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India - Pakistan Wars

Since both nations achieved independence in August 1947, there have been three major wars and one minor war between India and Pakistan. All the wars fought between the two nations were over the disputed area of Kashmir with the only exception being in 1971, where the cause of friction between the two nations was over the Genocide and the resulting problems in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

The Wars in chronological order:

  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 
  • Indo-Pakistani War of 1999 

Origins of conflict

The root of most conflicts and the mutual hatred lies in Kashmir and in the manner in which its political alignment was decided by the two countries following partition in 1947. Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu Maharajah ruling a largely muslim population who tried to make Kashmir an independent state. But following an invasion by Pakistani tribals and some regulars he acceeded to India. Immediately afterwards the First Kashmir War broke out between the two nations over the mountainous region of Kashmir when Indian and Pakistani troops fought against each other. The war lasted for more than a year with both nations making significant advances into each other's territory. As the war was ended by a UN ceasefire, India had managed to secure just under three-fifths of Kashmir and importantly the most fertile part of it including the Kashmir Valley.

The Second Kashmir War again involved the issue of Kashmir with Pakistan infiltrating and starting a rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir, India (See Operation Gibraltar) The plan was a non-starter and India reacted by launching a formal attack on Pakistan igniting the war. The war ended in stalemate.

The third war was unique in in that it did not involve the issue of Kashmir but was entirely about East Pakistan and the crisis brewing there. After months of internal conflict India decided to help the Bengalis in East Pakistan much to the consternation of West Pakistan. Within just a fortnight the Indian Military had decisively defeated Pakistan with the aid of the rebels and forced a surrender upon Pakistan.

The latest war, the Kargil War, is considered a minor war though it produced stirring emotions between the two nations involved coming at a time of increased media and electronic coverage. The war ended in a multi-pronged victory for India. The withdrawal of Pakistan from its occupation was seen both as a politico-diplomatic triumph as much as a military success.

Other conflicts

Apart from the aforementioned wars, there have been skirmishes between the two nations from time to time. Some have bordered on an all out war whilst others were pretty limited in conflict. The nations were expected to fight each other in 1955 after war-like posturing of both nations, though it was neutralised. In 1984 there was an issue as both nations attempted to control the Siachen Glacier. Further clashes erupted in the glacial area in 1987 as Pakistan sought to oust India from its stronghold without success. The very next year Operation Brasstacks was conducted by India. This miliatry exercise - the largest of its kind in South Asia - raised eyebrows in Pakistan and was feared to lead to another war between the two neighbours. Tensions were high again in 1990 after the Kashmir militacy start exploding. The 2002 parliamentary attacks by terrorists fighting for the Kashmiri cause prompted India on a military and diplomatic offensive and was believed by many military analysts as the push towards a war.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 sometimes known as the First Kashmir War was a war fought between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir from 1947 to 1949. It was the first of the many wars fought among the two newly independent nations.


The state of Jammu and Kashmir was one of a number of Indian states that recognised British paramountcy. Prior to the withdrawal of the British from India, the state came under pressure from both India and Pakistan to join them. The Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh wanted to remain independent and tried to delay the issue. However at the time of British withdrawal the state was invaded by a concentrated force of Pro-Pakistan Tribals from North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and regular Pakistani soldiers. This forced him to accede Kashmir to India who promptly rushed into Kashmir and thus the war had started. The accession is still questioned by the Pakistanis. The Pakistani claim is that since the majority of the the Kashmiri population is Muslim, the princely state should have been given to Pakistan. The Indian claim arises from Maharaja Hari Singh's accession.

Summary of War

AZK (Azad Kashmir) forces (Azad in Urdu means liberated or free) are the local militia supported by the Pakistanis. The AZK had several advantages in the war, notably:

  • Prior to the war the Jammu and Kashmir state forces had been spread thinly around the border as a response to terrorist activity, and so were badly deployed to counter a full scale invasion. 
  • Some of the state forces joined Indian forces. 
  • The AZK were also aided by regular Pakistani soldiers who manned some of their units, with the proportion increasing throughout the war. 
  • British officers may have helped the Pakistanis plan the attack. 

As a result of these advantages the main invasion force quickly brushed aside the Jammu and Kashmir state forces. But the attacker’s advantage was not vigorously pressed and the Indians saved the country by airlifting reinforcements. This was at the price of the state formally seceding to India. With Indian reinforcements the Pakistani / AZK offensive ran out of steam towards the end of 1947. The exception to this was in the High Himalayas sector where the AZK were able to make substantial progress until turned back at the outskirts of Leh in late June 1948. Throughout 1948 many small-scale battles were fought. None of these gave a strategic advantage to either side and the fronts gradually solidified. Support for the AZK forces by Pakistan became gradually more overt with regular Pakistani units becoming involved. A formal cease-fire was declared on 31 December, 1948.

Results of the War

The independent state of Jammu and Kashmir ceased to exist. The cease fire line has over the years become a de facto division of the country. This has given about two fifth of the land area to Pakistan and about three fifths to India. The Indians retained control of the relatively wealthy and populous Kashmir Valley, and a majority of the population. In 1957, this area became the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the India union.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

The 1965 war between India and Pakistan, also known as the Second Kashmir War, was the culmination of a series of skirmishes that occurred between April 1965 and September 1965. It is generally accepted that the war began following failed infiltration attempts by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. The fighting ended in a stalemate on September 23. Many details of this war, like those of most Indo-Pakistani Wars, remain unclear and riddled with media biases.

