Army Today

Arms and Services


Army troops are organised into two main categories, namely the Arms and the Services. The Arms consist of the Armoured Corps, the Infantry, the Artillery, the Engineers, the Signals and more recently, the Air Defence Corps and the Aviation Corps, both of which originate from the Artillery. The Armoured Corps and Infantry are called Fighting Arms. The Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Air Defence Corps, and Aviation Corps are called Supporting Arms, as they support the Fighting Arms in the field. Those troops that provide the logistical support to the Arms are called Services. These are the Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) and Army Medical Corps (AMC). The Teeth-to-Tail (TTR) ratio is the number of soldiers in the fighting arms (Infantry, Armoured Corps, etc.) to the number of soldiers in the supporting arms (Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, etc). It is considered to be a barometer of efficiency & automation.

Officers, JCOs and ORs (Other Ranks) are inducted into the Army and trained in a particular Arm or Service, and they continue to serve in the same Arm or Service throughout their careers. However, basic military training in handling and use of personal weapons and small arms, and physical performance and fitness is the same irrespective of the Arm or Service. The sub-units, units and formations of each of the Arms and Services are organised and equipped to carry out their role in battle. The Fighting Arms (Armoured Corps and Infantry) engage the enemy in actual combat. The Artillery provides the supporting artillery fire. The Engineers provide the mobility to the Fighting Arms (e.g., mine clearing, bridges, obstacle clearance, bunker demolition) while denying mobility to the enemy (e.g., mine laying, demolitions, obstacle construction). The Signals provide physical dispatch of messages and line and wireless communication. The Air Defence Corps provides support against enemy air attack. And the Aviation Corps provides aerial reconnaissance and Aerial Observation Posts, besides providing rapid mobility to Commanders in the field.

In the Services, the ASC is responsible for procurement, storage and distribution of supplies, for mechanical as well as animal transportation, and air dispatch. The AOC is responsible for procurement, storage and distribution of weapon systems, weapons, munitions, vehicles, equipment and clothing. The EME repairs and maintains all major and minor electrical, electronic and mechanical devices that the Army uses. And the AMC provides medical and hospital cover for the entire Army. Besides these major Services, there are several minor Services such as Intelligence Corps, Corps of Military Police (CMP), Army Postal Service (APS), Army Education Corps (AEC), Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC), Army Dental Corps (ADC), Army Physical Training Corps, and Legal (JAG - Judge Advocate General) Department.

Armoured Formations

altTill the 1965 War, India only had a single Armoured Division and an Independent Armoured Brigade. However the number of formations raised has seen a steady expansion after 1965. These have been augmented with the raising of "Mechanised" Brigades consisting of Mech Infantry Regiments. 

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Defending Kashmir

Why did Pakistan invade Kashmir in the first place? First, Kashmir being a Muslim-dominant state was considered a natural part of Pakistan, which had made Islam the basis of its modern nationality. Second, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan's Pathanistan Movement was gaining momentum and Kashmir was held out as a bait for luring the poor tribals away. The internal conditions of Jammu & Kashmir with religious passions aflame, lawlessness rampant and authority paralysed offered the right mix for the raiders to strike.

Operation Gulmarg

The Army Headquarters of Pakistan planned the main invasion plan, code-named Operation Gulmarg. Conclusive proof of this came through two different sources - Major Onkar Singh Kalkat, then serving as the Brigade Major at HQ Bannu Frontier Brigade Group, and GK Reddy, a journalist. Both happened to stumble upon the plan by chance. The invasion was planned meticulously with considerable strategic and tactical insight. According to Operation Gulmarg, as described by Major Kalkat, every Pathan tribe was required to enlist at least one Lashkar of 1,000 tribesmen. These Lashkars were to be concentrated at Baftnu, Wana, Peshawar, Kohat, Thal and Nowshera by the first week of September 1947. The Brigade Commanders at these places were to issue them arms, ammunition and some essential clothing items. Each Lashkar was also to be provided with a Major, a Captain and ten JCOs of the regular Pakistan Army. The entire force was to be commanded by Major General Akbar Khan, who was given the code name Tariq.

All Lashkars were to meet at Abbottabad by October 18th. According to the plan, six Lashkars were to advance along the main road from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar via Domel, Uri and Baramula, with the specific task of capturing the aerodrome and subsequently advancing to the Banihal Pass. Two Lashkars were to advance from the Haji Pir Pass direct on to Gulmarg, thereby securing the right flank of the main force advancing from Muzaffarabad. Another two Lashkars were to advance from Tithwal through the Nastachhun Pass for capturing Sopore, Handwara and Bandipur. And 10 other Lashkars were to operate in the Poonch, Bhimbar and Rawalkot area with the intention of capturing Poonch and Rajauri before advancing to Jammu. Arrangements were also made for detailing of guides/informers from the so-called Azad Army, to all these tribal Lashkars.

Major General Khan was also given the task of organising the Azad Army, the major portion of which was to come from the Muslim element of the J&K State forces. Dumps of arms, ammunition, supplies and clothing were to be established forward of Abbottabad by October 15th. These were to be subsequently moved to Muzaffarabad and Domel after the D-day. Pakistan's 7 Infantry Division was to concentrate the Murree-Abbottabad area by October 21st and was ordered to be ready to move immediately into J&K territory to back up the tribal Lashkars and consolidate their hold on the Valley. One infantry brigade was also held in readiness at Sialkot to move on to Jammu. The D-day for Operation Gulmarg was fixed as 22 October 1947, on which date the various Lashkars were to cross into J&K territory. The invasion plan was tactically sound and, in the beginning, brilliantly executed. The main attack had by necessity to be launched frontally along the motor road. Apart from rifles, the standard weapon of the raiders, the main force was also equipped with a few light machine guns and traveled in about 300 civilian lorries.

