Pakistan’s response to Indian Cold Start doctrine

Pakistan’s response to Indian Cold Start doctrine
January 14, 2011

 The Pakistan-specific Indian Cold Start doctrine has the potential to put the entire region into a quagmire of volatility and dismay. The threat of deterrence failure would increase if India operationalised its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). The analyses of the level of funding allocated for the modernization of Indian armed forces and its endeavor to overcome its deficiencies show that India may operationalise CSD in next five to 10 years.

The Pakistan-specific Indian Cold Start doctrine has the potential to put the entire region into a quagmire of volatility and dismay. The threat of deterrence failure would increase if India operationalised its Cold Start Doctrine (CSD). The analyses of the level of funding allocated for the modernization of Indian armed forces and its endeavor to overcome its deficiencies show that India may operationalise CSD in next five to 10 years. Pakistan has responded strongly to the Indian Army chief’s rhetoric of facing Pakistan and China at the same time. 

In response to the Indian Army chief’s statement, Pakistan’s former Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (JCSC) Chairman General Tariq Majid said: “Leave alone China, General Deepak Kapoor knows very well what the Indian Army cannot and the Pakistan Army can pull off militarily…the Indian Army chief could not be so outlandish in strategic postulations to fix India on a self-destruct mechanism.” Pakistan’s rejection of Indian CSD is based on its military capabilities and its strategy of an offensive defence to counter such an aggressive attack. 

Pakistan has an active force of 620,000 men, with 5,28,000 reservists, and 1, 50,000 paramilitary troops. Pakistan armed forces are the seventh largest in the world. Its military strategy is based on geographical compulsions. Due to the lack of strategic depth, Pakistan military planners have to compete with this dilemma. Most of the population and industrial centers are close to the border with India. Lahore, the most important city and Karachi the port city and financial hub are at a distance of approximately 20 km and 160 km respectively from the Indian border making them vulnerable to Indian penetration. 

General Mirza Aslam Beg is accredited with the offensive defence concept, which was demonstrated in the exercise Zarb-e-Momin (Blow of the Believer), held in 1989. It involved almost three corps, two armoured brigades, two artillery divisions, one air defense division and Pakistan Air Force. General Beg said, “The exercise…made a radical departure from stereotype maneuvers and self-defeating concept of holding formations. Now our armed forces are fully tuned to fighting an offensive defence, with well-tested concepts and strategies, even in an environment where they may be outnumbered.” 

This concept provides quick preemptive strikes once a war begins in order to disrupt an enemy advance and inflict heavy damages. In addition, such actions are designed to gain strategically important enemy areas, which could be used as a bargaining chip after the ceasefire. To implement this concept, two strike corps backed by one defensive corps are to be used. It could be analysed that the concept of offensive defense is still there in Pakistan Army. 

From 1989, it has carried out many exercises to test and validate this concept. The recent war games by Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force are also a step forward towards articulating their abilities and capabilities to contradict any intrusion from air or land. To counter threats from India, Pakistan conducted Azm-I-Noh (New Resolve) military exercises and these are Pakistan’s biggest drills in 20 years. These exercises involved almost 50,000 troops. These war games were carried out in the Punjab and Sindh near the Indian border. These military exercises were a display of Pakistan Army’s preparedness to face the challenges in future. Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani claimed, “Pakistan Army cannot be caught unawares and is capable of responding to the challenge of India’s CSD…our army is fully prepared to give a “befitting response” to any “misadventure” from the eastern border.” 

istan air defense system can provide timely information about the movement of Indian aircraft and its army. There are two air defense commands in Pakistan – the PAF Air Defence Command and the Army Air Defence Command. The task of the PAF Air Defence Command is to defend and shield Pakistan’s air space and the Army Air Defence Command is assigned to defend selected army formations during the war. Pakistan Air Force has an advanced air defence system. 

Its main components are high and low looking mobile radars, integrated radar detection systems designed for high and low level interceptions using fighter aircraft, surface to air missiles (SAMs), radar operated automatic firing anti-aircraft guns and shoulder fired infra-red SAMs. At the Command and Control Centres, air defence controllers and their commanders maintain a round the clock vigil scanning the air space for possible air intruders. After detection and identification of intruder, jet fighters are scrambled within minutes and directed to intercept or destroy it as necessary.


