India-Pakistan war games, and Cold Start

April 9, 2010

gateShashank Joshi has a good piece up at RUSI explaining the limitations of India’s military “Cold Start” doctrine, meant to allow the army to mobilise rapidly for war against Pakistan. The doctrine is intended to ensure Indian forces deploy faster than in 2001/2002 when India mobilised troops along the Pakistan border after an attack on its parliament blamed on Pakistan-based militants.  It would also aim to integrate army operations with those of the Indian Air Force and to a lesser extent its navy.

The doctrine has caused much alarm in Pakistan which sees it as evidence of a threat from its much bigger neighbour which it says forces it to keep the bulk of its army on its border with India rather than fighting militants on the Afghan border.

The problem is, as Joshi writes, Cold Start does not actually work — or at least has yet to be developed in ways which would make it effective in an environment where both countries have nuclear bombs.

The Indian National Interest website argues that by refusing to admit that Cold Start never really got off the drawing board, India does itself a disservice by giving Pakistan a reason to play up the threat from India.

“…the army’s armored units have continued to be focused on a doctrine that is unlikely to be employed in the event of even a limited war in a nuclear environment, in which air power is likely to play a greater role in any case. The army clinging to Cold Start is in many respects impractical, and diverts resources and attention from more meaningful and creative endeavours related to its military preparedness,” it says.

“Second, the political costs of leaving the doctrine announced but unexplained are not insignificant. As is its wont, Pakistan has framed Cold Start as evidence … of imminent Indian plans to initiate hostilities or invade. India also gets questioned unnecessarily by friendly powers for its apparent recklessness in contemplating limited warfare in a nuclear environment.”

“The responsibility lies with the Ministry of Defence and the national security apparatus, if not the Prime Minister himself, to affirm Cold Start as a work in progress or admit that it never left the drawing board. Either would render advantages—operational or political—that six years of ambiguity has not.”

With both India and Pakistan planning war games this month, there will be much attention on each country’s military capabilities. What is probably equally important is how each sees the other – Cold Start is seen as much more of a threat in Pakistan than in India, where it is regarded with scepticism.

The same was true with comments made in December by the Indian army chief, who was reported to have said India should be able to fight a war on two fronts with both Pakistan and China. Presented in India as an aspirational comment reflecting the reality of two disputed borders, the remarks — made at a closed door conference — were seen as a clear threat in Pakistan.

Both countries tend to think they know each other well,  and yet repeatedly see each other’s military intentions differently. That is not a good thing when over-confidence could one day lead them to misjudge the other’s red lines on the use of nuclear weapons.


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Pakistan Air Force excersies Highmark 2010 are underway:

High Mark 2010 culminates in display of firepower  ?page=2010%5C04%5C07%5Cstory_7-4-2010_p g7_17

While the most recent corps commanders conference focused on the Army
“No 139/2010-ISPR Dated: April 5, 2010

Rawalpindi – April 5, 2010: The Army Field Exercise, titled Azm-e-Nau-3, is scheduled to be held from 10 April to 13 May 2010. The field exercise involves troops belonging to all arms and services and also includes Pakistan Air Force. The exercise is a culmination of a long and deliberate process of war games, discussions and logistic evolution of the Concept of Warfare that is fully responsive to a wide menu of emerging threats.” t-press_release&date=2010/4/5

With the induction of IL-76 mid-air refueling Tankers, SAB-2000 AEW&C aircraft and JF-17, also 18 F-16s due for delivery in June 2010 +14 more negotiated the Air Force is increasing its capability. Also Pakistan Navy tested different missiles recently to display its own capability. This shows a trend by pakistan not to ignore its conventional warfare capability despite possessing a minimum credible nuclear detterence.

While the coldstart doctrine has been a waste of resources and political blunder on India’s part, it has given a reason for Pakistan to enhance its doctrine of ‘limited offensive defense’. Given the current situation, another terrorist strike on India by non-state actors can provoke an escalation. Pakistan will be ready to counter any emerging threats at that time with better preparation.

Posted by Umairpk | Report as abusive

Too much is being made out of these militaries. Every little move does not have to be misconstrued as some sensational thing between the two countries. Everything is not warlike. Unncessary raise of sensitivity makes things worse. Even an ordinary marriage engagement between an Indian girl and a Pakistani cricket player is blown out of proportions. Every country does its own war exercises to check and see how preparations are. It also gives them a chance to test out their new toys so that they know if they really would work or not. With Pakistan tilting towards democracy, we should not expect any tension or issues. The only thing to watch out for are the militant elements who seem to be running their own agenda to trigger a war between the two countries.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

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Posted by India-Pakistan war games, and Cold Start | Analysis & Opinion … | Juegando | Report as abusive

Mr. KPSingh01, I really respect your view on things but you have to give a thought to the fact that this sensitivity is intrinsic since the great divide.

