The Indian cold start doctrine is essentially an Indian war plan made to invade the sovereign territory of Pakistan. This plan includes multiple branches of the Indian military and was originally designed with the ideology to break Pakistan and weaken it in any possible way whilst also attempting to prevent nuclear retaliation from the Pakistani side.
The rationale that the cold start doctrine highlights are how Pakistan lacks geographical depth. The doctrine is an attempt to use this lack of strategic depth to use it for its advantage. It suggests that instead of vertical brute force into Pakistan’s territory, it’s wiser to go at it horizontally while troops are being deployed towards the Afghani border simultaneously.
The development of NASR, a short-range ballistic missile system, began with the rising threat posed by India’s cold start doctrine. The primary purpose that the NASR serves is to deter any conventional aggression faced by Pakistan on its western border. The launch platform for the NASR is the transporter erector launcher (TEL) whilst A-100E 300mm multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is responsible to propel the rocket up to a distance of 70km. The MLRS on the NASR system supports up to four salvos among which all of them are capable of delivering a tactical nuclear warhead. NASR is viably India-specific and the salvo launch capability is a key ability in stopping Indian armored thrusts into Pakistani territory.
NASR’s in-flight maneuverability is substantial and is consistently being improved to elude any anti-ballistic missile systems. As Pakistan possesses ‘multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle’ (MIRV) technology, it seems highly likely that such capabilities will be integrated into NASR in the future. Technologies like such along with single-stage rocket motor design and a solid fuel propellant further make NASR a highly accurate, reliable, and low maintenance system. The system’s CEP is currently unknown; from what can be inferred from the tests conducted, it can be under the range of 1 meter. The NASR system can potentially breach any Indian air defense systems and effectively reach its target.
NASR is a highly compatible and accurate system that can propel the missile up to 6 Mach; it can also potentially be converted to an effective strategic anti-ballistic missile system. Such a system, if deployed correctly can deter any aerial attacks.
The Indian narrative upon the NASR suggests it to be an effective measure against the cold start doctrine. However, some Indian journalists have claimed the system to be insecure and a potential target of non-state actors. NASR is fully integrated into the centralized command and control structure under a digitalized network-centric environment enabling only the decision-makers at the National Command Center to grant any authorization deeming the system more than safe.
Indian defense strategists claimed that NASR will fail to deter any conventional aggression against India if the warfare is initiated at a high populated zone. However, they failed to take into account the full technological capabilities of NASR as unlike other nuclear warheads, the detonation of NASR will not make the area inhabitable for a prolonged period. Moreover, such aggression from India is highly improbable as well due to historic grounds.
According to international law, NASR can be detonated on Pakistan’s land legally as Pakistan is not a signatory to the ‘Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)’. Its use can further be justified under Pakistan’s first use doctrine. Moreover, the United Nations charter: article 51 suggests that Pakistan can legally defend itself if its sovereignty is under a threat.
NASR is a more effective strategical weapon during winters as the general trend of the wind direction during this period is north-east to south-west. The aforementioned phenomenon makes it possible for nuclear winds to travel across the eastern border in case of any detonation. Furthermore, during this period the harsh weather up north of the border creates limitations for an attack from that bearing henceforth further deterring any conventional warfare which in-effect suggests that India’s nuclear and conventional saber-rattling is merely a waste of resources.
Since the deployment of NASR multiple defensive measures has been put into place to ensure the security and sovereignty of Pakistan. Ms. Mazari referred to India’s cold start doctrine in the following words, “India has always felt that Pakistan had a loophole in terms of lacking short-range battlefield nuclear weapons, which it could exploit on the assumption that it made little sense for Pakistan to respond to such conventional attacks with strategic nuclear weapons. With NASR, Pakistan has plugged that loophole. Indian dreams of limited war against Pakistan through its Cold Start strategy have been laid to rest. This will allow for a reassertion of a stable nuclear deterrence in the region.”