Pakistan Maneuvers Put India on Alert
Starting sometime in mid-December, 200,000 soldiers of the Pakistani army and air force are to hold the biggest military exercises in their 42-year history.
The scheduled maneuvers have prompted neighboring India to strengthen its border force. The two countries have fought three wars since they gained independence from Britain in 1947 and still are not on the best of terms.
Brig. Riaz Ullah, chief of Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations Department, said the war games are code-named “Zarbe Momin”--Urdu for “the blow of the perfect Muslim”--and will test new tactics and weapons.
Officials have not disclosed details or announced an exact starting date.
Riaz said the games will involve one armored division and seven infantry divisions in central Pakistan, at least 120 miles from the eastern border with India.
The air force will conduct simultaneous operations under the code name “Highmark.”
Indian war games along the frontier in January, 1987, called “Operation Brass Tacks,” triggered a precautionary mobilization of Pakistani forces.
Riaz said the Pakistani exercises will be held in a north-south corridor defined by the Indus and Chenab rivers in western Punjab province. However, the area abuts an Indian-controlled section of the disputed Jammu-Kashmir state.
“I don’t think these will cause the tensions we saw in 1987,” Riaz said.
Dilip Sinha, the first secretary of the Indian Embassy in Islamabad, said his government agrees.
“No, we don’t see it as a threat,” he said.
Nevertheless, a senior Indian military officer in southern Jammu-Kashmir said additional Indian troops and tanks were being stationed along the border to “deal with any eventuality.”
The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Indian security forces in Jammu-Kashmir would increase from 10,000 to 100,000 by the time the Pakistani maneuvers begin.
“We do not want to be caught unaware in case of any possible offensive,” he said.
Pakistan, which is predominantly Muslim, has fought three unsuccessful wars with mainly Hindu India since their partition at the end of British colonial rule in 1947.
Wars in 1948 and 1965 were over Jammu-Kashmir. In 1971, the two clashed over the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation in what had been East Pakistan.
Pakistani and Indian troops still trade artillery fire across the desolate Siachen Glacier, 21,000 feet up in the Himalayas in northern Jammu-Kashmir near the Chinese border.
Pakistan occupies the western third of the 85,000-square-mile state.
The two sides are separated by a diagonal cease-fire line drawn in 1949 that is still monitored by a U.N. military observer group.
Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, chief of the Pakistani army, has announced that foreign military observers, including some from India, will be invited to watch the exercises.
“Our exercise is above board, and not like the secret preparations India made two years ago to conduct its massive exercise, ‘Operation Brass Tacks’,” Beg said.
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