Military & Aerospace

Defence of the Western Border - I
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The Indian planners correctly calculated that to maintain the military balance on the northern and southern flanks, Pakistan would attempt a limited offensive in both sectors, as indicated by the reported location of its strike forces

With a total strike element of two armoured and three infantry divisions, Pakistan had several options, especially when the initiative for starting the war lay in its hands. There were three Indian areas broadly open for an offensive, one of them between the Chenab and the Ravi where Pakistan could threaten the sensitive areas of Jammu, Samba and the Madhopur headworks, thereby extending its hold on the plain sector up to the Shivalik range if fully successful. Otherwise, it could at least disrupt Indian rail and road communications between Pathankot and Jammu.

The second option was to secure the area between the Ravi and the Beas either by developing two thrusts from the north from the area of Dera Baba Nanak-Gil ferry and from the south from Kasur-Khemkaran towards the Beas, or to break through from a central bridgehead along GT Road and then divide it into two thrusts northward and southward to envelop the Indian defences from the rear. This option, if successfully pursued, could be very profitable as it would include in its sweep the city of Amritsar, the industrial town of Batala, the headworks at Madhopur and Harike, the military base at Pathankot, and the rich agricultural belt of the Bari Doab.

The third option was to develop a thrust east of the Sutlej either between Hussainiwala-Sulaimanke in the general area of Mamdot-Jalalabad to secure the territory up to the Twin Rajasthan Canal to include the towns of Ferozepur, Faridkot and Malout. This would have given the Pakistanis access to the “white gold” cotton tract or enabled them to develop a thrust towards Bhatinda from the extreme south.

Although the northern complex of Gujrat-Kharian is well connected by a lateral road and rail communications running to the international border drep in Pakistani territory between the Chenab and the Ravi, the time frame of building up a force consisting of one armoured and one infantry division would have taken about a week to ten days to be effective at either end. In the context of a short war, it was feasible to take a risk and employ the entire strike force, depending on the room for deployment together in the north or south, subject to the overall priority of objectives.

To frustrate the choice of these options individually or in combination, the Indian planners devised a multipronged offensive into Pakistani territory north of the Ravi”¦

This course was unlikely to be acceptable to Pakistan as it could not run the risk of leaving either of its flanks exposed. The extensive network of obstacles along the central approach in considerable depth also forbade the adoption of this course. The Indian planners correctly calculated that to maintain the military balance on the northern and southern flanks, Pakistan would attempt a limited offensive in both sectors, as indicated by the reported location of its strike forces. This suited India as dividing the strike force would proportionately diminish the potential and scope of their offensive thrusts.

India accordingly matched the positioning of the Pakistani reserves by placing I Corps in the general area of Samba-Gurdaspur, one armoured brigade and one to two infantry brigades in the general area of Ajnala, and one armoured and one infantry division near Muktsar-Kotkapura. Although Candeth had dissipated the reserve infantry division by detaching two of its brigades under the operational command of two holding divisions, similar efforts at distributing the armoured division into penny packets were strongly resisted by its GOC, and it remained intact.

To frustrate the choice of these options individually or in combination, the Indian planners devised a multipronged offensive into Pakistani territory north of the Ravi, simultaneously or staggered in timing in accordance with the opportunity offered, after the Pakistanis revealed their hand. The plan envisaged the movement on either side of the Chenab of 10 Infantry Division towards Tanda and Gujrat as far as Alexander Bridge, and 26 Infantry Division up to the Marala-Ravi link canal, thereby threatening Sialkot, as one prong of the offensive.

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The second prong was an advance by I Corps in the Shakargarb bulge east of the fortress line of Zafarwal-Dhamtal Narowal. This sizable thrust was expected to draw the Pakistani strike force, or the major portion of it, into the bulge so as to ease the progress of other thrust lines. The third prong was meant to be developed towards Qila Sobha Singh from the direction of Gil Ferry. The prongs along the Chenab as well as the ferry prong were aimed at dividing the Pakistani strike force in the north, thus reducing the opposition to the main I Corps thrust and indirectly helping its piecemeal destruction.

The Indian planners however failed to visualise how, when and where their commanders were to launch an offensive if the Pakistanis failed to launch theirs.

If this multipronged offensive achieved its objective, it was calculated that this might induce the Pakistani higher command to divert the whole or a portion of its strike force in the south to meet the developing threat to the sensitive areas in and around the Shakargarh bulge. In that event, Indian 1 Armoured Division, supported by one infantry division and whatever other troops could be mustered from the holding force at the point of thrust, was to be launched across the Sutlej to secure the sensitive Pakistani areas of Luliani-Raja Jang-Raiwind up to the Upper Bari Doab Canal.

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One thought on “Defence of the Western Border – I

  1. 1. Pakistan is demanding widwrtahal of troops from Jammu and Kashmir and resolve differences on the issue ? 2. I don’t think it is the only demand from Pakistan ! Indian Army went there only around 1989!plz check3. Initially Pakistan was demanding referendum and India resisted ! plz check4. Till date India since 1947 lost to Pakistan at Diplomatic level as well as suffered more in all the wars as compared to Pakistan. The latest war incident is Kargil. India regained its land and that too incompletely; about 10 to 15 % of Indian area is in the possession of Pakistan and we celebrate VIJAY DIVAS ! PLZ CHECK AND GET THEM CONFIRMED.5. PLZ find out if the above is correct, then no further comments are needed.

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