Fall of Domel and Baramula

The main strength of the defenders was at Domel where the two approach roads from Murree and Abbottabad met before leading towards Srinagar along the Jhelum gorge. Its two out posts Lohar Gali and Ramkot were the key to the whole defence and were guarded by the 4th Kashmir Infantry, which had a mix of Muslim and Dogra soldiers. When the raiders struck in the morning of October 22nd, traitors within the 4th Kashmir Infantry joined the raiders and gave them complete information about the strength and disposition of the defending troops and helped them send sufficient force against each piquet of defenders. That proved to be the beginning of a series of successes for the raiders before they were ultimately held, and subsequently thrown back, by Indian reinforcements over the next two weeks or so.

Between October 22nd and 26th, the raiders had run over Domel, Muzaffarabad, Uri and Baramula. Yet in their success lay the seeds of their doom. For on their way, they took to looting and raping, and the ultimate goal of the 'Holy War' was forgotten. Each man tried to grab as much wealth or as many girls as he could, and the 'infidel' Maharaja at Srinagar or the 'liberation of the oppressed Muslims' of Kashmir was last on his mind. The advance on Srinagar was held up for a few days, and that proved crucial. In Delhi, hundreds of kilometres from stricken Baramula, it had at last been decided to save Kashmir in its hour of peril. Even as the barbaric raiders were satisfying their greed and lust in Baramula, transport planes full of Indian troops were winging their way through the azure autumn skies: Destination Srinagar.

Smashing of the J&K Siege

When the first wave of tribal warriors from Pakistan invaded the Kashmir Valley on 22 October 1947, the kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir had not acceded to either Pakistan or India. Therefore, taking the plea that it was an internal matter, India refused to send in its troops to the Valley. However, when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian Government on the evening of 26 October 1947, Jammu & Kashmir became an integral part of the Indian Dominion legally, morally and constitutionally. Now was the time to react to the tribal invasion, which India did commendably, considering the short notice given to its military commanders.

The first troops were flown to Srinagar with hardly a couple of days planning and preparation. The liberation of the Valley in early November 1947 was a splendid feat of arms by the 161 Brigade, fighting against hordes of raiders. This single brigade managed to hold its own throughout the long winter of 1947-48 when its only line of communication was blocked by snow. Large areas in the Tithwal, Naushahra and Rajouri sectors were liberated from the invaders, and were held against repeated attacks by a vastly superior enemy. Naturally, the Indian Army also suffered setbacks, minor and major, at several places such as Jhangar, Pandu, Kargil and Skardu. But the situation was fully restored at Jhangar and Kargil. The long siege of Poonch was finally broken and Gurais & Dras areas were successfully recaptured against tremendous odds. The Army won five Param Vir Chakras (PVCs), 47 Maha Vir Chakras (MVCs) and not less than 284 Vir Chakras (VrCs), including three twin-awards of VrCs, during the J&K Operations of 1947-48.

During the long campaign, the Indian Army lost 76 officers, 31 JCOs and 996 men of other ranks. The wounded totalled 3152, including 81 officers and 107 JCOs. Apart from these casualties, J&K State Forces lost approximately 1990 officers and men. The small Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) lost 32 personnel, including 9 officers. The enemy casualties were definitely many times the total of Indian Army and RIAF casualties. By one estimate the enemy suffered 20,000 casualties, including 6000 killed. The gallantry and skill of all ranks of the Indian Army are amply borne out in the various accounts of these operations. But the exploits and the vital role of the RIAF deserve special mention here. Its contribution to the success of the J&K operations cannot be over emphasized, and it was the one weapon to which the enemy had no answer, as the Pakistan Air Force wisely desisted from joining the fray.

Only the impromptu airlift to Srinagar in October 1947 saved the Kashmir Valley. A hundred planes landed every day on the improvised airfield at Srinagar, bringing in troops, ammunition and supplies and evacuating casualties and the refugees. The RIAF and civilian pilots of these Dakotas defied the mountains, the weather, and fatigue, to continue the airlift till the Valley was saved. Giving invaluable support to these were the fearless fighter pilots who accurately and repeatedly attacked vital enemy positions at Gurais, Zoji La, Pindras and Rajouri. Apart from the men in uniform, civilians played a crucial role in liberating the Valley. The dedication and skill of the civilian pilots who flew to Srinagar in October 1947 was no less than their counterparts in the RIAF. Very few know that a civilian washerman, Ram Chander, won a Maha Vir Chakra for rescuing an officer wounded during an ambush, shooting down several enemy troops in the process. It was this Indian spirit and valour that saved the Valley.

India to the Rescue

It was on 24 October 1947 that the Government of India first got news of the Kashmir invasion. By that time, Domel and Muzaffarabad had already fallen to the raiders, who were fast approaching Srinagar. The Maharaja of Kashmir sent an S.O.S. message to the Indian Government on the night of October 24th. After deliberations at the highest levels, it was decided that India couldn't send its troops till J&K formally acceded to India. Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession in the evening of October 26th, which made J&K an integral part of India - legally, morally, and constitutionally. The Indian reaction, from then onwards, was swift, adverse ground conditions notwithstanding.

Operation Jak

The Indian rescue operation was beset with obvious difficulties from the very beginning. Srinagar was over 480 km from the nearest point on the Indian border. Troops in East Punjab were engaged in dealing with the refugees and maintaining law and order. Hence, air transport was the only way out. Worse still, the airport at Srinagar was hardly fit to land fully laden transport planes. But that was the only option available and it had to be taken. The rescue mission was code-named, Operation Jak. The first regiment to move in was 1 Sikh, stationed at Gurgaon at the time and commanded by Lt. Col. D.R. Rai. The troops were transported in four Dakota planes that took off from Delhi on October 27th and reached Srinagar early morning the same day. The first engagement with the enemy started on October 28th. Lt. Col. Rai was the first Indian officer to fall in the battle of liberation.

