Military & Aerospace

India's Losses and Gains in Post-Independence Wars - I
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Issue Book Excerpt: India\'s War since Independence | Date : 25 Mar , 2011

A nation has recourse to war either to further from a position of strength the interests it has not been able to promote by political and economic means, or when cornered by a stronger adversary it finds no other means of safeguarding them. In either cast, ultimate defeat in battle pays its price Wars were formerly fought to a finish and the victor always managed to impose its will in settling postwar issues. Such settlements usually endowed the victor with economic or territorial gains, enhancement of its political influence, and some safeguards against the possibility of another confrontation, at least for some decades.

This does not hold good in the context of today’s short wars. By virtue of strong international pressure such wars are not fought to a finish, nor are underdeveloped countries capable of sustaining long wars, especially those countries which depend on industrial nations for their military hardware. The flow of a pipeline can be choked at the supplier’s will. This shortcoming may be overcome by prior stockpiling, but the cost of an inventory is usually far beyond the means of poorer nations.

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War objectives have therefore to be achieved according to a tight time schedule. These objectives may be in the tangible form of economic and territorial gains or in war booty, or in the negative form of crippling the adversary’s economy, political structure and war potential. But the total gains should suffice to give the victor enough bargaining power to win concessions from the vanquished to further its national interests in some spheres, if not all. Negotiations for such settlements may be direct or through a third party acting as mediator. India’s losses and gains in successive wars have to be viewed in this context.

India held the valley and overall about two-thirds of the territory, Pakistan the remainder. Prolonged discussions ensued in various organs of the UN for years, without providing a viable solution to the problem.

In 1947, Pakistani tribesmen invaded Kashmir to force its accession to Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, its ruler, opted for India and asked for Delhi’s armed help to throw back the invaders. The Indian Army rushed to the Maharaja’s aid. After some sharp, successful engagements, it was on the verge of throwing the raiders out when Pakistani Army units which had entered Kashmir in aid of the tribals confronted it.

The armies of these newly independent countries, Pakistan and India, waged an inconclusive war for over a year or so, when India took the issue to the United Nations. Hostilities halted with the two armies facing each other on what came to be later known as the ceasefire line, based an actual territorial possession and dividing the former state of Jammu and Kashmir in two.

India held the valley and overall about two-thirds of the territory, Pakistan the remainder. Prolonged discussions ensued in various organs of the UN for years, without providing a viable solution to the problem. Based on a Security Council resolution, the fate of the state was to be decided by a plebiscite under the aegis of the UN. To control exchange of fire along the ceasefire line and its further escalation into an armed conflict, certain safeguards were to be enforced under the Karachi Agreement.

Broadly, the agreement covered the induction of a UN military observer group to act as a watchdog against violations of the agreement. The group was directly answerable to the UN Secretary-General, and the cost of its upkeep was to be borne by both nations. Constraints were imposed on the force levels each country could maintain within the boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir. This level corresponded roughly to the troop strength each country had in the state at the time of ceasefire. In addition, certain ground rules were laid down for patrolling and manning the line, and making military preparations in the vicinity which would avoid physical contact between the two armies, although at places an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation continued.

“¦no Chinese government had recognized the validity of the Simla Treaty of 1913-14 between Britain and Tibet which accepted the MacMahon Line as the common frontier of India and Tibet.

It is a part of history that despite these safeguards and policing by UN observers Jammu and Kashmir was invaded again in 1965 with large scale infiltration-by Pakistan-trained guerillas a couple of months before the actual outbreak of hostilities. The observer group filed reports as a neutral party, referee of belligerence between the two countries. The system followed was for either confronting army to protest ceasefire violations by the opposing troops and these were duly registered by the group and investigated.

The report of the investigation, along with the observers’ recommendations, was sent to the UN, with copies to both armies for necessary action. In serious infringements a flag meeting of the opposing commanders was arranged with observers as mediators. Charges and counter-charges were made at these meetings, usually leading to no conclusive proof as to who sparked the incident, but in the end both parties generally agreed not to repeat such incidents in the future.

