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Indian Military Is Said to Revise Its War Doctrine

January 18, 2017 (Photo Credit: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI — India is likely to revisit the Cold Start doctrine, which foresees short, intense and quick wars with neighboring Pakistan and China against the backdrop of terrorism and nuclear threats.

The Cold Start doctrine would prepare the Indian military for rapid mobility of armor and troops across the border and complete a mission before the nuclear threshold is reached, a senior Indian Army official said.

"The Cold Start strategy will be discussed in the near future between the top military leadership as part of a new war doctrine," the senior Army official added.

No Ministry of Defence official would confirm whether the Cold Start doctrine is under consideration.

"The [Cold Start] strategy was not shelved; only different names were given to the same, such as preemptive offensive or preemptive limited operations and so on," said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst.

However, the Cold Start doctrine is likely to heighten military tension between Indian and Pakistan, analysts say.

"Essential risk [of the Cold Start doctrine] is that of triggering a nuclear exchange," Bhonsle said.

However, Gurmeet Kanwal, also a retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst, said: "Indian political and military leaders and strategic analysts believe that there is clear strategic space for a conventional conflict below the nuclear threshold because nuclear weapons are not weapons of war fighting. They are convinced that for Pakistan, it would be suicidal to launch a nuclear strike against India or Indian forces, as it would invite massive retaliation."

The Cold Start doctrine certainly has a chance of being adopted under the current Narendra Modi government, according to a second Indian Army official.

"While there is much talk, the government of the day knows the inherent risk of escalation in a nuclear war in the Indian context, thus caution may be the order of the day," Bhonsle noted.

"The Cold Start doctrine essentially will prepare for the next wars, which will emerge on short notice, will be of short duration, and will be fought at high tempo and intensity," according to Nitin Mehta, a defense analyst here. "The doctrine would mean combined operations by air, land and sea forces, which will require greater coordination headed by a senior military official."

If the doctrine is adopted by the government, it will lead to the procurement of specialized weaponry and equipment, the second Army official said. "There would be a shift from platform-centric to network-centric warfare. Apart from quick mobility platforms in air, there would be need for variety of quick military vehicles ... there will be an urgent need to upgrade intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities along the borders with both China and Pakistan."
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