Military & Aerospace

Defence of Khalra and Khemkaran
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Issue Book Excerpt: India\'s War since Independence | Date : 28 Feb , 2018

Major General Freemantle, General Officer Commanding 7 Infantry Division, was operationally responsible for the security of the southern half of the Bari Doab area between the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. The area is generally flat and crisscrossed by irrigation canals and drains extensively constructed to prevent water logging. The anti-tank-obstacle belt had been extended about six to nine kilometres deep in our territory all along the international border.

Freemantle was assigned the task of defending the sensitive areas of Harike and Hussainiwala headworks and Ferozepur town by denying the main routes of ingress from Pakistan into the area of his operational responsibility, namely Khalra-Patti Harike, Khemkaran-Patti-Harike, Khemkaran-Bhikhiwind -Amritsar, and Hussainiwala-Ferozepur. The main defences were to be based along the obstacle belt with covering troops deployed between the border and the belt. The contingency plan envisaged the capture of the Sehjra bulge.

Opposing Freemantle, Pakistan had deployed Pakistan 11 Infantry Division under Maj Gen Abdul Majid, with one brigade up to and inclusive of the Lahore-Khalra-Bhikhiwind axis, the second brigade in the general area of Khemkaran up to the Sutlej, and the third in the Kasur area in and around Hussainiwala. Freemantle’s deployment almost conformed to that of Majid, 65 Infantry Brigade holding the Khalra area, 48 Infantry Brigade the Khemkaran and 15 Punjab the Hussainiwala enclave, while 29 Infantry Brigade less one battalion was located in depth in the general area of Patti-Harike as a corps reserve.

65 Infantry Brigade was holding the defences along the Mari Megha drain from Bhuchar headworks on the Upper Bari Doab Canal to Bherowal. The front extended about 26 kilometres and was held on the main obstacle line by two battalions, while the third battalion provided screens and covering troops west of the drain with about two companies as brigade reserve for offensive and defensive tasks. In view of the paucity of troops and the extended sector, the brigade commander planned to withdraw the border outputs on commencement of hostilities and fill the gaps in the main defences based on the Mari Megha drain.

At approximately 1830 hours on 3 December, the Pakistanis started shelling the Indian BOPS[1] Soon after, 103 Pakistan Infantry Brigade exerted pressure on them and their defenders were withdrawn to the main defences as planned. The Pakistani commander followed these moves swiftly and was soon leaning on the Upper Bari Doab Canal, especially opposite the Khalra area. The villages of Narli, Dode and Kalsian were contacted in no time. Farther north, Pakistan occupied the village of Chhina Bidhi Chand. To secure the post across the canal and clear the Pakistanis from the area, it was decided to recapture Chhina Bidhi Chand. This was expected also to relieve pressure on Khalra. To use troops familiar with the area, 14 Rajput was relieved in the line by a reserve battalion about 1800 hours on 7 December. 14 Rajput patrols ascertained that Pakistan had about company strength in the general area of Chhina Bidhi Chand supported by about eight artillery gun units. 14 Rajput attacked the village after last light on 7 December[2] and captured it by midnight.

It was then learnt that two companies were fiercely resisting the attack with intense automatic and artillery fire from the outskirts of the village, and they were later counter-attacked. Firmly entrenched in the village, 14 Rajput withstood a couple of counterattacks. According to Fazal Muqeem, the area was fought for three times and lost and gained twice that night.

As 8 December dawned, 14 Rajput awaited the much-needed reorganisation stores, particularly ammunition, and tank support. But none of these materialized till midday, when a spirited counter-attack by Pakistan 3 Baluch forced it to vacate Chhina Bidhi Chand. Reorganisation stores could not be supplied as the route to the village was under intense and effective Pakistani shelling. Tanks were unable to cross the canal because of waterlogging. Without this much-needed support, 14 Rajput was withdrawn to the main defence line the same afternoon. The battalion suffered one officer and five other ranks killed, one officer, one JCO and 23 other ranks wounded, and three JCOs and 22 other ranks missing. This area remained comparatively quiet throughout the rest of the war.

