2001–02 India–Pakistan standoff

The 2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff was a military standoff between India and Pakistan that resulted in the massing of troops on either side of the border and along the Line of Control (LoC) in the region of Kashmir. This was the second major military standoff between India and Pakistan following the successful detonation of nuclear devices by both countries in 1998, with the first being the Kargil War of 1999.

2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff
Indian Codename: Operation Parakram
Part of the Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts
Date13 December 2001  10 June 2002
(5 months and 4 weeks)
Indo-Pakistan border
  • Status quo ante bellum
  • Nuclear war averted



Commanders and leaders
Kocheril Narayanan
(President of India)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee
(Prime minister of India)
Gen S. Padmanabhan
(Chief of Army Staff)
ACM S. Krishnaswamy
(Chief of Air Staff)
Adm Madhvendra Singh
(Chief of Naval Staff)
Gen Pervez Musharraf
(President of Pakistan)
Gen. Aziz Khan
(Chairman Joint Chiefs)
Gen. Yusaf Khan
(Chief of Army Staff)
ACM Mushaf Ali Mir
(Chief of Air Staff)
Adm Abdul Aziz Mirza
(Chief of Naval Staff)
Adm S. Karimullah
(Commander Marines)
500,000–700,000 soldiers[1] 300,000–400,000 soldiers[1]
Casualties and losses
798–1,874 [2][3] Unknown
900 Indian civilians killed[4][5]

The military buildup was initiated by India responding to a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001 (during which twelve people, including the five terrorists who attacked the building, were killed) and the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly on 1 October 2001.[6] India claimed that the attacks were carried out by two Pakistan-based terror groups fighting Indian administered Kashmir, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, both of whom India has said are backed by Pakistan's ISI[7]–a charge that Pakistan denied.[8][9][10]

In Western media, coverage of the standoff focused on the possibility of a nuclear war between the two countries and the implications of the potential conflict on the American-led "Global War on Terrorism" in nearby Afghanistan. Tensions de-escalated following international diplomatic mediation which resulted in the October 2002 withdrawal of Indian[11] and Pakistani troops[12] from the international border.


On the morning of 13 December 2001, a cell of five armed men attacked the Indian Parliament by breaching the security cordon at Gate 12. The five men killed seven people before being shot dead by Indian Security Forces.

World leaders and leaders in nearby countries condemned the attack on the Parliament, including Pakistan. On 14 December, the ruling Indian National Democratic Alliance blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) for the attack. Home Minister L.K. Advani claimed, "we have received some clues about yesterday's incident, which shows that a neighboring country, and some terrorist organisations active there are behind it,"[13] in an indirect reference to Pakistan and Pakistan-based militant groups. The same day, in a demarche to Pakistan's High Commissioner to India, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, India demanded that Pakistan stop the activities of LeT and JeM, that Pakistan apprehend the organisation's leaders and that Pakistan curb the financial assets and the group's access to these assets.[14] In response to the Indian government's statements, Pakistan ordered its military on standing high alert the same day.

The Pakistan military's information sources, the ISPR's spokesman Major-General Rashid Qureshi, claimed that the Parliament attack was a "drama staged by Indian intelligence agencies to defame the freedom struggle in 'Kashmir'" and further warned that India would pay "heavily if they engage in any misadventure".[15]

On 20 December, amid calls from the United States, Russia, and the United Nations to exercise restraint, India mobilised and deployed its troops to Kashmir and the Indian part of the Punjab in what was India's largest military mobilization since the 1971 conflict.[16] The Indian codename for the mobilization was Operation Parakram (Sanskrit: Valor).[17]

January Offensive


The troop deployment to India's western border was expected to take three to four weeks, accordingly the military action involving a limited offensive against the terrorists' training camps in Pak administered Kashmir was planned by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Security for the second week of January 2002. It would start with air strike by IAF's Tiger Squadron to attack zones with large concentration of camps. Special forces of the Indian army would then launch a limited ground offensive to further neutralise the terrorist camps and help to occupy the dominant positions on the LoC. 14 January 2002, was decided as the tentative D-day.[18][19]

