What the Indian Army Chief’s reiteration of the Cold Start Doctrine means for Pakistan and the region

India’s constant aggressive moves give ominous signals to the international community that South Asia is in a state of perpetual conflict

2017-02-09T12:52:22+05:00 Beenish Altaf

Despite many denials, the lid has finally blown up over the Indian Cold Start Doctrine . This is done by an Indian official who is credible enough to quote and declare that India is on it officially. Gen. Bipin Rawat, Indian Army Commander-in-chief, blazed a new conflagration by acknowledging that the Cold Start Doctrine exists for conventional military operations in an interview on January 4, 2017, few days after his appointment as the Army Chief. He is the first senior Indian official, military or civilian, to do so as previously all the Indian chiefs avoided using the term Cold Start and preferred calling it a ‘proactive strategy’.

This ‘proactive strategy’ option is actually a more aggressive move. It’s worth mentioning here that India has declared the policy of no-first use of nuclear weapons, but all its belligerent steps are pointing towards offensive moves and strategies. It actually threatens Pakistan from its conventional asymmetric preeminence relationship. Islamabad must be prepared for Delhi opting for nuclear first-use, even more so with hardliners like Manohar Parrikar, Ajit Davol and Sushma Sawraj at the helm.

Contrariwise, Pakistan has developed its battlefield nuclear weapons — Tactical Nuclear Weapons — primarily in response to Indian CSD for an assured defensive formation of launching a counter-offensive strike. Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry once outlining the conditions and options for TNW usage said:

“Pakistan’s low-yield weapons were meant to lower the threshold for nuclear escalation to counter the perceived logic of Cold Start.”

The Cold Start Doctrine is actually a war fighting scheme that calls on India’s conventional forces to perform holding attacks before international intervention, or before nuclear retaliation from Pakistan. It is believed that this doctrine is a step that would break down the deterrence in between both nations; consequently it would cause serious consequences, including the potential use of nuclear weapons. India has consistently denied having such a stance, but in 2011 Army Chief General V K Singh admitted there was a proactive strategy in place. The deployment of Indian tanks would be a key to the strategy, as they are key offensive assets to launch rapid attacks in Pakistani territory.

Ironically, Indian Chief’s reiteration of Cold Start Doctrine is read as a fundamental exodus from New Delhi’s previous policy of proactive strategy and intended to signal Pakistan a nasty message. Therefore, it would be pertinent to mention here that Pakistan has not ruled out the option of using tactical nuclear weapons if India ever thought to launch any cross-border attack inside Pakistan, whether from ground or through air strikes. Tactical weapons are usually delivered by short-range ballistic missiles that Pakistan does possess, which could effectively counter a Cold Start strike. Moreover, Pakistan can relocate its defensive formations near the Indian borders where it is deploying more than 460 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs), substantially increasing its already sizable tank force.

Though India has always maintained an extensive amount of tank force along the India-Pakistan border line, this time there is confirmation by some Indian senior defense officials to IHS Jane 360 that Indian Army is planning to deploy the nearly 500 (exactly 464) newly ordered T-90MS MBTs along India’s western and northern borders with Pakistan. The MBTs have been specifically designed for export by Russia, at a cost of INR134.80 billion or $2 billion. These new MBTs will replace the already deployed 850-900 Bhishma MBTs or the T-90S Bhishma tanks in the Indian states of Rajasthan and Punjab —both bordering Pakistan. This new T-90 is the main battle tank of the Indian Army, replacing the older variants of T-72 and T-55 tanks in the force.

This alarming increase in the tanks' capability on the border could indicate that India is preparing to methodically activate and implement its Cold Start doctrine , which is endorsed from the recent rotating wave of CSD by the new Indian Army Chief. This would evidently result in a devastating impact for the entire region as Cold Start Doctrine is a war fighting doctrine that would certainly lead the way to a full-fledged nuclear response, once the option of tactical nuclear weapons is exercised from the other side. It categorically vindicates Pakistan’s apprehension about Indian plans to use rapid-mobilization limited war operations in any future confrontation.

Meanwhile, on the global level, India’s constant aggressive moves, one after the other, give ominous signals to the international community that South Asia is in a state of perpetual conflict. Recently, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, the then US Vice President Joe Biden expressed his concerns in a speech over the rise of nuclear weapons in Europe, East and especially South Asia. This could be related to the recent official acknowledgment of Indian Cold Start Doctrine , also to the mobilization of Indian battle forces to the border. As a result, the response from Pakistani side would also be similar to ensure its sovereignty. This is the only way to impede the efforts to malign Islamabad.

 

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