Despite that incidents occurred, depending upon the changing political moods in the two countries. In any event Pakistan went to war twice after that, and each time hostilities started the UN group evaporated into thin air. Its watchdog activities did not stop wars between Pakistan and India in 1965 and 1971.

After the emergence of independent India, the Kuomintang and communist regimes in China gave notice that they meant to restore China to its former primacy in Asia. Of immediate concern to India was the fact that no Chinese government had recognized the validity of the Simla Treaty of 1913-14 between Britain and Tibet which accepted the MacMahon Line as the common frontier of India and Tibet. The line was drawn on maps along the greater Himalayan watershed with certain local adjustments. On the emergence of a communist regime in China, Peking declared its intention to liberate Tibet and let it be known that it would not tolerate any interference with Tibetan affairs.

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India did not however fear active hostilities on its northern borders for the reason that the vast Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas were considered a formidable barrier to aggression from that direction. Taking note of geography, and the superior Chinese military power, Nehru carved his Tibetan policy. On the whole India accepted the British interpretation with slight modifications, inspired by a desire to develop better relations with the new regime in Peking. India recognized Tibetan autonomy, but at the same time accepted China’s suzerainty as distinct from sovereignty.

Purely as a result of military weakness, India chose to follow a path of measured acquiescence. Nehru speedily recognized the Chinese regime, later accepted China’s forceful entry into Tibet in October 1950, defended its legal right to control Tibet, and supported Peking’s claim to the Chinese seat at the UN. After prolonged negotiations, India and China signed an agreement in Peking on 19 April 1954 enumerating the five principles of peaceful coexistence, but significantly India relinquished its inherited treaty rights.

Taking note of geography, and the superior Chinese military power, Nehru carved his Tibetan policy.

These efforts appeared to buy peace for India while making certain concessions, at least till our military capability could assert itself. In any event, Nehru hoped China would be too preoccupied with its internal problems to undertake aggression, at least for some time. But the ink had scarcely dried on the agreement when Chinese incursions started with road building activity in the Aksai Chin region of Ladakh, unknown to Nehru and his policymaking machinery. Nehru got to know of this only when the portion of the Sinkiang-Lhasa highway which ran through Aksai Chin was almost completed and he was presented with a fait accompli. Unable to restore the position by military force, he withheld the information from the nation deliberately, hoping to seek redress through diplomacy.

Sensing Nehru’s weakness, the Chinese further consolidated their hold on Aksai Chin by extending their presence towards Daulat Beg Oldi, south of the Karakoram Pass, and Chushul by the end of 1960. In response, Nehru was prevailed upon to adopt what came to be known as a “forward policy.” This was aimed at challenging Chinese expansion by establishing small and generally isolated posts in the disputed areas to block the potential lines of Chinese advance, and where opportunity permitted threatening the maintenance routes of the Chinese post This was based on the promise that the Chinese had been expanding their influence only in a vacuum and would not challenge India’s presence with arms.

Book_India_wars_sinceNehru and his policy adviser Menon firmly believed that a modest display of an Indian military presence would lead Peking to some sort of negotiated settlement. Encouraged by the initial success and the absence of a favorable diplomatic response from China, India continued to extend its forward policy with more posts in the disputed region of Ladakh, much against the Army commander’s advice. The Chinese press soon after echoed Peking’s warning that unless India withdraw its “aggressive posts” and discontinued its provocations their frontier guards would be “compelled to defend themselves.”In July 1962,1 the Chinese surrounded an Indian post in the Galwan river valley with 400 odd troops in a show of force against Indian expansion and an exchange of fire resulted. The siege was however lifted after some tense days, but with significant military and political forebodings. The incident indicated to Peking that New Delhi was prepared to risk armed clashes if required to assert its rights, and at the same time confirmed that Peking would not risk an open clash but would respect India’s demonstrated determination to assert its territorial integrity even by force of arms. An official Chinese note however warned that its frontier guards would not acquiesce in continuing Indian provocations, but the warning was not heeded in the proper quarters.

