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What is India’s Cold Start doctrine?

The Cold Start doctrine envisages swift deployment of troops on the western border within days if a situation of a full blown war arises. The operation would be carried out by a unified battle group involving various branches of India's military.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Thursday that his country is prepared to counter the ‘Cold Start doctrine’ adopted by the Indian Army for which it has developed short-range nuclear weapons, news agency PTI reported.

While the Cold Start doctrine had been in place for years, the government as well as the Army always stated otherwise. It was only recently that Army Chief Bipin Rawat owned up to it when he took charge this year.

A look at what is India’s ‘Cold Start’ doctrine

The ‘Cold Start’ doctrine of the Indian Armed Forces envisages swift deployment of troops on the western border within days if a situation of a full-blown war arises. This doctrine aims to allow Indian forces to conduct sustained attacks while preventing a nuclear retaliation from Pakistan. The operation would be carried out by a unified battle group involving various branches of India’s military.

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It was after the conclusion of Operation Parakram in the year 2002, a military standoff between India and Pakistan, that the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine began to find a place in the Indian military setup. In the 2002 standoff, which was a result of the attack on Parliament by Pakistan-backed Kashmiri militants, the Indian Army took almost two months to be able to mobilise and deploy troops on the Pakistan border. Defence strategists began talking about the new doctrine of the Indian Army that would enable it to deploy a full strength invasion force within a few days notice, unlike several weeks of preparation that were required earlier.

This doctrine moved away from the defensive strategies employed by the Indian military since the country’s independence in 1947. It aimed at reducing the time required to mobilise troops and develop a network-centric warfare, one enabled by information technology to ensure well-planned geographical distribution of forces. Also, the combat strategy was to involve limited armoured thrusts with infantry and necessary air support.

The Cold Start doctrine sought to prepare the army in such a manner that offensive operations could be undertaken within 48 hours of the orders being issued, enabling the Indian troops to take their Pakistani counterparts by surprise.

However, earlier in 2010, India denied employing any such doctrine when US had taken up concerns by Pakistan on the perceived Cold Start strategy of the Indian Army. “There is nothing called ‘Cold Start’. As part of our overall strategy we have a number of contingencies and options, depending on what the aggressor does. In the recent years, we have been improving our systems with respect to mobilisation, but our basic military posture is defensive,” then Army Chief General V K Singh told No ‘Cold Start’ doctrine, India tells the US

General Singh had said while active defence is part of the defensive strategy, India does not have any territorial ambitions. “We are not aggressors; however active defence is part of our defensive strategy. India is a peace loving nation and does not covet any territory,” he said.