Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

When India-Pakistan wargames become real

April 20, 2010
(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

(Pakistani army tanks in exercises in Bhawalpur sector. Pic by Christopher Allbritton)

Pakistan is conducting its biggest military exercises in 21 years and at the weekend thousands of troops backed by fighter jets took part in a mock battle to repel a simulated Indian military advance and inflict heavy casualties. The manoeuvres were designed to test a riposte to India’s Cold Start doctrine of a rapid and deep thrust into Pakistan in a simulated environment, but you are never far from real action on the heavily militarised border between the two countries.

On Sunday, as the mock battle unfolded in the deserts of eastern Pakistan, the two armies were engaged in a real exchange of fire a few hundred miles away, along the border in Punjab. Both sides reported the firing in the Shakargarh sector and as is the norm blamed the other for starting it. It didn’t last long and by the standards of Indo-Pak artillery duels it was a blip. But what is interesting is it took place along a settled section of the border as distinct from cross-border firing along the Line of Control separating the two armies in disputed Kashmir.  Shooting across the international border has been rare, although there have been incidents in January this year and in July and September in 2009.

NightWatch intelligence, which closely tracks developments across South Asia, says the Shakargarh sector carries  the weight of history and perhaps there is  a message behind the shooting. This is the site of a decisive battle during the 1971 India-Pakistan War in which Indian rocket launcher units destroyed Pakistani army armoured brigades ending hostilities in that sector. Firing in the location is always a reminder of December 1971. So the question is were the Indians trying to remind the Pakistanis about that battle nearly four decades ago even as Pakistan carried out the wargames named Azm-e-Nau 3 or New Resolve 3?

India, Pakistan wargames have in the past caused jitters especially when thousands of troops are massed near the border along with heavy armour and you are not sure whether they are only meant for exercises or is it a preparation for a real war. Back in 1987, India conducted Brass Tacks, the largest military exercise of its kind across South Asia in the deserts of Rajasthan a few hundred miles from the Pakistan border.

The exercises included the bulk of Indian Army and its mechanised and armoured formations; in short all the paraphernalia for a real war, concentrated on Pakistan’s sensitive border areas. For a Pakistani, it would seem the ideal location from which to launch a cross-border operation into the Pakistani state of Sindh that could cut Pakistan in half.

Others saw Brass Tacks as a threatening exhibition of an overwhelming conventional force. Pakistan responded with manoeuvres of its own that were located close to Punjab. As tensions rose, the hotline between the two countries was activated and officials from both  sides tried to ease fears.  Eventually Pakistani President General Ziaul-Haq travelled to India, ostensibly to watch a cricket match, but also hold talks to defuse the crisis.  Later on both sides agreed to a phased withdrawal of troops to peacetime locations.

Since then India and Pakistan have agreed a set of confidence building measures designed to reduce chances of misreading each other’s intentions. Each country is committed to informing the other about plans to exercises if they are above a certain level.


Both countries need to become real about reaching out for peace. The region has enough political and economic issues to solve.

Outside forces continue to destabilise the region and the countries.

India has not shown any serious attempt to resolve the festering Kashmir dispute infact has added more volatility to the situation by building Dams on its side of Kashmir. These dams have the potential to restrict flow of water to Pakistan thus violating the Indus water treaty.

Pakistan has been beset with internal conflicts where competeting institutions have bought the country to near anarchy. The law and order and energy crisis is building up resentment and anger in the people and could destabilise that country further.

On top of this afghanistan situation is another factor where the two countries seem to be competing for influence and oustide forces unable to stabilise that country.

War games are not the real answer but serious negotiations are.

Posted by abrar | Report as abusive

Pakistan population is 8-9 times less than India in number.
Pakistani armed forces are 3 times less than India in numbers.

This means Pakistan Armed forces in ratioo of their population is very high (nearly 5 times) as compare to India.

Pakistani people should realize that they are fed to hate imaginary enemy “India” and thus the army continue their parasitic rule & hold over poor. uneducated, terrorist infected population

India is not interested to inherit PAkistani territory with its population. We just want that Pakis should solve their internal Islamic brotherhood problems.

Pakistan is not Indias enemy in any way. Sad that they hate Indians and say” Hindu Bania” etc,

Posted by Rajesh | Report as abusive

India, like it not has Pakistan phobia… every small misadventure by home grown individuals might be because of caste system or systemic inequality which is ingrained in Indian culture is blamed on Pakistan. It is sad to see a country like India hiding its internal inability by raising Pakistan bogey. The treatment vetted out to Jaswant Singh (so called Indian hero) for his comments on Jinnah is a testament to India’s myopic outlook.
Pakistan is not far from the same dilemma, it has India Phobia but also entrenched internal problems. The War Games ‘as may be construed’ by many as response to India “cold start” doctrine are a move in the right step. It sets up defensive parity with India’s conventional offensive force.

