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Cold Start Doctrine

India unveiled its “Cold Start” War Doctrine to Army Commanders on April 28, 2004. The plan would be used in the case(s) of perceived acts of strategic de-stabilization of India, proxy war, and/or terrorism perpetrated by or linked to Pakistan. The initiative is aimed at mobilizing the entire Indian armed forces within 72 hours and mounting a rapid , time- and distance- limited incursion into Pakistan.Adittionally, "It assumes that militants from Pakistan, and not home grown Indian radicals, are responsible for any actions". Territory would be captured and then used to compel Islamabad to negotiation with the goal of reigning in militant groups that have acted against India.

The assumptions of the Indian Doctrine are: (1) act offensively against Pakistan for any perceived acts of strategic destabilisation of India, proxy war and terrorism (2) move away from India's defensive mindset of the past 50 years (3) prepare to undertake offensive military operations at the outset (4) undertake offensive operations short of the nuclear threshold (5) the vast majority of Indian public will support any war putting Pakistan into place and forces it "to desist from proxy war and terrorism against India." India's doctrine of "Cold Start" involves swift penetration of Pakistan with the aim of isolating, destroying or capturing vital points (such as nuclear stores and other installations).

A battle strategy such as "Cold Start" could only be successful if the following political parameters were met:

  • Political willingness to use offensive military power
  • Political willingness to use pre-emptive military strategies
  • Political judgment to view strategic military objectives with clarity
  • Political determination to pursue military operations to their ultimate conclusion without succumbing to external pressures
  • Political determination to cross the nuclear threshold if Pakistan seems so inclined

Such a strategy did exist in NATO and was taught at the Royal British Army Staff College. “Integrated” groups for offensive operations existed at three levels: a “combat group” and “combat command” based at a divisional or brigade Headquarters (armored/infantry mechanized) would command a variable number of “battle groups” (based on an armored regiment/mechanized infantry battalion Headquarters), which consisted of “combat teams” (based on an armored squadron/mechanized infantry company Headquarters). The groupings at each level were task-oriented in terms of their individual composition of armor and infantry elements, integrated attack helicopters and surveillance helicopters from Army Aviation, and ground attack squadrons from the Air Force. Command and control helicopters were available as well.

Any future conflict scenario involving a “blitzkrieg” type strategy would require joint operations involving the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and Indian Navy. After the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001, the government asked the army to mobilize 'Operation Parakram', a full military mobilization. It took 27 days to do so. After numerous training exercises, the full mobilization of the Indian armed forces had been cut down to 48 hours. The Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy have carried out 11 exercises involving 50,000 troops between 2004 and 2011. As of July 2011, the Indian military carried out a 6-day-long joint exercise, “Vijay Bhava”, in the Bikaner-Suratgarh axis in the Rajasthan desert, only 70 kilometers from the Pakistan border. This exercise involved blitzkrieg-type armored penetration into Pakistan followed by mechanized infantry and rapid divisions and testing of the Indian Army’s night-time operational capabilities. India has made it clear that it will undertake offensive operations against Pakistan, short of the nuclear threshold, if properly provoked. India could initiate a pre-emptive strike as a warning or initiate full offensive operations straight away without giving Pakistan the time to bring diplomacy into the equation; a short mobilization time of 48 hours gives Indian the element of surprise.

From the 1965 war through the Indian Army's Brass Tacks exercise in 1987, Pakistan's emphasis was on static defence at the border. Three heavy infantry holding formations, IV, XXX, and XXXI Corps, were tasked with countering Indian thrusts in their immediate areas. Penetration of Indian territory would be undertaken only on an opportunity basis. This concept of operations was inadequate, given the lack of strategic depth in Pakistan. Eventually it was realized that a "stand and fight" doctrine would probably result in deep penetration by Indian forces, without Pakistani forces being able to maneuver effectively. The Indian Army could gain the initiative, destroying Pakistani formations piecemeal as they reacted to Indian thrusts.

Pakistan's "Riposte" was simple in concept: the two Strike Corps would conduct a limited advance along narrow fronts to occupy Indian territory near the border, probably to a depth of about 50 kilometers. I Corps (Mangla) and II Corps (Multan) were armor heavy "strike" corps. Independent Armoured and Mechanized Brigades were intended for quick counter attack and exploitation and would add weight to advances by the Strike Corps. Pakistan was thought to believe that international pressure would result in a ceasefire after a maximum of 3 weeks of conflict, which would be enough time to gain some territory to be used in subsequent bargaining.

The "Riposte" was practiced at all levels. Major excercises involved the crossing of water obstacles and minefields at night with emphasis on subsequent break-out and rapid advance. Complete mechanization of the Strike Corps and other formations to achieve desired mobility was slowed by the effects of US sanctions. By 2008, US Army surplus equipment was being rapidly delivered, and local manufacture and rebuilding of US supplied AFV/APC had received considerable impetus, thus improving the mechanization process.

