|Some Implications of the ‘Cold Start’ Doctrine|
The offensive doctrine adopted by the Indian Army has been dubbed Cold Start. It is essentially about being proactive in any future conflict. As to the extent it is cognisant of the Limited War theory is quite understandably indistinct, though it can reasonably be assumed that the doctrine does appropriately genuflect towards the nuclear backdrop. From its emphasis on being prepared for operations across the ‘spectrum of conflict’, it appears that the Army is ready for a conflict of any dimension including expansive conventional war, with the limits to be set by the political leadership as befits the situation. Most implications of conventional operations in a nuclear setting have been covered by military thinkers on both sides of the Indo-Pak border, such as that of ‘nuclear redlines’, ‘nuclear thresholds’, depth of operations, reconfiguration necessary for strike corps resources and asymmetric war possibilities. This article takes up the discussion on implications of certain features of Cold Start.
Firstly, the limits of any future Cold Start offensive would obviously be politically determined and an outcome of political aims. As of the current situation it would appear that at best any Indian offensive would be of limited dimensions so as to sensitise Pakistan on the need for it to end its proxy war in J&K and across important locations in India. In a possible future scenario of a Talibanised or Lebanonised Pakistan, war aims may be more expansive to the extent of countenancing, along with the international community, a regime change. Military objectives would be jointly determined by the political leadership and important strategic voices, so that the nuclear dimension of the conflict is circumnavigated. Therefore, the limits of the offensive would be politically determined, even while the operational domain would be within the autonomous purview of the Services. Political leadership would have to be in the Indira-Shastri mould and that of the military in the Lal-Manekshaw-Nanda tradition. Nevertheless, institutional aspects, such as they presently are, need to be working at their optimum. There is scope for improvement in the direction of institution of a Chief of Defence Staff and further integration of the services with the Ministry of Defence. The debate initiated recently on the evolution of the Nuclear Command Authority needs to be taken to a logical conclusion for a decision and its implementation to be progressed with timely.
Secondly, the aspect of asymmetric war needs further dilation. In wake of 26/11 Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP offered its services to the Pakistan Army in case of an Indian attack. The ISI chief called its cadres ‘patriots’. The Indian Army Chief has mentioned the training in POK being given even to women in handling arms, though he said this in the context of likely infiltration of women terrorists into Kashmir. However, it is a pointer to the manner the frontier inhabitants are being trained by the Pakistan Army. This indicates that not only would India’s forces be confronted with a levee en masse, or the legally permissible uprising of the population in wake of invasion, but also of orchestrated asymmetric operations in occupied territories. The scenario would be akin to that encountered by the Israeli attacks into Lebanon in 2006 and into Gaza early this year. The recent rocket attacks from across the Wagah border provide a window into the future. There are several implications of asymmetric conflict of this kind.
One, Israeli counter tactics continue to be criticised in having lacked proportion and discrimination. The Indian Army would require studying these to ascertain as to the extent these have any validity in Indian conditions. Here it is argued that in case of an Indian attack, India requires making a distinction between common citizens and the Pakistani Army and its proxies. This would make for operational sense in that the resulting restraint would ensure that asymmetric war does not gain traction through people’s support. In this, tactics used by the US in the ‘Awakening’ campaign to pacify the Sunni triangle in Iraq may be instructive. General Petereus led US troops managed to get the Iraqi Sunni insurgents to turn on the Al Qaeda operatives in their midst. Towards this end, the information war campaign would have to be modulated accordingly. A prerequisite is a demographic profile up to intended operational depth.
Two, in light of the Army’s learning in controlling Jaffna during Op Pawan, the civil affairs component should be identified and exercised. This would require a whole of government approach. The Sub Areas and Areas would be engaged in military logistics. Even though civil affairs staff will primarily comprise army officers, the civilian component comprising administrators would require being on hand speedily. This was the most significant lesson from the stabilisation operations in Iraq. Americans made two time consuming changes in their top order prior to arriving at a viable structure. Civilian administrators, perhaps from young volunteers, would require being at the core of the civil affairs component. As with the Civpol (Civilian Police) in a peacekeeping scenario, policing elements need to be on hand. The non-military component should be supervised by deputy commanders at all levels. Smooth functioning would require introduction of an exercise along these lines at the LBS Academy. A ‘whole of government approach’ alone can prevent a communication zone endangering break down of law and order. Precedence exists in the manner the 1971 operations were executed, where Bengali speakers were seconded both from the Army and the civil to the Mukti Bahini, temporarily. The best antidote is in the Pakistani civil administration handling their own population and civil affairs with supervision by own civil affairs staff.
Four, the possibility of stampeded and panicked populations exists. The experience of Op Rah-e-Rast in Swat and that of the Sri Lankan Army in separating the LTTE from people requires attention. International attention may require moulding for which diplomatic and media resources need to be integrated into the larger information war ambit. The population movement could likely be without precedent given the gentlemanly tradition of past wars. It would not do to be surprised in the midst of a campaign. Rashtriya Rifles resources, duly psychologically and physically prepared, would require being attached to follow on forces. Necessary operating procedures for scenarios should be disseminated in Corps Battle Schools, where the troops undertaking tenures with the RR are introduced also to their possible conventional role in in-conflict stabilisation operations. Lastly, its not rocket science to appreciate that the National Disaster Management Authority and its meagre resources would be stretched in case of breakdown of the ‘nuclear taboo’. The military would require to designate and apportion resources prior for such contingencies, even as it continues with its operational mandate.
Preparation for war is no longer solely the military’s responsibility. Anticipating the likely conflict trajectory indicates that there is an equal onus on the civilian side. The features requiring civilian attention and action, covered here, need to be appropriately fore-grounded. It can no longer await the outbreak of war. Such preparation would have value not only in wartime, but would add to the credibility of conventional deterrence in peace.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).