Cold Start: India’s clever plan to punish a Nuclear-Powered Pakistan

Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Wednesday his country had developed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the ‘Cold Start’ doctrine adopted by the Indian Army.

The doctrine has been in talks for many years but the government and the armed forces have seldom owned it in public. In an interview, Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat publicly acknowledged the existence of such a doctrine when he took charge in the beginning of this year.

Below is a primer on the emergence of Cold Start, its aims and how it is perceived by Pakistan:

What is the Cold Start doctrine?

The name ‘cold start’ suggests the wish to avoid a full-scale ‘hot’ war. It means Indian forces making swift and hard inroads into Pakistan. Such strikes will be limited in scope so as not to give any reason to Pakistan to launch a full-scale retaliation. Surprise is a key element of the Cold Start doctrine. In traditional offense, the mobilisation of troops takes a lot of time. By then, the enemy country can not only prepare for a response but also activate international diplomatic channels to prevent Indian attack.

Why cold start?

The need for the Cold Start doctrine emerged out of the fact that Pakistan being a nuclear country, the war will ultimately be mutually destructive. Pakistan has used its nuclear-power status to counter India’s warnings of armed conflict. Paksitan has indicated often that it would not shy away from using nuclear weapons against India. A cold start gives India an escape from the inevitability of nuclear conflict with Pakistan. A cold start allows India to attack Pakistan without the possibility of a full-scale war breaking out since cold start strikes are limited in scope and never raise enough temperature to give Pakistan a reason to mobilise its forces for a full war.

How Pakistan and others see it

Pakistan PM Abbasi’s statement reflects that the doctrine has upset Pakistan enough that it is finding ways to counter it. Pakistan and critics of the Cold Start doctrine think that India’s success in a cold start depends on various factors such as terrain, the element of surprise and how Pakistan deploys its forces. But the fact that Pakistan has designed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the cold start itself implies that it has been forced by India to shun reliance on the option of a full-scale war. India has imposed its choice of a limited war on Pakistan even if Pakistan plans to fight it with smaller nuclear weapons.