2008 Indo-Pakistani standoff

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2008 India–Pakistan standoff
Part of Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts
South asia.jpg
Map of Indian subcontinent
DateNovember–December 2008
(1 month)
Result De-escalation
Threat of war was neutralised
Media of both side started the public side peace initiatives

India India


Commanders and leaders
India Manmohan Singh[1]
(Prime minister of India)
India Pratibha Patil
(President of India)
India Pranab Mukherjee
(Minister of External Affairs)
Flag of Indian Army.svg Gen. Deepak Kapoor
(Chief of Army Staff)
Ensign of the Indian Air Force.svg ACM Fali Homi Major
(Chief of Air Staff)
Naval Ensign of India.svg Adm. Sureesh Mehta
(Chief of Naval Staff)
Pakistan Yousaf Gillani
(Prime minister of Pakistan)
Flag of the President of Pakistan.svg Asif Ali Zardari
(President of Pakistan)
Pakistan Ahmad Mukhtar
(Defence Minister of Pakistan)
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Gen Tariq Majid
(Chairman Joint Chiefs)
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svg Gen. Ashfaq Kayani
(Chief of Army Staff)
Pakistani Air Force Ensign.svg ACM Tanvir Ahmad
(Chief of Air Staff)
Naval Jack of Pakistan.svg Adm. Noman Bashir
(Chief of Naval Staff)
Naval Jack of Pakistan.svg Adm. Asaf Humayun
(Commandant Marines)

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks,[2][3] Pakistan and the ISI were believed by India to be directly responsible for the attacks, leading to strained relations between the two countries for a period of time. An Anti-Pakistani sentiment also rose in India, causing many, including the United States[1][4] to call for probes into it.

The standoff was significant because both the countries were nuclear nations, having first successfully tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998 respectively. The countries had already participated in 4 wars since their partition and independence in 1947, and relations between the two nations have been strained throughout their histories. The lone surviving terrorist of the Mumbai attacks confirmed that the terrorists came from Pakistan, and that they were trained by Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives. In 2011, he also confessed that the ISI had been supporting them throughout the attacks.[3][5]

Event and preparations[edit]

Military preparations[edit]

The Mumbai attacks lasted from 26 to 29 November 2008. At a state lunch in Lahore on 7 December, the US Arizona Senator John McCain relayed a message from Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to several of Pakistan's dignitaries, including Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that if Pakistan did not arrest those involved with the attacks, India would begin aerial attacks against Pakistan.[1]

On 19 December, private intelligence agency, Stratfor, in its latest report, said, "Indian military operations against targets in Pakistan have in fact been prepared, and await the signal to go forward". They also wrote that, "Indian military preparations, unlike previous cases, will be carried out in stealth". India's Border Security Force (BSF) has been put on high alert on the western sector, as well as the eastern sector, to prevent terrorist infiltration.[6][7]

In mid December Indian fighter planes allegedly intruded Pakistan's air space at two places.[8] On 22 December, the Pakistan Air Force began combat air patrol (CAP) over several cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, and Rawalpindi, to avert any further air intrusion.[9][10] Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, "Pakistan defence forces and armed forces are ready to face any challenge, as Pakistan has the full right to defend itself". Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani said, "Pakistan remains united and is ready to fight anyone to defend itself".[11] Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar Chaudhry said, "If India tried to thrust war, then the armed forces of Pakistan have all the potential and right to defend [Pakistan]".[12]

Escalations and back-door response[edit]

According to Pakistani media, India had started deploying troops along the Rajasthan border, and had tightened security in and around the defence airstrips. More radars and quick reaction teams were then deployed along the India-Pakistan border. Indian forces were on regular firing exercises at locations, like Lathi Firing Range in Jaisalmer, Mahsan in Bikaner, Suratgarh and Ganganagar.[13]