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The NEFA debacle and India’s resultant humiliation stands out as Nehru’s Himalayan blunder. Because of our inherent weakness in preparing for this contingency before taking on the Chinese in open armed conflict the outcome was foregone. India suffered a humiliating military defeat and, shedding its holy neutrality, Nehru asked for US air support to meet the Chinese invasion. Perhaps apprehensive of big-power intervention, or weighed down by their own logistic problems in view of the impending closure of the Himalayan passes, the Chinese announced a unilateral ceasefire.

The border dispute remains still unresolved, and the territory considered essential for Chinas national interests continues to be in their possession.

They declared they would withdraw their forces 20 kilometres north of the MacMahon Line and to a similar distance behind the “line of actual control” in Ladakh on 7 November 1959. It further asserted that China intended to proceed with its troop withdrawal regardless of the Indian reaction, but warned that it reserved the right to strike back if India tried to reoccupy any territory the Chinese had taken in their advance.

India officially declared that this was a purely unilateral Chinese action and did not bind New Delhi to the conditions imposed. It said a precondition to any meaningful discussions on the border dispute would be Chinese restoration of the status quo existing on 8 September 1962. China ignored these suggestions and rejected mediation by the Colombo powers on terms acceptable to India. Through military might, China created a Himalayan border of its own choosing, thereby legalizing its illegal occupation of Indian territory. India has not been able to alter the situation so far, and out of sheer military weakness has accepted and learnt to live with the problem.

The salient points of the Indochina conflict were that the ceasefire was unilateral and not brought about by direct outside pressures. The gains in territory as a result of aggression were vacated. Prisoner of war and war material and equipment the Chinese captured in the conflict were returned without any political bargaining. The border dispute remains still unresolved, and the territory considered essential for China’s national interests continues to be in their possession. This confirms the age-old saying that might is right. In this instance, Nehru’s political stance had out-stepped India’s military capability.

It is noteworthy that Pakistan did not capitalize on India’s difficulties at the time. India’s pressing need for troops to meet the Chinese invasion had denuded the entire western border with Pakistan. American and British pressures on Nehru to arrive at a settlement on Kashmir with Pakistan led to bilateral negotiations, but since New Delhi was only playing for time India’s negotiator Swaran Singh kept Pakistani Foreign Minister Bhutto talking till the opportunity for a settlement had gone. Bhutto never forgave Ayub Khan for that.

The territory ceded to Pakistan comprised elevated ground of tactical significance against the low-lying area left with India which got submerged with the rise of the Rann.

Pakistani incursions into the Rann of Kutch had been noticed by Gujarat police patrols from 25 January 1965, when a freshly laid heavy vehicle track was noticed one and half miles inside Indian territory. On 3 March, it was admitted that about 13,000 acres of Indian territory had been occupied. By that time, Pakistan had occupied one or two square miles around Kanjarkot2 and 20 to 30 square miles in the Siarbet area. The Pakistani aim seemed to be to establish an “existing dispute.” India asked Pakistan to restore the status quo ante. Instead, Pakistan advanced inside Indian territory in strength, leading to the fall of the Indian forward posts hastily positioned there. Militarily, Pakistan had the upper hand.

Tikka Khan, in command of the division operating in the .area, had painstakingly prepared for the operations and succeeded in achieving his objectives. Pakistani newspapers described them as “a proper advance towards liberating territories which have been under occupation since partition.” India chose not to give a fight on the issue and accepted a ceasefire on British intervention. The Kutch dispute was referred to a tribunal consisting of three members, one nominated by India, another by Pakistan, and with a chairman chosen by the UN Secretary General.3 After long deliberations, the tribunal awarded Pakistan 317 square miles out of the 3,500 it claimed.

The territory ceded to Pakistan comprised elevated ground of tactical significance against the low-lying area left with India which got submerged with the rise of the Rann. Although Prime Minister Shastri consoled his countrymen by saying that India had conceded only 9.43 percent of what Pakistan had claimed, the fact remained that Pakistan, having achieved local military success, benefited from the incursion to the extent of 317 square miles and improved its defensibility by the gain of tactical ground into the bargain. Luckily, India had captured some Pakistani posts in the Kargil area of Ladakh, and this helped as a bargaining counter against the Pakistani successes in Kutch. Otherwise Pakistan might have got away with much greater gains.

The very day Pakistan’s representative was signing the Kutch agreement in Delhi, infiltration had started in Jammu and Kashmir to wage what Bhutto called a “war of liberation.” The Indian press reported the infiltration on 5 August,4 as detected by two graziers independently in the areas of Mendhar and Qulmarg in Kashmir Valley from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

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The Indian Army captured Haji Pir Pass in the Uri sector to secure the approaches to Gulmarg and thence to the valley. Similar action was taken in the Tithwal sector. At the same time infiltrators were hunted out in the hinterland. The expected help from pro-Pakistani elements among the local population was not forthcoming and the so-called war of liberation appeared to be fizzling out.

Pakistani Army shed its military posture after the ceasefire and swarmed towards the vacant areas in land grab operations. They achieved most of their territorial gains in the Fazilka and Rajasthan sectors after the ceasefire.

Not to be outdone, Ayub Khan backed the infiltration with a full-fledged attack in the Chhamb sector with a infantry division, supported by a brigade, under his protege Yahya Khan. The unsuspecting Indian brigade operationally responsible for the area was caught unawares, and the Pakistani thrust made good progress to reach Jaurian and was soon threatening Akhnur. Once Akhnur fell into Pakistani hands,. the entire force holding Naushera, Rajauri and Poonch would have been cut off. Finding it futile to localize the war where Pakistan was at an advantage, Shastri retaliated by ordering the invasion of West Pakistan across the international border. In the early hours of 6 September, the Indian forces developed a four-pronged thrust into West Pakistan.

Ayub Khan was taken by surprise as he never thought India would dare to cross the border. He had not taken Shastri seriously when Shastri declared that an attack on Kashmir would mean war with India. The two armies thereafter engaged in a series of sharp and intense actions all along the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir and the international border in Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Fighting a dingdong battle with comparatively new weaponry but outmoded tactics, both armies tired themselves to the point of exhaustion, both in battle fatigue and expenditure of stockpiled war material. The ceasefire the UN enforced was accepted by both countries on 23 September and was welcomed by the tired forces.5 Although both sides claimed victory, fighting had ended in a stalemate.

When wars end inconclusively, the bargaining power for settling the issues which led to the war hinges on territorial gains, the economic burden of supporting war refugees, and making up losses in men and material among other things. It was with this in view that the Pakistani Army shed its military posture after the ceasefire and swarmed towards the vacant areas in land grab operations. They achieved most of their territorial gains in the Fazilka and Rajasthan sectors after the ceasefire. The Indian Army got wise after the event.

Book_India_wars_sinceTerritorial gains and losses at the time of the ceasefire effective at 0330 hours of 23 September were 740 square miles in Indian hands against 210 square miles with Pakistan. But such statistics had no meaning whatever so long as adverse possession did not affect the loser’s political prestige, hurt its economy and jeopardized its military posture. A detailed examination revealed that India had captured some important Pakistani posts in the Kargil sector overlooking the Srinagar-Leh highway and covering an area of 20 square miles. It was not so much the area captured as the tactical advantage gained which placed India in a better bargaining position.


  1. Asian Recorder, Vol VIII, No 33, “Indian Outpost at Galwan. Encircled,” p. 4730.
  2. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 13, “Pakistani Intrusions into Kutch District,” p. 6365.
  3. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 29. `Indo-Pakistan Ceasefire Agreement on Kutch,” p. 6555.
  4. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 37, “Massive Pakistani Infiltration,” p. 6651.Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “Ceasefire Comes into Force,” p. 6706.

Similarly, in the Tithwal, Uri and Poonch sectors, the Indian forces had managed to straighten out the existing bulges, and by the capture of important gullies and passes, including Haji Pir Pass, they had blocked the infiltration routes leading to the valley. By capturing an additional 250 square miles India had improved its military posture along the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir.