I am one who supports better relations between the two, the chance of Kashmir being a special economic zone for both to come to a sort of settlement and to have peace in the region. From a very idealistic thought, both the countries can be ideal allies, and such an alliance could garner great power and further positioning with other neighbours could bring great prosperity into the region.

Again, its idealistic. Which means there is in the current future zero probability of such an occurance. That being said, right now water is the issue of contention. Unless a settlement is acheived, there will be little chance of any improvement of relations. This is because this issue is detrimental to Pakistan’s well being, being ill-managed previously, current water levels are getting dangerously low and further deterioration will provoke an offensive stance

Posted by wildbandit | Report as abusive

I think it difficult for Pakistan to survive its current dilemma. Kashmir issue can be solved when the state of Pakistan split into several states with independent status. Kashmir can have its own life then..To India, needs to hold its belt tight else will have to make way for the yellow river…. China is the biggest threat to India than any other nation. And the best way to keep ahead is to gain big slices in our SPACE AGE/WAR!

Posted by Appus | Report as abusive


Western media survives by hype and sensationalizing. The authors in this forum are no different. They grow up through that system. They come from outside in and therefore lack the real perspective that we all have by growing up in the system. We have personal experience by being born and growing in it. They see it with a perspective that is skewed by their own upbringing. For example, the concept of India as one unit was a perspective from the time of the Greeks. Just like Africa appears as one entity to most of us, Africans can tell otherwise. India itself was made into one unit and kept as one by the British. I have read articles by the old British colonial masters who looked surprised about lack of patriotism amongst “Indians”. This is because they saw it as one nation.

Divide up the natives and turn them against each other to gain advantage has been their method and it has worked very well. The division of India and Pakistan, the support of regimes that sustained the antagonism and increase of the divide etc are still the same methods in operation. Only their safety and lives are important. So they write whatever would tilt things in their favor. The natives are still naive and fall for their patronage. If you read these articles you will see that they pretty much convey the same strategies of the Western powers. I have never seen one criticism of their own people and governments.

If if you read from the old articles here you will find their messages shifting from one extreme to another. First it is India’s fault, then it is Pakistan’s fault, then the road to Kabul runs through Kashmir, then it is only Af-Pak, then Taliban are nice guys after all, then Kashmir is still a problem, then India should wind down in Afghanistan, then Kashmir problem is really a water problem, and so on. There is no consistency or ethics involved. It is all propaganda of the Western powers coming through “independent” agencies like these.

You must take their words with a pinch of salt. Have you observed one thing here – they write something and let the Indians and Pakistanis run over each other with old issues that have no relevance to what they write. This clearly tells how in various ways we all are being manipulated. There are good things on both sides and we must try to share those things to come out of this mess. Relying on these people gives them an air of superiority.

India and Pakistan have pretty advanced militaries. And they can run their war games, just like others do. I don’t think there is anything to it.

Hope I have made myself clear.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

WILDBANDIT writes”I am one who supports better relations between the two, the chance of Kashmir being a special economic zone for both to come to a sort of settlement and to have peace in the region”.

ha ha ha . Any one who still thinks “kashmir” “dispute” is the reason for pakistan’s insatible anit-India hostility, and pakistani terrorism against unarmed Indian civilians, needs serious psychiatric help.

When “pakistan” was conceived 70 years ago, a “Hindu” India, bigger and more stable, powerful country was not visualized.

Pakistani military-jihadi terrorist attempts to undermine and stop India have failed. War games or no war games, this is the reality. “Nuclear protected” jihadi terrorism by pakistan is new to humanity, good it has failed but India is alone in this fight and needs to keep fine tuning its strategy.

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

Some times I wonder how western authors take Pakistan Army’s propaganda at face value and go on to believe it!

The Cold Start doctrine is not “earth shattering change”. The Chinese have a similar doctrine(infact almost similar) called War Zone Campaign. When was the last time did you hear India complaining about “China is going to attack us any time now”?

The Cold Start was planned way back in 2002. So does the author believe that Pakistanis woke up just know? that too after comments from the Indian Army chief? For who can understand military stuff here Pakistan army has been building up it’s reserve divisions and assigning the “American WOT gifted” artillery guns to these units to handle India’s Cold Start. Oh by the way this was started even before IA chief’s comments!

And why should Indian PM apologies for IA chief’s comments? I request the author to think why IA chief’s comments which were done in closed door session made public?

Whenever Pakistani army indulges in terror strikes in India, it use the nuclear blackmail and hope of US intervention to prevent a Indian response. This is also helped by the fact that Indian army needs time to mobilize for any response as their peace locations are quite deep. On the other hand Pakistan can mobilize faster as they are quite close to the border(in fact the whole army is in the Punjab province of Pakistan).

