Military & Aerospace

1971: Defence of Kashmir Valley
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Issue Book Excerpt: India\'s War since Independence | Date : 06 Apr , 2018

19 Infantry Division under Maj Gen ED ’Souza was responsible for denying ingress to Kashmir Valley and protecting vulnerable areas against sabotage by infiltration. Because of snowfall and the severe winter conditions, the operating environment, especially for the attacker, was climatically disadvantageous and no major offensive along the high passes towards the valley was considered possible.

But the exploitation of pro-Pakistani elements in the valley by staging a limited revolt against established authority could not be ruled out. To relieve D’Souza of internal security duties, a separate sector called V Sector was organised under Maj Gen Patankar and all the paramilitary forces deployed in the valley were placed under his command. Unlike in the 1965 conflict, D’Souza did not have to look back while fighting forward on the ceasefire line to ensure the security of the valley. This was done by Patankar.

Territorially, D’Souza’s area of operational responsibility ran in the shape of a horseshoe along the ceasefire line from Karobal Gali in the Greater Himalayan range in the north to Chor Panjal Pass in the Pir Panjal range in the south, a distance of some 338 kilometres. From Karobal Gali to Lunda Gali, the line was along the high range dominating the Kishanganga, running from east to west with heights varying from 12,000 to 14,000 feet. This area was poorly served by road. An indifferent jeep track connected Mini Marg and Dudgai, opposite Gurais, with Gilgit about 240 kilometres away, and another road in somewhat better shape ran along the Kishanganga valley connecting Muzaffarabad with Keran and thereafter to Doarian. Beyond that a mule track went to Dudgai Forest. On the Indian side, a road connected Bandipur on Wular Lake with Gurais and Chorwan beyond.

Unlike in the 1965 conflict, DSouza did not have to look back while fighting forward on the ceasefire line to ensure the security of the valley.

The terrain, high, rugged and jungle-clad, was unsuitable for organised military operations. But it was open to infiltration through numerous gullies leading to the valley, and the unfrequented countryside was ideal for developing guerilla bases and caches of arms. The northern gullies, of lower tactical priority, were held by about two wings of Northern Scouts, with one. wing in the general area of Mini Marg and the other wing in the area of Keran.

Indian matched this strength with about three battalions of BSF backed by one regular infantry battalion. The BSF battalions were to hold the picquet line from where the ceasefire line could be dominated, and the regular battalion was located at Kanzalwan, to be used for offensive tasks wherever required.

In the west the ceasefire line forms two distinct bulges west of the Shamshabari range. The Keran bulge on the Indian side runs 16 to 20 kilometres along the Kishanganga and dominates the Muzaffarabad-Doarian road. The Pakistani bulge of Bugina, north of Tithwal, provides a readymade bridgehead across the river to develop operations to eliminate the Indian bulges of Beran and Tithwal.

Although our troops in the Tithwal area dominated the stretch of road between Nauseri and Mirpur, it was known that Pakistan had made considerable progress in bypassing this stretch by connecting Nauseri with Bandi. The Tithwal bulge extended from the Bugina bulge to Tutmari Gali in the Pir Panjal range. The peripheral area around Tithwal was held by Pakistan 1 POK Brigade consisting of three POK battalions and a battalion worth of Scouts. Facing them was Indian 104 Infantry Brigade comprising four regular battalions and a battalion plus of BSF. Out of these, one regular battalion was held in reserve for offensive and counteroffensive tasks, while the remainder were committed on the picquet line.

From Garela Gali in the north to Jarni Gali in the south lay the Uri bulge on both sides of the Jhelum. A series of spurs emanating from the north and south Pir Panjal ranges fell into the narrow Jhelum Valley. Pakistan held the area around the Uri bulge, including the Haji Pir Pass area, with about four to five infantry battalions. D’Souza matched this deployment with 161 Infantry Brigade consisting of about five regular battalions and one BSF battalion holding the picquet line, and one battalion in reserve.

