Cold Start: Indian Threat to Pakistan & China
In 2005 India announced a new military doctrine called Start Cold mainly targeting Pakistan as its potential enemy. In November 2009, Indian army chief made a statement that there is a possibility of a limited war between Pakistan and India in a nuclear overhang. In December 2009, Indian chief announced that India is ready to take on both Pakistan and China in a ‘two front war’ simultaneously. These statements spurred a quick reaction in Pakistani media and military establishment.
Indian army chief statement came in a closed door seminar in Shimla based military academy on five year review of its military doctrine and operational preparedness. Full details of the Indian chief speech are not known but what is released to media can be summarized as under;
1. India is in position to mobilize its forces so that they can move into enemy territory within 96 hours to execute its Cold Start military doctrine.
2. India is now ready to take on Pakistan and China both in a “two front war” in a nuclear over hang.
3. India is going to enhance its “strategic reach and out-of-area capabilities” to protect its interests from Malacca strait to Persian Gulf.
4. To achieve above mentioned goals India would attain “operational synergy” between the three services
5. Countering “both military and non-military facets of asymmetric and sub-conventional threats.”
Indian army chief’s statements met with prompt reply from Pakistani military top brass. “Proponents of conventional application of military forces, in a nuclear overhang, are charting an adventurous and dangerous path, the consequences of which could be both unintended and uncontrollable,” said General Kiyani, CoAS Pakistan army. The next day Chairman joint Chief of Staff General Tariq Majeed responded to two front war doctrine in these words, “Leave alone China, General Deepak Kapoor knows very well what the Indian Army cannot and the Pakistan Army can pull off militarily”. He said the Indian Army chief “could not be so outlandish in strategic postulations to fix India on a self-destruct mechanism”.
Although Pakistan army made it clear that it is alive to the threats faced by the nation and recent history has proved that despite its numerical advantage and bigger economy, India was not able to initiate a war against Pakistan. It is important to look at drivers behind these statements by Indian army chief and how come this time Indian military establishment is so confident about their preparedness to take not only Pakistan but also China in a future war whereas in a previous stand off just 8 years ago the same Indian army could not fire a single bullet?
First it would be prudent to seek why these statements by Indian army chief came at this point of the time.
Indian army chief’s statements came when there are lots of things taking place in Pakistan’s internal politics at a rapid pace.
There is a critical political turmoil in the country especially after the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision on controversial NRO case. Though no final judgment has been issued but it seems that a large number of government members and ministers would be disqualified as their legitimacy for an elected parliamentarian would nullified once the final decision is announced and these members and ministers would have to leave their seats and criminal cases against them would be reopen in the courts. The danger of disqualification is not limited to ministers but president of Pakistan is also endangered by this decision of SC. If the court decided that President Zardari must come to court to clear allegation of corruption against him this would create another political crisis in the country where law and order situation is already very fragile due to war on terror.
Law and order situation in Pakistan has turned worst in year 2009 due to suicide attacks throughout the country. At the beginning of 2010, situation in previously the calm Karachi city has also turned worrisome regarding law and order. The city witnessed worst kind of riots and arson in history during last three weeks.
Militarily Pakistan army is stretched from Khyber to Karachi, now on both Eastern and Western borders. Pakistan army currently is combating TTP in South Waziristan after taking back Malakand division. According to recent news, Pakistan army has sealed roads to Orakzai agency before launching a full fledge operation there as well.
Recently a group of US senators visited Pakistan and had meetings with top brass of Pakistan army during their visit. It was also indicated by some senators that Pakistan army soon would launch an operation in North Waziristan as well. This will stretch Pakistan army further along with Afghan border. Active part of ‘Operation Rah-i-Rast’ in Swat/Malakand is over though but still Pakistan army units are there as civilian forces, and are not ready to take control of the whole region. Army and the provincial government are building community police setup there, but it would take some time to get control.
Pakistan armed forces are undergoing a massive modernization program which is about to be completed not earlier than 2019. Modernization enhances skills of any force but it also includes a learning cover and time to absorb technology. Pakistan air force would go nearly a complete overhaul as almost entire fleet of PAF would be eventually replaced with new one till 2019.