According to the Indian strategy a limited strike in the Pakistan administered Kashmir was preferred as it would convey the Indian resolve to Pakistan and yet keep the international retribution levels that are manageable. Indian actions would then be comparable to the, ongoing US offensive in Afghanistan against Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida terrorists.[20]

The CCS had weighed in the possibility of Pakistan launching an all-out offensive as a response to the Indian strikes. The intelligence assessment suggested that the Pakistani Army was not well prepared. This further minimized the chances of Pakistan launching a full-scale war. The Indian plans were strengthened by a strong economy with low inflation, high petroleum and forex reserves. Finance minister Yashwant Sinha announced that the Indian economy was prepared for a war, in spite of being the final option. The limited strike served as a tactical option. The troop build-up signalled "India's seriousness" to the international community and the USA. If Pakistan's strategy did not change then India would have no other option.[18]

Military Confrontations

In late December, both countries moved ballistic missiles closer to each other's border, and mortar and artillery fire was reported in Kashmir.[21] By January 2002, India had mobilized around 500,000 troops and three armored divisions on the Pakistan's border concentrated along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Pakistan responded similarly, deploying around 300,000 troops to that region.[1] The tensions were partially diffused after Musharraf's speech on 12 January promising action on terror emanating from Pakistan.[18]


India initiated its diplomatic offensive by recalling Indian high commissioner and the civilian flights from Pakistan were banned.[18]

Pakistan picked up the war signals and began mobilisation of its military and initiated diplomatic talks with the US President George W. Bush. American Secretary of State Colin Powell engaged with India and Pakistan to reduce tensions. In the first week of January, British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited India with a message that he was pressurising Pakistani President Musharraf. USA declared LeT and JeM as foreign terrorist groups.[18]

Musharraf's Speech

On January 8, 2002, Indian Home Minister L. K. Advani visited the US, where he was informed about the contents of the upcoming landmark speech by Musharraf.[18] On 12 January 2002, President Pervez Musharraf gave a speech intended to reduce tensions with India. He for the first time condemned the attack on Parliament as a terrorist attack and compared it with the September 11 attacks.[22] He declared in his speech that terrorism was unjustified in the name of Kashmir and Pakistan would combat extremism on its own soil. Pakistan would resolve Kashmir with dialogue and no organisation will be allowed to carry out terrorism under the pretext of Kashmir.[23] As demanded by India, he also announced plans for the regulation of madarsas and banning the known terrorist groups that were operating out of Pakistan.[18] He announced a formal ban on five jihadi organizations, that included Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba engaged in militancy in Kashmir.[22]

Indian decision

The Indian Prime Minister Atal B. Vajpayee though skeptic of the seriousness of Musharraf's pledges, decided not to carry out the military attack planned for January 14.[22]

Apart from Musharraf's speech there was another factor that postponed the CCS plans of an immediate war. Pakistan had removed most of terrorist training camps from Pakistan administered Kashmir in January; this meant that to achieve militarily significant results the Indian forces would have to cross the international border. This would have been risky as it would show India as an aggressor and could have invited global intervention on Kashmir. It was decided by CCS to give Musharraf another chance but the armed forces were kept fully mobilised for war.[18]

Kaluchak Massacre

Tensions escalated significantly in May 2002. On 14 May, three suicidal terrorists from Pakistan attacked an Army camp at Kaluchak near Jammu and killed 34 people and injured fifty more before getting killed, most of the victims were the wives and children of Indian soldiers serving in Kashmir. The terrorist incident again revived the chance of a full blown war.[22]

On 15 May, PM Vajpayee was quoted in the Indian Parliament saying "Hamein pratikar karna hoga ( We will have to counter it)."[18] American Foreign Minister Armitage quoted the incident as a trigger for further deterioration of the situation.[22]

Indian Cabinet had little belief that diplomatic pressure could stop Pakistan's support for the militants in Kashmir. India accused Pakistan that it was failing to keep its promise on ending the cross-border terrorism.[18] Musharraf's follow-up to his speech on January 12 was observed by India as weak and disingenuous. Pakistan did not extradite the terrorist leaders demanded by India, and Lashkar was allowed to continue its operations in Pakistan as a charity with a new name. During the spring, jihadi militants started crossing the Line of Control again.[22]

