About India and Pakistan Page 3
|February 20th, 2005||#21|
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First we should acknowledge that both Indian and Pakistani sides counter-claim each other and tell there exaggerated side of the coin about the wars to there masses. And not to forget that Indian media had been stronger, so its level of influence was felt greater around the world.
As we can understand the notion of propaganda by both the countries, but I will give you a broader picture of the conflicts:
War for Kashmir 1947 (Result: Stalemate)
Indo-Pak War 1965 (Result: Partial Victory for Pakistan)
Bangladesh War 1971 (Result: Complete victory for India)
Kargil Dispute 1999 (Result: Pak withdrawal due to US pressure)
War for Kashmir (October 1947 - December 1948):
British policy held that the various princely states would have to accede to either Pakistan or India based on geographic location and on demographics. While the final status of many of the states was easily concluded, Kashmir and two other states presented special problems.
Kashmir was strategically located between India and Pakistan and though it was led by a Hindu Maharaja, Muslims made up the majority of the population. Sikhs and Hindus were minorities. Though required to choose between the India and Pakistan the Maharaja was unable to decide which state to join.
Both states applied a significant degree of pressure to sway Kashmir's government. Tensions betweem Pakistan and the government of Kashmir grew as the Maharaja's indecision frustrated Pakistan and pro-Pakistani factions within Kashmir. Hostilities began in early October 1947 when a tribal rebellion broke out in Poonch in southwest Kashmir.
Thus Pakistani Milita forces entered Kashmir and overran 80% of the territory quickly. The Maharaja, facing overwhelming odds and near certain defeat, asked India for military support. India agreed to help provided that Kashmir acceded to India and that the Prime Minister of Kashmir agreed to the accession.
India then retaliated by sending 161st brigade using armoured cars. These men fought bravely and re-captured Srinigar, Baramula and Uri districts. Despite early successes, the Indian side felt the burden of logistics support and lack of satisfactory experiences of Indian soldiers in mountain warfare added to there difficulties. Though further advances were also made successfully and Indian troops crossed the regions of current LOC.
But these setbacks were significant as the Pakistani-backed forces were able to capitalize on these problems and re-pushed Indian forces back by re-capturing various regions to the current LOC region.
In the spring of 1948, the Indian side mounted another offensive to retake some of the ground that it had lost. This time Pakistani regulars were introduced into the conflict to counter Indian offensive and they proved to be succesful in holding LOC region. Thus a stalemate situation was achieved and LOC declared as temporary border after UN intervention.
Indo-Pak War 1965:
This war began in August 5, 1965 and was ended Sept 22, 1965. It was fought in four phases;
Phase I: Operation Gibraltar was conducted in August 5 by sending Pakistani agents in to Indian controlled zone with the wrong thinking that Kashmiris were favouring Pakistan. Some locals tipped-off Indian army and it began massive military build-up. There were exchanges of heavy fire from both sides on LOC and both claimed gains but Pak victory at Ackhnur district escalated the war and India decided to attack regions in Punjab province with full military might.
Phase II: Pakistani side felting heavy pressure of Indian army on LOC and military build-up in Punjab areas, attacked the Rann-of-Kutch district of Indian Punjab on September 1. This was a brilliant move by General Ayub, where Indian forces were caught unprepared and suffered heavy losses. The sheer strength of the Pakistani thrust, which was spearheaded by seventy tanks and two infantry brigades, led Indian commanders to call in air support. PAF also retaliated by attacking Indian positions in LOC and Punjab. Thus almost 300 sq kms of region was captured by Pakistani forces.
Phase III: After successful Pak army intrusion in Rann-of-kutch, Indian army attacked two sectors on Pakistani side (Lahore city and Sailkot district). The Indian generals predicted that both these districts would fall easily to there forces but there counter-attack was about to be turned in to nightmare. Pakistan Army over-stretched (far less in number and equipment) faced an Indian army of 80,000 soldiers with 600+ tanks.
The key to Indian loss was due to crippled IAF conditions and flaws in Intelligence. The first Indian thrust was deep in to Punjab sector (about 600 sq km of territory lost) near Lahore in night but was replused near BRB canal within 6 days.
The biggest clash took place in Saikot district where almost 700 tanks from both sides were involved. Pak Army fought with utter bravery but lost 200 tanks (out of total 350 commited). India lost 250 tanks (out of total 400 commited). Thus the battle ended in stalemate situation here.
Phase IV: This was the Naval version of the battle termed as "Operation Dewarka". The display of cowardise here by India is shocking. Pak Naval squadran of 2 destroyers and 3 frigates went for Dewarka District (in India) un-challenged and successfully destroyed the target.
Thus a UN-brokered cease-fire was accepted by both sides on 23rd September and the captured territories were returned.
Indo-Pak War 1971 (Bangladesh Independence):
Yes this is the war which proved to be decisive victory for India. I will highlight only certain points here though!
After the elections held in 1970, the Bangladeshi Awami party leader Sheikh Mujib won the elections but was rejected by Islamabad and Mr. Zulfiqar Ali was chosen as PM. The East Pakistanis felt neglected and this gave rise to rebellion, thus General Yahya sent Nazi to East Pakistan to control the situation.
The military presence of Pakistan Army in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) was significantly weak as compared to the western side. In total 90,000 troops were commanded by Nazi among which 45,000 were regulars and other 45,000 militias. These were used to suppress who took part in the rebellion. Many civilians were unfortunately slaughtered and almost 10 million fled to India as refugees, which caused a major upset there.
The India first assisted the Bangladeshi Independence Movement (Mukti Banni) and later on decided to use military means. An army comprising of 9 Infantry Divisions and 3 Mechanized Divisions was prepared for lightening offensive on East Pakistan.
Pakistan ordered PAF to launch air attacks on western airfields of India but India retaliated and within 24 hours, achieved air-superiority. But surprisingly very few planes were lost on both sides.
On the other hand, Indian Navy played a decisive role in this battle. It put an effective blockade on various points in Arabian Sea in order to prevent Pak Navy to provide supplies to the ground forces in East Pakistan. The famous Ghazi submarine was also lost in some naval battles that took place between the two enemies. Also the huge geography of Indian Territory played an important deterrent for safe naval supply route.
Thus the Indian offensive was launched on eastern side, which is considered as an un-balanced match between two sides (as compared with respect to committed military strength), so within 2 weeks, Dhaka fell and Nazi surrendered to the over-whelming odds.
Kargil dispute 1999:
Many might consider this battle as victory for India but in reality Pak army was forced to withdraw during Intense combat and US pressure on PM Nawaz Sharif due to fear of Nuclear Escalation.
The dispute began when Pak army sent 600 battle-hardened Mujahedeen to occupy Indian posts in Dras sector when they were emptied during winter season by Indian BSF before May (which is a routine practice). The Indian RAW agency soon learnt about it and sent a dozen soldiers to check the situation, but they were wiped out. Reinforcements were sent to evict them but to no avail.
Yet the seriousness of the situation was observed and Indian government led by PM Vajpayee warned Pakistani government to withdraw or face massive retaliation. But the call was not answered and Indian forces started major troop deployments around the Kargil Hills and counter-offensive campaigns were planned.
First it is important to learn about the conditions in Dras region; here craggy peaks rise between 13000 to 18000 feet above sea level and a road curves through them, which serves as the Main Supply Route to Indian forces in Saichen sector. A cantonment for Indian army is located near-by in lower valley spanning between 5000-to-6000 meters.