It was only after the first troops had landed at Srinagar that the gravity of the situation was realised. So, the Indian Army decided to throw its full weight to drive back the invaders. On October 28th, the Delhi and East Punjab Command was ordered to carry out Phase II of Operation Jak. It involved dispatching one Brigade Group to Jammu via Pathankot. The next day, the Eastern Southern commands were asked to spare whatever troops they could for the operation. Airlifts were undertaken almost round-the-clock airlifts to increase the troop strength. On October 30th, two fighter aircraft of the RIAF were detailed to operate from the Srinagar airstrip to provide air-support to the ground troops. In the following days, many Harvards and Spitfires were based on that airfield and they gave invaluable support to the infantry.

Meanwhile, there had been some fierce engagements with the enemy on the ground, resulting in some casualties on the Indian side. But most importantly, the advance of the invaders had been checked. The ground troops held the enemy. Transport planes took care of the supply of troops, equipment and ration. Interestingly, apart from three RIAF planes, 33 civil Dakotas were used in these sorties. Many of them even did a double trip to Srinagar on a single day - a tribute to the morale of the pilots and crew. By November 6th, the critical phase for Srinagar was over. The raiders had lost the initiative thanks to their looting at Baramula. About 3500 Indian troops had reached Srinagar by then. They threw a ring of machine guns and bayonets around Srinagar and the airfield. Although the invaders were only about 8 km away from the city at the nearest point, it was now impossible for them to penetrate the Indian positions and capture the capital, almost in their grasp. Having strengthened their position, the Indian Army was about to begin the liberation of the Kashmir valley.

The Liberation of the Valley

According to orders from the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, Baramula was to be recaptured from the enemy by November 17th, even if the Indian Army had to incur 500 casualties. The original plan was to launch the decisive battle on November 10th, but an unexpected attack on Indian positions at Shalateng on November 7th postponed the initiative. In a masterly battle strategy, the Indian troops flanked the invaders from three sides and unleashed murderous firepower on them. The RIAF strafed them from the air. The Battle of Shalateng was over within 20 minutes. It put Srinagar and Kashmir Valley beyond the grasp of the invaders forever. There were encounters after that, but the enemy was being driven back steadily and surely. By the evening of November 13th, Uri was captured. With that the liberation of the Kashmir Valley was complete.

The Relief of Poonch

On 20 November 1947, a column for the relief of Poonch set out from Uri, but was halted at Kahuta, 13 km short of Poonch. The Poonch garrison held out for one full year before it was finally relieved. Operation Easy was aimed at establishing the final link-up with Poonch, which had proved to be difficult throughout most of 1948. An attempt to link up with Poonch could be made either from the south, namely, via Thana Mandi or Rajouri, or from the north via the Haji Pir Pass. Lt. Gen. Cariappa (later Field Marshal and Army Chief) gave the go-ahead for the link-up with Poonch via the south. Lt. Gen. Shrinagesh (later General and Army Chief), who had been appointed Corps Commander of J&K Forces on September 14th, ordered Major General Atma Singh to plan for a link-up accordingly.

Major General Atma Singh was further ordered to carry out Phase I (secure Pir Badesar) by October 8th; commence Phase II (demonstrate north of Thana Mandi) by October 10th; and concentrate in Rajouri the required force for Operation Easy by October 16th. On October 9th, Major General Atma Singh finalised his plan. The force was to be under the command of Brigadier Yadunath Singh, Commander 19 Brigade, and was to consist of six infantry battalions plus one field battery and one mountain battery. It was to be divided into two columns, one column of three battalions under command of Brigadier Umrao Singh, Commander 5 Brigade, and the other column of three battalions under command of Lt. Col. Jagjit Singh Aurora (the same Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora of 1971 War fame), Commander 1/2 Punjab. As a preliminary to the main operation, the deception plan was to be carried out about October 12 to secure Pir Badesar.

The main operation was to commence on about October 19th with 5 Brigade advancing from Rajouri and securing Pir Kalewa ridge. Lt. Col. Jagjit Singh's column was then to pass through, moving from south of Thana Mandi to secure a firm base in the area around Sangrot. Having secured the base, the intention was to advance to Potha with 5 Brigade and carry out operations from Potha for the link-up with Poonch.

Capture of Pir Badesar

Operation Ranjit: The task of carrying out Operation Ranjit for the capture of Pir Badesar was given to 268 Brigade, 1/2 Punjab, 1 (Para) Kumaon and 1/1 Gorkha Rifles concentrated south of Darhal on October 13th. The brigade plan was for 1/1 Gorkha Rifles less one company and one platoon to lead the attack and secure Kater and the high ground north of Giran. Then 1/2 Punjab was to push on and capture Khalbahat Gala. 1 (Para) Kumaon was to take the lead next and capture Point 5432. At 2000 hours on October 14th, the brigade moved out, 1/1 Gorkha Rifles leading, and the first objective, Kater was secured without opposition. 1/2 Punjab captured Point 3978 at 0600 hours on October 15th. 1 (Para) Kumaon captured Pir Badesar by 1700 hours on the same day. Artillery played an important part in Operation Ranjit also.

After the capture of Pir Badesar, there was an important modification in Operation Easy and it was decided that the link-up with Poonch should be made via Mendhar and not via Potha. An ad hoc formation named Durga Force under overall command of Brigadier Yadunath Singh was to undertake Operation Easy and was composed of 5 Infantry Brigade, 19 Infantry Brigade, and the Rajouri Garrison. To provide air support, the RIAF No.10 Squadron of Tempests and No.12 Squadron (Transport) of Dakotas and No.1 AOP Flight of Austers were made available. As per the plan, 5 Brigade secured the vital Pir Kalewa ridge at 1200 hours on October 28th. The next important features to be secured were Ramgarh Fort and Bhimbar Gali.