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On the debit side it had lost the fertile tract of Chhamb and Jaurian covering an area of 190 square miles. Overall, approximately 140,000 people were displaced in Jammu division alone, and out of them 80,000 belonged to Chhamb. Many millions of rupees have been spent in running refugee camps and on rehabilitation projects for them. In Kashmir Valley, about 120,000 people fled their homes in August 1965 because of the infiltration menace. But they returned after the ceasefire as their lands were under Indian control.

In Kashmir Valley, about 120,000 people fled their homes in August 1965 because of the infiltration menace. But they returned after the ceasefire as their lands were under Indian control.

In the Lahore and Sialkot sectors Pakistan lost about 320 square miles. India controlled a six-mile-deep belt along the border between the Teg and Deg streams in the Sialkot sector, while in the Lahore sector it held about 30 miles of the 45-milelong Ichhogil Canal on the eastern side. The salient in Pakistani territory varied from one mile at the narrowest to ten deep at Burki. In addition, India eliminated the Pakistani-held Dera Baba Nanak enclave and dominated the road and railway bridge there, but Pakistan had taken over the Indian complex of the Kassowal group of enclaves north of the Ravi. The exact magnitude of the economic problem caused by war refuges and other allied factors for Pakistan is not known, but from the state of development of the area it may be said that it would not have hurt the Pakistani economy to an appreciable extent.

On the other hand, Pakistan controlled 20 square miles of fertile tract in the Khemkaran sector, including the town itself, in Punjab. All the towns and villages on either side were razed to the ground. Altogether some 74 villages and three hamlets were fully occupied in Punjab, while 38 villages were partially in Pakistani hands. In Rajasthan and Gujarat, Indian forces occupied a wedge ten to 12 miles deep in the general area of Gadra city while Pakistan took over the railhead of Munabao.

From 23 September till the troop withdrawals carried out under the Tashkent Agreement, the confrontation along the ceasefire line continued. The number of violations Pakistan committed up to 22 December was 21,206 in Jammu and Kashmir, 1,423 in Punjab, 209 in Rajasthan and one in Gujarat against 1,400 reported against India. In Rajasthan, the violations were serious and affected by hordes of Mujahids swarming all over the desert areas and plundering villages and destroying property. Military operations had to extend right up to the end of November to get rid of the menace. As an offshoot of these operations there were about 6,000 refugees in Rajasthan.

About 500 families were Hindus who fled to India from Pakistan to escape the atrocities committed by Pakistani troops. Most of them belonged to the Soda clan of Rajputs who owned agricultural land in the Chacharo-Umarkot area. The others were of the Bania community and conducted business in the border region. Although no conflict took place in East Pakistan, about 4,400 Hindu refugees trickled into West Bengal.

Military operations had to extend right up to the end of November to get rid of the menace. As an offshoot of these operations there were about 6,000 refugees in Rajasthan.

The Indian casualties ware 2,226 killed, including 161 officers,7,870 wounded, including 412 officers, and 189 confirmed prisoners of war, while 1,500 personnel were declared missing. The exact figures of Pakistani casualties are not known, but they were probably as heavy. According to the military correspondent of the London Times, India had captured 197 Pakistani tanks, and a similar number might have been damaged. Although Pakistan originally claimed some 500 Indian tanks casualties this was obviously a gross exaggeration as India did not employ so many tanks in the entire war. India might have suffered about 100 tanks casualties, far less than Pakistan, as our armour was mostly on the defensive. India lost 28 of its war planes. Overall, it was estimated that the fighting cost India and Pakistan about 250 million dollars each. As early as 18 September, Shastri received a note from Kosygin1 proposing a meeting in Tashkent between Ayub Khan and him.

On his acceptance, an invitation was conveyed to Ayub Khan, who, after expressing preference for a settlement through the Security Council, eventually accepted. They met with Kosygin as mediator. After six days of hard bargaining on each side, the Tashkent Declaration was signed on 10 January 1966.2 After the usual pledges of not resorting to force to settle their disputes and non-interference with each other’s affairs, military both sides agreed to withdraw their armed forces not later than 25 February 1966 to the positions they held before 5 August 1965. Till then both countries should observe the terms of the ceasefire scrupulously. Prisoners of war would be repatriated without delay.