The political aim of this battle was that it would provide a fillip to the Kashmiri Freedom Movement. And was expected to be of small scale but later on escalated to big tussle.
Thus Pak army led by General Pervaiz Musharraf extended the military presence there by sending 1000 troops of NLI (Northern Light Infantry) and 4000 logistics support troops (But the Indian side assessed it as 5000 combat troops), which ended up occupying about 132 Indian military posts of various sizes that spanned in area of 130 sq km with 100 km front (comprising of 8 peaks in total) and overlooking the valley below. This movement was made in response to growing attempts of re-capturing the lost territories by Indian Army Para-military troops.
More then three weeks had passed and no sign of any Indian military achievement took place (probably harsh terrain was among the factors). Thus Indian military sort help from air and IAF was called to assist. During initial air-strikes launched by IAF, two of its MIG Jets and additional two army Helicopters were lost to stinger type missiles fired by Pakistani regular troops from LOC. And on the ground about 172 Bofors guns were deployed in early June to assist the Indian forces, increasing there firepower feasibility (that would be used in a professional manner to achieve the in-evitable).
On June 12, a peak close to Dras was captured with the help of 40 Bofors Guns by Indian troops. Another post nearby fell on June 13 and on June 20 Tiger Hills also fell to the Indian army. Thus in over-all 3 peaks fell to Indian army in actual fighting but on the remaining 5 points, no military achievement took place due to very tough resistance. But tensions mounted in Pakistani leadership and plan for withdrawal was made after US President warned the Pakistani delegation in Washington DC about the growing de-stabilization in South-Asian region and demanded immediate surrender of Pakistani troops from Kargil sector.
The withdrawal began without taking Indian side in to consideration and the Indian troops on seeing the fledging Pakistani forces, declared victory (as Clinton himself stated that “the Indian army is trying to convert a withdrawal in to victory”). In over-all battle, estimation of about 1000 soldiers left dead on both sides (350 Pak and 650 Indian) was made.
|February 21st, 2005||#22|
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After being nearly on the outskirts of Srinagar on the 26th Oct 1947, all Razakars and Pakistani led and backed forces were pushed out of the Kashmir valley.
The Indian army pushed out all resistance from the Rajauri/Poonch area after proper pitched battles. If these were not victories, then what were they? Where is the stalemate as you indicated?
During this war a state of stalemate was achived in the tactical sense but strategic victory was won by India. How you would ask..?
"Operation Gibralter" failed in Kashmir., and Indian troops captured a number of strategic hill features on the LOC, Haji Pir being the most prominant. This pre-emptied Op Grand Slam.
"Op Grand Slam" inspite of brilliant successes in Chamb, was stopped by a two prong attack on Lahore and Sialkot sector. The Indian counter attack un-nerved the Pak GHQ, and op Grand Slam was aborted.
Hence, strategicaly India won, as the Indian objective was defence and not capture.
The PAF undoubtedly performed much better compated to IAF in 1965.
The armies on both sides failed or performed depending on the capability of either sides higher commanders.
You have painted a partial and poor picture of the Indian Navy. Please read para 6 of the pak 'defence journal' article provided below.
The Pak army cas figures are incorrect, and you know that. Indian cas figures are also higher maybe around the 850 or 1000 figure.[/quote]
|February 21st, 2005||#23|
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Well lemontree, you have raized some important points.
Before kashmir dispute took place in 1947, it was a big province or state. For broader picture take notice of current Kashmir, which is divided in to 3 occupied zones:
--> Pak held Kashmir (also known as Azad Kashmir)
--> Indian held Kashmir (also known as disputed territory)
--> Chinese occupied Kashmir (Northern regions that were captured by chinese forces during Indo-China border-dispute 1962)
Now I will explain in step-by-step process of Kashmir Capture:
Pak Militias entered Kashmir form northern regions of Punjab and over-ran 80% Kashmir territory including Srinagar valley.
Then Indian forces were para-dropped in around the srinagar valley and after bitter battles they pushed backed Pak militias even from the current LOC and re-captured 50% of territory from enemy hands in rough estimate (30% regions are left now in Pak hands)
Now logistics problems occur for Indian side and Pak army sends regular troops to push indian forces back as much as possible. They manage to re-take 20% more regions form Indian troops and settle down (in what is now LOC). Indian launch counter-offensive but it fails and LOC is recongized as temporary border between India and Pakistan.
Thus now kashmir is divided in to 2 parts as shown in the diagram posted by Xion. Then in 1962 china makes a surprise attack on Indian forces in northern districts of Indian occupied Kashmir and capture 20% territory.
About 1965 war, yes it was Pakistani aggression and India counter-attacked. First at LOC firing, I have mentioned that both sides claimed to capture regions (it might be true).
And Indian army did planned and tried to take Lahore city in the counter-attack but was repulsed whereas in Sailkot district it was stalemate but Pak armour suffered serious set-backs there.
As far as Naval operation is concerned, Indian navy did not engaged Pak navy on a mission to destroy Dewarka sea-port and communications facility.
And about 1971 war, yes Indian Navy played a vital role here in cutting Pak supply routes to Bengladesh and the rebellion there also helped Indian forces to achieve clear victory. It simply demostrates that war fought without people support is doomed to failure.
Finally on Kargil dispute, I agree that 2nd plane crashed due to technical failure but rest were shot down. About causalties on Pak side, the figures I presented are confirmed ones (there names were pronounced in TV program in-augerated for there honor). Rest might be wounded, but 50 Mujahedeen deaths also occurred. And on Indian side I think 650 were killed and 1000 or so wounded but you know better.
|February 21st, 2005||#24|
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The Army Headquarters of Pakistan planned the main invasion plan, code-named Operation Gulmarg. Conclusive proof of this came through two different sources - Major Onkar Singh Kalkat, then serving as the Brigade Major at HQ Bannu Frontier Brigade Group, and GK Reddy, a journalist. Both happened to stumble upon the plan by chance. The invasion was planned meticulously with considerable strategic and tactical insight. According to Operation Gulmarg, as described by Major Kalkat, every Pathan tribe was required to enlist at least one Lashkar of 1,000 tribesmen. These Lashkars were to be concentrated at Baftnu, Wana, Peshawar, Kohat, Thal and Nowshera by the first week of September 1947. The Brigade Commanders at these places were to issue them arms, ammunition and some essential clothing items. Each Lashkar was also to be provided with a Major, a Captain and ten JCOs of the regular Pakistan Army. The entire force was to be commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, who was given the code name Tariq.
All Lashkars were to meet at Abbottabad by October 18th. According to the plan, six Lashkars were to advance along the main road from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar via Domel, Uri and Baramula, with the specific task of capturing the aerodrome and subsequently advancing to the Banihal Pass. Two Lashkars were to advance from the Haji Pir Pass direct on to Gulmarg, thereby securing the right flank of the main force advancing from Muzaffarabad. Another two Lashkars were to advance from Tithwal through the Nastachhun Pass for capturing Sopore, Handwara and Bandipur. And 10 other Lashkars were to operate in the Poonch, Bhimbar and Rawalkot area with the intention of capturing Poonch and Rajauri before advancing to Jammu. Arrangements were also made for detailing of guides/informers from the so-called Azad Army, to all these tribal Lashkars.
