The war of lost opportunities

(Part II)

Maj (Retd) AGHA HUMAYUN AMIN from Washington DC writes about the chances we missed in Kashmir.

From November onwards when Brigadier Akbar Khan was tasked to organise militias in Kashmir, greater reliance was placed on recruiting ex servicemen from Poonch and Bagh area. Before the Second World War a large number of  troops in the Punjabi Muslim class in the Indian Army were from Poonch and Bagh areas of Kashmir State.During the Second World War 65,362 men were recruited for the Indian Army.Based on the fact that total Dogra recruitment in the war (including those from Kangra/Nurpur in Punjab) was 29,94452 one can safely conclude that more than 75 % of these were Kashmiri Muslims (Sudhans/Kianis etc)  from Poonch, Bagh, Bhimbhar, Rajauri etc.While tribesmen already in Kashmir since October 1947 and fresh volunteers from tribal area  once again started returning to the frontline from end November,more Kashmiri ex servicemen were recruited and armed with old rifles issued by the Pakistani GHQ. The ex INA officers led all the officers in fighting and proved that the INA was not as bad a lot as Shaukat Riza was to paint in his book much later 53.

Jhangar was captured by the Azad Militia/Tribesmen on 24th December 194754 . By evening of 25th December the same men who had captured Jhangar besieged the Indian force at Nowshera, but failed to capture it. Nowshera was of crucial strategic significance and the Indians gave it very high priority as a strategic point. Loss of it could deny the Indians with a southern approach to relieve Poonch at a future stage. The militias bypassed Nowshera but lack of artillery and air support ensured that Nowshera remained in Indian hands.Later failure of the Militia to capture and hold Nowshera proved to be the first Indian stepping stone to the final relief of Poonch. The fighting in Jhangar- Nowshera area was of  little significance in strategic terms.The mountains here were lower than 7,000 ft unlike Srinagar-Uri and Northern areas and the local militias had more difficulty in contesting advance of regular Indian Army troops supported by artillery aircrafts and armour.Thus  by 17th March the Indians launched a two brigade attack and recaptured Jhangar. It may be noted that Indians made much greater progress in area Jammu-Jhangar-Rajauri because unlike the area in the north which restricted effective  employment  of armour and regular units by virtue of mountains above 6,000 feet the terrain in the south consisted of mountains which were below 5,000 feet and where few odd snipers sitting on the mountain tops could not stop whole brigades.It still speaks very poorly of the Indian Army that despite having aircrafts tanks armoured cars and modern artillery and no regular troops to oppose them, their progress in the south was not as fast as should have been.The next logical Indian objective was Rajauri, a town of strategic importance on the road from Jammu to Poonch and of vital importance for any future operation to relieve the Indian garrison at Poonch.Rajauri had been liberated by the Kashmiri Militia under one  Major Rahmatullah in November 194755. Two battalions of the Militia (called Azads) had been raised from the many ex soldiers in the area.Loss of Jhangar and withdrawal of Azad forces besieging Nowshera  meant that the Militia at Rajauri could not be effectively reinforced  or replenished/supplied by the  main Militia forces in Bhimbhar-Jhangar area.Thus the Indians were successful in capturing Rajauri, which was captured by a tank squadron of Central India Horse entirely on its own on  12 April 56. The culprit for this serious strategic loss was not the militia but the Pakistani government who had left the Militia to fight the Indian tanks with bolt action rifles! Later Rajauri  proved  Indian  Army’s  springboard for the final relief of Poonch. Absence of Pakistan Army support  between October 1947 and May 1948 ensured that Indians occupied the entire area between Nowshera and Poonch.

It may be noted that by April 1948 the Indians had  two complete armoured regiments and one squadron of a third regiment in Kashmir. The 7th Light Cavalry  had two squadrons of armoured cars in Srinagar-Uri area and its third squadron of Stuart Tanks at  Akhnur. The  Central India Horse had a squadron each at Jhangar and Nowshera and a third squadron near Jammu.The Deccan Horse had a squadron minus of Shermans at  Jammu and one troop at Chamb57. Rajauri and  Jhangar were not captured by valour alone but by tanks against men armed with bolt action rifles,while Pakistani armour was doing nothing across the border!


In April 1948 the Indians launched an attack which at last forced Pakistan’s unassertive civilian leadership to finally convince  the British crutch that they had employed to finally commit the Pakistan Army into Kashmir. By this time Nehru had already sacked the first British Chief of the Indian Army i.e.  General Sir Rob Lockhart,K.C.B,C.I..E ,M.C for inefficiency in conducting the Indian Army operations in Kashmir58. Mr Jinnah possessed an iron will imprisoned in a very weak body;unfortunately to balance this deficiency  his prime minister and the entire cabinet possessed stronger bodies but much weaker spirits. In 1917 after the Bolsheviks were successful in Russia,Trotsky a total civilian organised the Red Army from  a scratch employing communist party members as commissars and ex  Czarist officers at gunpoint to fight a civil war against more experienced armies led by generals and assisted by the entire might of the victors of the first world war i.e. Britain and France. Thus the Red Army the brainchild of a civilian defeated far more experienced troops of the White Army who enjoyed the full military and economic support of Britain in a savage civil war lasting over four years (1918-22).

