Cold start doctrine


Regular Member
Jan 31, 2010

by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Background:

The Indian Army unveiled its new war doctrine, a year ago, on 28 April 2004, and naming it as the Cold Start War Doctrine. Thereafter, in ensuing twelve months, the new war doctrine was circulated to all the Army Commands for discussion and comments at formation levels. In tandem, the Army Training Command (ARTRAC) and the Army War College were tasked to fine-tune the operational concepts of the doctrine.

Before moving further, it needs to be stressed that neither the Congress Government of the day nor the Indian Army should get lulled into complacency by the so called peace-process offensive launched by General Musharraf. While the politicians and the media may term this peace-process as irreversible, India s military history and military logic does not suggest so. Hence the Indian Armys formulation of new war doctrines and validating the operational concepts through exercises is a timely step.

While the Indian Army understandably, did not release the finer text of this new war doctrine, except for some salient characteristics, this author with his exposures at the Royal British Army Staff College Camberly, NATO Armies and US Army in Germany, Japan and South Korea could analyse in great detail the Cold Start War Doctrine with special reference to Indian conditions. Readers may refer to the following SAAG Papers of this author:

India's New Cold Start War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed. (SAAG Paper No. 991 dated 04.05.2004)
Indian Armys New Cold Start War Doctrine Strategically Reviewed-Part II: Additional Imperatives (SAAG Paper No.1013 dated 01.06.2004).
Following the publication of the above two papers of this author, other websites in India and Pakistan reproduced these papers and generated an exciting debate on the pros and cons. In fact on one website, the debate still continues, even after a year.

Cold Start War Doctrine- The Military Significance in the South Asian Context:

The military significance of the Cold Start War Doctrine in the South Asian contest is being highlighted for the benefit of new readers, who may not have gone through the earlier papers referred above.

The major points of military significance in the South Asian context can be analysed as under:

The Indian Army after 50 years or so of defensive mindsets has finally put itself in an offensive operations mode. The defensive mind-set was imposed on the Indian Army by the political leadership of India who shied away and did not have the political will to use military power to secure the countrys national security interests.
Indian Army has indicated that it now has plans and is ready to act offensively against Pakistan , or any other South Asian actor indulging in proxy war and terrorism against India .
Indian Army will now be prepared to undertake offensive military operations at the very outset of hostilities breaking out. This is to deny Pakistan , or any other hostile South Asian state from counting on external intervention by their external patrons.
India has in declaratory terms enunciated that it will undertake offensive operations short of nuclear war
Though not in declaratory terms, but implicit in its intentions to bring the switch to offensive operations mode as a key element of strategy, India may also be conveying that military intervention or pre-emptive military strikes could be also a military option in South Asia .

Extending this analysis into the nuclear warfare domain, one could say that the addition to Indias Draft Nuclear Doctrine that India would retaliate with nuclear weapons if Indian Armed Forces are subjected to nuclear, biological or chemical strikes, would provide a nuclear umbrella to Cold Start War Doctrine offensive strikes into Pakistan.

The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force has commenced the process of validation of the operational concepts of the new war doctrine. The first major exercise in this process, Exercise VAJRA SHAKTI took place in early May 2005 in the Punjab sector.

Ex VAJRA SHAKTI would be followed by a series of other exercises in the Rajasthan Sector in winter.

Ex VAJRA SHAKTI- The Salient Features:

Ex VAJRA SHAKTI was a 10 day exercise which took place in early May 2005. Ex VAJRA SHAKTI involved exercising an infantry division and an independent mechanized brigade of 11 Corps. along with associated armoured elements, integral to the Corps, to carry put offensive strikes at the outbreak of hostilities.

The significance of Ex. VAJRA SHAKTI lies in the fact that for the first time the Indian Army exercised an erstwhile defensive operations holding Corps in the Western Sector in offensive operations. Such defensive Corps would now be termed as Pivot Corps. These Pivot Corps while defensively preventing any Pakistani military adventurism into Indian territory , will concurrently launch offensive operations into enemy territory which could then be exploited by other strike formations.

