LoC-Line of Control

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Columnist Wing Comd (Retd) MUHAMMAD IRSHAD discusses the various aspects of the LoC dividing KASHMIR

Line of Control has always been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Some call it a geographical necessity. Some call it a political blunder. The entire stretch of the Line of Control between the Indian held Kashmir and the areas of the state under Pakistan’s control— known as Azad Kashmir is a soldier’s nightmare. The LoC in the Indian territory resembles thousands of ‘Check Point Charlie’ at the Berlin Wall during the Cold War. The 800-km curved line does not follow any well defined geographical feature and often a house has its courtyard in India and other rooms in Pakistan. For the last 50 years, the two armies have been in an eye ball to eye ball confrontation. In this situation, border skirmishes and firing are the order, and peace is a rare interlude. Since five decades the best brains and resources of both the countries have been kept engaged by this line which both the nations consider it to be only temporary. To understand the history and geography of this line, we must first talk of one of parting kick given by the British Lord Mountbatten from his long list of “hate Muslims”.

The British having ruled the sub-continent for so long, were naturally reluctant to pull out; but when they found it totally inevitable; they started playing against their own defined rules. One such victim was the town of

Gurdaspur, located near our Sialkot borders. As per the defined formula, and the later plebiscite, this town was to be the part of Pakistan. So when plebiscite results were declared Muslims also considered the valley of Kashmir (already having 77% Muslims but ruled by a Hindu) as to be a natural part of Pakistan. For Indians the occupation of this town was extremely important, because all road links with Kashmir were only through this town. The future Indian Prime Minister Nehru, extremely cunning and famous for all kinds of treacheries, had other plans. His links with the British Lord Mountbatten’s wife were no secret, and his qualities of deception and double talk were equally famous. So the underground politics worked and only few days before the announcement of Independent Pakistan by Quaid-e-Azam, Mountbatten announced the accession of Gurdaspur with India, and only minutes later the Indian Army moved-in to capture the important posts of the town. It was kept so secret that even Quaid-e-Azam was not aware of it till the time, Indians had actually taken full control of it. But the subsequent news certainly annoyed him. It was against the defined rules, it was against the ethics, and it was definitely a case of betrayal of the Muslim cause. (Andrew Roberts in his book entitled “Lord Mountbatten’s Deceit”) writes

Just as Ferozepur and Zira had gone to India despite their Muslim majority, so three out of the four tehsils of the Gurdaspur district north of Amritsar were also awarded to India, despite the fact that two of them had significant Muslim majorities. Ferozepur had an arsenal, but Gurdaspur had something just as valuable: the road from India to Kashmir. In this case the ‘other factor’ was that only with Gurdaspur in India would there be a direct road between India and the land of Nehru’s birth.

. . . . . . .. . . . . .saw the Indian corridor to Kashmir via Muslim Gurdaspur as Mountbatten’s ‘parting kick’ to Pakistan. Mountbatten well understood the strategic implications, and told the Nawab of Bhopal on 4 August, that Kashmir was ‘so placed geographically that it could join either Dominion, provided part of Gurdaspur were put into East Punjab by the Boundary Commission’. If gerrymandering took place in case of Ferozepur, it is not too hard to believe that Mountbatten also pressurised Radcliffe to ensure that Gurdaspur wound up in India. The circumstantial evidence is once again overwhelming. As Alaistar Lamb has stated, ‘The essential access for India along the road was made possible by the Award of the three tehsils to India despite the Muslim majorities.’


As per the plebiscite formula, Kashmir , with more than 77% Muslim population was to be the part of Pakistan. The Mahraja of Kashmir, Hari Singh Dogra, was initially trying to preserve the integrity of Kashmir, and therefore did not accede to either dominion. But immediately after the announcement of Gurdaspur, he physically positioned himself in the Indian capital.

