Military & Aerospace

India's Losses and Gains in Post-Independence Wars - I
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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.

Editor’s Pick

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.

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