Poonch Finally Relieved

Major General Atma Singh now detailed 19 Brigade Group to capture Point 5732 with a view to exploit Jhhika Gali, an enemy stronghold barring the way to Mendhar. 5 Brigade Group was assigned the task of capturing Point 4394 and securing the right flank of the main column up to but excluding Point 3295. The plan was to capture Topa area with a view to linking up with 101 Brigade from Poonch. 19 Brigade less one battalion, supported by all available artillery was to commence attack on night of November 19/20th. 101 Brigade was to start operations on the night of November 19/20th to capture Point 6005 and Point 6876 (Pir Margot Ghazi). It was expected that the link-up with 101 Brigade would take place by the evening of November 20th.

During the night of November 19/20th, 1/4 Gorkha Rifles and 5 Rajputana Rifles carried out a night march. Point 5982 was captured by 0730 hours on November 20th without much opposition. Meanwhile, the leading company of 1/4 Gorkha Rifles had also captured its objective at 0620 hours. Then exploitation began. One platoon 1/4 Gorkha Rifles was sent to Point 6793 and met the troops of 101 Brigade at 1200 hours. 1/2 Punjab passed through the positions of 5 Rajputana Rifles and captured Topa at 1500 hours on November 20th. The link-up with Poonch in November 1948 was a notable performance. The enemy ring round Poonch was broken and attempts to force the Poonch garrison to surrender were finally frustrated.

The Battle of Naushera

The capture of Jhangar on 24 December 1947 gave the enemy a tremendous advantage. It was, hence, vital to Indian strategy to recapture Jhangar. The battle of Naushahra on 06 February 1948 was decisive in this context and paved the way for the recapture of Jhangar later on. Lt. Col. R.G. Naidu, CO of 2 Jat, was put in command of Operation Satyanas for clearing the enemy from the area around Beri Pattan. The troops occupied Tung on January 23rd and crossed the Thandapaniwali Tawi the next morning. In the early hours of January 25th, as they advanced to attack Siot and Pt. 2502, they came under heavy enemy fire and had to make a retreat, but not before inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, estimated to be 100 dead and wounded.

To weaken and disrupt the enemy's offensive, a mobile force known as 'Cheeta Force' was formed. It consisted of Stuart tanks from 7 Light Cavalry. Orders were given to this mobile force on January 24th. The plan was simple. Two small detachments of mixed armour and infantry were to be established at Amberala and Chordhaki to guard the rear; the rest of the mobile column was to push right up to area Assar-Kadala-Bhimbar to destroy the enemy base. The mobile force launched its operation at 0530 hours on January 25th. Despite earlier reverses, it was able to inflict heavy losses on the enemy at Amberala, Chordhaki, and Assar/Kadala.

Operation Kipper

Intelligence reports revealed that a strong enemy build-up was taking place at Kot. Situated about 9 km north-east of Naushahra on the highest point, Kot allowed observation over the Rajouri road to a point near Merian. It was therefore, planned to attack and capture this strong enemy position, which was a serious threat to Naushahra. Other important enemy bases in the area were at Uparla Dandesar and Pathradi. The enemy strength here was estimated to be one battalion, about 500 strong, equipped with 3" mortars, medium machine guns, light machine guns and about 400 rifles.

On January 30th, Brigadier Usman issued instructions for Operation Kipper, the code name for dislodging the enemy from Kot-Pathradi-Uparla Dandesar area and to establish a permanent picket in Kot. The responsibility fell on 50 Para Brigade Group which included 2/2 Punjab, 3 (Para) Mahratta Light Infantry, 1 Rajput (A Coy), 3 (Para) Rajput (B Coy), 7 Cavalry (B Sqn), 1 Mahar (MMG) (Y Coy), among others. The plan was to attack Kot and Pathradi on a two-battalion front. On the left was 2/2 Punjab with objective Pt. 3227 and Kot; on the right 3 MLI with objectives Pt. 3284, Pathradi and Uparla Dandesar. The assault was timed for 0630 hours on February 1st and it was to be a silent dawn attack. The RIAF was to support the ground attack by softening the strong enemy positions.

As per a deception plan the enemy was made to believe that an advance towards Jhangar was imminent. Meanwhile, 3 MLI moved from Naushahra camp at 1915 hours on January 31st to area Pt. 2300. Enemy opposition was liquidated and Pathradi was captured by 0710 hours on February 1st. Meanwhile, 2/2 Punjab too had secured its objectives. But, the enemy launched a counter offensive almost immediately and recaptured Kot. It was after a fierce fighting that Kot was finally recovered at 1010 hours. Capture of Kot area had a significant bearing on future operations, as it was from this base that the enemy used to operate its successful efforts to cut the supply route to Naushahra. The occupation of Pathradi and Kot by the enemy would have rendered matters critical in the major attack on Naushahra that followed on February 6th.

Victory at Naushahra

Stung by the loss of Kot, the enemy launched the expected all-out attack on Naushahra on 06 February 1948. The pickets at Kot and Tain Dhar were heavily mortared between 0640 and 0715 hours. Picket No. 2 at Tain Dhar bore the brunt of the attack but they fought to the last man. At about 0715 hours, Brigadier Usman realising the gravity of the situation sent a company of 3 (Para) Rajput to reinforce the main picket. It was the turning point of the whole battle. At Kot, fighting continued throughout the day and night of February 6/7th. Indian troops held the onslaught and beat off the enemy attacks. The estimated enemy casualties at Kot and Tain Dhar were 400 killed and 250 wounded.

The enemy also attacked the Kangota picket. This picket was heavily mortared and attacked at about 0700 hours. About a 1000-strong enemy force surrounded the picket and tried to rush it, but was beaten back in hand-to-hand fighting. Simultaneously, the enemy, approximately 5000 strong, attacked other pickets from the west and south-west. To meet this serious threat to the Naushahra valley, Brigadier Usman decided to take the offensive and send his small reserve to attack the enemy concentration southwest of Naushahra. The valley was cleared of the hostiles by 1500 hours. In the annals of military warfare, the battle of Naushahra was par excellence a gunners battle.