Posted by R S | Report as abusive

Your bulshit writing suggests, who is filled with hate, and calling Pakistani as Pakis showing that you are a real Hindu bandia.

Posted by Khan | Report as abusive

abrar says: “India has not shown any serious attempt to resolve the festering Kashmir dispute ”

get real abrar. Do you really think that resloving kashmir issue is even on the cards for the Indian Administration? Do you really think Kashmir will ever be resolved in the way Pak wants it?

For any buildup of tensions at the border, pakistan says that a solution needs to be foound for kashmir to pacify things.

lets be clear what solution to kashmir are we contemplating here?

plebicite? – not happening
giving more land to pak ? – not happening
involving pak in discussion with the seperatist groups/kasmiri civilians? – not happening

what is it that pak really wants? even when pakistan knows that none of the above demands can ever be met.
I dont mean to be rude or challenging here.

but truth is truth. Indian Administration will not/can not do anything that will make kashmir slid even an inch out of its grip. Its not possible, even if it wants to.

politics doesnt allow such concessions. There are Indian common man’s sentiments involved here. The Admin cannot ignore that if it ever wants to win more elections.

The same is the case with any democratically run country. Pak should know this. After all its the same reason (public sentiments) for which it will never give up the fight for kashmir.

God knows when the govts of both countries would stop going round and round with the same prototypical dialouges and spell out truth bluntly.

India should speak out, say that kashmir will never be compromised. lets war it out if thats what Pak means by saying tensions will grow in the region if kashmir is unresloved. Then so be it.

Just fight it out, get an end to it. Atleast for the sake of the innocent kashmiris who is suffering in all this.

Posted by grey_on_all | Report as abusive

Khan, I dont see ‘Pakis’ to be abusive in anyways. Its a genuine chat slang. Can u suggest a better shortform for ‘Pakistanis’?

Posted by grey_on_all | Report as abusive

Pakistanis think that they are the custodians of all Muslims in the world. They think that Kashmir is theirs just because it has 60% Muslims. By that Logic Indian Muslims should claim entire Pakistan as there are more Muslims in India. Problems of Pakistan will remain till they look at the world affairs through Islamic eyes. There is no way India will fall to this logic and hand over Kashmir to Pakistan. Pakistani population is poisoned with Wahabi ideology. This poison is killing Pakistan and spilling over to other places as well. I see no hopes of Indo-Pakistani peace at least in our life time. May be a natural distaer of very high magnitude or or an all out Nuclear war will only solve this problem. A section of Pakistanis still think that they can fly the flag on red fort. Jihadis are made to believe that if they could push out Soviets, they can do anything. Its this mentality which might lead to the annihilation of Pakistan.

Posted by Rajendra Kumar | Report as abusive

We are brothers and sisters. Let’s put an end to this fighting.

Posted by Apsy | Report as abusive

These war games have been a regular affair and are actually routine, which every military needs to keep itself battle ready and tested. In fact in our two cases, much advanced warning is always given by both sides. When the political scene is bad and relations strained, as they are at this point of time, there is bound to be some alarm and suspicion.

I really do not know about the reason behind the Shakargarh skirmish. It would be prudent not to read any hidden agenda about one side provoking the other.

Posted by Dara | Report as abusive

Pakistan’s military is worried that it might lose its grip on power as the new civilian government under Geelani is gaining strength. I really want Geelani to complete his full term as PM of Pakistan and take Pakistan away from the radical infested military. Pak military periodically props up this “Indian enemy” to survive and hold its grip on power. I hope as time goes on, civilian power improves in Pakistan. Only then perspectives will change and Pakistanis will begin to see a different India which is far removed from the image being projected. Indians welcome Pakistanis. We are only wary of your military which is simply using India as a bogeyman to sustain its power.


Pakistan should have understood by now that they are not going to get Kashmir. It is going to stay the way it. They should rather concentrate on feeding their people, bring energy and industry in their country.

Posted by Sid | Report as abusive

The whole India/Pakistan issue is very complicated. I agree that due to political reasons no Indian government can agree on any concessions on Kashmir. Pakistan should realize this. India is on its way to becoming a economic super power. If Pakistan wants to improve the lot of its people they should forget or at least compromise on Kashmir and concentrate on increasing trade and economic links with India. They should also know that they can never defeat India in a war. Maybe the nuclear weapons is a good thing as it will prevent war unless some mullahs take over in Islamabad.