The easy Pakistani success in this brigade sector and the failure of the Indian attack on Chhina Bidhi Chand may be attributed to the premature withdrawal of BOPs and loose coordination between infantry and armour in the plan of attack as well as in its execution. Even though 14 Rajput was familiar with the area, patrolling had not been extensive enough to locate the well-sited Pakistani automatics which hampered the movement of reorganisation material. And there was no excuse for not marrying up the armour, with the battalion next morning when the enemy tanks going near the canal, being well deep in our territory, should have been familiar to the Indian armour. This ill-planned and poorly executed action resulted in the loss of a good agricultural tract without worthwhile resistance.

Apart from sporadic shelling and minor skirmishes, the Pakistanis did not launch any serious operations in the Khemkaran sector. The Indian BOPs were subjected to heavy shelling, but no attempt was made to assault these positions. Pinpricks however continued throughout the war.

The Hussainiwala enclave in the Ferozepur sector was held by 15 Punjab before 14 Infantry Division was inducted into the area, and it continued to be under command of 7 Infantry Division. On the induction of 14 Infantry Division, one of its brigades, 35 Infantry, was placed under Freemantle’s command for close defence of the town. It was deployed with two battalions holding the Gang Canal and the Ferozepur feeder, covering the southwestern and southern approaches, while its third battalion was initially held in reserve for counter-infiltration tasks. But later, on the fall of the Hussainiwala enclave, it was deployed along the northern bund to deny approach from the north.

To improve the defence posture in the Khemkaran sector, it was planned to eliminate the likelihood of a Pakistani attempt to outflank the 48 Infantry Brigade defences in the area or of organizing a raid on Harike headworks by capturing the Sehjra bulge. Although the attack was scheduled for the night of the outbreak of hostilities, it was launched only on the night of 5/6 December.[3]

The Sehjra bulge juts out of Indian territory as the international boundary closes on the Sutlej. It runs on both sides of the river, with the major portion north of it. The key tactical ground is Sehjra village itself. It stands on an escarpment with some 800 houses, dominating all approaches to the bulge. North of the village, Pakistan had constructed a bund between nine and 12 feet high, futher improving the village’s defence potential and making it a virtual fortress. Three companies of paramilitary forces, boosted with one regular company and elements of reconnaissance and support battalion, were estimated to be holding it.

The plan of attack envisaged the establishment of a roadblock by one company of 6 Mahar near Mahiwala village, situated to cover the narrowest portion of the neck of the Sehjra bulge, as a preliminary to the main attack. The main attack was to be launched by 1/5 Gorkha Rifles from the south along the Pakistani route of maintenance after a wide outflanking movement. Meanwhile, one company of 9 Sikh LI was to capture the peripheral Pakistani BOPs at Mabbuke, Bhukkiwala and Nagar Aminpur. It was a bold, unorthodox and audacious plan which worked smoothly and successfully.

The roadblock was established about 2000 hours, and the main assaulting force under the commanding officer of 1/5 Gorkha Rifles reached the selected FUP by midnight. The attack on Sehjra commenced soon after. The Pakistani troops manning the Sehjra defences were completely surprised by the sudden Indian attack from an unexpected direction. But the Pakistanis put up a brave fight, and it was only after daybreak on 6 December that 48 Infantry Brigade was able to secure the bulge. This attack was supported by all the divisional artillery which could be brought to bear on the village. The Indian attacking force suffered two officers, one JCO and ten other ranks killed and 26 other ranks wounded against about 30 Pakistanis killed and 65 taken prisoners. In addition, a large quantity of arms and ammunition came into our hands. Since all the routes of with- drawal from the bulge were blocked, it may be surmized from the Pakistani casualties that the bulge was held with not more than two companies.

