Deterrence in South Asia is delicate because of rapid militarization and operationalisation of Indian Military’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). CSD has the potential not only to operationalise Indian military’s aggressive doctrine on the basis of pre-emption but can also trigger a nuclear conflict. Main purpose of Cold Start is to give a “punishing” reply to Pakistan in case of any alleged terrorist attack on Indian soil with totally different orientation of the Indian armed forces from defensive to offensive.
Under CSD the Indian army would carry out swift, quick and offensive joint operations against the Pakistan military. Main objective of such operations is to create an element of surprise and give no response time to thePakistan military. CSD would require reformation of the army’s offensive power into eight smaller division-sized Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) that would have mechanized infantry, artillery and armour. (Indian army’s division size is around 23,000 troops). These IBGs would be self-contained and highly-mobile, with Russian-origin T-90 MBT and upgraded T-72 M1 tanks at their core, adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into Pakistan within 72-96 hours. Possible deployment of these IBGs would be in Punjab and Rajastan sector close to the border with Pakistan.
In 2005 the Vajra Shakti Exercise, brought flexibility in its Holding corps or defensive corps. These holding corps were designated as Pivot corps. Pivot corps can initiate offensive if required in the battlefield. It would have offensive punch in it and could be used as mixed corps. According to the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen J J Singh, ‘‘They (Pivot Corps) have assigned roles, which are offensive as well as defensive and the doctrine does not spell them out in detail. The decision making has been left to theatre commanders, depending upon their assessment and evaluation of the situation. These pivot corps has an infantry division, armoured regiments and an independent mechanized brigade. Such a reformation in the Indian army shows its intentions to operationalise Cold Start Doctrine against Pakistan.
To operationalise this concept (CSD) the Indian military has carried out almost 10 major exercises close to the border with Pakistan. Main purpose of these exercises was to overcome the deficiencies in the Indian military and develop synergy and integration among the armed forces to carry out integrated operations against Pakistan. In these exercises the Indian Army introduced latest weapons and equipment, including Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation System-(LORROS), this system would enhance her surveillance, observation and targeting capabilities. In 2005 Indian military practiced Force Multiplication Command Post- (FMCP) to integrate real-time flow of information as a principal tool for decision making and NCW capabilities in the Indian Army.
The Indian Army has also worked hard to improve it capabilities to supply logistics in the dark formations without lights. In last six years the Indian military has practiced its capabilities to carry out Swift and Quick operations without any time barrier.
In 2007 the Indian military introduced its capabilities to fight a war in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) environment in the Ashwamedh exercise. This demonstrates that India is ready to wage a limited war under the nuclear umbrella. From 2004 to 2010 the Indian military practiced offensive operations with its special forces; it has tested its capabilities to carry out heli-borne operations behind the enemy lines. Such capabilities are essential as far as surgical strikes are concerned. In 2009 the Indian army carried out an exercise called Hind Shakti, on that occasion Indian army’s former Chief General Deepak Kapoor claimed that, “this exercise is another step in army’s continued venture to fine tune its Cold Start Doctrine” which shows Indian military’s continued efforts to operationalise this doctrine against Pakistan.
The years 2009 and 2010 were very important, as far as operationalisation of the CSD is concerned. In these years Indian military introduced and practiced, Intensive Electronic and Information Warfare capabilities, Satellite imagery, Helicopter borne operations and, Surveillance systems. Another important induction in the Indian military’s weapon and equipment were Battlefield Surveillance Radars (BFSRs) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs). All these inductions are serious threat to the national security of Pakistan.
In addition to that the Indian Air Force practiced its precision strike capabilities during day and night operations and also carried out a massive fire power blitzkrieg, they have also practiced their joint operations with the army and mechanised forces. Such synergy and integration is necessary for the quick and swift operations. Despite all these elements India is working to overcome shortages in the Indian military machine. To fill this gap India will spend around US $ 200 billion on defence acquisitions over the next 12 years. It has plans to buy 278 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters by 2015 from Russia and 1000 T-90 Tanks by 2020. The Indian Defence budget for 2011-12 has crossed the 34 billion $ mark. India has become the world’s biggest arms importer according SIPRI think tank 2011. All these trends are destabilising factors and would provoke arms race in the region.
On the nuclear side, India would be able to secure huge reserves of stockpiles under the Indo-US deal. Currently India possesses 500 kg plutonium and 11.5 metric tons of reactor grade plutonium in spent fuel. According to some estimates India would be able to increase its nuclear arsenal from 100 warheads currently to 300-400 warheads in the next five years, putting strategic stability of south Asia in disarray.
Indian Cold Start Doctrine and technological advancement in the conventional and nuclear field will bring qualitative and quantitative transformation in the Indian Military and impinge upon Pakistan’s national security interests. So keeping in view the strategic realities of South Asia it is advisable for Pakistan to take concrete measures to safeguard the National Security interests of Pakistan. Moreover it is imperative for the international community including US-EU-OIC-and SCO members to come forward and resolve the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, only then we can establish long term peace and stability in the region.
Note: Excerpts are taken from the research paper Masood Ur Rehman Khattak, “Indian Military’s Cold Start Doctrine: Capabilities, Limitations and Possible Response from Pakistan” SASSI Research Paper 42, September 2010.