“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…


No one writes like this any more. Charles Dickens would approve. After all he wrote those immortal lines.

Pre French Revolution Paris and London were twins of their unfortunate selves. Envy, greed, lust, subjugation, hopelessness and despair; never were two cities so conjoined in misery.

Certainly not until the late sixties when Pakistan decided to move its national capital from Karachi to Islamabad, a triangular piece of land facing the Margalla Hills. The city is no longer triangular, concrete having taken its toll in making edifices, which outdo each other in a manic nod to mediocrity.

What clinched the location of Pakistan’s new capital was not just what was supposedly wrong with Karachi, but the location’s proximity to Rawalpindi, the home of General Head Quarters, Pakistan Army. GHQ, Rawalpindi is all that Islamabad should have been, but is not. Islamabad should have been the seat of legislative, executive and judicial power in Pakistan. Let not Google tell you otherwise. A building does not a Supreme Court make. And neither does a Parliament full of elected representative lend gravitas to an otherwise dysfunctional nation.

Islamabad is Rawalpindi’s stepbrother.

The tale of these two cities defines the path Pakistan takes. It tells you a tragic story of why military coups happened, and continue to happen. And it also explains Pakistan’s schizophrenic relationship with India.

Whether the winds of misfortune blow from the east or the west, they hit Islamabad first, and Islamabad absorbs terrible seismic shocks that should have come Rawalpindi’s way.

The Pakistan Army is Teflon coated. No amount of mud will stick. It is the only institution in Pakistan that works. To question it is blasphemy. The failures of the Pakistan Army are always attributed to the civilian leadership. From Islamic radicalization to humiliating defeats by India in all wars, it is somehow the fault of everyone else but the Pakistan Army. And the populace believes this with the same fervor that a Catholic believes that Christ walked on water.

Pakistan has the support some important members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a group of 57 Muslim countries. It has the grudging support of America, at least till the war on terror is being fought in Afghanistan, and it has the unequivocal support of China. India cannot diplomatically isolate Pakistan, geography being a legitimate argument.

Economic sanctions will not work on a nation that is already being funded by China and the US. And the IMF and World Bank will not allow Pakistan to go bankrupt.

Whatever we may do, Pakistan will receive money from NATO’s Coalition Relief Fund (CRF). These are monies in lieu of using Pakistani overland routes to transport NATO war supplies to Afghanistan, for the war on terror. China has made substantial investments in Pakistan, specifically in the CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor).

What is the Chinese obsession with CPEC and Gwadar about? Oil and distance is what attracts China. Kashgar is at a distance of 2000 kms from Gwadar. When ready, it will save China nautical miles and days. UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia will be at touching distance. Goodbye Malacca Strait. Welcome Gwadar.

Diplomatically isolating Pakistan or sanctioning it has limited feasibility. Pakistan is too geo-strategically important for the world to ignore it. What was important to Alexander the Great and Changez Khan is now important to China and America. They don’t love Pakistan but yes, they need it.

Economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation will hurt the democratically elected government of Pakistan and the common people. It will not hurt the Pakistan Army. And, the Pakistan Army owns the terror infrastructure in Pakistan.

India must clearly recognize and accept two facts. One, there will never be peace with Pakistan because partition was based on the two nation theory of Jinnah. He espoused that Hindus and Muslims were separate nations, and so different that they could not live in the same country. Two, unless we physically stop the Pakistan Army, terror will revisit India again and again.

Terrorism is cheap and Pakistan has the world’s largest inventory of terrorists. The pipeline is spread across 35,000 registered and unregistered madrasas. The waiting list to go to Jannat is extremely long. The faithful are willing.

Even if each madrasa were to send one single student to become a terrorist, you would have three infantry division’s strength of suicide bombers. All this, without the expenditure incurred on infrastructure, advanced training and advanced weaponry. And it would come with that unique positioning that Pakistan loves; plausible deniability.

If we wish for Pakistan to stop exporting terror to India, we must turn off the tap. There is no other road to take.

The Pakistan Army is inferior to the Indian Army in every imaginable way. If you war-gamed every possible scenario, you would come to the conclusion that there is no way the Pakistan Army can win a conventional conflict with India.

Nuclear weapons are fine for global respect and irresponsible sabre rattling, but even a psychotic North Korea, which threatens Armageddon every week, dare not use nuclear weapons.

Over time, Pakistan has successfully managed to convince the world, especially Indians, that its nuclear threshold is extremely low. Pakistan has convinced the world that if threatened, it will use nuclear weapons as first response. These are unfounded, imaginary fears.

After Uri, the national mood has turned dark. There are calls for vengeance and war. I do not belittle vengeance. It is honorable to seek it. But it must be calibrated, so that the effect is fatal.

Crossing the Line of Control to destroy terror camps has no meaning. These camps across the LoC are all rock, canvas and wood. The real terror infrastructure that we are so fond of speaking about is not near the Line of Control, but inside major cities in Pakistan. And the nerve center is Rawalpindi.

What I am proposing will mean blood. It will mean loss of human lives. The market will nosedive and the economy will take a hit. But to assume that the Pakistan Army will stop sponsoring terror if India abrogates or dilutes the Indus River Treaty is living in a fool’s paradise.

The only way to stop terror attacks on India is to physically confront the Pakistan Army and break its spine. All other ways are temporary, at best. That is why we must go to war once, and for the last time settle all accounts between us.

