Why the hell each and every Pakistani worth his beard reminds the world that they are a ‘Nuclear Nation’ and one shall not mess with them. Why in the first place Pakistan deployed nukes at borders in the recent past?
Well, it all started with the attack on Parliament on Thirteenth December 2001. Two months before that JeM carried out an attack on Kashmir Assembly. After the attack on Kashmir Assembly, India warned US that if they fail to prevail on Parvez Musharraf and rein in the terrorist groups, India may be compelled to take things into its own hands. As the history indicates, both America and Pakistan laughed of at India’ warning and ignored. Then, the attack of Parliament happened.
Five days after the attack on parliament, the government gave a green signal to the Army to mobilise to borders, codenamed ‘Operation Parakram’. This movement was second only to the movement of forces during the war in 1971.
Then, nothing happened.
It took nearly three weeks for the army to reach border areas from where they can strike Pakistan, from the time they started. By this time, Pakistan could sense the army movement and got United States pressurise India successfully to stop any offence action till Musharraf made his intentions clear. On twelfth of January, 2002, Pervez Musharraf denounced terrorism in the name of Kashmir and promised action against the establishment of terror business. Well, now India had no need to go to war.
Postmortem by Indian Army tried to understand why there were no significant political gains, despite military mobilisation. Political leadership was blamed for failing to define strategic objectives and so it could not be concluded whether ‘Operation Parakram’ was a success or a failure. Still, some sane brains and voices prevailed. It was pointed out the delay in reaching the attack positions by the ‘strike corps’ (according to the Sundarji doctrine that was followed till then) gave Pakistan time to gather its forces – in diplomatic as well as military aspect to nullify any positive effect of the decision taken by the political leadership.
Doctrine: After holding corps halted Pakistani attack, Three strike corps, I corps in Mathura, II corps in Ambala and XXI corps in Bhopal situated away from international border are expected to move from Rajasthan sector, deep into Pakistan, destroying ‘strike corps’ of Pakistan (Army reserve north and Army reserve south) through ‘deep sledge-hammer blows’.
Reasons for failure of Sundarji Doctrine:
Size of Strike Corps: Strike Corps are too big and massive to deploy at the drop of hat. Their movement was very slow and the condition of roads at that time would reduce their speed further (In retrospect, the significance of ‘Golden Triangle’ envisaged by Vajpayee and executed Khanduri makes lot of sense).
Lack of Surprise Element: Given their size, movement of strike corps could be easily sensed by Pakistan. Simply by noticing the direction of movement, Pakistan can take counter measures in that particular sector to receive and stop Indian strike corps at border itself.
Ineffectiveness of Holding Corps: Well, they were supposed to hold the ground at the border and prevent Pakistani Army from entering into India. Given the lack of sufficient fire power, these could well be a defense corps, rather than performing any offence actions.
While Pakistan could inflict a damage at the heart of Indian democracy by providing support to Let/JeM, it exploited the long time taken by the Indian strike corps into moving to the border by internationalising the crisis and so eventually was let off. Operation Parakram failed even to support the coercive diplomacy that is the minimum expectation from such a big movement.
Cold Start is a limited war doctrine released by the Chief of Army Staff in the month of April,2004 aiming to inflict significant harm on Pakistan Army, before the international community intervenes. At the same time, the loss of Pakistan is not big enough to justify the usage of nukes.
Instead of three strike corps there would be eight ‘integrated battle groups’ (IBG) based on the erstwhille Soviet Union’s operational maneuver groups that combine mechanised infantry, artillery and armour integrated with support from Air force and Navy. As the eight IBGs launch attacks on Pakistan at multiple positions, ‘pivot corps’ (erstwhile holding corps, with additional fire power) would man defensive positions, also can execute limited offensive operations. Instead of dividing Pakistan, the goal would be to gain territory of Pakistan, that would be leveraged in – discussions across table, post attack.
The deviation from Sundarji’s doctrine was Indian Army moved towards having more firepower than having forces. Once the objective defined, each IBG acting on its own are expected to be too hard for the Pakistanin intelligence to predict the plans and counter them in time. Attack is not expected to last more than two or three weeks, considering by that time either America or China would come to the rescue of Pakistan.
Advantages of Cold Start over the old doctrine:
1. Forward deployed division sized units can be mobilised faster, with a clear cut objective defined to the unit.
2. These units can only attack and occupy certain territory and cannot deliver the ‘knock-out punch’ that the Pakistan Army can use as a ruse to use nukes for ‘regime survival’ as there is no larger threat.