The Rann of Kutch

Fighting broke out between India and Pakistan in an area known as the Rann of Kutch, a barren region in the Indian state of Gujarat. Initially involving the border police from both nations, the disputed area soon witnessed intermittent skirmishes between the countries' armed forces firstly on March 20 and again in April 1965. In June the same year, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. The verdict which came later in 1968, saw Pakistan gaining only 350 square miles (900 km²) of the Rann of Kutch of its original claim of 3500 sq miles. 


After its successes in the Rann of Kutch, Pakistan, under the leadership of General Ayub Khan is said to have believed that the Indian Army was unwilling or unable to defend itself against a quick military campaign in the disputed territory of Kashmir, following a loss to China in 1962. Pakistan believed that the population of Kashmir was generally discontented with Indian rule and that a resistance movement could be ignited by a few infiltrating saboteurs. This was codenamed Operation Gibraltar. For its part, Pakistan claimed to have been concerned by the attempts of India to absorb Kashmir - a state that Pakistan claims as "disputed", into the Indian union by way Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution allowing the President of India to declare President's Rule in the disputed state. Pakistan was rudely shocked by the reaction of the United States to the war. Judging the matter to be largely Pakistan's fault, the United States not only refused to come to Pakistan's aid under the terms of the Agreement of Cooperation, but issued a statement declaring its neutrality while also cutting off military supplies. The Pakistanis were embittered at what they considered a friend's betrayal, and the experience taught them to avoid relying on any single source of support. For its part, the United States was disillusioned by a war in which both sides used United States-supplied equipment. The war brought other repercussions for the security relationship as well. The United States withdrew its military assistance advisory group in July 1967. In response to these events, Pakistan declined to renew the lease on the Peshawar military facility, which ended in 1969. Eventually, United States-Pakistan relations grew measurably weaker as the United States became more deeply involved in Vietnam and as its broader interest in the security of South Asia waned.

The war

On August 15, 1965, Indian forces crossed the ceasefire line and launched an attack on Pakistan administered Kashmir, marking an official beginning to the war. Pakistani reports cite this attack as unprovoked. Indian reports cite the attack as a response to a tip the Indian forces received from Kashmiri civilians about Pakistani soldiers crossing the Line of Control (LoC) dressed as local Kashmiris.

Most of the war was fought on land by each country's infantry and armored units, with substantial backing from their air forces. Initially, the Indian Army met with considerable success in the northern sector (Kashmir). After launching a prolonged artillery barrage against Pakistan, India was able to capture three important mountain positions. However, by the end of the month both sides were on even footing as Pakistan had made progress in areas such as Tithwal, Uri and Punch and India had gains in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (Azad Kashmir, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), having captured the Haji Pir Pass eight kilometers inside Pakistani territory.

These territorial gains and rapid Indian advances were met with a counterattack by Pakistan in the southern sector (Punjab) where Indian forces, having been caught unprepared, faced technically superior Pakistani tanks and suffered heavy losses. India then called in its air force to target the Pakistani attack in the southern sector. The next day, Pakistan retaliated, calling in its air force to retaliate against Indian forces and air bases in both Kashmir and Punjab.

India crossed the International Border on the Western front on September 6 (some officially claim this to be the beginning of the war).

On September 6, the 15th Infantry Division of the Indian Army, under World War II veteran Major General Prasad battled a massive counterattack by Pakistan near the west bank of the Ichhogil Canal (BRB Canal), which was a de facto border of India and Pakistan. The General's entourage itself was ambushed and he was forced to flee his vehicle. A second, this time successful, attempt to cross over the Ichhogil Canal was made through the bridge in the village of Barki, just east of Lahore. This brought the Indian Army within the range of Lahore International Airport, although temporarily. The United States requested a temporary ceasefire to allow it to evacuate its citizens in Lahore.

The same day, a counter offensive consisting of an armored division and infantry division supported by Pakistan Air Force Sabres rained down on the Indian 15th Division forcing it to withdraw to its starting point.

On the days following September 9, both nations' premiere formations were routed in unequal battles. India's 1st Armored Division, labeled the "pride of the Indian Army", launched an offensive towards Sialkot. The Division divided itself into two prongs and came under heavy Pakistani tank fire at Taroah and was forced to withdraw.

Similarly, Pakistan's pride, the 1st Armored Division, pushed an offensive towards Khemkaran with the intent to capture Amritsar (a major city in Punjab, India) and the bridge on River Beas to Jalandhar. The Pakistani 1st Armored Division never made it past Khem Karan and by the end of September 10 lay disintegrated under the defences of the Indian 4th Mountain Division at what is now known as the Battle of Asal Uttar (Real Answer). The area became known as 'Patton Nagar' (Patton Town) as Pakistan lost/abandoned nearly 100 tanks mostly Patton tanks obtained from the United States.

The war was heading for a stalemate, with both nations holding territory of the other. The Indian army suffered 3,000 battlefield deaths, while Pakistan suffered 3,800. The Indian army was in possession of 710 mile² (1,840 km²) of Pakistani territory and the Pakistan army held 210 mile² (545 km²) of Indian territory, mostly in Chumb in the northern sector

Naval war

The navies of both India and Pakistan played no prominent role in the war of 1965. On September 7, a flotilla of the Pakistani Navy carried out a bombardment of the coastal Indian town (and Hindu holy site) of Dwarka under the name of Operation Dwarka, which was 200 miles (300 km) south of the Pakistani port of Karachi. There was no retaliatory response from India.

Further south towards Bombay, there were reports of underwater attacks by the Indian Navy against what they suspected were American-supplied Pakistani submarines. According to Pakistani sources, one maiden submarine, PNS Ghazi kept the Indian Navy Fleet besieged in Bombay throughout the war.

