India, Pakistan conduct drills within shouting distance

Indian and Pakistani militaries are conducting major war games this month virtually within shouting distance from each other. Both exercises, involving thousands of troops, aim to test offensive strategies in the event of an armed conflict with the other side and will have active participation of their respective air forces.

The Indian Army will launch its month-long wargames in mid-April in the Thar desert. Called ‘Yodha Shakti’, the games will involve one of its three principal ‘strike’ formations, the Mathura-based 1 Corps. It will practice a ‘pro-active’ war strategy revolving around the objective of mobilizing fast under ‘the cold start’ doctrine and striking hard across the border to pulverize the enemy.

Around the same time – from April 10 to May 13 – Pakistan is staging its ‘Azm-e-Nau-III’ (new resolve) exercise, described as its biggest wargames in two decades, to train for a conventional war with India. The manoeuvres are held near the border in the country’s Punjab and Sindh provinces – close to Rajasthan’s Thar desert.

Pakistan’s exercise will be massive. “It’s aimed at validating and refining newly evolved doctrines,” the head of Pakistan army’s military training directorate, Muzammil Hussain, said in Rawalpindi. Azm-e-Nau-III will mobilize 20,000 troops in the beginning, rising to 40,000 to 50,000 towards the end, he said.

The Indian Army, learning lessons from the slow mobilization during Operation Parakram – the 10-month forward troop mobilization after the December 2001 terrorist attack on Parliament – will practice launching self-contained and highly-mobile ‘battle groups,’ with Russian-origin T-90S tanks and upgraded T-72 M1 tanks at their core, within 96 hours.

“The exercise will be a two-sided, day-and-night affair, with rapid and deep offensives being undertaken by the battle groups to assault and capture ‘enemy’ territory. It will also validate our logistics infrastructure as well as new acquisitions,” said a senior officer.

The wargames will also have a big IAF component in the drive to achieve greater synergy. Both the western and south western IAF commands have stepped up coordination with the different Army commands in the western theatre to synergize efforts to build “an integrated and organic” air-land war-fighting machinery.

IAF has operationalized a forward airbase at Phalodi in Rajasthan with Jaguars landing there  to mark its inauguration by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.

The Phalodi airbase, strategically located since it falls in the middle of the ‘triangle’ constituted by Jaisalmer, Nal (Bikaner) and Jodhpur airbases, aims to plug operational and air defence gaps in the western front. “The 24×7 airbase, equipped to handle potent fighters like the Sukhoi-30MKIs and heavy-lift aircraft, will provide us with requisite flexibility,” said a senior officer.

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