategy” for war with Pakistan. Islamabad in response began building low-yield tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, to bolster its deterrence posture, Pakistan continues to refuse to adopt a no-first use nuclear doctrine.

Cold Start was reportedly devised following the Indian Army failure to mobilize quickly in response to the December 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. India’s mobilization along the so-called Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir, codenamed Operation Parakram, occurred at a slow pace and it took three weeks for the Indian military to move 500,000 troops and three armored divisions and support units (the so-called strike corps) to the border. (The Indian military also sustained around 400 casualties during mine-laying operations.)

The delay allowed the Pakistan Army to mobilize and move 300,000 troops including its own two strike corps, the Army Reserve North and Army Reserve South, to the contested border. Lacking strategic surprise, the Indian military withdrew after a 10-month standoff. In after action reviews, the military concluded that the size of the strike corps made them difficult to maneuver and that the lack of offensive capability of the so-called holding corps was a serious handicap for quick military actions against Pakistan.

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