Mr Jinnah the founder of Pakistan was as great a man as Lenin or Mao,but was not assisted by a capable and motivated team.The Pakistan Army had fought no crippling war like the Russian Army in 1918 i.e. one in which the Russian Army had lost more than 91,50,000 casualties including  17,00,000 killed59. Pakistan was not the result of a revolution but a constitutional transfer of power. But Mr Jinnah was like a piece of rock in empty space,a lone lighthouse in  a sea of mediocrity. Mr Jinnah’s advisers, all his handpicked colleagues including the Prime Minister  lacked independent judgement and resolution to advise him successfully into committing the regular Pakistan Army in Kashmir! Apart from Mr Jinnah no other Pakistani politician possessed the courage to spur, prod  or overrule the British C-in-C the way men like Nehru and Patel did in India. 99% of  Muslim  politicians who constituted the Cabinet including the Prime Minister had never participated in any serious anti-British political movement before independence and had never been to jail unlike 90% of Congress leaders! 99% of them except Mr Jinnah had not even openly and directly criticised the British government inside the relative safety of the floors of pre 1947 Indian Legislative Assembly! The situation was an exact reflection of the  total net backwardness and passiveness of Indian Muslims in terms of overall leadership. Mr Jinnah was  the only exception ;but  there was no one in his lieutenants who possessed even 5% of Jinnah’s ability or strength of character. Thus political genius was not institutionalised in the Indian Muslims.In contrast Nehru relatively speaking had a much better team. There was no full time Defence Minister and the  Secretary Defence, the seniormost Pakistani  Muslim who could have correctly advised Mr Jinnah was apology of a fighting soldier! Sikandar Mirza had never fought any war or commanded even a company, and was more of an authority on  arranging cocktail parties moonlight picnics60 or in tribal area double cross and factional intrigue than the art of war! Thus the Pakistan Army lost half of Kashmir without ever having entered it! While Jhangar, Rajauri and Uri was lost,the Pakistani Government was not stirred to move an inch. The Indian capture of Rajauri 45 kilometre north of Nowshera  finally  forced Gracey to conclude that unless Pakistan Army intervened in Kashmir, Pakistan’s security would be endangered and additionally Pakistan could face a serious refugee problem and a major loss of morale as far as the army’s rank and file were concerned61. But even here Gracey played the double game,ie in ordering the 7th division commanded by a Britisher i.e. Major General Loftus Tottenham into Kashmir.The first Pakistan Army formation to go into Kashmir was the 101 Brigade62. The 101 Pakistani Brigade was the first regular army formation to enter Kashmir.This act of singular decisiveness took place in May 1948. One battalion each from this brigade went to Uri and  Muzaffarabad-Kohala-Bagh area,while one company (later replaced by a battalion) went to Tithwal63.

In early May 1948 the Indian Army in Kashmir was reorganised.Two Divisional headquarters were created,the northern being Sri Division (later 19 Infantry Division) under Major General Thimaya (DSO of Burma and the only Indian to command an infantry brigade in actual operations in the 2nd World War); and the southern  with headquarters at Jammu and known as JA Division (later 26 Infantry Division).Pir Panjals crest was the inter division boundary, but Poonch though south of Pir Panjal for sometime stayed under command Sri Division.The JAK Force headquarters was abolished64. Thimaya the 19 Division Commander planned an offensive against Muzafarabad employing two brigades;ie 161 Brigade on Uri Domel axis (4 battalions and one armoured car squadron) and the newly formed 163 Brigade on axis Kupwara-Chowkibal-Tithwal (three battalions and one squadron).The 77 Para Brigade which had reached Srinagar in first week of May was tasked to defend Uri-Mahura area.The Indian plan was ambitious and extremely difficult terrain dictated that both the thrusts ,despite numerical superiority and support of armour (which had almost zero room for manoeuvre) would not succeed.The Uri-Domel approach is very narrow with mountains above 7,000 ft on both sides,while the supply route to Tithwal ran across the  3,048 metre high Nastachun Pass.It is human that both Indian and Pakistani accounts reduced the influence of situational factors like terrain and numerical superiority when they succeeded and increased it when they failed,success being ascribed by historians on both side to superior ideology or martial fervour!

While Thimaya was busy finalising his plans for a summer offensive the Pakistani GHQ had finally taken a decision to commit 7th Division in Kashmir.The 7th Division had three brigades i.e. 10 Brigade(Abbottabad area),101 Brigade (Kohat) and the 25 Brigade (Rawalpindi). 25 Brigade was inducted in area Mirpur in May 194865. While 10 Brigade and 101 Brigade entered the war in Tithwal and Uri Sectors as we shall see in the following paragaraph.Initially 101 Brigade was looking after both Tithwal and Uri sectors but soon 10 Brigade took over Tithwal Sector while 101 Brigade area of responsibility was confined to  Bagh-Uri sector 66.

