Military & Aerospace

1971: The Rajasthan Campaign - II
Star Rating Loader Please wait...

The lack of a road from Khokhrapar to Nayachor was not known at that time, so ignorant were we of terrain intelligence.

The lack of a road from Khokhrapar to Nayachor was not known at that time, so ignorant were we of terrain intelligence. But the imbalance in the Gadra City area after D plus two days was emphatically brought out in my discussions with Anand, who quickly saw the point, and it was decided to recommend modification of the plan to allow the firm base brigade to stay in the area of Gadra City and Kelnor till the threat from that direction wore off. This brigade could also act as the command reserve to meet unforeseen developments in other sectors.

My next step was Bhuj, headquarters of the Kutch sector improvised on an ad hoc basis under Brig SS Malhotra, Commander Bombay Sub-Area. The sector extended from Bakhasar to the Arabian Sea and consisted mainly of the Little and Great Ranns of Kutch. The Rann was on the verge of going dry.

Book_India_wars_sinceOpposite us, Pakistan was holding BOPs with two wings of Rangers, and one battalion group from the brigade group at Hyderabad was known to be located in the Badin area. Agents had also talked about seeing some tanks in the vicinity. Our hotch potch force allotted to the sector consisted of two BSF battalions, some ten companies in all, holding BOPs with one infantry battalion of the Territorial Army as reserve along with supporting administrative elements located at Bhuj.In his briefing, Malhotra listed the tasks allotted to him. These were to deny approaches to the sector by the occupation of the areas around and forward of Kuarbet-Narabet, prevent enemy penetration beyond the general line of Lakhpat-Khavda-Narabet, and on the orders of the Army Commander destroy Pakistan Ranger posts in Nagar Parkar and Rahim-ki-Bazar.

Also read: 1971: Th Rajasthan Campaign – I

The mode of operation in the sector was to hold in strength selected localities on likely approaches and retain adequate mobile reserves to eliminate intrusion into the sector and harassing the enemy by destroying border posts, water sources, administrative dumps and other installations.

Click to buy:India’s wars since independence

Apart from limited actions on the line of border outposts nearer the border, a deeper Pakistani thrust could be effected only by a mobile force consisting of armour/mechanised infantry combat groups. To block these intrusions it was imperative to develop the localities acting as stops into anti-tank localities by using mines and generally enhancing their anti-tank potential with additional anti-tank weapons. They were otherwise liable to be rushed by armour. The tactical compulsion was for them to hold out despite being bypassed and to have the capacity to send out tank-hunting parties at night. Within the existing constraints on equipment they were capable of neither. Serious reconsideration of the policy of equipping BSF and TA units was involved, and these could not be implemented in the short time before the war.

“¦enable us to utilize a bigger force to maintain the momentum of offensive operations better. Use of the railway would nullify the uncertainty of the state of the roads in Pakistani territory.

As part of the overall offensive in the Rajasthan sector, Malhotra was to secure the salient in Bhadesar opposite Suigam across the Little Rann. For this he was to use a heterogeneous collection of troops consisting of one infantry battalion (command reserve) from the Jaisalmer sector, two companies from the TA infantry battalion at Bhuj, and two to three companies of BSF raised from local resources at Suigam. I however felt that this offensive would achieve little but would instead cause imbalance in the Khavda-Bhuj area. Malhotra replied that a series of limited tasks to eliminate Pakistani BOPs would be undertaken all along the border to forestall an enemy initiative in the sector.

From there, I visited Jamnagar Air Force station. It was commanded by Group Captain Pete Wilson, a highly capable officer who had organised the training establishment on a war footing in a soldierly manner. Jamnagar was perhaps the only station which functioned in the war as an integrated three services unit. It is to Wilson’s credit that under his stewardship the three services functioned very efficiently and with great fervour, achieving good results.

As happens in every war, rumours were afloat of commando raids on our atomic reactor at Trombay and oil installation in and around Baroda, as also of bomber raids. Protection of rear area VA/VPs was the responsibility of Maj Gen R N Batra, General Officer Commanding Maharashtra and Gujarat Area. He correctly assessed that the ground and air threat to these installations was grossly exaggerated and felt confident that the judicious employment of the recently activated urban TA and local police units would fill the existing gaps in AD cover and provide adequate security to the VA/VOs in the region.

As the war clouds started gathering towards the end of November 1971 because of the gradual escalation of hostilities in the east, the army in the west waited for Pakistan to take the initiative and launch action.

But our troubles were not over. Pressures steadily developed on the Defence Ministry from various public and private undertakings for protection of numerous but nonetheless vital installations, and despite stiff resistance from the services our resources were dispersed to a great extent. Fortunately, tactical area resources were not touched in this process. The authorities of some undertakings however suggested that they be permitted to raise their own AD units and debit the costs to their projects.

On my return to base, I submitted a written report on my impressions. I brought out that between the two sectors overall priority should be given to the Barmer sector for two main reasons. Firstly, by developing the main thrust along the railway line it would be possible to haul greater tonnages for administrative backing. This would enable us to utilize a bigger force to maintain the momentum of offensive operations better. Use of the railway would nullify the uncertainty of the state of the roads in Pakistani territory. Secondly, the reaction from Pakistan I Corps elements would take not less than four or five days to materialise in the sector, by when our forces would have dealt with the Pakistan brigade group in the Nayachor-Umarkotarea in isolation.

Since the elements of Pakistan I Corps deployed in the sector could not be switched back to Bahawalpur quickly, this would mean a proportionate reduction of the threat in the western theatre. On the other hand, the Jaisalmer sector offensive would invite quicker reaction without a proportionate reduction of the threat to this theatre. Ever, if a road was laid through the sandy belt to join the Pakistani road system it would not be possible to build up and maintain a divisional force along a single-line traffic route liable to disruption by enemy air and ground raids.

1 2 3 4 5
Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

More by the same author

Post your Comment

2000characters left