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From Cold Start to Cold Storage! 
by Brig Dr Muhammad Khan

In the rapidly changing domestic and external security environment in the region, Pakistan Army has conducted a series of war games and field exercises, codename; 'Azm-e-Nau'. Four war games of this series (Azm-e-Nau - I-IV) were conducted from year 2009 to 2013.
These war games and exercises were conducted in two main phases. In Phase-I, military plans were evaluated and refined through indoor war games and maps exercises, where various scenarios were painted and executed while putting them through numerous operational constraints. In Phase-II, the operational plans prepared in phase-I were put through the physical trials by conducting the field exercises in the real time frame scenario. The plans prepared during the war games once put through the physical exercises with troops were then further refined upon finding the snags/ shortcomings. These war games and field exercises are fully supported by the other two services; Pak Navy (PN) and Pak Air Force (PAF). Overall, Azm-e-Nau war games aimed at analyzing the nature and magnitude of the threat(s) and to validate an effective response in accordance with the existing operational environment.
Some defence analysts are of the view that through this series of war games and field exercises, Pak Army has put a checkmate to India's Cold Start Doctrine. Contrary to the traditional battle procedure of military mobilization followed by full scale war, the Cold Start concept focuses on reverse whereby Indian Army will go to war first and then mobilizes. Following the prolonged military escalation of 2002, Indian Army conceived this new concept to launch an offensive against Pakistan. This concept seeks to leverage India's modest superiority in conventional forces to respond to Pakistan's military preparedness. This doctrine necessitates reorganizing Indian Army's offensive power away from the three large strike corps into eight smaller division-sized "Integrated Battle Groups" (IBGs) that combine mechanized infantry, artillery, and armour in a manner reminiscent of the former Soviet Union's operational manoeuvre groups.


Through Exercise Azm-e-Nau, the adversary has been given a clear message that armed forces of Pakistan are equally effective and vigilant along the Eastern front despite being heavily committed in their fight against the terrorism along the Western borders. 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 field exercises of this series, there is massive firepower available with Pakistan Army to meet any future challenge. Through this combination of firepower and a renewed strategic planning, there is a clear sign that Pakistan is capable of dealing with any misadventure by the advisory.
Exercise Azm-e-Nau-IV is the last of these war games. Its planning session was conducted at National Defence University (NDU) during June 2013. This exercise aims at validation and crystallization of operational plans prepared in view of the emerging threat environment. The operational plans of PAF and PN have also been finalized in close coordination with the Army. Besides NDU, war games were also held at formation level to validate the response options which will be followed by appropriate changes in operational plans. The COAS, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani witnessed practical version of Azm - e- Nau-IV in the desert close to Hyderabad on October 6, 2013. While talking to the participating troops, COAS appreciated the highest standard of training and professionalism displayed by them during the manoeuvres.
Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif visited the conduct of exercise at Khairpur Tamewali on November 4, 2013. While addressing the participants, he appreciated the successful conduct of the exercise and said, "I wish to congratulate all the participants on this commendable achievement which reflects par excellence standards of our Armed Forces. I sincerely appreciate and thank our valiant soldiers and their families again for the sacrifices rendered. The nation is proud of them all." The Premier reiterated that military strategy of Pakistan is based on credible minimum deterrence and the highest level of operational preparedness. In order to curb militancy from Pakistan, the Prime Minister said, "We also have to ensure that the political parties, military, and civil society are on the same page so as to create an enabling environment necessary to tackle this menace. We have seen enough of that and our soldiers have paid the highest price in the form of embracing martyrdom. Their toil and blood has contributed towards making the defence of the country resolute and impregnable."
Earlier, the culmination phase of the Ex Azm-e-Nau-IV was marked by an integrated manoeuvre and firepower by different formations of the Pak Army and fighter aircrafts of PAF. During these manoeuvres, Pak Army and PAF were 'at their best' in the demonstration of firepower. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also witnessed the demonstration by armoured, artillery, air defence and civil aviation formations and firepower by F-16, JF-17 Thunder, F 7P and Mirage aircraft paricipating to repel attack by enemy forces.
Exercise Azm-e-Nau-III was concluded on April 18, 2010 in the Cholistan Desert under the Southern Command. Former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani along with his cabinet ministers, representatives from all political parties, over thirty military attache's from major countries and, the senior leadership of armed forces witnessed this phase of the exercise. The demonstration was a unique combination of the higher dimension of military planning and the firepower of Pakistan Army and PAF. At this occasion, the former 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."
In the series of these war games, Azm-e-Nau-III was the largest in magnitude after the Zarb-e-Momin of 1989. It was conducted as a concept validation; a part of the "eternal preparedness" philosophy of the Pakistan Army. In the wording of General Kayani, "We are focused to the defence of Pakistan and fully capable of defending Pakistan today." Pakistan does not pose threat to any country but the preparedness is for self-defence, which is our fundamental right.
The security situation owing to Indian offensive posture remained the central focus of these exercises. The military had in its updated version of "Army Doctrine" - which enlists operational priorities of the armed forces - mentioned the threat posed by religious extremists and insurgents as the greatest danger to national security. These war games were meant for coming up with a comprehensive response to all threats facing Pakistan. Indeed, the threat matrix is evolving and transforming. It includes both the internal challenge from terror groups of various shades and the conventional threat of external aggression. The war games and exercises were based on generic scenarios covering the full spectrum of known and potential threats.
Through a series of successive military operations against terrorists and demonstration of superior strategy through exercise Azm-e-Nau, today Pak Army stands at a higher podium of professional excellence. Its leadership has successively dispelled the global misperceptions by highlighting the achievements of Pak Army at various forums. There exists an international recognition of armed forces of Pakistan as the best fighting entity having the capability to deal with internal security problems, 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. 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.

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The writer is the Head of International Relations Department at National Defence University (NDU), Islamabad.
[email protected]

 (Courtesy Hilal Magazine)