Pakistan’s Missed Opportunities
By Asif Haroon Raja
The 1947-48 Kashmir war
The historic plan of June 3, 1947 stipulated partition of the Indian subcontinent into two dominions on the principles of self-determination for contagious Muslim majority states for Pakistan and non-Muslims for India. The 562 princely states were free to accede either to Pakistan or India giving due credence to communal demographic milieus.
Princely State Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) with 80% Muslim majority ruled by Hindu Maharaja, and Junagadh and Hyderabad with Hindu majority but ruled by Muslim rulers, were to join Pakistan. Hari Singh, Maharaja of J&K after signing a standstill agreement with Pakistan remained in two minds whether to remain independent or join which country. J&K wasn’t connected with India but Lord Cyril Radcliffe under the directions of Viceroy Lord Mountbatten allotted Muslim majority Gurdaspur to India, thus affording rationale of contiguity.
The Maharaja allowed India to construct the Road Samba-Kathua-Jammu to link India with Kashmir. Aided by India, he let loose a wave of terrorism against the Muslims to subdue them. RSS gangs, Sikhs and soldiers from Patiala State were secretly inducted into J&K and were armed. Wide-scale genocide of the Muslims was carried out to change the demography of the Jammu province. 250,000 Muslims were butchered and others forced to flee to Pakistan. This experiment was repeated in Poonch but was resisted.
It was in reaction to the butchery of the Muslim Kashmiris that the tribesmen from FATA under Maj retired Khurshid Anwar entered Kashmir on Oct 24. The tribal lashkars and Azad forces captured Poonch district less the city, Mendhar, Rajauri, Bhimber, Mirpur, Koth, and area up to Nowhera. In The Jhelum Valley, after capturing Muzaffarabad and Domel and reaching Baramula on October 26, instead of dashing forward to occupy defenseless Srinagar, they stayed there and wasted 24 hours in looting.
The Maharaja fled from Srinagar to Jammu and sought India’s help. He was told by Nehru, V.P. Menon and Mountbatten that support will be extended only after he signed the instrument of accession with India. The same was signed on October 26, 1947 enabling Nehru and Mountbatten to dispatch 1/11 Sikh Regiment by air to capture Srinagar airport on October 27, 1947. A great opportunity was thus missed.
Thereafter, an air bridge was formed by India under the supervision of Mountbatten for rapid induction of large numbers of Indian forces to capture J&K. It set the stage for an unending saga of tyranny and persecution in Kashmir. In spite of the fact that Pakistan at that time was fighting the battle of survival and had little capacity to evict the aggressors, troops from 101 Brigade in Jhelum Valley and 10 Brigade in Neelum Valley along with the Azad forces and tribal lashkars put up a brave fight. Counter offensives launched in the two Valleys managed to retain one-thirds J&K. Rest was occupied by the aggressors who had the support of air, tanks and artillery.
After the initial reverses, the situation started to tilt in Pakistan’s favor towards the end of 1948 due to onset of winters and extended lines of communications that had become vulnerable to interdiction. Rebellion in Poonch city by 50,000 ex-servicemen and serving soldiers should have been aided by the military and tribal lashkars. Simultaneously, the Kashmir Valley and Jammu-Kathua road could be disrupted through organized guerrilla activities to prevent reinforcements to Jammu from East Punjab. After taking care of Dogra Army in Poonch, and blocking Samba-Kathua road, the Poonchis and the tribesmen could then swing towards Jammu and next Srinagar to drive the final nail in the coffin of Dogra rule in J&K. Nothing of the sort was done and the impassioned appeals of the oppressed Muslims of Poonch seeking assistance were ignored. Supply of a few thousand weapons and volunteers could have changed the course of history.
After gobbling up the plum regions, Nehru took the case to the UNSC and desperately sought its help for a ceasefire. PM Liaqat Ali Khan without realizing that Nehru was wanting to gain time and to consolidate India’s hold over captured territory, accepted his offer and ceasefire came into effect on January 01, 1949. Thus Pakistan lost another opportunity to regain the lost territories.
UN Resolutions and India’s Tactics
The UN accepted Kashmiris right of self-determination vide its two resolutions dated August 13, 1948, and January 5, 1949 and UNSC resolution of March 11, 1950. Both sides agreed to the formula of ceasefire, followed by demilitarization and holding of a plebiscite under the UN supervision. The demilitarization couldn’t be realized due to India’s intransigence. The dispute couldn’t be resolved due to Nehru’s refusal to honor his pledge of giving right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, and due to lackadaisical approach of the UN missions.
Thereon, India began its game of delaying tactics to slip out of its commitment to plebiscite, and started to gradually erode the special status enjoyed by Kashmir under the Indian Constitution. India dropped its pretense of holding a plebiscite after Pakistan joined western pacts in 1954. Soviet vetoes helped India in defying the UN and getting away with it.
India forcibly annexed all the 562 princely states including Junagadh and Hyderabad on the pretext of communal affinity and contiguity. The same approach was not applied in Kashmir.