Posted by Adhillon | Report as abusive

Both India and Pakistan are great countries, with people who have termendous potential. In Pakistan, a lot has changed in recent years, the media is free, democratic institutions no matter how weak, are functioning, supreme court is independent, the Army is fighting millitants to keep law and order. I am not sure of the ground realities in India, but am fully aware of the situation in Pakistan atleast. And to make clear one thing, Pakistan military is playing a critical role in Pakistan’s stability. It is the military that has fully backed PM Gilani, and President Zardari not very popular among Army top brass though, still it is CJSC Gen. Tariq Majeed who has forcefully backed Zardari to remain in power. With a system of checks and balances, good governance, Army stick to its task of defending Pakistan and not interfering politically, government overcoming energy crisis, improving security, bringing foreign investment, eradicating corruption, reviving economy, dealing with terrorist organization and every challenge, Pakistan will certainly gain momentum and take the right direction.

Indians must be less skeptical of Pakistani military, time has come for both countries to move on. War is not an option for either nation, the only thing woth fighting for is peace and better future. Good luck to all!

Posted by Umair | Report as abusive

The real cowards are the Pakistani Army, using and pawning off the entire Pakistani population as human shields against India.

India has no qualm, hatred or animosity towards Pakistani’s, but Pakistani Army needs hatred and religion as a tool for national unity to justify its financially parasitic footprint on the ignorant and blind citizens that inhabit Pakistan.

The next big war that Pakistan fights, is with its own people, when they wake up, mentally, psychologically, the people of Pakistan will want to fire their army and lay them off and replace them with those who support a true functioning democracy, so Pakistan can get on with business and progress, just like India has.

Pakistan exercises are only a circus side show and carry little or no teeth.

At the end of the day, India would overwhelm Pakistan within weeks, after its fuel runs out, if Pakistan ever chooses to foolishly start a war with India. But mark my words, India will not be drawing first blood, it will be Pakistan agitating and plotting against India, that will cause any future war, but lets hope to GOD that not one Pakistani or Indian citizen is ever harmed by Pakistani ARmy misadventures.

It is time that Pakistani citizens wake up and smell the dreams of revolution and seize their futures, the way Indians have.

Indians have no hard feelings, we have been dismembered, and Pakistan is the result, but we have moved on.

Posted by Globalwatcher | Report as abusive

I really feel sad about the plight of people who have seperated from India.
They have to retrospect on where they where then and where they are now.( before seperation and after)
All I see them is being used by the world powers for their own selfish objectives.
And what pakistan gets is instability and poverty.
It is time to keep the past differences and try to think in a new direction for their own betterment.
As long as they are anti India, I don’t think they can prosper
Not to be rude but pl use an open and neutral mind.

Posted by Choudary | Report as abusive

Forget Kashmir now!!! for the benefit of both the countries as well as the Kashmiris. I’ve been to kasmhmir, spoken to many kasmiris there and from all spheres of life. The educated and the villager.

Believe me when I say this: They DONT want a split!!. And, before the Indian commentors start celebrating, let me tell you that they are not very happy with India either.

They love India for sure, they feel its the country they belong to, but they need to be loved by it now. We Think we are guarding them, They think they are prisoners. Thats the only issue they have with India. They love the Army for some reasons and hate it for others.

The only way to win them back is:

-Make them mingle with the rest of their countrymen (hindus) to make them realize that they are among family.

-Get the army out of kashmir(of course except the borders).

-Most importantly, give them a better future.

Do to kashmir what china is doing to tibet (of course only with the best intentions, unlike china) : Mordernize the place, improve the infrastructure, make it a better place to live


Get over it fellows. We are sorry for Bangladesh (if thats what you want to hear). Dont punish the kashmiris for this. Believe me a handful of bombs here and there few times a year doesnt really matter for a country of one billion people and one billion other problems to attend to. This will just go on without an end. No one gains anything.

As far India is concerned, it will slowly inch towards a very good economic condition in a decades time. We are used to working towards development even in the shadow of bombs. Nothing stops us. We are trained, Thanks to you guys.

But think where will you be in the next decade, If you really dont prioritize your agendas

Posted by grey_on_all | Report as abusive

You forgot to mention that other than cricket diplomacy, what led to India standing down in Brasstacks was the fact that it completely lost track of an entire Pakistani strike corps.