On 23 December, Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, wrote that the Pakistan "navy, marines air force and army were on red alert" and that "the chiefs of Pakistan's armed forces together with the Chairman Joint Chiefs were holding what had been described as an emergency meeting at joint headquarters in Rawalpindi". He also wrote that "[t]he Pakistan air force have been seen visibly in a number of locations flying close to the Pakistani-India border, in what is being described as an aggressive patrolling mode, following reports that India is planning pre-emptive strikes against locations in Pakistan". A Pakistan airforce spokesperson said "[i]n view of the current environment, the Pakistan Air Force has enhanced its vigilance".[14] Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said that Pakistan would mount an equal response "within minutes", to any Indian attack.[15] Pakistan continued to combat air patrol over several cities.[16]

The Pakistan Air Force F-16s in Action, Pakistan began Combat Air Patrol over several cities

According to Indian sources the Taliban and affiliated groups openly declared their solidarity with Pakistan. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban had proclaimed that they would send "thousands of (their) well-armed militants" to wage jihad against India if war should break out. Hundreds of would-be bombers were equipped with suicide jackets and explosive-laden vehicles.[17]

On 24 December, P.K. Barbora, the air officer commanding-in-chief of Western Air Command, said "[t]he IAF has earmarked 5,000 targets in Pakistan. But whether we will cross the LoC or the International Border to hit the enemy targets will have to be decided by the political leadership of the country".[18] India Today reported that "Indian Air Force fighter planes are engaged in round the clock sorties. An unusual hectic activity of Indian Air Force has been visible along the border for past some days".[19] On the same day, Stratfor confirmed that "the state government of Rajasthan has ordered residents of its border villages to be prepared for relocation".[20] President Asif Ali Zardari said "We will defend the country till the last drop of our blood",[21] and "we will defend the country till our last breath".[22] Pakistan began deploying warplanes to forward air bases.[23]

All Mig-29s were put on high-alert and for New Delhi's air defence.

Diplomacy and neutralisation[edit]

On 25 December, however, the ruling UPA government in India played down apprehensions of an imminent military conflagration. The Indian Prime Minister made it clear that "nobody wanted war".[24] The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) played a subsequent role during this time and the Indian Air Force downplayed the sorties by PAF fighter jets, saying it was an air defence exercise.[25] However, R. C. Dhyani, DIG of Rajasthan frontier BSF, said, "[a] lot of military movement is being noticed in districts just across the international border for the last few days, which is not normal" and "Pakistan has deployed more troops across border".[26] The Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Senator Raza Rabbani, said that any surgical strike into its territory would be taken as an act of war and would be repulsed with "full force",[27] and that "[e]ach and every inch of the country will be safeguarded".[28] India moved MiG-29s to Hindon air base, located near New Delhi, in order "to protect the capital from aerial threats".[29] The Pakistani city of Mianwali began a blackout.[30]

Pakistan continued deployment, and moved the 10th Brigade to the outskirts of Lahore, and the 3rd Armored Brigade to Jhelum. The 10th Infantry Division and the 11th Infantry Division had been placed on high alert.[31] The Indian Army deployed quick reaction teams (QRTs) along the border, which "precede the movement of bridging equipment – to cross canals in Punjab – and of heavy guns".[32]

Amir Mir of Daily News and Analysis wrote that "Pakistan's military leadership has advised president Asif Ali Zardari to take back his statement made last month, that his country would not be the first to use nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict with India".[33]

On 26 December, Pakistan cancelled all military leave[34] and activated contacts with friendly countries and military partners.[35] Pakistan deployed troops to "protect vital points along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and the international border with India".[36][37] Pakistani Foreign Minister Quresh said that, "if war is imposed, we will respond to it like a brave, self-respecting nation".[38] Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a second meeting of the Nuclear Command Authority to "discuss all the options available to India".[39] Pakistan deployed the 14th Infantry Division to Kasur and Sialkot, close to the border.[40] India advised its citizens not to travel to Pakistan.[41] Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met with the chiefs of the Indian air force, army, and navy.[42]