Only then can we hope for a better future for India, and whatever is left of Pakistan.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#IndianArmy #adgpi










Yesterday, seventeen of my brothers were martyred in a terror attack in Uri Sector. Seventeen homes were shattered. Children were orphaned. Their fathers will come home in a coffin, wrapped in the tri-color. Seventeen homes will not celebrate Diwali this year.

Yes, we will grieve for our dead. We will take care of their families, for that is our way of life. But we will save our tears for later. Today, we will sit and plan retribution.
I have had enough of you peaceniks; enough of you people lighting candles at Wagah. The day you lose a brother, you will know my pain. I have lost 17 brothers. You cannot even imagine the extent of my pain and anger. 
I write this to those who are in power today, those who decide what the Indian Army should or should not do. 
We are constantly attacked – 1947, 1965, Kargil, 26/11, Parliament attacks, Pathankot terror attack and now in Uri. And yet, we are not permitted to hit back. This is humiliating and it shatters our morale.
We are soldiers. We kill and we die. That is our profession. But when we die, we die with honor. We die on our feet; we don’t live on our knees. I know, because it is written on the walls of the Officers Training Academy. 
A soldier can bear pain, loss and sorrow with a shrug. But you are asking us to bear humiliation. This will break our spirit. Pakistani blood must flow. And it must flow like the blood on the streets of Dhaka on Eid. 
This is not about strategic gain or that cat and mouse game that Pakistan thinks it is so adept at playing. This is about the soldier’s honor. Our funeral pyres burn as far as the eye can see. Our blood has colored this earth red. Today we ask this nation to restore the rights of the soldier.
It is our right to retaliate at a time and place of our choosing. It is our right to use disproportionate force. It is our right to kill the enemy.
You, our political masters, must realize that you are sitting on a time bomb. Mark my words very carefully. There will be immense pressure on the Commanding Officers of the units that were attacked. The pressure will be from the troops they command. The concept of “face” and honor is everything in the Indian Army. Thousands of armed men will be baying for blood. And they will not stop till their honor has been redeemed.
It could take a very small spark, a comment a month down the line when another unit’s soldier could say to a soldier of the unit that has suffered casualties, “They killed your brothers and you did nothing”. You will then have local commanders taking local decisions. A company commander may just decide that since the LoC is not clearly demarcated, he got lost and entered Pakistan “by mistake”. And then there will be blood. It has been done before. Those from the Naga Regiment will know what I am talking about; the Nagas know a thing or two about vengeance. If you kill one of theirs, they don’t wait for instructions from New Delhi.
Why was such a location chosen, which was astride a river and on the highway connecting Kashmir to Muzzafarabad? Why was it not a walled compound? There are many such questions that I have, but will not ask them on this forum. But this much I will say; someone has to be held accountable for the 17 precious lives lost. 
We have several military options that can be used against Pakistan, and one of these must be used in the next 72 hours or before. In none of these actions is there a threat of nuclear response from Pakistan.
Option One will be to go in for massive artillery bombardment across the line of control using Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers (MBRL Pinaka), medium artillery and other guns. This will degrade and denude Pakistan’s military infrastructure and cause heavy loss of lives. Pakistan Army’s artillery is no match for our own and has no credible response to our bombardment. CB (counter bombardment) measures and capabilities of the Pakistan Army are well documented. However, loss of lives on our side cannot be ruled out.
Option Two could be to launch a Special Forces raid across the LoC. A team of one of the Para SF units may be tasked to go across the border for a HVT (high value target). This will include assassination of enemy commanders, destroying infrastructure and killing Pakistan Army personnel. Infiltration will not be difficult but exfiltration may be very complicated. We risk loss of lives.
Option Three may be a swift and devastating air attack on Pakistan Army infrastructure, deeper inside Pakistan. HQ 1 Corps in Mangla (Gilgit Baltistan) will be an excellent target. In this option, we will have to contend with Pakistani Air Defence, and loss of our pilot’s lives and a few aircraft.
Any option we choose, we stand to lose lives. But there is no going back now. We must break Pakistan’s spine. The honor of our country is at stake. 
And the brave seventeen will not accept peace without honor. 
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
#IndianArmy #adgpi


I entered the forbidding gates of the Officers Training Academy, Madras (it was Madras then) in the early summer of 1993. Between cracking SSB and joining the academy, I had celebrated with countless calories, both of the solid and liquid variety. I had celebrated with everyone. College mates from St. Stephens, and friends from Hansraj, Ramjas and Hindu. I celebrated with everyone who wanted to celebrate, even if they didn’t have a clue why exactly I was celebrating. The result was a waist of 38 inches, and a bodyweight touching 90 kgs. Well, the army did not remember selecting such a useless lump of lard. So, the instructors at the academy did what they do best. It was a turkey shoot.

And I had a big attitude problem. My father was a very senior government official, and I was from The College. Everyone I had met in life had taken notice of these two things. The Indian Army seemed to me a different kettle of fish. They were not interested in where I had come from. They were focused on where I was going.

I should have seen it coming from a hundred miles, but I did not. It was like walking into a speeding locomotive.

An instructor once had a small conversation with me.

“Does your father respect you?” he asked.

“He loves me but I don’t know about respect, Sir” I responded.

“That’s what you should know. Make him proud”, he said and walked off.