Posted by Shameel Baloch | Report as abusive

Maybe its time Pakistan needs to be reminded that it should look at troubles at its own home and learn from the loss of previous wars. Don’t pick or start a fight you can’t handle especially when your own house is in ruins and chaos.

Posted by uruG | Report as abusive

Very funny comments by indians. They show their mind in every blog irrespective of the mess they have in their home. They think themselves as super power and these fantancies lead them to bully which they throw oftenly at Pakistan as well as even on China. After a decade I am not sure that india will become global power but it will become Gober power for sure. Pakistan conducting exercises for its survival from its adversary on eastern border who now try to extend its influence to Afghanistan for its evil designe. Pakistan is fully aware of the terrorism sponsored by india through raw agents. And am sure it will be rooted out with full force and will make sure that no one will use its backyard for notoroius designs. On economic front, Pakistan faces problem due to current terrorism specially in FATA and Balochistan but its geostrategic location give it special importance as a an energy hub and ideal business location to trade with landlock countries. But if you compare the living standard of india and Pakistan, you can feel and see by naked eye.
The way suicide occurs in india due to pverty is a source of pity for me that i dont even want to discuss.
Regarding Kashmir issue, it is a disputed issue according UN resolution of plebscite which india deny it for the last 6 decades. This shows the mentality, where no respect to free will of Kashmiri people, as well as to international laws.

Posted by Khan | Report as abusive

Gentlemen, Gentlemen, let us be realistic none of the armies are national armies and therefore have not been trained to defend their respective countries. They were structured as colonial outfots trained to bully and kill the citizens in their own countries. Besides they have studied the army text books granted to them by the Brits. Most of their senior ranked officers enjoy drinking scotch whisky, a gift from their ex colonial masters, and would be quick to surrender if the parametres taught to them in their respective staff colleges are apparent in their military engagements.

Pakistan Army never had the guts to advance into the assumed Indian territory and the Indian Army has never been trained to advance into a foreign territory and accept the casualty to their own soldiers. They are both expert in number games, the one who has a larger army should win and other should surrender. Pakistan has never been able to defend Pakistan territory and now they have the nuclear weapons with medium and long rande missiles, by the grace of their scientist. Despite thiis lethal power the World has witnessed USA threatning Mr Musharaf Din during the NY episode and now once again by the lady to Mr Zardari about the consequences.
Let us therefore please calm down and accept the stregnth of your armies. Follow the Chinese golden rule, do not interfere into each other internal affairs. Both Nations do not have any grand future, simply because of their internal problems including powerty and lack of any vision. Have a nice day, for you are the innocent victims of two hundred years colonisation and you would need at least two hundred years to understand what freedom loving people hold so dear in their life.
PS The Pashtoons are the only folks who have never been colonised and would never sumit to a force which is made up of ex slaves.

Posted by rex minor | Report as abusive

With ref. to Mr. Rex Minor’s illuminating comments. Obviously he belongs to the ‘first world’ and looks down on us third worlders as incapable of anything.
Read your post Mr. Rex, the condescending tone is sickening considering the fact that the first world is in a bigger mess than us, because of ‘freedom loving people’ who guard their freedom by dipping into the pockets of their compatriots.

Posted by arun | Report as abusive

Agreed. Poverty and other social issues are there in both countries. After all just one minute before the partition, we all were one country with similar illiteracy, poverty rate. But from 90s, Indian governments have looked into the path of development and quite successful in doing so. And I hope everyone will agree that 20 years is not enough to completely wipe out the issues which groomed for centuries in our societies.
But what significant in comparison between two countries is the margin of growth between them from 1990s. I think the last 20 years India have marched well ahead of their neighbor; the gap is growing bigger every year. Both countries do have the problem of having to manage with enormous population and inefficient management & distribution system. But the key difference is the political stability. In India although there had been different parties in the government, it had been always through elections and hence there had been no serious shift in policy making. This is the basis of any development program. Political stability is directly proportional to the economical stability.

India still has lot more to achieve. Now that Indian media is been a big factor to focus issues from every street and corner, the government in power has no option but to deal with these issues.

For Pakistan, I think they have to face the facts. Allocate more time and resources for their own development rather than envying at India’s growth and try to disrupt it.

Posted by Murali | Report as abusive

If 6M Indian Kashmiri Muslims do not want to be under the Indian Republican Flag, let them move to Azad Kashmir under the Pakistani flag. Then they will realize how good they have it now. India is not giving up an inch of Kashmir, any Indian politician if even thinks of giving up anything, will be no more.

Posted by Pandit | Report as abusive

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