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Lavneet Singh asked: What is the role played by missiles (Prithivi etc.) in implementing Cold Start doctrine of our forces?

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  • Ali Ahmed replies: The term 'doctrine' appended to Cold Start is a misnomer. Instead, Cold Start is one strategy option the government has to exercise in case it so desires in an India-Pakistan context. The details of Cold Start are not officially out in the open domain. Instead there has been much informed reflection on this including by Gen. (Retd.) VP Malik, Brig. (Retd.) Gurmeet Kanwal and Brig. (Retd.) Arun Sahgal. You may like to peruse their writings. An interesting article on the theme is Waltar Ladwig's in International Security (32:3) 'A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine'. In a nutshell, the strategy involves launch of proactive limited offensives by integrated battle groups comprising assets of both pivot corps and strike corps where available. Depending on the situation, strike corps forming up simultaneously may be launched later. The term Cold Start implies early launch of offensives, thereby undercutting the time delay that had taken place in Operation Parakram.

    In so far as missiles are concerned, their role has not been dwelt on in any great detail in open literature. This owes to missiles being taken as strategic delivery capability. However, Prithvi missile which you refer to is capable of carrying a conventional warhead and can be so employed. However, given the linkage with nuclear capability of missiles, these may not be used in a conventional limited war scenario due to their escalatory potential. A limited war can be limited along many parameters, such as time, aims, spread and weapons used. In case missiles are not used, it would be limitation along the weapons used dimension. This does not rule out their being used in a conventional role however, depending on the progress of the war. It may entail escalation of sorts, but not necessarily provocative of a nuclear escalation. In a conventional role, these could be used to supplement the firepower resources available to the land and air forces (Prithvi missiles are available with both services of differing range). The variety of warheads available indicates their utility. In so far as the other ballistic missiles are concerned, they are more directly related to the strategic capability and therefore are unlikely to be used in limited war scenario.