Pakistan’s 2 AK Brigade and 26 Brigade were to execute the plan. The attack initially went very smoothly and the Thanpir and Chandak Ridges were captured by Pakistan Army. However, Danna on the deep right flank of the Pakistani infiltrating brigade was strongly defended and resisted capture. The troops who had captured the Thanpir and Chandak Ridges were not adequately supplied, as per Fazal Muqeem the divisional commander Major General Akbar Khan (later a candidate for post of chief in 1976) did not lead from the front “to give the required push” and “there was a lack of a necessary push and drive at brigade and battalion level”.16 Finally the infiltrating force had to withdraw. There was no General Wolfe here to lead the infiltrating Pakistan Brigade onto the narrow path to victory.
But then Wolfe died and Quebec was captured by his troops. At
Poonch no Pakistani officer beyond colonel rank was killed and Poonch
stayed in Indian hands! It may be added that the Northern Areas were given very
low priority by the Pakistani GHQ. This enabled the Indians to capture
important posts overlooking Kargil-Leh Road and in Paratpur Sector. Later these
posts became the stepping ground for Indian infiltration into Siachen.
23 Division Operations
Pakistan’s 23 Division was facing a larger division in Chamb yet it captured Chamb despite determined Indian opposition. After this the division established a bridgehead opposite Pallanwala across the Tawi to conduct further operations against Jaurian.The whole process came to a full stop on 10th December when Major General Eftikhar the indomitable GOC of the division was killed from injuries suffered in a helicopter crash. At this stage the Indian 10 Division had strong reserves which were uncommitted i.e an infantry brigade which was free after capturing the Phulkean Salient and the 3rd Armoured Brigade comprising 8th Light Cavalry (Vijayanta) and Central India Horse (T-55).However in case Pakistan’s 23 Division had captured a foothold across Tawi.These Indian reserves would have become committed.
1 Corps Operations
Pakistan’s 1 Corps was responsible for defence of Shakargarh Bulge and Sialkot.The Shakargarh Bulge offered many jumping areas for Pakistan’s 6th Armoured Division to sever the Indian line of communication from Pathankot to Jammu. The Pakistanis had three excellent minefields protecting the bulge apart from the Ravi River on the south and adequate reserves to launch an attack into Indian held Kashmir while the attacking Indians were caught in the three minefields. The Pakistani GHQ was, however, already dominated by a defensive mindset and the 1 Corps Commander was one known for procrastination,indecision and vacillation. A man of few words whose professionalism ended at checking arcs of fire of all infantry trenches of all infantry battalions holding the forward defended localities.
Lieutenant General Irshad viewed his task as that of a sentry who had to react only when threatened and would do nothing else ! Thus the 6th Armoured Division remained on rear sentry duty around Pasrur and Daska while the 17 Division was deployed to defend the Marala-Ravi Link many miles in the rear and at no stage under any Indian threat.The Indian Corps Commander K.K Singh was another similarly typical sub continental corps commander, mediocre in operational outlook, immensely concerned about security, timid in offensive operations. He was the same man because of whose irresolution and poor handling of armour the Indians failed to win the 1965 War within few hours at Gadgor on 8th September! K.K Singh had two armoured brigades and a comfortable superiority in infantry. However he was more concerned about security just like his Pakistani counter part and had deployed half of his corps in holding roles, divided his armour, dishing it out to holding infantry formations leaving two weak armoured brigades to lead infantry division advances at infantry pace at many points. The result in words of an Indian analyst was “pathetic”......”there was total lack of offensive spirit at any level”!17 However, by 15th December one Indian Division whose advance was spearheaded by a tank regiment had breached all three minefields! Now comes the reaction of Pakistan’s 1 Corps Commander like an NCO drilling a platoon of recruits! 8 Armoured Brigade is told to launch a counter attack to restore the situation with minimum force. No artillery beyond the obsolete 105 MM Priest Self-Propelled Guns was used to support the attack and the result was an Indian tank regiment contained with three Pakistani Tank Regiments two of which lost almost half of their tanks!
