Military & Aerospace

India's Losses and Gains in Post-Independence Wars - III
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Care had not been taken at higher levels to verify the claims in accordance with the realities on the ground before preferring them at the negotiating table. The exaggeration might have been the result of faulty map reading in a few cases, but mostly it was the outcome of a desire on the part of local commanders to show greater areas of occupation, hoping that nobody in the first instance would verify its accuracy in inaccessible areas, and when the snow melted they would be able to physically occupy these areas, The position of this untenable ground was embarrassing indeed for Bhagat, but with his tact and persuasion he did India well. Most of the claimed areas conceded were in the lake area of Minimarg and the stony waste of Turtok.

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As a result of the occupation of territory on either side of the international border, its demarcation had been disturbed at places. Some boundary pillars were damaged, and a few were completely obliterated by the action of war. To restore the status quo ante, joint teams were formed to fix the missing pillars through surveys and erect them afresh, while the repair of the damaged and repainting of the existing pillars had to be undertaken. Accordingly, the work was accomplished in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Punjab, but when the time came for doing so in Jammu and Kashmir Pakistan resiled after having originally initiated the proceedings.

To keep prisoners away from sensitive border areas, it was decided to organize some 50 camps in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

In the Jammu area, the Pakistan representative wanted the international border to be recognized only on the ground but did not want the boundary pillars restored. When India insisted that this portion of the border should be treated at par with other parts of the international border, Pakistan shelved the proceedings altogether, thus keeping its option open to treat it as disputed territory. Since the occupied territories had been returned, Pakistan was under no compulsion to accept the Indian version and took refuge under the clause of the Simla Agreement which allowed bilateral arrangements “without prejudice to the recognized position of either side.”

The line of control has remained as disturbed after its ratification as it was before as the erstwhile ceasefire line. The line is not demarcated on the ground, and as such its sanctity is ensured by its recognition, purely by use of prominent landmarks available in the area. The change of troops holding forward posts, and the different interpretation of maps by both sides, result in frequent civilian intrusions and military transgressions, leading to exchange of fire and unnecessary casualties on both sides. The tranquility of the border areas remains disturbed, and because of lack of security large tracts of cultivable and forest land remain unexploited. Since the ratification of the Simla Agreement the Karachi Agreement remains superseded, and the ground rules, which prevented close contact of opposing troops, are no longer operative. As a result the frequency of clashes between patrols has increased.

The position of the UN observer group is peculiar. On the Pakistani side, the line of control continued to be manned by them, while on the Indian side they are idling. Repeated efforts were made at the sector commanders’ level to evolve military arrangements to stabilize the line. It was proposed that some temporary demarcation, without prejudice to any future settlement, be resorted to for easy recognition by troops manning the line, as also by civilians residing in the area. Pakistan however insists on its continuance in its present state.

“¦occupation of territory on either side of the international border, its demarcation had been disturbed at places. Some boundary pillars were damaged, and a few were completely obliterated by the action of war.

The Pakistani side advocates the use of observers for settling local disputes while India suggests bilateral settlement of such issues. The opposing sides hold flag meetings to settle local disputes after border incidents, but they usually end in a mutual exchange of accusations. Bilateralism has not so far helped stabilization of the line, which continues to be disturbed. And the political status of the Kashmir dispute remains unaltered.

Consequent on the unilateral ceasefire of 17 December 1971 in the west, and the signing of the instrument of surrender by Gen Niazi in the east, a sizable number of Pakistani troops and civilians fell into Indian hands as prisoners of war. A total of 91,596 prisoners surrendered to the joint command of India and Bangladesh, and out of them some 74,271 were in uniform, comprising regular elements of Pakistan’s three services, the rank and file of paramilitary organizations and policemen. The remaining 17,325 were civilians belonging to the Pakistan administrative services and their families.1

In the western theatre, about 1,014 uniformed personnel belonging to the services and paramilitary organizations were captured by the Indian forces. In addition, there were 51 civilian internees, consisting of Pakistani citizens who happened to be visiting India at the outbreak of hostilities.

In Bangladesh, the prisoners had surrendered to the respective sector commanders wherever they were operationally engaged. The Indian planners had not visualized such a mass surrender, and as a result the administrative machinery to look after them took time to organize. They were generally removed to the nearest cantonment and confined there under heavy guard.

Bengali tempers were running high and armed guerillas were intent on taking their revenge on them. The entire population, earlier kept in check under the heel of the Pakistani jackboot, turned their pent-up wrath on the Pakistani soldiery, accusing them of genocide, loot and rape.

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