Kashmir: The Storm center of the World
Table of Contents
   About the Author
   Abode of Kashyap
   The Making of J&K
   Hundred Years of Dogra Rule
   Quit Kashmir Movement
   Hari Singh's Dilemma
   Accession to India
   First Indo-Pak War
   Bungling at U.N.
   Kashmir Divided
   The Dixon Proposals
   Shadow of Cold War
   The Chinese Factor
   Indo-Pak War of 1965
   Indo-Pak War of 1971
   The Great Betrayal
   Back to Square One
   War by Proxy
   The Way Out
   Book in pdf format  
   Official Site  

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir


Symbol of Unity


Chapter 14

Indo-Pak War of 1971

Ambivalence of Soviet Union at Tashkent which forced India to withdraw from Haji Pir and Kargil Heights and accept the status quo ante in Janmmu and Kashmir state was the outcome of a number of developments in international field after Sino-Indian war of 1962 which had impelled its leadership to re-assess and re-order its global strategy. The most important of these developments was the rift between Soviet Union and Communist China because of conflict of national interests and personality clash between the leadership of the two communist giants.

Communist China had been growing under the shadow of Soviet Union since 1949. But as it found it's feet and established its position in political and economical fields both internally and externally, it began to assert itself against hegemonic approach of Soviet Union. The border between them in Central Asia which passed through territories acquired by both of them during their imperialist expansion was undemarcated. China now began to claim certain territories which Soviet Union controlled. It also began to question earlier Sino-Russian treaties as unequal treaties and asserted its independent position in the international forums. This was not to the liking of Soviet Union, which had come to consider itself as the big brother. The age old European hunch about "Yellow peril" coming from China also began to haunt Soviet leaders.

Tie up between China and Pakistan was another discordant factor. Muslim dominated Central Asian Soviet Republic had beeh feeling the pull of Pakistan on their population. Pakistan getting closer to China, therefore, did not suit the Soviet Union. It wanted to draw Pakistan away from China. That was the basic reason of the Soviet stance of neutrality between India and Pakistan at Tashkent.

Pakistan too began to re-assess the situation, particularly after the Russian built tunnel through the Hindukush mountain in 1964. Russian tanks could now roll down to Kabul in a few hours and Peshawar was only 200 miles away from there. I happened to be in Kabul on the day Tashkent-Kabul highway passing through this tunnel was officially opened. I had written an article on that day in which I had stated that no government of Pakistan can now afford to remain on the wrong side of Soviet Union. The winding up of the American Airbase near Peshawar from which spy flights into Soviet Union had been undertaken was the result. It paved the way for improvement of relations between Soviet Union and Pakistan. President Ayub was too practical a man not to take advantage of this changed situation. He candidly wrote in his autobiography, "if we could not establish normal relations with all our big neighbors, the best thing was to have an understanding with two of them (Soviet Union and China). They might have internal differences but we need not get involved in that. This was a vital element in our thinking. It was on this basis that I have set out to normalize our relations with the peoples of Republic of China and Soviet Union."

Another factor which induced re-thinking in Soviet Union about Kashmir was failure of Indian leadership to heed the advice given by the Soviet leaders from time to time about changing the complexion of population of Kashmir valley and integrating it with the rest of India. This created a feeling in them that perhaps India itself was not serious about holding on to Kashmir.

The shift in the stand of Soviet leadership which first became evident when Tashkent began to be reflected in the utterances of Indian communist leaders inside and outside the Parliament. I got confirmation of the shift and the reasons for it from a Soviet diplomat stationed at New Delhi. He explained "Soviet Union had been at the beck and call of India in regard to Kashmir for 10 years. What have you done to solve the Kashmir problem during this period? You have neither fully integrated it by extending the constitution of India to it nor you have done anything to change complexion of its population. How long you expect Soviet Union to take India's chest nuts out of the fire?"

Almost the same explanations were given to Dr. Sanjiva Reddy, the Speaker of the Indian Lok Sabha, when he led an Indian Parliamentarian Delegation to Moscow in 1968 by more authoritative quarters. He told this to a joint meeting of the two Houses of Parliament after he returned to New Delhi.

The lack of clear and firm policy in regard to Kashmir on the part of government of India had an adverse effect on the mind and conduct of a large section of Kashmiri Muslims. They became more amenable to Pak propaganda and began to adopt an openly hostile attitude toward India and its security forces in Kashmir. I noted this when I visited Kashmir in 1968 as Vice-Chairman of Indian study Team on Defense. I heard the slogans "Indian dogs go back" being hurled on Indian soldiers by a Kashmiri mob. I also learned from some sector commanders stationed in Kashmir that their real worry was growing hostility of Kashmiri Muslims who they feared might stab India in the back in the event of another Pak agrression.