One of the most unfortunate incidents of 1971 War was the 35
FF attack on Barapind-Jarpal. The Indian Armoured Corps historian called
it “an attack doomed to failure” and one in which “a heroic battalion was
sacrificed to no purpose”!18 Even Pakistani historian Fazal Muqeem found nothing
correct in this attack and thus concluded “The few counter attacks which 8
Division (Major General Abdul Ali Malik) tried during the war were noticeable
by their lack of planning...The worst example of this attack was on December
17”.19 The hallmark of higher commanders in both Pakistani and Indian 1
Corps was phenomenal incompetence. The Indians captured some large size mud
villages of no strategic consequence which were returned at Simla Talks.
Pakistan’s 6th Armoured Division and 17th Division remained unemployed and no
effort was made by Pakistan’s 1 Corp Commander to wrest the initiative from the
Indians or to make the Indian Corps Commander to his offensive moves!
Mediocrity was the common factor on both sides in 1 Corps battle. The Indian 1
Corps Commander advanced because he was told to do so and the Pakistani 1 Corps
Commander did not advance because no one told him to do so!
4 Corps Battle Operations
4 Corps of Pakistan was in holding role in the Ravi Sutlej Corridor and facing about two Indian divisions with two of its own.Certain minor actions like capture of Indian Enclave opposite Hussainiwala Headworks took place in 4 Corps operational area. Hussainiwala was an enclave west of Sutlej and difficult to hold. The Indian battalion 15 Punjab fought well and this was acknowledged by Fazl Muqeem20 but was betrayed by its commanding officer who had pitched his headquarter in the safety of Sutlej River on the East bank.Most notable here was the conduct of Pakistan’s Lt Col Ghulam Hussain Chaudhry of 3rd Punjab who led his battalion from the front and was killed in action. One of the very few commanding officers to get killed in action on the Western Front. No road in any major cantonment is named after this brave man in Pakistan! Hussainiwala was a small affair in terms of casualties. The Indians who were well entrenched suffered a total of 19 Killed 21 casualties.
105 Independent Brigade
Pakistan’s 105 Brigade carried out a small scale but highly aggressive operation in Sulaimanke area opposite Indian town of Fazilka. The strength here was in Indian favour but Indian brigade commander S.S Chowdry was highly incompetent in placing his forward battalion 10 kilometre ahead of his other two battalions. This enabled Pakistan’s 105 Brigade to capture the Bund ahead of Sabuna Distributary thus ensuring the safety of Pakistan’s most crucial Sulaimanke Canal Headworks which was just 1,500 metres from the border. 105 Brigade’s determined counter attack severely depressed Indian Higher Commanders. 11 Corps Commander expressed a desire to abandon the area and withdraw to Fazilka Fortress and to replace 67 Brigade which was defending the area.22 Such was the state of Indian demoralisation that Western Command Army Commander finally sacked 67 Brigade Commander on 11th December.23 S.S Chowdhry was replaced by Brigadier Piara Singh. At this stage the Indian brigade commander was so demoralised that he overestimated the Pakistani strength opposite him to be two infantry brigades supported by an armoured regiment24 while in reality the Pakistani strength on east bank of Sabuna was only an infantry battalion (6 FF) supported by a depleted tank squadron of WW Two vintage tanks. The Indians suffered heavy casualties at Sulaimanke.Some 190 Killed, 196 Missing most of whom were killed or prisoners and 425 wounded.25 These casualties were far heavier than those suffered by 54 Division which fought battles like those around Bara Pind Jarpal which suffered a total of some 76 Killed and 272 wounded.26
18 Division plan to capture Longanewala was brilliant in conception. It failed because of poor logistic planning and lack of air cover. There was hardly anything in front of the 18 Division attacking force heading for Longanewala and Jaisalmer, however, since there was no air support just two Indian Hunters neutralised Pakistani armour! This attack has been much criticised by arm chair strategists in Pakistan. However, the situation was saved by the fact that Indians opposing 18 Division were equally incompetent and hesitated from attacking the withdrawing Pakistani troops from Longanewala. One positive aspect of the whole affair despite all Pakistani imperial blunders was the fact that the attack even in its failure caused such mental discomfort to Indian Higher commanders that the Indian plans to attack Rahimyar Khan were dropped.27 Thus Indian Southern Command Army Commander Lieutenant General Bewoor requested Manekshaw for a change in task with the plea that resources placed at his disposal were insufficient for capture of Rahimyarkhan.28 The Indians decided to call off all offensive operations of 12 Division against Rahimyar Khan and transferred one of the three brigades of 12 Division to Kutch Sector on the 12th December for the planned attack on New Chhor.29 This reinforcement was a sugar coated bullet for 11 Indian Division since it only further compounded the logistic nightmare of 11 Indian Division.30 Indian Armoured Corps historian was intellectually honest enough to admit that “main toll was taken by the terrain,the IAF destroyed a sizeable number of tanks and vehicles” while the 12 Division itself did little.31
The Pakistani GHQ was perturbed by the failure of 18 Division and was forced to break up their strategic reserve infantry division sending one brigade to Chhor and another to Shakargarh on 7th December.32 While the move of a brigade to Chhor was most necessary that of sending one to Shakargarh was avoidable.