June Offensive


On May 18, Vajpayee reviewed the preparedness with the Defence Minister Fernandez, Director-General Military Operations and Military Intelligence Chief. The CCS met and favoured taking military action against terrorists in Pakistan. A limited military action similar to the one planned in January was not considered viable as Pakistan had strengthened its forces on the LoC. Any action limited to Pakistan administered Kashmir would only have limited military gains. Indian military favoured an offensive along the Indo-Pak border that will stretch the Pakistani troops and provide India an access to Pakistan administered Kashmir.[18]

The Indian armed forces accordingly prepared the plan to target the war waging capabilities of Pakistan and destroy the terrorist camps. The battle canvas planned for June was larger than the one planned in January. The Indian Air Force along with 1 Strike Corps of Indian would initiate attack in Shakargarh bulge to engage Pakistan's Army Reserve North (ARN) that was spread from Muzaffarabad to Lahore. This would engage Pakistan's key strike corp while Indian strike formations from Eastern command would carry out the offensive at the Line of Control and capture the strategic positions used by the terrorists for infiltrations. The period considered was between 23 May and 10 June.[18]

Military Confrontations

During the end of May 2002, the Indian and Pakistani armed forces continued to be fully mobilized. The tenor of statements published in the Indian press and intelligence information collected, pointed to an imminent invasion by India.[22] An SOS was sent to Israel by the Indian Defence Ministry for defence supplies during the month of June confirmed the intelligence.[18]

On 18 May, India expelled the Pakistani High Commissioner. That same day, thousands of villagers had to flee Pakistani artillery fire in Jammu.[24] On 21 May, clashes killed six Pakistani soldiers and 1 Indian soldier, as well as civilians from both sides.[25] On 22 May, Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee announced to his troops to prepare for a "decisive battle".[26]

Between May 25 and 28, Pakistan conducted 3 missile tests. India reviewed its nuclear capability to strike back.[18] On 7 June the Pakistan Air Force shot down an Indian unmanned aerial vehicle near Lahore.[27]

Threat of nuclear war

As both India and Pakistan are armed with nuclear weapons, the possibility a conventional war could escalate into a nuclear one was raised several times during the standoff. Various statements on this subject were made by Indian and Pakistani officials during the conflict, mainly concerning a no first use policy. Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said on 5 June that India would not use nuclear weapons first,[28] while Musharraf said on 5 June he would not renounce Pakistan's right to use nuclear weapons first.[29] There was also concern that a 6 June 2002 asteroid explosion over Earth, known as the Eastern Mediterranean Event, could have caused a nuclear conflict had it exploded over India or Pakistan.[30]


Vajpayee contacted the leaders of the global community including Bush, Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Jacques Chirac and informed them Musharraf could not deliver on his January 12 speech and the patience of the country was running out. In the diplomacy that followed, Bush, Putin, Blair and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi requested Vajpayee to avoid taking the extreme step. The global community informed India that it would negotiate with Musharraf to clarify his position on stopping of the cross-border infiltration.[18]

Attempts to defuse the situation continued. The Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to mediate a solution, but in vain.[31]

Restraint was urged by the global community as there were fears that Pakistan would proceed to use its nuclear weapons in the face to counter its conventional asymmetry as compared to the Indian armed forces. In April, in an interview to German magazine Der Spiegel Musharraf had already hinted that he was willing to use nukes against India. Pakistan's nuclear threats led to US Secretary of State Powell contacting Musharraf at five occasions in the last week of May and reading the riot act.[18]

On 5 June American Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visited Pakistan. He asked Musharraf if he would "permanently" end cross-border infiltration and help to dismantle the infrastructure used for terrorism. On June 6 Musharraf 's commitment was conveyed to Powell, and to India after his arrival. On June 10, Powell announced Musharraf's promise to the global community. After which India called off its strike plans.[18]

A full-frontal invasion would have translated into war. Political logic implied it was better to give another chance to Musharraf. The military build-up on the border by India in January and June had forced both the international community and Pakistan into action.[18]

Easing of Tension

While tensions remained high throughout the next few months, both governments began easing the situation in Kashmir. By October 2002, India had begun to demobilize their troops along her border and later Pakistan did the same, and in November 2003 a cease-fire between the two nations was signed.[32]


