Three Indian blunders in the 1971 war!

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by bhramos, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. bhramos

    bhramos Elite Member Elite Member

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    Pakistan army officers got away without being tried for genocide in 1971: Colonel Anil Athale (retd) identifies India's three blunders in that war.

    The 1971 Indo-Pak war was one of those rarest of rare occasions in our history when India took the military initiative.

    Politically, the war began in April 1971 when Pakistan pushed nearly nine million refugees into India through a campaign of rape, murder and terror that statistically comes close to Hitler's genocide of Jews in the Second World War, in scale and brutality.

    Military force remained the only option when it became clear that the rest of the world had decided to ignore this crime. India bided its time till the winter snows closed the Himalayan passes, rendering Chinese intervention difficult.

    Around November 26, 1971, India began to nibble at East Pakistani territory. Pakistan, instead of cutting its losses and calling quits, in a desperate gamble escalated the conflict by launching air/ground attacks in the West on December 3, 1971. By escalation, it hoped to rope in China and the US in widening the conflict and hoped for a UN intervention a la Kashmir.

    The Indian Air Force achieved remarkable success when within the first 48 hours it achieved complete air superiority in the Eastern theatre of war. This enabled the advancing army columns to move without any fear of detection even in daytime.

    With supply from the air assured, the army did not have to be dependent on opening of roads, which were heavily defended by the Pakistanis. The five division-strong Indian forces advanced from three directions and secured choke points well in the rear.

    The bypassed Pak forces had no option but to up stick and attack the Indian troops in order to go back to Dhaka. This was a classic case of 'offensive strategy' and defensive tactics devised by the indomitable General J F R Jacob.

    These tactics were reminiscent of the Israeli tactics of 1967 war when they bypassed the Egyptian forces in front and seized the passes in the rear (the Mitla and Giddi passes in the Sinai mountains).

    The Indian Army in Bangladesh similarly bypassed the Pakistani forces on the border and headed for the river ferries/crossings/bridges in the rear. This war strategy took advantage of the fact of modern warfare that tactically 'defence' is always stronger than offence.

    The Eastern prong led by Lieutenant General Sagat Singh found a chance opening and exploited it. In 24 hours, 12 small helicopters of the air force ferried brigade strength across a mile wide Meghan river.

    The Pakistani defenders were totally taken aback and Indian troops reached Dhaka by December 13-14. The navy had blockaded the sea and All India Radio constantly drummed into the Pak soldiers that they had no choice but to surrender.

    Surrender by the 93,000 strong garrison was only a matter of time.

    It is interesting to note that the Indian troops had less than 1:2 superiority and were on the offensive. Normally that means more casualties. But it is tribute to Indian general-ship that the Indian loss was 2,000 men as against that of Pak at 6,000.

    Credit for this goes to the dash and efficiency of the three services. The Bangladesh attack has been compared by many to the famous Blitzkrieg of the Germans. It must be never forgotten that the military success was a joint Indo-Bangladeshi effort.

    Without the whole-hearted support from the Bangladeshis, this war could have never been won. The people of Bangladesh paid a very heavy price for their freedom.

    Three Indian blunders in the 1971 war - Rediff.com News
     
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  3. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    In the West, both sides played a waiting game. In northern Kashmir, in the dead of winter, the Indian Army that was better trained and equipped, captured large amount of territory. There were minor losses in Chhamb and in Punjab.

    India captured the Shakargarh tehsil in Punjab and many jump-off points on the western front. When the cease fire came on December 17, India had shifted many troops from the East to West and was in a military position to over-run West Pakistan as well.

    The move of USS Enterprise and American threats of retaliation as well as Russian caution possibly saved Pakistan. An abortive Pakistani attempt to break through in Rajasthan at Longewala was foiled by a dogged infantry and the Indian Air Force that came to the army's rescue.

    The navy in the course of the war sunk the Pakistani Ghazi submarine and also raided Karachi harbour. The air force carried out limited attacks only on military targets.

    All in all, the 1971 war was a comprehensive victory for India and Bangladesh.

    India's three strategic blunders:

    In 1971 India lost a golden opportunity to sever the Sino-Pak communications by land and threaten the Karakoram highway.

    In the 1971 war, all attention was focussed on the Eastern front. The Indian successes in Punjab, Shakargad, Chicken's Neck near Akhnoor, the thrust towards Naya Chor in the deserts were substantial. We also lost Chhamb in Jammu and Kashmir and small areas in the Fazilka sector.

    The rest of the Cease Fire Line (as it was then called) was quiet with the exception of some 'local' initiatives in Ladakh, largely due to the valiant efforts of the great Colonel Rinchon and his Ladakh Scouts.

    Kashmir was not an issue at all in that war.

