Military & Aerospace

1971: India's Military Plan-I
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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.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, could deter K. K. from speaking out his mind or putting his views on paper. And no pressures, however great, could deflect him from the right path. It was the Chief’s practice to call K.K. to his office or walk straight to K.K. whenever some issue, operational or otherwise, was in his mind. K.K. would listen attentively, and in his characteristic quiet style undertake to get it examined in depth before commiting the Chief to a particular course of action. K.K’s examination in depth meant dissecting issues threadbare from all conceivable angles. After sifting the wheat from the chaff, he would present the various options with firm recommendations for a particular course of action.

In his examination, he encouraged his team to air their views frankly and picked up the pearls wherever they could be found. Although he did not show it, he found ‘yesmen’ and conformists irksome. He valued original, but solid, military thought wherever he saw it. Such was the man who led the team that formulated the plan for liberating Bangladesh. Needless to say, the plan went through Matnekshaw’s close scrutiny before it was accepted. This scrutiny lasted several sittings, punctuated by occasional excursions for golf by K. K. much to the Chief’s annoyance.

The first consideration confronting the planners was to work out the miximum quantity of resources of troops and equipment which could be mustered within the time frame of a short war of about three weeks duration to liberate Bangladesh. On these resources depended the aim and objectives of the plan, as also the scope of the military operations. The traditional contingency plan for East Pakistan had the limited aim of ensuring the security of Calcutta and the Siliguri corridor. For this, 9 Infantry Division, located in the Ranchi complex, was earmarked along with some brigades of 20 Mountain Division located within the corridor, in case they were not already committed against the Chinese.

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.

To contend with a buildup of some four divisions by Pakistan, it was necessary to concentrate about seven or eight divisions if the campaign was to make any headway. From the reserves earmarked for employment in case of a Chinese attack, 4, 20 and 23 Mountain Divisions were selected with the proviso that at least two of them would go back to face the Chinese should they decide to enter the fray. But this was to be done only if the holding forces suffered a serious setback and restoring the status quo on the northern border became absolutely necessary.

Two other mountain divisions, 8 and 57, occupied with counter-insurgency operations in Mizoram and Nagaland, were also to be employed for the liberation. Of the six brigades of 8 Mountain Division, two were to form an integral part of the Division, one was to be left behind in Nagaland, and two others were to function independently. The Mizoram counter-insurgency operations were to be handed over to two infantry battalions raised for the purpose so as to spare the entire 57 Mountain Division for the campaign. An independent brigade originally chosen as a reserve for Rajasthan was also allotted to Bangladesh.

Some risks were accepted in partially denuding the UP-Tibet border in the central sector by moving 6 Mountain Division and leaving only one brigade group behind to carry out the original role. 50 Independent Para Brigade, an Army Headquarters reserve, was also allotted to Bangladesh. Thus it was considered feasible to muster a strength of seven to eight divisions without upsetting the strategic balance in relation to Pakistan, but with some reservations with regard to China.

This scrutiny lasted several sittings, punctuated by occasional excursions for golf by K. K. much to the Chiefs annoyance.

In the way of armour, it was possible to gather about three regiments, out of which one was equipped with T-55s and another with PT-76s, and the third a collection of three independent squadrons with AMX-13 tanks and Ferret scoutcars.

There was an overall shortage of artillery. The six brigades of 8 Mountain Division operating in Nagaland did not have a single a rtillery unit. 57 Mountain Division, a newly raised formation, had a reduced artillery complement. Except 9 Infantry Division, all the other formations participating in the offensive operations were w mountain units equipped with guns with smaller range and lighter in eight of shell. Some calculated risks had to be accepted by moving artillery units from the holding force on the northern border to make up the shortfall. Two medium regiments were also nominated from outside Eastern Command to augment firepower. The availble resources needed to be rationalised to provide balanced support to all formations.

Book_India_wars_sinceWith the intensification of Mukti Bahini operations in the border areas and limited incursions by it in the way of raids and forays inside East Pakistan, the Pakistani forces were drawn more and more towards the peripheral areas As a result, a wide dispersion in their deployment became apparent. The detailed Pakistani order of battle and locations down to infantry battalions became available. The intelligence agencies had considerably improved in their functions with the abundance of sources provided by the Mukti Bahini and the refugees pouring in across the border.

Continued…: 1971: India’s Military Plan – II


  1. The operations of Mukti Bahini had by the end of September 1971 intensified considerably and scored success against isolated garrisons and patrols of the enemy. Their sanctuaries, where they went into hiding and sought training, were strung out along the whole border with India.
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