Advance of the 163 Brigade which commenced from  18/19 May was rapid since the militia were not expecting a brigade across a 9,000 ft high mountain, however, the advance made no progress after having reached Tithwal which was  captured on 23 May.The only troops in front of the 163 Brigades leading battalion was a regular company of Pakistan Army which had finally decided to enter Kashmir.This was, however, soon reinforced by  two more companies and finally by the whole 10 Brigade by 30th May67  . Thus the chances of any further Indian advance on this axis were frustrated.The other Indian thrust on Uri-Domel axis made limited progress. Here they were opposed by a regular Pakistan  Army formation i.e. the  101 Brigade.The Indians succeeded in capturing Pandu which was 9178 ft high on 25  May, however,  beyond Pandu the Indian advance petered out and nothing of any strategic consequence was gained as far as the 19 Division offensive was concerned. Thimaya inducted the second brigade i.e. the 77 Para Brigade also but little was accomplished.The Indians were to claim later that they were capable68 of advancing till Muzaffarabad but were restrained from doing so by their government!69  Such claims are a typical reflection of the character of Indo-Pak people regardless of religion or race and should be treated with a pinch of salt specially by foreigners . Similar claims were made by Pakistani authors about Poonch70  and Operation Venus71. The supposed  facts that victory was so close and yet these noble commanders; as Indians and Pakistani authors have claimed meekly obeyed their governments;merely prove how timid  and orders oriented these military commanders were. Sarrail  the French General had disobeyed an order to abandon Verdun in WW One72  and history vindicated his act of disobedience, so did Lyautuey when ordered  to abandon French Algeria in WW One73 and Francois a similar order to attack in  a wrong direction at Tannenberg74! The history of warfare is full of examples where military commanders disobeyed orders and won battles 75, but if one wants to study how victory (that is if there is a grain of truth in what Pakistani and Indian authors assert) was not gained by obeying orders,it is Indian and Pakistan Armies that provide classic examples of such cases. These officers had joined the army as mercenaries of a subject race. Many were ex rankers and had achieved the ultimate aim of their life ;ie attaining officer rank!

This narrative would not be complete in case we do not briefly discuss the battle of Pandu which though of negligible  strategic significance, tactically greatly improved the defence of the Pakistani position west of Uri.Pandu was as we have already seen a 9000 ft plus high feature which dominated the Pakistani held position at Chakothi on the main Uri Domel road.The 101 Brigade executed a brilliant attack by infiltration in which two Pakistani infantry units completed infiltration in two days and recaptured Pandu on 24 July76. On the strategic level this battle is of no consequence,but at a much more crucial level  i.e. in terms of morale of troops this battle had tremendous significance for Pakistan Army. The Pakistan Army had fought its first major battle against Indians in a situation where one brigade was pitched against two as far as the overall situation in the sector was concerned; a case of  success in face of considerable numerical and tremendous terrain odds. The position was held by an Indian battalion of Bihar Regiment.The Biharis were not considered good soldier material by the British  after 1857 since the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmans of Bihar who were widely recruited in the old Bengal Army had taken a very prominent part in the Sepoy Rebellion! The Biharis were recruited once again after a long time as infantry soldiers only  in the Second World War, because the manpower reserves of  Punjab etc could not keep  pace with the extremely heavy demands of the Burma Front. The historian of the Indian Armoured Corps, a thoroughbred Sikh, Jat, Punjabi without naming the Bihar regiment just drily noted that  Pandu was lost because it was held by an  inexperienced battalion77. The battle served as a good morale booster for the troops and younger officers and imposed caution on the Indian Army.The plan to capture Pandu 78  and overseeing  its execution in all stages was the achievement of Brigadier Akbar Khan one of the very few  Muslim officers of the Pakistan Army to get the DSO in   WW Two and probably the only DSO holder  who reached the rank of Brigadier79 as far as Pakistan Army was concerned.

The Pakistan Army’s appearance in Kashmir did not lead to any spectacular results.The fatal state of indecision which had plagued Pakistani political leadership during the period October 1947-May 1948 had ensured that Pakistan  Army’s introduction could at best stabilise the frontier and little else at best and still lose some more territory which had been captured by the Gilgit Scouts/Militia/Tribals.From  May 1948 till December 1948 two major strategic victories were won by the Indian Army. These were strategic in the sense that although Kashmir was not entirely captured but Indian hold on two major portions of Kashmir i.e. the Ladakh and Poonch areas which was in doubt till November 1948 was at last ensured. On the other hand Pakistani political leadership conducted the war half-heartedly and did not spur or goad Gracey into launching any major offensive.The 7th Division which was responsible for the only sector where a decision could have been favourably achieved was under a Britisher who was not really keen to do anything. The Pakistani political leadership did not convey any interest in the war and neither the Prime Minister nor any of his ministers ever visited the battlefront at  any time during the entire    war from October  1947 till the last bullet had been fired on 31 December 1948! Akbar Khan who had proved his mettle was not promoted to Divisional command since the British officers disliked him.

Today it is fashionable in Pakistan to hold that Indians were in any case superior and Pakistan could not have captured Kashmir.This is merely a distortion of  facts.The simple point to be kept in mind is that had the Pakistani political leadership been courageous enough to override Gracey. One Pakistani Brigade supported by a squadron of armoured cars could have accomplished in October 1947, what two Divisions in July 1948 failed to do.The initial situation was extremely fluid and favoured Pakistan,but the golden opportunities were missed and every minute of inaction on Pakistan’s part enabled India to augment its strength in the valley. The question was not of material or numerical superiority in October 1947, but of greater resolution and “Coup d Oeil”  to seize the critical time span by the forelock.  Mr Jinnah saw the opportunity but was not supported by his team and what was lost in a moment was lost  to eternity. Three Pakistani Divisions were committed to permanent Guard Duty in Kashmir for five more decades and the Indian threat factor was rationalised as an excuse by Messrs Ayub and Co to make  Pakistan a beautiful girl which was ready to sell herself to the highest bidder at a very low price during the period 1954-65.

