India Insight

U.S. questions India’s military response abilities

December 1, 2010

WikiLeaks’ secret U.S. cable dump exposed the first controversial remarks about India on Wednesday, when a cable published by the Guardian described American belittling of India’s ‘Cold Start’ military retaliation plan against Pakistan.
U.S. ambassador to India Tim Roemer (R) talks with security personnel after his meeting with the Indian foreign ministry officials in New Delhi  REUTERS/Buddhika Weerasinghe
The Cold Start is a much vaunted doctrine to rebuff any Pakistani aggression by a massive military attack across the border within 72 hours of any attack from its neighbour.

After India and the U.S. were spared any serious embarrassment in the first two days of WikiLeak’s staggered release of secret U.S. cables, save an outspoken remark from Hillary Clinton about India’s inflated global ambitions, the secret cable from U.S. Ambassador Tim Roemer states that it is unlikely that India would ever enact the planned retribution strategy, and the chances of success would be questionable if so, in a cutting critique of New Delhi’s military might.

The February 16, 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, classified by Roemer and released by WikiLeaks, describes India’s ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ as “a mixture of myth and reality.”

“The GOI (Government of India) refrained from implementing Cold Start even after an attack as audacious and bloody as the Mumbai attack, which calls into serious question the GOI’s willingness to actually adopt the Cold Start option,” Roemer states.

But in perhaps the most damning of remarks regarding its effectiveness, even purely as a deterrent, Roemer states that Pakistan appears to be unfazed by Cold Start’s potential application:

“The Pakistanis have known about Cold Start since 2004, but this knowledge does not seem to have prompted them to prevent terror attacks against India to extent such attacks could be controlled. This fact calls into question Cold Start’s ability to deter Pakistani mischief inside India. Even more so, it calls into question the degree of sincerity of fear over Cold Start as expressed by Pakistani military leaders to USG (United States Government) officials.”

New Delhi has said it was already warned by the U.S. about possible leaks, and has restated its close relationship with Washington.

But how will India’s military leaders respond to this?

And more importantly, how does it affect, or even expose, the India-Pakistan power balance?

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