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Brasstack Crisis 1986-87

The distrust between Pakistan and India dates back to the days of the partition that was accompanied by a communal war of succession. Killing and maiming of hundreds of thousands is evidence enough to support the assertion. But the issue of disputable annexation of the princely heightened the existing trust that led both to the warfare thrice. However, the wars fell short to achieve the aspired ends and contributed instead to multiplying the hatred and antagonism on both sides. The prevalent skepticism was so high that even the military exercises near the international orders sounded like the drumbeat of an approaching war. The same happened in 1986-87 when Indian army went for large military exercise in Rajasthan state near the Redcliff that was recepted in Pakistan as a declaration of war. These military exercises are known as “operation Brasstacks”.


“Brasstack” was a code name of a military exercise on the part of Indian army. It was the brain child of General Sundarji of Indian army and was to monitored and executed by his instructions. It was very unique in nature and was mainly planned to be conducted near the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan. It composed of at least two lacs and fifty thousand troops as well as armour vehicles and air force.


Objectives of the brasstacks were very vague. It was a military exercise in order to check and test the capabilities of Indian forces. But it has a political significance also. It was planned so to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting insurgency in Indian Punjab where Sikhs has started free Khalistan movement.


Pakistan was busy in cutting the Russian bear in Afghanistan in “hit and run” manner. It was unaffordable to fight a two front war. So it replied with diplomatic solution. Although it also deployed its army reserves South and army reserves North to face the immediate threat. Even, a general rumor was there that nuclear weapon was to be used but the reality is that by that time Pakistan was not capable of enriching weapons grade Uranium.


Diplomatic efforts from America and other friendly countries persuaded India to limit its exercise in men and space. De-escalation also took place on Pakistan side by February 1987, the crisis was defused.


Brasstacks has very vast application on the stability of South Asia. It helped Pakistan to spur its nuclear program. In India, domestic tension arose from the secretive nature of the exercise which led to the down fall of Defense ministry. Moreover, both sides started amassing enormous weapons and a race of armaments was started that was not a happy omen for the region.


Operation Brasstack is an outward manifestation of the sensitiveness existing in the region of fragile security. Since, both the states had possessed undeclared nuclear capacity; a conflict was paramount to providing a spark to go down of ammunition. Such untoward incidents are demonstrations of the trust-deficit between both countries. As discussed earlier this scarcity of trust and confidence was a by-product of historical evolution. It means that such incidents were almost un avoidable because the factors responsible for the creation of tense environment can be removed only if the issues that appears to be the germinating grounds for such an environment are not resolved. It demands resolution of all outstanding disputes especially the issue of Kashmir that is the real bone of contention and the reason for both the countries to be at daggers drawn perpetually. But many believe that politics is responsible for non-settlement and in fact, creation of the issues between Indian and Pakistan. So, if the political leadership demonstrates resolve and political will, the lives of the masses can witness prosperity. Only then such event as operation Brasstacks could be avoided.

About Ali Tariq

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