The wisdom of postponing this attack has already been questioned in the earlier discussion on the withdrawal from the Hussainiwala enclave. If it had been carried out on the night of 3/4 December or even the following night, it would have made a significant contribution to the chances of holding the enclave. But this was not to be.

Pakistan tried to edge forward on the night of 12/13 December by infiltrating one company of 41 Baluch through the neck of the Sehjra bulge across Indian minefields in the general area of 12r, about 2,740 metres east of Mahiwala. One company of 1/5 Gorkha Rifles, along with one platoon each of 6 Mahar and BSF, surrounded the intruders from all directions. Initially, the Pakistani troops resisted fiercely, but they were subsequently overrun with the help of a troop of tanks. The enemy suffered 30 dead and 15 wounded against the Indian losses of four other ranks killed and one JCO and six other ranks wounded. Fazal Muqeem describes this action thus: “On December 5, the Indians attacked the Sehjra bulge in strength, and captured Sehjra village after suffering heavy casualties. After that this front was kept active by aggressive patrolling and small raids.”

The attack on the bulge was well planned and resolutely executed although with greater strength than necessary, but then its success was ensured. In the context of overall operational direction, it would however have paid greater dividends to carry out this operation one or two nights earlier.

Army Headquarters reserve comprised 1 Armoured Division and 14 Infantry Division. This force was inducted into Western Command about the third week of October. As described earlier, it was located in the general area of Muktsar-Kot Kanpura-Faridkot as a counterpoise to Pakistan II Corps located opposite in Montgomery-Okara.

No sooner had it been inducted when Candeth started distributing it to fill the gaps in the command’s defensive posture. Fortunately, Maj Gen Gurbachan Singh, Gene ral Officer Commanding 1 Armoured Division, fiercely resisted all attempts to distribute his formation into penny packets, arguing emphatically that it would take considerable time to collect himself before meeting seen and unforeseen contingencies and he would not be responsible for any mishaps caused by unwise dissipation of his forces.

These arguments carried the day, but at considerable cost to his personal relations with Candeth and Rawlley. On the other hand, Maj Gen Harish Bakhshi, a weaker character, resiled and saw 14 Infantry Division spread widely over Western Command. 35 Infantry Brigade was deployed in defence of Ferozepur town and took 15 Punjab, the battalion holding the Hussainiwala enclave, under its command. This brigade was placed under the command of 7 Infantry Division Headquarters, located about 112 miles away at Patti. Another brigade group was sent to Ajnala to organize a defended sector to deny cross- ings of the Ravi in the vicinity of the Gil ferry and the approaches from it to Amritsar. This brigade came under Command Headquarters 15 Infantry Division, operationally responsible for defence of the area. In the end, Bakhshi was left with one brigade group in the Muktsar area. His task was to contain and eliminate, in conjunction with 1 Armoured Division, any enemy penetration south of the Sutlej. If a major Pakistani thrust developed south of Fazilka, its task was to block its advance northward and eastward by taking up a defensive position on the line of the Chand Bhan drain and the Rajasthan Canal. He little realized that a solitary infantry brigade group, even if commanded by a general, was no match for a thrust developed by a strike force comprising one armoured and two infantry divisions plus.

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The only reinforcements available in the event of a Pakistani attack in the area were one brigade group deployed at Ajnala or the corps reserve of one brigade group less one battalion located at Patti. Since both brigades were committed on the ground in one way or the other, the time frame of their availability with 14 Infantry Division worked out from 48 to 72 hours. By then, a decision would have been reached in battle. This state of affairs was very unsatisfactory, but Bakhshi seemed to be quite happy to please his seniors irrespective of the predictable consequences for national security.

After the fall of the Hussainiwala enclave on 5 December, Rawlley became wiser and placed 35 Infantry Brigade under its parent formation, and operational responsibility was readjusted to give 14 Infantry Division the general area from Harike headworks along the Sutlej to north of Fazilka and then along the Chand Bhan drain to its junction with the Rajasthan feeder.

