Cold Start 2013

Topics: India, Indian Army, Indian Air Force Pages: 39 (12961 words) Published: August 24, 2013
The Journal of Strategic Studies, 2013 Vol. 36, No. 4, 512–540,

India’s Military Instrument: A Doctrine Stillborn
Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Downloaded by [Harvard College] at 13:28 22 July 2013

ABSTRACT For six years, India has sought to implement an army doctrine for limited war, ‘Cold Start’, intended to enable a Cold War era force optimised for massive offensives to operate under the nuclear threshold. This article asks whether that is presently feasible, and answers in the negative. Doctrinal change has floundered on five sets of obstacles, many of which are politically rooted and deep-seated, thereby leaving the Army unprepared to respond to challenges in the manner envisioned by the doctrine’s architects. KEY WORDS: India, South Asia, India-Pakistan, Indian Army, Cold Start, Limited War, Nuclear Weapons, Terrorism

South Asia remains one of the last holdouts of symmetric, conventional warfare.1 The armoured formations that would dot the border in the event of major war are redolent of the Soviet columns once envisioned on the plains of Europe;2 the Indians once seeking to reach the Indus River and the erstwhile Red Army thrusting toward the Rhine, both on a high-intensity, nuclear battlefield. This is neither an inapt parallel, given the Russian and American origins of older Indian and Pakistani weaponry,3 nor unduly speculative, since war has indeed broken out in the nuclear age (in 1999) and was waged for a full 20 weeks.4 Two decades ago, this juxtaposition may have flattered the Indian military. However, over the last decade, Michael Carver, ‘Conventional War in the Nuclear Age’, in Gordon Alexander Craig, Felix Gilbert and Peter Paret (eds), Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton UP 1986), 798–803. 2 Chris Smith, India’s Ad Hoc Arsenal: Direction or Drift in Defence Policy? (Oxford: OUP 1994), 19–21. 3 Amit Gupta, Building an Arsenal: The Evolution of Regional Power Force Structures (Westport, CT: Praeger 1997), 40–2, 53–5, 67; Richard F. Grimmett, US Arms Sales to Pakistan (Washington DC: Congressional Research Service 24 Aug. 2009). 4 V.P Malik, Kargil from Surprise to Victory (New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India, a joint venture with the India Today Group 2006). © 2013 Taylor & Francis


India’s Military Instrument: A Doctrine Stillborn


Downloaded by [Harvard College] at 13:28 22 July 2013

India’s sizeable conventional force has proved of limited utility, failing to deter major terrorist attacks by state-affiliated groups in 2001–02 and 2008, and failing to coerce Pakistan to meaningfully and verifiably alter its relationship to said groups then and earlier. It was popularly reported in 2010 that the Indian Army chief was preparing his organisation for a four-day war on two fronts, against Pakistan and China. The principal irony was not that these reports were six years late in documenting India’s doctrinal modernisation. Nor was it that they had gravely misunderstood the importance of the four-day time frame. (The period referred to mobilisation rather than war termination, a fact of whose oversight resulted in almost universally misleading headlines about the private speech.)5 Rather, it was that the establishment of a doctrine of rapid mobilisation and flexible response has been so slow as to render such a plan impossibly speculative today. According to Bharat Karnad, a hawkish co-drafter of India’s first nuclear doctrine, the doctrine was intended as an ‘automatic conventional military riposte to a major conventional or subconventional provocation’.6 Neither such a riposte (though Karnad seriously exaggerates its plausible automaticity) nor its operational prerequisites have materialized. Pakistan’s subsequent attribution to India of ‘hostile intent’ and a ‘hegemonic and jingoistic mindset’ was, in this sense not only erroneous, but...

Bibliography: Ahmed, Ali, ‘Ongoing Revision of Indian Army Doctrine’, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, 6 Jan. 2010, . ‘Armed Conflicts Report: India – Maoist Insurgency’, Ploughshares, Jan. 2009, .
Malik, V.P., Kargil from Surprise to Victory (New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India, a joint venture with the India Today Group 2006)
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