Strategic Assessment: A+
Unlike the current US military leadership, the American embassy in New Delhi comes out to be very astute on the bogey of “Cold Start”. In a February 2010 assessment, Ambassador Timothy Roemer, concludes:
We think that the November 2008 Pakistan-linked terror attack in Mumbai and its immediate aftermath provide insight into Indian and Pakistani thinking on Cold Start. First, the GOI refrained from implementing Cold Start even after an attack as audacious and bloody as the Mumbai attack, which calls into serious question the GOI’s willingness to actually adopt the Cold Start option. Second, the Pakistanis have known about Cold Start since 2004, but this knowledge does not seem to have prompted them to prevent terror attacks against India to extent such attacks could be controlled. This fact calls into question Cold Start’s ability to deter Pakistani mischief inside India. Even more so, it calls into question the degree of sincerity of fear over Cold Start as expressed by Pakistani military leaders to USG officials.
Cold Start is not India’s only or preferred option after a terrorist attack. Depending on the nature, location, lethality, public response, and timing of a terrorist attack, India might not respond at all or could pursue one of several other possible options. Finally, several very high level GOI officials have firmly stated, when asked directly about their support for Cold Start, that they have never endorsed, supported, or advocated for this doctrine.[Wikileaks/The Guardian]
Now, Mr Roemer’s assessment is being projected as an indication of India’s lack of military options in case of further Pakistani provocation. It’s not. Note the key sentence: “India might not respond at all or could pursue one of the several other possible options.”
Strategy is not always about being on the offensive, and aggression need not only be accomplished by action. For instance, reducing—instead of raising—military tensions after 26/11 was good strategy. Look no further than the doghouse the Pakistan and its military-jihadi complex find themselves in today. That said, it’s not as if India lacks options: sending troops to Afghanistan is one such, covert operations is another. On a day of relative calm like today, these options might look untimely, far-fetched or too risky. That’s because they are not meant to be exercised on days of relative calm.
Tailpiece: The Wikileaks cables reveal that sections of the US policy establishment—for instance, Anne Paterson, former ambassador to Pakistan—realise that the Pakistani military establishment won’t give up its anti-India agenda at any level of aid. She believes that addressing the Kashmir issue will. This wishful line of reasoning is less based on objective analysis and more due to a resignation. Because “giving away” Kashmir doesn’t cost the United States a thing, don’t expect this type of thinking to disappear anytime soon.