The communication centres of Jhenida and Magura were therefore of vital importance as their capture would split and disorganise the Pakistani forces operating in this sector.
An overall assessment of resources needed for these tasks was also made. It was felt that the northwestern sector would require one division to develop the main thrust towards Bogra, while one or two brigades would be required to contain the Pakistani troops deployed in the Dinajpur-Rangpur area. It was considered feasible for Headquarters XXXIII Corps, located at Siliguri, to control these operations. 20 Mountain Division, already under their command, was chosen for executing the plan. This division’s responsibilities were handed over to 6 Mountain Division, less one brigade moved from the UP-Tibet border. In addition, two brigades, 340 Mountain from Southern Command and 71 Mountain Brigade from Nagaland, were earmarked for the Bangladesh operations in the sector.
The requirement of two independent thrusts north and south in the southwestern sector was two divisions. 9 Infantry Division, already detailed for the East Pakistan contingency plan, and 4 Mountain Division, employed for internal security duties in West Bengal, were nominated for the sector. But there were no controlling headquarters to coordinate the operations of these divisions. Initially, it was proposed to place this sector directly under Headquarters Eastern Command, but later, on consideration of the heavy preoccupations of command headquarters, the Chief accepted the necessity of raising new corps headquarters for controlling these operations. Government sanction was obtained in a few days and Headquarters II Corps came into being.
The task in the eastern sector was assessed to require three divisions, one for the thrust towards Sylhet, another for the Ashuganj complex operations, and the third for the Chandpur-Daudkandi thrust. To control these operations, Headquarters IV Corps at Tezpur was split in two, the bigger portion moving to the Agartala area for operations while the smaller one remained behind for holding actions against the Chinese.
Headquarters 101 Communication Zone Area was nominated to control operations in this sector. A para drop of about a battalion was visualised in the general area of Tangail, where the friendly Siddiqi guerilla group was operating with considerable success. It was hoped that the reserve brigade facing the Chinese near Rangiya would be released for the drive against Dacca once it became clear the Chinese would not intervene.
It was hoped that the reserve brigade facing the Chinese near Rangiya would be released for the drive against Dacca once it became clear the Chinese would not intervene.
Although the risk involved in employing the troops deployed against the Chinese in the central sector was accepted, this did not apply to the same extent in Sikkim, Bhutan and NEFA. Two divisions therefore remained in Sikkim, two more in NEFA, one brigade near eastern Bhutan, and a truncated division west of Bhutan.
Throughout consideration of the plan, K.K. remained sceptical of the feasibility of capturing Dacca within the time frame of a short war, which the planners had envisaged to last no more than 21 days. He felt rather strongly that the Indian Army, with its inherent inhibitions against anything unorthodox and a more speedy type of manoeuvre, and very short of the bridging equipment required to span the mighty rivers, lacked the capability to reach Dacca before the ceasefire likely to be brought about by international pressures. At his insistence, the task was limited to occupying the major portion of Bangladesh instead of the entire country. But the capture of Dacca had to be the main target in its implementation.
This plan was ready about early July 1971, when Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command, was brought into the picture and, apart from the existing commitments against the Chinese, was given the task of destroying the Pakistani forces in the eastern theatre and of occupying the major portion of East Bengal, including the ports of Chittagong, Chalna and Khulna.2
The northern sector afforded the most direct, though longer, route to Dacca and did not appear to be so heavily defended.
Manekshaw personally briefed Aurora, covering the political background, our aims, his forecast of the shape of things to come, the outline operational plan, with reasoning of the choice and strength of thrust lines, and emphasis on the vigour and determination required for its execution. Written operational instructions were later handed to Aurora, and the machinery started moving for preparations for the war to liberate Bangladesh.
The monsoon rains were beating down hard, and this gave both sides time for preparation. It was felt that although the Pakistani troops would be essentially oriented towards retaining a firm hold on the population and the territory, they might well undertake one or more of the following offensive actions in order of priority:
He felt rather strongly that the Indian Army, with its inherent inhibitions against anything unorthodox and a more speedy type of manoeuvre, and very short of the bridging equipment required to span the mighty rivers, lacked the capability to reach Dacca before the ceasefire likely to be brought about by international pressures.
- An offensive against the Siliguri corridor, provided the Chinese coalition was forthcoming.
- A limited offensive against Calcutta astride the Jessore Bongaon and Satkhire-Basirhat axes with a view to causing largescale panic by threatening the metropolis.
- An offensive against the Indian lines of communication from Silchar-Agartala to threaten and occupy a thinly held area of Tripura and some portions of Cachar district.
It became imperative to take steps to adopt such a defensive posture on the periphery of Bangladesh to dissuade Pakistan from gaining ground in these areas. These measures were scheduled for completion before the end of the monsoon, and definitely by the first week of October. Accordingly, Headquarters 1 Corps was raised in the beginning of October under Lt Gen T.N. Raina with 4 and 9 Divisions, and this corps was to take over the responsibility of preventing ingress astride various roads and tracks leading into West Bengal from the Jessore sector. The two divisions were already concentrated in the area when this corps was formed.