Indian 11 Division was assigned the task of capturing New Chhor held by a Pakistani brigade supported by a tank squadron. A force comprising 85 Infantry Brigade and an independent tank squadron
(T-55) was earmarked. This force contaced the outer defences of New Chhor at Parbat Ali on 8th December. The Indians wanted to mount a divisional attack on New Chhor but were delayed due to administrative reasons. By 11th December the second Indian brigade also reached the area. On 13th December the Indians launched a brigade plus attack capturing Parbat Ali. However, their time and space was by now totally off balance. The area had been reinforced by another brigade of 33 Division and on 15th December as per their own admission a probing force of the Indians opposite New Chhor was severely mauled.33 This was done by 60 Brigade consisting of three fine infantry units i.e 44 Punjab, 45 Punjab and 46 Baluch. 44 Punjab in particular distinguished itself at 199 and 200 r! The Brigade in actual fact was commanded in the field by Lt Col (later Brig) Muhammad Taj SJ & Bar, who was CO 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh). 44 Punjab was the hub for the defence of Naya Chhor, the Indians actually withdrew in the face of aggressive patrolling. This fact was acknowledged by Indian GOC 11 Division in his flag meeting with Major General Iqbal (later CJCSC) after the war.34 There is a Nicholson Memorial at Taxila but no memorial in Chhor for Pakistan Army soldiers who saved Sindh in 1971! It is an irony of Pakistani military history that Major General Shaukat Riza has not mentioned this incident at all while it was Major K.C Praval an Indian military historian who acknowledged this fact. On the other hand Fazal Muqeem criticises the decision of sending 60 Brigade to Sindh. Had 60 Brigade not come to New Chhor the Indians may not have stopped before reaching Mirpur Khas! Fazal Muqeem thus did not mention 60 Brigade at all in his book. Perhaps doing so would have contradicted his brilliant criticism of dividing 33 Division! The Indian brigade operating in Umerkot-Nagarparkar area captured many thousand square miles but all these consisted of empty desert. Another aspect of military history writing in Pakistan is regimental bias and personal likes and dislikes. It is significant that all the three units of 60 Brigade were new units and thus not worthy of being mentioned by stalwarts from old units. The same was the case with Bara Pind where 31 Cavalry and 27 Cavalry were praised by Indians for better planning and good battle procedures but were not praised by any Pakistani military historian!
At one stage during the war the Indian GHQ wanted Southern Command to capture Badin with a brigade group from Kutch side but this idea was dropped because of administrative/logistic problems.35
Quality of Strategic Orientation
Both sides were equally barren in terms of strategic insight. Thus one Indian army officer who occuped a senior position in 1971 noted “At the time of the Bangladesh War no institution of Indian Army taught or studied strategy”. Thus as per Jacob “no realistic ,overall estimate of war situations by the Army Headquarters was made”. There was in fact no strategic or political definition of policy,nor an appropriate higher command organisation to plan or direct the war”.36 Jacob states that Manekshaws handling of senior officers was not conducive to creating confidence.37
Intellectually speaking the Pakistani higher command was an equal negation of two nation theory at least in terms of mediocrity in higher ranks. Starting from what East Pakistan the Pakistani GHQ had a naively simplistic attitude towards Bengali separatism. They did not realise that political problems could seriously compromise the strategic equilibrium of the army. This dawned upon them only once the army’s reserve 9 and 16 Divisions were airlifted to East Pakistan in March-April 1971. If two divisions were raised to replace 9 and 17 Divisions in 1971 two divisions could have been raised to serve in East Pakistan in the period 1965-66!