The division was given the task of defending Ferozepur and holding bridgeheads across the Bikaner Gang Canal on the Ferozepur-Guru Harsahai and Muktsar-Jalalabad roads. Why the defended sector was held deep in our territory is incomprehensible as much politically prestigious and economically valuable agricultural land would have been lost before a Pakistani offensive could have been halted. This reflected the cautious attitude of the higher command in the corps zone, utterly unrelated to national aims. This formation was to dominate the area between Ferozepur and Fazilka from the general line of the Chand Bhan drain in the west up to the line of the Sutlej in the north.

In the night of 4/5 December, the BOPs at Joginder and Raja Mahatam were vacated by the BSF troops manning them after being heavily shelled. Orders to reoccupy these posts were issued, and that at Joginder was reoccupied on 5 December as Pakistan showed no interest in retaining it. Raja Mahatam post was attacked and recaptured by Wadhawa, a police officer, with the support of regular army elements, particularly artillery. He was killed in action and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthu- mously, thus becoming the first police officer to get it.

Pakistan held the post with no more than a section, and left only two dead and one wounded against one killed and ten wounded of the BSF. Bakhshi was wounded by a mine blast on visiting the post on its recapture. He was evacuated to the rear area and took no part in the battle thereafter. The command of 14 Infantry Division passed to Maj Gen Onkar Singh Kalkat, who enjoyed the reputation of being a bold and resolute leader.

On the fall of the Hussainiwala enclave, the command and control aspect in the sector was redressed, and 35 Infantry Brigade accordingly reverted to the command of 14 Infantry Division. Having been relieved from the defence of Ferozepur, 15 Dogra was detailed to capture the Pakistani BOPs at Basti Anoks and New Kasoke, and this was accomplished by first light on 7 December. This secured the area north of Ferozepur right up to the Sutlej.

It was then decided to eliminate the Pakistani enclave south of the river opposite Mamdot so as to deny the Pakistanis a lodgment area for developing a thrust towards Ferozepur. 15 Dogra attacked the first BOP at Rangewala in the enclave, adopting conventional tactics, and suffered heavy casualities. It was a frontal attack with the forming up place too near the objective. No sooner had the attackers crossed the start line when they were subjected to heavy automatic and artillery fire. This was so devastating that the assault line fell into disarray.

But the situation was saved by the officers moving well forward, regaining control of their men and leading the assault on the objective. The Pakistanis left two dead and some arms and ammunition, while 15 Dogra suffered two officers and 20 other ranks killed and one officer, two JCOs and 53 other ranks wounded. The momentum of eliminating the BOPs in the enc- lave slowed down till the night of 14/15 December, when the battalion captured those at Jaluke Dhuan and Amrud Wali.

The attacks on these positions came from an unexpected direction after a clever manoeuvre. Fearful of being surrounded, the Pakistani troops abandoned the posts in a hurry. The tempo of operations was now building up fast, and 13 Punjab captured the post at Dona Beta without resistance. As the battalion was poised for the next attack, the Pakistanis fled from the remaining two posts of Pira Kana and Jaloke Hittar in confusion. On the night of 17/18 December they infiltrated a strong platoon, later identified as from 9 Baluch, with five MMGs to secure a foothold on the eastern bank of the Sutlej. The whole platoon was ambushed and captured by 13 Punjab.

116 Infantry Brigade was deployed to hold the bridgehead across the Bikaner Gang Canal on the Ferozepur-Guru Harsahai and Muktsar-Jalalabad roads in considerable depth from the Sutlej. Aware that Pakistan had not made any move in the sector, Kalkat pushed forward elements of the brigade units and captured the BOPs at Peepoke, Kali Sahu, Gatti Bhapola, Ghurka and Amin Bhaini in quick succession from 13 to 17 December. All the attacks were well planned and boldly conducted.

