This had the effect of presenting these important positions to the enemy on a platter. Troops were retained at much higher altitudes in other sectors.
The gallantry shown by Captain Dara Dinshaw Mistri during the artillery duel deserves special mention. He was the observation officer with the forwardmost picquet at Chhawa. On 15 December, the enemy shelled his post relentlessly, using howitzers and 4.2-inch mortars. Despite the murderous fire, this officer stuck to his post and it was due to his fearless conduct that enemy guns were pin-pointed in this sector. He reported the presence of tanks on his front, and remained at his post while they engaged his picquet for two hours. He did not listen to the entreaties of his platoon commander to seek safety, but continued to observe and pass back information to the guns till a 75-mm shell hit his position, killing him on the spot. His courage was a source of inspiration to the rest of the picquet, and the Government rewarded his dedication with a posthumous award of the MVC.
In December, while Indian troops were consolidating their gains in the Rajauri-Punch and other areas, a move in the Uri sector deprived India of much valuable territory. Pir Kanthi and Ledi Gali, which had been taken with great effort and at much cost in June, were evacuated on account of snow. This had the effect of presenting these important positions to the enemy on a platter. Troops were retained at much higher altitudes in other sectors. As soon as Indian troops moved out of Pir Kanthi and Ledi Gali, the Pakistanis moved in. They used this territory to great effect in 1965 to infiltrate guerrillas into the Srinagar Valley. Brigadier Brookes’ withdrawal was inexplicable considering that a cease-fire was about to take effect. His move resulted in the formation of Haji Pir Bulge (Bedori Bulge to the Pakistanis).An exchange of telegrams between the two Commanders-in-Chief, Bucher and Gracey, brought a cease-fire from midnight 31 December/1 January 1949. According to the terms of the agreement, a cease-fire line (CFL), which the troops of neither country would violate, was to be delineated. Thereafter, in the period of truce, normal conditions would be created in Jammu & Kashmir, i.e. Pakistan would withdraw all troops from the area under her occupation and also endeavour to secure the withdrawal of tribesmen and Pakistani nationals from the state. When this had been done, India was to withdraw the bulk of her forces. In the third stage the wishes of the people of Jammu & Kashmir as to the future status of the state were to be ascertained. During the interim period, military observers, appointed by the UNCIP, would supervise the observance of the cease-fire. A ten-day conference at Karachi in July 1949 delineated the 640-kilometre CFL, which ran from Manawar in the Punjab plains to Keran, North of Tithwal, whence it ran East to Chalunka.
The cost of the 14-month campaign to India was approximately 6,000 casualties: 1,500 killed, 3,500 wounded and 1,000 missing, most of them prisoners of war.46 Pakistan’s casualties were estimated at 20,000, including 6,000 killed. The terrain over which most of the fighting took place was among the most difficult regions in the world. During the two world wars, the Indian Army had campaigned in the extreme cold of European winters. But in Kashmir, for the first time in its history, it had fought at high altitudes, without any special clothing or equipment. Some of the troops scaled passes higher than the highest Alpine peak to reach their battleground. And tanks were used at a height never before heard of.
It must, however, be stated that the new spirit was not confined to what are called combat personnel, or men in uniform.
Right from the moment the first troops were airlifted to Srinagar, a new spirit had been in evidence amongst the officers and the men. They knew that the country was facing its first challenge and rose to the occasion. There were instances galore of men performing acts beyond the call of duty. The Engineers, the Signals and the services – AMC, ASC, Ordnance, EME – carried out herculean tasks. In this short narrative, it has not been possible to describe them all, or to relate the actions of individual units in detail. This is a task that will have to be undertaken under Government aegis, as much research and labour will have to go into it.
It must, however, be stated that the new spirit was not confined to what are called combat personnel, or men in uniform. We have mentioned how a sweeper on a beleaguered picquet at Naoshera fought the enemy. Then there was the Kashmiri villager who rescued the commanding officer of a battalion from certain death and then refused a monetary reward. Another non-combatant who showed exemplary gallantry was a civilian dhobi, Ram Chander by name.
Pakistans casualties were estimated at 20,000, including 6,000 killed. The terrain over which most of the fighting took place was among the most difficult regions in the world.
This man was travelling to Jammu on 18 December 1947 in an ASC convoy, as part of a detachment of 14 Field Company (Madras Sappers). The convoy was ambushed at Bharambla where the enemy had blocked the road by removing the decking on a bridge. Ram Chander helped in replacing the decking while the bridge was under fire. When the convoy commander, Lieutenant F.D.W. Fallon (ASC), was wounded by an enemy bullet, Ram Chander took over his rifle, and helped in holding the enemy by covering fire while the officer’s vehicle got over the bridge. When Fallon had to abandon the vehicle, he and Ram Chander found they were alone. The dhobi did not leave the officer, who was now in a state of near collapse. He escorted Fallon to the nearest Army post, which was 12 kilometres away. His courage and coolness under fire were unmatched by any of the combat personnel in the convoy. And he lived to enjoy the acclaim that goes with an award of the MVC.
Throughout the campaign, the Indian Air Force provided admirable support to the Army. Due to poor surface communications, many isolated localities and garrisons had to be maintained by air. The airmen flew supply missions across high mountain ranges in adverse conditions, often at great personal risk. Some of the most hazardous missions were flown by Air Commodore Mehar Singh himself. The people of Punch and Leh and the men who guarded these besieged towns are not likely to forget the help they received from the gallant airmen.
Except for the first ten weeks, the operational level of command, right up to the Army Commander level, had been in Indian hands. As the reader is aware, the senior officers, by and large, did not have previous experience of higher command. All they had to guide them was the urgency of the situation and their spirit. Mistakes were made but, as the operations progressed, the Indian commanders were able to outwit and dominate the enemy in every sector. Operations calling for multi-pronged moves, like the Punch link-up, require a good deal of skill on the part of commanders and staff. At the tactical level, this was shown again and again.
Throughout the campaign, the initial initiative gained by Pakistan was never surrendered by them. We invariably reacted to their moves. We were satisfied with tactical victories, but could neither understand nor appreciate the necessity to wrest the strategic initiative. There was an unreasoned apprehension in the minds of the political leadership with regard to taking on Pakistani regular troops. Many opponunities were missed because of inexplicable tying down of field commanders or denying adequate reinforcements which came only when the situation had gone beyond solution.