Quaid-e-Azam, the kind of legal man he was, did try to talk much of the legality, but no one listened to him. The things in general, for the infant state of Pakistan were extremely bad. The British were bent upon giving every carrot to Mr. Nehru and every stick was reserved for Jinnah. The Hindu mentality (which just showed us some glimpses in the massacre of Babri Mosque and invasion of Sikhs’ Golden Temple) was at its worst. Thus the Hindus were doing everything possible on earth to make life miserable for Muslims as well as for the new state of Pakistan. Many Hindu leaders had openly expressed faith that the new state within days will be begging for joining them back. The Muslim areas of Ferozepur and Zira were forcibly occupied by Hindus, because they contained a big Army ammunition depot. The Hindus not only raped and butchered every possible Pakistani, but also refused to give the Pakistan’s share of money and arms. Thus initially for many weeks, Pakistan had no money to even pay to its government employees, and even the army was consisting of some loyalist with negligible arms.

In those difficult times, Quaid-e-Azam, was given the news that Indian army has moved in Kashmir also. The fate of many areas occupied in a similar manner was very well-known to him.

“The key to understanding Mountbatten’s stance over Kashmir, which like Hyderabad had not acceded to either Dominion before Independence Day, was his anti-Pakistan bias. Ian Steven’s, editor of the English-language Indian paper The Statesman, dined with the Mountbatten on 26 October, 1947. A few days earlier Pathan tribesmen, believed to be supported by Pakistan, had attacked western Kashmir. At dinner with the Mountbatten, Steven’s was ‘startled by their one-sided verdict on affairs’ and thought that they had both ‘become wholly pro-Hindu’

Mountbatten claimed India’s policy towards Kashmir was ‘impeccable’. In fact, it is now known that Indian troops had moved into Kashmir before the tribesmen had crossed the border. A full scale airborne Indian invasion was under way the morning after the dinner with Steven’s, and three million Muslims in a vital region were forced to become Indian citizens against their will. Four out of five Kashmiris were Muslim, and in permitting India to invade and subsequently annex Kashmir-albeit whilst promising plebiscites there at a later stage — Mountbatten went back on the whole concept of his 3rd of June Plan of Partitioning the subcontinent into areas according to religion. The plebiscites were never held. “

(Excerpts “Lord Mountbatten’s Deceit” by Andrew Roberts)

With negligible resources, but with a show of tremendous courage, Quaid-e-Azam, decided to take a decision, which only his foresight could foretell. He decided to send his troops in Kashmir to face the Indian army, and avoid what had happened in Ferozepur, Gurdaspur and at many other places. But the man who controlled the heart-beats of millions of Muslims, got his first shock, when his own appointed, the British Chief of Pakistan Army, General Messervy refused to attack, calling it “mere suicide”. But the very strong man inside the thin bone structure, did not stop there. He convinced the tribal leader to send the volunteers, who obliged and thus the tribal lashkar crossed over the bridge on river Jhelum on 22nd October 1947.

Indians had strong regular army with plenty of ammunition, they also moved in very fast (their British Commander-in- Chief of Indian Army Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck, did not refuse Nehru). On 26th October 1947, the Indian army halted the tribal lashkar outside Srinagar. This war with some gaps continued for about 14 months, and was stopped at the intervention of UN on January 1, 1949. Both, India and Pakistan signed the ceasefire pact in Karachi on 27th July 1949, and this pact came to be known as “Karachi Pact” or “Ceasefire Pact”. This pact apart from other details of area occupation, for the first time defined this line as CFL (Ceasefire Line). This pact was signed by the military representatives of both the countries, and as a result UN observers were placed on both sides of the line.

In the demarcation of the CFL line, the extreme point to be considered was in Baltistan, valley of Shyok-river, point NJ 980420. From there on about a 75-Km stretch of snowy land leading up to the Chinese border was not demarcated for two reasons.

a) The area beyond the line consisted of glaciers, which were extremely difficult to map.

b) In the 14-month war, no fighting had taken place between the two countries in that area, and it was presumed that because of extreme weather, no fighting shall take place till the final settlement.

Following three paragraphs related to the CFL line, particularly need a mention.