Major General Khan was also given the task of organising the Azad Army, the major portion of which was to come from the Muslim element of the J&K State forces. Dumps of arms, ammunition, supplies and clothing were to be established forward of Abbottabad by October 15th. These were to be subsequently moved to Muzaffarabad and Domel after the D-day. Pakistan's 7 Infantry Division was to concentrate the Murree-Abbottabad area by October 21st and was ordered to be ready to move immediately into J&K territory to back up the tribal Lashkars and consolidate their hold on the Valley. One infantry brigade was also held in readiness at Sialkot to move on to Jammu. The D-day for Operation Gulmarg was fixed as 22 October 1947, on which date the various Lashkars were to cross into J&K territory. The invasion plan was tactically sound and, in the beginning, brilliantly executed. The main attack had by necessity to be launched frontally along the motor road. Apart from rifles, the standard weapon of the raiders, the main force was also equipped with a few light machine guns and traveled in about 300 civilian lorries.
Fall of Domel and Baramula
The main strength of the defenders was at Domel where the two approach roads from Murree and Abbottabad met before leading towards Srinagar along the Jhelum gorge. Its two out posts Lohar Gali and Ramkot were the key to the whole defence and were guarded by the 4th Kashmir Infantry, which had a mix of Muslim and Dogra soldiers. When the raiders struck in the morning of October 22nd, traitors within the 4th Kashmir Infantry joined the raiders and gave them complete information about the strength and disposition of the defending troops and helped them send sufficient force against each piquet of defenders. That proved to be the beginning of a series of successes for the raiders before they were ultimately held, and subsequently thrown back, by Indian reinforcements over the next two weeks or so.
Between October 22nd and 26th, the raiders had run over Domel, Muzaffarabad, Uri and Baramula. Yet in their success lay the seeds of their doom. For on their way, they took to looting and raping, and the ultimate goal of the 'Holy War' was forgotten. Each man tried to grab as much wealth or as many girls as he could, and the 'infidel' Maharaja at Srinagar or the 'liberation of the oppressed Muslims' of Kashmir was last on his mind. The advance on Srinagar was held up for a few days, and that proved crucial. In Delhi, hundreds of kilometres from stricken Baramula, it had at last been decided to save Kashmir in its hour of peril. Even as the barbaric raiders were satisfying their greed and lust in Baramula, transport planes full of Indian troops were winging their way through the azure autumn skies: Destination Srinagar.
Smashing of the J&K Siege
When the first wave of tribal warriors from Pakistan invaded the Kashmir Valley on 22 October 1947, the kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir had not acceded to either Pakistan or India. Therefore, taking the plea that it was an internal matter, India refused to send in its troops to the Valley. However, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian Government on the evening of 26 October 1947, Jammu & Kashmir became an integral part of the Indian Dominion legally, morally and constitutionally. Now was the time to react to the tribal invasion, which India did commendably, considering the short notice given to its military commanders.
The first troops were flown to Srinagar with hardly a couple of days planning and preparation. The liberation of the Valley in early November 1947 was a splendid feat of arms by the 161 Brigade (commanded by Brig LP Sen. DSO), fighting against hordes of raiders. This single brigade managed to hold its own throughout the long winter of 1947-48 when its only line of communication was blocked by snow. Large areas in the Tithwal, Naushahra and Rajouri sectors were liberated from the invaders, and were held against repeated attacks by a vastly superior enemy. Naturally, the Indian Army also suffered setbacks, minor and major, at several places such as Jhangar, Pandu, Kargil and Skardu. But the situation was fully restored at Jhangar and Kargil. The long siege of Poonch was finally broken and Gurais & Dras areas were successfully recaptured against tremendous odds. The Army won five Param Vir Chakras (PVCs), 47 Maha Vir Chakras (MVCs) and not less than 284 Vir Chakras (VrCs), including three twin-awards of VrCs, during the J&K Operations of 1947-48.
During the long campaign, the Indian Army lost 76 officers, 31 JCOs and 996 men of other ranks. The wounded totalled 3152, including 81 officers and 107 JCOs. Apart from these casualties, J&K State Forces lost approximately 1990 officers and men. The small Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) lost 32 personnel, including 9 officers. The enemy casualties were definitely many times the total of Indian Army and RIAF casualties. By one estimate the enemy suffered 20,000 casualties, including 6000 killed. The gallantry and skill of all ranks of the Indian Army are amply borne out in the various accounts of these operations. But the exploits and the vital role of the RIAF deserve special mention here. Its contribution to the success of the J&K operations cannot be over emphasized, and it was the one weapon to which the enemy had no answer, as the Pakistan Air Force wisely desisted from joining the fray.
Only the impromptu airlift to Srinagar in October 1947 saved the Kashmir Valley. A hundred planes landed every day on the improvised airfield at Srinagar, bringing in troops, ammunition and supplies and evacuating casualties and the refugees. The RIAF and civilian pilots of these Dakotas defied the mountains, the weather, and fatigue, to continue the airlift till the Valley was saved. Giving invaluable support to these were the fearless fighter pilots who accurately and repeatedly attacked vital enemy positions at Gurais, Zoji La, Pindras and Rajouri. Apart from the men in uniform, civilians played a crucial role in liberating the Valley. The dedication and skill of the civilian pilots who flew to Srinagar in October 1947 was no less than their counterparts in the RIAF. Very few know that a civilian washerman, Ram Chander, won a Maha Vir Chakra for rescuing an officer wounded during an ambush, shooting down several enemy troops in the process. It was this Indian spirit and valour that saved the Valley.
India to the Rescue
It was on 24 October 1947 that the Government of India first got news of the Kashmir invasion. By that time, Domel and Muzaffarabad had already fallen to the raiders, who were fast approaching Srinagar. The Maharaja of Kashmir sent an S.O.S. message to the Indian Government on the night of October 24th. After deliberations at the highest levels, it was decided that India couldn't send its troops till J&K formally acceded to India. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession in the evening of October 26th, which made J&K an integral part of India - legally, morally, and constitutionally. The Indian reaction, from then onwards, was swift, adverse ground conditions notwithstanding.
The Indian rescue operation was beset with obvious difficulties from the very beginning. Srinagar was over 480 km from the nearest point on the Indian border. Troops in East Punjab were engaged in dealing with the refugees and maintaining law and order. Hence, air transport was the only way out. Worse still, the airport at Srinagar was hardly fit to land fully laden transport planes. But that was the only option available and it had to be taken. The rescue mission was code-named, Operation Jak. The first regiment to move in was 1 Sikh, stationed at Gurgaon at the time and commanded by Lt. Col. D.R. Rai. The troops were transported in four Dakota planes that took off from Delhi on October 27th and reached Srinagar early morning the same day. The first engagement with the enemy started on October 28th. Lt. Col. Rai was the first Indian officer to fall in the battle of liberation.
It was only after the first troops had landed at Srinagar that the gravity of the situation was realised. So, the Indian Army decided to throw its full weight to drive back the invaders. On October 28th, the Delhi and East Punjab Command was ordered to carry out Phase II of Operation Jak. It involved dispatching one Brigade Group to Jammu via Pathankot. The next day, the Eastern Southern commands were asked to spare whatever troops they could for the operation. Airlifts were undertaken almost round-the-clock airlifts to increase the troop strength. On October 30th, two fighter aircraft of the RIAF were detailed to operate from the Srinagar airstrip to provide air-support to the ground troops. In the following days, many Harvards and Spitfires were based on that airfield and they gave invaluable support to the infantry.
Meanwhile, there had been some fierce engagements with the enemy on the ground, resulting in some casualties on the Indian side. But most importantly, the advance of the invaders had been checked. The ground troops held the enemy. Transport planes took care of the supply of troops, equipment and ration. Interestingly, apart from three RIAF planes, 33 civil Dakotas were used in these sorties. Many of them even did a double trip to Srinagar on a single day - a tribute to the morale of the pilots and crew. By November 6th, the critical phase for Srinagar was over. The raiders had lost the initiative thanks to their looting at Baramula. About 3500 Indian troops had reached Srinagar by then. They threw a ring of machine guns and bayonets around Srinagar and the airfield. Although the invaders were only about 8 km away from the city at the nearest point, it was now impossible for them to penetrate the Indian positions and capture the capital, almost in their grasp. Having strengthened their position, the Indian Army was about to begin the liberation of the Kashmir valley.
The Liberation of the Valley
According to orders from the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, Baramula was to be recaptured from the enemy by November 17th, even if the Indian Army had to incur 500 casualties. The original plan was to launch the decisive battle on November 10th, but an unexpected attack on Indian positions at Shalateng on November 7th postponed the initiative. In a masterly battle strategy, the Indian troops flanked the invaders from three sides and unleashed murderous firepower on them. The RIAF strafed them from the air. The Battle of Shalateng was over within 20 minutes. It put Srinagar and Kashmir Valley beyond the grasp of the invaders forever. There were encounters after that, but the enemy was being driven back steadily and surely. By the evening of November 13th, Uri was captured. With that the liberation of the Kashmir Valley was complete.
The Relief of Poonch
On 20 November 1947, a column for the relief of Poonch set out from Uri, but was halted at Kahuta, 13 km short of Poonch. The Poonch garrison held out for one full year before it was finally relieved. Operation Easy was aimed at establishing the final link-up with Poonch, which had proved to be difficult throughout most of 1948. An attempt to link up with Poonch could be made either from the south, namely, via Thana Mandi or Rajouri, or from the north via the Haji Pir Pass. Lt. Gen. Cariappa (later Field Marshal and Army Chief) gave the go-ahead for the link-up with Poonch via the south. Lt. Gen. Shrinagesh (later General and Army Chief), who had been appointed Corps Commander of J&K Forces on September 14th, ordered Major General Atma Singh to plan for a link-up accordingly.
Major General Atma Singh was further ordered to carry out Phase I (secure Pir Badesar) by October 8th; commence Phase II (demonstrate north of Thana Mandi) by October 10th; and concentrate in Rajouri the required force for Operation Easy by October 16th. On October 9th, Major General Atma Singh finalised his plan. The force was to be under the command of Brigadier Yadunath Singh, Commander 19 Brigade, and was to consist of six infantry battalions plus one field battery and one mountain battery. It was to be divided into two columns, one column of three battalions under command of Brigadier Umrao Singh, Commander 5 Brigade, and the other column of three battalions under command of Lt. Col. Jagjit Singh Aurora (the same Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora of 1971 War fame), Commander 1/2 Punjab. As a preliminary to the main operation, the deception plan was to be carried out about October 12 to secure Pir Badesar.
The main operation was to commence on about October 19th with 5 Brigade advancing from Rajouri and securing Pir Kalewa ridge. Lt. Col. Jagjit Singh's column was then to pass through, moving from south of Thana Mandi to secure a firm base in the area around Sangrot. Having secured the base, the intention was to advance to Potha with 5 Brigade and carry out operations from Potha for the link-up with Poonch.
Capture of Pir Badesar
Operation Ranjit: The task of carrying out Operation Ranjit for the capture of Pir Badesar was given to 268 Brigade, 1/2 Punjab, 1 (Para) Kumaon and 1/1 Gorkha Rifles concentrated south of Darhal on October 13th. The brigade plan was for 1/1 Gorkha Rifles less one company and one platoon to lead the attack and secure Kater and the high ground north of Giran. Then 1/2 Punjab was to push on and capture Khalbahat Gala. 1 (Para) Kumaon was to take the lead next and capture Point 5432. At 2000 hours on October 14th, the brigade moved out, 1/1 Gorkha Rifles leading, and the first objective, Kater was secured without opposition. 1/2 Punjab captured Point 3978 at 0600 hours on October 15th. 1 (Para) Kumaon captured Pir Badesar by 1700 hours on the same day. Artillery played an important part in Operation Ranjit also.
After the capture of Pir Badesar, there was an important modification in Operation Easy and it was decided that the link-up with Poonch should be made via Mendhar and not via Potha. An ad hoc formation named Durga Force under overall command of Brigadier Yadunath Singh was to undertake Operation Easy and was composed of 5 Infantry Brigade, 19 Infantry Brigade, and the Rajouri Garrison. To provide air support, the RIAF No.10 Squadron of Tempests and No.12 Squadron (Transport) of Dakotas and No.1 AOP Flight of Austers were made available. As per the plan, 5 Brigade secured the vital Pir Kalewa ridge at 1200 hours on October 28th. The next important features to be secured were Ramgarh Fort and Bhimbar Gali.
Poonch Finally Relieved
Major General Atma Singh now detailed 19 Brigade Group to capture Point 5732 with a view to exploit Jhhika Gali, an enemy stronghold barring the way to Mendhar. 5 Brigade Group was assigned the task of capturing Point 4394 and securing the right flank of the main column up to but excluding Point 3295. The plan was to capture Topa area with a view to linking up with 101 Brigade from Poonch. 19 Brigade less one battalion, supported by all available artillery was to commence attack on night of November 19/20th. 101 Brigade was to start operations on the night of November 19/20th to capture Point 6005 and Point 6876 (Pir Margot Ghazi). It was expected that the link-up with 101 Brigade would take place by the evening of November 20th.
During the night of November 19/20th, 1/4 Gorkha Rifles and 5 Rajputana Rifles carried out a night march. Point 5982 was captured by 0730 hours on November 20th without much opposition. Meanwhile, the leading company of 1/4 Gorkha Rifles had also captured its objective at 0620 hours. Then exploitation began. One platoon 1/4 Gorkha Rifles was sent to Point 6793 and met the troops of 101 Brigade at 1200 hours. 1/2 Punjab passed through the positions of 5 Rajputana Rifles and captured Topa at 1500 hours on November 20th. The link-up with Poonch in November 1948 was a notable performance. The enemy ring round Poonch was broken and attempts to force the Poonch garrison to surrender were finally frustrated.
The Battle of Naushera
The capture of Jhangar on 24 December 1947 gave the enemy a tremendous advantage. It was, hence, vital to Indian strategy to recapture Jhangar. The battle of Naushahra on 06 February 1948 was decisive in this context and paved the way for the recapture of Jhangar later on. Lt. Col. R.G. Naidu, CO of 2 Jat, was put in command of Operation Satyanas for clearing the enemy from the area around Beri Pattan. The troops occupied Tung on January 23rd and crossed the Thandapaniwali Tawi the next morning. In the early hours of January 25th, as they advanced to attack Siot and Pt. 2502, they came under heavy enemy fire and had to make a retreat, but not before inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, estimated to be 100 dead and wounded.
To weaken and disrupt the enemy's offensive, a mobile force known as 'Cheeta Force' was formed. It consisted of Stuart tanks from 7 Light Cavalry. Orders were given to this mobile force on January 24th. The plan was simple. Two small detachments of mixed armour and infantry were to be established at Amberala and Chordhaki to guard the rear; the rest of the mobile column was to push right up to area Assar-Kadala-Bhimbar to destroy the enemy base. The mobile force launched its operation at 0530 hours on January 25th. Despite earlier reverses, it was able to inflict heavy losses on the enemy at Amberala, Chordhaki, and Assar/Kadala.
Intelligence reports revealed that a strong enemy build-up was taking place at Kot. Situated about 9 km north-east of Naushahra on the highest point, Kot allowed observation over the Rajouri road to a point near Merian. It was therefore, planned to attack and capture this strong enemy position, which was a serious threat to Naushahra. Other important enemy bases in the area were at Uparla Dandesar and Pathradi. The enemy strength here was estimated to be one battalion, about 500 strong, equipped with 3" mortars, medium machine guns, light machine guns and about 400 rifles.
On January 30th, Brigadier Usman issued instructions for Operation Kipper, the code name for dislodging the enemy from Kot-Pathradi-Uparla Dandesar area and to establish a permanent picket in Kot. The responsibility fell on 50 Para Brigade Group which included 2/2 Punjab, 3 (Para) Mahratta Light Infantry, 1 Rajput (A Coy), 3 (Para) Rajput (B Coy), 7 Cavalry (B Sqn), 1 Mahar (MMG) (Y Coy), among others. The plan was to attack Kot and Pathradi on a two-battalion front. On the left was 2/2 Punjab with objective Pt. 3227 and Kot; on the right 3 MLI with objectives Pt. 3284, Pathradi and Uparla Dandesar. The assault was timed for 0630 hours on February 1st and it was to be a silent dawn attack. The RIAF was to support the ground attack by softening the strong enemy positions.
As per a deception plan the enemy was made to believe that an advance towards Jhangar was imminent. Meanwhile, 3 MLI moved from Naushahra camp at 1915 hours on January 31st to area Pt. 2300. Enemy opposition was liquidated and Pathradi was captured by 0710 hours on February 1st. Meanwhile, 2/2 Punjab too had secured its objectives. But, the enemy launched a counter offensive almost immediately and recaptured Kot. It was after a fierce fighting that Kot was finally recovered at 1010 hours. Capture of Kot area had a significant bearing on future operations, as it was from this base that the enemy used to operate its successful efforts to cut the supply route to Naushahra. The occupation of Pathradi and Kot by the enemy would have rendered matters critical in the major attack on Naushahra that followed on February 6th.
Victory at Naushahra
Stung by the loss of Kot, the enemy launched the expected all-out attack on Naushahra on 06 February 1948. The pickets at Kot and Tain Dhar were heavily mortared between 0640 and 0715 hours. Picket No. 2 at Tain Dhar bore the brunt of the attack but they fought to the last man. At about 0715 hours, Brigadier Usman realising the gravity of the situation sent a company of 3 (Para) Rajput to reinforce the main picket. It was the turning point of the whole battle. At Kot, fighting continued throughout the day and night of February 6/7th. Indian troops held the onslaught and beat off the enemy attacks. The estimated enemy casualties at Kot and Tain Dhar were 400 killed and 250 wounded.
The enemy also attacked the Kangota picket. This picket was heavily mortared and attacked at about 0700 hours. About a 1000-strong enemy force surrounded the picket and tried to rush it, but was beaten back in hand-to-hand fighting. Simultaneously, the enemy, approximately 5000 strong, attacked other pickets from the west and south-west. To meet this serious threat to the Naushahra valley, Brigadier Usman decided to take the offensive and send his small reserve to attack the enemy concentration southwest of Naushahra. The valley was cleared of the hostiles by 1500 hours. In the annals of military warfare, the battle of Naushahra was par excellence a gunners battle.
The Recapture of Jhangar
Operation Bharatpur: After the victory at Naushahra on 06 February 1948, the stage was set for the recapture of Jhangar. For that it was essential to dislodge the enemy who was still holding Ambli Dhar and Kaman Gosha Gala. The responsibility to push back the enemy from Ambli Dhar fell on the 2 Jat through Operation Bharatpur, which was launched on 28 February 1948. The plan was to launch a surprise attack at dawn after an approach march. A deceptive attack was launched in the east towards Bhata Village to mislead the enemy. The decoy worked and the enemy did not realise the threat of the main advance until 2 Jat was half way up for the attack on Ambli Dhar. Soon, Pt. 3319 on Ambli Dhar was captured and the enemy was forced to retreat to lower positions. After an hour's lull, however, there was a counter offensive by the enemy in which one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and two men were killed and seven wounded. Eighty raiders were also wounded in the return fire.
Operation Vijay: By March 5th, Ambli Dhar was secured and the enemy had been cleared from Kaman Gosha Gala as well. It was now time for the final assault on Jhangar. Operation Vijay was to be completed in two phases.
In the first phase, the 19 Independent Brigade, consisting of 1 Rajput, 4 Dogra, 1 Kumaon Rifles and ancillary units, was to secure Pt. 3327 and 3283. In phase two, the 50 Para Brigade Group, consisting of 3 (Para) Maratha Light Infantry, 3 (Para) Rajput, 1 Patiala and ancillary units, was to secure Pt. 2701, Jhangar, Pt.3399 and Pt. 3374. Unknown even to the Indian troops, a squadron of the 7 Cavalry was also pushed into the operation. The tanks arrived from Naushera camouflaged with wooden covers at night. The secret plan to push in tanks paid off, as the enemy was completely surprised by their arrival. One of the vital strategic points on the way to Jhangar was Pir Thil held by the enemy. On March 15th, 3 MLI was sent on offensive reconnaissance to locate the enemy position in the area, but it was resisted with strength. It was now confirmed that there was an equivalent of one enemy brigade, six medium machine guns, a couple of light machine guns and two 3" mortars.
Based on the information, Brigadier Usman modified his plan and decided to attack two places on the Pir Thil feature about 360 metres apart with two battalions - the 3 MLI on the right and the 1 Patiala on the left. By March 17th, the 50 Para Brigade had captured Pir Thil Nakka and the way was now clear for the final attack on Jhangar. The offensive started on March 18th. That day, the 3 (Para) Rajput captured Pt. 3477, following which the 50 Para Brigade, the 3 MLI and the 1 Patiala concentrated at this feature. The plan was to attack with two forward battalions - the 1 Patiala, on the right, was to secure objective ring contour and the 3 MLI, on the left, was to secure Pt. 3399 and Pt. 3574. Both the objectives were secured the same day. The enemy fled towards Mirpur, leaving behind 46 dead and a cache of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Stuart tanks of 7 Cavalry (C Sqn), were already on their way. Brushing aside minor opposition, which resulted in the loss of one tank, the squadron along with one company of the 1 Rajput entered Jhangar at 1400 hours that day. With the recapture of Jhangar on March 18th, the main land route leading into the Naushahra Valley was secured and the enemy's supply line was disrupted. Operation Vijay thus ended in Vijay, i.e. Victory.
The Fall of Skardu
The northern front of the Kashmir campaign included the sectors of Gurais, Skardu, Dras and Kargil, and Leh. From November 1947 to August 1948, the enemy achieved impressive successes in the region. But equally impressive was the valour of the Indian troops who held their positions against all odds. Of particular importance was the siege of Skardu. It was at Skardu that the true spirit of a typical Indian soldier was first demonstrated. After the fall of Gilgit to the enemy in November 1947, it fell on Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa and his men of 6 J&K Infantry to defend Skardu. The troops reached Skardu on December 03rd and positioned themselves inside a fort. With a total strength of about 285 men, Lt. Col. Thapa was to defend his picket against a 600-strong enemy who was equipped with modern rifles, 2" and 3" mortars and was led by professional fighters.