    Later at the Simla Peace Conference, India brought in the Kashmir issue. The conversion of the Cease Fire Line (agreed as per the Karachi agreement of 1949) was converted to the LOC or Line of Control, a sort of half-way house between the Cease Fire Line and the international border.

    Though not marked on the ground, it is marked on the map in great detail after a ground survey. But at the conference in Simla, it was also agreed to let each side retain the territory captured by each other in Jammu and Kashmir.

    In spite of extensive study of all the official documents connected with this war (including the minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs, the top decision-making body in the country at the time), there is no hint that this was a considered policy of the government of India before the war and that the armed forces were aware of it.

    In the 1971 war in Kashmir, Pakistan gained some territory in Chhamb as the Indian Army poised for an offensive was caught off guard by the Pakistani attack. A determined Pakistani attack against the city of Poonch was thwarted by superior Indian strength.

    India captured strategic outposts in the Kargil area, posts that dominated the Srinagar-Ladakh road link and was a constant irritant. In a war fought at the height of winter, the better-trained and equipped Indian mountain troops also captured vast areas north of Leh in the Partapur and Turtuk sector.
     
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  4. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    On the western front, much of the military effort was concentrated in the plains sector in Punjab, gains that had to be given up. On the other hand, an excellent opportunity to consolidate Kashmir or liberate Pak-occupied area was wasted.
    If India had plans to retain the captured territory in Jammu and Kashmir a major thrust towards Skardu or Gilgit could have threatened the land access between Pakistan and China.

    Unlike in 1965 when the Chinese served an ultimatum, in 1971 the Soviet build-up on the Sino-Soviet border on the Amur river border (of almost 44 divisions from the normal 3 or 4) kept China out of this conflict. An opportunity that is unlikely to present itself in the future.

    As India faces a Sino-Pak joint military threat in the north, one can only wonder the effect this blunder has had. It is difficult to blame the military leadership for this as in retrospect it appears that the decision to retain gains in Kashmir was a 'spur of the moment after thought.'

    It is amazing to note the cavalier manner in which issues of war and peace continue to be dealt in independent India.

    The second blunder was the explicit recognition that India gave to the 'Kashmir dispute' in the Simla Agreement.

    Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to Simla as the head of a defeated nation with nothing to bargain. 93,000 Pakistani prisoners were in India and the tehsil of Shakargarh as well as large tracts of desert were under Indian occupation.

    The Pakistani State itself was tottering and the only card Bhutto had was to play on the Indian need to have a viable Pakistan survive. Using his weakness dexterously, Bhutto made sure that India could never drive a hard bargain.

    All that Pakistan conceded at Simla was that it would not use force to solve the Kashmir problem and it would deal with the issue bilaterally. It is indeed astonishing that a militarily weak and defeated nation promising 'non use of force' against another country ten times its size, being seen as a concession.

    This naivete was to cause immense difficulties in the future. The acceptance of the disputed status of Kashmir was a major diplomatic blunder and India continues to pay a heavy price for it. In the words of a sports commentator, India snatched diplomatic defeat from the jaws of victory.
     
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  5. utubekhiladi

    utubekhiladi The Preacher Elite Member

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    Pandit Nehru was the original Ashoka of modern times. Out of all the historical period great rulers of India, that include Chandragupta, Samudragupa or Vikramaditya, Ashoka seems to fascinate all.

    From Nehru to Vajpayee and now Manmohan Singh, all want to emulate the great emperor and usher in peace. Even a supreme realist and tough leader like Indira Gandhi succumbed to this temptation at Simla in 1972.

    Indians have forgotten that Ashoka embarked upon his 'peace offensive' only after the Kalinga victory. 1971 was a decisive victory only in the East, and the Pakistan army remained largely undefeated in the West.

    Indians do not still realise that international agreements are honoured for either of the two reasons -- The agreement gives some tangible benefit to the countries involved or breaking of the agreement can mean loss for the violator.

    The Simla Agreement was honoured by Pakistan till such time as the Indian troops did not vacate captured territory and the Pakistani prisoners did not return. Once these two short-term objectives were achieved, Pakistan found no reason to go on to implement the next step -- normalisation of relations.

    Improvement in relations and people-to-people contacts were never permitted by Pakistan and the hoped for atmosphere to tackle the Kashmir issue never built up.

    Today after violating all the other clauses of the Simla Agreement, Pakistan now harps on Article 6 that had provided for Indo-Pak talks at head of the government level to solve the Kashmir issue.

    This is sheer sophistry, but effective diplomacy and the Indian diplomats have been stumped.

    But the greatest blunder was to let the Pakistani army get away with its 'genocide' in Bangladesh.

    There is massive evidence of Pakistani army brutality in Bangladesh. The evidence is from Pakistani sources itself, the Justice Hamidur Rehman Commission Report. Some of the testimony in that report makes very chilling reading, even 40 years after the event.