Para 2(d): “Chotbatal(Pt 15700) Chulunka (on the Shyok river Khor) then north to the glaciers. This portion of the CFL shall be demarcated in detail on the basis of the factual position as of 27th July 1949 by the local commanders, assisted by UN military observers.”

Para 2(c): The CFL described above shall be drawn on a one inch map (where available) and then verified mutually on ground by the local commanders on each side with the assistance of the military observers, so as to eliminate any no man’s land. In the event that the local commanders are unable to reach an agreement, the matter shall be referred to the commission’s military advisers, whose decision shall be final. After this verification, the military advisers will issue to each high command a map on which will be marked the definite ceasefire line.

Para(6)-b(i): The basic document which determines the exact location of the CFL is the original map which was drawn during the demarcation of the line by opposing army representatives, and UN observers and approved by UNCIP’s Military advisers. This map is in the custody of the chief Military Observer.

Para(6)-b(ii): The descriptive narrative in the Karachi agreement serves only as a general guide when CFL positions are under considerations.

North of the line were Siachen Glaciers, which were traditionally always considered to be a part of Pakistan. This de-facto control of Pakistan was recognised internationally, and almost all the mountaineering teams which came to study the Siachen Glaciers and related areas took permission from Pakistan. Some of these teams included (Courtesy: Siachen Glacier By Col Muhammad Zakir):-

  • In 1957, the mountaineering team of Royal Imperial College, led by Mr. Eric Shipton, came to study the Siachen glaciers, Rimo glacier and K-12 peak.
  • Between 1961 and 1962, two Australian teams conquered the peaks of Sia-kangri.
  • Between 1961 and 1962, three Japenese teams went to Siachen glaciers, included in these teams was Pakistan-Japan Soltoro Expedition, for the very first time conquered the Soltoro Kangri peaks. Included in this expedition was Kyoto Alpine Club of Japan, with two Pakistanis, Raja Bashir and Pervez A Khan.

Because of Pakistan’s control over this area, on 2nd March 1963, Pakistan and China signed for adjustment and clear demarcation of their borders near the Siachen glaciers. Indians did lodge a protest in UN against this agreement, but nowhere they ever challenged the de-facto control of Pakistan over this area. An extract of the Indian words are reproduced below:-

“According to a communique issued by the government of Pakistan on 3rd May 1962, the Government of Pakistan and China have agreed to enter into negotiations to locate and mark the position of the boundary between India and China , west of Karakoram Pass which is presently under Pakistan’s unlawful occupation.” These words are confirming Pakistan’s control on area till Karakoram Pass which is much north of Siachen Glaciers.

During 1965 war, both countries occupied some areas of opposing countries, but in accordance with the “Tashkent Peace Accord”, returned almost to the pre-war positions, thus the Line of control virtually remained unchanged.

1971 was probably the worst year in Pakistan’s history. It was a year in which we faced a debacle of unimaginable proportion, matched by the total collapse of the political leadership. The massive blunders resulted in direct Indian landings to slice us into two parts, with India holding our 93,000 Pakistani Prisoners of War and a huge tract of land in the then known as West Pakistan. The nascent Pakistan economy was in a shambles and for all our self-righteous posturing in the global arena Pakistan stood cruelly isolated, its international prestige savaged. Under those circumstances, our Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went to sign the peace agreement, now known as “Simla Agreement”.

India insisted on many changes along the Ceasefire Line and even its status was changed to what it is now called “The Line of Control”. With some changes, now this line of control is defined as “the east-west line demarcated through Kashmir where Indian and Pakistani troops were positioned when a ceasefire was called to end hostilities between India and Pakistan on December 17, 1971”. When the Simla Agreement was signed on July 2, 1972, this line separated the one-third of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan from the two-thirds of Kashmir occupied by India. Field commanders from both sides, along with a UN representative, went through the actual ground positions of the two sets of troops with a fine-toothed comb and on December 11, 1972, a set of 25 maps were exchanged by both sides and signed to agree and ratify the Line of Control (LoC). However the defining posts at some places are many kilometers apart, creating a sort of “loosening” in demarcation, which is a major cause of regular flare-up between the two countries.