On the other hand Indian forces are getting latest weapon system since long and are in better position and have a clear numerical strength against Pakistani forces. All above factors made current time more feasible for India to launch its preemptive strikes against Pakistan army and its infrastructure by executing Indian Cold Start doctrine.
Ultimate Indian Plan: Cold Start & 4th Generation warfare (4GWs)
Though Pakistani response at military level was well calculated and prompts along with a strong response from Pakistani foreign office, but still it would be prudent to study Indian military preparedness and the doctrine
The Indian army plan is not new, but Indian military establishment devised this plan to take on Pakistan and China in a war simultaneously some five years ago. A careful look at statement of Indian army chief makes it clear that Indians are eying establishing a strong military footprint in Indian Ocean from Malacca strait to Persian Gulf.
"This would enable us to protect our island territories; also give assistance to the littoral states in the Indian Ocean Region," said Gen Kapoor.
Cold start doctrine is not about capturing Pakistani territory but inflicting as much damage as possible to enemy forces and infrastructure within matter of hours. It is more like a hit and run tactics giving no time to Pakistan to react.
Indian military adopted Cold start on April 28, 2004, after a 10 months long standoff (Operation Parakram) with Pakistan army along 2500 kilometer Indo-Pak border in 2002. In this stand off Indian army strike formation took almost a month to be mobilized. Contrary to this Cold Start emphasizes on quick deployment of forces and synergize operations of all three services towards destruction of Pakistan army defenses and units in short possible time. But is it all that easily possible? Does Indian military have that kind of inter service coordination to implement Cold Start in real war? This is the point where some Pakistani analysts believe that India still doesn’t have the capability to carry on its Cold Start doctrine against Pakistan. An objective analysis of this aspect is only possible after studying Indian strategic military planning against Pakistan during last five years can answer this important question.
To overcome inter services coordination a separate South-Western Army Command has been formed since 2005 which deals with Indian military deployment and operations along with Pakistani borders only. One of the major reason for raising new command was to fulfill the demands of integrated battle groups consisting Indian army and air force units and squadrons. India is working on its preparedness for surgical strikes with these battles group since 2005, now and the job of fine tuning these tactics is assigned to Army Training Command (ARTRAC) and the Army War College. From statement made by Lt. Gen. Labama it is evident that India is ready to go to war with Pakistan and China simultaneously.
Another reason for adopting Cold Start by India is to minimize the reaction time available for diplomatic solution of any potential crisis like one emerged after Mumbai attacks in November 2008. Indian government and forces were under pressure to carryout some surgical strikes on so called terrorist infrastructure on the Pakistani soil. Under Cold Start Indian military would make sure that any diplomatic solution comes after India gets all its objectives. A war between Pakistan and India would jeopardize the entire war on terror. But still India would need a pretext to execute its Cold Start doctrine and this is where 4th generation warfare comes into equation.
Use of 4th generation warfare against Pakistan is a more dangerous and disturbing angle of Indian designs which most defense analysts in Pakistan have overlooked. This paradigm of warfare revolves around asymmetrical warfare to get a moral victory with minimum nation state involvement. It is necessary to understand major difference between various generations of warfare and figuring out which one of these Pakistan is facing now. First generation revolved around conscription and firearms. Nepoleon wars can be categorized in this generation. Second generation involved nation-state armies, alignment of warfare resources and raw firepower. WWI can be categorized as 2nd generation warfare. Third generation warfare included armored warfare and maneuvering and best example of this generation of warfare was WWII which ended only after usage of nuclear weapons in Japan in 1945.
By the end of 20th century Russia invaded in Afghanistan and this was the start of a new generation of warfare. Though guerilla warfare is very old but in 1982 after direct involvement of CIA in this conflict, this guerilla warfare gave birth to fourth generation warfare (4GWs) that works on principle of lesser to no nation state involvement but rely on ad-hoc warriors and moral conflicts. Other imperatives of 4GWs include adaptation of technology to surprise the enemy and information warfare.
A careful look at what Pakistan army is combating in FATA makes it clear that Pakistan army is dealing with first phase of Indian design against Pakistan which deals with winning a moral war by adopting 4GWs.It cannot be a coincident that Pakistan army is facing an enemy who has; ad-hoc fighters, propaganda warfare capabilities in form of FM radios, very advanced weaponry and communication gear. This is indeed not a war waged just for revenge against Pakistan army to side US after 9/11. If it is then how come the poor tribesmen gathered all these assets within a short period of time and mastered the skills to use them against world’s 6th largest military machine i.e Pakistan army.
Pakistan army and security management have no doubts about Indian support to TTP, a banned terrorist organization committing horrific terrorism nationwide since its inception in 2005 (The same year when India adopted new military doctrine and raised a new military command along with Pakistani border). Pakistan army has seized not only Indian made weapons in Swat and FATA but also has eliminated number of Indian combatants. Proofs have already been given to civilian government to take up the matter at world forums but there is no sign of urgency in this regard in Islamabad which is not only strange but questionable as well.
Though Pakistan army has fought successfully with Indian 4GWs in Swat and FATA but due to lack of political will was unable to gain any higher moral ground in community of nations. On the other hand India already has built a case against Pakistan as a country being used as staging ground for terrorism against its neighbors.
Although China is also mentioned in the statement by Indian army chief as a potential enemy in the war along with Pakistan but it is no secret that India has always used foreign military aid against Pakistan. India has one clear advantage over China in current geopolitics in the world. There is an embargo on China for Western high tech military equipment after Tiananmen Square incident 1989. On the other hand India along with a healthy economy has no such restrictions imposed for military hardware despite worst human right conditions thanks to global hypocrisy and double standards of West and US. Still India lacks in many areas when it comes to military balance vis a vis China.
China sensed the importance of indigenization a long ago and started to develop its military production facilities in 1960s. Now Chinese military complexes not only supply advanced weapons to its own forces but also export large amount of these weapons to other countries including Pakistan. Not only this, but China helped Pakistan to build its own military industry after debacle of 1971.
With its well established economy and knowledge base China has crossed many milestones in military hardware production. Now apart from US and Russia China is the only country in the world to run a 5th generation military jet fighter project. Apart from its indigenization efforts sheer number of Chinese forces is another factor why India would never think about carrying out any military adventure against China. Apart from this military comparison China unlike Pakistan or India is a veto power in UN Security Council and can dissuade any move by India in UN against Pakistan or China.
The mentioning of China in Indian chief statement is a mere indication to West and US that now India is ready to take a role of regional power and both US and West can trust India as any ally against communist China. US is banking on India to compete with China in economics and military fields but friendship of Pakistan and China is a big hurdle for India in both these fields. India is eyeing permanent seat in UN since long now and the current statement can also be a signal to US and West to accept India as a big player in the region along with China.
All the military aid would be used against Pakistan in actual war that is evident from history as well when US helped India against China in 1962. Most of US weapons were used against Pakistan in 1965 war.
Cold Start and Possible Pakistani Response
As indicated in its response Pakistani military leadership has made it clear that any misadventure by India can result in unavoidable consequences. Indian doctrine is flawed at many places.
Firstly ,India would have to have a solid reason and pretext to launch any attack no matter low limited against Pakistan.
Secondly, Indians have no gauge of Pakistani military planning to counter Cold Start. It must be bear in mind that Pakistan military announced in July 2005 that it is fully aware of Indian Cold Start doctrine. Pakistan may deploy its unconventional arms much earlier than India has envisaged.
Thirdly, Due to Pakistani preparedness there is clear lack in synergy required in Indian forces to implement Cold Start successfully. Indian Navy would not be able to blockade Pakistani Navy in Karachi as now Pakistan Navy has two more naval bases in Omara and Gawadar. Likewise if Indian air force deploys its front line jet fighter and bombers on forward air bases (FABs) Pakistani cruise missile can come into equation much earlier.
Fourthly, a time line of 48 hours or 96 hours to put Pakistan in a military submission to India with help of armor corps and air support can be proved as dangerous as claims of capturing Lahore in one day proved in 1965. A prolonged combat on borders can put strategic Indian infrastructure in danger. Pakistan air force can launch attacks on dams built on Chenab and Jehlam rivers in Kashmir, Pakistan strategic force command would be in position to hit Indian economic centers like Silicon Valley in Banglore.
