From Major Amin’s book on the history of the Pakistan army..
The First 1947-48 Indo-Pak War
The British started with a strategic plan having Britishers dominating the key posts in both the newly created countries! The war was fought largely by individuals on the Pakistani side and by the British Governor General and senior army commanders on the Indian side! Gilgit was won by Pakistan simply because the British officers of Gilgit scouts and the Gilgit Scouts VCOs acted with remarkable unison! No credit to the Pakistani Government, which had no clue about what was happening in Gilgit in September-October 1947. The Indians were doomed in this case since their Dogra Governor made plain his intentions to do away with the Gilgit Scouts! The VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts acted tactically but while doing so achieved a great strategic victory for Pakistan! It was a fairly even contest. There were two non- Muslim Companies in the 6 J and K at Bunji against two non-Muslim Companies! There was an airfield at Gilgit just like there was one at Sringar! The Indians lost the Northern Areas because of outright strategic incompetence! The Pakistanis have proved equally strategically barren! No statue at Islamabad commemorates what the VCOs of the Gilgit Scouts led by the indomitable Scott Major W.A Brown achieved for Pakistan in October November 1947! Without Gilgit or Baltistan what would have been Pakistan’s China policy! There was a Dogra Governor in Gilgit in 1947! Today the Northern Area still does not have a Gilgiti Muslim Governor!
The situation in the Jhelum Valley was saved by tribals who possessed Èlan and great fervour but had no strategic insight! Something for which they cannot be blamed! Bhimbhar was won by local militia while Poonch was besieged by local militias only to be lost once Pakistan Army had entered the scene in 1948. On the Indian side the crowning feat of strategic insight was capture of Zojila, the brainchild of Thimaya. Something, which vindicates this scribe’s humble assertion in the previous paragraphs, i.e Thimaya was the only Indian who had commanded a brigade in actual action in the Second World War!
In the final summing up, the Kashmir war of 1948 was a partial Indian victory and a strategic Pakistani failure since the Indians delayed ceasefire till the relief of Poonch and recapture of Kargil-Ladakh, while the Pakistani leadership delayed ceasefire while Poonch was surrounded by West Pakistan like East Pakistan was surrounded by India and Zojila the gateway to Baltistan was in Pakistani hands! The Indian acceptance of ceasefire on 31 December 1948 had a strategic design while the Pakistani non acceptance of ceasefire earlier was a matter of lack of strategic insight! The important fact here is that the Britishers who led India both politically (Mountbatten) and militarily Russell and Bucher had greater strategic insight than Messervy or Gracey!
Strategically the Indians were ascendant at the time of ceasefire in 1948. Their superiority suffered once Nehru downsized the Indian Army viewing it as a colonial relic. The Indian Armoured Corps historian is stating nothing but the simple truth once he states ‘The first fifteen years after independence saw a steady decline in the efficiency, state of equipment and importance of India’s Armed Forces… the belief in ahimsa and the consequent pacifist strain in our people’. Gurcharan further adds, ‘The Government’s attitude became plain to all ranks soon enough when their pay and allowances were drastically reduced’. From 1954-58 the strategic balance started tilting in favour of Pakistan. US military aid enabled the Pakistan Army to acquire greater organizational flexibility and operational efficiency. The balance swung in favour of Pakistan particularly in terms of armour and artillery. Technical superiority is, however, meaningless unless it is matched and accompanied by corresponding organizational superiority and strategic insight. On both, strategic as well as organizational plain the Pakistan Army remained as barren as in 1947. Till the divisional level the Pakistani organisation was qualitatively superior to the Indians. The trouble started at corps and army level. The ruling Pakistani clique had no understanding of higher military organisation! They viewed war as a clash of battalions, brigades and divisions which could be conducted by a General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. At the army level there was equal barrenness and ineptitude! They saw any future war in Kashmir as a ‘Limited War’ something like the 1947-48 Kashmir War! If Nehru had not attacked across the international border in 1948 why should Shastri who was smaller should do so! These pedants forgot the fact that Nehru did not attack in 1948 because Liaquat decided at the last moment to call off Operation Venus aimed at cutting Indian communications to the Poonch Valley!
On the strategic plain the Pakistani cause was doomed from the beginning not because of any tangible inferiority but simply because Pakistan’s military leaders had no clue about their capability to inflict a strategic defeat on India! These men who dominated the corridors of the army’s higher command had rudimentary ideas about operational strategy or higher strategy. They did not have confidence in themselves! On the other hand the civilians in the cabinet were far more resolute than the army C in C and the president!
The conduct of 1965 War and its subsequent analysis, however, later became a highly politicized issue. Thus the resultant analysis was highly subjective. It became a battle of Bhutto haters and Ayub haters! Largely Bhutto haters wrote the history of that war in the period 1977-90 and a highly distorted picture emerged as a result of these exercises in personal hatred.
