Gen Mirza Aslam Beg
OUR valiant officers and men laid down their lives defending the country and its people against the treacherous Indian attack on Pakistan on Sept 06, 1965. Their sacrifices are example of courage, devotion to duty and professionalism at its best. It is our bounded duty to pay homage to them, by critically examining the process of planning for the 65 war, the state of preparedness and its conduct to defeat aggression. This study was therefore taken-on by our second generation military leadership, to develop the Pakistan Army, into one of the best professional armies of the world.
During the early 80s there was a conscious realization of the weaknesses of the Army, particularly after the 1971 debacle, and the urgent need to develop it on modern lines. Luckily, this was the time when higher military education of the Armed Forces had developed the new military thought, capable of evolving a new system of forces to meet the operational demands of the year 2000 and beyond. The full fledged support of the Chinese to achieve that goal came as a blessing. Thus these two factors helped Pakistan Army achieve the development goals – a modern army, with 90% self sufficiency and minimum of 40xdays of war stamina. These were ambitious plans but were made easy to achieve with Chinese open-ended support. I would, therefore briefly explain the role of these two creative forces of development for transforming the land forces into a modern fighting force, now acknowledged as one of the best in the world. By 1980s, higher military education got embedded into all the echelons of the military high command. The Armed Forces War Course Graduates found their place as formation commanders, heads of military institutions, senior staff officers and directors of arms and services and provided the inputs to develop a comprehensive agenda to create the system of forces to face the challenges of future warfare, in an environment of multi-dimensional threat. Thus knowledge based approach to our problems, helped us to develop plans which were implemented with clarity of thought. As Chief of General Staff at GHQ, I was tasked to search for the new weapons, equipment and the much needed technology to complete agenda for change. Having tried several avenues, we finally turned to China, to find very positive response from them.
Our first visit to China in early 1982 was explorative. We carried with us the wish list of all that we could purchase with US$ 600 allocated funds. We had three good meetings in three days and were told to visit again, four weeks later for the finalization of the proceedings. We were back to China the following month to a warm welcome and to a conference room where I found several elderly Chinese in civvies, waiting for us. I couldn’t help ask my host: “I hope you haven’t brought me to a wrong place?” “No, not at-all, you are here to meet the heads of our Defense Industries. They will tell you right now, what they have, and how soon they can meet your demand.”
We felt assured, and got down to discuss the matter. It took us hardly an hour to go through the list we had submitted during our previous visit. They agreed to all our demands. I thanked them and before I could wind-up the meeting my host asked me: “Is that all that you needed?” I said, “No. Not exactly, because, we have to remain within the limits of the allocated funds.” He said: “I understand that, but let us have a look at your full list.” I took out the list and discussed with them item by item. There was “Yes nod” almost to every item and when we notched the tally, it came to the staggering figure of US$ 1.7 billion. I asked, “How do we pay for it?” They said, “No worry, pay as it suits you, in the next twenty five years, at a nominal Mark-up.”
We felt elated and returned to Pakistan to narrate the success story to our Chief and the colleagues. Thus began the new era of rapid development in the field of technology transfer, indigenization, up-gradation of weapon systems and system engineering of state of the art weapons, missiles and equipment, made possible at the hands of our team of experts, and such brilliant scientists like Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. In a short period of less than a decade, by 1988, we carried out the trial of the prototype Al-Khalid tank, which beat American M1A1 tank, in all the five tests parameters. We could develop several other high-tech weapons, equipment and ammunition, to achieve 90% self sufficiency – a dream come true, made possible by the unflinching support of the Chinese leadership and their defense industries, with no strings attached. No other country would be prepared to go that far, because they are simply interested in selling their military hardware for money, while China was interested in establishing the China-Pakistan Strategic Pivot, seeking regional peace through mutual development. Thus the acquired capability enabled us to actualize our strategic thought into a “War Plan”, characterized by “pre-emption and offensive defense” to achieve decisive results, despite fighting out numbered. This is the capability of land forces now, which also serves as “deterrence”, the main function of armed forces of Pakistan.
Chinese do not meddle into our domestic politics. They do not attempt regime change, nor do they have any preference for a military or a civilian regime. Their only preference is the people of Pakistan, they relate to. This attitude has earned them deep mutual respect, which others cannot fathom. I have no hesitation in saying that the bed-rock of our defense collaboration, which gave us the Al-Khalid tank; the JF-17 Thunder, the multi role fighter aircrafts; the F-22 Frigates, and now the stealth submarines, provides the foundation for the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Cooperation, to develop into a strong Pivot for a strategic partnership between our two countries. Thus our armed forces have achieved harmony between three essential instruments of war: Expertise in use of high-tech weapon and equipment; the strategic military thought development and the dedicated manpower of officers and men, whose sacrifices and valour, serve as examples to achieve professional excellence in pursuit of national objectives.
These landmark achievements were demonstrated to the nation and the outside world by holding the winter manoeuvres in 1989, named Zarb-e-Momin. It was attended by twenty three foreign military delegates and over hundred young Pakistani journalists; imbedded into each unit and formation. The purpose was to build our nation’s trust in our army and demonstrate to the world its capability to safeguard national interests. These achievements are our tribute to our martyrs who have given us the lead as the beacon light to follow. May Allah rest their soul in eternal peace. Ameen.
— The writer is ex-Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan.