The area south of the Pir Panjal range can be divided into the hilly area up to the Munawar Tawi and the plain sector thereafter up to the Ravi near Madhopur. The terrain in the northern part, particularly closer to the Pir Panjal range, consists of mountains about 12,000 to 13,000 feet high, but the altitudes diminish as they slope towards Poonch. South of the Poonch river, the area is submontane all along the ceasefire line up to the Manawar Tawi, where it emerges into the plains near Mandiala, and the plains extend from there right up to the Ravi near the Madhopur headworks. The entire plains area is covered with cultivated fields, occasionally interlaced with seasonal nullahs running north to south.
In the interim period, with war drawing closer each day, Pakistan had to contend with a substantial dilution of its regular cadre in favour of new raisings underway.
The Chenab divides the plains in two, the Chhamb sector west of it and the Shakargarh bulge east. The national highway runs from Pathankot to Jammu through the narrow segment between the international boundary and the Shivalik range running parallel to it. Pathankot was recently connected with Jammu by rail, with the track running approximately parallel to the highway. This proximity to the boundary renders it vulnerable to disruption by Pakistan at a point of its choosing. An important town in the segment is Samba, from where a few laterals connect the highway with another road in depth connecting Pathankot with Udhampur directly. A road led from Jammu, the hub of communications, to Poonch via Rajauri over a bridge at Akhnur. This bridge, of low classification, was a major constraint on transriver movement by armour and derived its strategic importance from this negative endowment.
The freedom movement which erupted in Bangladesh in March 1971 had adversely affected Pakistan in many ways. The rebellion had compelled it to divert sizable forces from the west wing to the east in the intervening months. Although intensive efforts were made to offset this depletion by new raisings, the war potential of these formations was low and would take time to be fully effective. In the interim period, with war drawing closer each day, Pakistan had to contend with a substantial dilution of its regular cadre in favour of new raisings underway. In addition, the growing erosion of loyalty of East Pakistan personnel in the west was crippling the basic structure of the Pakistani armed forces altogether.
Pakistan was preoccupied politically with preventing the secession of the eastern wing. It was conscious that in the long run the loss of East Pakistan would seriously impair the economy of the western wing. For the time being, Islamabad found it expedient to keep the Kasmir issue on a low key, but its avowed aim was to annex Jammu and Kashmir with all the means at its disposal.
Although the Pakistani forces had been considerably diluted because of new railings, it was still within their capability to undertake a preemptive strike against India in the west. Because of the severe pressures which might build up against the military Pakistani regime in the wake of reverses in the eastern wing, the Pakistan leaders hoped for meaningful collusion with China, and if this was not forthcoming they would go it alone.
Pakistan was preoccupied politically with preventing the secession of the eastern wing. It was conscious that in the long run the loss of East Pakistan would seriously impair the economy of the western wing.
In the hilly regions from the Partapur sector to Mandiala in the plains, Pakistan and India held the ceasefire line in the form of a thin picquet line consisting of linear section to platoon posts with hardly any depth in a no war-no peace confrontation. In view of the increased demands on regular troops, efforts had been made to utilize paramilitary forces to augment the army in less threatened sectors.
Because of years of confrontation, the dispositions on strength of the picquet line were fairly well known to each other. Pakistan was holding the northern sector from Partapur to Zojila with a wing or two of Frontier Scouts. No regular elements were known to be located in the area. The approaches to the vallay opposite Tithwal-Tangdhar and the Uri bulge were known to be held by Pakistan 12 Infantry Division with four brigades or so, with headquarters at Murree. The fifth brigade of this division was occupying the Haji Pir bulge opposite Poonch, and the sixth brigade was in reserve.
Starting from opposite Poonch, Pakistan 23 Infantry Division spread right up to the Chenab with some four brigades, with headquarters at Kotli. Both divisions had the capability of mustering for offensive operations a strength of about two brigades with adequate fire support at the point of the chosen line of thrust within respective divisional sectors. Pakistan was holding the Shakargarh bulge in the plains with two divisions. Pakistan 15 Infantry Division, comprising three brigades, was holding the approaches to Sialkot from the direction of Jammu and Samba while Pakistan 8 Infantry Division with four brigades was responsible for guarding the approaches across the Ravi from the south and through the tip of the Shakargarh bulge from the east. Apart from their holding role, these formations were capable of releasing up to two brigade groups for offensive tasks at the chosen point of strike between the Chenab and the Ravi.