That the Siachen Glaciers were under de-facto control of Pakistan, was even recognised by the Indians and also by the International community, even after the Simla agreement, as they were taking Pakistan’s permission for their mountaineering expeditions. It is a long list, but some of the teams include:-

1. 1974- Japanese Kwoto university- Karakoram mission to conquer K-2 at the heights of 74680 meters.

2. 1975-UK North-West Karakoram Expedition- To conquer Sherbi Kangri at height of 23960 feet.

3. 1976- German KK Himalaya Expedition- For Salotre Kangri at 77060 Meters.

4. 1978- Japanese Kojo Alpine KK Expedition- Terim Glaciers at 6476 Meters.

5. 1980- Mr. Glen Roel-USA KK skating and tracking party-Lofound Glaciers.

6. 1984-Austrian Arex Expedition for K-12; were given permission effective for June , but Indians landed forces in April 1984.

Although Simla Agreement was signed, when the dice was heavily loaded against Pakistan, still it were the Indians who took lead to violate their own signatures. Two relevant clauses of the Simla agreement are:-

Article 1(ii) of the Simla Agreement states: Pending the final settlement of any problem between the two countries, neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation and both sides shall prevent organisation, assistance or encouragement of any acts detrimental to the maintenance of peaceful and harmonious relations.

Article 4(ii) states: The Line of Control shall be respected by both sides and both sides shall refrain from threats or use of force in violation of this line.

In 1972, soon after signing the Simla Agreement, India transgressed in the Chorbatal area. In 1984, it occupied the Siachin Glacier’s in complete violation of the Simla Agreement. In 1988, the Qamar sector was seized. Since 1996, India is using the artillery fire to interdict the road running through the Neelam valley. In May 1999, the Indians made an abortive attempt to occupy the Shyock sector on the Pakistan side of the LoC.

The occupation of Siachen Glaciers need a mention here, because all recent Indo-Pak conflicts were caused by the Indian unlawful occupation of this land. It is undoubtly , the world’s highest and most difficult battlefield. Some glaciers are as high as 24,000 ft, and for miles around, there is no question of any human population. The people in India and Pakistan have heard a lot about Siachen but not many could feel the touch of it. When the winds blow at 22,000 ft, in perpetual frozen areas, the bite is killing. In these mountains live the soldiers, where one wrong step could make a difference between life and death. Such is the prize which India chose to win. They learnt bitter lessons soon after, but it became a matter of prestige , too difficult to stay and impossible to quit — certainly very costly in terms of lives and resources. The logistics is so costly that Indians are spending about 3.5 crore rupees per day to supply provisions and ammunition to their soldiers. Pakistan’s expenditure is about one-fifth of this.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars in efforts to change this Line of Control. Many more wars, including the latest in Kargil have been avoided with a

thin margin. Although when it comes to occupation of lands or bothering the neighbours, India has an unprecendented record, all its efforts have resulted in a gradual decline in the living standard of the people of South Asia. An analysis of the cost conflict gives substance to this statement. In 1990, India spent $30.2 billion on its military alone. Between 1989 and 1991, Indians rate of growth declined by 40% while its level of debtness increased by over 20%. Pakistan’s economy is in much more troubles. In 1992-1993 Pakistan spent $ 3 billion on defence. The defence expenditure ate up 70% of the government revenue, leaving very little for social development and economic prosperity. Apparently, there is no chance of a peaceful co-existence without a proper solution of this Line of Control, which ultimately would mean a decent and acceptable solution of Kashmir.

There shall be a bright day when Pakistan and India shall get rid of this Line of Control problem. People of South Asia and many more people of the world are anxiously waiting for that day. Every rising sun in Pakistan brings a message that the day of peace is getting closer. Hopefully we hear a similar message from the Indian side.