The Recapture of Jhangar

Operation Bharatpur: After the victory at Naushahra on 06 February 1948, the stage was set for the recapture of Jhangar. For that it was essential to dislodge the enemy who was still holding Ambli Dhar and Kaman Gosha Gala. The responsibility to push back the enemy from Ambli Dhar fell on the 2 Jat through Operation Bharatpur, which was launched on 28 February 1948. The plan was to launch a surprise attack at dawn after an approach march. A deceptive attack was launched in the east towards Bhata Village to mislead the enemy. The decoy worked and the enemy did not realise the threat of the main advance until 2 Jat was half way up for the attack on Ambli Dhar. Soon, Pt. 3319 on Ambli Dhar was captured and the enemy was forced to retreat to lower positions. After an hour's lull, however, there was a counter offensive by the enemy in which one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and two men were killed and seven wounded. Eighty raiders were also wounded in the return fire.

Operation Vijay: By March 5th, Ambli Dhar was secured and the enemy had been cleared from Kaman Gosha Gala as well. It was now time for the final assault on Jhangar. Operation Vijay was to be completed in two phases.

In the first phase, the 19 Independent Brigade, consisting of 1 Rajput, 4 Dogra, 1 Kumaon Rifles and ancillary units, was to secure Pt. 3327 and 3283. In phase two, the 50 Para Brigade Group, consisting of 3 (Para) Maratha Light Infantry, 3 (Para) Rajput, 1 Patiala and ancillary units, was to secure Pt. 2701, Jhangar, Pt.3399 and Pt. 3374. Unknown even to the Indian troops, a squadron of the 7 Cavalry was also pushed into the operation. The tanks arrived from Naushera camouflaged with wooden covers at night. The secret plan to push in tanks paid off, as the enemy was completely surprised by their arrival. One of the vital strategic points on the way to Jhangar was Pir Thil held by the enemy. On March 15th, 3 MLI was sent on offensive reconnaissance to locate the enemy position in the area, but it was resisted with strength. It was now confirmed that there was an equivalent of one enemy brigade, six medium machine guns, a couple of light machine guns and two 3" mortars.

Based on the information, Brigadier Usman modified his plan and decided to attack two places on the Pir Thil feature about 360 metres apart with two battalions - the 3 MLI on the right and the 1 Patiala on the left. By March 17th, the 50 Para Brigade had captured Pir Thil Nakka and the way was now clear for the final attack on Jhangar. The offensive started on March 18th. That day, the 3 (Para) Rajput captured Pt. 3477, following which the 50 Para Brigade, the 3 MLI and the 1 Patiala concentrated at this feature. The plan was to attack with two forward battalions - the 1 Patiala, on the right, was to secure objective ring contour and the 3 MLI, on the left, was to secure Pt. 3399 and Pt. 3574. Both the objectives were secured the same day. The enemy fled towards Mirpur, leaving behind 46 dead and a cache of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Stuart tanks of 7 Cavalry (C Sqn), were already on their way. Brushing aside minor opposition, which resulted in the loss of one tank, the squadron along with one company of the 1 Rajput entered Jhangar at 1400 hours that day. With the recapture of Jhangar on March 18th, the main land route leading into the Naushahra Valley was secured and the enemy's supply line was disrupted. Operation Vijay thus ended in Vijay, i.e. Victory.

The Fall of Skardu

The northern front of the Kashmir campaign included the sectors of Gurais, Skardu, Dras and Kargil, and Leh. From November 1947 to August 1948, the enemy achieved impressive successes in the region. But equally impressive was the valour of the Indian troops who held their positions against all odds. Of particular importance was the siege of Skardu. It was at Skardu that the true spirit of a typical Indian soldier was first demonstrated. After the fall of Gilgit to the enemy in November 1947, it fell on Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa and his men of 6 J&K Infantry to defend Skardu. The troops reached Skardu on December 03rd and positioned themselves inside a fort. With a total strength of about 285 men, Lt. Col. Thapa was to defend his picket against a 600-strong enemy who was equipped with modern rifles, 2" and 3" mortars and was led by professional fighters.

The enemy attacked on February 11th. From that day till August 13th, when Skardu finally fell to the enemy, it was a saga of defiance, gallantry and determination. Lt. Col. Thapa and his men repulsed waves after waves of enemy attacks. To make matters worse, the fort had hundreds of refugees men, women and children who had trusted Lt. Col. Thapa with their lives against the raiders. The brave men held the siege for more than six months fighting not only the relentless enemy, but also ration and ammunition shortage. A major attempt to send reinforcements to the besieged men had ended in failure. There came a stage when there was just enough food to feed 70-80 mouths, but the garrison and the refugees numbered 600! Meanwhile, Kargil had fallen to the enemy. The priority of the headquarters shifted to recapturing Kargil to establish the crucial line of communications. Lt. Col. Thapa and his men were literally forgotten. Reinforcements were few and scarce. Lt. Col. Thapa sent his last message to his commanders at 0800 hours on August 13th. That day, after holding out for six months against overwhelming odds, Skardu finally capitulated.

Offensives in the Uri Area

Uri was of great strategic importance since it commanded the routes to Domel, Poonch and Srinagar. Hence, the main objective of major offensives carried out in the Uri area was only to establish a firm base there in order to prevent the raiders from entering the Kashmir valley. Uri had its first heavy snowfall about the middle of January 1948, resulting in this front getting more or less frozen for the time being. Activity on both sides was, therefore, confined to local patrolling only. Intelligence reports, however, showed that an enemy build-up was taking place in Uri and Mahura in order to destroy the powerhouse and to cut off the line of communication between Rampur and Uri.

By the first week of April, enemy reinforcements in this area had swelled manifolds. The Indian response had been somewhat similar and 161 Infantry Brigade - responsible for holding the area - was suitably reorganized and reinforced. Till the first week of April, both the sides were mostly involved in small raids and counter raids owing to heavy snow. With the onset of spring, vigorous offensives were launched. From the Indian perspective, the first major offensive was directed at capturing Kopra. 4 Kumaon regiment secured the objective on April 15th and Indian pickets were established there. Another major achievement during this period was the capture of Point 9062. The Indian troops launched an attack in heavy rain. Despite slippery and steep slopes, the offensive was successful and the enemy was driven out of what was supposed to be a very strong defensive base. The threat to Mahura was finally ended when 3 Royal Garhwal secured Zambur Pattan on April 21st.