In the meantime, Sino-Soviet rift began to take the form of an open confrontation. China's pull on communist parties of Asian countries also began to grow. This upset Soviet leadership. It began to devise a new strategy for containing Chinese influence and maintaining dominant position of Soviet Union in Asia. To that end it put forth a "Collective Security Plan" and invited India to join it. Non-com munist opposition parties of India saw in this plan a move to further strengthen Soviet strangle hold on India. Indian Prime Minister Mrs. Gandhi also did not favor it because she felt it might weaken India's position in Non-Aligned Movement.

Overthrow of General Ayub by General Yahya Khan and growing demand in East Pakistan for separation from Pakistan created a new situation. Pakistan let loose a reign of terror in East Pakistan resulting in influx of millions of Hindu refugees into India. This created new tens ions between India and Pakistan besides putting a huge economic burden on India. People of India in general were sympathetic to the aspirations of the people of East Pakistan and favored extension of active support to the liberation movement there which was being led by Sheikh Mujibur-Rehman.

China and USA which had come closer to each other were expected to back Pakistan in case of a show down on the issue of East Pakistan. India therefore felt the need of ensuring soviet support in such an eventuality. Thus the interest of both India and Soviet Union began to point to the need of a more definite understanding between the two. The Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty signed in mid 1971 was the result.

Things began to move quickly after signing of this treaty, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's Awami Party secured a clear majority in the general elections of Pakistan held in 1971. But he was deprived of Prime Ministership of Pakistan because of the opposition of the leaders of West Pakistan led by Z. A. Bhutto. East Pakistan thereafter, declared its independence from Pakistan. This resulted in a bloody confrontation between Pak army and people of East Pakistan who were supported by the Bengali speaking section of armed forces of Pakistan and local bureaucracy. India at that time decided to extend its support to the freedom fighters of the East Pakistan, now called Bangladesh, on humanitarian grounds.

As a soldier, General Yahya Khan realized quite early that Pakistan could not hold East Pakistan by force for long. He had mentally reconciled himself to separation of East Pakistan from Pakistan. He wanted to compensate this loss by securing Kashmir for West Pakistan. He had therefore withdrawn most of the Pak air force from East Pakistan and wanted to withdraw the bulk of Pakistan army also from there. But he could not do so because of naval blockade by lndia.

Full scale Indo-Pak war began preemptive attack by Pakistan on Indian air bases on December 3, 1971. The main objective of Pakistan was to secure Kashmir and some other territory in the West, in lieu of East Pakistan. This became clearer from the evidence he gave before the War Commission appointed by the Government of Pakistan after his fall frorn power. He was reported to have told the commission, which was presided over by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, that he wanted to withdraw bulk of Pak troops from East Pakistan before the start of the war. He did withdraw all but one squadron of Pak air force from there but he could not withdraw the army because of the Indian blockade. He later tried to get the Pak army out of Bangladesh on December 9, with the consent of Gavernment of India. India, according to him, had promised safe passage of Pakistan army from Bangladesh ports to Karachi. But Bhutto dissuaded him from executing this plan by assuring him that China and USA were going to intervene militarily in favor of Pakistan.

The casualty figures released by the government of India after the war made it clear that Pakistan was interested primarily in the war on the West and its objective was to get Kashmir somehow. While only 1,300 Indian Jawans and officers died in the operation in Bangladesh, Indian casualties on the western front exceeded 4,000. Indian armed forces not only foiled determined and persistent Pak attempts to push into Jammu and Kashmir state and capture tlle valley, but also inflicted a crushing defeat on Pakistan in Sindh and Lahore sectors. Pak navy and Karachi port were put out of action. Lahore was besieged and 5,000 sq. miles of Pak territory in Lahore sector was occupied. Pakistan army could capture only 60 sq. miles of Indian territory in the Chhamb sector in Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir state. In the Eastern sector more than 90,000 Pak troops surrendered and were made prisoners of war.

This decisive Indian victory in the war of 1971 resulted in liberation af Bangladesh, dismemberment of Pakistan, surrender of over 90,000 Pak troops and occupation of valuable Pak territory in Punjab bigger in size than Kashmir valley. Indian defense forces established their superiority on land and sea as also in the air. This made India the dominant power in South Asia. It was then a position to clinch the Kashmir issue once for all.

But political leadership failed India once again. It could not take advantage of the magnificent military victory even to settle the Kashmir issue. Shimla agreement signed in July, 1972, converted India's military victory into a political and diplomatic defeat once again. The country, the nation and its gallant armed forces were betrayed.

Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World



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