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Old Friday, February 05, 2010
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Post Fumbling response to a 'cold' doctrine BY Ayaz Amir

We live in a world of our own, obsessed with self-created problems, and lashing out at windmills which, much of the time, seem wild creations of our own imagination. To real problems we are oblivious. We are not even aware, as keenly as we should be, of our own neighbourhood.

It is nothing short of criminal that our media outlets don't have full-time correspondents based in Kabul and Delhi. Our knowledge of our two neighbours, to the west and east of us, is largely derived from outside sources -- western news outlets -- when it should be through our own eyes and ears.

Our better reporters -- and reporting is a department in which we are not very good --would be far better occupied covering India and Afghanistan than indulging in the mindless masochism of internal bloodletting.

My Lord the Chief Justice, famous now for his suo moto initiatives, could consider taking notice of this strange proclivity.

India formulated its Cold Start War Doctrine way back in April 2004 but we in Pakistan have yet to wake up to its full implications. General Musharraf, our generalissimo then, was into other things: prolonging his hold on power and, in the process, making a mess of everything. Strategy was a word always on his lips. He just couldn't do without it. But did he ever speak of this new war doctrine?

It goes to General Ashfaq Kayani's credit that he is trying to educate Pakistani public opinion about what it means and why, with it around, Pakistan must be wary. This is also a way of conveying to our American allies that try as they might to wean us from our preoccupation with India, the perceived threat from that quarter will look real enough to Pakistani eyes when the Indian military command chooses to deal in the imagery of surgical strikes and rapid armour movements.

For the Cold Start Doctrine is not out of science fiction. It is now the heart of India's war plans against Pakistan. In simple terms what it envisages is the creation of up to eight battle groups -- comprising armour, mechanized infantry and self-propelled artillery, backed by close air support -- capable of mobilising rapidly and carrying out fast, 'surgical' operations against targets in Pakistan, without crossing Pakistan's nuclear threshold. This at least is the theory and to all theories must be attached Field Marshal von Moltke's timeless observation that no battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy.

What is Pakistan's nuclear threshold? What is, for that matter, any nuclear power's nuclear threshold. This has never been tested and to the extent that India's new war doctrine makes bold assumptions about something yet unknown, it rests on uncharted territory.

Anyhow, cold start doctrine may sound new-fangled but it is actually the rediscovery of blitzkrieg -- lightning war -- by the Indian military, 70 years after its application, to devastating effect, by the German Wehrmacht in the Second World War. Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, may have used 'shock and awe' for the first time in 2003 to describe the American invasion of Iraq. But the original shock and awe was Hitler's destruction of Poland in 1939 and his defeat of France a year later. The Israelis replicated blitzkrieg in 1967 when they defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria in a war which lasted for no more than six days.

These are the images, these the memories, behind India's cold start doctrine, the idea that if Pakistan is up to any mischief, and if it is to be taught a lesson, the way to deal with it is in the fashion of blitzkrieg: rapid armoured thrusts, backed by heavy airpower, to hit at chosen targets in Pakistan and cripple the capacity of its army to retaliate. This presupposes rapid mobilization and the ability to attack before Pakistan has a chance to respond. In other words, catching Pakistan unawares.

The 1971 war apart, which was really a case of us putting our follies at the service of India, our other wars were leisurely affairs, with more of fixed line fighting than any notion of movement or manoeuvre. The essence of the new doctrine is mobility backed by overwhelming force.

And why has India thought it necessary to formulate such a doctrine? Because of the frustrating realisation that despite its conventional superiority it has not been able to put a stop to what it sees as Pakistani 'adventurism', as in Kargil, or infiltration across the Line of Control to keep alight the flames of insurgency. Cold start is supposed to confer on the Indian military a fresh range of options to choose from, and to exercise.

All this is pretty dangerous stuff and the least it should trigger is a serious debate in Pakistan. But we are caught up in other things and because our domestic woes are so overwhelming we just don't seem to have the time, or perhaps even the ability, to take in what may be happening in our dangerous neighbourhood, arguably now one of the world's great flashpoints.

We must contend with another problem in that successive military coups have bred an ingrained suspicion of military intentions. So that when an army chief, in this case Gen Kayani, talks about, say, the threat from India, there is no shortage of doubting thomases who jump to conclusions and wonder what trick he may have up his sleeve. Despite the rehabilitation of the army's image under Kayani, the gulf of suspicion between the army and public sentiment is still wide open.

Even so, we need to wake up to certain things. And the first one is to the foundations of blitzkrieg. Lightning war is not a luxury that poor countries or armies can afford. It puts a premium on tanks, and fast-moving artillery and hordes and hordes of fighters swooping down from the skies. In this day and age blitzkrieg also means conventional short range missiles, including cruise missiles, to soften the enemy's defences. All this only a rich economy can sustain.

And if from 2004 onwards Indian military planners have made mobility and the overwhelming concentration of force as the central pillars of their thinking this is only because the Indian economy has grown to the point where such planning is no longer a fantasy.

We can't match India tank to tank or plane to plane. Such an arms race would be suicidal for us. Nor is it enough to say that our nuke capability is an adequate defence against conventional military attack. It is not. Down this path is Armageddon and even to think along such lines is to enter the realm of despair. If it is only the nuclear option that we can think of then it is a poor reflection on the resources still left to us.

No, a country of 170 million -- although heaven knows our inflated population is nothing to boast about -- should have other resources of mind and spirit to rely on. First, we have to set our house in order, which of course is easier said than done. But for starters at least we can curb some of the fascination we have with internal bloodletting. Pakistan presents a picture not so much of a country under external attack as bleeding from within.

Why can't we get things right? Why can't we get a grip not so much on our problems as, to begin with, ourselves? Other countries have gone through worse times and the luckier ones have emerged stronger from their troubles. We present a picture of disarray, which is a greater danger than any threat of a blitzkrieg from across our eastern frontier.

We must also refashion our military doctrine, matching not tank for tank but thinking of how smaller countries have stood up to bigger adversaries: Finland standing up to the Red Army in 1940, the Vietnamese holding their own against China in 1979, the Hezbollah stopping the mighty Israeli army in 2006.

The cold start doctrine is unconventional thinking. This is a strange reversal of roles. As the smaller power, the David to India's Goliath, we should be going down the unusual route.

And, please, a final farewell to 'jihad'. We have paid a heavy price for this folly. If the kingdom of heaven is to have any meaning it must be created in the here and now. So it may be time to start behaving like a people with a modicum of understanding at their command..



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