    There is a mountain of evidence about Pakistani army atrocities. What did the Government of India do? We banned the short film made by S Sukhdeo, Nine Months to Freedom at Bhutto's request. The Pakistani army selectively targeted Hindus, members of the Awami League and Bangladesh intellectuals. It was a well known secret that the bulk of the refugees (close to 70 per cent) were Hindus.

    Rumour has it that even the much maligned right wing organisation in India kept quiet on this issue so that communal peace in India should not be disturbed. The playing down of Pakistani genocide let a Rogue Army escape the consequences of its misbehaviour.

    India only stored trouble for the future. The Nazis were tried for massacring the Jews, the Khmer Rouge, Saddam Hussein, Serbian militants, all faced international courts -- only the Pakistani army got away with murder, rape and loot.

    While Bangladesh attempts to get justice for the victims, India is silent.

    Colonel Dr Anil Athale (retd) is a former head of the War Studies Division, ministry of defence. He is currently the coordinator of Inpad, a Pune-based think-tank.
     
  6. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

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    I was actually going to start a thread on 71 war from the perspective of Indian strategic blunder in seeing the future.

    India should have actually forced/negotiated the wrongs of partition in its favor. The northern part of Bangladesh close to be chickens neck and also sea route to our north east i.e Chittagong. We should have got those. Instead we were just too "Indian" :( . Having Chittagong would have given us access to OIL and GAS as well.
     
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  7. lemontree

    lemontree Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    The blunders pointed out are being unfair to the establishment of the time:-
    1. The territory gains in Kashmir were kept and not returned. Gain were made in Poonch and Kargil. These were very important gains. We exchanged Chamb for these mountain features. The decision was taken after a study by a team consisting of Lt. Gen PS Bhagat (VC), who recommended that we keep the mountain features and give Chamb if any bartering of captured land is done.

    A campaign towards Gilgit-Skardu axis in the winter, is asking for trouble. The approaches are blocked with snow and would prevent our movement just as the snow prevented and PLA intervention during that winter. Secondly, the logistical requirements and fire support for the campaign would have have taken months to accumulate (the PLA took 5 months to gather supplies and equipment for the war).

    2. We had to address the Kashmir issue with Pakistan. What does the author mean by saying we should not have recognised it?

    3. Not bringing the PA war criminals to justice was a major blunder.
     
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  8. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

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    But my contention is, and the point still stands, what did Pakistan have to 'bargain' with? Why are we even talking about barter, when a barter envisages some kind of equilateral relationship? A severed nation, with its largest port city and financial capital on fire, with close to zero monetary and essential-commodity reserves, with huge political instability and domestic turmoil at the loss of the eastern half of its country and nearly a third of its service strength captured, with little or no immediate military assistance from the vicinity and from its closest, most potent allies drives a hard and nearly envious bargain that very few could achieve.


    I can appreciate the fact that a complete offensive to occupy PoK was not viable- given that the western theatre was a bit of a Pakistani gamble and something that could not have been suredly anticipated before, and that Indian troops were required in the eastern half. But the decision should have been to exchange Pakistani troops and tracts occupied in the Punjab sector (a total of 13,000 km² ), alongwith an accord to 'prevent' escalation of the conflict by India: for a cessation of conflict, a removal of all int'l embargoes and a transfer of all lands captured by Pakistan in Jamu & Kashmir as well as geographically defensible (in the sense of sufficiently large and logistically feasible) tracts of contiguous areas, such as Gilgit- Baltistan, that would have severd Pakistan's land link with China for ever. Indeed the officer's corps of the three services, captured by the Indian army, would themselves have made a good bargaining chip given the preponderance of military's families in Pakistani politics and I would have segmented the negotiation of transfer of PoW's, making use of and exploiting the military's leverage over politics. Indeed, the negotiations would have become more protracted, as Pakistan worked on a political feasibility solution to transfer even more lands to India, but it is a bargain I would have driven and used the time to shore up int'l support, possibly opening up a backchannel dialogue with the United States in exchange for other political conncessions, and to mobilize forces in a limited capacity across the western theatre as a threatening act, to further expedite military pressure on the polity.


    Indeed, it seems to me that the only viable 'reason' for India not driving a hard bargain, despite being in a militarily, logistically and geo-strategically clearly superior position, was international political opposition. It is the reason, we gave a new voice to the Kashmir dispute- almost as if it were an uncontested fact of the war just fought, when it never was; and agreed to a very amenable political transfer of prisoners, when in fact they were prosecutors of an 'unjust', ethnic war and what many in the western media have themselves described as 'genocide'. We were confused about our position at the bargaining table: were we , as aggressors or opportunistic usurpors, or saviours of an oppresed nation, even when we had, through Indira Gandhi, elaborated our position at the onset of war. It is this confusion, that prevented us from extracting the full gains of war. And it is this confusion, that has characterised bureaucratised Congress levity at every function, where it speaks of one thing at the international stage and fails to follow through everywhere else, where it matters. It is these lack of channels or clogged channels, between the polity and the bureaucracy, between the polity and the armed forces, or between the bureaucracy and the armed forces that has done India in, on several occasions. Whether it is with the Nehru Forward Policy, or the Nuclear deal, or neo-geostrategic postures in the 21st Century, or the modernisation of our border networks, definitional expolitation of capability has never followed elaboration of it.