The standoff inflicted heavy casualties. The total Indian casualties were 789–1,874 killed.[2][3] Around 100 of these fatalities were from mine laying operations. Artillery duels with Pakistan and other incidents make up the rest.[2] Some of these casualties were a result of friendly-fire.[33]

Around 900 Indian civilians were also reported to have been killed during the standoff. The cause of death for civilians on Indian side was claimed to be landmine explosion. During the standoff, Indian army planted around 1.5 million Anti-personnel mines. Majority of these landmines were planted in Rajasthan.[4] Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, a researcher at Landmine & Cluster Munition Monitor, claims that Indian government use of Anti-personnel mines during Operation Parakram was known as the largest use of Anti-personnel mines by any country since 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.[34] The full extent of area mined during the operation is unknown. However, according to reports from that time, 700 Sq Km area along Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, large area of Punjab and Rajasthan were mined. In 2004, after many rounds manual and mechanical clearance, Indian army claimed that around 300,000 landmines planted along the 400 km of international border are untraceable and the proposed area should be cordoned off permanently.[35]

Cost of standoff

The Indian cost for the buildup was 216 billion (US$3.1 billion) while Pakistan's was $1.4 billion.[36] The standoff led to a total of 155,000 Indians and 45,000 Pakistanis displaced, per Pakistani media estimates.[37]

One of the reason for failure of Operation Parakram is described to be slow mobilization of 500,000 troops. It took nearly three weeks for India to completely move 500,000 troops, 3 armored divisions and other supporting units to the border. The delay allowed Pakistan to move its own 300,000 troops along with the supporting units to the border. Lacking strategic surprise, Indian military decided to withdraw its troops.[38][39]

Former Indian naval chief, Sushil Kumar, claimed that operation Parakram lacked clear objectives. He described the operation as a "punishing mistake" for India. He made these remarks on 5 November 2011. Moreover, he said that operation parakram, may in fact have encouraged both Pakistan and China to increase cross border violation. Had the India tried a similar operation against China, it would have been a fatal blunder for India.[40][41]

Development of Cold Start

After the deescalation and the substantial diplomatic mediation, the Indian government, however, learned the seriousness of the military suspension by Pakistan in the region. Adjustments and development on offensive doctrine, Cold Start, was carried out by India as an aftermath of the war.

Published Account


  • Choices: Inside the Making of India's Foreign Policy written by the former National Security Advisor of India, Shivshankar Menon. In his book Menon mentioned that the reason why India did not immediately attacked Pakistan was, after the examination of the options by the leadership of the government, it was concluded by the decision makers that, "more was to be gained from not attacking Pakistan than from attacking it".[42]

