For the time being it appears as if India may have backed down from expected surgical strikes at militant bases in Pakistan. It is highly likely that pressure from the U.S. and China as well as other Asian neighbor states may have managed to buy a temporary peace from an Indian response to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. However, an Indian military doctrine that has been in effect since 2004 could well threaten the fragile peace between India and Pakistan.
"Cold Start" is a military doctrine that would allow Indian rapid deployment special forces units to strike within "Pakistan within hours of any terrorist attack on Indian soil. Such a rapid response would not allow time for diplomacy and also assumes that militants from Pakistan, and not home grown Indian radicals are responsible for any actions. Such a military doctrine, as well the nuclear weapons of India and Pakistan, make this a serious new foreign policy worry for the U.S., China and other Asian nations.
Unfortunately, this "Cold Start" doctrine also relies on some dangerous assumptions by New Delhi that may might not achieve the desired goals with Islamabad. New Delhi assumes that it may be able to hold limited portions of Pakistan with it's military, and use this for political leverage against the government of Pakistan. However. the danger is whether such a serious provocation can well stop short of triggering a nuclear exchange or not. Pakistan might well consider any actions by India that involve holding their territory as beyond acceptable and this could trigger ground wars between the forces of both nations as well as a possible nuclear strike by Pakistan in response. The dangers here are very high.
"Cold Start" also has another serious danger in that it may actually greatly strengthen the hand of militants and terrorists, where all that have to do to create a crisis between the two nuclear powers is to create a terrorist incident large enough to provoke war. That's very dangerous.
India also has not helped themselves either by their continued control of the disputed Kashmir region. If India would only free themselves of this issue with Pakistan, then relations would be much improved and perhaps far less militant and terrorist actions might take place as a result. Yet India fails to step up and resolve this critical issue.
Kashmir has unfortunately become for India and Pakistan all too much like some of the friction points between better U.S. and Russian relations. Kosovo or states like Georgia, where the tearing political influences between the East and West sides only seem to breed endless tensions and new foreign policy conflicts. Someone in New Delhi needs to really step up and realize that this disputed region is simply not worth risking a possible nuclear war over.
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