Military & Aerospace

1971: India's Military Plan - II
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Farther north, 20 Mountain Division was moved into the Balurghat bulge from the Siliguri corridor. It was felt that with this division poised to cut the waist of the Pakistani northwest sector along the Hilli-Gaibanda axis no meaningful offensive was feasible in the direction of the Siliguri corridor. 303 Infantry Brigade from Nagaland was moved to look after such an eventuality. To regain the strategic balance against the Chinese, 6 Mountain Division less one brigade group took over operational responsibilities in place of 20 Mountain Division, already concentrated in the Balurghat area. To cloak these moves, all formations moving in wore the already familiar emblem of the 20 Mountain Division formation. This confused the Pakistanis for a while.

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This force was placed under Headquarters XXXIII Corps, the commander of which was Lt Gen M.L. Thapan. 93 Mountain Brigade from Nagaland and one infantry battalion were concentrated at Tura in the Garo Hills and at Dawki in the Khasi-Jaintia Hills respectively astride the Tura–Barengura and Shillong-Dawki axes. This force was placed under Maj Gen Gurbux Singh, General Officer Commanding 101 Communication Zone Area, located at Shillong. Lt Gen Sagat Singh moved his main IV Corps Headquarters to the vicinity of Agartala in Tripura State.

Our troops on the Indo-Tibet border as well as our intelligence had not so far reported any appreciable Chinese buildup in areas close to the border to reveal their aggressive intentions, if any.

23 and 57 Mountain Divisions were concentrated in the area to look after ingress astride the numerous routes between Karimganj and Dharamnagar leading into Tripura and Cachar district. 8 Mountain Division was still operating in Nagaland and was to join only later in liberating Bangladesh. By the first week of October, the Indian defence posture was strong enough to withstand preemptive Pakistani efforts in the region.

Our troops on the Indo-Tibet border as well as our intelligence had not so far reported any appreciable Chinese buildup in areas close to the border to reveal their aggressive intentions, if any. The post-monsoon period was still ahead, but in view of the long lead period required for such a buildup it was felt that Chinese participation might be confined, as in the conflict of 1965, merely to making “threatening noises.” Small border incidents might be envisaged here and there, but the Chinese potential did not appear to be of a scale to cause serious concern or need special attention. But a careful watch was to be kept along the border as intervention could not be ruled out altogether.

In Nagaland and Manipur, there was a likelihood of the underground taking advantage of the Army’s preoccupation elsewhere. But the shortfall caused by pulling out troops from these states was proposed to be redressed by beefing up the Assam Rifles and narrowing the objectives of the counter-insurgency operations during the period. An infantry brigade group was to stay behind to back the Assam Rifles and the objectives were scaled down to control of the main centres of communication and to generally containing the insurgency. The divisional second-in-command, Brig Jagjit Singh, was elevated to the rank of local major general and made responsible for the counter-insurgency operations.

As regards the Mizo Hills, the bulk of the insurgents were operating from sanctuaries in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in East Pakistan. It was feared that they might aid the Pakistani Army during the operations. In Mizoram, as in Nagaland, two infantry battalions of regular troops were located in the state to back up the Assam Rifles and BSF units deployed in the area. The need was also felt for an independent thrust along the Chittagong Hill Tracts so as to contain the Mizo hostiles and the Pakistani paramilitary forces operating in the area.

Book_India_wars_sinceConsidering the poor state of communications and the woeful lack of a competent administrative infrastructure, preparations were geared to starting the buildup of stocks sometime in July, and by the end of October it was possible to stock a month’s requirement for two divisions in Tripura, one in Tura, two in Krishnagar and another in Raigunj. The buildup from scratch of the infrastructure for a corps each at Telimura and Krishnagar was completed long before the respective corps headquarters moved to the area. It was a colossal task, involving handling some 60,000 tons of material at monsoon time on indifferent roads. This operation was a tribute to good administrative planning and resolute implementation.1


  1. The Indian Armed Forces were cast in a unique role in the eastern sector in the sense that they were called upon to join hands with the Mukti Bahini, which was already operating thcre. Notwithstanding the lack of previous experience in this regard, comradeship was established within the framework of extraordinary political rapport, which cme to be known as a joint command set up under the leadership of India’s GoC-in-C Eastern Command.
  2. Adequate procedural innovations were introduced to expedite action through the normal appointed channels such as the Directorate General of Supplie and Disposals.

Artillery, engineer and signal resources were generally in short supply, and there was a critical shortage of weapons and equipment. Solutions were found by rationalisation and judicious denuding of formations and units of lower priority. Some new units/sub-units, especially of signals, had to be created on an ad hoc basis by milking other formations for both equipment and manpower. This was necessary as the new units being formed took time to materialise.

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The whole theatre of operations was served by metre-gauge rail tracks, and this necessitated transhipment of stores corming from the hinterland on broad gauge, thus causing bottlenecks at points of transhipment. The problem was acute in the eastern region of Tripura, which was served by a single metre-gauge line with a capacity of 30 to 40 wagons a day running from Gauhati to the ailhead at Dharampur, 160 to 240 km from the dependent formations. From there a narrow road ran to Agartala and beyond, crossing numerous rivers and rivulets. The rail line and road, running close to the international border with Pakistan, were vulnerable to interruption by saboteurs.

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