Covert operations

There were a couple of covert operations launched by the Pakistan Army to infiltrate Indian airbases and sabotage them. The SSG (Special Services Group) commandos were parachuted into enemy territory and, according to the then Chief of Army Staff General Musa Khan, more than 180 commandos penetrated the enemy territory for this purpose. Indian sources however claim as many as 800-900 commandos were airdropped, though the figure is for the whole war. Given that most of the Indian targets (Halwara, Pathankot and Adampur) were deep into enemy territory only 11-15 commandos made it back alive and the stealth operation proved ineffective. Of those remaining, 136 were taken prisoner, and 22 were killed in encounters with the army, police or the civilians. The daring attempt proved to be a disaster with the Commander of the operations, Major Khalid Butt too being arrested.

Intelligence failures

Indian miscalculations

Strategic miscalculations by both nations ensured that the result of this war remained a stalemate. The Indian Army failed to recognize the presence of heavy Pakistani artillery and armaments in Chumb and suffered significant losses as a result.

The "Official History of the 1965 War", drafted by the Ministry of Defence of India in 1992 was a long suppressed document that outlined intelligence and strategic blunders by India during the war. According to the document, on September 22 when the Security Council was pressing for a ceasefire, the Indian Prime Minister asked the commanding Gen. Chaudhuri if India could possibly win the war, were he to hold off accepting the ceasefire for a while longer. The general replied that most of India's frontline ammunition had been used up and the Indian Army had suffered considerable tank loss.

It was found later that only 14% of India's frontline ammunition had been fired and India still held twice the number of tanks than Pakistan did. By this time, the Pakistani Army itself had used close to 80% of its ammunition.

Air Chief Marshal (retd) P.C. Lal, who was the Vice Chief of Air Staff during the conflict, points to the lack of coordination between the IAF and the Indian army. Neither side revealed its battle plans to the other. The battle plans drafted by the Ministry of Defence and General Chaudhari, did not specify a role for the Indian Air Force in the order of battle. This attitude of Gen. Chaudhari was referred to by ACM Lal as the "Supremo Syndrome", a patronizing attitude sometimes attributed to the Indian army towards the other branches of the Indian Military. 

Pakistani miscalculations

The Pakistani Army's failures started from the drawing board itself, with the supposition that a generally discontent Kashmiri people would rise to the occasion and revolt against their Indian rulers, bringing about a swift and decisive surrender of Kashmir. For whatever reason, the Kashmiri people did not revolt, and on the contrary provided the Indian Army with enough information for them to learn of "Operation Gibraltar" and the fact that the Army was battling not insurgents, as they had initially supposed, but Pakistani Army regulars.

The Pakistani army failed to recognize that the Indian policy makers would attack the southern sector and open up the theater of conflict. Pakistan was forced to dedicate troops to the southern sector to protect Sialkot and Lahore instead of penetrating into Kashmir. "Operation Grand Slam", which was launched by Pakistan to capture Akhnur, a town north-east of Jammu and a key region for communications between Kashmir and the rest of India, was also a failure. Many Pakistani critics have criticized the Ayub Khan administration for being indecisive during Operation Grand Slam. They claim that the operation failed because Ayub Khan knew the importance of Akhnur to India (having called it India's "jugular vein") and did not want to capture it and drive the two nations into an all out war. Despite progress made in Akhnur, General Ayub Khan for some inexplicable reason relieved the commanding Gen. Ahktar Malik of charge and replaced him with Gen. Yahya Khan. A 24 hour lull ensued, which allowed the Indian army to regroup in Akhnur and oppose a lackluster attack headed by General Yahya Khan. "The enemy came to our rescue", asserted the Indian Chief of Staff of the Western Command.

Many authors like Stephen Philip Cohen, have consistently viewed that Pakistan Army "acquired an exaggerated view of the weakness of both India and the Indian military... the 1965 war was a shock". As a result most of the blame was heaped on the leadership and little importance given to intelligence failures that persisted until the debacle of the 1971 war.

Consequences of the war

The war had created a tense state of affairs in its aftermath. Though the war was indecisive, Pakistan suffered much heavier casualties compared to India. Pakistani forces were able to withstand Indian counter-offensive, but by the end of the war, India had an upper-hand. Many war historians believe that had the war continued, with growing losses and decreasing supplies, Pakistan would have been eventually defeated. India's decision to declare ceasefire with Pakistan caused some outrage among the Indian populace.

Both India and Pakistan increased their defence spending and the Cold War politics had taken roots in the subcontinent. Partly as a result of the inefficient information gathering, India established the Research and Analysis Wing for external espionage and intelligence. India slowly started aligning with the Soviet Union both politically and militarily. This would be cemented formally years later before the Bangladesh Liberation War. In light of the previous war against the Chinese, the performance in this war was viewed as a "politico-strategic" victory in India.

Many Pakistanis, rated the performance of their military positively. September 6 is celebrated as 'Defence Day' in Pakistan in commemoration of the successful defence of Sailkot against the invading Indian army. Pakistani Air Force's performance was seen in much better light compared to that of the Pakistani navy and army. However, the end game left a lot to desire as Pakistan had lost more ground than gained and more importantly did not achieve the goal of occupying Kashmir. Many high ranking Pakistani officials and military experts later criticized the faulty planning in Operation Gibraltar that ultimately led to the war. The Tashkent declaration was further seen as a raw deal in Pakistan though few citizens realised the gravity of the situation that existed at the end of the war. Under the advice of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan's then foreign minister, Ayub Khan had raised very high expectations among the people of Pakistan about the superiority - if not invincibility - of its armed forces, but Pakistan's inability to attain its military aims during the war, created a political liability on Ayub.