See also


  1. Kashmir Crisis Archived 11 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine GlobalSecurity.org
  2. "Op Parakram claimed 798 soldiers". The Times Of India. 31 July 2003. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  3. India suffered 1,874 casualties without fighting a war Archived 19 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine, THE TIMES OF INDIA.
  4. Bidwai, Praful (24 May 2003). "A failure India cannot afford". Frontline.
  5. Markey, Daniel S. (7 October 2013). "No Exit from Pakistan: America's tortured relationship with Pakistan". Cambridge University Press. p. 185.
  6. Rajesh M. Basrur (14 December 2009). "The lessons of Kargil as learned by India". In Peter R. Lavoy (ed.). Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences of the Kargil Conflict (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-521-76721-7. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  7. "Who will strike first" Archived 5 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The Economist, 20 December 2001.
  8. Jamal Afridi (9 July 2009). "Kashmir Militant Extremists". Council Foreign Relations. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2012. Pakistan denies any ongoing collaboration between the ISI and militants, stressing a change of course after 11 September 2001.
  9. Perlez, Jane (29 November 2008). "Pakistan Denies Any Role in Mumbai Attacks". Mumbai (India);Pakistan: NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on 5 January 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  10. "Attack on Indian parliament heightens danger of Indo-Pakistan war". Wsws.org. 20 December 2001. Archived from the original on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2012.
  11. "India to withdraw troops from Pak border" Archived 30 November 2003 at the Wayback Machine, Times of India, 16 October 2002.
  12. "Pakistan to withdraw front-line troops" Archived 14 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine, BBC, 17 October 2002.
  13. "Parliament attack: Advani points towards neighbouring country" Archived 6 September 2005 at the Wayback Machine, Rediff, 14 December 2001.
  14. "Govt blames LeT for Parliament attack, asks Pak to restrain terrorist outfits" Archived 13 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Rediff, 14 December 2001.
  15. "Pakistan forces put on high alert: Storming of parliament" Archived 14 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Dawn (newspaper), 15 December 2001.
  16. "Musharraf vows to stop terror activity in Pakistan". USA Today. 22 June 2002. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
  17. "Gen. Padmanabhan mulls over lessons of Operation Parakram". The Hindu. Chennai, India. 6 February 2004. Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
  18. "Twice in 2002, India was on the verge of striking against Pakistan. Here's why it didn't". Cover Story. India Today. 23 December 2002. Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  19. "Twice in 2002, India was on the verge of striking against Pakistan. Here's why it didn't". Cover Story. India Today. 23 December 2002. Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  20. "Twice in 2002, India was on the verge of striking against Pakistan. Here's why it didn't". Cover Story. India Today. 23 December 2002. Archived from the original on 9 September 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  21. Pakistan, India 'move missiles' to border Archived 6 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine CNN, 26 December 2001.
  22. "The Stand-off" Archived 18 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine, The New Yorker, 13 February 2006.
  23. Musharraf declares war on extremism Archived 7 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine, BBC, 12 January 2002.
  24. "India expels Pakistan's ambassador" Archived 4 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine, CBC.ca, 18 May 2002.
  25. "Six more Pak soldiers killed" Archived 5 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Tribune, 21 May 2002.
  26. "Indian PM calls for 'decisive battle' over Kashmir" Archived 4 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, The Guardian, Wednesday 22 May 2002. Retrieved on 7 February 2013.
  27. "IAF's Searcher-II Loss on June 07, 2002". Vayu-sena-aux.tripod.com. Archived from the original on 23 January 2009. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  28. "India will not use nuclear weapons first: Singh". BNET. 3 June 2002. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  29. Irish Examiner – 2002/06/05: "Musharraf refuses to renounce first use of nuclear weapons" Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Irish Examiner, 5 June 2002
  30. "Near-Earth Objects Pose Threat, General Says". Spacedaily.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2002. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  31. "Putin Attempts to Mediate India-Pakistan Tensions" Archived 10 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine, VOA, 3 June 2002. Retrieved on 7 February 2013.
  32. "India-Pakistan Ceasefire Agreement" Archived 11 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine, NDTV. Retrieved on 7 February 2013.
  33. "No Nation must stumble into war: lessons Operation Parakram post Uri". Bloomberg Quint. 20 September 2016.
  34. Sharma, Ashutosh (22 February 2018). "'Operation Parakram saw the largest use of anti-personnel mines by any government'". National Herald.
  35. Jit Singh, Satnam; Moser Puangsuan, Yeshua (19 March 2015). "It's time for India to join the Mine Ban Treaty". The Hindu.
  36. Aditi Phadnis (16 January 2003). "Parakram cost put at Rs 6,500 crore". Rediff.com India Limited. Archived from the original on 3 February 2003. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  37. "The cost of conflict-II Beyond the direct cost of war". The News International. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  38. Gady, Franz-Stefan (29 January 2019). "Is the Indian Military Capable of Executing the Cold Start Doctrine?". The Diplomat.
  39. Iqbal, Saghir (13 May 2018). Pakistan's War Machine: An Encyclopedia of its Weapons, Strategy and Military Security: Pakistan's War Machine: An Encyclopedia of its Weapons, Strategy and Military Security. Saghir Iqbal. p. 74.
  40. "Operation Parakram after Parliament attack lacked cleared objectives: Ex navy chief Sushil Kumar". Times of India. 6 November 2011.
  41. "Op Parakram most punishing mistake: Ex-Navy chief". The Indian Express. 5 November 2011.
  42. Menon, Shivshankar (2016). Choices: Inside the Making of Indian Foreign Policy (Excerpt from The Hindu ed.). Penguin Random House India. ISBN 978-0670089239. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
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