During the prestigious Defense Day celebrations held in GHQ on 6 December 2015, General Raheel Sharif gave a very clear message to the Indians that we are fully prepared to face any type of aggression, may it be conventional or non-conventional, Hot or Cold Start. The terminologies of Conventional and Non Conventional wars are well conversant to the people whereas Hot Start was rather a mock or a slip of tongue. However, Cold Start is a new terminology coined by Indian Generals, which is alien to most of the Pakistanis.

Conceptually, Cold Start is an Indian military doctrine which has been evolved by the Indian Generals to swiftly “punish” Pakistan for its alleged “nefarious activities” in India, in a short time before Pakistan could get away with it by involving a third party like, UNO or USA, leaving no time for Indian military to react. It also aims at giving no reaction time to the Indian Political Government to leash the offensive due to international or any other political pressure. The centre of gravity of this doctrine lies in the advantage of time and space by grouping the offensive force into numerous WW II German styled Panzer like mechanised divisions, capable of attacking and capturing around 30 to 50 kms of area in Pakistan territory within 24 hours. In order to achieve this capability, these mechanised divisions have been appropriately grouped and allocated with requisite resources to have required speed, mobility, and firepower supplemented by local air superiority. This paradigm shift from the old doctrine where the heavy offensive corps located in central India used to take about 25 to 27 days to get mobilised has been claimed to be reduced to only 48 hours in case of these mechanised divisions. This advantage in time has also been supplemented by the capability for speed and swift action with a view to paralysing Pakistani forces by simultaneously attacking different places and leaving no reaction time for Pakistani commanders to take viable decisions. According to the old doctrine, the heavy and slow offensive corps’ actions were aimed at attacking and capturing areas deep into Pakistan territory and slicing the Country into two as against the Cold Start doctrine which is aimed at capturing and holding small chunks of lands at different places with additional advantage to trade against the lost areas subsequently.

The Cold Start doctrine has actually been derived from the concept of Blitzkrieg which was conceived and effectively implemented in WW II by the famous German General Gudarian, who grouped the tanks with mobile infantry and artillery, mounted on tracked vehicles to coup up with the speed of tanks with dedicated air cover. The aim of this grouping of different elements of arms had been to provide speed, mobility and fire power to the attacking force, intimately combined together and hitting the enemy like a punch. It was Blitzkrieg doctrine which enabled the German forces to break through the famous French Maginot Line which was considered to be impregnable and overrun Ardennes, the impassable.

As regards to Pakistan’s reaction, the doctrine undermines Pakistan’s military in terms of numbers and given the capability of the mechanised divisions as mentioned above, believes that few of the multiple onslaughts of these divisions at a number of theatres would be successful. However, in terms of non-conventional warfare, the doctrine presumes that since Indian offensive would not be heavy and deep and only aimed at “biting and holding” small chunks of lands in Pakistan territory, that would not give Pakistan a cogent reason to cross the nuclear threshold. However, if Pakistan does so, in that case, India would finally survive having more strategic depth against Pakistan, which would be completely annihilated.

Cold Start doctrine has many flaws; it may look very good on papers but is basically not in consonance with the psyche of Indian Army. Basing on the past experience of four wars, Indian Army has shown reactive and slow responses. Indian Military training environment is basically more bookish, designed and trained to plan meticulously which results in lack of initiative and slow reactions. Whereas the doctrine demands very swift, aggressive and proactive actions, which call for a complete change of environment for training and development, a time consuming factor.  In the past wars, Indian Army, in order to ensure victory has shown reliance on overwhelming majority which results in employment of excess forces in an area with little regard to the consideration of terrain; the most important factor in military strategy, which results in heavy casualties; a great demoralising factor. The second greatest tank battle of Chawinda fought in September 1965 is a glaring example of this strategy; where India pumped in an armour division and was beaten back by only one tank regiment of Pakistan Army inflicting 160 tank casualties. While relying on overwhelming majority, the capability of Pakistan Army to halt, absorb and counter attack the Indian onslaught and to launch its offensive corps’ in retaliation have also been undermined. Finally, their perception for Pakistan’s reaction not to cross the nuclear threshold is again misplaced by Indian Military. Pakistan having very low depth as compared to India is highly vulnerable and is likely to use its nukes; minimum at the tactical level, whenever feels a serious threat to its sovereignty.

Although the Indian Military officially deny of having any such doctrine and propagate that they only maintain defensive posture, however, they have cunningly kept it a ‘leaked secret’ with a view to deter Pakistan. As per analysts’, the Cold Start doctrine is only a deterrent which can never be implemented. It is designed to keep the Pakistani Generals preoccupied and busy. It’s like the Star Wars (Strategic Defense Initiative Doctrine) coined by the USA during cold war period to deter USSR, which did not actually exist. 

At the international level the Cold Start doctrine is looked upon with suspicion and concern, the former with regard to the capability of Indian Army for its implementation and the later for escalation of tension in South Asia between two nuclear powers. As per their opinion, in retaliation to the new doctrine, Pakistan would be forced to produce tactical nukes (small nuclear bombs having localised effects) and in case these tactical nukes fall into the hands of terrorists, it would be the West or even Pakistan which would be affected and not India in any case.

Given the mass and volume of Indian Military as compared to Pakistan which is manifold, supplemented by the aggressive designs as envisaged in the Cold Start doctrine, poses a serious threat to Pakistan. This doctrine besides creating hype in arms race between two countries will also have a heavy cost on their national exchequers, pushing the populations into deep poverty. India has to be mindful of the reality that Pakistan Army being one of the best armies of the world complemented by its indigenously produced modern military hardware to include Al-Khalid tanks, JF thunder aircrafts and recently manufactured drones having laser guided missiles has the complete capability to destroy any aggression on its borders even in the Indian territory before any assembly of forces. In addition, Pakistan’s nuclear capability at the tactical and strategic levels with excellent delivery systems supplemented by the second strike capability has an effective deterrent. The daring message given by General Raheel Sharif is no doubt an indication that we are ready for any Cold or Hot adventure. His statement will hopefully remind Indian Military not to play with the balance of power in this region.