By S. M. Hali
Military exercises are simulated operations conducted under realistic scenarios to validate fresh concepts, strategy and weapon systems. Pakistan Army, operating in an environment of tension, conflict and hostile neighbourhood is constrained to conceive and review war plans to meet various contingencies, hone the skills of its personnel and test their mettle to face the myriad challenges.
The Pakistan army has conducted numerous military exercises since its independence, to meet various threats. Notable among them is “Zarb-e-Momin” of 1989 which had war-gamed’, field tested and validated the then fresh concept of an “offensive-defence” strategy; a sequel to Indian Army Chief General Sunderjee’s highly ambitious “Operation Brasstacks”.
“Azm-e-Nau” (fresh resolve) is a series of exercises, launched in 2009 and evolved to envisage the whole range of threats facing Pakistan, including the terror attacks by non-state actors and Indian Army’s Cold Start Doctrine. Anti-terror operations added a new dimension to Pakistan Army’s arsenal of combat mechanism, compelling the defence planners to evolve fresh tactics and strategy to battle the faceless enemy, that dons suicide jackets, mingles with the population, targets mosques, hospitals and education centers, maiming and killing women, children and the elderly. This new dimension to the threat was far removed from the set piece battles; the Army has been conventionally planning and participating in.
It goes to its credit that despite having limited experience in this new dimension of war, anti-terror operations being fought by the Pakistan Army through its blood, sweat and guts find few parallels in either modern or ancient warfare.
India’s Pakistan-specific “Cold Start Doctrine” is a different cup of cake. Handicapped by its lethargic deployment, when India wanted to strike Pakistan in the aftermath of the December 13, 2001 attack on its parliament, holding its western neighbour responsible for the assault, Pakistan’s rapid counter-mobilization forced a stalemate. Taking a leaf from German General Heinz Guderian’s “Blitzkrieg”, India envisages that keeping holding forces ready for instant operations; it will be able to strike a telling blow on Pakistan through conventional weapons, forcing it to capitulate even before nuclear weapons can be launched. Indian Armed Forces have conducted scores of military exercises to operationalize “Cold Start”, and are now indulging in intimidation and jingoistic threats, evident from their recent across LOC misadventures.
The previous major hpw exercise of the Azm-e-Nau series was its third, played out in 2010, dovetailed with PAF’s Exercise “High Mark-2010”, where joint operations, as envisaged by Pakistan’s defence planners were put to test. A unique attribute of the exercise has been optimizing the technological developments and advancement in intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance communication and revolutionizing modern warfare, making early warning an essential feature of postmodern operational concepts. All these aspects were not only optimally leveraged in the field exercise, but heavily relied upon and tested to the core.
The integrated maneuver and fire power demonstration on November 4, 2013, at the Army Firing Range of Khairpur Tamewali, northwest of Bahawalpur in the Cholistan Desert was the culmination of the Azm-e-Nau-4 and a conclusion of the series. It was a visual and graphic manifestation of the new concepts evolved and physical demonstration of countering the Cold Start Strategy. In the elaborate display, witnessed by the Prime Minister, Members of the Parliament, Services Chiefs, Defence Attachés accredited to Islamabad and the media, an operational milieu was simulated and created to provide a realistic presentation of the military prowess. It was heartening to witness the offensive as well as defensive capabilities of the Pakistan Army operating in synergy with the air power based on Pakistan Air Force and Army’s air arm demonstrating their precision, lethality and annihilating capabilities to achieve the desired effects.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, while congratulating the rank and file of Pakistan Army for their dedication, hard work, sacrifices and professionalism, expressed his government’s resolve to end the bloodshed and violence (through terror attacks) by bringing the political parties, military, and civil society on the same page.
Azm-e-Nau is perhaps the swansong of General Kayani, who has enhanced the professional capabilities of Pakistan Army through rigorous training, motivation and personal example. It is befitting that Pakistan’s military strategy is now based on credible minimum deterrence, which was visibly demonstrated during the integrated fire power display. Pakistan Army’s leadership can take pride in the fact that this fighting force, despite all the trials and tribulations, is now in the highest state of preparedness encompassing optimized set of military capabilities, which remain its cornerstone and amply showcase its renewed resolve to meet the challenges head-on.