By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan
The Phase-1of Exercise Azm-e-Nau-III was concluded on April 18, 2010, in the Cholistan Desert under the Southern Command. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani along with his cabinet ministers, representatives from all political parties, over thirty military attaches from major countries and the senior leadership of armed forces of Pakistan witnessed this phase of the exercise. The demonstration was a unique combination of the higher dimension of military planning and the fire power of Pakistan Army and Air Force. On this occasion, Prime Minister Gillani emphasized on the maintenance of peace and security in the region based on credible minimum deterrence by armed forces of Pakistan. The premier said that, “Our democratic system, economic potential, vibrant population, national unity and consensus and armed forces provide strategic stability against any possible threats to our great country. The world today finds Pakistan standing as a bulwark against forces of extremism and militancy. It is in this struggle where nation pledges to support armed forces in spirit, with its youth and its entire resources.”
While tracing the dynamics and the milieu under which Exercise Azm-e-Nau-III (the biggest Military Exercises after the Zarb-e-Momin of 1989), is being conducted, it is pertinent to say that this exercise is concept validation; a part of the “eternal preparedness” philosophy of the Pakistan Army. Its successful conduct would help in evolving a timely and effective response to emerging challenges. As General Kayani said, “We are focused to the defence of Pakistan and fully capable of defending Pakistan today.” Pakistan indeed does not pose threat to any country, but the preparedness is for self-defence, which is our fundamental right. While comprehending the significance of regional peace and Pakistan’s commitment to it, the armed forces are ready to maintain that through a thorough preparation and by maintaining minimum credible deterrence.
The Exercise began on April 10, 2010, with the demonstration of ‘Dispersal Techniques’ by the troops in the ‘battle-like’
situation and will continue until May 13, 2010. Over 20,000 combat troops of Pak Army consisting of all arms and services are taking part in the exercise. The ongoing PAF Exercises, “High Mark-2010,” are also being integrated with the field exercise of Pak Army as and when required. The level of this integration is so much that on April 18, 2010, the Chief of Army Staff had to comment that, “Never in the history of the country, the Pakistan Army and the PAF were so integrated,” Conceptually, the exercise is a concept validation stage of the operational thought process manifested in the form of tactical, operational, and organizational aspects, which are validated and refined through the lessons learnt.
The Exercise indeed is the culmination phase of the “Year of Training-2009/10”, as directed by the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. The exercise was preceded by a series of deliberate process of war games like; Azm-e-Nau-I and Azm-e-Nau-II, a continued process of training, discussions and logistic evolution of the concept of warfare that is “full responsive to a wide menu of emerging threats”. The exercise is being conducted along the eastern borders, with Sialkot, South Punjab and some areas of Sindh remaining as the major focus. It is, indeed, the testing of the battle procedures with an ordeal to assess the capabilities versus potentials to deliver once needed. As per the Director General Military Training, Major General Muzamil; the focus during the exercise would be, “tackling the situation in traditional war and to respond enemy’s preparedness.” This is being done in the perspective that in the current global scenario, Pakistan is facing several strategic challenges. It desires peace and harmony, without compromising the minimum credible and sustainable strategic deterrence.
While the fight against the terrorism has been thrust upon Pakistan after the 9/11, it has been concerned of regional destabilization due to a number of factors like: the over stretching of security forces thus the “capability to fight terrorism is dwindling at a rapid pace, with a shallow political consensus, the public opinion is quite fragile, potential emergence of a military capability in the west hostile to Pakistan, and Indian offensive doctrine of ‘Cold Start”. Contrary to the traditional military mobilization and then going to war, in the Cold Start concept, Indian Army will go to war first and then mobilizes. The implications of the cold start are: “inherent strategic instability, potential for sudden spiral escalation, induces arms race in the region, linear shape/shallow depth and forward population centres of Pakistan would cause ‘strategic pull’, and last but not the least, it lowers the nuclear threshold”. Following the prolonged military escalation of 2002, Indian Army conceived this new concept to launch an offensive against Pakistan. In order to mature its concept of the Cold Start, India has conducted a number of war games and exercises. Even in the last two years, Indian Army has conducted over 12 military exercises. So much so, that the former Indian Army Chief, General Deepak Kumar, was ready to fight a two front war with Pakistan and China simultaneously. He even considered a limited Indo-Pak war under the nuclear overhang.