After containing the BOPs frontally with a small force, stops were established on the likely routes of withdrawal. This was followed by attacks from the rear following the maintenance routes of the posts. As a result, the attackers suffered very light casualties. In capturing five BOPs, the Indians suffered one NCO killed and one officer, two JCOs and 13 other ranks wounded against Pakistan’s 29 killed and 17 taken prisoner. The brigade captured 15 MMGs, two LMGs and 17 rifles.

After the ceasefire, Pakistan attacked Kali Sahu with approximately one company strength after last light on 3 January 1972. The attack was beaten back and the enemy withdrew into a nearby growth of sarkanda. They were hotly pursued, and a search yielded 12 prisoners from 31 AK Battalion besides 24 dead. More arms and ammunition fell into Indian hands.

14 Infantry Division captured 13 Pakistan outposts in all and recaptured Raja Mahatam. These posts were lightly held and did not seem to form part of any Pakistani defensive or offensive design. Their elimination made no significant contribution to the national strategic aims. Nonetheless, in the otherwise essentially defence-oriented XI Corps actions they raised the spirits of the people, especially after the debacles at Fazilka, Hussainiwala and Chhina Bidhi Chand.

All these minor attacks were planned in detail and well conducted. India suffered negligible casualties in them except at Rangewala post. Kalkat, out to make his mark, pushed his troops hard, and setting a personal note of resolute leadership completely dominated the area beyond Ferozepur and Fazilka right up to the Sutlej. The formation commanders and the entire leadership down the line displayed much zeal and determination in carrying out their tasks and achieved commendable results.

The offensive action in the Ganganagar sector was confined to a few BOPs. After the ceasefire, the BSF post at Nagi reported on 26 December an exchange of fire between a BSF patrol and Pakistani troops in the sand dunes northwest of the post. It was later confirmed that about a platoon strength of Pakistanis had infiltrated about 54 to 243 kilometres beyond the ceasefire line. The location of the platoon was mined to a considerable depth and was supported by two defended localities across the border.

4 Para Battalion was ordered to throw back the Pakistani intruders. The battalion commander established contact with the platoon with one company and decided to assault the position front the northern flank after last light. The attack was to be supported by two field and two medium batteries and a squadron of tanks. The attack went as planned, but the outflanking company lost direction at night and could not contact the objective as scheduled. Unluckily, radio contact with the attacking troops was broken soon after their launching. Fearful of failure, their commander launched the reserve company from the easterly direction, traversing the shortest distance.

Soon after crossing the start line, the assaulting troops got entangled in the minefield and suffered heavy casualties, especially when assaulting in open line. Despite casualties, the attack was pressed home, and on reaching the objective our men came under fire of the outflanking company, which by then had also reached the objective after having suffered equally heavy losses. A clash was averted by the initiative of the officers on the spot, but by that time the Pakistani platoon had withdrawn to depth localities. Soon after its capture, the locality was subjected to heavy artillery fire from three heavy, one medium, four field and one light batteries, which caught the troops in the open as no elaborate field defences existed in the area and digging in soft sand was not possible without adequate revetment facilities.

Three prisoners were taken in the process, and they gave the information that this locality was built up over three to four nights under the very nose of the Nagi post. The total Indian casualties of some 80 killed and wounded included an officer. The casualties were due to the assault from the direction of the minefield in extended lines, offering the maximum exposure to the field’s lethality. An assault in ramrod fashion would have minimized the mine casualties.

The rest of the casualties were due to the clash between the two companies assaulting from different directions and heavy artillery fire. Perhaps an attack along the route of maintenance would have paid better dividends. Credit must however go to 4 Para Battalion for its resolute pursuit of its objective despite very heavy losses. Its officers and men fought extremly well.

What did this battle achieve? In terms of pluses and minuses, Rawlley claimed a gain of 199.15 square kilometres of territory against loss of 153.3 square kilometres to Pakistan, indicating a marginal gain of about 45.85 square kilometres of territory. But battle valuations are not such simple mathematical equations. Politically, it meant the evacuation of the Pulkanjri and Chhina Bidhi Chand group of villages in Amritsar district and all villages forward of the Sabuna distributary in the Fazilka area of Ferozepur district, and the attendant refugee problem inflicted on a population already tired of the periodical India-Pakistan conflicts and wanton destruction of property in their wake.

