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Cold Start Doctrine


The Indian Armed Forces' 'Cold Start' doctrine envisions rapid deployment of soldiers on the western border within days if a full-fledged war scenario emerges. This concept intends to enable Indian troops to execute persistent strikes while preventing Pakistan from retaliating with nuclear weapons. A cohesive fighting force comprised of several components of India's military would carry out the mission.

The 'Cold Start' philosophy started to find a place in the Indian military system following the completion of Operation Parakram in 2002, a military standoff between India and Pakistan. During the 2002 standoff, which occurred as a consequence of an attack on Parliament by Pakistan-backed Kashmiri militants, it took the Indian Army about two months to mobilize and deploy soldiers on the Pakistan border.

Defense strategists began talking about the new doctrine of the Indian Army that would enable it to deploy a full-strength invasion force within a few days' notice, unlike several weeks of preparation that were required earlier.

The Cold Start doctrine aimed to prepare the army in such a way that offensive operations could be launched within 48 hours of orders being delivered, allowing Indian forces to startle their Pakistani counterparts.

Integrated Battle Groups

IBGs are brigade-sized agile self-sufficient fighting units capable of launching attacks on enemies quickly. Depending on the location, IBGs can be mobilised within 12-48 hours. Each IBG would be organised around Threat, Terrain, and Task, with resources given to each battle group based on the three Ts. For example, the composition of an IBG would vary depending on the terrain in which it operates, i.e. an IBG operating in the desert would be different from one operating in the mountains. A Major General will command each IBG. The border's integrated forces will be all-encompassing, including artillery, armoured, combat engineers, and signal units.

IBGs have been classified into- Defensive and Offensive:

  • Defensive IBGs would defend weak sites or areas where hostile activity is likely.

  • Offensive IBGs are capable of rapidly mobilizing and making thrusts into enemy territory for attacks.

After years of deliberations, the Army decided to raise the IBGs along the borders with China and Pakistan that will help it carry out swift strikes in case of a war.


The latent conflict between nuclear-armed adversaries India and Pakistan casts doubt on South Asia's long-term strategic stability. Deterrence breakdown between the two nations would have catastrophic ramifications, including the possible deployment and usage of nuclear weapons. Since 1999, there have been two military crises between India and Pakistan that have escalated to the point where other parties have felt compelled to interfere in order to prevent a war from breaking out. A low-level, Pakistani-backed insurgency in Pakistan occupied Kashmir exacerbates tensions between the two countries. India needs to be better prepared for any adverse situation that can possibly happen.

Pakistan’s View

According to Pakistani experts, the Cold Start doctrine is a hazardous one that is intrinsically escalators. It has been criticized by Pakistan's military and political leaders.

Pakistan and Cold Start critics believe that India's success in a Cold Start relies on a variety of elements, including topography, the element of surprise, and how Pakistan deploys its troops.

However, the fact that Pakistan has developed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the Cold Start means that it has been pushed by India to take recourse to nuclear weapons which could otherwise have been non-nuclear.

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