The salient features of Ex. VAJRA SHAKTI, as collated from open sources, were as under:

Offensive strike operations were carried out by a Pivot Corps employing from its own resources an infantry division, armoured regiments and an independent mechanized brigade.
The above offensive operations were exercised against the backdrop of a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare threat from the enemy.
Special Forces were employed in pre-emptive strikes for furtherance of the offensive operations.
Since Cold Start War Doctrine envisages swift, day and night operations, the offensive strikes were supported by advanced C4I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence) network and systems.
The above included the establishment of a Force Multiplication Command Post for integration and flow of real-time information of the enemy to combat units, collected by satellites, UAVs, aerial reconnaissance, radar networks, communication intercepts etc. Digital photographs of the enemy areas were transmitted real time to forward combat units, facilitating speedy decision-making by Commanders.
Exercising of all of the above could be termed as the commencement of network-centric warfare in the Indian Army.
Information-dominance of the battlefield was practiced by use of electronic warfare systems.
The Indian Air Force provided 130 sorties for this exercise in a variety of roles from reconnaissance, fighter aircraft strikes, attack helicopter operations and Special Forces operations.
It can be assumed that based on the lessons learnt in Ex VAJRA SHAKTI and their review, the other PIVOT CORPS of the Indian Army would similarly be exercised.

Some Points for Consideration by Indian Army Commanders:

The Indian Army has never lacked in military competence, drive and determination in the conduct of military operations with the exception of the 1962 debacle, which squarely in terms of responsibility lay on Prime Minister Nehru, Indias diplomats in China, Nehrus close advisors and the Intelligence Bureau chief. Taking-off from this, Indian Army Commanders in relation to Cold Start War Doctrine need to ponder on the following points.

Political decision-making and directions by the Government of the day; what systems need to be put into place for speedy political decision-making and the ensuing crisis management, so that military operations are not ham-strung and surprise, the most essential ingredient of this doctrine, is not lost.
Offensive operations of this doctrine would necessarily rest on effective collection, collation and assessment of enemy information, in the pre-ceding peace-time period. Intelligence has been India s bane, and the Indian Army needs to be persistent on this score with the Government.
Offensive operations require an offensive mind-set in both officers and men. In the last 50 years or so, the Indian Army stood be-numbed with defensive mind-sets imposed by the political leadership. Indian Army Commanders need to set a peronal example in terms of boldness and professional audacity themselves and further motivate and imbue their commands by sustained motivation drives. Military audacity should be the hall-mark of Indian Army professionalism at all levels.
War preparedness of a high-order at all times in terms of strategic reserves of weapons, equipment, ammunition, accessories and petroleum, diesel and aviation funl is required. Cold Start War Doctrine offensive operations cannot be launched on incomplete inventories.
Similarly, strategic assets should not be worn out in peacetime disaster management. It was shocking to read in the media that the Indian Air Force aircraft meant for air-refueling in long range strikes, being used for carrying fuel to Kashmir Valley in the last winter; similar use of transport aircraft and helicopters is inexcusable. The Government should create separate assets for disaster management and not use Armed Forces assets earmarked for military operations, which as it is are difficult to replace due to inordinate delays generated by politicizing defence acquisitions, with change of governments.

Concluding Observations:

Military exercises are an invaluable component of a nations war-preparedness. War preparedness has to be an ongoing, vigilant and persistent effort. It cannot be based on the reading of intentions of nations adversary by the political leadership of the day. We went wrong in 1962 because of this fatal flaw. While peace proces can be perused, so also war preparedness with greater intensity and vigour.

Ex VAJRA SHAKTI has therefore been a welcome development. It needs to be followed up by similar exercises by the PIVOT CORPS and more importantly by the combat commands which will provide the cutting edge of Cold Start War Doctrine offensive strikes. The operational concepts need to be validated and fine-tuned by repeated exercises of this type. Then only victory will be ensured in war.


Regular Member
Jan 31, 2010
Igniting the ‘COLD START’ doctrine

Despite strategies on paper, our capability to face battle on two fronts is far from being achieved.

ARE we ready for a 21st-century war? The Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor’s reported comment on the revision of India’s “cold start” military doctrine to achieve the capability to take on China and Pakistan on two fronts at the same time might tempt us to answer in the affirmative to the above question.

But, as a nation of dreamers, our record in translating ideas into action has not been a happy one. Our well-crafted plans often remain just fine print on paper. Even in matters of national security, we have been lagging in giving life to our strategic concepts.

The Cold Start Doctrine was drawn up in 2004 when the bitter experience of Kargil was fresh in military planners’ minds. The war had laid bare our weaknesses in fighting wars in which terrorism and conventional operations are seamlessly interwoven. It also drove home the real possibility of a confrontation with Pakistan turning into a nuclear one.

The Doctrine focused on multiple offensive strikes against Pakistan, using battle groups of mechanized forces. The Doctrine was designed to cut down mobilization time after the hiccups during Op Parakrama in the wake of the terrorist attack on Parliament.

