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Was it possible to capture Pak Occupied Kashmir in 1949
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Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal, PhD
served in the Regiment of Artillery and was awarded a Doctorate for his research & thesis on "Sino-Indian Relations".

Volunteers fighting the Pakistani intruders (Kabailis), 1947

It is often argued that India should not have accepted the UN sponsored ceasefire on 09th January 1949 since it was only a matter of few months before Indian forces captured Pak occupied Kashmir including Northern Areas and Kashmir would not have become a running sore.  Undoubtedly there was a marked improvement in the military situation in India’s favour.  Lifting of seize of Poonch in Nov. 49 was a great Setback for Pakistan.  Much heavier loss to Pakistan was loss of Zoji La and link up with Leh in Nov. 1949.  The successful action against Razakars in Hyderabad in Sept. 1948 had released sizeable Indian forces for redeployment in J&K.  Death of Jinnah in Sept 1948  also introduced an element of political uncertainty in Pakistan.  Also Pakistan’s limited financial resources could not have coped with a protracted was.

For decisive victory, it was necessary to bring Pakistan to battle across the international border as was done in 1965.

It has also been stated that ceasefire orders came as a big surprise to the senior military commanders conducting operations in J&K.  a longer period of warning would have enable the troops to capture important tactical features and improved their defensive position before ceasefire took effect.  But because Pakistan agreed to ceasefire only at the last minute, it was not possible for Govt. of India to give more warning time to her commanders.

The Indian army supported by the Indian Air Force had won several major victories in the last few months of operations before ceasefire.  The long seize of Poonch had been broken, Zoji La was broken through and vital Srinagar – Leh route restored.  These actions however did not break the back of enemy resistance.  The Indian forces had spent their initial momentum, extended their supply lines and used up their stocks of ammunition and supplies.  To launch further attacks, more  troops needed to be brought from rest of India.  Maintenance of additional troops in Kashmir in winters would have been a logistic nightmare.

Force levels in J&K in Dec. 1948

Force                                                   India                                                    Pakistan

Div HQ                                               Two                                                     Three

Infantry Bde.                                      Twelve                                                 Fourteen

Infantry Battalion                               Fifty                                                      Sixty three

Battalion of Irregulars                        Fourteen                                             Twenty four

Indian forces therefore had to operate in J&K under serious handicaps.  The enemy could not be beaten by decisively by local actions.

Indian forces therefore had to operate in J&K under serious handicaps.  The enemy could not be beaten by decisively by local actions.  For decisive victory, it was necessary to bring Pakistan to battle across the international border as was done in 1965.  So if the whole of J&K was to be liberated, a general war against Pak was necessary which India’s superior combat edge would have given them a decisive edge and would have made Pakistan to recoil her forces from J&K.  There is no doubt that Pakistan would have been decisively defeated in a general war.

But that was a much wider question and wrongly or rightly the govt. decided not to have a general war against Pakistan.  This decision was undoubtedly influenced by the British who, having created Pakistan, did not wish to see it dismantled.  Nehru, the apostle of peace, must have hoped that Pakistan’s aggression in J&K would be a temporary aberration, that all enemy forces would be peacefully withdrawn from the state under the impartial advice of the UN and that thereafter India and Pakistan would have lived as friendly neighbours.  It proved to be a case of colossal mis-judgment, consequences of which are being felt sixty five years down the line.

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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.

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28 thoughts on “Was it possible to capture Pak Occupied Kashmir in 1949

  1. Neither artillery nor air power was available to Pakistan army during Kashimar war. Even infantry was not fully available. Inspire of this fact when artillery was provided at the end of war their guns destroyed indian supplies,weapons,petrol depot the two miles area of Barry pattan. Indians were flabbergasted. They appealed U.N. for ceasefire which pak had to accept pak.P.M. rightly realized that India would send it’s forces to pak.via it’s international border which pak.was not able to face as it got independence 1 and half year ago.

  2. Had India not crossed the international boader on 6th of september 1965 Akhnor would have been occupied within next 48 hours keeping in view the victoties in Chamb Jorian.Jummu was just six away! It was the war which saved IOK from the advancing pak.troops. General sahib is so innocent!.

  3. If you were in the chaotic position of transition with British in partial command of army, UN interference and moving the ground army in NOV 1949. It was a matter of expediency . Wise or unwise can not be judged after 70 years. USSR having captured Berlin receded a bit to give place to ally. Was a right decision or not? USA took a decision of withdrawing its army from Vietnam after burning it with Napalm Bomb _was it a wise decision? Hundred wise or unwise question will always remain unanswered from -Alexander not capturing the lands upto the end of the world- Bay of Bangal. 70 years after wise question will come what Modi did at Ladakh . Waste no time writing of the past and passing judgement on dead part of history.

  4. After 70 years, Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal is the first person in Indian Armed Forces to realize that UN sponsored ceasefire occurred on 09th January 1949 and not December 1947. He is also the first to realize that action against Razakars in Hyderabad had something to do with Kashmir War. Congratulations, sir!

  5. If Nehru was “the apostle of peace”, what is stopping Modiji? Let Modiji launch full scale war across international border right now, like the one in 1965! After all, Modi has 56 inch chest Nehru could never have. Why cry over 1949 when you have your Chote Sardar, the reincarnation of machoman Sardar Patel!!!

  6. Water under the bridge!

    A few months before the war, it was one army (Indian Army ) and not Indian army and Pakistani army.

    It was like this,’You keep that I will keep this.’ Thats called gentlemen agreement. That was fighting in J&K.
    No hard fighting.

    Having said that, I was Katrah (J&K). I could hear explosions every second, coming from Reasi area. It could be India shelling Pakistan or vice versa. Then I witnessed Patiala Army parade through Jammu city on its way to Poonch. Sardar Patel was also riding in a jeep with the troops from Patiala. Those were 100% Sikhs.

    What surprises me most was that Pakistanis had cut off Jammu’s link with rest of India and Pakistan’s did not consolidate it. That was less than 10 miles where I was located at that time. There was no army between Jammu and India to defend J&K.

    Pakistani generals are inept, incompetent and stupid as ever. They failed to take advantage. Thank God!

  7. Sheru Sir. In my humble opinion, beyond military reasons, the real real argument against this hypothesis were the political accommodation and compulsions, which were in no way aligned to national interests. I admit that given the civil war raging since 1931 in what became POK, initial success was natural for Pak. However, the bloodless coup in Gilgit and Indian reaction or rather the lack of them is what gives the game away. India never showed the intent to recover this strategic prize and therefore the question of recovery never arose. I totally agree with Mr Das. Analysis based on facts are more objective and avoid the pitfalls of opinions, perceptions and view. As you are aware, I have dilated on these issues in my book.

  8. At best it is a matter of dicussionto which there is no definite answer.One thing the the author has very rightly brought out that India could not have evicter Pakistan troops by restricting battle zone only to J &K.Indian Generals were raw and had no stratecig foresight or plans.Political leadership under Nehru was no better in matters related to military.Has the situation changed for the better now? The answer is No,India continues to react to threats posed by Pakistan or China.

  9. The article lacks punch sir, From a General of Indian Army we expect in depth an unquestionable write up. Mr Das’s comment on this article is a pointer ;
    At that time Army was in loop
    J&K Forces in Gilgit defected to Pak
    War continued for 14 months
    J&K Forces in Valley were drawing ration but not fighting
    Only one Brigade (161) could be mobilised in 1947 beond Pir Panjal because all the good roads to to Valley were via Pak.
    Nehru and his team had big task of uniting splinter states and they performed admirably.
    Raja Hari Singh took his sweet time(too long) before signing the letter.

    Jai Hind Sir

    • Dear Sir, Raja sahib was ready long back but was fooled by his advisory -who were of the opinion that we will be allowed a buffer state. Further Pt Nehru not being a far sighted man and having personal hatred for Maharaja and friendship with Sheikh returned the accession which was signed by Maharaja and carrier of the paper was Field Marshal Manik Shaw who was then a captain. Nehru insisted and wasted 2 Days to have the accession the co signatory as Sheikh Abdullah. This drama of Pandit Jee not only messed the whole things untill date but even gave Mr. Lamb an opportunity to write a book where he says accession was signed much later before Indian Army landed and Pakistan rejoices for same.
      It is also evident by a few lines of letters between them that considerable amount of pressure was applied through Pandit jee that -Across Neelam River popularity of Sheikh Abudullah is nil -thus let it go. Pandit Jee obliged.

  10. There is too much ignorance about the facts of the Kashmir problem as it existed in 1947-48 because no one reads history but frames opinions out of prejudice coupled with ignorance. The UN resolution asking for cease fire was passed in Jun 1948 but enforced on 31 Dec 48.Nehru wanted to capture more occupied territory but the Army said that unless Pak troops were kept tied up on the Punjab border by posing a threat there it will not be possible to proceed further. That was politically not possible as it could lead to an all out war and defeating Pakistan and undoing the partition. Besides Abdullah was not interested in the areas unliberated as those were inhabited by Punjabi Muslims owing allegiance to Pakistan unlike the Muslims of the Valley.The Army was fully in the loop when the decision to accept ceasefire was taken. Please read a well researched book “War and diplomacy in Kashmir” by Das Gupta.Also books by MJ Akbar on Nehru and Kashmir.

  11. This is only my opinion which may or may not have been possible in 1947-48.

    After taking Ladakh, we should have taken control of Gilgit-Baltistan, thus denying Pakistan a link with China which would have been a strategic and decisive win for India. Apart from denying direct linkup of Pak & China, we could have touched the Wakhan pan handle and thus got a direct access to Central Asia.


  13. At hindsight its easy to do all the analysis but we can not get into those situations. Need to give benefit of doubt to those who decided on that day.
    I think pushing more resources into kashmir war would have disgruntled people from other parts of country and small groups who were making all types of noises would have prevailed and who knows resulted in fractured INDIA.

  14. how can we recapture POK,it is an integral part of India.its a shame that after so many years of independence a large part of kashmir is still under the control of paki bastards.we should regain the territory by hook or by crook.its disgusting to see the whole of kashmir being shown as part of india in the maps but in reality it isnt so.dont we have the balls to regain POK,what impression will our future generations have about us when they come to know about POK.

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