    I have now become convinced that a non-Congress government is a need at the next elections. For this, indeed, is a governance issue.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2011
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  9. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    This 1971 mistakes is pet PEEVE of retd military officers

    While the govt has to take very holistic and long term view of the situation

    Pakistan was INDEED weak and powerless BUT it had VERY POWERFUL friends watching KEENLY
    from the side lines

    The COLD war was at its height and NON aligned India had clearly aligned itself with the Soviets
    through the treaty of Friendship and cooperation

    Should we have TOTALLY cut off ourselves FROM US and the West and OIC countries
    AND should we have made India another Israel which is such a hated country in the Islamic world
     
  10. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    A defeated country can be made to sign on ANYTHING but What prevents its powerful friends
    like China USA and OIC block from intervening on its behalf at a LATER date

    Why would Pakistan 's FRIENDS and allies allow its Humiliation and NOT turn against India
     
  11. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Pakistan has ALWAYS basked in its friendship with China USA and Saudi

    IF you guys remember about the Kargil war days then you must recall the reaction
    of the international community

    That alone shows that as recently as 1999 pakistan was very PROUD of its friendship with
    China USA and Saudi arabia

    Pakistan was clearly GUILTY and India was fighting such a difficult war so as to give an impression
    that India is a responsible Nuclear power and does not want an ESCALATION

    Yet ALL that these three Pakistani allies ie USA Saudi and China DID was to GIVE strong advice
    to PAKISTAN to VACATE the territory and GO back

    There was no condemnation as such of Pakistan's perfidy
     
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  12. lemontree

    lemontree Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    True. but they had the US backing them to the hilt. After the war the US sent them 90 Sabers, and F104s to beef up the PAF through Iran and Jordan. They had very powerful friends backing them.

    India gains in the Western Sector:
    3200 sq km in the Ladhak sector (this capture provids depth to the main road artery from Srinagar to Leh)
    1200 sq km in Rajasthan sector (barren desert of no economic or military significance)
    In both regions these gains lay in farflung, desolate, uninhabited and difficult areas of negligible economic, strategic and political value which could hurt the rulers of Pakistan only in their prestige.

    Indian losses in the western sector:
    - Chhamb, where the aftermath of the refugee problem still haunts the Jammu and Kashmir administration.
    - Kasowala bulge, the Hussainiwala enclave and the Fazilka agricultural belt in Punjab could not be equated with marginal gains in the Sehjra bulge and the Mamdot enclave in economic, military or political terms. The Indian occupation of the major portion of the Shakargarh bulge was of some embarrassing to the Pakistanis in view of the refugee population, but this in no way impaired the Pakistani economy or upset its military tactical balance.

    The Indian public was misled by articulate propaganda and impressive statistics.

    We could not keep and feed 93,000 POWs forever, sooner of later, the US, UK, the western world and China would pressure India to release the POWs. We were receiving food and economic aid from the US and UK.
    Very true.
    It is possible that our political leaders were so drunk with the victory, that they did not think about extracting enough from the enemy. We spent too much effort in being magnanimous with the fallen foe.

    The incumbency factor will play its role, but the options to lead the nation are very few.
     
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  13. cobra commando

    cobra commando Tharki regiment Veteran Member Senior Member

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  14. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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  15. JBH22

    JBH22 Senior Member Senior Member

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    Biggest Blunder but then nobody had the foresight of this severing this lifeline :)
     
  16. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    Our politicians always seem to lose out on the negotiating table what the Fauj wins for them on ground.

    1.1947-48, when our army was on the verge of a decisive victory in Kashmir, Mr Nehru went to the UN.

    2 1965, Mr LB Shastri vowed not to return Haji -Pir in any negotiation with the Pakis, but precisely did the opposite& also gave Pt 13620 which dominated Kargil town besides giving away Haji Pir at Tashkent.

    3. 1971, Mr Bhutto on a weak wicket in pakistan, negotiated the release of 93,000 POW's without giving much in return.

    It is evident that our politicians cannot read maps. Strategy, Military gains & Sacrifice by soldiers are foreign words, also they will never( to cover their fragile fannies & keep their jobs), seek the advice of military men lest they not only seem but are proven to be naive in matters military
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
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