The much trumpeted phrase defence of East Pakistan lies in West Pakistan was an oversimplified and highly vague statement.Thus the admission of Fazal Muqeem that as earlier discussed no one knew what action would be taken in West Pakistan if an attack was mounted against East Pakistan. This was not because Yahya or his junta was intellectually inferior in any manner than the Ayub-Musa duo but simply because by 1971 the strategic balance had overwhelmingly tilted in favour of India! As a matter of fact Pakistan Army improved in the positive direction after 1965 and Yahya relatively speaking was a far better professional than Musa. He was, however, only an individual and could not alter the movement of historical forces which were far stronger than any individual actor. He was the product of an age and a military system which wanted to produce Indian officers who could command companies but not brigades or divisions what to talk of a corps or an army.
The only answer to Pakistan’s strategic dilemma was to mount a pre-emptive attack on India in Monsoon season before the Indian Army had fully mobilised and the Himalayan Passes had not become snow bound. This did not happen because Indira Gandhi conducted skilful diplomacy and also because Pakistan’s military junta lacked strategic insight. Indian Western Command C in C Candeth admitted the fact that all Indian plans to attack Pakistan would have gone to winds had Pakistan attacked in October 1971.38 Thus Candeth’s remark that “Yahya Khan had tarried too long and had missed the boat”.
Degree of Success of Diversionary attacks
The Pakistani GHQ had a difficult task as far as balancing means availabale and ends sought were concerned. Despite inept execution diversionary attacks did overthrow Indian plans off balance. Thus the Poonch operation affected Indian 1 Corps plans in Sialkot-Shakargarh because of despatch of 33 Brigade from 1 Corps to 15 Corps area opposite Poonch. Similarly the ill-fated Longanewala-Jaisalmer operation made the Indians abandon their plans to conduct offensive operations against Rahimyarkhan. The 105 Brigade operation against Sulaimanke came very close to strategic success and both the local brigade commander and the corps commander wanted to withdraw to Fazilka 15 Kilometres to the rear. This was only stopped once Candeth stepped in.
Timidity at Operational Level
While the lower levels of command were in relatively high spirits timidity at operational level severely retarded conduct of operations.Glaring among all was conduct of 1 Corps Commander in Ravi-Chenab Corridor who was overcome by inertia and indecision from day one. Throughout the war he reacted to Indian moves rather than making any attempt to make the opposing Indian commander react to his moves despite the fact that he had sufficient reserves to do so.Compare his conduct with that of GOC 23 Division General Eftikhar who achieved a breakthrough despite having no superiority at all. On the other hand 1 Corps Headquarter functioned like a glorified post office simply processing reinforcement requests and waiting for the enemy to breach the last Pakistani minefield.
Indian 1 Corps Commander also proceeded with equal caution but was forced to attack since he had been ordered to attack. Even then he did so in a fairly bureaucratic manner, neatly dividing his armour so that all divisional attacks made progress but no major breakthrough was achieved. The average sub continental corps commander’s first priority was security and safety rather than speed and dynamism in the conduct of operations. In words of an Indian observer 1 Corps advance in Shakargarh was “pathetic”... “the plan was not designed for a quick advance but was merely to play safe”!39 This was despite the fact that this illustrious career officer had fought the 1965 War in the same sector (pathetically at Gadgor), had served as Director Military Operations and then risen to three star rank to command India’s elite strike corps on the Western Front! Praval described this illustrious three stars corps battle as one “smitten with indecision”, a corps whose offensive failed “without the capture of its initial objectives” ...one which advanced just 13 kilometres in 12 days.40 I would say that this man was no different from any of the top brass I saw in my 13 years service ! Ones who have an immense sense of timing , not in matters operational or strategic but in personal career planning and getting the right ACR from the right man at the right time ! It is consoling to hear from General Jacob that the same state of affairs plagues the Indian High Command to date! 41
There were certain missed opportunities in the war in the sense that the wrong men were at the right places.Thus Major General Eftikhar a highly operationally gifted commander was given a limited offensive role and limited resources.Had this man been given one more infantry brigade and an armoured brigade he could conveniently have forced the Indians to shift brigades from 1 Corps area into Chamb. As a matter of fact at one stage in battle one of the brigades in 1 Corps area was alerted to move to Chamb. Similarly had this man been the Pakistani Corps Commander in 1 Corps the whole story of conduct of operations may have been different. Similarly in 105 Brigade area with just another armoured regiment Amir Hamza could have achieved a breakthrough and gone right till Bikanir Canal. It is a credit to this indomitable leader of men that despite no superiority in resources he almost made the Indians abandon Sabuna Line and advocate withdrawal to Fazilka and Gong Canal. But then Hamza was packed off as a major general and Pakistan Army was gifted with four stars who had not been seen by the FOOs of their divisional artillery throughout the war!