Added to this was the loss of the wheat and cotton crops in the period of waiting for political negotiations between the two countries, which stretched about a year. Another six months of rehabilitation was necessary before normalcy could be restored in the agricultural economy. The economic void could perhaps be filled with liberal grants, but none could restore the loss of faith in the Indian armed forces and their ability to safeguard the interests of the border population.

Rawlley was assigned the task of defending the Punjab and Ganganagar district of Rajasthan. The area of operational responsibility extended approximately 640 kilometres along the boundary. The defensive posture adopted and the concept of defence varied from sector to sector. The defences in the north were broadly organized on strongly held sectors defended by brigades in the general areas of the Dera Baba Nanak and Ajnala, south of the Ravi, with a limit of penetration allowed up to the line of the Saki nullah, about 16 to 24 kilometres deep in Indian territory.

Defences between the Ravi and the Sutlej were based on the line of ditch-cum-bund defences. Covering troop positions were however held in Khalra area based on the UBD Canal, and in the Mastgarh-Khemkaran area based on the newly constructed defence drain. The Bikaner Gang Canal was the line of penetration between Fazilka and Ferozepur. In the southern sector, the towns of Fazilka, Abohar and Ganganagar were held in the form of defence fortresses with limits of penetration up to the Rajasthan twin canal.

The very acceptance of the line of penetration in such considerable depth envisaged the Pakistani occupation of our territory ahead of these obstacles. So defensively oriented in fact was Rawlley’s concept that he had prepared about 160 bridges for demolition as deep as the twin canal, involving the use of some 250 tons of explosive.

Rawlley evacuated Kassowala and other Indian enclaves north of the Ravi without a fight. But for the elimination of the Pakistani enclaves of Dera Baba Nanak he awaited a Pakistani invasion across the Ravi which never came. In the remainder of the sector between the Ravi and the Sutlej it was a question of first abandoning the BOPs and other defensive positions ahead of the ditch-cum-defence line and later making efforts to retake them, some successfully and others without success.

The loss of the Hussainiwala bridgehead, Rawlley argued later, was of no tactical significance or strategic importance. The loss should however be viewed in terms of the desecration of the Shahid Bhagat Singh memorial and the resultant humbling of Indian pride. It should also be measured in terms of the humiliation of 15 Punjab, the unit defending the enclave, with its proud history. This battalion, which took part in the Burma campaign as well as that against the Pakistani invasion of Jammu and Kashmir, lost the first battle in its history. This meant much to those who had helped to build up its traditions. The impact of the loss of the headworks was felt in the floods in 1972, when India had to approach Pakistan to open the sluice gates, then in its possession, to save Ferozepur town.

Besides, considerable sums of money had to be spent later on restoring the headworks after the return of the lost territory. The Bhagat Singh memorial had to be constructed afresh. In the Fazilka sector, apart from the suspension of agricultural activity and the refugee problem, the wanton destruction of about 23 bridges over the Sabuna distributary resulted in the disruption of traffic for normal activities in the agricultural belt across the distributary for many months even after the return of the territory on the implementation of the Simla Agreement.

In defensive operations, the earliest opportunity is sought to capture tactical ground which enhances the inherent defence potential and also to pre-empt enemy action to gain lodgment in our defences and develop further offensive thrusts deep in our territory. The timing of both these actions should be so synchronised as to nullify the adversary’s actions to gain a tactical advantage. Rawlley captured the Dera Baba Nanak enclave, but only after giving away the Kassowala enclave.