The Indians launched a  link up operation with Poonch from the south between 14 and 22 June and made a temporary link up,carrying some supplies but were  forced to fall back on 29/30 June  because of inadequate troops to guard their communications80 . Fighting in Tithwal and Uri sectors became stabilised after June and no side made any significant gains till cease fire in December 1948. By the end of May Pakistan inducted 100 Brigade in area Mendhar-Chamb. This Brigade relieved the 25 Brigade which was previously looking after this sector81. 25 Brigade was freed from this additional burden and tasked only with the Poonch sector. 6 Azad Brigade (composed of militia battalions) was also deployed in Poonch sector.Pakistan also inducted 102 Brigade in Bagh area from 17  July82. This brigade relieved 101 Brigade of the defence of this area freeing 101 Brigade to take care of only the crucial Uri Sector.By November 1948 the Pakistan Army in Kashmir was organised as follows 83:—

9 DIVISION:—Headquarters at  Abbottabad and 104 Brigade  (10 Brigade earlier holding Tithwal Sector had been redeployed at Rawalpindi as strategic reserve) holding Tithwal Sector,101 Brigade Uri Sector,102 Brigade in Bagh Sector,25 Brigade  in Hajira (Poonch) Sector.

7 DIVISION:—Headquarters at Rawalpindi and 100 Brigade in Jhangar Sector,14 Para Brigade (moved forward from Lahore) in Bhimbhar area and 3rd Armoured Brigade in Gujrat Area.

The remaining borders of Pakistan south of Kashmir were held by the 8 Division which was responsible for the entire border from Bahawalpur to Sindh/Balochistan and the 10 Division which was responsible for the border from Sialkot till Lahore/Multan84. The 10 Division had one brigade each at Lahore and Sialkot85.

The Indians also reorganised their command structure in  the beginning of September 1948. Previously the Sri and Jammu Divisions had been operating independently of each other.Now a co-ordinating corps headquarters was established and designated as the 5th Corps (subsequently as 15th Corps) under Lieut General Shrinagesh86. Cariappa as we have earlier discussed was the overall commander as GOC Western Command.

The first Indian major strategic success in 1948 was the final relief of Poonch.We have already seen that Poonch since November 1947 had been besieged by Azad militia/Tribals and later since May 1948 these forces had been joined by Pakistan Army’s 25 Brigade.Two Kashmir State Force battalions and one regular Indian Army battalion which had managed to break through the siege from Uri Poonch axis constituted the 101 Indian Brigade holding Poonch.The Indians regularly replenished Poonch by air till September 1948 since they could land Dakotas at the airstrip or airdrop supplies while Pakistan Airforce which had only 12  fighter aircrafts87 could not contest Indian air superiority.The Indians gradually increased their numerical  superiority in the area and brought in one more brigade i.e. 268 Infantry Brigade which had taken over part of frontage held the 50 Para Brigade in  Jhangar area in July.88

Effective utilisation of artillery by Pakistani forces surrounding  rendered the Poonch airstrip inoperational and forced the Indians to finally go for a relief operation 89. We will discuss this  in a little more detail since it illustrates how  very  few guns or armoured cars influenced the conduct of war in Kashmir and how an odd artillery gun or two or a  squadron of armour could completely alter an operational situation in Kashmir.Just  two 25 Pounder Guns90 influenced the conduct of Indian operations in 1948 in a decisive manner.These guns one 25 Pounder and one 6 Pounder according to Shaukat Riza91 and two 25 Pounders according to Amjad Choudhry which fired for the first time on 6th September 194892 and rendered use of Poonch airstrip impossible for the Indian supply aircrafts were cited by Indians93  as the principal reason for the Indian decision to undertake the final relief of Poonch and extension of  Indian control over the entire area between Rajauri and Poonch.The incident illustrates that in mountain warfare even few artillery guns anti tank guns  tanks or armoured cars could decisively tilt the whole outcome of an operation into success or failure. Above all it proves that it was possible for the Pakistani GHQ to prevent the final relief of Poonch by shifting few more guns or units armed with anti tank guns and supported by artillery while the Indians had not yet captured Rajauri.

The  Pakistani GHQ on the other hand was sent repeated reports by Commander 25 Brigade about Indian intentions against Poonch94 but  took no counteraction either to reinforce 25 Brigade or to embark on any operation planned to reduce the chances of the expected Indian attempt to relieve Poonch.Somehow Gracey sitting in Pindi assumed that somehow Indians would never be able to relieve Poonch and that was it. No effort was made to economise troops in one sector and shift them to reinforce Poonch or to make any threatening posture to force the Indians to abandon their planned attack on Poonch. The official history is silent about this aspect but merely comments that a plan was made in September to launch an attack in December 1948  or January 1949 to capture Poonch95. The sentence provides an indication about the relaxed manner in which Gracey and Co were conducting the war in Kashmir.It also shows that the political leadership i.e. the Prime Minister, his cabinet (whether Punjabi or any other ethnic group) and his defence secretary were in no hurry to prod the Britisher they had hired to do nothing.The lack of energy perception and independent judgement on part of the political leadership as far as higher direction of war doomed the Pakistani military cause in Kashmir.How could a brigadier or colonel or a soldier who had the drive determination and the potential to fight well do so while the the Army C in C and the Divisional Commander were two non-interested foreigners who knew that no one in the Pakistani political leadership possessed the moral courage or the assertiveness to spur and prod them,or to sack them despite proven lethargy in the conduct of operations! At one place between the lines the official historian did make an attempt to show this lethargic attitude when he said that two companies of the 25 brigade which were available for an attack on Poonch  were at Jhelum and Kohat( more than 60 and 150 miles west and south of Poonch)!96 

