Jammu and Kashmir
Lieut Gen Sartaj Singh, GM, General Officer Commanding XV Corps, was operationally responsible for Jammu and Kashmir. His area of responsibility was vast, and he faced two potential enemies, Pakistan and China. Topographically, the state could be divided into four sectors. The northen sector consisted of the district of Ladakh with its administrative seat in Leh, stretching from Chushul to Zojila. This is a region of high mountains, steep, rocky and arid, which rise to about 18,000 to 23,000 feet. Snow and rain are scanty.
Habitation is confined to the narrow valley where water is available from the melting snows. Temperatures are low and often fall below freezing points. Population is sparse. Two roads lead to Leh from the Indian hinterland, one via Zojila to Leh and the other from Kulu to Leh via Rohtang Pass. Both roads remain closed about seven months a year, from November to May. Since the second road was not in service in 1971, the main administrative support had to depend upon the other. Part of this road ran close to the ceasefire line near Kargil, a tehsil headquarters of Ladakh district. This closeness rendered it vulnerable to Pakistani actions either by the capture of the heights dominating the road or by infiltration.
There was a possibility of substantial Chinese aid to Pakistan through the Karakoram highway, which was about to be completed to connect Urumchi in Sinkiang with Gilgit”¦
From Sinkiang, the main Chinese military base, the road communications with Chushul and other points of thrust along the Indus Valley were long and tenuous because of difficult terrain and high altitudes. The maintenance requirements of offensive operations in the region included a sound infrastructure and large tonnages of war material, and this would have taken long to establish. As such it was safer to assume that China, despite its bellicose assurance to Pakistan, would prefer to confine itself to low-key actions in the event of a hot war.
There was a possibility of substantial Chinese aid to Pakistan through the Karakoram highway, which was about to be completed to connect Urumchi in Sinkiang with Gilgit, but it was considered unlikely that Yahya Khan would dare accept such active Chinese participation. It was therefore deduced that Chinese help would be mainly confined to supplying war material, which was likely to be considerably enhanced in the event of war.
The main military bases on the Pakistani side were at Gilgit and Skardu, and they were fed by the railheads at Havelian and Dargai, about 350 miles away. From Gilgit onwards, the Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Partapur and Kargil sub-sectors sectors were served by narrow, low-classification roads which could not sustain major operations.
From Gilgit onwards, the Pakistani troops deployed opposite the Partapur and Kargil sub-sectors sectors were served by narrow, low-classification roads which could not sustain major operations.
Kashmir Valley is the crucible of Kashmiri politics and was a vital objective of Pakistan’s military planners. As such, the threat to the valley both by infiltration and military invasion was strong. The routes of infiltration used in the 1965 conflict, the northern gullies and the passes in the Pir Panjal range, including Haji Pir, were vulnerable. The main axes leading from Pakistan to the valley are from Murree via Muzaffarabad-Nauseri along Kishanganga Valley, Domel-Chakothi-Uri along Jhelum Valley and Kohala-Rawalkot-Hajira-Uri.
Srinagar is connected with Pathankot on the Indian side by a national highway which negotiates the Pir Panjal range through the Jawahar Tunnel near Banihal and is open throughout the year. Srinagar is the hub of communications from where roads lead to the ceasefire line in the directon of Uri, Gulmarg, Tithwal, Kanzalwan and Zojila. Since the fortunes of war influenced the trend of political thinking of the valley’s inhabitants, the defence of the valley assumed greater importance.