From early morning till late in the night, the Directing Staff at OTA had just one single agenda. And they drove that agenda ruthlessly. Drill, physical fitness, weapons training, tactics, military history, military law; it just went on and on. No respite. No mercy.

Lutyens Delhi does not prepare you for a life of blood and sweat. After a week I started to crack. I desperately wanted to quit. I would walk in a daze, my movements uncoordinated. After the first BPET (5 km full battle load run), I wanted to curl up in a corner and die. I had failed. I failed my first Drill Square Test (DST), and with it any chances of a weekend pass to the city. I failed my PT test. In a nutshell, I had failed every test that OTA had devised.

Three of my platoon mates decided to do something about it. Amardeep Singh Bali, Anand Prakash Sinha and Ajeet Chauhan decided that either we would all swim together or sink together. They were physically fit and mentally robust. While academy is hell for everyone, these three were doing well and passing all tests. They need not have stepped forward to help me. And in OTA where you don’t have the time to remember your own name, these three took it upon themselves to make sure I remembered mine.

In the first four months, they must have carried my pack and my weapon countless times. There were two occasions when the entire platoon was in deep trouble because I messed up. Without exception, each one of them stepped up to help. No one complained. For those of you who do not know, Indian Army training is designed to break you. And then make you. The process of becoming an officer is extremely painful. They change you and they change your thinking. After 6 months you sound like someone else.

Bali, from Jammu, never backed down and took on storms with a smile. Sinha, from Bihar, always cheerful irrespective of the pain being inflicted, and Chauhan (Chow) from Delhi, who made everything seem so effortless that you suspected that he had found a short cut, only to realize that the truth was that he was really tough.

Bali and Sinha are serving Colonels in the Indian Army and posted in Delhi. Chauhan left the army after the Kargil war and now lives in Jakarta. These three helped me with many things, but if I had to choose one I would say, they restored my self-belief. OTA breaks you, if only because of the sheer relentless pace of training. My buddies did not let me break.

I finished my first term with excellent ratings in BPET and Physical Training. I passed the DST, and soon all four of us could be found on weekends at Sagar at Guindy, gorging on butter chicken and then running off to drink beer.

At the end of the first term I weighed 58 kgs and my waist size was 27 inches.

See attached pic…Bali to my left and Sinha on the right.

There are soldiers outside of uniform, too. Sonali Singh and Ankit Sharma are two such soldiers. And they are soldiers to the bone.

It was the first half of July 2016 when I wrote “Open Letter to Burhan Wani”. I wrote it because I could not hold back my anger any longer. Here was a terrorist who was being lionized by the people and the media. The soldier in me felt hurt and humiliated.

48 hours after I posted it on my FB page, I got a message from Sonali introducing herself to me. In a nutshell, she told me that my article was going viral and creating a firestorm. And that this information war needed a different kind of soldier; not one wielding an AK47, but a mouse.

Sonali is an army brat and we had spoken years earlier. And true to her lineage, she took charge immediately. Ankit came aboard soon after. Truth be told, Ankit and I are in awe of Sonali. Her typical WhatsApp message goes something like this “MGA, I need the Balochistan article to go live by 1300 hrs tomorrow”. Who speaks like this outside of the army? Sonali, we had instructors like you in the academy.

Sonali has put me across to people, online news magazines and the entire world of social media.

Ankit is the IT whiz kid. He lives inside the Internet. He takes care of the technical aspects. I don’t even understand half of what he speaks, but I call it “the nerd language”. Here is a typical Ankit Sharma phone call, “Hi Sir, server &*%# tagged you %$#@ hackers @#&% fake Pakistan IDs *&#$ troll &%#@. Got it?”

“No Ankit, I have no clue what you just said”, I respond.

“That’s okay, Sir. Chill. I will take care of it”. Call disconnected. Ankit goes back inside the Internet.

Thank you, Sonali and Ankit. Without you, I would be totally lost. You have done so much. And we have never met.

Three absolute strangers meet over the net, never face to face, and decide that the Indian Army’s story needs telling. The soldier’s voice needs to be heard.

And thats how it all started.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)



Dear Officers,

On 10 September this year, 249 of you (217 Gentlemen Cadets and 32 Lady Cadets) stepped over the “Antim Pag”, slow marching to the soulful Auld Lang Syne. At the majestic Parmeshwaran Parade Ground, you were accorded a unique privilege. You passed out of OTA Chennai, commissioned into the Indian Army as officers under the benign gaze of your Supreme Commander, the President of India. Addressing you, the Supreme Commander said, “A billion hopes rest on your young and brave shoulders”. Truer words have not been uttered.

You have been through Indian Army training. That’s just hell by another name. Give yourselves a pat on the back. You are a survivor.

As an old soldier, I would like to share a few thoughts with you. I hope these will find a corner in your hearts.