The enemy attacked on February 11th. From that day till August 13th, when Skardu finally fell to the enemy, it was a saga of defiance, gallantry and determination. Lt. Col. Thapa and his men repulsed waves after waves of enemy attacks. To make matters worse, the fort had hundreds of refugees men, women and children who had trusted Lt. Col. Thapa with their lives against the raiders. The brave men held the siege for more than six months fighting not only the relentless enemy, but also ration and ammunition shortage. A major attempt to send reinforcements to the besieged men had ended in failure. There came a stage when there was just enough food to feed 70-80 mouths, but the garrison and the refugees numbered 600! Meanwhile, Kargil had fallen to the enemy. The priority of the headquarters shifted to recapturing Kargil to establish the crucial line of communications. Lt. Col. Thapa and his men were literally forgotten. Reinforcements were few and scarce. Lt. Col. Thapa sent his last message to his commanders at 0800 hours on August 13th. That day, after holding out for six months against overwhelming odds, Skardu finally capitulated.
Offensives in the Uri Area
Uri was of great strategic importance since it commanded the routes to Domel, Poonch and Srinagar. Hence, the main objective of major offensives carried out in the Uri area was only to establish a firm base there in order to prevent the raiders from entering the Kashmir valley. Uri had its first heavy snowfall about the middle of January 1948, resulting in this front getting more or less frozen for the time being. Activity on both sides was, therefore, confined to local patrolling only. Intelligence reports, however, showed that an enemy build-up was taking place in Uri and Mahura in order to destroy the powerhouse and to cut off the line of communication between Rampur and Uri.
By the first week of April, enemy reinforcements in this area had swelled manifolds. The Indian response had been somewhat similar and 161 Infantry Brigade - responsible for holding the area - was suitably reorganized and reinforced. Till the first week of April, both the sides were mostly involved in small raids and counter raids owing to heavy snow. With the onset of spring, vigorous offensives were launched. From the Indian perspective, the first major offensive was directed at capturing Kopra. 4 Kumaon regiment secured the objective on April 15th and Indian pickets were established there. Another major achievement during this period was the capture of Point 9062. The Indian troops launched an attack in heavy rain. Despite slippery and steep slopes, the offensive was successful and the enemy was driven out of what was supposed to be a very strong defensive base. The threat to Mahura was finally ended when 3 Royal Garhwal secured Zambur Pattan on April 21st.
Meanwhile, a threat was developing at Kaurali where enemy in large numbers had infiltrated from Poonch. In one of the most tragic ambushes, the enemy annihilated the entire patrol party of 1 Madras, including its commander Lt. Col. Menon. A sole survivor who had escaped by hiding under a waterfall for more than three hours conveyed the tragic news to the base. The Indian troops during this period repulsed many enemy raids on various pickets. Of special significance was the fight at Nalwa - the picket described as 'Uri ka Morcha' due to its strategic importance to safeguard Uri. Jemadar Sanwal Ram who was commanding this post was awarded the Vir Chakra for successfully defending it against severe enemy onslaught.
Failure to force the Haji Pir Pass
The Haji Pir Pass, situated 22 km south of Uri along the Uri-Poonch road, was dominated on either side by high ridges, both of which were held by the enemy who was two-battalion strong and equipped with 12 medium machine guns. Despite bold attempts by the 2 (Para) Madras to evict the enemy from the ridges and break through the Pass, the objective was not secured. Overall, the strenuous efforts on the Indian forces in the Uri area met with limited success. Domel remained out of reach and Haji Pir Pass couldn't be broken through.
Operations in the Jammu Division
Operation Ranjit and Capture of Rajouri: One of the tasks assigned to Major General Kulwant Singh by Lt. Gen. Cariappa on 06 April 1948 was to carry out Operation Ranjit (earlier called Operation Mumtaz) for capturing Rajouri. The 48-km road that the Indian troops had to traverse to capture Rajouri was thickly wooded and well defended by enemy armed with machine guns and mortars. The operation was to be completed in two phases. The first phase involved capturing Chingas, while the second phase was to capture Rajouri. The task was assigned to 19 Brigade.
To secure Chingas, it was essential to push out the enemy from the Barwali ridge. Despite heavy shelling from mortars, the enemy was forced out of his position. It was during this offensive that Captain J.N. Jatar received the Maha Vir Chakra for showing exemplary courage and presence of mind. Meanwhile, troops had also secured other objective en-route to Chingas without much opposition. Chingas was captured on 11 April 1948. Of special mention during this period was the work done by 2nd Lt. R.R. Rane who was in-charge of clearing the road of landmines. Despite losing two of his men, and himself being wounded, he completed his task fearlessly amidst incessant enemy fire and enabled the tanks to reach Chingas. He was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for the most conspicuous gallantry.
The enemy resistance simply collapsed after the capture of Chingas. But the tanks and men had to wade across the river Tawi in water one and a half metre deep to reach Rajouri, which was captured on 12 April 1948. Total enemy losses were estimated at 500 killed and an equal number wounded. The enemy also blew up his ammunition dump though the Indian troops captured clothing and ration stores. Three big pits around the town were full of dead bodies as a result of atrocities committed by the enemy. In a well-conceived strategy to facilitate the capture of Rajouri, two brigades were to carry out diversionary operations. While 50 Para Brigade carried out its Operation Hathi successfully at a place 5 kilometre north of Jhangar, 80 Brigade did so in the Beri Pattan area. Enemy reaction to the loss of Rajouri was to launch coordinated attacks on Jhangar and Naushera. But all these attacks were successfully repulsed by Indian troops.
Operation Birbal: While other Indian troops were busy consolidating their positions and probing enemy positions around Rajouri, 19 Brigade was planning to launch Operation Birbal to capture Thana Mandi. As per the plan, Thana Mandi was to be attacked after first capturing the feature east of Sain Samut. In a fierce battle that lasted for two and a half hours, the feature was secured but at the cost of 4 killed and 19 wounded. Thana Mandi was captured the next day, i.e. 02 May 1948 without any resistance.
The Tithwal Offensive
The enemy strength on the Handwara front was estimated to be about 6150 and was spread over two sectors, Trahagam and Handwara, with sector headquarters at Panzgam and Dogarpur, respectively. A small portion of the force was protecting the line of communication, which lay along the track via Nastachhun Pass to Tithwal. The initial Indian offensive was aimed at surrounding the enemy by surprise and cut off his line of communication. Four battalions were requisitioned for the purpose. To gain surprise, it was decided to take the most difficult, and the least expected, route for the main advance. There was also to be a weak thrust along the main Trahagam track to lure the enemy to stick on to his position and thus be entrapped. 1 Madras and some elements of 1 J&K Militia battalion arrived at Handwara on the evening of May 15th. The next day was spent organising for the offensive.
The Handwara column started its move at 1830 hours on May 17th and 1 Madras successfully carried out its task of securing the Dogarpur ridge after mid-day on May 18th. But the Kopwara column was less fortunate and was ambushed by the enemy and suffered heavy casualties. Although the column failed in capturing the objective, its presence behind the enemy position contributed a great deal in turning the enemy out of his very strong defensive position on Trahagam ridge. The feature overlooking Trahagam was captured just after mid-day. By 1830 hours, all casualties had been attended to and evacuated and a base was established there. Phase II of the operation aimed at blocking the two exits from the Shulur valley and elimination of enemy base at Panzgam commenced on the morning of May 19th. It was done by 1700 hours and a picket established.
