Pakistan's Military Exercise AZM-E-NAU: Need To Monitor Scale and Scope

Pakistan’s Director General of Military Training(DGMT) Maj Gen Muzzammal Hussein and the DGISPR, Maj Gen Athar Abbas at a recent joint press conference in Rawalpindi outlined the details of a large scale Military Exercise code named Azm-e-Nau (A New Beginning) being held from 10 Apr-13 May 2010.1 Pakistan’s Air force Exercise High Mark 2010 it was said, will be fully integrated with the Army exercise.2 The Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Kayani stated that “this exercise would be bigger than Ex Zarbe Momein”.3 It is noteworthy that Zarbe Momein was so far the largest Pakistani Military Exercise that was held in 1989. At that time Gen Beg had claimed that 129,287 troops of some 227 major units had participated in Ex Zarbe Momein and 157 military trains were used to move these forces for the exercise.4 The importance of Ex Zarbe Momein therefore was seminal.5 Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, the XI and XII Corps of the Pakistan Army had become free from the Afghan Border and were deployed in the exercise in tandem with the primary strategic assets of Pakistan (Army Reserve North and Army Reserve South). Pakistan thus used this massive military exercise to fine tune its war strategy against India. It also signaled that post 1989 it had achieved conventional military parity with India and that in the event of a war, it could field four strike corps to India’s three.6 Both during Op Vijay and Op Parakram, Pakistan’s force deployments adhered to the strategy crystallised and practiced in Ex Zarbe Momein.

Gen Kayani’s statement that Ex Azm-e-Nau III would be bigger than Zarbe Momein is therefore not supported by the Pakistani media reports which indicate that 20,000 troops would be participating in this exercise initially and subsequently this could go up to 50,000 or at best a Corps sized exercise7It is also at variance with the DGMTs remarks that” Azm e Nau which will see the Modular method may be smaller in size than Ex Zarbe Momien but it will have the capability to expand on a much larger scale, keeping in mind the present environment and challenges the nation faces8.

Pakistan follows a biennial (two year cycle) of training. Gen Kayani had given out in his Vision Statement that the year 2009-10 would be planned as the year of training. Accordingly a whole series of war-games (map/sand model exercises), discussions and logistical exercises were conducted to develop the concepts that would be validated in the Field Manoeuvres as part of Ex Azm-e-Nau III. In fact Azm-e-Nau II was held in Feb this year and probably encompassed the Map/Sand Model exercises and operational discussions component that would set the stage for the Field maneuvers.9

The Pakistani DGMT said that this exercise would be a concept validation exercise and follow the “modular method”. He categorically stated that India is still a major and very serious concern for Pakistan because of its capabilities and till the political issues between the two countries are resolved no nation can afford to lower its guard.”9 It has also been stated that India’s offensive capability was Pakistan specific and Azm-e-Nau would crystalllise Pakistan’s new defensive doctrine for countering conventional military threats. Significantly Gen Kayani reportedly stated that “weakness invited aggression while credible capability to hit back deterred war”10.

These statements of objectives are again at variance with what Gen Tareeq Majid, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee said that the (Pak) Army Exercises are not aimed at giving message to any country but for bringing improvements in their own Armed Forces.11

However the most intriguing aspect of this Exercise is the ability of the Pakistan Army to direct and mobilise such a major force level at a time when the US/NATO forces have launched the most critical phase of their Afghan operations in the Southern portions abutting the Pak borders. In 2009 Pakistan was apparently heavily committed in the Counter Militant Operations in Swat and South Waziristan. It had made a big show of diverting its formations from the Eastern Front for the war against terror. For this troop re- allocation it had lobbied hard with the Americans to pressurize the Indians to thin out troops from J&K and even force it to resolve that dispute. Ex Azm-e-Nau therefore highlights the familiar “Eastern Obsession” of the Pakistan Army. The scale and scope of Ex Azm-e-Nau would have to be closely monitored.

Conduct Phase. The Exercise commenced on schedule on 10 Apr. On 12 Apr Army Chief Gen Kayani visited the Exercise Control HQ at Bhawalpur and was briefed by Lt Gen Khalid Shamim Wayne of Southern Command. He subsequently visited the Corps HQ at Bhawalpur and was briefed by Lt Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi, the Corps commander.12 The Exercise commenced with Fox Land attacks on Blueland in the Bhawlpur area. The Mechanised forces of the defender displayed their dispersal techniques in the Cholistan Desert and contested the Foxland advance in conjunction with strikes by the PAF. The first phase ended with an impressive Integrated Fire Power Exercise on 18 Apr that involved the coordinated fire of ground weapon systems , Cobra Anti –Tank Helicopters and sorties by Air Force F-16, F-7 and the indigenous JF-17 fighters at the Khairpur- Tamiwali Ranges near Bhawalpur. This Fire Power Demonstration was witnessed by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Federal ministers and members of Parliament along with the Chiefs of the Army and Airforce and the Chirman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee , Gen Tariq Majid.13 This firepower Exercise depicted Ground troops detecting an enemy attack. This was engaged by Artillery ( Including rockets of 120 km range) and Cobra Helicopter Gunships. The PAF fighters then pounded the target and the Khalid tanks launched a counter attack along with the Mechanised Infantry. A n intersetng highlight was the shooting down of a drone by Orlikon Air Defense Guns14


  1. Mariana Babbar, “20,000 Troops to take Part in War games Azm –e Nau”, The News. Islamabad 06 Apr 10.
  2. Ibid
  3. Muhhammed Aris, “Pakistan Flexes its Muscles”. The News, Islamabad, 07 Apr 10.
  4. Strategic Digest. Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses. New Delhi. Dec 1989 (citing Pak media reports on Ex Zarbe Momein).
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid
  7. Refer to note 1 above
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10. Ibid
  11. Ibid
  12. The Nation, 12 Apr 2010
  13. Iftikar Ahmed, “First Phase of Military Exercise Ends” Dawn, 18 Apr 2010
  14. The News, 22 Apr 2010

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