Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Brasstacks Crisis 1986-87

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Brasstacks Crisis 1986-87

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The 1986-87 crises arose from the unusually large Indian military exercise code named Brasstacks. This exercise was carried out very close to the Indian border with Pakistan which was again very unusual. It was a brainchild of the Indian Army Moreover, the Brasstacks confrontation contributed to the incorporation of nuclear calculations in regional crisis behavior. This dimension is later believed to have contributed towards setting the milieu of the Kashmir crisis of 1990. The crisis, and perhaps the apparent success of its deterrent value, had undoubtedly confirmed to the Pakistani decision-makers the importance of nuclear weapons as a balance to Indian's conventional military superiority. The focus of this research is to high light the main trends of crisis decision making both in Pakistan as well as in IndiaPresent study explores the role of perception and misperception during the crisis situation between two rival states.

KEY WORDS: Conflict, military, nuclear, cricket diplomacy, decision making

Introduction

The 1986-87 crises arose from the unusually large Indian military exercise code named Brasstacks. This exercise was carried out very close to the Indian border with Pakistan which was again very unusual. It was a brainchild of the Indian Army Chief General Sunderji who was also involved in its planning and implementation stages. This large scale movement and activities of the Indian troops in the Rajasthan desert created an alarm in Pakistan. As a consequence, the armed forces of Pakistan were also mobilized and deployed in the forward areas. As a response, the Indian Army occupied its traditional defensive positions. Apparently, all elements for the precipitation of a crisis and its escalation were present. However, the decision-makers from both sides were successful in managing the crisis without reaching a point of unmanageable escalation and eruption of an all out war across the international border. It is also evident from a detailed study that the crisis resembled Richard Lebow's 'Brinkmanship crisis'. In such cases a crisis is initiated with the hope that an adversary will back down instead of fighting. War is not intended but is only a threat of force that is used to secure specific political objectives. Yet the outcomes of a crisis are unpredictable, such is the case that India used the threat of force to orchestrate its nefarious designs in the region. Pakistan in response adopted such a policy which had a vivid similarity with the 'Hostile Interaction Model' of decision-making.

Nature of Issue

During the 1980s, growing military influence in the Indian polity gave birth to a serious consideration of a preventive war despite strong institutionalized civilian control. The crisis of 1986-87 began to precipitate when the Indian armed forces initiated a massive exercise in Rajasthan near the South-Eastern border of Pakistan. Fearing that the exercise maybe a disguised preparation for an immediate large-scale attack, the Pakistani leadership responded by immediately putting its armed forces on high alert and initiating their own military exercises very close to the Indian border. This led to counter-moves by the Indian armed forces along the international border combined with an operational alert of the Indian Air Force (IAF) (Sagan, 2002).

During the course of events, an attack against the Pakistani nuclear installations was also weighed at the highest level of decision-making in New Delhi in January 1987.

"Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi now considered the possibility that Pakistan might initiate war with India. In a meeting with a handful of senior bureaucrats and General Sunderji, he contemplated beating Pakistan to the draw by launching a preemptive attack on the Army Reserve South. This would have included automatically an attack on Pakistan's nuclear facilities to remove the potential for a Pakistani nuclear response to India's attack. Relevant government agencies were not asked to contribute analysis or views to the discussion. …

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