Politically, both countries agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations, halt hostile propaganda and consider measures to restore economic and trade relations. On the whole the declaration achieved nothing, and relations between the two countries reverted to what they were before. Although neither side was allowed to enjoy the gains of war the aggressor was not penalized. In fact, Pakistan was not even mentioned as the aggressor, nor did it admit having engineered the infiltration.

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Some Indian political parties declared this was a “betrayal of the nation’s interest.” Instead of recovering the entire territory of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, they argued that the Shastri Government was incapable of even retaining the territories captured in Kargil, Tithwal and the Haji Pir areas. The armed forces had made considerable sacrifices in 11,000 men killed, wounded and missing, and it was felt that these sacrifices had gone in vain: The burden of running a war at the rate of Rs 250 million a day hurt India’s economy without adequate recompense and was therefore termed a waste. Shastri did not live to face public criticism, and as a result of his untimely death the attitude of opposition softened somewhat. Internationally, having vacated the territories it claimed as part of Kashmir, India emerged as a weak negotiator who could be pressured to agree to terms detrimental to the national interest. The Kashmir issue, which triggered the conflict, remained unresolved, and the agreement did not prevent Pakistan’s going to war again.

Defeat in battle had forced the resignation of the military dictatorship Yahya Khan headed. He handed over to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who immediately set about consolidating his hold on Pakistans shattered economy and political system”¦

In fact, it started an arms race between the two countries. With the arms pipeline from the US and Britain choked, Pakistan leant heavily on China as its main supplier while keeping its old weaponry in good condition with a trickle of spare parts supplied by third countries or getting sanctions from Washington on and off. Some equipment also came from the CENTO countries. The oil-rich sheikhs of the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries provided large quantities of foreign exchange to Pakistan to shop in the world arms market and thus helped Islamabad to keep its options open. India’s options were on the other hand closed, and for the next few decades the Soviet Union and the East European bloc became our main source of arms. Thus a process of polarization started towards the two camps in the subcontinent. Apart from troop withdrawals and return of prisoners Pakistan stalled on normalizing diplomatic and economic relations by insisting on solving the Kashmir dispute as a precondition.

The Indian gesture of returning a captured Pakistani merchant ship and its impounded cargo went unappreciated. Although diplomatic relations were ultimately resumed, normalcy never returned on the whole. President Ayub Khan got into difficulties with Bhutto and student politics and had to yield office to his army chief Yahya Khan. The new regime took time to consolidate itself and brought the Kashmir issue to the fore once again while the implementation of agreed issues receded into the background. The Tashkent Declaration was implemented to the extent that it suited Pakistan, and the rest of it was reduced to a scrap of paper. In fact, the continued deterioration of relations over the ingress of refugees from East Pakistan after Tikka Khan’s crackdown in March 1971 led Yahya Khan to attack India once again, thus starting the third Indo-Pakistani conflict.

The aim of the conflict, the liberation of Bangladesh, having been accomplished, Prime Minister Gandhi declared a unilateral ceasefire effective from 2000 hours on 17 December,3 and this Yahya Khan gratefully accepted. The armies still faced each other all along the ceasefire line, asserting their right of control of the respective are as they occupied.

Book_India_wars_sinceThe confrontation continued as late as March 1972, and no indication came from their side for a settlement of the issues arising from the conflict. Defeat in battle had forced the resignation of the military dictatorship Yahya Khan headed. He handed over to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who immediately set about consolidating his hold on Pakistan’s shattered economy and political system and tried desperately to prop up the sagging morale of the nation. But though defeated, Pakistan under Bhutto was not expected to accept a dictated peace settlement.


  1. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “Shastri-Ayub Meeting,” p. 6712.
  2. Asian Recorder, Vol XIII, No 5, “Tashkent Declaration,” p. 6896.
  3. Asian Recorder, Vol XVIII, No 3, p. 1671.