  1. Your first loyalty is to India and its constitution. Mother India chooses its bravest daughters and sons to guard her honor. You have walked on fire to get those stars on your shoulders. Many a time during training, you may have wanted to quit. You did not. You are made of different molecules.
  1. Your unit/ regiment is your family. You will live and die for India but you will live and die with your unit. This bond is unbreakable, even in death. You will be remembered for eternity.
  1. Spend time with your troops. Get to know them. This is the brotherhood of Olive Green. You are their leader. If you are worthy, they will march with you to the very gates of hell. Remember the legend of martyr Lance Naik Hanumanthappa? Sometimes, it is possible for mortals to challenge the gods. Many of those mortals wear OG.
  1. Train, learn and read. That is the only way to succeed in the Indian Army. All of you, without exception, should be scholar warriors. Read military history, read the future of warfare and read just about anything that you can get your hands on. Absorb knowledge. It will stand you in good stead.
  1. Till the time you are a lieutenant, except breach of integrity, all sins are forgiven. Take advantage of this unwritten rule. Make mistakes but don’t stop learning. You have carte blanche.
  1. When things go wrong, step forward and take responsibility. When things go right, step back and let your team take the credit.
  1. The religion of your troops is your religion. If you are a Malyalee and posted into the Sikh Regiment, you will go to the Gurudwara. If you are a Muslim and your troops are Hindu, you will worship at a temple. And if you are a Hindu and your troops are Christian, you will kneel in church. If you see a Sikh in a mosque with a Quran, this is the Indian Army.
  1. Your background is immaterial. Rich or poor, Hindu or Muslim, this caste or that, the Indian Army just does not care. We are in the business of killing the enemies of the state and protecting the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Only merit counts. If there are any considerations other than merit, it will mean compromising on national security and that is something the Indian Army will NEVER do.
  1. The uniform that you wear comes with the blessings of a billion Indians. You are trusted because the Indian Army is trusted. This trust cannot be broken, irrespective of consequence. Do whatever needs to be done to maintain this trust because this trust is sacred. A covenant with India is a covenant with God.
  1. You will have more privileges than the soldiers you command. But when orders are given to flush out terrorists from a house in Kashmir, remember you will be the first one to smash through that door. You will make the first kill. Or take the first bullet on your chest. You will never give orders to attack. You will always say “FOLLOW ME”. That is the officer’s creed. This is your article of faith.

It is important that you understand that we are not only a powerful army. We are also a moral army. We are not strong because we have weapons. We are strong because we are right.

I wish you the very best and I hope you have an exciting and fulfilling life.

Go forth and Serve With Honour.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #ServeWithHonour #DefenceNewsMail


It was an unusually warm afternoon in the autumn of 1935. Adolf Hitler sat under a tent, faithful Guderian seated next to him, reviewing maneuvers of tanks and armored vehicles, on the plains of Kummersdorf. Every now and then, he would glance at Heinz Wilhelm Guderian’s classic “Achtung Panzer”, the tank man’s Bible.

It was early evening when Hitler suddenly rose from his chair. Guderian got up, unsure of what was going on inside Hitler’s mind. Hitler could be extremely temperamental. He looked at Guderian and keeping his hand on his shoulder in an unusually familiar gesture, he said looking at the rolling tanks, “That is what I want – and that is what I will have.”

German strategic thinking had evolved from the writings of Carl Von Clausewitz, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder and Alfred von Schlieffen. But it was the defeat in the First World War and the humiliating Treaty of Versailles that violently changed German thinking. This violent change brought with it anti-Semitism, National Socialism and a spiritual connect with ancient Rome. In 1933, it catapulted Adolf Hitler to power. The Nazi Party was a one-man dictatorship and drew heavily from the Prussian (German) military masters. When Hitler started rearmament in direct contravention of the Treaty of Versailles, his vision was the Alfred von Schlieffen’s ‘Schlieffen Plan’ and Guderian model of warfare; heavy concentration of armor, fast moving infantry, total air superiority and mass deployment of mobile artillery. Hitler had a galaxy of military geniuses with him – Guderian, Schmidt, Model, Manstien, Rundstedt, Goering, Rommel and many more.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland. So swift and brutal was the assault that the world could only stare awestruck. This was Blitzkrieg, Germany’s “lightning war”. Europe fell to Blitzkrieg and it was this “lightening war” that saw Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the USSR. Blitzkrieg was knocking at the doors of Moscow. The Germans never officially used the word Blitzkrieg. Most denied its existence. But the world understood it for what it really was. In the words of the immortal Maj. Gen. JFC Fuller of the British Army “Speed, and still more speed, and always speed was the secret, and that demanded audacity, more audacity and always audacity.”

India went down a similar path. For too long, we had adopted a defensive posture. Our methods were too straitjacketed and hidebound. Unknown to many of our own generals at Army HQ in New Delhi, the Indian Army’s Sundarji Doctrine of warfare was about to collapse.

On 13 December 2001, five Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists armed with AK 47s, grenade launchers, pistols and explosives attacked the Indian Parliament. Nine Indians (Delhi Police, Parliament Security and a gardener) were martyred in the attack. All five terrorists were killed. India responded by trying its hand at coercive diplomacy and launched Operation Parakram. For months, both the Indian and Pakistan Armies stood eyeball to eyeball at the border.

India could have seized the initiative. India could have done so much more than just sitting at the border for months. But it did not. The holding Corps of the Indian army were ready for battle in 72-96 hours. The three Strike Corps (I, II and XXI Corps) based in Mathura, Ambala and Bhopal respectively, took over three weeks to mobilize and reach their operational areas. And by the time they reached the Pakistan border, Gen. Pervez Musharraf had gone on national TV in Pakistan to condemn the attack on the Indian Parliament and promise that Pakistan’s territory would not be used as a base for terror. The US intervened and put tremendous pressure on India not to launch attacks on Pakistan. Musharraf reduced India’s political justification for war, to zero.