For any offensive doctrine to succeed, close air support, greater density of mechanized forces, heavier artillery firepower and high mobility are key elements. Most important, a forward-thinking political leadership with the mental strength to give a green signal is the fundamental requirement for pro-active offensive strategy.
Since 2004, the Army and Air Force have carried out a number of joint exercises with troops to test the doctrine. Similar joint exercises with the Navy have also been held. So the three services were on the ball in implementing the Cold Start strategy.

Sadly, the political leadership appeared to be cold to the Cold Start. Either it is not conscious of the key role it has to play in making a success of the doctrine or it is indifferent to the strategic requirements. It is difficult to understand Defence Minister AK Antony’s readiness to apologetically proclaim India’s peaceful intentions instead of chastizing the Pakistani Army for belligerently commenting on the two-front strategy. It was left to Pakistani columnist Ayaz Amir to do that. He said, “If an Indian Army chief were not to envisage the possibility of a two-front war, and mull over the means of waging it, he would deserve to be sacked.”

The Minister’s response brings home the truth that the leadership’s political priorities would always outweigh national security considerations. If the government had been serious about its role as per the 2004 doctrine, the three services would not be having huge backlogs today in their basic tools of trade. They are in bad shape for no fault of their making. In the words of veteran journalist Shekhar Gupta, “The larger state of our armed forces has begun to resemble 1962.”

The complacency seems to be all-pervasive. It is typical of the national attitude to security that it was left to the Comptroller and Auditor General to critically comment about the battle-worthiness of the armed forces!

Though as many as 12 well known defence manufacturers have been blacklisted for corrupt practices, not more than a handful at home have been indicted. Therein hangs a sordid tale of defence procurement. This is taking a toll of our combat readiness more than any strategic plans of adversaries.

The Army is still in the quest for tanks. Its missiles are not even of late 20th-Century vintage. Since 1987, new guns for the artillery have not been procured. Both the projects to manufacture 155 mm ammunition as well as buying 155 mm guns are in limbo. As a result, by 2008 the Army had to make do with just 400 plus Bofors guns as against its long-term plan for 3,600 artillery guns by 2025.We seem to be endlessly short listing weapons for procurement and not going beyond that. Then there is the manpower shortage with nearly 25 per cent deficiency in officers.

In spite of all the hype about the increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean, the Navy is not in happy shape. More than half of India’s submarines are not battle-ready. The CAG says 63 per cent of the submarine fleet would be ready for phase-out by 2012. The radars are too old and too few to provide any credible defence against an air attack. Submarine procurement and production are facing perpetual hiccups. And overall naval strength is at an alarming low of 135 ships!

The Air Force fares no better; from a 45-squadron force it is down to 32 squadrons. It is deficient of 136 fighters. The IAF’s radar acquisition plans have not been cleared due to repeated delays in the tendering process and objections by the CVC on the purchase of Israeli radars has led to a lowering of air defence capabilities. The Air Force’s story of woes seems endless.

The last straw was the report by a group of 13 scientists about the failure of the fusion test (H-bomb) during the Pokhran-II nuclear tests of 1998, contrary to official claims. This has cast grave doubts about our nuclear bomb capabilities. Even the service chiefs have expressed their concern on this.

Defence research and public sector responsible for manufacture of weapons and ammunition have been holy cows of successive governments. It is high time these cows are tethered and milked for accountability and productivity.

The two-front strategy is to handle an emerging strategic scene in which China is increasing its strategic reach in our neighbourhood in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. And the Pakistani Army is being modernized with American cash with obscurantism having come to stay.

The two-front doctrine is the strategic expression of India’s aspirations as a regional power graduating to a global power status. It envisages short and swift operations. As analyst Subhash Kapila says, “With a nuclear overhang with both Pakistan and China, the Indian military operations to neutralize the Chinese and Pakistani threats has to be fast-paced, facilitated by a high degree of synergy” between the Army, Navy and Air Force. That is why the Army chief has emphasized technology-oriented inputs of C4I2 (this is military acronym for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, and information technology) for activating the new doctrine.

Twenty-first Century military technology has compressed to minuscule proportions our reaction time in readiness for war. In a nuclear setting, even to survive, nations have much more to do in much less time. We have already wasted too much time; as a result, our two-front strategy is starting with its feet hobbled by outdated mindsets and methodologies, and indifferent political leadership.

But the silver lining is the increasing public awareness on these issues thanks to the media reach and hype. Our battles are here and now with ourselves to give the wherewithal to the armed forces to deliver what they promise.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.” It is time we accepted the truth and got ready.


Regular Member
Jan 31, 2010
Apologies!! I could not find it , so started a new one!! you can remove this!