There were three alternative routes from which Poonch could be relieved i.e. the Uri-Haji Pir-Poonch approach from the north,the Jhangar-Kotli-Poonch approach from the south west and the Nowshera-Rajauri-Poonch approach from the south east. 5 Infantry Brigade  which reached Rajauri on 20th October 97 was specially brought into Kashmir for taking part in the final relief of PoonchThe Indian plan to relieve Poonch envisaged employment of two brigades attacking from general area Rajauri-Nowshera and was based on a deception plan to deceive the Militia/Pakistan Army troops about the direction of main attack.Pir Badesar a 5430 ft high feature dominating both Jhangar-Nowshera Valley to its east  and Seri Valley to its west   was to be  attacked and captured by 268 Infantry Brigade about three weeks before the main attack was to be launched.The objective  of this preliminary manoeuvre apart from securing the subsequent advance by capturing a dominating objective was also to deceive the Pakistanis into thinking that the main attack would come on axis Nowshera-Kotli-Poonch.The main attack towards Poonch involved an advance on two axis by the 19 and 5 Infantry Brigades along axis Rajauri-Bhimbhar Gali-Mendhar-Topa with 19 Brigade on the left and 5 Brigade on the right. The deception plan envisaged a feint attack  towards Kotli from Pir Badesar by 268  Infantry Brigade,and another from Kailash towards Thana Mandi( the route of Indian link up with Poonch in June 1948)  by  one unit of 5 Brigade. An adhoc Brigade formed from three units at Rajauri and the task of this adhoc brigade  was to  secure the left flank of the main Indian attack by capturing Ramgarh Fort before the main attack commenced on 8th November. According to their plan the 268 Indian  Infantry Brigade duly attacked Pir Badesar held by one militia company98  and captured it on 14/15 October 1948. This was followed by  capture of Pir Kalewa a  6,650 high feature which was held by just one militia company99  by the 5  Brigade on  28 October as a preliminary task. The adhoc Brigade commenced its attack against  Naghun/Ramgarh from 4th November and captured Naghun on 5th November and Ramgarh on 9th November.Main attack was commenced by the 19 and 5  Brigade from  8th November supported by aircrafts and tanks .Point 6307 was captured by the 19 Brigade by a night attack on 8th November and Bhimbhar Gali and Pir Sayyid Fazal Shah (Point  6945)  were captured on 9th November. Meanwhile Brigadier Azam Khan (25 Brigade Commander) had reached  Mendhar on 7th November  and after having observed the ongoing battles from the top of Point 6945 sent an urgent message to Headquarters 7 Division  requesting for despatch of regular troops and artillery for defence of Mendhar100  as a result of which  two infantry companies(coming from Jhelum) and one section of 3.7 inch mountain guns finally reached Mendhar on 9th November101. It is ironic to note that while this life and death struggle in face of an overwhelming Indian attack was going on Brigadier  Azam was called by 7 Divisions GOC Loftus Tottenham to 7 Division Headquarters at Hajira on 9th November for discussing with him the planned attack on Poonch which was to be launched in December 1948 or January 1949!102. Finally by 11th November Azam succeeded in convincing Loftus to request GHQ to send another infantry battalion from Abbottabad to Mendhar Sector103. The Indians resumed  their advance but on 10/11  November but their left Brigade i.e. the 19 Brigade was held at Point 5732. The Indian commander Brigadier Yadunath Singh exhibited operational insight and leaving one battalion of 19 Brigade to watch Point 5732 switched the remaining battalions of this brigade under towards the  right to join the 5 Brigade and  continued the advance,bypassing Mendhar from the east and capturing  Point 5073 Northwest of Mendhar on  18h  November. Thereafter the Indian task was simple,ie they bypassed Topa from the north and linked up with Poonch garrison which had attacked from Poonch towards  Point 6793 on 20th November 1948. Poonch which should never have been relieved was irrevocably lost on 20th November 1948, thanks to Gracey and an unassertive political leadership. In all fairness we can confidently assert that Poonch was not lost by the militia who faced tanks and regular army for so long. The Indian plan was reasonable and well executed,but numerical odds were heavily in their favour and they could take the liberty of bypassing every position which gave them tough resistance,because unlike on the Uri-Domel axis the terrain was more open and there was plenty of room for bypassing/ manoeuvre.