Another negative consequence of the war was the growing resentment against the Pakistani government in East Pakistan. Bengali leaders accused the government for not providing adequate security for East Pakistan during the war even though large sums of money were taken from the east to finance the war. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was apprehensive of this situation and the need for greater autonomy for the east led to another war between India and Pakistan in 1971.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 was a military conflict between India and Pakistan. The war is closely associated with Bangladesh Liberation War (sometimes also referred to as Pakistani Civil War). There is an argument about exact dates of the war. However, war on India's Western front during the period between 3 December 1971 and 16 December 1971 is called the Indo-Pakistani War by both the Bangladeshi and Indian Armies. The War ended in a crushing defeat for Pakistan Military in just a fortnight.


The Indo-Pakistani conflict was sparked by the Bangladesh Liberation War, a conflict between the traditionally dominant West Pakistanis and the majority East Pakistanis. The war ignited after the 1970 Pakistani election, in which the East Pakistani Awami League party won 167 of 169 seats in East Pakistan, thus securing a simple majority in the 313-seat lower house of the Pakistani parliament. Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman presented Six Points and claimed the right to form the government. After the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, refused to give premiership of Pakistan to Sheikh Mujib, President Yahya Khan called in the military, which was made up largely of West Pakistanis.

Mass arrests of dissidents began, and attempts were made to disarm East Pakistani soldiers and police. After several days of strikes and non-cooperation movements, Pakistani military cracked down on Dhaka on the night of March 25, 1971. The Awami League was banned; many members fled into exile in India. Mujib was arrested and taken to West Pakistan.

On 26 March 1971, Ziaur Rahman, a rebellious major in the Pakistani army, declared the independence of Bangladesh on behalf of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In April, exiled Awami League leaders formed a government-in-exile in Boiddonathtola of Meherpur. The East Pakistan Rifles, an elite paramilitary force, defected to the rebellion. A guerrilla troop of civilians, the Mukti Bahini, was formed to help the Bangladesh Army.

India's involvement in Bangladesh Liberation War

On 27 March 1971, Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, expressed full support of her government to the Bangladeshi struggle for freedom. The Bangladesh-India border was opened to allow the tortured and panic-stricken Bengalis safe shelter in India. The governments of West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura established refugee camps along the border. Exiled Bangladeshi army officers and voluntary workers from India immediately started using these camps for the recruitment and training of Mukti Bahini guerrillas.

As the massacres in East Pakistan escalated, an estimated 10 million refugees fled to India, causing financial hardship and instability in that country. The United States, long a close ally of Pakistan, continued to ship arms and supplies to West Pakistan.

Indira Gandhi launched a diplomatic offensive in the early fall of 1971 touring Europe, and was successful in getting both the United Kingdom and France to break with the United States, and block any pro-Pakistan directives in the United Nations security council. Indira Gandhi's greatest coup was on 9 August when she signed a twenty-year treaty of friendship and co-operation with the Soviet Union, greatly shocking the United States, and providing India with insurance that the People's Republic of China would not be involved in the conflict. China, an ally of Pakistan, had been providing moral support, but little military aid, and did not advance troops to its border with India.

Operation of the Mukti Bahini caused severe casualties to the Pakistani Army, which was in control of all district headquarters. As the flow of refugees swelled to a tide, the economic costs for India began to escalate. India began providing support including weapons and training for the Mukti Bahini, and began shelling military targets in East Pakistan.

India's official engagement with Pakistan

By November, war seemed inevitable; a massive buildup of Indian forces on the border with East Pakistan had begun. The Indian military waited for winter, when the drier ground would make for easier operations and Himalayan passes would be closed by snow, preventing any Chinese intervention. On 23 November, Yahya Khan declared a state of emergency in all of Pakistan and told his people to prepare for war.

On the evening of Sunday, 3 December, the Pakistani air force launched sorties on eight airfields in north-western India. This attack was inspired by the Arab-Israeli Six Day War and the success of the Israeli preemptive strike. However, The Indians had anticipated such a move and the raid was not successful. The Indian Air Force launched a counter-attack and quickly achieved air superiority. On the Eastern front, the Indian Army joined forces with the Mukti Bahini to form the Mitro Bahini (Allied Forces) and the next day the Indian forces responded with a massive coordinated air, sea, and land assault on East Pakistan.

Yahya Khan counter attacked India in the West in an attempt to capture territory which might have been used to bargain for territory they expected to lose in the east. The land battle in the West was crucial for any hope of preserving a united Pakistan. But the Indian Army quickly responded to the Pakistan Army's moves in the west and made some initial gains, including capturing around 5,500 sq. miles of Pakistan territory before settling down, thus keeping the Pakistani Army pinned down. (Gains made by India in Pakistani Kashmir and Pakistani Punjab sector were later given up voluntarily by India in the Shimla Agreement signed in 1972, as a gesture of goodwill). The Indian Army described its activities in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) as:

"The Indian Army merely provided the coup de grace to what the people of Bangladesh had commenced--active resistance to the Pakistani Government and its Armed Forces on their soil."

At sea, the Indian Navy proved its superiority by the success of Operation Trident the name given to the attack on Karachi's port. It also resulted in the destruction of 2 destroyers and one minesweeper. It was followed up with Operation Python which was also successful. The waters in the east were also secured by the Indian Navy. The Indian Air Force conducted 4,000 sorties in the west and destroyed the small air contingent in the east taking out the Dhaka airfield achieving air superiority. Faced with a systematic onslaught, the Pakistani military capitulated in just under a fortnight. On December 16, the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered. The next day the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced a unilateral ceasefire, to which Pakistan agreed.