Again, he took Sehjra bulge after having lost the Hussainiwala bridgehead. And he captured the Mamdot bulge, but after having given away the advantage in the Fazilka sector. Thus, it would be seen that Rawlley’s offensive actions were disjointed, not coordinated with the overall pattern of the defensive battle. As a result, his gains did not nullify or seduce the magnitude of his losses.

From the interrogation of prisoners and through defections by East Bengal troops, it was later revealed that Pakistan intended to launch a major offensive somewhere in Ganganagar district with its 1 Armoured Division and one or two infantry division under Gen Tikka Khan. This offensive was originally scheduled for 7 December, but was later postponed to the 14th on further consideration, perhaps because 33 Infantry Division had to be moved to the Sind sector to forestall an Indian advance to Naya Chor and Rahim-Yar-Khan. The attack did not come off even on 14th December, ostensibly because of difficulty in concentrating the force across the Sutlej in time. The freeze Tikka order was finally given by Yahya Khan on acceptance of India’s ceasefire offer.

If Tikka Khan had chosen to strike, what was Rawlley’s reaction capability? On both 7 and 14 December, 14 Infantry Division less one brigade was employed on BOP operations between Ferozepur and Fazilka, far more dispersed on the 14th than on the 7th, and it would have taken a good 48 hours to get the formation together. The concentration area of 1 Armoured Division in and around Muktsar-Kotkapura enabled one armoured regiment to be effective in 24 hours and the remainder of the formation from 48 to 72 hours.

With the fortress defence concept of holding Ganganagar district, it would have been possible for Tikka Khan to advance up to the line of the Rajasthan twin canal without serious opposition, and beyond with some fight. As on or about 14 December there was no more than a squadron of armour between the infantry-oriented fortresses of Abohar and Ganganagar, they could be easily bypassed although made into well-fortified anti-tank localities, and routes of maintenance open beyond the intervention of these fortresses. The troops in the fortresses would have been helpless spectators of the armour manoeuvres outside their reach. Mercifully, Tikka Khan’s offensive did not come off.

As for command decision, it should be noted that Rawlley stayed away till the Hussainiwala bridgehead was lost. Although he did not approve withdrawal from the enclave, he did not countermand the order when Freemantle unfolded his withdrawal plan. Similarly, he let Ram Singh carry on with his succession of abortive attacks on the Pakistani lodgement in the Beriwala bridge area of Fazilka sector without any effort to influence the battle.

On the other hand, he was quick to visit and claim his share wherever there was a success, as at Dera Baba Nanak, the Sehjra bulge and the battle of BOPs between Ferozepur and Fazilka. He was ever ready to apportion the blame for failure and quick to grab the kudos for success, but in no way did he influence the battle. He was content to sit back and watch his formation commanders fight their little battles according to their own individual light.

But this has a background. When the Chinese invaded India in 1962, Rawlley commanded 11 Infantry Brigade in the Walong sector of the Northeast Frontier Agency. On contact with the enemy, he retreated hastily, blaming the ineptness of his unit commanders in battle. For this, he was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra. In the 1965 conflict, he commanded 11 Infantry Division in the Rajasthan sector, where he lost considerable territory to Hur and Razakar irregulars, and into the bargain he sacked two brigadiers for inefficiency in battle. For this, he was awarded the Param Vashisht Sewa Medal.

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In 1971, he commanded XI Corps (once again the same number) and he compounded the loss of Kassowala and other enclaves, the Hussainiwala bridgehead, the Fazilka cotton tract, and the wanton destruction of Hussainiwala bridge and part of the headworks and the bridges over the Sabuna distributary and the Chand Bhan drain. Although he was quick to blame others because of the Chief’s earlier enunciated policy nobody, including himself, got sacked. He was perhaps the only corps commanderin the west who was not decorated in this war.


1. Asian Recorder, Vol XVIII, No 1, “Pakistani Attack on 9 Airfields–National Emergency Proclaimed,” p. 10536.

2. lbid., p. 10542.

3. Asian Recorder, Vol XVIII, “The Fighting-Western Sector,” p. 10542.

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