The terrain, high, rugged and jungle-clad, was unsuitable for organised military operations. But it was open to infiltration through numerous gullies leading to the valley, and the unfrequented countryside was ideal for developing guerilla bases and caches of arms.

In addition, Pakistan had POK 80 Infantry Brigade located somewhere north of the Jhelum for employment in this sector. Similarly, D’Souza had 268 Infantry Brigade as reserve within the divisional sector for offensive or defensive tasks. He broke up this brigade at the very outset by allotting one battalion each to the two brigades and actually moved the battalions in respective brigade sectors, and the third battalion was earmarked for the V Sector in the valley. He utilised brigade headquarters to command an ad hoc sector called Golf Sector established in Gulmarg with an ad hoc force of about a battalion plus consisting of odd regular and paramilitary units.

One approach to the valley from Pakistan lay through Muzaffarabad-Nauseri-Tithwal-Nastachun Pass. This involved crossing the Kishanganga and clearing the ridges on both sides of the Tangdhar valley right up to the pass, and was both troop-consuming and time-consuming. The second approach was the old Rawalpindi-Srinagar highway along the Jhelum. it involved clearing heights on both sides of the valley, prominent among them being Chhota Kazi Nag. This was a formidable position prepared over a quarter of a century and could only be tackled along with the third approach from Kahuta-Haji Pir-Uri. All these approaches were connected by laterals which enabled Pakistan to switch forces from one approach to another without much difficulty, while on the other hand reinforcing the Indian brigade sectors involved circuitous and lengthy routing.

In the entire mountainous and hilly sector in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan had two reserve brigades, 26 and 80 Infantry, north and south of the Jhelum. It was unlikely that Maj Gen Akbar Khan, GOC Pakistan 12 Infantry Division, would unbalance himself by bunching both brigades together on either side of the. Jhelum. So the maximum threat expected opposite 19 Infantry Division was about two brigades worth, one reserve and the other created by denuding tactically less important areas within the sector as well as using troops located on the thrust line. But the imminence of snowfall at the time of commencement of hostilities and the rugged heights precluded any major operations in D’Souza’s sector. With only about two brigaded available for an offensive role, Pakistan apparently did not have capability to reach the main Shamshabari or Pir Panjal ranges under any circumstances.

Although intelligence reports indicated the presence of Pakistan 7 Infantry Division or a part of it in the general area of Muzaffarabad, it was highly unlikely that Pakistan, woefully short of infantry in its strike forces in the plains, would commit its only old, well-trained reserve division in the mountains, where results would not be readily forthcoming. But due cognisance of its likely employment against the 19 Infantry Division sector had to be taken at this stage. In addition, a major infiltration threat towards the valley was visualised and the deployment had to be counter-infiltration-oriented to cover routes of ingress and the location of reserves. All this was troop-consuming and not at all suited to the tactical tasks in hand.

It was planned to take such offensive measures on the outbreak of hostilities as would improve the present defensive posture. It may be recalled that the ceasefire line was held by the opposing forces in the form of defended localities all along in linear fashion, with little depth. These localities had been strengthened over a quarter of a century with minefields and the erection of wire and other obstacle belts. In addition, formidable fortifications had been developed to withstand artillery bombardment. There was thus a thick defensive crust on either side which was difficult to break. But as a result of years of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in a no war-no peace posture the weaknesses of each position were generally known and could be exploited in local actions.

Before hostilities began three such tasks were planned, one in Tithwal and the other two in Uri. Reconnaissance had been carried out, tactical plans made, resources earmarked and operations rehearsed. These operations were to be launched immediately after the outbreak of war so as to achieve complete surprise. But for some unknow reason HQ XV Corps intervened and insisted that in view of the overall posture postulated for the western sector they would be undertaken only on clearance from headquarters. As a result only one of the three operations was launched as scheduled and achieved complete success, while the other two, undertaken the next night, failed to make any headway as the Pakistanis had got wise to the Indian moves.