Another Opportunity in 1962
Pakistan came across yet another opportunity in 1962 when the Chinese forces had undertaken an offensive in the Himalayas and routed the Indian forces. Pakistan could exploit the vulnerability of Indian military by attempting to retake the areas across the ceasefire line in J&K, but Field Marshal Ayub Khan heeded to Kennedy’s deceptive advice and refrained from the offensive venture, hoping that the Kashmir dispute would be resolved through talks. Although several rounds of Swaran Singh-ZA Bhutto talks took place, no headway was made.
Failed Attempts in Kashmir in 1965
After losing four opportunities, Pakistan finally decided to resolve the Kashmir dispute militarily in August 1965. Operation Gibraltar was hastily planned and hurriedly executed without adequate preparations. Neither the Kashmiris in Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) were militarily trained and motivated to conduct irregular warfare, nor were the irregular forces from AJK who had been infiltrated on multiple routes deep inside IOK sufficiently trained in guerilla warfare. Even AJK political leadership was not taken into confidence. It was naively assumed that once the pace of guerrilla efforts gained momentum, the local population would spontaneously rise to join the struggle. Their aspirations were over-assessed. All the hideouts of the infiltrators were disclosed by the locals to the Indian military.
The Gibraltar Force devoid of logistic backup support, however, did cause a psychological paralysis to the enemy. All the groups led by young officers were able to reach their destinations and helped in unfreezing the Kashmir problem.
Next was Operation Grand Slam launched across River Tawi to capture Chamb and Jaurian. The objectives set were over ambitious. Akhnur placed at 48 miles distance was to be captured by an infantry brigade and armor regiment in 48 hours. After capturing Chamb, the command was suddenly changed and Maj Gen Akthar Ali Malik was replaced by Maj Gen Yahya Khan. The midway changeover was at the cost of losing 36 precious hours. Already a 24 hours delay had occurred in crossing Tawi and launching the next phase. The new commander changed the next objective and instead of capturing Akhnur, he opted for middle-distance Jaurian. These two factors enabled the disheveled Indian forces to regroup and strengthen Akhnur.
Had Akhnur been captured on Sept 3 as planned earlier, from where Rajauri as well as road Samba-Kathua could be threatened, and Indian troops bottled up in IOK, the outcome of war would have been different. India would have thought twice to invade Lahore. Another opportunity was missed.
The 1965 War
Pakistan was caught off guard on the early morning of 6th Sept 1965 when India invaded Lahore without declaring war. At the culmination of 17-day high intensity war, India after losing the battle of Lahore had fully consumed its strategic reserves (1 Armored Division) in the biggest tank battle of Chawinda and had no more strategic reserves. Pakistan Army had managed to marry up 1 and 6 Armored Divisions in the Sialkot sector and was well-poised to launch a counter offensive, particularly because PAF had achieved air superiority. Had India something left in its store, it would never have sought a ceasefire. Pakistan had a definite edge, but it chose not to exploit and agreed to ceasefire. Earlier on, after the successful battle of Khem Karan by our 1 Armored Division and 11 Division despite the initial hiccups due to problems of articulation of command, when the Indian division commander in that sector had ordered withdrawal behind River Beas, we couldn’t exploit the opportunity to seize Hareke bridges.
The Tashkent Declaration drove the last nail in the realization of a solution of Kashmir through the mode of use of force. Simla agreement in 1972 converted the ceasefire line into Line of Control, and excluded third party mediation. Policy of bilateralism froze the Kashmir issue.
India has all along played the theme that plebiscite will injure the secular stance of Indian Union, and that loss of Kashmir would not only compromise the security of Muslims in India, but would give idea to other secessionist elements and could lead to disintegration of India.
Bogey of terrorism has been used to undermine freedom movement and to smokescreen her oppressive policies in IOK.
The fascist and racist regime of BJP under RSS man Modi espousing Hindutva has shredded the farce of secularism and now Pakistan is taking the wind out of its false narrative of terrorism.
Freedom Movement in Kashmir
The Kashmiris after struggling passively from 1948 onwards, got energized after the hanging of JKLF leader Maqbool Butt in 1984, followed by rigging in elections in 1987, and later by the Islamic revolution in Iran, victory of the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviets and the Khalistan movement in East Punjab. They started an armed uprising in IOK in Oct 1989. At that time, India under Rajev Gandhi was politically, economically and militarily weak. The Kashmiri youth were fully charged up to fight unto death. India had still not inducted 7 lacs forces into the restive region. Had Gen Ziaul Haq been alive, he would have surely exploited the golden opportunity since he had already planned to liberate Kashmir after winning the war in Afghanistan. The Sikhs in East Punjab were up in arms and were demanding independent Khalistan. The Sikhs were rapidly getting aligned with the Kashmiris. Gulbadin Hikmatyar had promised to dispatch one lac Afghan Mujahideen to repay the sacrifices rendered by the Kashmiris in their war.
