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 We were in a state of war. All around blazing particles of sand and pinching dust, unkind gushes of fire-like wind, no water, no trees; with a group of journalists I was in Khairpur Tamewali , the part of the Cholistan  desert , about 70 kilometers  from Bahawalpur , the great historical city of Pakistan. We were invited there by the Directorate of Inter Services Public Relations; a department of the Pakistan Army. The purpose behind this visit was to observe the military-exercise going on in this area for the last many weeks.  18th of April, 2010 was the most important day with reference to these exercises because the Prime minister of Pakistan, Excellency Yusaf Raza Geelani along with the Chief of The Army Staff General Kiyani and other dignitaries was there to appreciate the courage and determination of the soldiers busy in these exercises.

 As we stepped out of the air-conditioned van after reaching the exercise-area, it hardly took a few seconds that our shoes and socks and clothes, in short each and every thing was stuck up with sand. I took out my water-bottle to quench my parching lips but the water inside had got so hot that it seemed boiling; such were the climatic conditions. I was thinking of the soldiers who had been staying here in such a horrible atmosphere for the last many days without any comfort and facility. I cast a look around and was astonished to find hundreds of armed-soldiers standing on bare sandy mounds confronting the direct sunlight and blazing heat in this wasteland but their faces were gleaming with the feeling that they were bearing all this hardship for their motherland with an inexpressible happiness and satisfaction. That time I concluded that no one can ever defeat such an army of passionate soldiers.

During the briefing session we were informed that the basic purpose behind these exercises was not only to test the co-ordination of different sections of army in state of war but also to check the courage and determination of the soldiers in warlike atmosphere. More than 5oooo troops from the army and air force took part in these military-exercises. It was also mentioned that the war-field in Khairpur Tamewali was the largest field ever prepared for such exercise-mission near the eastern border. The recent military exercises are the continuation of the new idea launched by the Chief of the Army Staff General Kiyani with the title, “2009/2010-The Year of Training.”

The Indian media is replete with the objections regarding these military exercises. It is being said that such exercises are generating the feelings of fear and horror in the region but it was nowhere mentioned that Indian Army will launch its month-long military exercises later this month in the Thar Desert with the codename Yodha Shakti. The philosophy behind these exercises is to test offensive strategies, according to the Indian officials.

At present Pakistan is facing the worst security challenges of its history. None of the Pakistani borders can be called peaceful. The American war against terror has changed Pakistan into a bloody battle field. Foreign supported miscreants in the garb of militants are trying their best to change Pakistan into a barren land. Suicidal attacks on innocent citizens have up till now taken the lives of thousands of people. The worst example of this brutality was the suicidal attack on the people who were protesting against the electricity load-shedding in Peshawar on 19th of April. This attack took the lives of more than 30 people. The most important point to be noted regarding this attack is that the protest was organized by the Jamat-e-Islami; which is always blamed and criticized for its inclination towards the Islamic extremist groups. This suicidal attack proved that the hands behind these terrorist activities do not belong to any of the so-called Muslim militants. This is surely a very serious and grave situation with reference to the security and existence of Pakistan.  Pakistan Army is very well aware of the role the nation is expecting from it to play. The recent Azm-e-No exercises could be taken as a massage to the nation from the Pakistan Army that it has the best possible capabilities and abilities to face all these challenges and it knows very well how to take care of the national interests.

As mentioned by the Prime Minister Geelani, Pakistan has no ill-will against any country and these exercises are just a routine practice; a part and parcel of military training programs throughout the world. After watching these exercises he was more confident that Pakistan Army could not be rivaled by any military in the world. He said the exercises were the epoch making professional activity of the Pakistani armed forces. Pakistan is a peace loving country. It has always rejected and discouraged every activity which could cause a loss to the calm and peace of the region but it can never ignore value, need and importance of its own security. Moreover it has to keep a vigilant eye on the things happening around. Pakistan would have never tried to emphasize more on its defense affairs if its ‘ever-loving’ neighbour India had not over-involved itself in making new weapons and in signing more nuclear deals. Such behaviour of India is generating a feeling of insecurity among the neighbouring countries including Pakistan. Being an important country of the South Asian region it is the responsibility of India to play the role of an elder one. It must project peace and harmony in the region. It would be a clear misjudgment and blunt misunderstanding if India takes the Azm-e-Nao Exercises as a threat to its own security. These exercises had nothing to do particularly with India; they were simply a rehearsal and a warming up activity against all types of terrorists and terrorist activities. However India must be worried if it thinks that it is involved in any kind of terrorist activity against Pakistan because Pakistan has solemnly vowed to crush each and every element involved in any shape of terrorism within, along or outside its borders.

 The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on defence and strategic affairs.

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