India captured many outposts along the Punjab border in Ajnala, Amritsar, Khemkaran, Mamdot and Fazilka sectors with minimal tactical and economic advantage. On the other hand, in this very region, India had lost Chinna Bidhi Chand in Khalra sector and the Hussainiwala enclave across the Sutlej. The samadhi of Shahid Bhagat Singh erected there fell into Pakistani hands and was badly damaged, thus arousing considerable resentment in India.
In addition, the damage to the headworks feeding the Gang Canal which served the Bikaner desert was extensive and they could no longer impound sufficient water to fill the canal. Repairs could not be effected as the Pakistani troops holding the far bank would not allow this. Although alternative arrangements could be made to feed the canal from the upstream Harike headworks, the water which could be utilized to irrigate Bikaner was running waste while the area between Hussainiwala and the feeder junction suffered because of lack of water.
Pakistan had a sizable lodgment between the international boundary and the Sabuna distributary about seven or eight miles west of Fazilka. This was rich cotton land. Some prosperous villages, including Pakka, fell into Pakistani hands. Loss of production and maintaining refugees were a heavy financial drain, and even after Pakistan vacated the area much expenditure was incurred to restore its accessibility as some 19 bridges over the distributary serving the area had been demolished by the defending Indian troops.
Apart from the burden of upkeep of the refugee population of the desert, its continued occupation was embarrassing to the holding troops because of lack of water and an inadequate logistic infrastructure.
India had captured Rukanpur, Ranhal, Bijnor and a few other border posts in the Bikaner sector. Similarly, in the Jaisalmer sector, the two important posts of Islamgarh and Batkhanwala Khu and some others about four to eight miles deep in Pakistani territory had fallen into Indian hands. Some progress had also been made in this regard in the Barmer and Kutch sectors, where Chad Bet was captured. The biggest territorial conquest in terms of territory was however in the Naya Chor and Chachro area of the Barmer sector, where two simultaneous thrusts towards Naya Chor and Umarkot had created a salient in the Sind sector of Pakistani territory.
Although impressive on maps and in terms of statistics, this was a vast expanse of empty, unproductive sand. Apart from the burden of upkeep of the refugee population of the desert, its continued occupation was embarrassing to the holding troops because of lack of water and an inadequate logistic infrastructure. Much work had to be done in the way of laying a sweetwater pipeline and storage tanks, restoring the railway line to Naya Chor and constructing desert roads with coastly duckboards to maintain the troops deployed there. These facilities, created at considerable expense, had to be abandoned, almost intact, at the time of withdrawal. Militarily, conquest was a prerequisite for an advance into the productive green belt. Since the momentum of the thrust had already fizzled out on reaching its fringes possession of this territory was of no consequence. Economically, it was a drain and certainly no longer cost effective. Its loss had made no dent in Pakistan’s economy, nor affected its political standing in Sind.
Immediately after the ceasefire the Indians claimed the occupation of about 3,600 square kilometres of West Pakistan territory against a loss of some 125 square kilometres of their territory. As described earlier, the statistics were impressive indeed, but like all such statistical juggling they were rather deceptive. From a purely economic point of view 125 square kilometres yielded more than 3,600 square kilometres, much of it desert, and the upkeep of the refugees and its attendant problems was proving more irksome politically for Indian democracy than Pakistani autocracy.
India felt UN had failed over the last 25 years to find an acceptable solution for the problem, and this should now be sought bilaterally. On the other hand, Pakistan contended that the issue should still remain filed with the UN”¦
As the snows melted, Pakistan tried constantly to reclaim its lost territories in Jammu and Kashmir and improve its defensive posture along the ceasefire line in the process. In May 1972, Pakistan made a surprise brigade attack on the Indian forward posts in the Kayan area of the Lipa valley. The Indian posts fell back, suffering heavy casualties. Similarly, the Minimarg Lake area in Gurais was becoming active and large tracts of snow earlier claimed to be in Indian hands were gradually shrinking. The same was the case in the Tartok area of the Partapur sector of Ladakh. These ceasefire violations were prompted by Indian tactical and administrative difficulties in the newly acquired territory.
Ceasefire violations mounted daily, with the desire of each side to improve its bargaining position. On the Pakistani side, the UN observer group was functioning as before the conflict in 1971 and was registering ceasefire violations as a matter of routine. India insisted on the other hand that with the outbreak of war for the third time along the erstwhile ceasefire line the observer group was no longer effective as a referee on mutual disputes. Although the observer group on the Indian side was not recalled, it was dissuaded from functioning in its traditional role of patrolling the ceasefire line. Thus one sided registration of ceasefire violations continued even after the Simla Agreement was ratified, and prevails even today.
The group exists in imposed hibernation on the Indian side while Pakistan utilizes its services. These contrary attitudes reflected the divergent political stances of the two countries on Kashmir. India felt UN had failed over the last 25 years to find an acceptable solution for the problem, and this should now be sought bilaterally. On the other hand, Pakistan contended that the issue should still remain filed with the UN, without prejudice to any understanding arrived at between the two countries. Bhutto wanted to keep his options open to be able to raise the issue in the UN should an understanding with India not be forthcoming.
The continued confrontation after the unilateral Indian ceasefire was hurting both countries in many ways. The upkeep of 90 000 prisoners, running refugee camps, with the attendant cost of rehabilitating the refugees in Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kutch, and the cost of maintaining the Army on a war footing was crushing India economically. On the other hand, the humiliation of defeat had cast a shadow of despondency over Pakistan, upsetting daily life. Almost every family in Punjab was affected.
The retention of war prisoners and the occupied territories were embarrassing Bhutto and delaying the return of normalcy to political and economic life in Pakistan. Under these pressures, both countries unobtrusively sought to start a dialogue to normalize relations in the subcontinent. Prime Minister Kosygin effected a thaw. When Bhutto visited Moscow in March 1972, Kosygin suggested that “there was no reasonable way out of the situation except replacement of the policy of confrontation by a policy of peace and cooperation.” According to the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the visit, Bhutto was prepared to help establish peaceful conditions in the Indian subcontinent.
India and Pakistan had gone to war four times since 1947, but the fact remained that Pakistan had failed to resolve the problem by military means.
In an interview with an Indian journalist Bhutto had earlier enunciated the basic conditions for normalization. He reiterated that the people of Pakistan wanted peace. They wanted an end to hostility and conflict, not because of the recent military defeat but because tensions had proved unproductive and hindered economic development and growth. On the Kashmir issue too, Bhutto changed his stance, saying that “it was not for Pakistan to secure the right of self-determination for Kashmiris, it was up to them to fight for it if they wanted a different future.” India and Pakistan had gone to war four times since 1947, but the fact remained that Pakistan had failed to resolve the problem by military means. India had also failed to achieve a satisfactory political solution. It was for India to find a wav out.
Bhutto felt the accumulation of the problems created by the mutual distrust of a quarter century could not be solved over-night. They had to be tackled in a step-by-step approach. He recalled that “when you resolve all issues in one day-as at Tashkent-it simply does not work. This is the lesson to be drawn from our past experience.” He also indicated a preference for bilateral negotiations, saying: “I am allergic to third-party intervention. It is high time that the nations of the subcontinent solved their disputes without having to turn to outside umpires for help.”