The other important Indian strategic success of the 1948 War was the capture of Zojila Pass and the relief of Leh.We have earlier seen that Zojila Pass commanding the land link to Kargil-Leh etc in Ladakh region had been captured by the Gilgit Scouts under Lieutenant Shah Khan on 7th July 1948. The Scouts crossed Zojila and exploited till Sonamarg and till the outskirts of Leh but could not either  capture Leh or seriously threaten Srinagar as they were numerically too few and could not fight against regular army troops aided by artillery and airpower.The Indians continued to air supply their garrison at Leh,while the Scouts remained too weak to attack Leh and no regular Pakistan Army unit was sent to Leh or Zojila area.Thimaya the GOC Srinagar Division was a determined and able military commander and had firmly resolved to capture Zojila and relieve the Leh Garrison.To improve command and co-ordination he brought Headquarters 77 Para Brigade from Uri area to Baltal area and placed the three infantry battalions (including one Gurkha battalion) under command of this briagde104  .The Zojila Pass ( 11,578 ft) was held by approximately a company plus of Gilgit Scouts and had withstood various determined Indian assaults supported by artillery, Tempest aircrafts and launched by  regular Indian Army units of Brigade size105. The strength of the Pakistani position at Zojila lay in immense natural defensive strength,unusually high altitude and extreme toughness and determination of the indomitable Gilgit Scouts to defend their fatherland against the Indians. Thimaya appreciated that tanks alone could achieve a breakthrough and took the brilliant decision of employing tanks at the highest altitude in the history of warfare till that time. This record was broken by the Indians again during  the Sino-Indian Conflict of 1962 once the Indians broke the record and again by 7th Light Cavalry when Stuart Tanks were employed at 14,000 feet only106. A squadron of Stuart Light Tanks of 7th Light Cavalry was brought all the way from Akhnur a distance of 445 Kilometres,in about a fortnight, in conditions of absolute secrecy107 . The tanks reached Baltal  60 miles east of Srinagar on 15th October where there turrets which had been taken separately were refixed108. The Indians were lucky in having Thimaya (a South Indian) who believed in leading from the front.Thimaya personally flew an air recce mission over the Pass on 15th October109. Meanwhile snow fall had started and this resulted in postponing date of attack from  25 October to 1st November. Finally on 01 November the tanks, Thimaya in the leading tank110  attacked the Pass leading two infantry battalions in the attack on the Zojila. No army in the world could have stopped these juggernauts without anti tank guns and the Gilgit Scouts were forced to abandon the Pass which they had successfully held since July 1948. Following this great technological  success nothing could stop the 77 Para Brigade. Thus Dras was captured on 15th November and Kargil on 23rd November111. The small Gilgit Scouts force blocking Leh was forced to withdraw and Leh was relieved.There is no doubt that employment of tanks at  Zojila was the wars greatest strategic surprise, and a non armour officer was its architect.The Indian Army owes its possession of Ladakh through which it later infiltrated into Siachen Glacier to Thimaya’s genius and to 7th Light Cavalry. There were tanks and armoured cars on the other side also,but were not used  because the  extremely naive and miserly political leadership trusted a Britisher who had no interest in the war.


By 23rd November the Indians  were firmly in possession of Ladakh,had secured Poonch for eternity and were no longer in a state of imbalance which had plagued them since October 1947. The  Pakistani political leadership at last realised that an effort must be made to at least assume a more threatening posture,failing which the Indians emboldened by their success at Poonch and Zojila may attempt an offensive operation which may bring them yet closer to the Kashmir-Pakistan international border112. It may be noted that area south of Poonch is mostly below 5,000 ft and operations in this area are not severely restricted unlike the higher area in the north because of heavy snowfall.Keeping this fact in view the Pakistani GHQ felt that an Indian advance towards Mirpur and Bhimbhar was likely unless the Pakistan Army now at last assumed a more responsible and offensive posture. We will now  deal with the famous ‘Operation Venus’ which was given the shape of a political controversy by two gentlemen,one an army officer and the other a civil servant! By mid November the Pakistani political leadership at last realised that a  more active military policy must be adopted in Kashmir. Finally the civilian political leadership was moved from its state of supreme lethargy and indecision and gave the army its first responsible political directive ; ‘The Pakistan Government therefore, directed the C-in-C that, subject only to  the defence of West Pakistan frontiers with India,the Pakistan Army was to prevent at all costs, the Indians from extending the area of their occupation in the Jammu and Kashmir State’113. This directive was issued in mid November 1948 and following this the GHQ decided to move sizeable forces for offensive action in Bhimbhar Sector in Kashmir. In addition the Pakistani Cabinet asked the C-in-C to ‘examine in detail the military implications of the proposed counterstroke’114. Gracey proposed a counterstroke involving an armoured brigade and infantry brigade originating from Bhimbhar area and directed at Beri Pattan on the main Indian supply route from Akhnur to Nowshera-Rajauri and Poonch115. The aim of the projected Operation Venus as the counterstroke was code named was not to recapture Kashmir or even to recapture Poonch but in words  of the official history of the Kashmir War to:— ‘FORCE THE INDIANS TO SUE FOR AN IMMEDIATE CEASEFIRE ON THE BASIS OF THE STATUS QUO AS THEIR RECENT OPERATIONS HAD INVOLVED THE MAXIMUM EFFORT THEY WERE CAPABLE OF PUTTING FORTH AT THAT TIME.THE MANOEUVRES NOW CONTEMPLATED WOULD INSTEAD OF PROLONGING THE FIGHT IN KASHMIR,FORCE  THE INDIANS TO TERMINATE THE CONFLICT’116. The preliminary plan of Operation Venus involved launching a subsidiary offensive manoeuvre nicknamed ‘Operation Little Venus’117, involving capturing two insignificant hill features called Reech and Maindak hills few miles west of Beri Pattan; and this was scheduled to be launched  on  8th December 118. Sometime before 8th December the cabinet decided not to  launch ‘Little Venus’ but wait and see if Indians did not undertake any offensive action in Kashmir,in case of which ‘the planned counteroffensive was to be launched’119 On 14th December when the Indians resorted to some offensive moves in Bhimbhar area a ‘Modified Little Venus’ involving heavy artillery shelling on Beri Pattan area without any physical infantry attack was executed120. The shelling continued for two days and temporarily disrupted movement of Indian supply convoys on road Akhnur-Nowshera121. The Indians stopped offensive raids after this cannonade122. On 30th December the Pakistani  GHQ received a signal from the Indian GHQ  requesting for ceasefire123 and finally on the midnight of 31 December 1948/01 January 1949 ceasefire came into formal effect.