On 27 December, India's largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), called for all travel between India and Pakistan to be stopped, and for the recall of the Indian High Commissioner from Pakistan.[43] The Pakistani Army alerted retired army personnel to be ready to be called up to active duty.[44] On 28 December, Pakistan postponed all officer training courses.[45]

On 29 December, the leaders of the Indian and Pakistani armies spoke over their red telephone, to avert an accidental nuclear war.[46] The President of the BJP, Rajnath Singh, called for a joint India-US military action against Pakistan.[47] John McCain said, "The Indians are on the verge of some kind of attack on Pakistan".[4]

On 30 December, Pakistani media stated: "The service chiefs of all of the branches of India's military were told to stay in the country in order to achieve 'complete readiness'. All units that are on exercises have been ordered to remain so indefinitely, and to indicate any equipment or ammunition they need".[48] However, this was not backed by Indian or international media.

Pakistani deployments[edit]

The Pakistan military had cancelled all leave.[49] Elements of the Pakistan Air Force had been deployed to front line bases.[23] The IV Corp, with 60,000 troops, has been deployed to Lahore.[50] Pakistan had deployed the 3rd Armored Brigade to Jhelum, and the 10th Infantry Brigade, with 5,000 troops, to Lahore.[31] The 10th Division had been deployed to Ichogul and the 11th Division had been deployed to Tilla. The Pakistan Army combat brigades had been deployed to Kashmir and the Jammu sector of the border.[36] The 14th Division, with 20,000 troops, had been deployed to Kasur and Sialkot.[49] The ground forces were logistically and militarily supported by the Pakistan Navy's Punjab contingent and Pakistan Marines forces in else side of Pakistan.[49] The Pakistan Navy deployed the sizeable unit of its surface fleet and submarines, including PNS Hamza and PNS Khalid, to pick up to intelligence movements and positions of the Indian warships to prevent them to reach near Karachi and coastal areas of Balochistan.[49]

Indian deployments[edit]

