As an operational readiness, India might deploy the most modern of the Russian T-90 family of tanks in the Western Sector – the border along Pakistan – once it acquires them. The T-90 is India’s foremost MBT (main battle tank) and is renowned around the world for its superiority in battle conditions.
If India signs a deal, it will soon acquire the latest, most modernised version of the T-90 tanks – the T-90MS – from Russia. The deal will bring 464 of the machines, which have the capability to automatically turn towards the target once selected, for use by the Indian Army.
A report in the IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly says that the Indian Army plans to add more tank muscle along the Pakistan border and will, therefore, put the new tanks in the sector.
There are already around 900 T-90 Bhishma MBTs along the Pakistan border in Rajasthan and Punjab.
Though the acquisition of the T-90MS has been read as a measure to check a threat from China, there is an even bigger reason for the Army to deploy them in the Western Sector.
The deployment, once it happens, will help in the actual realisation of the Cold Start doctrine.
What is the Cold Start doctrine?
Before the December 2001 Parliament Attack, the Indian Army defensive strategy was called the Sundarji Doctrine, named after General Krishnaswamy Sundarji.
The doctrine – or defence strategy – involved a two-stage defensive system to be carried out by ‘holding corps’ and ‘strike corps’. The ‘holding corps’ would be pressed into service in case Pakistan attacked. Their job would to thwart the attack. The ‘strike corps’ would then launch an attack on Pakistan with an aim of totally crippling the country’s offensive and defensive capabilities.
The problem with the Sundarji Doctrine was that the ‘strike corps’ was located in Central India. In the aftermath of the Parliament Attack, India took an entire month to deploy its ‘strike corps’ along the border. The massive delay not only caused a loss of precious time but also allowed Pakistan to convince world powers to intervene and prevent an Indian attack.
Thus was shelved the Sundarji Doctrine and was born the Cold Start. This new doctrine involves using a combination of armoured and air power to immediately attack Pakistan in case of an offensive by the latter and substantially deal a blow to its military before Islamabad approaches the world community.
The success of the Cold Start largely depends on the armoured fighting vehicles and use of artillery because the aim is to achieve short missions quickly before the nuclear threshold is reached.
But the Cold Start is not an officially acknowledged doctrine. There are reports which claim that India is now working towards making the doctrine a reality.
In fact, on January 4 General Bipin Rawat became the first serving army commander to acknowledge the existence of the doctrine.
Speaking to India Today, the General said, “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.”
According to a report, the Cold Start will soon be discussed at the highest level of the military leadership. Given that the Modi government is actually working towards strengthening of the armed forces, the possibility of adopting the doctrine is stronger than before.
That the Defence Ministry is working fast on acquiring new weapons for the armed forces – the BAE deal, the Apache assault helicopter deal, and a very probable T-90MS deal – point in the direction of Cold Start.
So where does the T-90MS fit in this plan?
The 464 T-90MS will cost around Rs.135 billion. The tank is one of the most advanced in the world.
In its review of the Tagil, as the T-90MS is called in Russia, Military Today describes it as having “a hunter-killer engagement capability”.
The tank has a thermal vision which enables the commander to select a target and then move on to the next one. The gun automatically moves in the direction of the selected target and the gunner has to only aim and fire all the while the commander is looking for the second target.
This saving of time in selection of targets gives the T-90MS an edge over others. The target acquisition system tracks selected targets automatically and the gun is around 20 per cent more accurate than the T-90 Bhishma.