American involvement

The United States supported Pakistan both politically and materially. U.S. President Richard Nixon denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan. But when Pakistan's defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal, a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on December 11, 1971.

Several documents released from the Nixon Presidential Archives show the extent of the tilt that the Nixon Administration demonstrated in favor of Pakistan. Among them, the infamous Blood telegram from the US embassy in Dacca, East Pakistan, stated the horrors of genocide taking place in East Pakistan.  Notwithstanding this, Nixon, backed by Henry Kissinger, wanted to protect the interests of Pakistan as they were apprehensive of India. Archer Blood was promptly transferred out of Dacca. As revealed in the newly declassified transcripts released by the US State Department, President Nixon was using the Pakistanis to normalize relations with China. This would have three important effects, viz., opening rifts between the Soviet Union, China and North Vietnam, opening the potentially huge Chinese market to American business and creating a foreign policy coup in time to win the 1972 Presidential Elections. Since Nixon believed the existence of Pakistan to be critical to the success of his term he went to great lengths to protect his ally. In direct violation of the US Congress imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan and routed them through Jordan and the Shah-ruled Iran.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations George H. W. Bush branded the Indian action as "aggression" at the time and took up the matter in the UN Security Council. The United States became apprehensive that should Pakistan's armed forces in the east collapse, India would transfer its forces from there to attack West Pakistan, which was an ally in the Central Treaty Organization. This was confirmed in official British secret transcripts declassified in 2003  President Richard Nixon also showed a tilt towards Pakistan despite widespread condemnation of the dictatorship even amongst his administration, as Oval Office records show. Henry Kissinger, the U.S. National Security Advisor, wanted China to attack India for this purpose. As a gesture of solidarity, on 10 September 1971, an American task force headed by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) was dispatched from the Gulf of Tonkin to the Bay of Bengal. On 6 December and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed U.S. Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.


The war led to the immediate surrender of Pakistani forces to the Indian Army. Bangladesh became an independent nation, and the third most populous Muslim country. Loss of East Pakistan embarrassed the Pakistani military and Yahya Khan resigned to be replaced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released from West Pakistani prison and returned to Dhaka on January 10, 1972.

The exact cost of the violence on the people of East Pakistan is not known. R.J. Rummel cites estimates ranging from one to three million people killed. Other estimates place the death toll lower at 300,000.

On the brink of defeat around December 14, the Pakistani Army and its local collaborators systematically killed a large number of Bengali doctors, teachers and intellectuals. Young men, who were seen as possible rebels, were also targeted, especially students.

The cost of the war for Pakistan in monetary and human resources was high. In the book Can Pakistan Survive? Pakistan based author Tariq Ali writes, "Pakistan lost half its navy, a quarter of its airforce and a third of its army." India took 93,000 prisoners of war that included Pakistani soldiers as well as some of their East Pakistani collaborators. It was one of the largest surrenders after World War II. India originally wished to try them for war crimes for the brutality in East Pakistan, but eventually acceded to releasing them as a gesture of reconciliation. The Simla Agreement created the following year, also saw most of Pakistani territory (more than 13,000 sq. km) being given back to Pakistan to create "lasting peace" between the two nations.

Kargil War of 1999

The Kargil War, also known as the Kargil conflict(I), was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between April and June 1999 in Kashmir. The cause of the war was the infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and Kashmiri militants into positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which serves as the de facto border between the two nations. Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents; however, documents left behind by casualties and later statements by Pakistan's Prime Minister and Army Chief showed involvement of Pakistani paramilitary forces. The Indian Army, supported by the air force, attacked the Pakistani positions and, with international diplomatic support, eventually forced a Pakistani withdrawal across the Line of Control (LoC).


The war is one of the most recent examples of high altitude warfare, in mountainous terrain, and posed significant logistics problems for the combating sides. This was the first ground war between the two nuclear armed countries. (India and Pakistan both test-detonated fission devices in May 1998, though the first Indian nuclear test was conducted in 1974.) The conflict led to heightened tensions between the two nations and increased defense spending on the part of India. In Pakistan, the aftermath caused instability to the government and the economy, and on October 13, 1999, a coup d'etat by the military, placed army chief Pervez Musharraf in power.

Before the Partition of India in 1947, Kargil was part of Gilgit-Baltistan, a region of many diverse linguistic, ethnic and religious groups, due in part to the many isolated valleys separated by some of the world's highest mountains. The First Kashmir War (1947-48) resulted in most of the Kargil region remaining an Indian territory; then after Pakistan's defeat in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the remaining areas, including strategic military posts, also passed into Indian territory. Notably, Kargil is the only district in the Ladakh subdivision that has a Muslim majority. The town and district of Kargil is now in what is called Jammu and Kashmir. The town lies on the Line of Control (LOC), the defacto border for the two nations, located 120 km (75 miles) from Srinagar, facing the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Like other areas in the Himalayas, it has a temperate climate. Summers are cool with frigid nights, while winters are long and cold with temperatures often dropping to -40 °C. A national highway connecting Srinagar to Leh cuts through Kargil.