In recent times, Pakistan has inducted Spada 2000 air defense system to the Pakistan Air Force. The deal for 10 batteries was worth $656.56 million over five years. Spada 2000 has 60 kilometer range radar and two firing sections, each containing two missile launchers with six Aspide 2000 missiles each. The missiles have an intercept range of more than 20 kilometers. This system has enhanced Pakistan’s air defense capabilities and it can counter any aggressive air attack by the enemy. Pakistan also produces unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes. Pakistan Air Force has two UAV squadrons and is looking to build up to six. Pakistan can use such UAVs in the sensitive areas near the border with India to keep check on any movement by the Indian forces.


This capability will provide Pakistan with more space and time to counter the Indian CSD. In 2009, Pakistan inducted Saab-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) Aircraft into its fleet. This system has enabled the PAF to detect all aircraft taking off from and landing at all forward Indian airbases adjacent to Pakistan and also to identify the type of aircraft, their weapons systems, vector and altitude. In addition to that, the radar capabilities and range of the system enable the operator to receive an early warning in case of pre-emptive attacks from across the border.


PAF would get three more AEW&C aircraft in 2010 under $866 million deal. This deal will make air defence more effective and bring about a major change in its operational concept and employment. Pakistan military used its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets i.e. UAVs, aerial imageries and early warnings in the Azm-I-Noh exercise to have transparency in the battlefield. Strategic surprise is the essence of CSD. The prior information of the enemy movement will offset Indian military’s element of surprise and its proactive maneuvers. It will also help field commanders of Pakistan Army to take decisions accordingly with changing situation on ground. These types of capabilities can hamper an Indian offensive against Pakistan. Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force practiced these components of air defense in the recent exercises. These exercises are an assertion by the Pakistan military that it has the capability to counter any threat from India.


The main purpose of these exercises was to convey a message to the Indian decision makers that Pakistan has the capability to defend itself from any unprovoked intrusion. PAF conducted “Exercise High Mark” in 2010 to demonstrate its firepower and capabilities. It has also tested its joint operations with Pakistan Army. In this exercise, Pakistan Air Force provided air cover to ground troops that highlighted the forces’ potency to fight integrated battles to counter CSD-based operations. Such capability is essential to meet future threats on the eastern border.


Additionally, PAF fighter pilots displayed their abilities to maneuver and hit enemy targets with missiles, bombs and other live ammunition with utmost precision. JF-17 Thunder, F-16s, F-7 PG Aircraft and helicopters were also used in the display of firepower skills aimed at targeting enemy installations while dodging radars. Force multipliers such as the Saab-2000 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft and air-to-air re-fueller aircraft were also utilised in this exercise. Special features of the military exercises included PAF’s capability to launch a sensor missile and hit a target from 60 kilometers away.


Midair refueling and air-to-land targeting, using missiles and bombs were also tested. The exercises also included a search-and-relief operation, use of spy planes, expeditious supply of heavy apparatus using transport planes and a ground operation backed by the PAF. High Mark 2010 exercise was aimed at conducting operations in a near-realistic strategic environment while integrating new inductions and providing role-oriented training to combat and support elements of the PAF. All of PAF’s main operating bases and forward operating bases participated in the exercises. These exercises show Pakistan’s vigilance and alertness towards the defense of the country. The capabilities manifested in these exercises would work as force multipliers. It would help to offset enemy’s strategic surprise and reduce the reaction time for Pakistan Army to respond to any challenge. Still a lot needs to be done to improve the overall capabilities of the armed forces.


Indian CSD has wide range of implications for South Asia. If Pakistan failed to counter CSD based assault on its soil then it may reconsider its nuclear policy of recessed deterrence and deploy its strategic assets at high alert status. Threat of a nuclear war would take the region into its grip. Indian aggressive policies would provoke an arms race in the region. It would hamper the economic and social development of the region and poverty, hunger, un-employment and uncertainty will aggravate in both countries. Most importantly, CSD will seriously impede Pakistan’s efforts against war on terrorism. Pakistan has deployed a major chunk of its armed forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and on the Afghan border. In case of any threat from India, Pakistan would move its forces from western to eastern borders. Such a move would hinder its efforts against terrorism and militancy.


At present, it may not be possible for India to put into practice CSD against Pakistan due to shortage in military weaponry and equipment but in future acquisition of latest weapons and equipment along with NCW and EW capabilities would enhance Indian military’s capabilities. It would give confidence to Indian military to carry out a limited war against Pakistan in the nuclear shadow. To meet any likely intimidation from the Indian military, it is imperative for Pakistan to take some concrete steps to perk up its overall military capabilities to offset any future coercion.


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