Cold Start is a military doctrine, developed by the Indian Armed Forces to use in case of a war with Pakistan.
The main objective of the Cold Start Doctrine is to launch a retaliatory conventional strike against Pakistan but not in way Pakistan would be provoked to make a nuclear attack.
It is a non-aggressive, non-provocative defense policy, and will involve limited, rapid armoured thrusts, with infantry and necessary air support.
In May 2001, Operation Vijayee Bhava was launched by the Indian army. It is considered to be a trail run of the Cold Start Doctrine. The objective of this operation was to reduce the mobilisation time of army troops from different regions drastically to 48 hours, and was successful in achieving it.
Post December 13, 2001 Parliament attack by Pakistani backed Kashmiri militants , it took over 3 weeks for India’s strike corps to mobilize to border by Operation Parakram.
In this backdrop, Indian army announced a new limited war doctrine in 2004 that would allow it to mobilize quickly and undertake retaliatory attacks in response to specific challenges posed by Pakistan’s “proxy war” in Kashmir.
Cold Start Doctrine was developed as the limitations of the earlier doctrine – Sundarji Doctrine – was exposed after the attack on the Indian Parliament.
But after deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, Indian government took a decision not to implement the Cold Start Doctrine. This was to defeat the strategic goals of Pakistan to redirect the attacks of other Islamist militant groups attacking Pakistan to an external threat from India.
Later in 2011, Operation Sudarshan Shakti was conducted to revalidate Cold Start Doctrine. It’s focus was to practice synergy and integration between ground and air forces.
But at present, Cold Start remains more of a concept than a reality. Recent military exercises and associated organizational changes indicate that even though the Indian Army has made progress toward developing an operational Cold Start capability, much work remains.
A Cold Start–style manoeuvre doctrine requires high-quality junior officers who possess the initiative and flexibility to react to changing circumstances on the battlefield without explicit instructions from their superiors. This poses a significant challenge for the army. Not only is there a shortage of nearly 13,000 officers, but those currently serving are not necessarily well suited to implement the new doctrine. Existing military education emphasizes rote learning and the careful implementation of “schoolhouse solutions,” rather than free thinking. Furthermore, the army has traditionally favored carefully preplanned military operations against fixed positions that seek to attrit the enemy’s strength through tactical engagements. A conservative institutional culture that is resistant to change and where subordinate units are tightly controlled by higher command does not foster the initiative and creativity demanded by manoeuvre warfare. It requires a long period of time to cultivate junior leaders who can take risks and adapt to changing circumstances rather than mechanically execute a scripted battle plan, and the army has just begun that process.