The area which witnessed the infiltration and fighting is a 160 km long stretch on the border of the LOC, overlooking a vital highway on the Indian side of Kashmir. Apart from the district capital, Kargil, the frontline in the conflict encompassed the tiny town of Drass as well as the Batalik sector, Mushko Valley and other nearby areas along the de facto border. The military outposts on these ridges were generally around 5,000 metres (16,000 feet) high, with a few ones as high as 5,600 metres (18,000 feet). One of the main reasons why Kargil was specifically targeted for incursions was its terrain lent itself to a pre-emptive seizure. With tactically vital features and well-prepared defensive posts atop the peaks, it provided an ideal high ground for a defender akin to a fortress. Any attack to dislodge the enemy and reclaim high ground in a mountain warfare would require a far higher ratio of attackers to defenders, which is further exacerbated by the high altitude and freezing temperatures. Additionally, Kargil was just 173 km (108 mi) from the Pakistan town of Skardu, which was capable of providing logistical and artillery support to the Pakistani combatants. All these tactical reasons, plus the Kargil district being a Muslim majority, were probably contributing factors to why Kargil was chosen as the location to attack.


After the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971, there had been a long period of relative calm among the two neighbours. But during the 1990s, escalating tensions and conflict with separatists in Kashmir as well as nuclear tests by both countries in 1998 changed the scenario. Despite the belligerent atmosphere, both countries signed the Lahore Declaration in February 1999 to provide a peaceful and bilateral solution to the Kashmiri issue. However, elements in the Pakistani government covertly trained and sent troops and paramilitary forces, some allegedly in the guise of mujahideens, into the Indian territory. The aim was to sever the link between Kashmir and Ladakh, and cause Indian forces to withdraw from the Siachen Glacier, thus forcing India to negotiate a settlement of the broader Kashmir dispute. Pakistan also believed that any tension in the region would internationalise the Kashmir issue, helping it to secure a speedy resolution. Yet another goal may have been to boost the morale of the decade-long rebellion in Indian-held Kashmir by taking a proactive role.

According to India's then army chief Ved Prakash Malik, the infiltration was code named "Operation Badr", and much of the background planning, including construction of logistical supply routes, had been undertaken much earlier. On more than one occasion, the army had given past Pakistani leaders (namely Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto) similar proposals for an infiltration in the Kargil region in the 1980s and 1990s. However the plans had been shelved for fear of drawing the nations into all-out war. Some analysts believe that the blueprint of attack was reactivated when Pervez Musharraf was appointed chief of army staff in October 1998.

Course of the war

There were three major phases to the Kargil War. First, Pakistan captured several strategic high points in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir. India responded by first capturing strategic transportation routes, then militarily pushing Pakistani forces back across the Line of Control.

Initial occupation by Pakistan

Because of the extreme winter weather in Kashmir, the Indian Army would abandon forward posts to reoccupy them in the spring.

In early May 1999, the Pakistan Army decided to occupy the Kargil posts, numbering around 130, and thus control the area. Troops from the elite Special Services Group as well as battalions of the Northern Light Infantry (a paramilitary regiment not part of the regular Pakistani army at that time) backed by Kashmiri guerrillas and Afghan mercenaries covertly and overtly set up bases on the vantage points of the Indian-controlled region. Initially, these incursions were not spotted due to the heavy artillery fire by Pakistan across the Line of Control, which provided cover for the infiltrators. But by the second week of May, the ambushing of an Indian patrol team acting on a tip-off by a local shepherd in the Batalik sector led to the exposure of the infiltration. Initially with little knowledge of the nature or extent of the encroachment, the Indian troops in the area initially claimed that they would evict them within a few days. However, soon reports of infiltration elsewhere along the LoC made it clear that the entire plan of attack was on a much bigger scale.

The Government of India responded with Operation Vijay, a mobilisation of 200,000 Indian troops. However, because of the nature of the terrain, division and corps operations could not be mounted; the scale of most fighting was at the regimental or battalion level. In effect, two divisions of the Indian Army, numbering 20,000, plus several thousand from the Indian Paramilitary Forces and the air force were deployed in the conflict zone. The total number of Indian soldiers that were involved in the military operation on the Kargil-Drass sector was thus close to 30,000. The number of infiltrators, including those providing logistical backup, has been put at approximately 5,000 at the height of the conflict. This figure includes troops from Pakistan administered Kashmir that were involved in the war providing additional artillery support.

Protection of National Highway No. 1A

The terrain of Kashmir is mountainous and at high altitudes; even the best roads, such as National Highway No. 1 (NH 1) from Leh to Srinagar, are only two-lanes. The rough terrain and narrow roads slowed traffic, and the high altitude, which affected the ability of aircraft to carry loads, made control of NH 1A (the actual stretch of the highway which was under Pakistani fire) a priority for India. From their observation posts, the Pakistani forces had a clear line of sight to lay down indirect artillery fire on NH 1A. This was a serious problem for the Indian Army as the highway was its main logistical and supply route. The Pakistani shelling of the arterial road posed the threat of Leh being cut off, though an alternative (and longer) road to Leh existed via Himachal Pradesh.

The infiltrators, apart from being equipped with small arms and grenade launchers, were also armed with mortars, artillery and anti-aircraft guns. Many posts were also heavily mined, with India later recovering nearly 9,000 anti-personnel mines according to ICBL. The initial Indian attacks were aimed at controlling the hills overlooking NH 1A, with high priority being given to the stretches of the highway near the town of Kargil. The majority of posts along the Line of Control were adjacent to the highway, and therefore the recapture of nearly every infiltrated post increased both the territorial gains and the security of the highway. The protection of this route and the recapture of the forward posts were thus ongoing objectives throughout the war. Though most of the posts in the vicinity of the highway were cleared by mid-June, some parts of the highway near Drass witnessed sporadic shelling until the end of the war.