There is a certain “national mood” for war. And there is a certain momentum. India failed to capitalize on both counts. Both the armies went back to their barracks, with nothing to show for it.

Indian military thinkers came to the conclusion that the entire Sundarji Doctrine was flawed. You could not have holding Corps in a defending role at the border and attacking Corps deep inside Indian Territory. It was too cumbersome, unwieldy and slow. 21st Century wars required lightening fast reflexes. India needed its army’s attack elements to cross over into Pakistan much faster. We needed to reduce the mobilization time from 21 days to 48 hours. In many ways, we needed to do what Germany did in Poland on 1 September 1939.

The template was probably the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Israel fought a vicious six-day war against Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. And Israel won against a numerically superior enemy, fighting on different fronts. Israel won because they understood that surprise, speed, ferocity and deception win wars. Whether it was neutralizing the enemy air force when it was on ground, lightening armor thrusts through lightly defended gaps or the use of paratroopers, Israel fought like a nation possessed.

The concept of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War possibly became the core of the new Indian Army warfare doctrine. There were other operations like Desert Storm and Desert Shield, which were dissected, threadbare. This new doctrine stressed on fast moving Integrated Battle Groups, duly supported by the Air Force and Navy. It conceived a war fighting method that would catapult India into full-fledged battle in 48 hours. Someone likened it to an automobile engine, which did not need warming up before moving, an engine that could start at ambient temperature.

So, they called it Cold Start.

Cold Start is India’s new war doctrine, which envisions a conventional conflict in the shadow of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and its willingness to use WMDs if threatened. Unlike the Sundarji Doctrine, which was based on massive retaliation and dismembering of Pakistan, Cold Start has different ambitions. It acknowledges the possibility of a limited war and seeks to take advantage of it. Former Chief of Army Staff Gen. V.P. Malik states, “Space exists between proxy war/low-intensity conflict and a nuclear umbrella within which a limited conventional war is a distinct possibility.”

Cold Start is based on the premise that (even) Pakistan has a nuclear threshold. It will not use nuclear weapons in retaliation before that threshold has been reached.

Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) will form the core of this strategy. And the strategy is based on speed, audacity, overwhelming firepower, superior planning and total surprise. IBGs will largely comprise of heavy and fast moving armor, mechanized infantry, artillery and other firepower elements of the army duly supported by Air Force assets like fighter jets and helicopter gunships. In certain cases, the Indian Navy will close-support these IBGs.

These IBGs may be based in Jammu in J&K, Amritsar and Moga in Punjab and Suratgarh, Bikaner, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Palanpur in Rajasthan.

IBGs, eight in number and each the size of a division, will make lightening thrusts inside Pakistan, going in 55-80 kilometers. The holding (pivot) corps will carry out limited offensive strikes, while maintaining their defensive posture. Cold Start seeks to attack multiple objectives simultaneously. It is believed that Pakistan’s command and control & decision making structure will come under severe pressure in such a scenario.

The aim is to seriously degrade Pakistan’s will to fight, inflict severe damage to its war-fighting infrastructure and disrupt their decision-making capabilities.

Having stated the obvious, it is now time to reflect on a strategy and have related objectives that our policymakers think are achievable by military force. Cold Start may not cleave Pakistan into half, but it has the sheer capability to cause extreme damage, both physically and psychologically. The Pakistanis know this.

This brings us to two questions that our policymakers must address. One, how do we contain this conflict? All wars have a soul of their own, and amongst the drumbeats and hysteria, its very possible for the government of the day to come under pressure and expand the scope of the conflict. Two, how can we stop it from going nuclear? If either of these two things were to happen, Cold Start would have failed to meet its objectives. The Pakistanis know this, too.

It will be in the interest of Pakistan to exponentially increase the scope of conflict. They would want it to spiral out of control so that the distinct possibility of a nuclear conflict can horrify the world. Pakistan bases all its adventures on this one fact, and it’s a good policy, too. No country wants two nuclear powers to go to war. Ever since John von Neumann coined the term Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), a theory based on the assumption that in the event of a nuclear war, both belligerents will cease to be functional nation states; MAD has been accepted at face value.

So, Pakistan pushes the MAD envelope. India sees Cold Start as a highly effective strategy in the niche grey area between the first terror strike sponsored by Pakistan and MAD.

“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, noted Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. Simply stated, however much planning and detailing you do, Plan A will be so much candyfloss in a desert storm. This brings us to the importance of initiative at the local commander level. The problem with initiative is that the senior commanders have to let go. It is still debatable if that is wise, in such high intensity operations being conducted under the shadow of nuclear war. However, like in all wars, in this case too, devolution will be decided immediately after the first contact with the enemy.

All war is based on Murphy’s Law, which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will”. Funny? Yes. True? Also yes.

Pakistan is geographically narrow, with a length of approximately 1000 miles but an average width of not more than 300 miles. If you were a tourist driving an SUV, unhindered, you could start at Jaisalmer after an early 7 am breakfast, stop over for a late lunch at Quetta, Balochistan at 3 pm and be in Spin Buldak, Afghanistan by 6 pm. You would need to refuel your vehicle only on reaching Afghanistan.