India had put its Border Security Force, India's border patrol agency, on high alert.[51] MiG-29s had been deployed to Hindon air base, to protect New Delhi. Later IAF sources claimed that the move was a result of intelligence inputs of an air attack on Delhi.[29] The Indian Navy had moved six warships, including the INS Jalashwa and the INS Ranveer, to the west coast.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "McCain warns Pakistan of Indian air strikes". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 7 December 2022. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008.
  2. Schifrin, Nick (25 November 2009). "Mumbai Terror Attacks: 7 Pakistanis Charged – Action Comes a Year After India's Worst Terrorist Attacks; 166 Die". ABC News. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Accused in India massacre claims ties to Pakistani secret service The Globe and Mail, 11 April 2011 11:15 pm EDT
  4. 4.0 4.1 Joanna Dodder Nellans (29 December 2008). "McCain discusses Israel, economy in Prescott visit". The Prescott Daily Courier. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  5. Rana, Headley implicate Pak, ISI in Mumbai attack during ISI chief's visit to US The Times of India, 12 April 2011, 12.13 pm IST
  6. "India may still strike at Pakistan: US report". The Times of India. 19 December 2022. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  7. Sharma, Subramaniam (20 December 2008). "India May Consider 'Precision' Strikes in Pakistan (Update1)". Bloomberg. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  8. Ali Abbas Rizvi (15 December 2008). "IAF air intrusions: three scenarios". The News. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 21 September 2012.
  9. "India has Attacked Pakistan". Thaindian.com. 22 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  10. "'Vigilant' Pak scrambles jets over skies, India cautious". NDTV.com. 23 December 2008. Archived from the original on 21 February 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  11. "Defiant Pakistan says prepared to fight war". www.zeenews.com. 22 December 2008. Archived from the original on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  12. "Rumours of war create panic in Pakistan". sify.com. 22 December 2008. Archived from the original on 27 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  13. Ramesh Vinayak (22 December 2008). "indiatoday.digitaltoday.in". indiatoday.digitaltoday.in. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  14. "Pakistan military on 'high alert'". Al Jazeera. 23 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  15. "Pakistan spreading false tirade against India and Israel". Stratfor.com. 10 December 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  16. Ramesh Vinayak (23 December 2008). "Pak jet fighters continue flying over Lahore for 2nd day". indiatoday.digitaltoday.in. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  17. "Taliban to back Pak army in case of hostilities with India". The Times of India. 23 December 2022. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  18. Sujan Dutta And Our Guwahati Bureau (25 December 2008). "Unguided missiles in war of words". India: The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  19. Rohit Parihar (24 December 2008). "Pak has deployed forces on Rajasthan border: BSF". India Today. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  20. "India-Pakistan Signs Coming War". Stratfor.com. 24 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  21. PTI (24 December 2008). "We will defend Pak till last drop of blood: Zardari". TimesofIndia.com. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  22. ANI (25 December 2008). "Zardari Vows to Defend Country's Sovereignty till the Last Breath". Expressindia.com. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Forward deployment of Pak Air Force planes detected (24 December 2008). "www.ndtv.com". www.ndtv.com. Archived from the original on 27 February 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  24. Pandit, Rajat (25 December 2022). "PM led N-Command meeting on Saturday". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011.
  25. "IAF Eye on Flight of Fancy". The New Indian Express. India. 25 December 2008. Archived from the original on 28 May 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  26. "Pak deploying more troops along border:BSF". The Times of India. 25 December 2022. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  27. "Surgical Strikes will be Treated as War and will be Repulsed – Pakistan". Thaindian.com. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  28. Ramesh Vinayak (25 December 2008). "indiatoday.digitaltoday.in". indiatoday.digitaltoday.in. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  29. 29.0 29.1 IAF closely monitoring Pakistan activity[permanent dead link] Express Buzz (Indian Express), 25 December 2008.
  30. "PAF not to Scale Down High Alert till Threat Perception goes Down". Thaindian.com. 25 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  31. 31.0 31.1 "www.zeenews.com". www.zeenews.com. 25 December 2008. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  32. Our Bureau (26 December 2008). "www.telegraphindia.com". Calcutta, India: www.telegraphindia.com. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  33. "Nuke option to help keep India in check". dna. 24 December 2008.
  34. Bappa Majumdar/Kamran Haider (26 December 2008). "Pakistan cancels army leave as India tensions rise". Reuters. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  35. "The News International: Latest News Breaking, Pakistan News". thenews.com.pk.[permanent dead link]
  36. 36.0 36.1 "Pakistan Moves Troops to Indian Border". Thaindian.com. 26 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  37. "Pakistan moves fresh troops to border, cancels army leave". Stratfor.com. 26 December 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2022.
  38. "Pak Foreign Minister asks people to hope for best but prepare for worst". newstrackindia.com. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  39. "www.dailytimes.com.pk". www.dailytimes.com.pk. 26 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  40. www.google.com Archived 15 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  41. (AFP) – 26 December 2008 (26 December 2008). "www.google.com". Google. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  42. "Politics/Nation". The Times of India. 26 December 2022.
  43. "Stop all Travel Between India and Pakistan BJP tells Government". Thaindian.com. 27 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  44. "Retired Military Men Alerted for Service". Nation.com.pk. 28 December 2008. Archived from the original on 19 February 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  45. "Pakistan Postpones Army Courses, Fearing a War-Like Situation". Thaindian.com. 28 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  46. Previous post Next post (29 December 2008). "blog.wired.com". blog.wired.com. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  47. "www.telegraphindia.com". Calcutta, India: www.telegraphindia.com. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  48. "www.dailytimes.com.pk". www.dailytimes.com.pk. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 49.3 www.google.com [dead link]
  50. Sura, Ajay (27 December 2022). "Pak moves army closer to Punjab border, builds new bunkers". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012.
  51. Sharma, Subramaniam (20 December 2008). "www.bloomberg.com". www.bloomberg.com. Retrieved 31 March 2022.
  52. "Ceremonial frenzy at Wagah border increases". The New Indian Express. 27 December 2008. Retrieved 19 April 2022.

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