Indian recapture of remaining occupied territory

Once India regained control of the hills overlooking NH 1A, the Indian Army turned to driving the invading force back across the Line of Control, but elected not to pursue forces further into the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir. The Battle of Tololing, among other assaults, slowly tilted the combat in India's favor. However, some of the posts put up a stiff resistance, including Tiger Hill (Point 5140) that fell only later in the war. A few of the assaults occurred atop hitherto unheard of peaks – most of them unnamed with only Point numbers to differentiate them – and witnessed fierce hand to hand combat. As the operation was fully underway, about 250 artillery guns were brought in to clear the infiltrators in the posts that were in the line of sight. The Bofors field howitzer (infamous in India due to the Bofors Scandal) played a vital role, with Indian gunners making maximum use of the terrain that assisted such an attack. However, its success was limited elsewhere due to the lack of space and depth to deploy the Bofors gun. It was in this type of terrain that aerial attacks were introduced. The Indian Air Force launched Operation Safed Sagar but was limited by the high altitude, which in turn limited bomb loads and the number of airstrips that could be used. The IAF lost a MiG-27 strike aircraft due to an engine failure as well as a MiG-21 fighter and one Mi-8 helicopter to Stinger SAMs. During attacks the IAF used laser-guided bombs to destroy well-entrenched positions of the Pakistani forces.

In some vital points, neither artillery nor air power could dislodge the outposts manned by the Pakistan soldiers, who were out of visible range. The Indian Army mounted some direct frontal ground assaults which were slow and took a heavy toll given the steep ascent that had to be made on peaks as high as 18,000 feet. Since any daylight attack was suicidal, all the advances had to be made under the cover of darkness, escalating the risk of freezing. Accounting for the wind chill factor, the temperatures were often as low as -11 to -15 °C near the mountain tops. Based on military tactics, much of the costly frontal assaults by the Indians could have been avoided if the Indian Military had chosen to blockade the supply route of the opposing force, virtually creating a siege. Such a move would have involved the Indian troops crossing the LOC as well as initiating aerial attacks on Pakistan soil, a maneuver India was not willing to exercise fearing an escalation of the theatre of war and reducing international support for its cause.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy also readied itself for an attempted blockade of Pakistani ports to cut off supply routes. Later, the-then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif disclosed that Pakistan was left with just six days of fuel to sustain itself if a full-fledged war had broken out. As Pakistan found itself entwined in a prickly position, the army had covertly planned a nuclear strike on India, the news of which alarmed U.S. President Bill Clinton, resulting in a stern warning to Nawaz Sharif. Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly flushed out most of the foreigners, and according to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground was back under Indian control. Following the Washington accord on July 4, where Sharif agreed to withdraw the Pakistan-backed troops, most of the fighting came to a gradual halt. However, some of the militants still holed up did not wish to retreat, and the "United Jihad Council" (an umbrella for all extremist groups) rejected Pakistan's plan for a climb-down, instead deciding to fight on. Following this, the Indian army launched its final attacks in the last week of July; as soon as the last of these "Jihadists" in the Drass subsector had been cleared, the fighting ceased on July 26. The day has since been marked as Kargil Vijay Diwas (Victory Day) in India. By the end of the war, India had resumed control of all territory south and east of the Line of Control, as was established in December 1972 as per the Shimla Accord.

World opinion

Pakistan was initially criticised in world opinion for allowing insurgents to cross the Line of Control. Pakistan's diplomatic response, one of plausible deniability linking the incursion to what it officially termed as "Kashmiri freedom fighters", was in the end not successful. Veteran analysts argued that the battle was fought at heights where only seasoned troops could survive, so poorly equipped "freedom fighters" would neither have the ability nor the wherewithal to seize land and defend it. Moreover, while the army had initially denied the involvement of its troops in the intrusion, two soldiers were awarded the Nishan-E-Haider (Pakistan's highest military honour). Another 90 soldiers were also given gallantry awards, most of them posthumously, confirming Pakistan's role in the episode. India also released taped phone conversations between the Army Chief and a senior Pakistani general where the latter is recorded saying: "the scruff of [the militants] necks is in our hands,", although Pakistan dismissed it as a "total fabrication".

As the Indian counter-attacks picked up momentum, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif flew to meet U.S. president Bill Clinton on July 4 to obtain support from the U.S. Clinton rebuked Sharif, however, and asked him to use his contacts to rein in the militants and withdraw Pakistani soldiers from Indian territory. On the other hand, he applauded Indian restraint for not crossing the LoC and escalating the conflict into an all-out war. The other G8 nations, too, supported India and condemned the Pakistani violation of the LoC at the Cologne summit. The European Union was also opposed to the violation of LOC. China, a long-time ally of Pakistan, did not intervene in Pakistan's favour, insisting on a pullout of forces from the LOC and settling border issues peacefully. Faced with growing international pressure, Sharif managed to pull back the remaining soldiers from Indian territory. The joint statement issued by Clinton and Sharif conveyed the need to respect the Line of Control and resume bilateral talks as the best forum to resolve all disputes.

WMDs and the nuclear factor

One of the main concerns in the international community during the Kargil crisis was that both neighbours had access to weapons of mass destruction, and if the war intensified, it could lead to nuclear war. In fact, the Kargil War has the dubious distinction of being the first and only time two self-declared nuclear nations have engaged in hostilities verging on a full-scale war. Both countries had tested their nuclear capability a year before in 1998; India conducted its first test in 1974 while it was Pakistan's first-ever nuclear test. Many pundits believed the tests to be an indication of the escalating stakes in the scenario in South Asia. With the outbreak of clashes in Kashmir just a year after the nuclear tests, many nations took notice of the conflict and desired to end the conflict.