Senior Member
Dec 1, 2009
How India's Cold Start is Turning the Heat on Pakistan

Pakistan's army generals are known to walk with a swagger. They have reason to. After all, they have been ruling the country of over 200 million people like their personal fiefdom for over half a century. Also, they are in an exclusive club of one – Pakistan is the only Islamic country that possesses nuclear weapons. (Just don't bring up the fact that these generals have lost four wars against India.) So why are they suddenly squirming after Wikileaks hit the ceiling?

According to a leaked cable, more than the al-Qaida, American drones or a hostile Afghan government, what is scaring the living daylights out of the Pakistani generals is Cold Start – India's version of blitzkrieg. So deeply does it dread this new war fighting strategy that the Pakistani military has cranked up its production of nuclear weapons, sparking a nuclear arms race in the region.

So what exactly is Cold Start and how is it changing the military equation in this part of the world? Will this new doctrine of war offer India more options in combating Pakistani adventurism and rolling back Islamic terrorism? Or will it contribute to more regional instability?

To get the subcontinental drift, one has to look at the Pakistani military mindset. Each of the four wars – in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 – was launched by the Pakistani military which factored in two key elements. One, despite their 0-4 record against India, it is ingrained in the Pakistani military that a Pakistani soldier is equal to 10 Indian soldiers, and therefore India's defenses should quickly collapse. There was also the bizarre belief – eerily still a serious consideration at the highest echelons of Pakistani military decision making – that divine intervention will be a decisive factor in India's defeat.

Secondly, Pakistan knows if its military thrusts fail, its patrons, the US and China, can be relied upon to bring in the United Nations, work the diplomatic back channels, get the world media to raise the alarm, and issue veiled threats, bringing pressure upon India to call off its counterattack.

Now the whole jing-bang of India's military strategy is that after the defending corps halt Pakistan's armored thrusts, the elite strike corps will roll towards the border, penetrate deep into Pakistani territory to destroy the Pakistan Army through massive tanks thrusts and artillery barrages, supported by round the clock aerial bombing of military targets.

Sounds like a bullet-proof strategy. But in reality that has never happened because India's mighty military machine has the agility of an elephant on tranquilizers. Its strike corps are based in central India, a significant distance from the international border. It takes anywhere from two to three weeks for these three elite armies to reach the front.

Because of the long mobilization period, the intervention of Western nations and the truce-happy nature of India's political leadership, India's military brass could not use their strike forces in three of the four wars.

This is, of course, what Cold Start is intended to avoid. According to Dr Subhash Kapila, an international relations and strategic affairs analyst at the South Asia Analysis Group, Cold Start is designed to seize the initiative and finish the war before India's political leadership loses its nerve.

"Long mobilization time gives the political leadership in India time to waver under pressure, and in the process deny the Indian Army its due military victories," says Dr Kapila. "The new war doctrine would compel the political leadership to give political approval "ab-initio' and thereby free the armed forces to generate their full combat potential from the outset."

The crux of Cold Start is this:
* Strike corps won't be allowed to languish in the hinterland. There will be eight "Battle Groups", comprising independent armoured and mechanised brigades that would launch counterattacks within hours.
* These Battle Groups will be fully integrated with the Indian Air Force and naval aviation, and launch multiple strikes into Pakistan.
* Each Battle Group will be the size of a division and highly mobile unlike the lumbering giants, the strike corps.
* And ominously for Pakistan, the Battle Groups will be moved well forward from existing garrisons. India's strike forces will no longer sit idle waiting for the opportune moment, which never came in the last wars.

In a paper on Cold Start, Walter C. Ladwig of Oxford University writes, "As the Indian military enhances its ability to implement Cold Start, it is simultaneously degrading the chance that diplomacy could diffuse a crisis on the subcontinent. In a future emergency, the international community may find the Battle Groups on the road to Lahore before anyone in Washington, Brussels, or Beijing has the chance to act."

Cold Start is also aimed at paralysing Pakistani response. Although the operational details of Cold Start remain classified, it appears that the goal would be to have three to five Battle Groups entering Pakistani territory within 72 to 96 hours from the time the order to mobilize is issued.

"Only such simultaneity of operations will unhinge the enemy, break his cohesion, and paralyze him into making mistakes from which he will not be able to recover," says Gurmeet Kanwal of India's Centre for Land Warfare Studies.

Agrees Ladwig: "Multiple divisions operating independently have the potential to disrupt or incapacitate the Pakistani leadership's decision making cycle, as happened to the French high command in the face of the German blitzkrieg of 1940."