Initially there was acceptance of Indian penetration of Pakistani territory, which was seen as inevitable, given the comparitive lack of mobility within the Infantry Divisions. India's doctrine of "Cold Start" resulted in some modification to the Riposte, since acceptance of penetration could be fatal to counter-penetration plans.

In the event of an Indian advance reaching or crossing the line of the main Lahore-Karachi highway, there could be consideration of employment of tactical nuclear missiles. The Indian army/airforce excercise Vajra Shakti (Thunder Power) conducted in Punjab from 1 to 10 May 2005), emphasized maintaining mobility while operating under nuclear attack. Pakistan's nuclear battlefield preparedness was patchy, and it was doubtful that even the Strike Corps could fight under nuclear attack.

Others suggested that "instead of seeking a better bargaining position vis a vis India, through capture of sensitive territory, a riposte, Pakistan should adopt a destruction-oriented strategy, fighting on our own territory, permitting penetrations by the enemy. This would allow Pakistan to destroy the forces that make these penetrations by using the reserves. Such a strategy would erode India's numerical superiority and its ability to threaten Pakistan with a long war."

The Indian Army’s combat potential could be best realized by eliminating the distinction between "strike corps" and "defensive corps" in ground-holding roles. The Defensive Corps, in the form of independent armored brigades and mechanized brigades, would serve as the spearhead for the operation due to their forward locations; they would be employed at the first go and mobilized within hours. The Strike Corps would then be regrouped and reinforced to provide additional offensive elements for these eight or so “battle groups” to launch strikes into Pakistan. All combatants would be fully integrated with the Indian Air Force and with naval aviation assets in the Southern Sector. To achieve this, India’s strike corps elements would have to be relocated from existing garrisons closer to the border.

India can deploy four Strike Corps against Pakistan, one each against the Southern part of Azad Kashmir, Central Punjab, Southern Punjab and one against Sindh. They have the necessary balance to focus their attack in a combination of two or even three corps but time and space dictate they cannot move more than one strike corps on any axis and they have to cater for Pakistan's counter-offensive.

With all 3 Armoured Divisions and 4 RAPID Divisions, and 2 out of 5 Independent Armoured Brigades concentrated in Rajasthan, the resource allocation makes the offensive targets either along the Jaisalmer-Rahimyar Khan axis or along the Barmer-Mirpurkhas axis. In 2005 the "South-Western Command" was created at Jaipur. Their likely main thrust remains the deep South Barmer-Mirpurkhas axis with secondary effort in the Jaisalmer-Rahimyarkhan area.

Since no ground offensive is possible in the Thar Desert without heavy air cover, India's air deployment in 2002 suggested that the focus of their strike corps could well be in the south (Western and Southern Commands).

The physical deployment of Indian forces on Pakistan’s borders was downplayed by the Indian military. As of 2011, the deployment consisted of the following:

  • Corps comprising two infantry divisions, an infantry brigade and XVI Corps consisting of three infantry divisions, an armour brigade, and an artillery brigade are deployed against Pakistan in Indian occupied Kashmir.
  • XI Corps having three infantry divisions, an armour brigade, and a mechanized brigade; and X Corps consisting of one infantry (regular) division and three Rapid Deployment infantry divisions were facing Pakistan in Punjab.
  • In Haryana there were two (Strike) Corps with one armored division, two infantry divisions (one Rapid & one regular), another armour brigade, and one brigade of Engineers.
  • Rajasthan had XII (Desert) Corps which has two infantry divisions, one armour brigade, and one mechanized infantry brigade.

In addition to this deployment on Pakistan’s borders, as of 2011 the Indians had the following forces suitably placed to reinforce the forces deployed on its borders:

  • XXI Strike Corps supported by an armored division, additional Rapid infantry division with an armour brigade, an Engineers brigade.
  • I Strike Corps with an infantry division, a mountain division, and an armored division.

This showed that 70% of Indian forces were physically deployed against Pakistan. In fact, India had only 4 of their remaining Corps deployed against other bordering nations.

Pakistan's assumptions about "Cold Start" are: (1) offensive operations would commence without giving Pakistan time for diplomacy and (2) offensive operations would not cross the nuclear threshold or prompt Pakistan into crossing it. India implies that, should Pakistan opt for crossing the threshold, the onus would lie squarely on Pakistan. The ability to hold limited portions of Pakistan with military might and use this for political leverage against Pakistan would be unacceptable, triggering a ground war as well as a possible nuclear exchange.

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Page last modified: 18-07-2011 14:35:36 ZULU