Chances of Success of the Counter Offensive
There has been too much rhetoric about the Pakistani Counter Offensive that was never launched.In the first place once the war started the counter offensive was already late by one month as Candeth stated. Secondly the objectives of the counter offensive i.e Bhatinda or some say even Ludhiana were unrealistic if we keep in mind the pathetic performance of Pakistani armour in 1965 despite having achieved total strategic surprise and having relatively better equipment. Thirdly while in 1965 Pakistan’s armoured division was only opposed by a weak infantry division and later by a weak tank brigade, here was a situation where the Indian armoured division was already well poised and waiting for the attack. The result would have been a clash of armour in almost equal strength with both sides getting bloody noses and achieving nothing on the strategic plane. True that the Pakistanis may have had a free run till Gong Canal or even a little to its east but East Pakistan was already lost and by the time Pakistan Army was across the Gong Canal it would have been facing the first additional Indian corps arriving from East Pakistan. That is if the counter attack was to be launched on 16 December as planned.There was a chance of achieving some success in case the counter offensive had been launched on 4th or 5th December, but then Pakistani Higher Command was against it.No tribute to their strategic acumen!
Analysis of Casualties
An analysis of casualties prove that the bulk of the fighting was done firstly by 23 Division at Chamb which suffered almost half of the casualties sustained in the Western Theatre. Similarly this division inflicted the heaviest number of casualties on the Indians.Second as per this scale was 105 Brigade at Sulaimanke which suffered second highest casualties on Indians despite having no superiority in numbers. Third position may be assigned to the forces opposite Poonch. The Indians opposite 105 Brigade lost more men than opposite 8 Division at Sialkot. The magnitude may be imagined from the fact that while the Indians lost some 67 Killed and 90 wounded at Hilli from 23rd November to 11 December, 39 at Sulaimanke they lost something like 190 Killed and 196 Missing most of whom were killed or prisoners and 425 wounded.42
Formation Killed Missing Wounded Prisoner Total
10 Division 440 190 723 Included in 1353
54 Division 76 - 272 - 298
67 Brigade 190 196 425 811
4 Para Jalwala 21 - 60 - 81
Shyok-Kargil 55 28 195 - 278
Rest of 846 Cannot be 2546 No Exact 3703
Formations on reconciled figures
Western Front with missing
The following table showing Indian casualties on the entire Western Front in 1971 is self explanatory:—43
Almost half of the casualties sustained by the Pakistan Army in the Western Theatre were sustained by the valiant 23 Division.Thus while total army casualties in the western Theatre were 4,958 those of 23 Division alone were 2,216.44
Defence as the stronger form of war
The lessons of 1971 War were not digested by Asian countries.Indian Army on the Western Front had failed throughout the war to achieve any breakthrough on the Western Theatre. Similarly the Indian efforts to attack positions in East Pakistan mostly failed. This lesson was convincingly once again proved in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 when both sides failed to achieve any breakthrough. East Pakistan where the Indian Army did achieve a breakthrough was an exceptional case where conditions were highly unnatural and where superiority was overwhelming. Thus the validity of Indian analyst Brigadier Sodhi’s conclusion that “the success of the army in Bangladesh was mainly due to peculiar conditions prevailing there, which are difficult to imagine obtaining in any future war” and that “the true performance of the army was in the Western Theatre”45 whereas per Sodhi the Indian Army failed to overcome any main enemy position. I am not implying that things would have remained the same if all three corps committed in East Pakistan had arrived. However, even then the cost would have been high. One which Indira Gandhi was not willing to pay. Thus the unilateral Indian ceasefire of 17th December 1971!