This exercise was undertaken to secure the Ghasla Top and Ring Contour features south of the Tithwal bulge with a view to dominating the approaches to Richhmar Gali northwest of the Chak Mukadam area, on the night of 3/4 December.1 It was carried out by 8 Rajputana Rifles in two phases. In the first, one company assaulted Ghasla Top from the north, but after initial resistance the enemy withdrew to depth localities. The second company immediately attacked the Ring Contour, but because of the restricted approach and withering automatic fire the assault halted and despite rallying could not get moving again.

…only one of the three operations was launched as scheduled and achieved complete success, while the other two, undertaken the next night, failed to make any headway as the Pakistanis had got wise to the Indian moves.

The OC 8 Rajputana Rifles thereupon manoeuvered his commando platoon to tackle the position from the rear. It was almost daylight by the time the platoon reached the objective, but the enemy was completely surprised and Ring Contour was carried with little resistance. The operation was completed by 0800 hours on 4 December, capturing one Pakistani JCO and 14 other ranks and killing 20, including the post commander, a captain. It appeared that the position was occupied by about platoon strength.

The Jhandi Mali feature was attacked so as to improve the defence potential of Chhota Kazi Nag in the Uri sector. It was believed to be occupied by about two platoons in well-constructed bunkers. On 4 December, in daytime the bunkers were pounded by mountain guns, which claimed to have destroyed about nine bunkers from where direct firing was expected on the assaulting troops. The attack was launched with one company of 8 Sikh after last light. Eight bunkers were captureed, but the assault was then stalled because of heavy automatic fire.

The reserve company was launched as planned to raise the momentum of the attack, but went to ground as well. As part of the plan, the commando platoon of the battalion was to establish a block between Jhandi Mali and Mali in the rear to prevent reinforcement of the locality. Although the platoon reported having established the block, the enemy was seen reinforcing the position under star shell illumination. Hope of making headway with the attack having waned, the attack was called off and 8 Sikh troops pulled back to their former positions. The formation’s losses were one other rank killed, one officer and 13 other ranks wounded, and nine other ranks missing or believed killed.

The third operation to capture the high point 10944 called Jayshree, south of the Uri bulge, was launched by 7 Sikh Light Infantry on the night of 4/5 December. The objective lay on a ridge running north to south of the feature called Ring Contour on the Indian side. The obvious approach to the point was by ascending the ridge. According to earlier reports, the height was held by about a platoon. Two assaulting companies from the battalion were mustered by arranging suitable relief in the line. The attack was launched from the north by one company and a commando platoon, but these troops had not yet emerged from the forming-up place when they came under heavy machine gun fire from the southeastern flank. The fire plan envisaged the engagement of the entire locality on the objective.

Discerning from the opening Pakistani fire that the objective was held in three distinct localities, the company commander decided to assault each locality in turn rather than simultaneously as originally planned. For some inexplicable reason, he failed to modify the fire plan accordingly. Thus, when one platoon locality was assaulted, fire was lifted from the other localities as well, causing casualties from the interfering localities.

The attack was launched with one company of 8 Sikh after last light. Eight bunkers were captured, but the assault was then stalled because of heavy automatic fire.

7 Sikh however managed to get a lodgment in the first two platoon localities, but the Pakistanis continued to hold on to the depth locality in strength. The attack was halted, and the commander personally led a section charge to get it going again, but was killed in the attempt. Soon thereafter the leaderless soldiery were thrown back from the objective by a spirited Pakistan counter-attack. The attack was called off and the troops pulled back to Ring Contour. 7 Sikh suffered one officer and 11 other ranks killed and 14 other ranks wounded in this encounter.