Thus ended the 1948 War as it is now remembered. The Official Pakistani history did not give any figure of Pakistan Army casualties. The approximate Indian casualties according to an author thus were124:-

a.        KILLED       —1,500

b.        WOUNDED —3,500

c.         MISSING     —1,000


Very few participants of the Kashmir War have left any written accounts of  their war experiences. General Iqbal who participated in the war and later on rose to the rank of full general and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, long after the Kashmir War made one very thought provoking remark about the Kashmir War in an article in the Pakistan Army Green Book 1992. This particular publication was sub titled ‘Year of the Senior Field Commanders’. Iqbal wrote; ‘During 1948 Kashmir Operations I saw one senior officer sitting miles behind the frontline and counting availability of mules and rations. He had relegated the fighting to a senior battalion commander 125’.

In 1963 once Major General Fazal I Muqueem Khan (Punjabi speaking although by caste a Pathan from East Punjab) wrote ‘THE STORY OF THE PAKISTAN ARMY’ as a serving officer and with blessings of Ayub Khan (being dedicated to Ayub,with a foreword written by Musa the Army C-in-C) Fazal I Muqueem made a veiled remark criticising the political government and particularly the Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan (a Hindustani Muslim who was not forgiven for having been chosen by Mr Jinnah as Pakistan’s first Prime Minister, by Punjabi Muslim leaders of that period  in particular) without naming Liaquat.Fazal thus wrote; ‘To the Army’s horror, Pakistan during her greatest hour of triumph in Kashmir agreed to accept the was difficult to understand why Pakistan let that opportunity pass. Was it assumed weakness; or as a result of pressing advice; or from misplaced chivalry towards an unfriendly neighbour in distress? Whatever the reason,Pakistan’s reluctance to accept the risks of continuing the war,cost her Kashmir at that time. It was a risk worth taking126 In other words Fazal I Muqueem was saying that Pakistan lost Kashmir because that accursed Hindustani was Pakistan’s Prime Minister!It may be noted that Liaquat bashing has been a favourite pastime of Punjabi Muslim historians in Pakistan,and is a favourite conversation topics in many Punjabi and Sindhi Muslim households.The Hindustani Muslims on the other hand have been projecting Liaquat as Pakistan’s greatest politician.As a matter of fact both these extreme positions are ridiculous and a great distortion of history! Using Fazal’s criticism as an authority and a factual basis; another historian mildly criticised Liaquat’s handling of Kashmir issue once he said,’The decision of Liaqat’s government to accept the cease-fire in Kashmir at the time it did ‘to the army’s horror’ (QUOTING FAZAL I MUQUEEM) also has been criticised127. It is worth examining Fazal’s ridiculous allegations  levelled like an old pre 1947 one anna witness in a little more detail!Less than five lines will suffice to prove the absence of any foundation of Fazal’s allegation.The Pakistani attack force collected for Operation Venus consisted of about six infantry battalions and two armoured regiments128. To oppose this the Indians had two infantry brigades (50 Para Brigade and 80 Infantry Brigade) .In addition there were two armoured regiments in the same area i.e. Central India Horse  and the Deccan Horse129 . In addition the Indians also possessed 14 other armoured regiments which were not in Kashmir but in Punjab or Western UP and could move to Kashmir. We shall see in 1965 how Pakistani armour functioned and the reader can keep that as a yardstick in order to appreciate how Pakistani armour and infantry would have behaved in Operation Venus; had it been ever launched!Fazal does not explain how capture Of Beri Pattan bridge would have led to complete collapse of Indian hold over Kashmir,apart from temporary severing of the line of communication to Poonch.Greater part of the Central  India Horse was at Nowshera close to Beri Pattan while Deccan Horse in Chamb-Akhnur area was also within striking range and the battle would have been a hotly contested affair!Shaukat Riza did not take the extreme viewpoint similar to Fazal’s when he wrote his book on Pakistan Army.He merely said that ‘On December 30 both sides saw  the wisdom of cease-fire’.130 There is another aspect in Shaukat Riza’s case i.e. the fact that once his book was being finalised and published in 1989 a Hindustani Muslim i.e. General Aslam Beg was the Army Chief and the book’s final draft was vetted and approved by the GHQ. An officer who worked with Shaukat Riza while serving as a staff officer in GHQ confided to the author in 1993 that Shaukat Riza despised Beg,due to some incident in East Pakistan in 1971, and felt that the GHQ was not giving him a free hand in writing the book. There is no doubt that Shaukat’s triology was heavily doctored and modified by too many cooks!In any case history writing in Pakistan  has remained an extremely dicey affair in which ulterior motives of authors, based largely on ethnic biases play an instrumental role. Lately in an article General K.M  Arif adopted a more rational viewpoint, when he stated that the Kashmir War of 1948 was mismanaged simply because Pakistan was not in a position to fight it successfully  summing  it up by stating ; ‘It is too hazardous a risk to fight a war on ad hoc basis’131