No attack succeeded anywhere except in Chamb where the general officer commanding was of an exceptionally high calibre. The defender was stronger and the Chawinda experience of smaller forces defeating larger forces when smaller forces was convincingly proved when three Pakistani tank regiments miserably failed to make a dent against one Indian tank regiment. All battles where any side did well were battles in which the side which performed better was in defence. This was because of the immense lethality of modern weapons and increased ground friction. Thus 6 FF inflicted maximum casualties on Indians while it was defending Sabuna Drain rather than when it attacked it. Shakargarh again was triumph of defence.
Use of Reserves
The decision to divide 33 Division after failure of the 18 Division Operation opposite Longanewala was subjected to much criticism by Fazal Muqeem. While sending one brigade might sound unnecessary there is no doubt that the decision to send 60 Brigade and a tank regiment (Guides Cavalry) to 18 Division area was a sound operational decision. The situation after the Longanewala fiasco was serious, had the Indians exploited it. Even the Indian historian noted that 12 Division missed a rare opportunity.46 In this case Yahya and his team reacted correctly.
At the strategic level both sides showed a remarkable hesitation in use of reserves which illustrates that generalship at higher level was barren. What is the use of a strategic reserve that is never used. Thus both sides armoured divisions were not committed and both sides at the highest level were happy that these were not committed.Yahya stated unofficially in private conversations that the armour commanders particularly Gul Hassan and some other generals had lost the will to fight. Gul claims in his memoirs that it was Yahya who was delaying the counter offensive.47 An engineer battalion commander who this scribe interviewed stated that 1st Armoured Division staff and commanders less than lieutenant colonel Shah Rafi Alam showed no interest in bridging plans across Gong Canal ! Perhaps by December 1971 some had lost the will to fight.
There was perhaps a deeper philosophical explanation. Long ago Carl Von Clausewitz beautifully summed up Yahya Khan’s dilemma once he said ‘There are two considerations which as motives may practically take the place of inability to continue the contest. The first is the improbable, the second is the excessive price of success’!48 Perhaps Yahya was more concerned about saving West Pakistan which would have come under heavy attack once three Indian corps free from the Eastern Theatre were to be shifted to the Western Theatre! The decision which Yahya took was based on a rationale and was not an act of a drunkard as was later claimed in cheap polemics!
Use of ad hoc forces and minefields
If desert delayed Indians in 11 and 12 Division areas, minefields and Changez Force played a major role in delaying the Indians in 8 Division area. Changez Force was an ad hoc force raised under Brigadier Nisar of Gadgor fame who had by a rare exercise of coup d oeil blocked the Indian 1st Armoured Division in 1965. Changez Force operated in between the three layers of minefields in Shakargarh Bulge. Even the Indian Armoured Corps historian acknowledged its role when he stated “Pak armour functioned well in the role of covering troops.It managed to delay a superior armour force for a longer period than it could have been planned for”.49 Praval acknowledged the effect of minefields when he said “1 Corps commenced operations in an area which was very heavily defended by minefields”.50
Influence of Generalship on Operations in the Field
In most of the formations on both sides general officers preferred conducting the battle by wireless and telephone. Moltke the Elder correctly stated “It is a delusion, when one believes that one can plan an entire campaign and carry out its planned end ... the first battle will determine a new situation through which much of the original plan will become inapplicable”.51 Moltke went further and said “Everything comes to this; To be able to recognise the changed situation and order the foreseeable course and prepare it energetically”.52 John Keegan described the German definition of operational strategy in the following words:- “Even higher in the German army’s scale of values than the nature of the warrior spirit in its conscripts stood the cultivation of operational talent in their leaders. Operative is an adjective which does not translate exactly into English military vocabulary. Lying somewhere between “Strategic” and “tactical”, it describes the process of transforming paper plans into battlefield practice, against the tactical pressures of time which the strategist does not know, and has been regarded by the German army as the most difficult of the commanders art since it was isolated by the great Moltke in the 1860s. Taught in so far as it can be taught, in his famous staff college courses, its traits were eagerly looked for in the performance of general staff candidates and its manifestation in practice. In war time it was rewarded by swift promotion”.53 In 1 Corps area on both Indian and Pakistani side general officers fought the battle from their headquarters.