Having met with two failures in one night, D’Souza started having second thoughts regarding tackling the fortified heights. The easy success in capturing Ghasala Top and Ring Contour lured him to seek other weaknesses in the Pakistani defences in the area. He eventually decided to explore the Lipa valley through Tutmari Gali and to clear the areas of Shishladi, Wanjal and Jamua contiguous to Ghasla Top and Ring Contour. 9 Sikh, deployed in the area of Naugam and Tutmari Galiarea, a pass in the Shamshabari range, was ordered to carry out a reconnaissance in force west wards toward the Kaiyan bowl on the night of 5/6 December. These troops captured Tharda Pani, a village en route, and carried Kaiyan in a quick swoop by the first light of 6 December. Complete surprise was achieved and very fight opposition encountered.

The enemy left six dead and some ammunition and rations on the battlefield. Emboldened by the easy going, our troops continued their advance and took another position about 1,800 metres southwest of Kaiyan on the night of 6/7 December, but by then they had expended themselves in holding the captured area. To keep up the momentum, D’Souza inducted the remainder of 9 Sikh Battalion after relieving it of defensive commitments, including the holding of Tutmari Gali by a company of 3 Maratha Light Infantry moved from Pattan, which had earlier been earmarked for counter-infiltration operations.

After the induction of the remainder of the battalion had been completed, 9 Sikh secured points 9747 and 10175 to protect the flanks of the axis of advance by capturing the overlooking heights north and south of it on the night of 8/9 December. The battalion captured another height overlooking the village of Seranwali Baihik the next night. In addition, a roadblock was established by about a company strength along the Brithwari-Mandal road to stop the reinforcement of the Wanjal group of Pakistani defences.

Although the advance in the almost vacant Kaiyan bowl was going like a knife into butter, lack of increased administrative and fire support came in the way and slowed down operations to the extent that a lull followed from 10 to 13 December to enable the administration to catch up. The road from Handwara ended at the base of Tutmari Gali. From there all material required to sustain operations had to be humped across the gali at a height of 3,650 metres by ponies and porters with limited payloads suited to such high altitudes. The heights were snow-bound and generally inaccessible and the paths had to be beaten periodically to get the pony and porter chains working.

Book_India_wars_sinceWinter conditions increased the requirements of the forward troops’ snow equipment and clothing but decreased the turnover of porters and ponies. Since civilian labour was not easily available in the combat zone about a battalion of soldiers humped the stores across Tutmari Gali to keep 8 Sikh going. As for artillery fire, the battalion was supported by an ad hoc battery of 4.2-inch mortars deployed on the home side of the gali.

8 Sikh was soon operating outside its range and it took quite some time to deploy it forward because facilities for carrying the awkward loads of mortar parts and ammunition were lacking. To overcome this shortcoming one medium gun was stripped and carried in lorries to the Tithwal bulge on 13 December to support 8 Sikh in the Kaiyan bowl at extreme ranges. Another gun joined it on 16 December, and this had a good psychological effect although it hardly made any difference materially. After the administration caught up with it, 9 Sikh got going on the night of 13/14 December, and secured the entire Kaiyan bowl north of Jinjar Nala by last fight on 15 December. All the successes 9 Sikh achieved were reportedly the result of surprise attacks from the rear.

Encouraged by the speedy progress of operations, D’Souza was tempted to induct another battalion, 3 Maratha, into the Kaiyan bowl. It arrived there on 16 December, and by the time of the ceasefire had secured the southern flank by capturing the Pathari heights. The operations in the Lipa valley were undertaken throughout under the command of Headquarters 104 Infantry Brigade located in the Tangdhar valley on an entirely different axis and across another pass at Nasta Chun.

The attack was halted, and the commander personally led a section charge to get it going again, but was killed in the attempt. Soon thereafter the leaderless soldiery were thrown back from the objective by a spirited Pakistan counter-attack.

