Military & Aerospace

Learning from Our Enemy: An Analysis of the Losses in the 1948 Indo-Pak Kashmir War
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Issue Vol. 33.4 Oct-Dec 2018 | Date : 18 Apr , 2019

There was another dominating feature Point 9444, 2,000 yards away which had good visibility over the Tithwal Camp. Due to oversight, and attention being given to the grim battles being fought by 1 SIKH, Harbaksh did not grasp the significance of Point 9444 for the security of the lodgement gained across the bridge over the Kishanganga River as well as that of the main Tithwal defences and he had not planned to capture this feature. This proved a costly mistake later on as 1 MADRAS got split with two Companies deployed on either sides of the Kishanganga River, with the Ground of Tactical Importance ‘Ring Contour’, not being provided depth. By the end of May, the enemy had deployed 2/8 PUNJAB (present 2 BALUCH) opposite this Indian lodgement and thereafter, started making determined efforts to capture it. 3 GARH RIF participated in an unsuccessful operation on June 13-14, to seize the Buni Ridge and Mussargutte feature across the Panjkot Nala ahead of the 1 SIKH defences at Pir Saheba, resulting in casualties of eight dead and 14 wounded.

Chowkibal was captured on May 20, and thereafter, 1 MADRAS chased the Pakistani forces and captured Nastachun Pass (10,264’) in a daring operation on May 21…

The Pakistanis successfully manhandled a 4.2” heavy mortar to Point 9444 location by June 23, and thereafter, rained accurate heavy mortar bombs onto the Tithwal defences. Their final attempt came on July 08, 1948, with 2/8 PUNJAB attacking Ring Contour while Point 7229 was threatened by two companies of 5/12 FF (now 2 FF) supported by heavy artillery bombardment, which yielded result as Ring Contour was overrun. There was delay in launching the Brigade counter-attack to retake this feature as 163 Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier Janak Katoch who resumed charge from Harbaksh on June 23, was out to attend a conference at the Divisional Hq at Srinagar. Loss of the vital Ring Contour feature made logistics for the other localities across the Kishanganga including the mountain troop of artillery deployed at Jarara unfeasible.

The Brigade Commander reluctantly ordered the withdrawal of 1 MADRAS and artillery elements to the East of Kishanganga River during the night of July 08. Simultaneously, the enemy assaulted the 1 SIKH positions at Point 7802, Pir Saheba and Mir Kalsi also in strength, and these localities were also ordered to be evacuated. The Pakistani 10 Infantry Brigade commanded by Brigadier Atta Mohamed was able to lift the sagging morale of their nation by these commendable tactical successes. All three of his Units were experienced Battalions with WW II Battle Honours. Strangely, the Indian 163 Infantry Brigade reserve of 3 GARH RIF less two companies remained uncommitted throughout these raging battles! 1 MADRAS suffered 13 fatalities with 38 seriously wounded, as well as unwarranted blame. Thereafter, an attempt was made using 6 RAJ RIF which was inducted into Tithwal sector from Uri on July 10, 1948, to capture the Chamkot – Raniwala Dana ridge ahead of the 1 SIKH deployment, starting from July 11. This operation had to be called off by July 18 due to heavy enemy resistance. This Battalion suffered casualties of 22 lives and 58 seriously wounded.

The Loss of Pandu Feature to the Pakistanis

The event that most raised the morale of the Pakistani forces in J&K in 1948 after the series of setbacks they had suffered, was the recapture of the Pandu massif in Uri Sector which was dominating their line of communications up to Chinari by artillery fire. Pakistani 101 Infantry Brigade/ 7 Infantry Division, commanded by Brigadier Akbar Khan had moved from Kohat to the Uri Sector by May 21, 1948. As viewed from the Pakistani side, the Pandu feature consisted of two features – Point 6873 on the West overlooking the Jhelum River and Pandu Peak on the East. Thereafter, the ridgeline goes East to meet the Chota Kazinag and Chinal Dori Heights.

The event that most raised the morale of the Pakistani forces in J&K in 1948 after the series of setbacks they had suffered, was the recapture of the Pandu massif in Uri Sector…

The Pakistanis carried out intense probing actions from early July 1948 onwards. Brigadier Henderson Brooks had taken over command of 161 Infantry Brigade on June 02, 1948, as Brigadier LP Sen had become long-term medically indisposed and been transferred to the hospital at Delhi. General Thimayya, the Sri Div GOC had suggested to him to relieve 4 KUMAON from the Pandu defences with the newly inducted 2 BIHAR on July 05-06, 1948, for employment in a more active role in 163 Infantry Brigade Sector at Tithwal. Earlier, Brigadier Sen had turned down this same proposal as he had appreciated the gravity of the enemy threat correctly and wanted an experienced Battalion to hold the Front in the critical Pandu Defended Area, but the new Brigade Commander did not want to displease Thimayya and readily agreed!

The Indian dispositions were as follows:–

•  2 BIHAR less Two Companies at Pandu Complex including Safaida (Point 9178). A Mountain Battery of Artillery was also located nearby in a defiladed position.

•  Two Companies of 2 BIHAR were located at Point 6873 Complex.

•  2 DOGRA was located at Chinal Dori feature with Companies at Nandi, Khathir Nar, Point 10490 and Khandar Kuzi Forest.

•  Two Companies of 7 SIKH at Area Sing including Chota Kazinag (Point 10657) and Chitrian.

•  Field Artillery Battery and Medium Artillery Battery in support from Uri.

Pak 101 Infantry Brigade Operational Plan for the Capture of Pandu

Lt Col Harvey Kelly, CO 4/10 BALUCH (present 11 BALUCH) who was tasked for this attack operation made a brilliant ‘Simultaneous Attacks by Infiltration’ plan based on detailed reconnaissance of the gaps between the Indian Defended Localities. Just before the Attack was to be launched, all British officers were ordered out of J&K by the British Government. Colonel Kelly handed over command to Lt. Col. Sher Bahadur Malik (ex RAJ RIF) on July 17, 1948, and wished him luck. The new CO assured Colonel Kelly that the Unit would make him proud! The Forces allotted for this operation were:-

•  4/ 10 BALUCH

•  ‘C’ Company of 17/ 10 BALUCH (now 1 SSG)

•  Company (-) of Khyber Rifles

•  Machine Gun Platoon of 1/ 15 PUNJAB (present 9 PUNJAB)

•  2 AK Battalion less Two Companies

•  Engineers Platoon

•  3 Peshawar Mountain Battery Artillery

•  Troop ex 6 Field Battery Artillery (4 Guns)

•  Troop ex 6 Field Battery Artillery (4 Guns)

•  Troop ex 22 Field Battery Artillery (4 Guns)

•  Troop ex 8 Medium Regiment Artillery (2 Guns)

•  Two Rifle Companies ex 2/ 12 FF (now 4 FF)

•  One Lashkar (200 strong) Mahsuds

•  One Lashkar (200 strong) Mohmands

•  One Lashkar (200 strong) Kamberkhel Afridis

Strangely, the Indian 163 Infantry Brigade reserve of 3 GARH RIF less two companies remained uncommitted throughout these raging battles!

Conduct of Battle

The movement to Forward Assembly Areas was completed during the nights of July 19 – 21 and the troops rested in the thick jungles below the Indian posts. The attacks commenced at 2000 hours on July 20, 1948, preceded by a heavy artillery barrage.

•  A Rifle Company of 2 AK Battalion along with the Mohmands Lashkar had infiltrated up through the Kathai Nala on the night of July 20-21 and secured the area short of Chham (Chakhama). At first light, they became active and blocked all the tracks between Sing and Chinal Dori in Chitrian Forest area, thus isolating Pandu and Chinal Dori features from the likely immediate reinforcements.

•  On the night of July 20-21, the second Company of 2 AK Battalion along with the Company of Khyber Rifles moved into the Kandar Forest area. This grouping then attacked and captured the Khatir Nar locality of 2 DOGRA.

•  On the same night, a Rifle Company ex 4/10 BALUCH along with the Mahsuds and Kambekhel Afridi Lashkars advanced along the Kathai Ridge and attacked Point 6873 feature. By the evening of July 22, they successfully evicted ‘C’ & ‘D’ Companies of 2 BIHAR.

•  The Main Attack Force of 4/10 BALUCH & ‘C’ Company of 17/10 BALUCH had concentrated at Kutla Rajwah on the night of July 19 to 20. A column from this Grouping consisting of ‘D’ Company of 4/10 BALUCH & ‘C’ Company of 17/10 BALUCH moved up the following night and reached the foot of Safaida Height (Point 9178) before first light of July 21. This feature was then attacked and the ‘B’ Company position of 2 BIHAR was captured by July 21 (AN). This breakthrough was exploited by Commander Pak 101 Infantry Brigade who arranged to push up the Brigade Reserves of Two Rifle Companies of 2/12 FF on the night of 21- 22 July itself. The main attacking Force of 4/10 BALUCH had climbed up to Boma Height on the night of July 20 – 21. As they neared Pandu village, they were met with stiff resistance. Their attack was repulsed with heavy casualties.

•  On the night of July 22 – 23, the attack on Pandu village was renewed from the opposite Safaida Height (Point 9178) side, using the Reinforcing Companies of 2/12 FF. This last effort succeeded after bitter fighting, by 2030 hours of July 23.

The vigilant Pakistanis had not vacated their posts on the Pir Panjal Heights in the Neja Galli area and 3 AK Battalion redeemed their honour by immediately reoccupying on December 30, 1948, these foolishly vacated hard-won Indian localities…

2 BIHAR suffered casualties of 35 fatalities and 32 seriously wounded. The Pakistanis captured from them 4×3” Mortars, 5xMedium Machine Guns, 7xLight Machine Guns, 4xType 19 Wireless Sets and numerous personal weapons. The remaining dump of artillery ammunition of the Mountain Battery also got captured. The Pakistanis now had Uri town as well as the road up to MS 68 and the vital bridge over the Jhelum there which was on the main route of logistics for the Chota Kazinag deployment under observation. They could bring down accurate and heavy artillery fire onto these places. The Battle of Pandu was lost because no reinforcements in sufficient strength from 161 Infantry Brigade were sent/could reach there to bolster 2 BIHAR, for a full 72 hours after the fight began. With the fall of Pandu, the 2 DOGRAs held neighbouring Two Companies Defended Locality of Point 10490 further North withdrew to Chinal Dori and their Company at Nandi feature withdrew all the way to Mahura.

To compound this great loss in Uri Sector, due to heavy snowfall after December 24, 1948, Brigadier Henderson Brooks after consulting General Thimayya, on December 28, decided to pull back the Indian Army deployments from Pir Kanthi and Ledi Galli areas! The vigilant Pakistanis had not vacated their posts on the Pir Panjal Heights in the Neja Galli area and 3 AK Battalion redeemed their honour by immediately reoccupying on December 30, 1948, these foolishly vacated hard-won Indian localities. The Kashmir War Ceasefire came into effect on the midnight of December 31, 1948 and January 01, 1949! The Indian troops who were scrambled back to reoccupy these posts by January 01 last light, met with heavy volume of automatic fire and reported seeing the Pakistani Flag proudly flying there. These features have permanently remained with Pakistan, and they give a good view of the Uri Valley from the South side of Jhelum.


The ceasefire line in J&K as it exists today is the natural boundary of the interests of India and Pakistan, as well as the limit of the military balance between these two countries. Therefore, it is logical, mutually beneficial and deserves to be strengthened in order to maintain peace and tranquillity between both these antagonistic neighbours. The sentiments of the Muslims in the Poonch region were towards Pakistan at the time of Partition and they actively aided and abetted the Pakistan leadership to seize this territory, by raising four Azad Kashmir Brigades in the short period of five months between May – October 1947.

The ceasefire line in J&K as it exists today is the natural boundary of the interests of India and Pakistan, as well as the limit of the military balance between these two countries…

The ethnic cleansing of the nearly 18 per cent Hindu population in this region was accomplished with thoroughness and their lands and properties seized by those who rebelled. These are now settled facts of history and one cannot go back in time. India can trust the Pakistan Army only at its own peril and we must never ever let our guard down. We must at all times, maintain sufficient ‘forces disparity advantage’ to clobber them in the short windows of opportunity that they unhesitatingly offer us from time to time, due to their mistaken feelings of superiority.

The propensity of the Indian military leadership to sacrifice the advantages gained by brave fighting Units achieved with great numbers of loss of lives and grievously wounded personnel, needs to be corrected. Similarly, the tendency to exploit tactical advantages quickly within the first 24 hours should be honed and taken as the acid test of a Field commander’s competence in War. In the May 1948 counter-offensive in Tithwal Sector, the Two Companies bridgehead across the Kishanganga secured by 3 GARHWAL on May 26, ought to have been expanded by May 28, by pushing across the complete 1 MADRAS Unit which was readily available. Thereafter, the advantage shifted to Pakistan as the hurriedly sent regular elements and Units of Pakistani 10 Infantry Brigade started getting deployed in deliberate defence positions and posing considerable threat as the days went by, to the Two Company strong enclave.

Similarly, the advantages gained by the brave 1 SIKH on the Pir Saheba-Mir Kalsi Ridge should have been reinforced with two Companies of 3 GARHWAL on June 01, 1948 itself, after they had been relieved by 1 MADRAS on May 30. This way, the Indian Army would have had two strong launch pads for offensive operations towards Muzaffarabad on both sides of the Kishanganga, whenever additional forces became available. Similarly, in the Uri Sector, both 2 DOGRA and 2 BIHAR were untested Units in 1948 with no worthwhile WW II experience and should have been given tasks by General Thimayya appropriate to their capabilities, till they gained confidence and professional excellence. The simultaneity of Pakistani assaults on both these Unit localities prevented any readjustments.

The propensity of the Indian military leadership for trusting the Pakistani War Machine and leaving vital localities such as Ledi Galli and Pir Kanthi abandoned during heavy snowfall months fearing inclement weather casualties, is unpardonable. The same weather and logistical difficulties exist on both sides and the initiative shown by our opponent to immediately seize tactical advantage of our follies, is commendable. We must learn to respect the ‘killer’ instincts of our enemies and not forget our past mistakes!

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Brigadier Sen was the unsung hero of the 1947-1948 Kashmir War, due to whose tactical brilliance the Kashmir Valley has become part of India. Similarly, another unsung hero was Brigadier Pritam Singh who fought a ‘Stalingrad’ type operation for 12 months, until the Seige of Poonch got lifted on November 25, 1948.