In May 2009, Indian Army undertook major military exercise codename, “Hind Shakti” (Indian Power). The exercise was conducted near Pakistani border in the arid plains of Indian Punjab. As per the Indian Defence Ministry, “The exercise entailed participation by mechanised and infantry divisions in a blitzkrieg type armoured incursion,” emphasising “rapid penetration into enemy territory.” The elite Kharga Corps of Indian Army undertook these military manoeuvres. As per the Kharga Corps Commander, “The manoeuvres will factor in various scenarios, including the worsening situation in our neighbourhood.” In another exercise in February 2010, the fighter jets of Indian Air Force pounded mock enemy bunkers in Pokharan area, close to the Pakistani border in a show of air power, once both were negotiating for the peaceful settlement of their issues. According to Uday Bhaskar, a New Delhi-based strategic affairs expert, “This is not just a firepower demonstration but a clear message about what India’s air force is capable of. It is a message to the neighbours.” It is worth mentioning that “Yodha Shakti” military exercises of Indian Army have recently been planned and will be conducted alongside the Azm-e-Nau in the Thar Desert near Pakistani frontiers.
Pakistan feels that if its fight against terrorism has become an inevitable, it cannot leave its eastern borders at the promises of its incredible friends. As pointed out by Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former U.S Secretary of State that, in the international politics, there neither exist permanent friends nor permanent foes. Rather these are the national interests of states which determine their future course of action. It is beyond doubt that, international politics is essentially a struggle for power. It is attributed to security competition and inter-state conflicts, mainly arose owing to the lack of an overarching authority above states and the relative distribution of power in the international system.
Pakistan has already faced the dilemma in 1971, where its friends never came to rescue it, once its eastern neighbour attacked and dismembered it. Indeed, as per the realist’s school of global politics, “all states wish to perpetuate their existence”. While revisiting the history, one finds that actions of some states resulted in other states losing their existence. Poland, for example experienced this fate for the four times in the last three centuries. Munich Conference of 1938 could not save Czechoslovakia from seizure by Nazi Germany. Indeed, power is crucial to the realist lexicon and traditionally has been defined in military stratagem. Intuitively states with more power stands a better chance of surviving than states with less power. Irrespective of how much power a state may possess, the core national interest of all states is the survival. In the realistic world, the states should not depend on other states or institutions (like UNO) to ensure their own security. As “Unlike in domestic politics, there is no emergency number that states can dial when they are in mortal danger”.
As envisioned in the training directive (2009-10) of the COAS, the yearlong training was “mission oriented based on the obtaining security environment”. It was methodical and progressive, before putting it for the practical application to validate those concepts which were formulated during the “Year of Training”. Director General Military Training in a press conference said that, “new Arms and Missile System would also be used in these exercises and strategy to tackle any situation would be finalized after reviewing every aspect of danger.” A special feature of this exercise would be harvesting the technological achievements and advancement in intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance, and communication means that have revolutionized the warfare.
Through Exercise Azm-e-Nau, the adversary has been given a clear message that, though armed forces of Pakistan are heavily committed in their fight against the terrorism along the Western borders, but they are equally effective and vigilant along the Eastern front. In this regard, there is a total consensus between the civil and military leadership of the country as well as the backing of the masses to armed forces. As amply clear from the first phase of the exercise, through the technological advancements of Al-Khalid tanks, Anza Mark II missiles F-16s and JF-17 Thunder aircrafts, there is massive firepower available to meet any future challenge. Being in the vicinity of Indian border, this combination of massive fire power and a renewed strategic planning, there is a clear message that Pakistan is capable of dealing with any misadventure by the advisory.
Through a series of successive military operations against terrorists and demonstration superior strategy through Exercie Azm-e-Nau-III, today Pak Army stands at a higher podium of professional excellence. Its present leadership has successively dispelled the global misperceptions, by highlighting the achievements of Pak Army at various forums. There exists a global recognition of Armed Forces of Pakistan as the best fighting entity having the capability to deal with internal insurgencies/ terrorism, natural calamities and to fight the external threat alike. The simultaneous engagement to quell the terrorism and perfecting drills and battle procedures through Exercise Azm-e-Nau is indeed a unique example of projecting the power potential by Armed Forces of Pakistan. It is expected that capabilities of Pak Army will act as force multipliers by reducing the fog of war for own troops, obviating enemy surprise and reducing own reaction time.