A young officer then serving as a liaison officer described the siting of the headquarter of one infantry brigade commander near Zafarwal with immense care to ensure that nothing in the Indian armoury could have even a dent on this great field commanders headquarter.54 The battles in this area were fought by troops who fought well but were not led by dynamic commanders.What was Bara Pind? A battle in which Indian position was saved by the skin of its teeth55 because of the last ditch stand by a troop leader who was a subaltern ! No tribute to Vaidya the brigade commander or the 54 Division Commander! What was glorious about Jarpal and Barapind apart from the stoical bravery of 13 Lancers,31 Cavalry and 35 FF !
It was only in Chamb in Pakistan’s 23 Division that operational
leadership in its true dimension was exhibited ! General Eftikhar was a dynamic
leader of men praised by Indian military historian Praval as one who exhibited
“commendable flexibility” ..... “one who showed skill and determination in
carrying out his mission”.56 In the true Clausewitzian definition of a military
genius he spread light around with the spark of his breast, exhorting men to
drive on, exposing himself countless times to fire ! If he expected too much
then there is no doubt that he gave too much and to this day his name is
remembered with great respect by old veterans of 11 Cavalry (Frontier Force)
who was lucky to serve under his command!57 His photograph hangs in the
officers mess and every second lieutenant from the military academy is told
about his exploits. The tragedy is that Eftikhar was a piece of rock in empty
space,a lone lighthouse in a sea of mediocrity! The Eftikhar way of command was
never institutionalised! Thus General Eftikhar was able to pierce the veil of
darkness with his rapier like operational vision; overcoming all the stumbling
blocks in his way; facing the barrage of conflicting information passed on
through the subjective process of distortion of informaiton; as it is passed
from the lower to the higher echelons in crisis situation. In Clausewitzian
terms General Eftikhar whose generalship and personality comes closest to the
Clausewitzian frame of the ideal military commander as far as Indo-Pak
sub-continent is concerned he “stood like a rock against which the sea breaks
its fury in vain”.58 A battle was fought by a general officer at the true
operational level in 1971 only by Pakistan’s Major General Eftikhar. It is an
irony of Pakistani military history that many of our so-called military heroes
at the general level had nothing to do with any operational strategy in any
war! It is a strange fact that this man’s generalship in 1971 was not given the
space of a line by Pakistan Army’s last C in C in his voluminous memoirs
despite the fact that Gul claimed that Eftikhar was his friend!59
Artillery as a factor in success or failure
Artillery had played a major role in many Pakistani successes. On the other hand where artillery factor was missing invariably failures occurred. The Bara Pind Counter attack apart from other factors was a glaring example of failure in absence of artillery. Absence of sufficient artillery played a major role in many of Pakistani failures in East Pakistan. Even the Indian bypassing of Pakistani defences had a link with absence of sufficient artillery with Pakistani forces.
Strategic ineptness and phenomenal operational incompetence triumphed on both sides of the Radcliffe Line in 1971. Bravery at junior level compensated things to some extent. What did India achieve apart from simplifying Pakistan’s strategic problems is for Indians to ponder. They did inflict a severe psychological defeat on Pakistan which in turn has given birth to a dangerous kind of extremism in the post-1971 politics. When the student attending the armed forces war course at the prestigious National Defence College writing a paper on 1971 War claims with pride that all major Pakistani garrisons had survived surrender in 1971 till the fall of Dacca,he is stating a truism which even a student at infantry school knows. What is the glory in holding individual garrisons when higher headquarters lost the will to fight and an army of brave men was condemned to incarceration in prisoner of war camps for two years! On the other hand there is little comfort in the fact that we were strategically inept and saved from total elimination simply because our enemy is equally inept at the strategic level. Vajpayee is too late in trying to solve the Pakistan problem in the post-Pokhran stage. What could have been achieved by dishing out a few ministries to Indian Muslims by Nehru in 1937 cannot be today accomplished by an Indian with a fine nuclear arsenal! The finest compliment to Indian political leadership was paid by General Jacob when he stated “At the negotiating table at Simla we were unable to obtain a permanent settlement of outstanding issues with Pakistan. The advantages gained on the battlefield were frittered away at the Simla Conference”!60 In 1971 this army fought a war albeit half heartedly and had many heroes who did well and are remembered. An uncertain future faces us. This century has seen great armies,once considered impregnable collapsing without fighting a battle simply because their highest political leadership betrayed them! Thus the suicide note of Marshal Akhromyev of USSR, “Everything I have devoted my whole life to building is collapsing”. Armies are defeated but survive defeats. They are only destroyed once their leaders betray them like Tejh Singh and Lal Singh betrayed the Khalsa in 1845-46!