Now you understand why Pakistan is terrified. And now you understand why Pakistan has ignited insurgencies in Punjab (Khalistan movement) and Kashmir. It is always looking for that elusive mirage of strategic depth because wars need land to fight. Pakistan does not have land. But the next best thing is influence. Influence in Kashmir and Punjab give it depth and fifth columnists, Indians who will support Pakistan in times of war. Lack of land is the reason why Pakistan always attacks India first, because it makes better tactical sense to fight a war on someone else’s land. Imagine a scenario in which India’s 3 Strike Corps penetrate deep into Pakistan. Then, it’s either nuclear war or goodbye Pakistan.

Some experts claim that Cold Start is still in the experimental stages. That’s not true. It may not have been battle tested because that needs a war, but for the past 12 years the Indian Army has been honing it to a fine edge.

In March 2004, the Indian Army first demonstrated the various aspects of Cold Start in a war game called Operation Divya Astra (Divine Weapon). The aim was to deliver a potent and fatal strike into the heart of Pakistan. The location of the exercise was the famous Mahajan Field Firing Ranges in Rajasthan, approximately 75 kms from the Pakistan border. The scenario comprised of Army and Air Force elements penetrating fixed enemy fortifications. It was a mechanized assault supported by artillery and ground attack aircraft.

In May 2005, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force launched a joint exercise in Jalandhar area, about 75 kms from the Pakistan border. The exercise was called Operation Vajra Shakti (Thunder Power). In nine days of simulated attacks and counter-attacks, the Indian Forces were able to penetrate 30 kms into enemy territory and set the stage for the Strike Corps for follow-on deep penetration attacks.

Just six months later, the Indian Army launched Operation Desert Strike in Rajasthan’s Thar area. The aim of this war game was two fold. One, to synergize XXI Corps with the Indian Air Force, and two, to defeat an enemy (Pakistan) using preemption, dislocation and disruption. 25,000 troops took part in this exercise, which deployed fast moving armor, paratroopers dropping behind enemy lines, fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships of the Indian Air Force.

May 2006 saw the Indian Army launch Operation Sangh Shakti (Joint Power). This exercise was in many ways a sequel to the May 2005 Operation Vajra Shakti. Ambala based II Corps was the focus of this major exercise. 1 Armored Division, 14 Rapid Division and 22nd Infantry Division war-gamed a scenario in which a lightening thrust through the Cholistan Desert would cleave Pakistan in half. An interesting fact about this exercise was that for the first time the Indian Army dropped the pretense of using the code name Red Land for Pakistan and Blue Land for India. The enemy was Pakistan and the operational brief to the Corps Commander II Corps was to attack Pakistan and break it into two.

The fifth major exercise designed to test and put Cold Start through its paces was launched in May 2007 in the Rajasthan desert. It was called Operation Ashwamedh.

I Strike Corps tested its network-centric warfare strategy. In a typical “fog of war” scenario, Operation Ashwamedh was designed to slingshot I Strike Corp into battle. With helicopter gunships providing cover, armored columns moved at unheard of speeds into “enemy” territory. Paratroopers, mechanized infantry units, artillery and infantry provided the thrust. Operation Ashwamedh was an out-and-out offense war game. For one week, night and day, the entire I Corps was the hammer and Pakistan was the anvil. The Indian Air Force provided tactical and close air support.

At a tertiary level, a few important capabilities were tested across these exercises. Night fighting capabilities, fighting in built up areas (FIBUA), special forces deep penetration strikes etc were tested simultaneously. For example in Operation Divya Astra, combat engineers bridged a 60-meter wide canal, all in 30 minutes. This bridge was capable of supporting tanks and armor.

Operation Ashwamedh met all its war objectives. Speed was required and so was audacity. I Corps delivered on both requirements, impressively. And I Corps moved at “supernatural speed”.

The lessons learnt from these war games were imbibed and improved upon again in 2012 during Operations Shoor Veer and Rudra Akrosh, and in 2016 during Operation Shatrujeet.

The big win in these exercises, apart from other critical parameters, was network centricity. Indian commanders seemed at ease with the latest global technology, and real-time intelligence gathered through satellite imagery and UAVs reduced decision making time, helping the commanders be as flexible as the situation demanded.

The big loss was inter-services coordination. It still is.

A war doctrine is effective only as long as it achieves its stated objectives. Simply put, the objectives of Cold Start are to damage and degrade Pakistan’s war machine and severely disrupt its decision-making ability.

Pakistan has nothing to counter Cold Start with. The best they have been able to come up with are tactical nuclear devices; small nuclear weapons which can be used against advancing IBGs. But Pakistan feels that the world will understand the use of tactical nuclear weapons because they will be used on the Indian Army but inside Pakistan’s territory.

We must always keep in mind that whatever we do, Pakistan’s first response will always be to exponentially and immediately expand the scope of the conflict.

That is the flexibility Cold Start must have, to be a scalpel when needed and a broadsword when it must.

Mjölnir, the legendary hammer of Norse legend had the power to level mountains. But the person wielding it had to be worthy. That was the only condition. Cold Start is fearsome in its potential for sudden destruction, but our policymakers must be absolutely certain, beyond a shadow of doubt, what they wish from this divine hammer.

As the legendary inscription on Mjölnir declares, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor”.

The next major terror attack will come, and as always, from Pakistan’s soil. That much is certain. There is no stopping it. What will be the construct of our retaliation is a question we must ask ourselves.

Till then, the hammer waits.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi 


I guess it’s the way we have been brought up; the societal pressure not to question or object, lest someone of significance takes offense. We don’t question elders, teachers or anyone who we feel may be offended. So, we put our heads down, lead our submissive lives and go to meet our maker, heads bowed.

