In what is seen as a major defense posture, the Indian Army has started preparing itself and the civilian population to develop responses to nuclear attacks and related disasters.
The Indian Army conducted a two-day-long exercise in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday and is planning similar exercises in other parts of the country as well as a precautionary measure.
The exercises were codenamed "Exercise Sahyatha” or Help.
Army sources said that the Army wanted to make the public aware of the disasters that can result because of such attacks.
In the meantime, a senior army officer based in Northern Command in Udhampur sought to underplay the whole theme of exercises: "It is just a routine exercise." Regarding the Northern Command, which doesn’t have jurisdiction beyond Jammu and Kashmir, conducting such an exercise in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, the officer told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity, "the command can undertake the operational exercises".
The Area falls under Western Command, but sources said that the two commands can jointly carry out such exercises.
Its for the first time that such an exercise has been conducted in these areas. India and Pakistan had gone in for nuclear explosions in Pokhran, Rajasthan and Chagai hills, Balochistan, Pakistan, respectively in May 1998 at the height of confrontation between the two nations.
Next year, in 1999, India and Pakistan had fought a mini-war in the trans-Himalayan heights in Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan had mobilized its nukes to its border with India.
That the exercises were held in Dharamsala was confirmed by a spokesman of Northern Command in a release issued on Saturday.
It said: "A two day exercise was conducted at Dharamsala from 09 to 10 Apr 2010 by the Army to practice response to a Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) related disaster.”
"The exercise deliberated upon the situations which would be encountered and response of the civil administration as the first responder and that of the Army as the second responder,” to such disasters, the sources said.
In the second part, the "troops carried out their drills for mitigation of the said disaster."
The exercise benefited the Army in streamlining their drills and procedures, thereby ensuring effective response to any such disaster.
”Exercise Sahyata re-emphasised the requirement of coordination and understanding between various branches of the Army and the civil administration to face any disasters, the spokesman said.