The Cold Start Doctrine is a military doctrine developed by the Indian armed forces to be used in war against Pakistan. Even though, Indian government and armed forces do not acknowledge its existence many experts believe the doctrine is in place since 2004 and Indian armed forces have been working on to build resources and undertaking exercises for successful execution in case of a war with Pakistan.

What is Cold Start Doctrine?

India introduced Cold Start doctrine in the wake of Kargil conflict and its failure to subdue Pakistan in 2001-2002 military standoff after the attack on its Parliament. India was unable to achieve its objectives because of international pressure and threat of nuclear escalation. The assumption behind the doctrine is that there is adequate space for conventional military operations between the sub-conventional and nuclear war. Cold Start doctrine aims to exploit this by fighting short and limited war under a nuclear shadow. The main objective of the Cold Start Doctrine is to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan inflicting significant harm on the Pakistan Army before any international community could intercede, but not in way Pakistan would be provoked to make a nuclear attack.

Cold Start is expected to achieve three goals:

  1. inflict significant attrition on enemy forces;
  2. retain Pakistani territory for use as a postcolonial bargaining chip; and,
  3. by limiting the depth of Indian incursions, avoid triggering a Pakistani nuclear response

Under this doctrine, Indian Army would carry out swift, quick and offensive joint operations with the support of its Air Force and air elements of Navy while giving no time to Pakistan to respond.

Indian military’s Cold Start doctrine requires reformation of Indian Army’s offensive power in into smaller division sized Integrated Battle Groups that would have mechanized infantry, artillery and armour. The IBGs would be self-contained units and highly-mobile, with tanks at their core, adequately backed by air cover and artillery fire assaults, for rapid thrusts into Pakistan within 48 hours. Network Centric Warfare (NCW) and Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities of the Indian Army and air force with robust command and control at its core would be employed to maximum effect. Synergy and integration between the Indian forces would be essential elements of the Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). Joint operations of three forces are key element of this doctrine.

Indian Military‟s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) places major emphasis on the speed of both deployment and operations. By moving forces into unpredictable locations at high speed and opening up eight different fronts would put Pakistan Army in quandary. It would be difficult for Pakistan Army to respond and fight on multiple different fronts.
Relevance of Cold Start Doctrine

Relevance of Cold Start Doctrine

Cold Start Doctrine is relevant in several ways. First, it indicates a shift for Indian Armed forces from defensive to offensive stance. At the same time it challenges Pakistan’s projected low nuclear threshold as well as lowers India’s own threshold against sub conventional attacks by Pakistan through proxies. The doctrine has been developed to exploit India’s conventional prowess and inflicting punitive damage to Pakistan in case of a major sub conventional attack on Indian soil without escalating it to a nuclear level. Though, the Cold Start Doctrine aims to exploit the space between India’s threshold for sub conventional offensive and Pakistan’s nuclear threshold, many experts believe this may escalate into a full-fledged nuclear war.