Meanwhile, a threat was developing at Kaurali where enemy in large numbers had infiltrated from Poonch. In one of the most tragic ambushes, the enemy annihilated the entire patrol party of 1 Madras, including its commander Lt. Col. Menon. A sole survivor who had escaped by hiding under a waterfall for more than three hours conveyed the tragic news to the base.

Battle for Zoji La

Zoji La presented one of the most difficult terrains for the Indian Army. Srinagar was connected to Sonmarg by an 84 km one way fair weather road, with weak bridges unable to take heavy vehicles. The main bridges were in Wyle(29 km), Kangan (38km) and Gund (59 km). From Sonmarg to Baltal was a 14 km long track. Baltal was the junction for tracks from Srinagar, ZojiLa and Pahalgam. From here the track climbed steeply 2000 ft to Zoji La(11,578 ft). From the pass it continued on the same elevation with steep shoulders ranging to 16000 feet on both sides. Two nullahs flowed through this, the Bod Gumbhar Nar from west and Lokut Gumbhar Nar from the east. There is snow near these tracks even in summer. 3 km from Zoji La the path broadens into a flattish area called Gumri. A little away is Machoi from where the track descended into a large pastureland called Minamarg, at the end of which was Matayan village. 21 kms from Matayan was Dras (10,060 ft). Tall cliffs and ridges rising 5000 to 6000 feet above the tracks flanked the entire route. Dras was the coldest place in the country with winter temperatures reaching –50 degrees centigrade. To further complicate the situation the low level of oxygen caused problems to everyone except the locals.

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The Recapture of Rajouri, April 1948

All photographs have been provided to Lieutenant Colonel George Forty by Mrs. Zorawar Singh via Major Johnny Evans, Honorary Secretary of the Central Indian Horse Association, United Kingdom. The map is drawn by M. Komarnyckyj.

Known to many as Zoru, George or Zorawar, K. Sorawar Singh was born in Jaipur in 1920, the son of Major General Bhairon Singh, an officer in the Jaipur State Forces who was well known for his dashing character and famous among other things for being a nine handicap polo player. Zorawar was educated at the famous Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) and in due course entered the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun where he was to prove to be an outstanding cadet, earning the Sword of Honour. After passing out he was to be commissioned in 1941 into the 16th Light Cavalry, but a desire to involved in action against the enemy led to a transfer from this home service unit to the Central India Horse in 1944.

After the long journey to Italy, Zorawar was made 2-in-C to 'B' Squadron under Major (later Lt. Col.) Gordon Laverick. By 05 April 1944, after a period of intensive training in the south of Italy, the CIH was in contact with the Germans on the Lanciano front, just north of the River Sangro and about 20 miles inland from the Adriatic coast. The regiment was assigned to serve as the Reconnaissance Corps unit for the famous 4th Indian Division carrying out scouting and patrol duties for that Division on its new front, and it was whilst performing those tasks that Zorawar's thirst for action was for the first time to be met.

The Stuart light tank used by Zorawar Singh is now an exhibit at the War Museum in Rajauri. It bears both his name and his motto: Fortune Favours The Brave

On the 3rd of August, Zorawar lead a combined patrol of men from his own and another Squadron, within the Regiment, out towards Casale Vecchia north-west of Arezzo. The area lay between the two frontlines and the purpose of the operation was to locate the German frontline and deal with any patrolling Germans it encountered. Indeed this was the result of the patrol a firefight with an enemy reconnaissance force which left two of the enemy dead and three taken prisoner. For his dashing leadership during this action, Zorawar was awarded the Military Cross.

At the end of October 1944, the 4th Indian Division found itself withdrawn from the Italian campaign and dispatched to Greece to fill a vacuum left there by the withdrawal of German forces. Since it had been committed to battle in 1940 the Central India Horse had seen service in the Western Desert, North Africa, Eritrea, Persia and Italy. Greece was to prove a quieter posting but Zorawar was to make another - more peaceful - conquest, meeting and falling in love with Maria Trichipolous, a beautiful and talented Greek lady who later became his wife.

In February 1946, the CIH returned to India and well earned leave. Re-assembled at Ahmednagar in West Central India, they re-equipped with the Stuart Mk.VI light tanks. It would be up to regiment's youngest ever commandant, the now Lt. Col. Zorawar Singh, to show how mobile and flexible these well-tried little tanks could be in the testing conditions of the Indian subcontinent; his opportunity was not long in coming.

Lt. Col. Zorawar Singh MC, Commandant of the Central Indian Horse

On 18 August 1947, 'B' Squadron, CIH, moved out of Ahmednagar en route to Jalandhar in northern India, a journey of 1100 miles which was covered in 7 days despite heavy monsoon conditions. The tanks moved by rail, the road party in wheeled soft skinned vehicles. The level of mob violence it encountered indicated to the squadron that it stood right in the middle of the Punjab disturbances, its role being to quell riots and to protect columns of refugees leaving and arriving in India and to guard Hindu villages from mobs ranging from 5000 to 10,000 strong.

This duty, the CIH carried out without preference or prejudice towards either Hindu or Muslim ensuring that as many people as possible could remain secure in their own homes or travel safely towards or out of the new state of Pakistan.

By April 1948, the regiment had been concentrated in the Naushera region under the 19th Infantry Brigade, the unit responsible for operational commitments in the Jammu area including Poonch. After an insurrection had been attempted by local tribesmen, (supported by large numbers of Pushtuns from the NWFP), Pakistani forces had crossed into Jammu & Kashmir attempting to seize those areas from Indian control. And it was to be here during the operations to recapture Rajauri, an important place held by strong Pakistani forces, that the extraordinary ability of Zorawar as a dashing cavalry commander came to the fore.

