And Its Three Wars
|Contributing Editor Vice Adm (Retd) IQBAL F
QUADIR looks at a half century of defence in Pakistan with special emphasis on the lessons
learnt in the three wars with India
One of the favourite hobbies of military officers, particularly those retired, is to fight the last battles again. This is more so if the earlier results had not proved favourable. Intellectuals, both civil and military, on the other hand, benefiting from the experience of the past, do take into account the imponderables of the future, including; economic, military and political; before venturing into discussions of strategies for times to come. This, amongst other things, includes; force structures, weapons development and economic progress with consequential changes in military strategies and; own and enemy's aims, capabilities and intentions. While planning, it is possible to quantify most factors into capabilities and limitations but, not so the aims and intentions'. That would well neigh be impossible. Yet, both are a function and product of capabilities and limitations themselves. That is why the saying , When there are capabilities, intentions can change without warning.
This article is a mere reminiscence of the three wars, as seen by the author, fought between India and Pakistan during the past fifty years and in no way amounts to an analysis of the events mentioned there-in. A very very brief conclusion drawn out of all what transpired during these wars ends this article .
Ever since independence Pakistan has been singularly unfortunate in that it had to bear the constant hostility of its much bigger neighbour. First, towards its very existence, and then later when despite all odds the Mercies of God had let it survive, an effort not to allow Pakistan any economic or political independence. Whether India succeeded in her objectives is not the issue here but this Indian attitude towards Pakistan led the two nations to fight three major wars in the fore-going half century. In the last of these, Pakistan lost its Eastern half. No free analysis of any of these three wars have been possible as regrettably, no information of any political or military importance has been released by the Government of Pakistan to either researchers or analysts. This, despite the fact that the Government of India has made most of its official records, including War Diaries and Action Reports, available to Indian researchers and writers, who were consequently able to write a large number of books concerning those wars. Not all of them very complimentary for the Indian higher ups. However, for some reasons known only to the military authorities, in Pakistan we have jealously guarded all important information necessary to any sensible analysis of those wars, particularly the last two. Perforce, one is led into a situation where the analyst or a writer has to depend either on what has been published in the press, or, on Indian documents which naturally are fully biased, or, on books published in Pakistan whose writers have tried more, to clear their own yard arms (pass their responsibilities on-to others), than provide reliable facts or information of value.
Notwithstanding these handicaps, it is important that we analyse these wars, not from a pure military point of view but in terms of what results ensued for the country. Official records would have been useful for this purpose but are not absolutely necessary, as the aftermath of each war was visible for every one to see. In this type of analysis winning a war only is not enough. It would not be victory if no beneficial results accrued to the winner after the war or, at the least, it was able to deny the adversary his objectives. After all, a war is not fought for the sake of testing the mettle of opposing armies or which one of them is better prepared in the art of warfare, but to achieve certain political or economic objectives or to destroy the others armed strength before it assumed threatening proportions.
On this basis, Pakistan was most successful in 1948/49 when, aided by indigenous Militia troops and Qayum Khan's Auxiliaries from the North West Frontier Province, the Army prevented the Indians from occupying the whole of Kashmir. This success denied India obtaining control of rivers flowing from that State into Pakistan and thus acquiring the ability to influence Pakistan's future destiny. Otherwise, from the very start Pakistan would have faced similar water crisis as Bangladesh is facing today due to the construction of the Farrakha dam in India. Similarly, an Indian victory over the whole of Kashmir would have given her a direct land access to Afghanistan and the Soviet Union while cutting off our present road and air routes to China. Pakistan would then have become surrounded on three sides and found itself in an untenable position militarily. This was indeed a great victory.
Most people believe that during 1965; the Rann of Kutch Indian military debacle followed by Pakistan's aimless incursions into Kashmir; originally opposed in 1964 by the Army CinC (as told to me by a reliable source who does not wish his name to be disclosed), led to a full scale war in the plains of Punjab. It included the largest tank battle which had taken place till then, this side of the WW II. The outcome of the 1965 war, consisting mainly of costly military manoeuvring by both sides, was however a stalemate. Finally, both sides heaved a sigh of relief when the UN sponsored cease-fire came through. It was a victory for neither country. On the contrary, the pride of the Indian Military leadership was badly dented by its failure to effectively utilise the massive forces available to it. Simultaneously, the myth of a mobile, hard hitting Pakistan Army was sadly tarnished when it failed to exploit a break through across the river Ravi.
Two naval myths, too, got generated at that time. That the whole of the Indian Navy was bottled up in harbour because of the presence of a single Pakistani submarine at sea. And, the Indian Naval expansion during the seventies and eighties was a reaction to the Pakistan Navy's bombardment of Dwarka. The real facts, however, were that almost seventy five percent of the Indian Navy was caught under maintenance in harbour after an intensive three months anti-submarine work up with a British submarine in the Bay of Bengal. And, for the second, that the post 1965, IN build up was part of the Indian Defence Plan, drawn out earlier, to prevent the recurrence of any military threat to India from seaward similar to one which had allowed Hindoosthan to be enslaved by the Europeans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The 1965 War expenditure brought economic hardship for the population and a virtual stoppage of economic development as almost all foreign aid dried up. Furthermore, it created the feeling of isolation in the minds of most thinking East Pakistanis who believed that it was only the threat of Chinese military intervention which prevented India from attacking them. Far worse and yet to be appreciated in Pakistan, was the out-fall of our close political cum military understanding reached at that time with (a Communist) China and (a Muslim) Indonesia armed to the teeth by (the Communist) Soviet Union. In Western minds, there could not have been a more diabolical combination of forces across the Indian Ocean containing the most sensitive communication routes of the West, and for the protection of which there had been a long standing though un-written understanding between all the Commonwealth countries. This perception was the raison d'etre for the initial but prompt and very considerable British assistance after our independence, in the build up of Pakistani and Indian Navies. However, our close politico-military co-operation with China and Indonesia during 1965, a great diplomatic victory which could have been converted into many practical shapes, lay abegging after a mere fortnight and remained un-exploited. In the end this short lived overture gave a severe blow to the Western trust in Pakistan.
The 1971 War was the result of a long drawn political and military opportunity provided to India by the domestic goings on in Pakistan, mainly in its Eastern Wing. Every Pakistani knows fully well that from day one of our independence, India had been looking for an opportunity to undo Pakistan or at least to harm it in whatever manner possible. The prolonged political upheaval in East Pakistan during 1970-71 provided an ideal opportunity for India to achieve her objectives. That country planned and fought a war with Pakistan in three different planes. First, the use of Mukti Bahini to keep Pakistani forces in the Eastern Wing occupied from 25 March to 21 November, till the Indian Army was ready for its planned aggression there. Second, a diplomatic offensive to mobilise world opinion in India's favour. Concurrently, India's Western and Northern Commands were readied to contain the anticipated Pakistani counter attack in the West, and to go on the offensive there if opportunity arose. Third, the invasion of East Pakistan by Indian armed forces. The third of these was most tardily executed and despite the six months given by Indra Gandhi to the Indian forces to prepare for the invasion, the Indian Army took so much caution and time that it almost lost what Mrs. Gandhi had put for it on the platter. Unfortunately, this Indian lapse was covered up by Pakistan Government's inept handling at the United Nation's level, and gave the Indian Army time o complete its task in East Pakistan.