1Page-111- Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership-Major General Fazal Muqeem Khan (Retired)-National Book Foundation-Ferozsons-Rawalpindi-1973
5Pages-308 to 310-Memoirs of Lt Gen Gul Hassan Khan-Lt Gen Gul Hassan Khan-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1993.
6Page-112 & 113-Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.
7Page-118-The Western Front-Lt Gen K.P Candeth-Allied Publishers Private Limited-New Delhi-1984.
8Page-107-Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.
9Page-357-The Way it was-Brigadier Z.A Khan-Dynavis Private Limited-Karachi-1998.
10Page-481-The Indian Armour-History of the Indian Armoured Corps-1941-71-Vision Books-New Delhi-1990.
11Page-362-Indian Army since Independence-Major K.C Praval-Lancer International-New Delhi-1993.
13Page-523-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
14Pages-144 & 145-Candeth-Op Cit.
15Page-369-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
16Page-197-Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.
17Page-147-Top Brass-A Critical Appraisal of the Indian Military Leadership-Brigadier H.S Sodhi-Trishul Publications -India-1993.
18Pages-508 & 509-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
19Pages-215 & 216-Fazal Muqeem Khan-Op Cit.
20Pages-206 & 207-Ibid.
22Page-147 & 148-Ibid and Pages-392 & 393-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.
23Page-392-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
25Page-392-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
27Page-396-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.Page-531-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
29Ibid and Page-532-Gurcharan Singh Sandhu-Op Cit.
30Page-399-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
31Page-532-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
32Page-213-Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit.
33Page-399-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
34Interview with many officers and soldiers of units of 60 Brigade which participated in the Sanohi Ridge action in 1992-93.
36Page-59-Surrender at Dacca-Birth of a Nation-Lt Gen J F R Jacob-Manohar Books-Delhi-1997.
39Page-147-Brigadier Sodhi-Op Cit.
40Page-383-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
41Page-11-Lt Gen Jacob- Op Cit.
42Page-392-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
43Pages-369 & 392-K.C Praval-Op Cit.Page-110-Candeth-Op Cit.
44Page-280-Fazal Muqeem-Op Cit. Page-87-Battle of Chamb-Lt Col Ahmad Saeed-Army Education Press-GHQ-1979.
45Page-149-Brigadier Sodhi-Op Cit.
46Page-532-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
47Pages-308 to 311-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit.
48Page-125- On War-Carl Von Clausewitz-Edited by Lt Col F.N Maude and Anatol Rapoport-Pelican Books-1976.
49Page-514-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
50Page-384-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
51Pages 70 to 117-Military Works- - Volume Four-Field Marshal Count Helmuth Von Moltke-E. S. Mitter Und Sohn- Berlin-1892-1912.
52Pages 1, 71-73-Ibid.
53Page-238-Six Armies in Normandy-John Keegan-1980.
54Discussion with Brigadier Aslam Niazi who was a lieutenant in 1971 in June 1996 while he was Commander 4 Corps Artillery at Lahore.
55Page-514-Gurcharan Singh-Op Cit.
56Pages-364 & 368-K.C Praval-Op Cit.
57Discussion with Lieutenant Colonel Sulaiman and Major Iftikhar in 1984-85 of 11 Cavalry who were troop leaders in Chamb in 1971 and whose tanks were hit by enemy fire.
59Page-268-Gul Hassan Khan-Op Cit.
60Page-152-Lt Gen Jacob-Op Cit.
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