In 1994, there was a clear indication that Indian nuclear and missile technology could be used against Pakistan, when ‘Pirthvi’ missile was tested by India. These apprehensions were substantiated, when in 1997 India deployed missiles along Pakistan’s border, creating a tense environment and leading to a troop build-up on both sides. Chances of an armed conflict rose and the peace of the entire region came under severe threat.
In 1998, India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests and shocked the entire world. For Pakistan, declaring nuclear potential was intended to deliver loud and clear message to India that it had achieved credible deterrence and the latter should refrain from thinking of military action against Pakistan. Since this overt display of nuclear weapons capability, no further space was left for conventional military adventurism. Even though both states came to the brink of a full-scale war during the Kargil Conflict in 1999, the realities of nuclear deterrence struck the thought process of both leaderships and the crisis did not spiral to an all-out war between the two nuclear states.
It became clear to India that conventional war with Pakistan would now be a suicidal mission. It therefore began working to formulate a strategy which could provide them with the desired results of war fighting under the nuclear threshold. Consequently, they emerged with the ‘Cold Start Doctrine’ (CSD), under which the Indian Armed Forces envisaged swift deployment of troops on the western border within days; it would allow Indian forces to conduct sustained attacks while preventing nuclear retaliation from Pakistan. The operation would be carried out by a unified battle group involving various branches of India’s military. According to Brig Gurmeet Kanwal (retd) the doctrine was based on two major elements. The first involved the readjustment of “Pivot” corps (defensive or ground holding corps) to make it possible to launch offensive operations virtually from a “cold start”, in order to deny Pakistan the advantage of early mobilization. The second element of the CSD conceptualizes a number of integrated divisional-size forces launching limited offensive operations to a shallow depth, allowing for the capture of a long swathe of territory almost all along the international boundary.
In response to India’s CSD, Pakistan decided to develop the ‘NASR’ missile system, designed to deny space to India for a conventional conflict below the nuclear threshold. Gen. Rawat, acknowledging the Cold Start in an interview to India Today, stated, “The Cold Start doctrine exists for conventional military operations. Whether we have to conduct conventional operations for such strikes is a decision well-thought through, involving the government and the Cabinet Committee on Security.”
Nasr is equipped with interesting features; its precision is peerless, with a shoot and scoot weapons system and the ability of in-flight manoeuvrability. A full spectrum deterrence posture has been ameliorated by the induction of this weapon system, while remaining within the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence. Nasr will play a cardinal role against the prevailing and evolving threat spectrum more effectively, including with regards to the enemy’s ballistic missile defence and other Air Defence Systems.
Responding to criticism by several Western sources, the Adviser to the National Command Authority (NCA) Lt. Gen (retd) Khalid Ahmed Kidwai stated that Pakistan is not apologetic about the development of tactical nuclear weapons. He asserted that the weapons were here to stay and provided the third (tactical) element of Pakistan’s full-spectrum deterrence. Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa also publicly stated that Nasr has poured cold water onto India’s CSD. As far as the hue and cry about the command & control features of the weapons system is concerned, both the political and military leadership rejected the concern as baseless.
Keeping in view the aggressive posturing of India against Pakistan it is evident the reason India could not materialize CSD is the induction of ‘NASR’; the latter has thus proven itself a weapon of peace by failing the Indian CSD. The international community must acknowledge the efforts of Pakistan in having thus ensured the peace of the entire region.
Ali Raza is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad. He holds master’s degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies (S&NS) from National Defense University, Islamabad. His area of research includes Strategic Stability, Arms control and disarmament and Non-Proliferation. His opinion articles appear in national and international newspapers, blogs and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]