Cold Start and South Asian Stability

A deterrent which one is afraid to implement when challenged ceases to be a deterrent. Henry Kissinger

India and Pakistan have remained in a state of rivalry for almost 63 years; more than the historic rivalry that existed between the US and USSR. Furthermore the transformation in their respective war doctrines have also remained locked in the historic traditions of British war fighting, battle plans and strategic outcomes. The force differential between the states in case of the army is almost 3:1. The latent conflict between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan makes continued strategic stability in South Asia uncertain. A breakdown of deterrence between the two would have serious consequences, including the potential use of nuclear weapons.

Since 1999 there have been two military crises involving India and Pakistan that escalated to the point where outside actors felt the need to intervene the outbreak of war. First in Kargil and then December 2001 attack on Indian Parliament building in New Delhi by Pakistan backed Kashmiri militants and the subsequent military standoff with Pakistan known as operation Parakram (Operation Victory), the Indian Army announced a new limited war doctrine in April 2004 that would allow it to mobilize quickly and undertake retaliatory attacks in response to Pakistan specific challenges posed by Pakistan’s Proxy War in Kashmir. This Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) marked a break from the fundamentally defensive orientation that the Indian Military has adopted since independence in 1947.

When we try to define the concept of CSD it dates back to April 2004 when the then Indian chief of Army staff divulged the new concept of ‘Cold Start’ which revolves around ‘the employment of ‘integrated battle groups’ for offensive operations. The ultimate goal of this limited war doctrine is to establish the capacity to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan that would wreak considerable mess up on the Pakistan Army before the International community could act as mediator, and at the same time, pursue narrow enough aims to deny Islamabad a justification to escalate the clash to the nuclear level.

The main charterstics of CSD are;
Element of Surprise
Integration among the armed forces
Quick and swift Day/ Night operations
Combine operation as mechanized infantry self propelled artillery and armour
Close air power /massive fire power
Aims would be limited
Major offensive to be launched in the first 72/96 hours for IBG’S (Infantry Brigades) to enter Pakistan territory and achieved primary objective
Robust command & control
Strikes below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold

While talking about the South Asian region and its Strategic Stability  it will be imperative to define what strategic stability is. In true sense Strategic Stability means the absence of conflict, war, and balance derives from the border needs, desires, concerns and national interests of state parties their military objectives. There are three approaches that are leading to Strategic Stability are: First, to exercise and manipulate threat through deterrence; second, the management of vulnerability through the assurance of safety, security and command & control; and the third, the management of threat through arms control and Confidence-building and threat reduction measures. These are all the challenges on the stability of the region by the newly drafted Cold Start doctrine (CSD) by India.

When we look at the draft of CSD by India it has largely jeopardized the security issues in the region and international environment. The possibility of growing prospect of an arms race in region is further exacerbated by the existing nuclear relationship. The introduction of the doctrine has solicited a Pakistani response and would be followed by the Pakistani counter measures as it would aim for strategic equivalence.

Although the current Pakistani response and conventional reconfiguration under Azm-e-Nou is solid, nonetheless, given the fact that the military budget of the two countries is 35 billion vs. 4 billion and is to have 80 per cent operationalised by year 2010. There is a need to draw further into what are response options available to Pakistan in the realm of the nuclear deterrence theory and whether the CSD has the ability to create a gap between conventional and nuclear deterrence. The battle effectiveness of the Pakistani capability is one such aspect. The contention is that it will erode nuclear deterrence as may make the use of strategic nuclear weapons irremediable during conflict, therefore, there is need to reconsider Pakistan’s deterrence posture.

To-date the Pakistani deterrence posture is based on minimum credible deterrence and centralised command and control and strategy value targeting. With the shift in the conventional military doctrine to smaller offensive units the problem is four fold, and requires a revisit on all issues regarding deterrence stability through credibility, communicability and capability.

National resolve plays a critical role in the final outcome of any war, however, the nuclear capability affords that the next wars may not be fought on the rationale of the fourth generation warfare. As this is neither 1965 nor 1971 where the cessation of war would lead to cessation of hostility at all levels. The end of war may see the beginning of war.

At the end we can easily draw some concluding points as:
Cold Start is a doctrine of prevention and punishment.
It is a strategy for a high intensity limited conflict.
The doctrine is meant to avert the risk of a nuclear confrontation or escalation.
When we talk about the region it is easy to say that the outcome of CSD is at right time, when we talk about International environment the outcome is wrong.
If the Pakistan army is proposed the fight a conventional war with India, it is ready to face Cold Start.

At present CSD remains more of a concept than a reality. Recent military exercises and associated organizational changes indicate that even though the Indian army has made progress toward developing and operational Cold Start capability, much work remains. Nevertheless, this is a development that should continue to be studied. Relative conventional parity has been a corner stone of the ugly stability that exists on the sub-continent. Not only does enhanced war fighting ability threaten that stability, but as the Indian army progresses towards a Cold Start capability, the political pressure to employ such a strategy in a time of crisis only increases.

By: Moazam Bashir Tarar


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