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War game season in neighbourhood

New Delhi, April 5: The armies of India and Pakistan are mobilising for separate large-scale war games on either side of the international border this month to experiment with concepts they will employ in the event of a war with each other.

Each side has informed the other — as is normally done in peace time — that it is conducting military exercises near the international boundary and that the movement of troops, tanks, guns and fighter aircraft is not a sign of aggressive intent.

Pakistan Air Force combat aircraft landed on and took off from a motorway on Saturday in an exercise named High Mark that will climax in a joint drill with the Pakistan Army in the desert region.

Elements of the Indian Army’s 1 (strike) Corps, one of the largest and most powerful field formations headquartered in Mathura, have now started mobilising for exercise Yoddha Shakti for a month-long war game in Rajasthan that begins on April 15.

A source in the Indian Army said the force would validate new equipment, especially night-vision devices, and electronic monitors “in an environment of network-centric operations”.

Former Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor said in a news conference in February that one of his main concerns was the “night blindness” of the army.

The exercise will involve armoured and mechanised infantry regiments — tanks and personnel carriers — unmanned spy planes and aircraft of the Indian Air Force.

Exercise Yoddha Shakti is part of a series to test the “cold start” doctrine that the Indian Army adopted for a conventional war with Pakistan after the stand-off in 2002 that saw full-scale deployment for a year. The stand-off did not escalate into a war.

“Cold start” implies that the army will launch an assault from bases immediately after the political signal is given, without taking days or months to mobilise.

Since adopting the doctrine, India has been converting its defensive (holding) formations into “pivot” corps designed to make shallow penetrations into enemy territory and create openings for the main assault force — such as the 1 (strike) Corps — to go deeper.

Pakistan’s exercise High Mark covers almost the entire landmass of the country with air force operations from Gilgit in the Northern Areas to Karachi on the Arabian Sea coast. The air-supported ground operations that are designed to be the climax of the war game are slated to be staged in the desert region opposite the Rajasthan border later this month.

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