This attitude extends to our national security. We are always tentative, always on the back foot.

Sample this. Pakistan and India are both nuclear powers, and a month does not pass by when Pakistan does not remind us, directly or obliquely, about this. The Pakistani play is simple; don’t think you can push us. We have nuclear weapons that can turn New Delhi and Mumbai into ash in a matter of minutes.

Under the protection of this nuclear umbrella, Pakistan launches Kargil, 26/11 and the Parliament attacks. It does so with absolute impunity, supremely confident that India will never respond. Well, that part is true. India has, true to form, never responded.

Not a year goes by when the People’s Liberation Army of China does not encroach upon Indian Territory, regular as the monsoon. China defeated us in a short vicious border war in 1962, with no mean help from the nation’s Chacha, the redoubtable Nehru and his defence minister Krishna Menon. Students keen on military history must read Brigadier John Dalvi’s iconic treatise, The Himalayan Blunder. So shocking were the facts that government of the day banned the book. But the truth is the truth. Ask any Indian Army officer, and he will swear by Dalvi’s magnificent 506 pages of pure truth.

The Indian Army has put the defeat behind it and has built, drilled, modernized and trained itself to an impossibly high degree of perfection. We have raised new mountain divisions and strike corps. Yes, the Chinese Army is still much larger and better equipped. But this is not 1962. And the Indian Army is no pushover.

We have the capability to make it extremely expensive for China to wage war. Let me put it simply; we have the means to seriously degrade and denude China’s war machine.

We are as honed to a razor’s edge, as we will ever be. But the Indian Army is like a Samurai’s Katana, forever in the scabbard of political will. And that is our greatest misfortune.

We are not warmongers. We are the last people on earth who want a war, because it is we who die and we who kill. It is our bodies, which come back, wrapped in the tri-color. But go to war, we must.

A man may live without food and water for days. He may even live without air for a few minutes. But how may a man live without honor, even for a moment?

It breaks a soldier’s heart when he sees Pakistan sending terrorists from across the Line of Control, and he is not allowed hot pursuit, back into Pakistan. A soldier dies a thousand deaths when his brother’s are martyred in Kargil, and there is no consequence for Pakistan. It crushes his spirit when the Chinese Army walks into Arunachal Pradesh and stakes claim on his motherland.

All because our political leadership has always been beset by imaginary fears.

Imaginary fears like, if we respond Pakistan will use tactical nuclear weapons. If we are aggressive, the world will think lesser of us and we will not be considered a mature democracy. And, China will be angry.

Every body dies. That is God’s law. Lets quit philosophizing about it. I remember what a Gurkha soldier had once told me in Kashmir – “Kaphar hunnu bhanda marnu ramro”. It is better to die, than to be a coward.

Political analysts will laugh at the simplicity of the Gurkha soldier. They may even derisively call him a simpleton, not understanding of how this complex world works. Maybe so. But a person who is willing to kill and die for his beliefs and his code of honor will always walk with the gods. His place will never be amongst those timid souls who lived their lives, beset by imaginary fears.

Not for a moment am I advocating war for war’s sake. I am as much for peace as the next person. I am willing to bend over backward if it can stop blood from being spilt.

But know this – a nation does not live on its knees. That is something that our political masters will have to understand.

Nothing will happen if you cross the LoC and give Pakistan a bloody nose. There will be no nuclear war. We are a nuclear power, too. That did not stop Pakistan from launching Kargil. Then why must we be so mentally fragile, so tentative? Let’s cross over and break Pakistan’s spine once; a quick and extremely violent operation near Lahore, the heart of Pakistan.

The next time you have the PLA troops crossing over into India, kill a few and capture the rest. There will be a diplomatic row. Indian political analysts will go on national TV and decry the sheer “immaturity” of the action. But our aim will have been achieved. China will get the message. China always gets the message if it is explained to them in the language they understand.

You cannot negotiate from a position of weakness. You cannot live on your knees.

Ancient Japanese sword makers would consider a Katana sharp enough only if it could cut through strands of hay floating in the air. The Indian Army is your Katana. Trust your Katana, for it is the most formidable fighting blade this world has ever seen.

Unleash us. Let the Katana cut through bone and sinew. That is who we truly are; hunters of men and gatherers of souls.


Syed Salahuddin, the head of the Hizb ul Mujahideen and the Chairman of the United Jihad Council recently threatened to turn Kashmir into a graveyard for the Indian Army and unleash a wave of suicide bombers.

The Hizb ul Mujahideen is the alma mater of the much-deceased Burhan Wani. And Syed Salahuddin wanted Burhan dead. Unknowingly, the Indian Army did what Salahuddin wanted.

Salahuddin is fast losing relevance. He is nowhere as powerful as Hafiz Saeed. And he no longer has the charisma to lead militants into battle against the Indian Army. He lives in a luxurious house in Muzzafarabad (PoK), all his five sons working or studying in India and leading comfortable lives.

Syed Salahuddin wanted Burhan Wani dead for two reasons. One, Burhan’s popularity had overtaken his own and Kashmiri militants had started questioning the utility of a Syed Salahuddin sitting comfortably in PoK. Two, local militants were pushing Burhan for an overall leadership role in Hizb ul Mujahideen. No one is convinced about the utility of a vestigial organ, and Syed Salahuddin is the appendix of the Kashmir Valley militancy.