After the ceasefire, it was found that the Pakistanis had suffered 18 killed, with a possible 24 more whose bodies could not be found, and ten prisoners, their losses thus totalling about 50. Only 12 rifles and two automatics were captured along with a radio set. All the dead and the prisoners belonged to the Tochi Scouts. From these statistics and information available from Fazal Muqeem’s accounts, it appears that the Lipa valley was held by no more than a couple of Scout companies. Akbar Khan had taken the justifiable risk of denuding the Lipa area to muster strength for his illfated attack in the Poonch sector. Knowing the constraints on sustaining sizable Indian operations there over precarious routes of maintenance across Tutmari Gali, it was unlikely that D’Souza could achieve worthwhile results.

Five months later, unknown to the higher command, a little Pakistani pocket near Kaiyan village surfaced. This pocket, within D’Souza’s knowledge and with the tacit consent of the Indian troops in the area, continued to be maintained through a track along Jinjar Nala which the Indians held on both sides. D’Souza withheld this information as he felt it might invite criticism of his conduct of operations, and he was anyhow confident that the pocket existed only at his pleasure as he had the capacity to eliminate it if it turned troublesome.

On the face of it, D’Souza’s performance appeared impressive on maps, but his difficulties were progressively mounting on the ground, especially with the snowfall and the increasing operational demands of the troops manning the fresh conquests. Ground-based maintenance could not cope with administrative requirements and increased reliance had to be placed on the Indian helicopter fleet, which was diverted from other important tasks to meet their pressing needs.

Along with the Lipa valley operations, an attack was launched on the Shisha-Ladi feature, part of the extension of the Tithwal bulge, on the night of 7/8 December. A post stands on the summit of this rocky feature, jutting out of Ghasla Top. It was at first reported to be held by a company of Tochi Scouts, and it was only after the assault on it had begun that it was found to be held by regulars, one company of 2 FF inducted after the capture of Ghasla Top and Ring Contour. The post was discovered to have concrete fortifications, but information about the location of bunkers and automatics was scanty. Supported by about five fire units, 8 Rajputana Rifles assaulted the position from the west, a very steep approach, with two companies and with two stops established south and southwest of the objective. The Pakistani troops displayed good fire discipline in that they did not open up till the assaulting troops were within 75 yards.

DSouza withheld this information as he felt it might invite criticism of his conduct of operations, and he was anyhow confident that the pocket existed only at his pleasure as he had the capacity to eliminate it if it turned troublesome.

Our shelling set alight the dry grass which grew profusely on the feature, and the flames leaping skyward and smoke caused much confusion. The artillery fire had by then lifted. The defending Pakistanis turned the concentrated fire of automatic and other weapons on the attackers. This hail of fire held up the assault and inflicted heavy casualties on the troops exposed on the bare rocky hill. All efforts to get it going again failed. Thereupon, the commanding officer launched his two reserve companies from the north. Pressing home the attack with grim determination, they gained a small lodgment in the enemy defences, but like their predecessors could do no more. They were subjected to defensive fire over our localities with a high-explosive air burst. As day dawned, the troops in the open suffered more casualties. The attack was called off very reluctantly at 1000 hours on 8 December. Losses amounted to two JCOs and 35 other ranks killed, two officers, two JCOs and 65 other ranks wounded, and one officer and three other ranks missing or believed killed.

The next attack was on the Wanjal complex, east of Ghasla Top, and the Shisha Ladi feature. Wanjal, an oblong 1,096 metres long, was known to be held in four different localities in depth by about a platoom strength each. 3 Bihar was relieved from the picquet line by 8 Rajputana Rifles after the abortive attempt to capture Shisha Ladi and was given the task of capturing the Wanjal complex. The battalion set about its tasks methodically. Destruction of enemy bunkers was undertaken by the direct fire of a section of mountain guns and by the precision shooting of two medium guns, commencing in the first light of 14 December. In addition, two fighter bombers carried out sorties against Brith Wari Gali and Pakistani gun positions in the general area of Tilwara. Most of the bunkers had been damaged before the attack went in on the night of 14/15 December.