3. It would be difficult for Pakistan to decide where to respond how much, with multiple IBGs operating independently
4. Pakistani intelligence would be under stress to monitor eight independent units moving in various directions.
5. If Pakistan goes for nukes to attack attacking forces of India, causalities would be less on Indian side, compared to a larger unit.
Impact on South Asia:
Though Cold Start doctrine is predominantly a concept of a ‘limited war’ highly depending on the flexibility, independence and speed of few units, as envisaged by Mortan Halperin, the losing side may choose to escalate the war into a full-fledged one that eventually may lead to the use of nukes. Recognising the superiority of India in terms of forces and fire power, it is a tactic that Pakistan used effectively by means of supporting proxy attacks across LoC, to prevent a full scale conventional war. Hence, the immediate exhibition of cry baby syndrome by Pakistan’s authorities, both civilian and military.
Verbatim reproduction from “A Cold Start for Hot Wars?” by Walter C Ladwig III on when Pakistan would press the nuke button, as explained by Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, head of Strategic Plans division, Pakistan:
India attacks Pakistan and conquers a large part of its territory;
India destroys a large part of Pakistan’s land or air forces;
India blockades Pakistan in an effort to strangle it economically;
India pushes Pakistan into a state of political destabilization
India creates large scale internal subversion in the country
Well, it is another thing that India should’ve pressed nuke button long ago for Pakistan was actively executing the fifth point against India. But, that’s altogether a different story.
So, it would depend on India’s capability on not only starting the ‘limited war’ but stopping it before it escalates into a declared, full scale war. In other words, this doctrine may be almost like the guerrilla attacks executed by the blitzkrieg, on a moderate scale.
Well, as the Cold Start is a strategy prepared exclusively by the military forces, civilian leadership may perhaps not have a greater role in deciding targets/objectives of individual IBGs. And being a functioning democracy, Indian Army shall seek the mandate from the political leadership. Though the government of the day in 2004 had announced the doctrine, it was replaced by the subsequent government. And in 2008, when terrorists from Pakistan attacked Mumbai, the then government had not considered to take action, in accordance with the Cold Start strategy. Of course, even if the government had embraced the strategy, it was not defined how and when the start command would be given to the Army and by whom, for there were many committees and various authorities, who perhaps need a sanction from their political masters not necessarily part of the government.
In fact, the aversion of the then government to consider Cold Start in the wake of Mumbai attacks had put the perception of Indian political establishment in question. On the other hand, despite fully aware of the doctrine, Pakistan didn’t stop from planning and executing an attack as daring as the Mumbai one. Thus, the doctrine was put in cold storage for a long time by Indian polity, denying the Army the advantage of the doctrine, despite the army remained committed to the doctrine.
Of course there was discontent between Army and the Politicians that resulted into confusing status of Operation Parakram. What came to the fore was not only the sluggishness of troupes movement, but also the failure by politicians to set concrete goals for the military that are very much needed to plan and, well execute the plan.
Considering the width of Pakistan being less and major cities being close to the international border, the Cold Start is considered a better strategy to have a limited war., but for the the so called ‘flash point’ of Pakistan before it goes for nukes. In fact, the flickering sense of Pakistan was behind the decision by the earlier government to not embrace Cold Start, as it is in the interest of Pakistan to have a bigger war and cry later on. Bruised, they get more funds and re-group while in India, tax payers had to part with the hard earned money. Then, of course, it depends what the average Indian wants.
It appears India had already conducted exercises to study the effectiveness of cold start in almost all geographical locations. It appears, after all, the current government had embraced Cold Start and the news of an attack as a reciprocation to the Uri attack might be the first of its kind. The best thing happened was, unlike earlier establishments, current government didn’t try to gain political mileage from the purported attack. In fact, the attack was not even officially recognised.
For all the preachers of peace, who advocate that it takes two hands to clap, all I had to say was – for a slap only one hand is needed. And the cheek bears the pain. For long, India cried out of the pain on repeated slaps by much powerless Pakistan, just to behave like a good boy. Seems the good boy had bettered and slapped clandestinely. The response could be seen in the Pakistan media. First, all leaves of Pakistani rangers were cancelled. Families of officers were evacuated from the forward camps. Flights were cancelled in the north and north east area. F16s were seen patrolling over major cities. More than anything, their generals, who are paid to appear on Indian channels started issuing threats on how a ‘Nuclear Nation’ like Pakistan can safeguard their interests. Though none in Indian media were talking much about the Cold Start, it seems many a feet are growing cold on hearing the name.
Well, as told by the defence minister, sometimes knee-jerk reactions may be needed. During those times, it seems Cold Start comes in handy. And, for the first time an attack by India with surgical precision! How I liked it!
Note: Most of the technical details were based on the paper by Walter C. Ladwig III