Some 28 miles of wild rugged terrain connected Naushera with Rajauri, climbing from a hot dry plain about 1500 feet above sea-level, to a height of 5000 feet in beautiful natural surroundings. The fair weather road  followed the old Moghul route through Naushera and Rajauri across Pir Panjal to Srinagar passing Nandpur South, Barwali Ridge, Merian and Chingas. Most places on route still had old Mogul serais (campsites), though these were mostly now in ruins. From Naushera to Merian the road passed through a stretch of very difficult rugged terrain with many defiles. From Merian onwards it generally followed the western bank of the Manawar Tawi river through cliffs and spurs of varying height, some with a drop of 500 feet to the river below.

A map showing the advance to and the capture of Rajauri. Not to scale; the distance between Chingas and Rajauri is 14 miles.

The Nandphur South-Barwali Ridge complex was a bottleneck of some military significance. It was dominated by the steep, rocky Barwali Ridge from the north, the Kot Hill feature to the east and Nandpur Hill to the west. At Nandpur there was a small open space, about 250 x 150 yards in size, with terraced fields, a few derelict houses and a Moghul serai. Just ahead of Nandpur was the Manawar Tawi river bend with a large pool 4 to 8 feet deep and dominated by the Barwali Ridge. The river bend was joined by a deep nullah which emerged from a gorge to the west.

The Nandphur area was mined and effectively covered by the enemy. This was the only place available for the deployment of tanks from which fire could be brought to bear on the Barwali Ridge. The Nadpur-Chingas-Rajauri road had been badly damaged by the enemy and had remained un-repaired during the period 1946-48. All culverts had been destroyed and many large boulders and felled pine trees had been laid across to form roadblocks, these obstructions had then been mined. The cliffs and defiles closer to the river had been deliberately cut and the road was non-existent in several places. Zorawar flew over the area during the planning stage of the operation and assessed the damage as "frightening", reporting that it would require an immense effort in time and labour to make the road usable as an axis of advance.

The magnitude of the damage was to be even more gravely expressed in the remarks of a senior engineering officer who also flew over the area, "Anyone who is thinking of advancing with tanks to Rajauri is, in my opinion, taking a great risk!" It was indeed a great risk, but one which, in a true cavalryman's spirit, Zorawar was to accept. The 19th Infantry Brigade plan for the operation was divided into three phases: to capture the Barwali Ridge; then to advance and capture Chingas; finally, to advance and capture Rajauri.

During the night of April 7/8th, the feature to the east and the Nandpur feature to the west were captured and secured by the 19th Infantry Brigade. 'A' Squadron, CIH, under Major Karam Singh, with two tanks of RHQ, one of which was the commandant's, plus a troop from 'B' Squadron, advanced from a place near Naushera, about 5 miles from the objective, and had taken up position in Nandpur South by 0630 hours in the morning of April 8th. At 0800 hours, 4 Dogra, commanded by Major Sansar Chand, himself a Dogra from the Jammu region, debouched from it's forming up point and started advancing towards the objective on the east flank of 'A' Squadron's deployment area.

The Dogras assault went in with two companies up, the left-hand company had as it's objective the Barwali Top and the right-hand company's objective was the east spur. On approaching the river bend both the leading companies came under very heavy fire. The right-hand company was pinned down and the tanks supporting them found themselves having to manoeuver in mine-strewn ground to get to positions from which they could hit back at the enemy machine-gunners who had checked the advance.

Although a careful search had been made by infiltrating parties of infantry and engineers the previous night, under the gallant 2nd Lt. Rama Raghoba Rane of 37 Assault Company, Bengal Engineers, some mines did indeed remain hidden in the thick undergrowth and undulating ground. As the tanks were in the process of re-deploying, the enemy opened up with heavy and well-aimed fire with machine-gun's, small arms and mortars, forcing the tank crews to close their hatches thus making observed movement even more difficult. Some tanks skirted mines, only by inches, Zorowar's among them.

Lt. Col. Zorawar Singh issuing orders for the next day's battle on 13 April 1948.

Disaster was now averted by the heroism of two members of the Lt Col's tank crew. Lance Daffadar Varyam Singh, a young and fearless jawan and seasoned dispatch rider of the Second World War, who was now the commandant's hull gunner, and Acting Lance Daffadar Sita Ram, his driver. Ram, with great presence of mind, managed to halt the tank when it was almost upon a cluster of mines concealed beneath a stone slab. Varyam Singh, acting on his own initiative, dismounted and guided the RHQ tanks safely to their positions thus undoubtedly saving the lives of Zorawar and the other crew members. For this gallant act Varyam Singh was subsequently awarded the newly instituted Vir Chakra.

Meanwhile the left-hand company, after crossing the river, had started to climb the steep rocky ridge and was joined by the remainder of the battalion which had already suffered casualties. Captain Arvind Nilkhanth Jatar (CIH), had volunteered to accompany the leading company of 4 Dogra to act as forward tank observation officer and, with his radio, was now able to provide the crews of 'A' Squadron with the directions which enabled them to pick out and effectively engage enemy machine-gun positions. This close support fire from the Stuarts was to continue for 4½ hours and was only made possible because the crews were able to replenish their ammunition from specially prepared forward ammunition dumps, which Zorawar had earlier ordered to be established in anticipation of such action.

This foresight and imagination that light tank guns could be used in what amounted an artillery role was but one of the Command ante's outstanding abilities as a tank commander. The sight and sound of sixteen Honey tanks blazing away with their 37mm cannon and 30 calibre machine guns, blasting the ridge along it's full length and breadth, was most dramatic. During the course of the action the crews of the CIH where to fire 2000 rounds of 37mm ammunition and several thousand rounds of 30 calibre, yet thanks to the efficient training of the regiment, the skilled maintenance of it's equipment, and the high quality of the tanks themselves not one single weapon was to fail to fire at any time.

