Military & Aerospace

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