We again dilly dallied and didn’t strike when the iron was red hot and missed the opportunity. The Khalistan movement received a fatal blow after the list of Sikh leaders was handed over to India by the PPP regime in 1989. India got aligned with USA in 1991 and with Israel in 1992 and built a narrative that Pakistan was abetting terrorism in IOK. The narrative was backed by the US and the West which tied our hands and we became defensive and are still defensive. New laws framed by the USA to fight the global war on terror after 9/11 suited India the most. She painted the freedom fighters in Kashmir as terrorists aided by Pakistan. After tying the hands of Pakistan and slyly inking a peace deal, India embarked upon the biggest covert war against Pakistan from the Afghan soil which is still continuing.
Kargil operation in the first half of 1999 was a well-conceived and executed venture at the tactical level, but its wider implications at the logistics, operational and strategic levels were not taken into consideration. All the power centres were not taken into confidence due to which the initial gains made couldn’t be optimized. Handful of irregular forces (NLI) and Mujahideen were sent forward in Nov/Dec 1998 to capture heights that had been vacated by Indian forces due to severe weather conditions. That had been the norm every winter. Large numbers of outposts were established in Dras-Kargil sectors. Some had stretched too far forward along the Toulolong ridge which overlooked strategic road Srinagar-Leh and the troops were in a position to interdict it and cut off Indian troops based in Siachin and Leh from the rest of Kashmir.
India learnt about the intrusion in May 1999. The escalation started in June which soon became intense. Vajpayee authorized the military to use everything in the arsenal less the nukes to oust the intruders. Once no headway could be made with repeated air assaults by the fighter jets and gunship helicopters together with Israeli supplied precision guided missiles to plaster the posts, best of the infantry units reputed for their war records were launched with a promise of heaping them with gallantry awards. A stage came when the Indian Army had to move forward the infantry units from its strategic reserves, which became imbalanced. As a last resort, India garnered 100-guns density of Bofors artillery guns to carry out concentrated fire on each post. It resulted in loss of 3-4 outposts on the Toulolong ridge which caused consternation to the military and civil hierarchy.
With disrupted supply lines and devoid of food, water and ammunition, as well as air and artillery support, the defenders refused to fall back. When the Goliath found itself floored with no chances of recovery, Vajpayee appealed to the US and the G-20 to bail out India of its predicament.
That was the time for Pak military to play its strategic cards by positioning an armor contingent south of Pir Panjal where a power vacuum had occurred in order to unhinge Indian military in IOK; and for the Pak govt to carryout brinkmanship on the diplomatic plane to force India to come on the negotiating table and settle the Kashmir dispute. No such thing was done. Nor air and artillery cover provided to the besieged outposts. Getting alarmed, it was feared that the coming days could see the fall of more posts since the defenders had no means to counter the air and artillery.
It was under such unsavory conditions that Nawaz Sharif dashed to Washington and reportedly he had the blessings of Gen Musharraf. Since the ceasefire had become vital, he gave up all the gains made on the battleground at a very heavy cost without any returns. Pak forces suffered much more casualties during the withdrawal phase since India didn’t cease fire. India converted its military defeat into victory on the media plane. It gave strength to India’s narrative that Pakistan is an aggressor and indulges in terrorism.
Another opportunity arose after the scuffle between Indian and Chinese forces in the Himalayan region in eastern Ladakh in May-June 2020. PLA’s bold intrusions on a broad front resulted in occupation of well over 1000 km territory across the LAC. Since then, the Indian military is in a state of paralysis. The 8 million Muslim Kashmiris locked up since August 5, 2019 and undergoing worst state terrorism at the hands of Indian forces are itching for revenge and the freedom fighters are primed to restart armed uprising. So is the case with Jihadi forces and people of Pakistan. Perception of the world about India that it is a victim of terrorism has considerably changed and its ugly face stand exposed. This change occurred as a result of draconian policies of Modi regime against all the minorities of India, its penchant for state sponsored terrorism and RAW’s linkage with ISIS. The period between July and October was ideal to carryout covert operations combined with limited attacks in IOK. Onset of winters has foreclosed this option.
To conclude, it is obvious that either we fail to exploit the situation when India is in a vulnerable position and miss the opportunity, or else whenever we make a move, the venture is not planned thoroughly and in entirety. India on the other hand undertakes its military ventures after exhaustive preparations, as was the case in 1971. For 23 years, India kept subverting the minds of Bengalis to inculcate hatred in their minds against the West Pakistanis. RAW was specially created in 1968 to launch the final act of subversion. Even then when Indira Gandhi told Gen Manekshaw to invade East Pakistan in April 1971, he refused and sought 9 months for war preparations.
RAW has been subverting the minds of Sindhis, Muhajirs, Baloch and Pashtuns and has achieved substantial success in polluting their minds. FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh are restive regions. Pakistan agencies have no hand in the 17 separatist movements and dozens of insurgencies in various parts of India, nor has made any effort to further fan those insurgencies. This passive and defensive approach is in spite of the fact that RAW is deeply involved in destabilizing Pakistan and the latter having collected irrefutable evidence of its involvement and Indian dangerous designs. Pakistan has belatedly begun to respond to India’s hybrid war on the media and diplomatic planes but has so far not responded to India’s covert war.
The writer is a retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence & security analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member CWC PESS and Veterans Think Tank. firstname.lastname@example.org