The assault proceeded along the spur from the north over a narrow frontage because of restricted space for development. Meanwhile, the commando platoon had infiltrated, and finding one of the depth localities on the complex vacant occupied it. That scaled the fate of the Pakistanis holding the complex. The assaulting troops closed in soon and captured the forward localities after a brief hand-to-hand fight. The whole complex fell into the hands of 3 Bihar soon after and they were well entrenched on the feature by first light on 15 December. The Pakistani casualties were 18 dead, five wounded and one prisoner who belonged to 16 POK, against four of our men killed and 29 wounded. The complex was held by no more than a platoon plus of PoK troops. In this attack, commando platoons from two other battalions played a significant part in establishing roadblocks along the Pakistani routes of maintenance and by raiding gun positions. This success to some extent compensated for D’Souza’s earlier failure at Shisha Ladi.

But unknown to D’Souza the Pakistanis had made considerable encroachments between the Wankal complex and the Lipa valley in the general area of Katran Ki Gali. The pluses and minuses of the extension of the Tithwal bulge in the south were evening out concurrently. Meanwhile, reports continued of BSF advances in the frozen lakes area of Minimarg throughout the operations, and by the end of hostilities this force claimed to dominate the line of the Kishanganga and the road and track communications running along it.

When stock was taken of the territory lost and gained in the conflict at the end of December 1971, 19 Infantry Division showed a spectacullar gain of approximately 150 square kilometres of Pakistani-occupied territory. Heavy snow covered the mountain heights, froze the lakes in the Minimarg area, obliterated the memory of setbacks in battle, and brought to the fore the showy sense of achievement. So impressed was the hierarchy with D’Souza’s performance that he was one of the first divisional commanders to be awarded a Param Vashist Seva Medal.But the veil of illusion started gradually lifting with the melting snows and the realities buried underneath began to emerge.the D’Souza became conscious of the little Pakistani pocket in the Kaiyan bowl. He tried to negotiate with the Pakistanis on vacating the pocket, but without result. He decided to eliminate it in early May, 1972, using force. For this, he initially inducted one company of 2 Guards and attacked the pocket, but without adequate artillery support. The attack failed as a logical outcome of an ill-conceived plan.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani reserves transferred from opposite the Lipa valley had returned and Tikka Khan, now at the helm of affairs and seeking an opportunity to rehabilitate the image of the Pakistani Army after the Bangladesh debacle, was prepared to hit back at the slightest provocation. Jumping at the opportunity D’Souza’s move offered, he hit the Indian forward positions in the Lipa valley and threw 9 Sikh back at one blow.

Pakistani troops displayed good fire discipline in that they did not open up till the assaulting troops were within 75 yards.

Because of the precarious and restricted flow of materials by man and animal pack across Tutmari Gali, defended localities could not be fully developed with minefield, wire, bunkers with overhead cover and so on, and as such they had little defence potential against determined attacks supported by a preponde rance of artillery which the Indians tried to match with two medium guns, the only artillery which could be brought to bear in the Lipa valley. The headlines in Indian newspapers the next day announcing the reverses and the loud propaganda of Radio. Pakistan embarrassed the Indian Government in general and the Army in particular.

The command and control of the Lipa valley operations, particularly at the time of this reverse, was very peculiar. The brigade commander from the Tithwal sector was moved in to conduct the operations. He was still on the home side of Tutmari Gali when the Pakistanis attacked and could do no more than get the reports of the reverse on the radio. His headquarters in turn were handed over to D’Souza’s Colonel General Staff as a temporary measure, while the brigadier in charge of the reserve brigade, now without troops, was cooling his heels somewhere in the Gulmarg sector. To stall further Pakistani advances, the remainder of 2 Guards was hurriedly inducted into the Kaiyan bowl and Headquarters Reserve Brigade brought into command the sector.