Politically, New Delhi’s foremost objective was to get formal recognition of Bangladesh from Pakistan and arrange the division of assets between the two countries to enable the newly emerged country to stand on its feet. The opportunity was also to be taken to arrive at an understanding on the lingering Kashmir issue which had defied a durable political solution and had been the cause of wars between the two countries. In the flush of victory a section of political opinion in India clamored for exploiting this dark hour in Pakistan to extort favorable terms for a lasting solution of this issue.

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These elements did not sense the mood of Bhutto and his country properly. Even in the stark humiliation of the hour, Bhutto could not be expected to yield on basics so long as this did not affect him and his politics adversely. The territorial losses in the west were irksome no doubt, but they did not materially damage Pakistan’s economy, nor did the loss of a few tactical posts materially alter the potential of Pakistan’s military stance.

Expenses were mounting for fielding the armies in an inordinately prolonged confrontation, but this applied to both countries and did not disturb Bhutto unduly.

The continued detention of about 90,000 prisoners of war in India was a source of discontent to their families. This discontent spread throughout the country, particularly West Punjab, the main recruiting ground for the Pakistani Army. But it had been muffled by liberal allowances for maintenance and concessions for the education of prisoners’ children and housing.

Well-tutored and widely organized propagandists depicted the prisoners as martyrs in the cause of Pakistan and India as an oppressor who, defying all humanitarian conventions, was intent on exploiting the helpless prisoners as a pawn for political bargaining. This line of propaganda was getting a sympathetic hearing abroad. Expenses were mounting for fielding the armies in an inordinately prolonged confrontation, but this applied to both countries and did not disturb Bhutto unduly. Pakistan had quite a few rich friends who could underwrite this expense.

At the time of the ceasefire, India had territory wise secured some 40 posts in the Partapur and Kargil sectors in Ladakh, an area of stony waste. Militarily, the annexation in the Turtok area was proving a liability as the troops deployed there were difficult to maintain because road communications were lacking. It was easier to advance in a vacuum than to sustain a force which had arrived there. On the other hand, having secured the heights overlooking the Srinagar-Leh highway in the Kargil sector, the Indians had removed the constant threat of its disruption. It is significant that these heights were captured twice in 1965 and were returned to Pakistan after the Kutch and Tashkent agreements.

India annexed the Chickens Neck area, in the Akhnur sector, which was underdeveloped both in irrigation and power, as a result of which its inhabitants made a bare living through agriculture.

In the Gurais and Minimarg area a large snowbound tract was claimed, but the exact position could only be ascertained after the snows melted. Many small posts in Uri and Tithwal had fallen into Indian hands, without significantly improving our defensive posture. Some substantial gains had however been made in the sector in the Lipa valley. The valley was occupied by advancing over the snowbound Richhmar gully against very light opposition. But having secured the valley the occupation troops found it difficult to sustain themselves over the mule track connecting them with their administrative base. Lack of supporting artillery and other heavy weapons had rendered them vulnerable against a deliberate and well-coordinated attack should Pakistan try to alter the positions held at the time of the ceasefire.

Similarly, some small gains were made in the Poonch, Rajauri and Naushera sectors of the hilly region, but with the exception of Nangi Tekri, which overlooked the road connecting Kotli with Poonch, none of the other positions gained brought any tactical advantage. It was just a matter of counting square yards of unproductive space.

The situation was totally different in the plains sector. Pakistan occupied the area west of Manawar Tawi, bounded by the foothills of Dewa in the north, the ceasefire line in the west and the international border in the south, all consisting of rich agricultural land. This area came to be known as Chhamb, and its loss created a serious refugee problem for India. The inhabitants of the areas lying west and east of Manawar Tawi had been moved to two distinct complexes of refugee camps. One group belonged to Chhamb and the other came from Jaurian, east of Manawar Tawi.

Both groups received subsistence allowance and compensation for loss of crops, livestock and property. The Jaurian group took a couple of years to settle, but the Chhamb group, or a major portion of it, is still languishing in camps and proving a constant source of embarrassment to the state government. Having been disturbed twice in the last decade or so, they doubt the ability of the Indian Government to assure security of residence in the border areas. They have repeatedly turned down offers of allotment of land elsewhere along the line of control and have opted for settlement in the rear areas, where Indo-Pakistani conflicts would not upset their daily life.