Syed Salahuddin could see Burhan Wani and his followers hijacking the Hizb-ul Mujahideen from under his nose. So, Syed Salahuddin decided to tighten his grip on his organization, lest he be relegated to the position of a titular head.

Someone very close to Burhan Muzaffar Wani betrayed him. On the night intervening 6th & 7th July 2016, someone who Burhan trusted completely, had an agenda driven by Syed Salahuddin.

The Rashtriya Rifles are elite counter-terror troops. All they need is a small opening – a blabbermouth at the local kahva shop, an intercepted mobile phone call or a disgruntled fellow militant complaining to another about how he was not paid on time. A toehold is enough for RR to start hunting.

Burhan Wani is out of the way because of the internal dynamics of the Hizb ul Mujahideen. The Indian Army doesn’t care either way. They killed a terrorist. Mission over. They will kill a hundred more Burhan Wani’s without batting an eyelid. That’s just how they are mentally structured.

And Syed Salahuddin is not even his real name. Mohammad Yusuf Shah was born on 18 February 1946 in Badgam, near Srinagar. How does an Islamist leader shore up credibility in the eyes of his illiterate and radicalized followers? He cherry picks a name from the Islamic glory days, and appropriates a legacy. Free credibility was never so instant.

An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub or Salahuddin Ayyubi was a Sunni Muslim Kurd born in 1137 AD. He fought against the Christian armies in the Crusades, and was known to be an exceptional general and an even better human being. In those times when killing a person of another faith had the sanction of both mosque and church, and one could wipe out entire villages without the slightest pang of guilt (you were going to heaven, anyway) Ayyubi was a beacon of civilized conduct. In Muslim culture, specifically in Arab, Turkish and Kurdish lands he is venerated as an epitome of manliness and humility. Ayyubi was all that and much more.

After Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), the Rashidun Caliphate (the four rightly guided Caliphs who ruled the empire of Islam after the last prophet), Imam Hussain’s sacrifice is the stuff of legend and stardust. Who can forget the battle of Karbala?

And then, Salahuddin Ayyubi shines like a beacon of light.

Jump to the twentieth century and you have Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of Turkey.

Syed Salahuddin trying to appropriate the legacy of Salahuddin Ayyubi is like a charlatan wearing a cardboard crown, and trying to behave like royalty. A seventy-year old has-been, who dyes his beard and conspires to kill his own cadre, is not anyone’s idea of a hero.

About Syed Salahuddin, I quote directly from Wikipedia:

“He is married, with five sons. His oldest son, Shakeel Yousuf, works as a medical assistant at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, second son Javed Yousuf works in the Education Department as computer operator, while Shahid Yousuf is a Research Fellow at the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science and Technology. Shah’s fourth son, Wahid Yusuf, studies in Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Government Medical College. Mueed Yusuf, the youngest of Shah’s sons, is pursuing a higher education degree (M.Tech.)”

So, which of Syed Salahuddin’s five sons is going to be the first suicide bomber that will turn Kashmir into a graveyard for the Indian Army? Will it be Javed, who works in the Education Department who will don the suicide vest, or will it be Shahid Yousuf who will leave his paid research fellowship to mount a fedayeen attack against the Indian Army?

Or is Jihad only for other people’s sons?

Syed Salahuddin, like his appropriated name, is a fraud. His latest statement is nothing but a desperate last shot at finding relevance in the increasingly muddied waters of the Kashmir Valley conflict.

The so-called “Kashmir struggle”, Pakistan’s name for sponsored terrorism in the Valley has new actors. They are Punjabi and Pashtun, and they have no affiliation to Kashmir. For them, Kashmir is another Dar-ul Harb (house of war), and another laboratory for the Jihad experiment and not about the much-vaunted UN Resolutions or “azaadi”.

For them, Kashmir is an extension of Syria, Iraq and Libya. It is the new petri dish for Nizam-e-Mustafa, in which they will breed a culture of political Islam, Wahhabi style. It is not about plebiscite. It is about Ghazwa-e-Hind, when a green standard will fly across India and all kafirs will have been either subjugated or killed.

We must be clear as to what we are up against in Kashmir. ISIS flags in downtown Srinagar are not just the work of a few “mischievous” youth, as Kashmiri leaders will always be at pains to point out. These are probing tactics. They seek to establish our appetite for violence and military response.

Beyond the rhetoric and jargon, the simple truth is that the Indian Army is trained to kill the enemies of the state. That is its core role. All the training and courses, maneuvers and live exercises coalesce into a one-point agenda; how to kill without fuss or ceremony. To protect India from all enemies, foreign and domestic, requires the constant honing of this rare talent.

Kashmir is the launch pad for a greater game plan. Lashkar-e-Toiba outlines it in exhaustive detail in its pamphlet “Why are we waging Jihad”.

This is a fight to the death. They will not stop till they have achieved the final aim of Ghazwa-e-Hind. Multi-party representative groups and their immature efforts to engage with the separatists will bear no fruit. The separatist’s masters are in Rawalpindi and for them Kashmir is an unfinished agenda of partition. Kashmir is their raison d’etre, their reason for existence. Gen. Raheel Sharif cannot allow peace in Kashmir.

And this is why Syed Salahuddin must be ignored. Because whenever we turn to such noise, it takes our attention away from the wolves baying at the gates.

It is time to unshackle the Indian Army. Let them do what they do best. Let them go hunting.