As the snow melted and negotiations to delineate the line of control proceeded between the Indian and Pakistani military teams the original claims of physical domination in respect of 19 Infantry Division started shrinking, especially in the Minimarg lake area. Proportionately, the military reputation of D’Souza started waning in the eyes of the hierarchy. About the direction and the conduct of operations in the 19 Infantry Divisional sector it can now be said that there did not appear to be any purpose behind them which could enhance the Indian offensive or defensive capability in the future. The extension of the Tithwal bulge and the annexation of a portion of the Lipa valley had not brought any tactical advantage. Contrarily, both had proved an administrative headache and a tactical embarrassment.

If the two tactical areas of Haji Pir Pass and the Bugina bulge had been secured, this would have greatly enhanced the defence potential of Kashmir Valley.

If the two tactical areas of Haji Pir Pass and the Bugina bulge had been secured, this would have greatly enhanced the defence potential of Kashmir Valley. As described earlier, Haji Pir connects the Kahuta bulge with the Uri bulge and acted as a gateway for infiltrators into the valley in the period preceding the 1965 conflict. Any Pakistani thrust along the Haji Pir-Uri road also outflanks defences sited ahead of Uri. To secure this flank, and also to block routes of infiltration, it was imperative to secure the pass at the first opportunity. The Bugina bulge provided Pakistan with a readymade bridgehead across the turbulent Kishanganga to develop operations either to eliminate the Indian-held Keran bulge or to outflank the Tithwal bulge by developing a thrust towards the Lolab valley. On the other hand, its capture by the Indians would have prevented the maintenance of Pakistani posts opposite the northern gullies, as it would have take considerable time for Pakistan to build an alternative route of maintenance.

These were two worthwhile objectives within D’Souza’s sector, and he had one brigade group in reserve, the major portion of which (about two battalions) remained unused right up to the ceasefire. D’Souza’s excuse for this was that he was waiting for definite indications that Pakistan 7 Infantry Division had been committed elsewere before he drew on his reserves. This was not a valid argument, especially after Pakistan had shown its hand in the Poonch and Chhamb sectors. The reserve brigade group could have been employed after 7 December to secure either of the above objectives, but preferably the Bugina bulge, as Akbar Khan had committed his reserves in the Poonch sector and could not switch them to Bugina in a hurry. But he had the capability to do so towards Haji Pir after recoiling from Poonch and working from interior lines.

Both objectives had reasonably good road systems, and it would have been possible to support the operation administratively as well as from the angle of fire support. One or two additional battalions could be mustered from the holding force in dormant sectors to bolster the invasion force. The tidy conduct of operations under integral headquarters with adequate fire support would have yielded tactically more profitable results. It would also have fulfilled the Chief’s overall strategic plan for the coming war.

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But this was not to be. D’Souza was a typical infantry soldier whose vision never travelled beyond the foresight of his rifle. Displaying little or no imagination, he fumbled from one situation to another like a trigger-happy cowboy with utter disregard of the war aims or security of his command. Despite the successes obtained by the audacious manoeuvre of tackling the prepared defencss from an unexpected direction by infiltration or wide outflanking moves, D’Souza launched frontal attacks with disastrous results and erosion of morale. As a result, he not only humbled himself eventually but embarrassed the nation. Despite his pressing commitments in Poonch and Chhamb, the Corps Commander should have directed D’Souza’s actions firmly as D’Souza was obviously incapable of thinking for himself.

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One thought on “1971: Defence of Kashmir Valley

  1. Not clear about some news paper reports I had read, that Pakistan handed over to India some of the positions occupied by the Indian Army in 1971 but had to withdraw from there in 1972 as there were difficulty to keep up with support and supply due to remoteness and rugged territory. If my recollection is correct, the General Manekshaw made sure that the Pakis retreat from those posts (at least two taken over by the Pakistanisin 1972) first before he agreed to release the 90,000 Army personnel of Pakistan. Could you please confirm this, General ?

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