The 1965 war could have been a Pakistani strategic victory if the Pakistani 1st Armoured Division had achieved a breakthrough in Khem Karan! Had the Pakistani Blitzkrieg succeeded, and there was a great chance of it succeeding at one stage, three Indian divisions would have been rolled like Hitler rolled up the bulk of the French Army and the BEF in France in 1940. 1965 would have gone down in history as a Pakistani victory. This fact has been openly admitted by no less a man than the Indian C in C Western Command Harbaksh Singh when he stated ‘’A Blitzkrieg deep into our territory towards the Grand Trunk Road or the Beas Bridge would have found us in the helpless position of a commander paralysed into inaction for want of readily available reserves while the enemy was inexorably pushing deep into our vitals. It is a nightmarish feeling even when considered in retrospect at this stage’.
Harbaksh was not a member of Bhutto’s party but an illustrious officer of the Indian Army who held the highest operational appointment in the Indian Army.1965 was not a foreign policy failure as Shaukat Riza the mouthpiece of the military establishment asserted but a military failure. A military failure that was avoidable, had the military establishment been led by more dynamic people! A military failure which occurred because of poor higher command structure and absence of a corps headquarter and an infantry division, both of which could have been raised with ease only if someone in the higher quarters in the GHQ knew their operational significance!
Now the strategic rationale why Pakistan had to resolve the issue through a resort to arms in 1965. The Indians had started reorganizing their army after the Sino Indian War of 1962 and the balance of forces was fast tilting in Indian favour. What was the solution to this problem! Long ago, Clausewitz gave an answer to this when he said ‘Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not; if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages — it will rather increase the disparity of forces —but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account.’ There is no evidence which indicates that Ayub or Musa read Clausewitz! It appears that Bhutto had read Clausewitz! Bhutto and Aziz did have a strong rationale for being the hawks that they were in 1965. Strategically, 1965 was the last Pakistani chance to impose a military solution on India. The events of 1971 prove that the balance was fast tilting in favour of India. The US had decided to revise its policies keeping in view Pakistan’s China policy. A war had to be fought in 1965! The failure did not lay in the fact that 1965 War was fought but in the fact that the Pakistani higher command was conceptually intangibly qualitatively and intellectually incompetent to win a war which tangibly speaking it had the potential to win!
Pakistan Army did learn some strategic lessons from the 1965 War. The army was organized on rational lines. Many corps headquarters were created. However, the whole situation had now drastically changed. While 1965 was the best chance for Pakistan to go at war, 1971 was the worst moment to start war with India! Again as in 1947 the Pakistani leadership was caught in an irrevocable vicious whirlpool of history! Since Ayub lacked both political as well as military strategic insight he had irrevocably alienated the country’s East Wing! Pakistan in 1971 was a house divided against itself and East Pakistan had to fall! Sometimes history assumes an air of inevitability. Beyond one point the flow of events becomes irreversible and even a Napoleon or Alexander cannot change the current. This is what happened to Pakistan in 1971.
Interestingly, 1971 was an Indian strategic failure too . They achieved a short-term aim but failed to strike at the centre of gravity i.e West Pakistan. In the final reckoning they created another hostile anti-Indian state which is far more difficult to subdue than the former Pakistan as it was in 1971! On the other side the ‘Pakistan problem’ as the Indians call it has not been resolved! Kashmir is a huge blotting paper that keeps at least half a million Indian troops occupied while militancy goes on and no solution is in sight! Religious extremism which had witnessed a decline in the period 1947-77 on both sides of the Radcliffe line after 1947 is now ascendant!
Post-1971 situation to date
The Indians have failed to arrive at a strategic solution to their military problems. The initiative has been in the Indian hands since 1971 but they have proved equally inept ! In 1971 they did not have the will to launch a second phase i.e the reduction of West Pakistan! In 1984 they came close to a conflict which was avoided only because Durga’s Sikh guards polished her off!
In the post-1979 period both the Soviets and Indians failed strategically. The Soviet response to the Afghan problem should have been increased aid to India so that Pakistan was made to react to a strategy of indirect approach. This did not happen. In 1987 Gen Sundarji was playing the part that Bhutto was playing in 1965 i.e manipulating an indecisive political chief executive into a war! Rajiv Gandhi checked Sundarjis ambitions and decided to make peace.
The Pakistani military establishment had realized after 1971 that India could not be defeated in any future conventional war. Thus the switch over to Low Intensity Wars like in Indian Punjab in 1984 and in Kashmir from 1987 onwards. The future of Indo-Pak will be decided by a series of Low Intensity Wars. The Low Intensity War in Kashmir is likely to be followed by one in Sindh or Balochistan. The possibility that the US encourages Low Intensity Wars in Chinese Sinkiang through India cannot be ruled out.
The principal danger lies in escalation of a low intensity war into a nuclear conflict. This is a serious possibility unless major political changes occur on both sides of the Radcliffe Line. The rise of religious extremism on both sides of the Radcliffe Line is the most serious threat to future regional stability. On the Indian side this threat is more political while on the Pakistani side this threat has a deeper connection with militants who are a smaller group but enjoy greater support in the country’s Armed Forces. No one can predict whether the militants will succeed in Pakistan or not. The distant rumbling of a revolution or a coup can be felt but can never be accurately predicted. Religious militancy’s success or failure in Pakistan has a deep connection with the success or failure of the Taliban Government in Afghanistan. Religious militancy will receive a boost in both cases. If, the Taliban fail it will be seen as a conspiracy of the West against Islam. If they succeed their success will be seen as a model which must be repeated in the entire Islamic World!