  1. SN Prasad and Dharam Pal, History of Operations in Jammu & Kashmir (1947-48), Natraj Publishers, Dehra Dun 2005.
  2. Lt Gen LP Sen, Slender was the Thread, Orient Longmans, New Delhi 1969.
  3. Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, In the Line of Duty – A Soldier Remembers, Lancer Publishers, New Delhi, 2000.
  4. Major K Brahma Singh, History of Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (1820–1956), Lancer Publishers, New Delhi, 1990.
  5. Lt Gen SK Sinha, Operation Rescue: Military Operations in Jammu & Kashmir 1947-49, Vision Books, New Delhi, 1977.
  6. Mani Shankar Aiyar, Pakistan Papers, UBS Publishers, New Delhi, 1994.
  7. MJ Akbar, Kashmir: Behind the Vale, Roli Books, New Delhi, 2002.
  8. Maj Agha Humayun Amin (Pak Army), The 1947-48 Kashmir War: The War of Lost Opportunities, Pakistan Defence Journal, Karachi website, March 1999.
  9. Peter Almos Kiss, The First Indo-Pakistani War, 1947-48, US Marine Corps Academy web portal.
  10. Various Pak web portals giving personal reflections of participation in the 1947-48 J&K Ops.
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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Col JK Achuthan (Retd.)

8 GR was commissioned in June 1980. 

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6 thoughts on “Learning from Our Enemy: An Analysis of the Losses in the 1948 Indo-Pak Kashmir War

  1. the authors assertion that a 4.2 inch mortar was taken across the river is totally incorrect . a 3.7 inch howitzer was taken across the river dismantled in parts by a British officer Major Sloan and reassembled. This guns legs were hung upwards and tied to a very large tree which stood the recoil . This gun was used in direct role to blast the bunkers of 1 Madras. Major Sloan accompanied 4/16 Punjab in assault and was killed by an Indian mine cum trip wire booby trap. He is buried in the cemetery in Abbottabad.

  2. the statement that Captain Sarwar was awarded Nishan I Haidar for defence of Pir Kanthi is totally incorrect. As per pakistani official history Kashmir Campaign published in December 1970 , Captain Sarwar was awarded this medal in 1952 , four years after the action for attacking a small feature near point 9108-Refers-Page 211- THE KASHMIR CAMPAIGN-GHQ-1970

  3. I am surprised that Colonel Achutan missed the fact that was noted by Indian official history that two companies of Garhwal Rifles were sent to Kupwara when they were most needed at Tithwal as a reaction to a Pakistani platoon sized raid which was not meant to be deception.So called eminent pakistani military historians also failed to note this classic raid .Please see map below:–

  4. according to pakistani official history 4 companies of 4/16 Punjab were used to attack 1 Madras holding southern part of Chunj Ridge. 5/12 FF Regiment (Guides) had nothing to do with this attack , so Col Achutan’s assertion is not correct. 5/12 FFR had already been shifted south and it was 4/16 Punjab assisted by an Azad Platoon which carried out the attack. These facts are clearly stated in the 1970 official history of Kashmir War.

  5. British officers regarded Jhelum Valley as most crucial. So Brig Haji Iftikhar regarded as relatively weak was sent with his whole brigade to Tithwal while Brig Akbar Khan DSO was brought with his brigade to Jhelum Valley. 4/10 Baluch was specially taken from Haji Iftikhars brigade and placed under command Akbar Khan as regarded as one of the best battalions.



  6. 2/8 Punjab now 2 Baluch was never employed in Kashmir .a serious factual.mistake ,5/12 Guides attack failed against chunj which was captured by now 17 Punjab . Atta was a very junior Mickey mouse officer in 1948 and the brigade commander in tithwal was haji iftikhar Ahmad and later per Pakistani official history the main reason for 2 Bihar failure at pandu was seeing lighting of fires around pandu by Pakistani regular and irregular troops against orders as they were freezing to death . There was little fighting and 4/10 Baluch lost 27 men in entire 8 months of war whereas my regiment 11 cavalry lost 19 men in two hours in operation grand slam because of stupid Pakistani attack plan -as per Pakistani official history greatest failure was harbaksh Singh who ordered two days halt at tithwal when only one Pakistani company was defending tithwal
    Some things that were most crucial .pandu plan was entirely made by british CO 4/10 Baluch (2) most important reason for Pakistani success wasbrig Akbar Khan DSO Pareech khel .Pakistani politicall leadership was most cowardly and no cabinet minister visited Kashmir in entire Kashmir war

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