There is no doubt that Pakistan was in a favourable position to win the Kashmir War at least till the first week of November. Mr Jinnah exhibited great Coup de Oeil when he ordered Gracey to employ two brigades and advance with one brigade each towards Jammu and Srinagar. But Mr Jinnah was unlucky in possessing no one like Patel and his Prime Minister and his entire Cabinet proved to be an undoubted failure at least as a war cabinet! Mr Jinnah’s decision not to have a Pakistani C in C although taken in the best interest of the country and the Army as Mr Jinnah saw  it ensured that the British  acting C  in C procedurally blocked the execution of Mr Jinnah’s orders in October to attack Kashmir. Pakistan was unlucky in having a man like Iskandar Mirza at the Ministry of Defence.Mirza did not advise Mr Jinnah correctly and the fact that he had hardly served in the Army and did not understand military affairs further ensured that Mr Jinnah and the Prime Minister remained as ignorant as they were about military affairs as they were when they were in high school. It is incorrect to criticise Liaqat for Operation Venus since in December 1948 the Indian position was much more secure than in 1947.Liaqat can be criticised for not ever visiting Kashmir while the war was on and for not standing by Mr Jinnah in pressurising Gracey in October 1947 to order the Army to attack Kashmir.Had a Pakistani C in C been appointed even in December or in March 1948 the Indians may not have held on to Poonch-Nowshera area at least. Had Major Masud been allowed with his armoured cars on Domel-Baramula Road despite Ghazanfar Ali and Sher Khan’s objections;Srinagar may have been captured by the Tribesmen by first week of November 1947. The Indians were lucky in having comparatively more regular army officers who led from the front and is evident from higher officer casualties among Indian Army officers above the rank of captain vis a vis the Pakistan Army.The subsequent Pindi Conspiracy of 1950 was a logical result of disgust of the army officers with the  irresolute civilian political leadership as exhibited during the 1948 war. We can say with the benefit of hindsight that if the army did have to rule Pakistan as it later did from 1958;it would have been far better had real soldiers and patriots taken over in 1950! These men after all were men of crisis ; highly patriotic and outlook;and possessed an independent mind! Ironically paper tiger soldiers  with poor war record and naive intellect ; more interested in improving their personal fortunes took over.A seal of  essential mediocrity despite  an outwardly  impressive form ,  was thus firmly stamped ; as far as higher military leadership,doctrine and organisation was concerned;  on the Pakistan Army. But this was proved only  fourteen years later in 1965!



52 Appendix Thirteen-Expansion of the Armed Forces and Defence Organisation-1939-1945- Op Cit.

53 Pages-100 to 106-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

54 Page-57-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

55 Page-107-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.

56 Page-297-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

57 Page-285-Ibid.

58 Page-49-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

59 US State Department Report of February 1924 quoted on Page-372-A Concise History of  World War  One-Brigadier V.J Esposito-Op Cit.

60 Page-685- Shahab Nama-Qudrat Ullah Shahab-Sang I Meel Publications-Lahore-1997.Shahab was staff officer with Mirza.

61 Pages-98 ,99 &100-Major General Fazal I  Muqueem-Op Cit.

62 Page-276-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

63 Ibid.

64 Page-70-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

65 Pages-103 & 104-Fazal I Muqueem-Op Cit.

66 Pages-276 , 277, 278 & 280-Shaukat Riza-Op Cit.

67 Pages-143 & 144-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.

68 Page-75-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

69 Pages-75 & 76-Ibid.

70 Page- 9-Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Op Cit.

71 Page-115-Fazal I Muqueem-Op Cit and Pages-16 & 17-Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry-Op Cit.

72 Pages-201 & 202- Decisive Battles of the Western World-Volume-Three  — Major General J.F.C Fuller-Eyre and Spottiswoode-London-1963.

73 Page-62- Creative Thinking in Warfare-Brigadier Nazareth-Lancer Books-Delhi-1987.

74 Pages-205 & 206- The World Crisis-The Eastern Front- The  Rt Hon Winston.S. Churchill — Thornton Butterworth Limited — 15 Bedford Street — London-1931.

75 But most of these commanders who were mission oriented and of an independent judgement  were not rankers and from races with a leadership tradition;whereas in Indo Pak a large number of commanders were ex  rankers or rankers sons and above all there was no leadership tradition in the Indo Pak,as we shall discuss in the chapter analysing the 1965 war in  a later part of this book.

76 Pages-206 and 207-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.

77 Page-290-The Indian Armour-Op Cit.

78 Pages-190 ,191 & 192-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.

79 Page-441-Appendix-One—The Frontier Force Rifles-Compiled by W.E.H Condon-Aldershot-Gale & Polden Ltd-1953. Akbar Khan got the DSO while serving in the 14th Battalion of the Frontier Force Rifles at the Battle of Kwanlan Ywathit in Burma.The DSO it may be noted is given for outstanding  military leadership and gallantry,normally above or at battalion level. It was Pakistan  Army’s misfortune that Akbar was dismissed for involvement in the Pindi Conspiracy case and the Pakistan Army lost one of its very few officers who possessed real potential and resolution as far as higher military leadership was concerned. Ayub and company who dominated the scene  between 1950 and 1969 were not men who had done anything commendable during the Second World War, but essentially show case soldiers,who were masters in the art of getting extensions from politicians!Akbar Khan was not a ranker and thus not liked by Ayub who found Sandhurst Commissioned officer more difficult to handle!

80 Pages-91 & 92-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

81 Page-228-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.

82 Page-220-Ibid.

83 Page-265-Ibid.

84 Page-264-Ibid.

85 Page-267-Ibid.

86 Page-87-Major K.C Praval-Op Cit.

87 Page-267-The Kashmir Campaign-Op Cit.