Fifthly, Indian military establishment failed to see how a handful of Kashmiri fighters made 700,000 Indian army troops permanently stationed in one valley since decades. Despite presence of this force, which is more than total regular army of Pakistan, Indian government has failed to curb freedom struggle in Kashmir and this circumstances any war between Pakistan and India would be last thing the Indian army would ever dream in Kashmir. Indian military would be in no position to control Kashmiris and fight Pakistan army at same time.
Sixthly, Indian military establishment is relying much more on President Zardari’s announcement that Pakistan will not use its nuclear weapon as first strike. In reality it is Pakistan army who will decide which weapon is to be used when and where.
Last but not the least India is relying on its ever increasing air power not only for Cold Start but to neutralize any Pakistani deployed missiles in a preemptive strikes. It seems that time for such an operation has almost gone for Indian air force. In 2010 PAF would be reshaped to take on the challenges of 21st century. PAF has already established parity in Air Born Early Warning capability after inducting SAAB Erieye AEW&C platform. In June 2010 Pakistan would start receiving state of the art F-16 Block52 fighters from US and PAF Air defense system is going to enhance its capabilities manifold by inducting MBDA’s Spada2000 medium range SAM system. Though Indian air force currently is enjoying numerical superiority but India can’t put all its war assets against Pakistan in a war keeping in view size of India.
Another problem which India is going to face during any execution of Cold Start is the gauge of nuclear threshold of Pakistan, a point where Pakistan would decide to go for unconventional warfare. This is where Army Chief Asfaq Perviz Kiyani hinted that consequences of any misadventure in a nuclear overhang can be suicidal for India.
Indian aggression in future would increase. Recent trends of buying military hardware by India are a clear indication to this fact. Pakistan armed forces don’t need to match Indian counterparts but rather require higher level of preparedness. It is not Cold Start that must alarmed security managers but it is 4th generation warfare by Indian intelligence and military establishment that must be a source of contention for Pakistan. Pakistani military and civilian government needs to take some steps in order to defeat Indian 4GWs tactics in FATA and to prevent India from deploying its forces ever again.
Pakistan must maintain a strategic ambiguity about first use of its nuclear weapons against any enemy including India. An early announcement would always put Pakistan on wrong footing as it will provide another opportunity to Indian and world media to talk about Pakistan’s obsession against India.
Pakistan army must complete all the counter insurgency operation as soon as possible and strike units must report back giving control to the civilian forces in areas which have been cleared of militants. The good news is Pakistan army has realized the importance of civilian forces. Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kiyani vows to support NWFP police with equipment and training while speaking at police academy in Peshawar.
In any future force stand off Pakistan military must make sure that it has deployed enough strategic weapons that can not be compromised by a pre-emptive strike by Indian air force or other strikes.
Pakistan must build a strong case against India and her involvement in Pakistan particularly in supporting terrorism in Baluchistan and FATA. Pakistan army has given proofs to government and the ball is in democratic government’s court to take the case on international forums like UN where Pakistan easily can seek Chinese help in order to unearth Indian intentions against Pakistan and peace in the region.
In any future political crisis in the country, Pakistan army must keep itself isolated from political turmoil and remained focused on external threats as any involvement in politics would degrade Pakistan’s ability to respond to a prompt military challenge posed by India.
Government must ensure that Pakistan armed forces modernization program remain on track and government always has a reliable financing on short notice for an urgent need if armed forces raise a demand.
Pakistan must quit current defensive foreign policy adopted in Musharraf era. Pakistan must make it clear to world that any act of terrorism must not be linked to Pakistan without proper investigations. Recent student crisis in UK has exposed this weakness in foreign policy where government was failed to react in time when innocent Pakistani students were charged for planning a terrorist attack. Similar ineptness was evident on part of government in case of Samjootha Express incident, which was wrongly blamed on Pakistan but the government was failed to respond on international forum.
Media management of Pakistan armed forces and its operations inside country has always been weak. In Pakistan, unlike India, media is not always behind army. Despite the gains by Pakistan army in war on terror in time span of three to five months in Swat and South Waziristan there is still a perception that Pakistan army is unable to combat terrorism and some even go to an extent that Pakistan army might be supporting Taliban. These perceptions are culmination of a weak media policy by government and needs an urgent attention to change these misperceptions.
- Asian Tribune -