Also, rather than seek to deliver a catastrophic blow to Pakistan (i.e., cutting the country in two), the goal of Indian military operations would be to make shallow territorial gains, 50-80 km deep, that could be used in post-conflict negotiations to extract concessions from Islamabad.

Where the strike corps had the power to deliver a knockout blow, the division-sized Battle Groups can only "bite and hold" territory. This denies Pakistan the "regime survival" justification for employing nuclear weapons in response to India's conventional attack.

To be sure, Pakistan has declared it has a very low nuclear threshold – that is Islamabad will launch nuclear strikes against India when a significant portion of its territory has been captured or is likely to be captured, or the Pakistani military machine suffers heavy losses.

But this is just a myth – perpetuated and planted by US academia and think tanks, and is probably officially inspired. For, it suits the needs of the conservative American establishment in whose eyes India is a long-term rival and Pakistan a useful, if unreliable, ally. Unfortunately, India's political leadership and its uncritical media have been brainwashed into believing that Cold Start has apocalyptic consequences.

But "nuclear warfare is not a commando raid or commando operation with which Pakistan is more familiar," says Dr Kapila. "Crossing the nuclear threshold is so fateful a decision that even strong American Presidents in the past have baulked at exercising it."

Indeed, Pakistan cannot expect India would sit idle and suffer a Pakistani nuclear strike without a massive nuclear retaliation, which would be the end of the Pakistan story.

So where does that leave Pakistan? The wayward country is faced with the cold reality that India is prepared to undertake offensive operations against Pakistan without giving it time to bring diplomatic leverages into play.

Since India has declared that it will not resort to a nuclear first strike, the onus is squarely on Pakistan and its patrons. A nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan has the potential to spiral out of control, sucking in China, the US, the Islamic countries and Russia. That would send the price of oil skyrocketing and cause a worldwide economic crisis.

Therefore, "a nuclear conflict will take place in South Asia only if the United States wants it and lets Pakistan permissively cross the nuclear threshold," says Dr Kapila.

Ralph Peters, the author of Looking for Trouble, and a strategic analyst for Fox News, agrees that the US needs to consider an alternative approach to handling "splintering, renegade" Pakistan. "Let India deal with Pakistan. Pakistan would have to behave responsibly at last. Or face nuclear-armed India. And Pakistan's leaders know full well that a nuclear exchange would leave their country a wasteland. India would dust itself off and move on," observes Peters.

To be sure, Cold Start, though it has been war gamed five times, lacks consensus in India. That is mainly because the country's political leadership lacks the nerve to implement a strategy that could possibly lead to nuclear war. But that is precisely why India's generals brought it into the public realm. Cold Start was devised to end the standoff in the subcontinent. Pakistan cannot be allowed to export terror and brandish its nuclear weapons at India, ad infinitum.

The beauty of Cold Start is that it may never have to be used because it calls Pakistan's nuclear bluff at the outset, which is perhaps why the Pakistani generals are so agitated. Indeed, why should they be troubled at all if the Indian Army is saying goodbye to its old strategy of breaking up Pakistan?

Ultimately, Cold Start may prove to be the Brahmastra – the Hindu God Brahma's doomsday weapon, never to be used but which keeps the enemy in perpetual shock and awe. India's military brass has come up with a solution for taming Pakistan; it is now up to the political leadership to bite the bullet, and the world to back it. As ancient India's master of statecraft Chanakya wrote in the Arthashastra 2300 years ago:

The antidote of poison is poison, not nectar,
The vicious are deaf to entreaties gentle,
Meet the enemy on his own terms
And batter his pretentions to dust.


Sikkimese Saber
Senior Member
Aug 20, 2010
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I really would love to read Arthashastra sometime. Chanakya is the greatest strategist ever known! And what an irony that he's not there today when you need people like him the most in our country. Great man and what a visionary.


Nov 16, 2009
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I don't really like News-X, but they made a nice video --

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Sep 8, 2009
I really would love to read Arthashastra sometime. Chanakya is the greatest strategist ever known! And what an irony that he's not there today when you need people like him the most in our country. Great man and what a visionary.
I have the complete Arthashastra on my computer (English translation). It is too long to post here obviously but if you want I can e-mail it too you.

Understanding the Arthashastra is vital to understanding India and Indian political thought as a whole.
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Senior Member
Mar 10, 2009
I have the complete Arthashastra on my computer (English translation). It is too long to post here obviously but if you want I can e-mail it too you.
Do you have the PDF? Whatever format it is, could you please try uploading it as an attachment in a post so that all can access it? If the size is too big, then maybe we can ask A.V. to help.

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