Push across Nastachhun Pass to Tithwal
1 Sikh captured Chowkibal at 1000 hours on May 20th, and 1 Madras passed through on their advance to Nastachhun Pass, closely followed by 1 Sikh in reserve. 3 Royal Garhwal Rifles that had borne the brunt of the fighting so far was left behind with two troops of armoured cars and a troop of field guns, to protect the line of communication against any counterattack by the enemy from the direction of Pharkian-ki-Gali. A base was established at Chowkibal and the Brigade administrative area moved there by the evening. 1 Madras faced some resistance from the enemy towards the evening but it was suitably dealt with. The night was spent at a place about 5 km short of Nastachhun Pass, with 1 Sikh resting 3 km behind.
Advance to Nastachhun Pass was resumed at 1000 hours on May 21st. The attack on the pass went till about 1300 hours and the pass was captured in an hour. Enemy put up only a token resistance. 1 Sikh was pushed through, while 1 Madras held the pass. Before the last light it secured the Naichian end of the Nastachhun defile, 10 kilometres beyond the pass. On the afternoon of May 21st, Brigadier Harbakhsh Singh (the same Lt. Gen. Harbakhsh Singh of 1965 War fame) received instructions from Major General Thimayya (later General and Army Chief) to push on to Tithwal. 1 Sikh led the advance next morning (May 22nd) with 1 Madras behind them in immediate reserve. Opposition was almost negligible throughout the day. By an hour before the last light, the defile beyond Chhamkot, still about 8 km from Tithwal, was secured. Besides, Tithwal was within easy range of mountain guns, which could, therefore, go into position to support the attack next morning.
The plan for the capture of Tithwal was simple:
(a) 1 Sikh was to carry out a night advance along the Chhamkot-Baltal track, north of Dhana, so as to secure the spur overlooking Tithwal by first light on May 23rd.
(b) 1 Madras was to advance along the main track and secure after first light the high ground on the left, assisted by 1 Sikh from across the Nala.
(c) Mountain Battery was to support the operation from their position at Chhamkot.
The operation went according to the plan. The Sikhs secured the ridge overlooking Tithwal by 0900 hours. The enemy, completely surprised, evacuated his positions around Tithwal without a fight. 1 Sikh entered Tithwal at 0930 hours on May 23rd. Soon afterwards, the Madrasis also arrived and occupied, according to plan, features south of the village.
The Defence of Leh
The eastern half of the Northern Front of the Kashmir Operations was dominated by Leh, the headquarters of the vast district of Ladakh, and the war was as unwelcome as a stranger here. The Buddhist populace hated violence, and the government too had made no preparations. There were only 33 men of the State Forces left to defend Leh. This platoon was responsible for defending a region many thousands of square kilometres in area, containing monasteries, which were rumoured to hold fabulous riches. Its population was non-Muslim and unwarlike. By attacking Ladakh, therefore, the raiders could obtain wealth and women, and destroy Kafirs, all without serious fighting. These facts were sure to attract them irresistibly. In fact, in the last week of May 1948, and again in July 1948, Leh was within the raiders' grasp. Somehow, they did not press home their attacks and capture Leh once for all. Their leadership in Ladakh turned out to be of a vastly different quality from the daring and inspired performance against Kargil and Dras. They also ignored the excellent opportunities for commando or guerrilla-type penetrations, for which the conditions were ideal. It is true that the local villagers were against them, but their opposition was meek and almost entirely passive, and it was of negligible importance in that vast, sparsely populated and thinly held region.
The raiders proved incapable even of learning from the example placed before them by Major Hari Chand's guerrillas. If they had adopted similar tactics, the defenders of Leh would have been placed in a very awkward position and would probably have suffered considerable losses. Major Hari Chand's commandos were specially selected Gorkha and State Force troops trained to climb high mountains where there were no tracks, who could sleep on the snow in the extreme cold, and could march and fight like supermen. Major Hari Chand's brilliant exploits behind the enemy lines were acknowledged by the Maha Vir Chakra awarded to him after the campaign. Air transport for men and supplies also proved of important in Ladakh. The DC-3 Dakotas of the RIAF did not win the battle for Ladakh, but they certainly saved it from being lost. In a region where the alternative was the mule, supply planes, even in ridiculously small numbers, made a tremendous difference in the fighting potential of a force.
In fact, when the raiders were threatening Leh on May 10th, the garrison stationed there was much too weak. Reinforcements could reach Leh only by the 400 km long mountain track coming from Manali, or by transport planes, which had till then never attempted a landing on an improvised landing ground at more than 3350 metres. Ancient and battered Dakotas (Mk.III) were the only transport planes available, and it was doubtful if they would be able to fly over the high Himalayas to reach Leh at all. The prospect certainly appeared gloomy at Leh. The desperate situation required a desperate remedy. Air Commodore Mehar Singh thereforedecided to find out the answer himself, by piloting a Dakota to Leh. The equally gallant Divisional Commander decided to accompany him. It was a leap in the dark, but the distinguished pilot's skill and courage were rewarded by a successful flight and safe landing at Leh on May 24th. The achievement gave a tremendous fillip to the morale of the troops and civilians at Leh and they resumed fighting with renewed hope.
Recapture of Dras and Kargil
Kargil and Dras had fallen to the enemy in May 1948. This threatened the entire Indian operations on the Northern front. Hence, it was vital to recapture these two places to assure the safety of the Leh-Ladakh Valley. Plans to recapture Dras and Kargil were being worked out from early June. The fact that it took almost six months to accomplish the mission speaks volumes of the difficulties faced by the Indian troops who had to face not only stubborn enemy resistance, but also had to brave the freezing weather.
The initial attempts ended in total failure for the Indian forces. Operation Snipe, which was aimed at capturing Gurais and Skardu was called off on August 14th. All efforts were then focused on recapturing Dras and Kargil, and the link up with Leh under an offensive code-named Operation Duck. For that, the enemy defences at Zoji La had to be dislodged first. Three attacks on the enemy position, from different sides, proved futile and inflicted heavy casualties 97 wounded and killed on the Indian side. Things were getting desperate and something had to be done before the approaching winter made matters worse. It was then that, after deliberations at the highest levels - both political and military - a unique strategy was formulated. And that was the use of tanks in the attack on Zoji La.
This was a bold decision because tanks had never been used at such an altitude by any army. Even the performance of the engine and the lubricating system at that height and in that cold could not be confidently predicted. Moreover, many bridges en route were not strong enough to carry tanks. But desperate situations require drastic remedies. The engineers, by working night and day, made the bridges fit for carrying tanks by mid-October. Tanks were made lighter by removing the gun-turrets and conveying them separately across the bridges. By October 15th, all preparations were complete to launch Operation Sparrow. But then, the weather played the spoilsport. The attack had to be postponed three times due to heavy snowfall that covered the newly prepared tracks for the tanks.
Finally, November 1st was declared D-day. If the weather didn't permit, the attack was to be abandoned and that would have sealed the fate of Leh. But that was not to be. Despite the incessant snowfall, the artillery barrage began at 1030 hours followed by the attack of the tank squadron. Most of the hostiles had never seen tanks in action before and they were decisively beaten. The way to Kargil and Dras was thus opened by an unconventional strategy. Another enemy defence, that at Pindras, lay on the road to Dras. Despite the ineffectiveness of the tanks at Pindras, the Indian forces entered Dras in triumph at 1620 hours on November 15th.
