The Brasstacks Crisis was a nuclear scare between Pakistan and India following an Indian military exercise that lasted from November 1986 to January 1987. More than half a million men comprising 10 divisions and three brigades were involved — more than any NATO exercise or national exercise since World War II. Pakistani diplomats and scientists warned that the country was ready to launch a nuclear attack if India pressed forward. Pakistani forces deployed in defensive positions in response to the exercise and squared off with their Indian rivals within firing range of one another on the border lands.
The crisis arose from conflicting perceptions behind India’s military exercise. The Indian general who led the operation maintained that the goal of Brasstacks was to test new concepts of mechanization, mobility and air support. Pakistani military analysts feared that the military exercise was in fact a ruse for a conventional operation that sought to dismember Pakistan.
This operation’s massive scale concerned leaders in Pakistan and prompted them to place the country’s nuclear installations on high alert. Top Pakistani Nuclear Scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan heightened tensions when he revealed in an interview in March 1987 that, “Pakistan would use its atomic weapons if its existence was threatened.” Indian diplomats also claimed that they were warned that Pakistan would use a nuclear weapon if attacked.