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India annexed the Chicken’s Neck area, in the Akhnur sector, which was underdeveloped both in irrigation and power, as a result of which its inhabitants made a bare living through agriculture. There was a belt of shisham forest along the Wadi Tawi before it joined the Chenab, but the trees had not fully matured. Since the villages in Chicken’s Neck had been evacuated before the Indian thrusts materialized, this must have created a refugee problem for Pakistan, but its magnitude was nothing compared with that of India in the Chhamb and Jaurian areas.

India made no effort to exploit Chicken’s Neck economically in the period of occupation in any organized way. The farmland lay fallow and the forest open to indiscriminate thefts. No Indian civilians were allowed to settle there, even temporarily. India captured a few border outposts in the Jammu sector, but that did not make any difference either economically or improve India’s military posture. The gain was only marginal.

A substantial chunk of productive Pakistani territory was captured by India in the Shakargarh bulge. This covered the entire area east of the Bein river, and a salient about eight to ten miles deep along the international border in the north bet.. ween the Basantar and the Bein. This was an agricultural tract, and its three towns of Sukho Chak, Nainakot and MasrurBara-Bhai thrived on smuggling while the surrounding villages were a mere cluster of mud huts.

India captured a few border outposts in the Jammu sector, but that did not make any difference either economically or improve Indias military posture. The gain was only marginal.

The only brick construction was the village mosque. Religion had a strong hold on the population and preaching hatred of India had become a part of the local religion. Communication wise, there were a few bricklined roads in a state of disrepair. The towns and villages had been evacuated in the wake of the Indian advance in a hurry as most property and possessions were found intact. A civil administration cell, founded from resources and knowhow the Punjab Government provided, was inducted into the area and organized harvesting of standing crops, extraction of forest wealth and removal of other tangible assets. The money the government realized from sales bore no relation to what went into the pockets of corrupt officials. Worse still was the open looting carried out by the neighboring populace with the connivance of the administrative cell.

On the heels of the advancing troops there were rows of bullock carts and tractor-driven trolleys containing large numbers of looters. Day and night, they shuttled between the bulge and neighboring Indian territory. This process went on till all the buildings were ripped open, timber and wooden joinery removed and every brick lifted. By the time the occupation ended the built-up areas had been razed to the ground, fields devastated and wells filled with debris. The scene was one of typical war-ravaged desolation. The only buildings standing at the time of withdrawal from the Shakargarh bulge were the mosques, ceremoniously whitewashed for the return of the faithful.

This pattern of destruction of occupied terrain was set by the Pakistani Army in 1965, when it captured Khemkaran and the surrounding villages. All movable property was looted, buildings were demolished to extract anything valuable, and the remainder was burnt. Smoke spiralling from burning villages darkened the skies for days. When the Pakistanis finally left under the terms of the Tashkent Declaration there was not a single bush left in the desolation. This was reminiscent of the past history of the region, when invading armies descending through the passes of the Hindu Kush mountains swept across the plains of Punjab leaving devastation in its wake. The Indians, having learnt a lesson in 1965, paid back Pakistan in good measure in 1971.

Book_India_wars_sinceIn Punjab, the Indians had driven out the Pakistanis from their enclave at Dera Baba Nanak, north of the Ravi, which was laced with defensive bunds and concrete fortifications. The road and rail bridge over the river had been demolished by our men and rendered unusable. Militarily, possession of the enclave enabled India to dominate the bridge and eliminate the readymade Pakistani bridgehead across the river. The bridge, demolished earlier in 1965, had minimized the advantage, but its further destruction in 1971 had completely nullified its potential use without a major effort at repair. On the reverse side, India had lost the Kassowal salient north of the river, comprising rich agricultural land and a readymade bridgehead towards Pakistan. But then India was not thinking of offensive, at least not in this region.

Continued…: India’s Losses and Gains in Post-Independence Wars – II

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