So when India declares it’s intentions for a cold start, it is telling the Pakistani Army that I will come at you even before the Americans come at my door or your use nuclear blackmail.
So next time Pakistan army does a terror attack in India, they have prepare themselves to defend against a faster Indian response, which means carrying out some moves.

Needless to India will be watching these, as a indication that a terror attack is coming…. Get the drift?? Cold Start would have served it’s purpose.

Pakistan is suddenly screaming about Cold Start is because it wants to wriggle out of US demands to attack Taliban and present India as a bigger threat. What pakistan conveniently does not want world to understand is Cold Start is a RESPONSE against a act.NOT a pre-emptive action.

So if there is no terror act from Pakistan, why should it worry or in other words, if you dont want to face a cold start dont carry out a terror act.

And yeah India ALWAYS prepare itself for fighting with China and Pakistan at the same time. Till yesterday it was fighting with PA and defending against the Chinese.

And yeah if the Chinese get into a fight Pakistan will definitely jump in. Now you see why India announced about fighting both at the same time.

Posted by Samnit | Report as abusive

To add to the comments above, for those who always scream about “nuclear scenario”, they need to think where will Pakistan use nukes if India attacks.

On Indian cities? then what will they do of the India army who will inside Pakistan.

On advancing Indian army? that means nuking it’s own cities like Lahore?

It is not easy to make a decision to nuke as the authors make it out, specially when you know you would be vapourised in a massive nuke response.

Would you prefer to loose you family and your city just because your enemy has just crossed the border and you decide to use nukes?

Posted by Samnit | Report as abusive

Both these countries are being very irresponsible when it comes to defense expenditure. Meaningless war games are also expensive. When are we going to start solving the real issues. We are talking about things like Cold Start when major cities like Calcutta are without electricity!! We need a cold start for India’s electrification process.

Posted by IndiaFirstHand | Report as abusive

INDIAFIRSTHAND writes “When are we going to start solving the real issues”.

Indian Govt HAS been working on solving “real issues” for 63 years. Many things it could have done better.

In your condescencion it seems pakistani jihadi terrorism and war mongering are not “real issues” it seems. Tackling pakistani army jihadi terrorist complex is ONE of the “real issues” facing India and the govt is appropriately handling or struggling to deal with pakistani terrorism and war mongering.

Posted by Seekeroftruth | Report as abusive

In addition to the kind of conventional warfare fought in 1965 and 1971, any future India-Pakistan war is likely to have two new components of cyber war and missiles war.

The potential cyber component will have a dramatic impact which could reverberate across the globe as the computers used in South Asia for outsourced work from the United States and Europe come under crippling attacks from hackers on both sides.

Ballistic missile warfare between next door rivals with only a few minutes travel time to major targets, including population centers, will also change the game dramatically. This leaves the two nations with little margin of error. Misjudgments and miscalculations could cause any conflict to rapidly spin out of control and devastate the entire region. eats-across-china-india-and.html

Posted by HaqsMusings | Report as abusive

People and media should not be talking about war scenarios. We should be talking about peaceful coexistence and ways to find solutions to existing issues. Military think tanks across the globe discuss different scenarios. It is their job even during peace times. But that should not translate into a real life situation. If missiles and cyber attacks are the future, then there is no hope for the people of South Asia. Is this what some of you like? If a threat arises, each nation has its own way of dealing with it. We should never desire for such a situation. Nuclear war will decimate the entire sub-continent and there will be nothing left after that. Is this what nations are founded for? Understand this – we are being manipulated. Our emotions are being exploited. We need to wake up and do the right thing. It is all right to have sophisticated military equipment, training etc to protect one’s nation. But countries should not be itching to use them. War is the last option and not a solution. This is not a game that we are playing. Instead of wasting resources on digging trenches, Pakistan should start working towards building the nation and provide employment to its youth. India is not a country today that will waste its energy and resources in attacking other countries. It is important not to provoke nations into waging wars and then using that as an excuse to build more weapons and defense equipment. Pakistan has done only this and nothing else since its birth. It is time countries learned to co-exist. You got your nukes by hook or crook. Everyone accepts that. Now keep them. No one is going to attack your nation. That deterrence should be good enough to turn around and focus the energy towards nation building. Nuclear weapons are meant for protection and not for threatening others and waging proxy wars based on the security that they provide.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

KPSingh01: The ‘War likeness’ is what keeps the southAsian politics going. If there is no war situation and all the hoopla around it, politics suffer in Pakistan as well as in India.

