Military & Aerospace

1971: India's Military Plan-I
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We felt that Pakistan would initially have about a brigade defending Dacca, with a contingency plan for pulling back two or three brigades from any of these sectors to a depth defence of the city, depending upon the tactical situation.

Yahya Khan had a valid reason for crossing the international border in the eastern wing in pursuit of the guerillas as well as to overrun their bases in India about the end of May and, if opportune, to enlarge the conflict into a full-fledged war by hitting India also in the west. That was India’s worst hour : its reserve formations were in the hinterland; it had serious shortfalls of war material, and the Indian soldier and civilian were not mentally attuned to immediate war. If Yahya Khan had struck at that time, he could have gained profitable objectives both in the western and eastern theatres before the onset of the monsoon.

By the time India could have fully geared up its war machine for battle, the quagmire of mud in both theatres would have negated the development of its full war potential. Pakistan could hold on to its hastily won territory during the stalemate of the rains. Meanwhile, it could strive to generate international pressure against India so as to effect a ceasefire and a political settlement suited to its interests before the monsoon lifted and the terrain permitted the resumption of military operations.

Book_India_wars_sinceYahya Khan however slipped up on this very feasible option, perhaps because of his belief in Tikka Khan’s ability to suppress the Bengali insurgency and bring back normalcy so that India would have no excuse to intervene. Perhaps his fears of the inadequacy of Pakistan’s own military preparedness for such lightning action in the west, especially after having lost two divisions of its strike force, influenced his judgment. Yahya Khan thus lost the opportunity of a lifetime.

After the monsoon, he expected Indian intervention in Bangladesh in support of the Mukti Bahini. By then, Pakistani diplomacy had b: en sufficiently active to gauge how much help would be forthcoming, and from what quarters, except perhaps the inscrutable Chinese. He had decided in case of a conflict in East Pakistan to escalate the war to embrace the western wing and resist the Indian and Bangladeshi forces long enough to bring about the end of hostilities under international pressure without losing any vital objective. Loss of a little unprofitable peripheral territory was acceptable as this could be negotiated for Indian territory that might be captured in the west.

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In any event, Yahya Khan and his associates felt that India would be content with limited gains of territory, with the sole aim of establishing a provisional Bangladesh government in East Pakistan. Should he fail in both his estimate of India’s war aims and military capability, and should the war not be halted in time, Yahya Khan felt that Niazi would be able to carry out an organised withdrawal, combined with a scorched-earth policy, in the direction of the ports of Chittagong and Khulna, from where the Pakistani forces in Bangladesh could be evacuated to the western wing with the help of the navies and merchant shipping of friendly nations. If East Pakistan was lost, at least the four divisions there would be back home to fight another day.

Loss of a little unprofitable peripheral territory was acceptable as this could be negotiated for Indian territory that might be captured in the west.

India’s planners had to find answers to all the military contingencies emanating from Yahya Khan’s options and evolve a plan that would thwart Niazi’s efforts to implement these concepts. Many claimed authorship of the plan for the liberation of Bangladesh after it resulted in a resounding victory. Truly, victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan. So was the case with this plan. To set the record right, it can be said with all the emphasis it deserves that the master plan was evolved by Lt Gen K. K. Singh, then Director of Military Operations at Army Headquarters. It went through many changes as a result of the alteration in the parameters of the original premises because of the developing situations. But then all good plans should have the flexibility to withstand reviews on feedbacks, and this one stood the test well. Others also certainly contributed to its progressive betterment.

Although Manekshaw was known for his sentimental leanings towards his old associates and liked to gather them around himself, he was a shrewd judge of professional ability. He was quick to spot talent and used it effectively. One such find was KK Singh. An Armoured Corps officer with outstanding professional ability and battle experience, he had gone in 1962 to NEFA with Lt Gen B. M. Kaul to serve as his Brigadier General Staff and stayed on with Manekshaw when he took over the corps from the much humbled kaul.

If East Pakistan was lost, at least the four divisions there would be back home to fight another day.

A quiet, over the corps from the much humbled unassuming man, austere in living and moderate in habits, he was a thorough professional and a patriot, seemingly living only to further national interests. He preferred to lead by peruasion and the example of his tireless devotion to duty.

The Chief had implicit faith in K.K. and this faith could not have been better justified as he was one of the best conceptual brains of his time on the wider horizons of national strategy and the lower domain of tactics. In addition, he was perhaps the only officer, with the exception of his successor Inder Gill, who could stand up to a towering personality like Manekshaw and tell him what was right for the nation and the services.

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