The Pursuit to Kargil
Having secured the positions and the line of communication at Dras, the advance towards Kargil was resumed on November 18th. But further advance along the main track to Kargil was impossible without destroying the hostile position across the river at Kharal. The fast flow of the river and the ice-cold water failed to deter the spirit of the troops. Captain A.K. Kochar, a powerful swimmer, inspired his troops by personally swimming across the ice-cold river. The enemy was thus overwhelmed in a surprise attack from the unexpected direction.
While this spirited affair was going on at Kharal, another company was displaying exemplary courage climbing straight up the 4270-metre mountain to reach Kargil by a shortcut. They conquered the steep slopes and braved the chilly winds and entered Kargil at 0400 hours on November 23rd. To their utter surprise, the enemy had already fled from Kargil. By the next day, i.e., November 24th, Kargil was finally secured and the safety of Leh-Ladakh assured. But not without a price. Operation Duck alone had caused 115 Indian casualties, while about 350 suffered frost bite. In the end, however, it was a victory of the spirit
The Conquest of Gurais
Gurais was an important point on the communication system of the State. It was a key to several doors, a place of considerable strategic importance. From Srinagar, the Gilgit road ran beside the Wular Lake to Bandipur, climbed about 1,220 metres to Tragbal, another 915 metres to the Rajiangan Pass, and then down the other side to Kanzalwan and along the Kishanganga to Gurais. From Gurais, the road crossed the river by a wooden bridge, went past Minimarg and over the Burzil Pass and down the Astor River and so on to the Indus Valley and the Gilgit. Gurais could also be approached from Muzzaffarabad and the Punjab, up along the gorge of the Kishanganga. Finally, rough tracks led eastwards from Gurais to Kashpat and Baodab and then southwards over the Hills to the Muski Nala and Dras.
Before the Indian operation to take Gurais started, the raiders had occupied the entire valley of the Kishanganga and had advanced up to Tragbal overlooking the Wular Lake. But the 1 Indian Grenadiers pushed them back across the mountain and with the help of 2/4 Gorkha Rifles and conquered Gurais. During the operation, the Grenadiers advance through the Viji Gali was a saga of the human will opposed to the stupendous mountains and arctic weather, and its brilliant success exemplified the 'Strategy of Indirect Approach' propounded by modem military theorists. While the Viji Gali operation was on, the commander of the Grenadiers also decided to simultaneously attack both the flanking peaks that guarded the Viji Pass. The 'C' Coy under Major Ferris was ordered to take the left peak, 3985 metres high, which was also named Sausage Hill. The peak to the right was given the name of Camel Ridge and was to be assaulted by 'B' Coy under Captain Shete. 'D' Coy and a detachment of 3" mortars were detailed to support the attack.
The mountain guns were still out of range of the Viji Pass. But the mortars opened up to support the attack, and a lone Tempest of the RIAF came over to rocket and strafe both Camel Ridge and Sausage Hill. But even this one aircraft proved most valuable by its accurate pin-point attacks on the enemy positions, apart from the inevitable effect of its appearance on the morale of either side. The ground attacks also were pushed up with dash and vigour, and with the result, both the flanking hills were captured. Viji Pass was securely in the Grenadiers' hands soon after. Then began a race for Darikhun Gali and Gurais. The enemy, however, had a ready-made track to run along, and kept ahead of the pursuit. An air strike made by the RIAF at Darikhun Gali only served to hurry up the fleeing raiders. At 0930 hours, 'B' Coy was on top of Point 13295, and by 1200 hours, Darikhun Gali was conquered. The raiders were even then hurriedly withdrawing from Gurais, for very soon they were seen blowing up the bridge over the Kishanganga.
At 2000 hours, the company under Major Menon, and accompanied by Major S.S. Maitra, the 2-in-c of the battalion, left Darikhun Gali and went spinning down the steep and bush-chocked ravine towards Wampor. They entered Gurais at 0400 hours on June 29th, all the raiders having fled hurriedly across the river. Meanwhile the 2/4 Gorkha Rifles had captured Kanzalwan. As the Grenadiers continued to penetrate deeper along the Viji Gali track, the Gorkhas maintained constant patrolling forward from Charpathar. By June 28th, the hostiles had fully retreated, allowing the B and C companies to advance quickly and capture Kanzalwan by 2030 hours. The next morning, patrols of the Gorkhas and the Grenadiers met on the track and exchanged information about the capture of Gurais as well as Kanzalwan.
Triumph of a Soldier's Spirit
After intervention from the UN Security Council, the ceasefire was announced at 2359 hours on the night of 1-2 January 1949. And with that, more than one year of bitter fighting came to an end. It has been said that the ceasefire came as a surprise even to the senior military commanders concerned with the J&K operations. Those responsible for the actual operations wished they had been warned sufficiently in advance about the government decision to accept the ceasefire from a particular hour. It would have enabled the troops to make small advances and take up tactically much better positions before the ceasefire actually took effect. But because Pakistan agreed to the ceasefire only at the last minute, the Government of India could not do that. The enemy, on the other hand, managed to occupy a few tactical positions near the Cease Fire Line (CFL) even after the end of the fighting. Probably, a greater alertness on part of the junior Indian officers on the spot could have prevented these illegal encroachments. Alternatively, if they had greater initiative and freedom of action, they could have forced the enemy to vacate these encroachments as soon as they were reported. But then these typical Pakistani tactics were not as familiar in 1949 as they became later.
Some observers feel that India should not have accepted the ceasefire or the CFL and should have pressed on to liberate the rest of the J&K. It was a matter of a few weeks, they say, before the Valley would be fully liberated. Hence, according to them, the ceasefire robbed the Indian Army and the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) of a quick and decisive victory in J&K. But according to another view, Indian forces stationed in J&K were not in a state to launch more attacks on the raiders unless reinforcements came from the rest of the country. The comparative strengths of the two armies stationed in the state in the month of December weighed heavily in favour of Pakistan. Indian forces had been operating in J&K under a definite and severe handicap vis-à-vis the enemy. For a decisive victory, it was necessary to bring the enemy out in the open in the plains of the Punjab (as was demonstrated later in the 1965 War). So, if the whole of Kashmir had to be liberated, a general war against Pakistan was necessary. But, rightly or wrongly, the government was not game to the idea in 1947-48.
The large-scale operations in J&K were planned, directed and conducted almost entirely by Indian officers. The few British officers still holding some senior appointments in India gave some advice and assistance only in the first few months of the operations. The Indian officers had till then little experience in the higher planning and conduct of war. It is a remarkable evidence of their high calibre and professional competence that they managed so well the long campaign which took place in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Thus, in the very first military campaign forced on India after her Independence, her totally unprepared armed forces and many civilians gave an account of themselves of which any nation may feel proud. Her good old sword, the world saw, was still not rusted. The ancient land of sages also proved to the land of heroes when time demanded.
|February 21st, 2005||#25|
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The stalemate in Sialkot sector was primarily due to the resolute stand by (Pak) 25 Cavalry at Chawinda, and the bumbling Indian armd bde cdr who thought that he was facing an armd bde.
It is a pleasure discussing with you, without the usual bashing and rhetoric that our peoples are so use to.
|February 21st, 2005||#27|
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can i just say what a pleasure it is to see this conflict being discussed in a sensible manner. i find this part of the world very interesting and mostly ignored as far as the media goes. keep it up!
|February 21st, 2005||#28|
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