HaqsMusings said: “Misjudgments and miscalculations could cause any conflict to rapidly spin out of control and devastate the entire region”

Bull.. nothing happens.. guys, stop thinking so dramatic. Both the countries lacks the inspiration as well as gutts to actually rain havoc on the other. Its just not politically beneficial for any of them. Its just the anticipation and the fear of war thats of use, not war itself.

Its only those psychopathic Talibanis who can be thought of doing stupid stuff like these. Coz, these fellows are religiously motivated for real. They mean business, they mean anhilation of the infidels.

Posted by grey_on_all | Report as abusive

Perhaps the military exercises in both the countries are part of a routine and are not intended to offend the integrity of each other. It is also important to keep peace in the region, as both the countries have already suffered from the menace of terrorism.

Posted by SZaman88 | Report as abusive

So much, for the Pakistani Army’s sincerity in fighting terrorism!

“U.S. officials say Pakistani spy agency released Afghan Taliban insurgents” – Washington Post tent/article/2010/04/10/AR2010041002111. html

Posted by Mortal1 | Report as abusive

India has to be worried about a collapsing Pakistan. The only thing keeping it together is its hate for India and INdians.

Rogue nukes are a possibility, if Pakistan starts to disintegrate and if it does, it will be rapid and unstoppable by anybody, especially the Pakistani military.

India needs to protect itself from rogue military elements that may use disintegration and chaos as an excuse to inflict an opportunistic wound on India, knowing that Pakistan is on a collision course with disintegration.

Posted by G-W | Report as abusive


Things are beginning to look better. Pakistan has managed to revert back to the 1973 constitution which has clipped the wings of the Presidential powers. As I see it, Pakistan is undergoing a tug of war between the Zia era radicals and progressives who see the danger their country is facing. Therefore you see the country see-sawing between positive and negative moves. Because of the US presence and its insistence on substantive measures, the positive side seems to be gaining. Radical elements inside the ISI are still present and they will try to derail things from time to time. Things are still on the edge. But the good people in Pakistan should win and reset everything that has been done so far that has set the country towards self-destruction. They have a good Prime Minister in Gilani who emerged from out of nowhere. Hopefully Pakistan will undergo a transition for good and the sensible people get control over everything. That is the only thing that can ensure peace in the region. Just give them some time. They seem to be trying.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Pakistan needs to do only one thing to come out of where they are now. “”Plan their priorities””.

They shoudl ask themselves whats it that the country is in urgent need of?

Do they wanna come over the economic, political and social issues? or do they just wanna persue their old motivations? that is to continue their sibling rivalry with Big bro India.

Pak needs to not think of the competition with India(Its nowhere near India anyways) for sometime. They need to shelve the mission ‘frustate India by all means’ for sometime. I dont say scrap it. Pak politics needs this for its survival, to woo the common man. But postpone all this for later. Get in shape first.

Posted by grey_on_all | Report as abusive

[…] […]

Posted by India-Pakistan war games, and Cold Start – Pakistan Defence Forum | Report as abusive

Agree with Samnit. Cold Start was merely a buzzwords document that sought to bring the Indian Army into the 21st century by pursuing doctrinal change under the guise of politically relevant scenarios. It was supposed to take them from attrition warfare to mechanized warfare. Such doctrinal change was needed just for the Indian Army to stay current and relevant. But how do you sell government on the huge budgets needed to buy new armoured vehicles, attack helicopters, tanks, communication systems, etc.? You tell the politicians that their best way to combat terrorism is by a swift counter-attack with a heavily mechanized force. Whether it’s actually true or not is irrelevant. This is institutional politics.

Pakistan, of course, made hay of it, because it was free PR for them. They get to once again, complain about the “militaristic” and “war-mongering” Indians. And it’s quite likely that the green suits from Rawalpindi are genuinely worried that they are reaching tipping point in the strategic balance where India will now gain a qualitative edge in addition to its existing quantitative edge.

There is absolutely no way the PA can keep up with a heavily mechanized Indian Army that has been well sychronized with the IAF. The Indians know this. The Pakistanis know this. The rest of the world knows this. But the only the Pakistanis can prevent this inevitable reality is to engage in PR that results in diplomatic pressure on India to cut back on defence modernization or to scare vendor nations such that other countries refuse to sell India the equipment they need. Unfortunately, if all the recent US-India and Europe-India arms deals are any indication, Pakistan has failed miserably to convince anybody that India is a threat.

And the worst part for Pakistan is that vendor nations just aren’t interested in parity in South Asia anymore. They accept the pre-eminence of India. And ever since the AQ Khan gambit and because of its dealings with China, there’s no way anybody (but the Chinese) will sell Pakistan the latest technology. They may sell Pakistan F-16s. But they’ll offer India the version that’s faster, has longer range, a higher payload and a more powerful radar. And that’s how it’s going to be from now on.

Posted by kEiThZ | Report as abusive