The first hint of the possible use of a nuclear bomb was on May 31 when Pakistani foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad made a statement warning that an escalation of the limited conflict could lead Pakistan to use "any weapon" in its arsenal. This was immediately interpreted as an obvious threat of a nuclear retaliation by Pakistan in the event of an extended war, and the leader of Pakistan's senate noted, "The purpose of developing weapons becomes meaningless if they are not used when they are needed." Many such ambiguous statements from officials of both countries were viewed as an impending nuclear crisis. The nature of the conflict took a more sinister proportion when the U.S. received intelligence that Pakistani nuclear warheads were being moved towards the border. Bill Clinton tried to dissuade Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif from nuclear brinkmanship, even threatening Pakistan of dire consequences. According to a White House official, Sharif seemed to be genuinely surprised of this supposed missile movement and responded that India was probably planning the same. This was later confirmed in an article in May 2000, which stated that India too had readied at least five nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Sensing a deteriorating military scenario, diplomatic isolation, and the risks of a larger conventional and nuclear war, Sharif ordered the Pakistani army to vacate the Kargil heights.

Additionally, the threat of WMD included a suspected use of chemical and even biological weapons. Pakistan accused India of using chemicals and other incendiary bombs like Napalm against the Kashmiri fighters. India, on the other hand, showcased the cache of gas masks among other firearms as proof that Pakistan may have been ready to use non-conventional weapons. One militant group even claimed to possess chemical weapons but later was found to be a hoax, and even the gas masks were most likely intended to protect themselves against any Indian attack. The Pakistani allegations of India using banned chemicals in its bombs found no proof as per the U.S. administration and the OPCW.



The aftermath of the war saw the rise of the Indian stock market by over 1,500 points. The next Indian national budget included major increases in military spending. From the end of the war until February 2000, the economy of India was bullish. There was a surge in patriotism, with many celebrities pitching in towards the Kargil cause. Indians were also angered by the death of pilot Ajay Ahuja under controversial circumstances, and especially after Indian authorities reported that Ahuja had been murdered and his body mutilated by Pakistani troops. The war had also produced higher than expected fatalities for the Indian military, with a sizeable percentage of them including newly commissioned officers. One month later, the Atlantique Incident - where a Pakistan Navy plane was shot down by India - briefly reignited fears of a conflict between the two countries.

After the war the Indian government severed ties with Pakistan and increased defence preparedness. Since the Kargil conflict, India raised its defence budget as it sought to acquire more state of the art equipment; however, a few irregularities came to light during this period of heightened military expenditure. There was also severe criticism of the intelligence agencies like RAW, which failed to predict neither the intrusions nor the identity/number of infiltrators during the war. An internal assessment report by the armed forces, published in an Indian magazine, showed several other failings, including "a sense of complacency" and being "unprepared for a conventional war" on the presumption that nuclearism would sustain peace. It also highlighted the lapses in command and control, the insufficient troop levels and the dearth of large-calibre guns like the Bofors.

The Kargil victory was followed by the 13th Indian General Elections to the Lok Sabha, which gave a decisive mandate to the NDA government. It was re-elected to power in Sept–Oct 1999 with a majority of 303 seats out of 545 in the Lok Sabha. On the diplomatic front, the conflict was a major boost to Indo-U.S. relations, as the United States appreciated Indian attempts to restrict the conflict to a limited geographic area. These ties were further strengthened following the 9/11 attacks and a general shift in foreign policy of the two nations. Relations with Israel – which had discreetly aided India with ordnance supply and military hardware such as unmanned aerial vehicles, laser-guided bombs, as well as satellite imagery – also were bolstered following the end of the conflict.


Faced with the possibility of international isolation, the Pakistani economy tumbled. The morale of its forces after early gains was damaged as many units of the Northern Light Infantry were destroyed, while many of the dead were never brought home. Pakistan initially did not acknowledge many of its casualties, but Sharif later said that over 4,000 Pakistani troops were killed in the operation and that Pakistan had lost the conflict. Many in Pakistan had expected a victory over the Indian military but were dismayed by the turn of events and questioned the eventual retreat. The military leadership felt let down by the prime minister's decision to withdraw the remaining fighters. And with Sharif placing the onus of the Kargil attacks squarely on the army chief Pervez Musharraf, there was an atmosphere of uneasiness between the two. On October 13, 1999 General Musharraf staged a bloodless coup d'état, ousting Nawaz Sharif.

Benazir Bhutto, an opposition leader and former prime minister, called the Kargil War "Pakistan's greatest blunder". Many ex-officials of the military and the ISI (Pakistan's principal intelligence agency) also were of the view that "Kargil was a waste of time" and "could not have resulted in any advantage" on the larger issue of Kashmir. Despite calls by many for a probe, no public commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the people responsible for initiating the conflict. Though it had brought the Kashmir dispute into international focus – which was one of the aims of Pakistan – it had done so in negative circumstances that eroded its credibility, since the infiltration came just after a peace process between the two counties was underway. The sanctity of the LoC too received international recognition.

A few changes were made to the army. In recognition of its part in the war, the Northern Light Infantry regiment was incorporated into the regular army. The war showed that despite a tactically sound plan that had the element of surprise, little groundwork had been done to gauge the politico-diplomatic ramifications. And like previous unsuccessful infiltrations attempts like Operation Gibraltar that sparked the 1965 war, there was little coordination or information sharing among the branches of the Pakistan military. All these factors contributed to a strategic failure for Pakistan in Kargil.

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