At about 1730 hours on that day the enemy staged a counter-attack from the west and attempted to encircle 4 Dogra Company on the ridge top, nearly ambushing the brigade commander and his recce party who were ascending the ridge at the time. With great foresight, Zorawar had ordered his tank crews to locate and train their guns on likely targets in the anticipation of such a counter-attack. As a result the enemy was subjected to another hail of shells and bullets and broke off the engagement after suffering heavy casualties. With this repulse Phase 1 of the Rajauri Operation was successfully accomplished by the Indian forces.

On the morning of the April 10th, Zorawar decided to exploit the river itself as an axis for further advance and personally reconnoitered the watercourse, wading many times across the 3 to 4 feet deep, icy cold, boulder-strewn, swift flowing water, until he had located sufficient suitable crossing places for the tanks. The width of the Tawi gorge near Merian was about 200 yards, gradually reducing to 100 yards at Rajauri. The river itself was some 40 to 50 feet wide. The only crossing places were all dominated by high hill ranges running parallel on both sides. However, by 1000 hours on that morning 'A' Squadron tanks, after crossing the river twice, had outflanked Chingas to the east and with their support the engineers had succeeded in opening the road through to Chingas for light vehicles.

Speed and careful passage of the Tawi river axis were the priorities in Zorawar's plan for the remainder of the advance and, with this in mind, a task force was formed which was to be self-contained for the next forty-eight hours. The force, under the Command ante's direct command, consisted of 'A' Squadron plus the two RHQ tanks and 'B' Company, 1st Kumaon Rifles, under the command of Major Bisht. The infantry were initially occupying a hill feature but in the morning it was relieved and placed directly under Zorowar's command.

The task force was on the road from Chingas at 1130 hours led by the squadron commander, Major Karam Singh, and despite coming under mortar and machine-gun fire, it was able to maintain the tempo of it's advance by engaging hill features held in some strength by the enemy. In this task the force was greatly assisted by the Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) whose Tempest fighters operated in the ground attack role, coming in in pairs to rocket and strafe with their cannon positions indicated to them by HE (high explosive) tank gunfire. In addition the pilots were able to keep the task force informed about enemy activity in the Rajauri area as they over flew the battlefield.

Major General Zorawar Singh MC, whilst Commandant of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.

After a grueling six-hour tank drive covering some 14 miles, in which the tanks crossed the river no less than eight times in varying conditions and depths, the task force reached Rajauri at 1730 hours. Immediately intense and accurate fire from the tanks was directed at all important targets, including Rajauri Fort, the town and the surrounding hills from where enemy fire was coming.

The element of surprise created bewilderment and confusion among the enemy, the sudden arrival in their midst of an armoured force caused dismay as was apparent in an intercepted radio message which read: 'Tawi River full of Buffaloes [the code word for tanks] from Chingas to Rajauri. Impossible to hold Rajauri.' The news of the successful arrival at the objective was meanwhile being signaled back to 19th Brigade, and at first could not be believed and had to be repeated.

With the Pakistani's forced back the operation was concluded. The 27 year old commandant of the CIH, Lt. Col. Zorawar Singh, had, by his brilliant command of armour and his daring use of the Tawi river as his axis of advance, conducted one of the most outstanding light tank exploits of all time. It was however to be the last time he saw active service.

In 1948 Zorawar's tenure of command at the CIH ended, when he was selected to attend the Command and Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth, USA. From there he was appointed to the staff of the Defence Services College at Wellington, where he served for three years until being appointed to command the Tactical Wing of the Armoured Corps Centre and School at Ahmednagar. His next move, as a Brigadier, was to be Military Attaché in Paris. Thereafter he held several important staff appointments before retiring as a Major General at the age of 49. He then became the Colonel of the CIH, a position he held with high honour from 1961 to 1971. Zorawar, handsome, bold and brave, was one of the first great tank commanders in the Indian Army, as well as being a true cavalry officer and is, as such, a role model for all to emulate.

Jawaharlal - Do you want Kashmir?

© Kashmir 1947, Rival Versions of History by Prem Shankar Jha Courtesy: Rediff.Com

Sam Manekshaw, the first Field Marshal in the Indian Army, was at the ringside of events when Independent India was being formed. Then a Colonel, he was chosen to accompany VP Menon on his historic mission to Kashmir. This is his version of that journey and its aftermath, as recorded in an interview with Prem Shankar Jha.

At about 2:30 in the afternoon, General Sir Roy Bucher walked into my room and said, "Eh, you, go and pick up your toothbrush. You are going to Srinagar with VP Menon. The flight will take off at about 4 o'clock." I said, "Why me, Sir?" General Bucher replied, "Because we are worried about the military situation. VP Menon is going there to get the accession from the Maharaja and Mahajan." I flew in with VP Menon in a Dakota. Wing Commander Dewan, who was then Squadron Leader Dewan, was also there. But his job did not have anything to with assessing the military situation. He was sent by the Air Force because it was the Air Force which was flying us in. Since I was in the Directorate of Military Operations, and was responsible for current operations all over India, West Frontier, the Punjab, and elsewhere, I knew what the situation in Kashmir was. I knew that the tribesmen had come in - initially only the tribesmen - supported by the Pakistanis.

Fortunately for us, and for Kashmir, they were busy raiding, raping all along. In Baramulla they killed Colonel DOT Dykes. Colonel Dykes and I were of the same seniority. We did our first year's attachment with the Royal Scots in Lahore, way back in 1934-35. Tom went to the Sikh regiment. I went to the Frontier Force regiment. We'd lost contact with each other. He'd become a Lieutenant Colonel. I'd become a full Colonel. Tom and his wife were holidaying in Baramulla when the tribesmen killed them. The Maharaja's forces were 50% Muslim and 50% Dogra. The Muslim elements had revolted and joined the Pakistani forces. This was the broad military situation. The tribesmen were believed to be about 7 to 9 km from Srinagar. I was sent into get the precise military situation. The army knew that if we had to send soldiers, we would have to fly them in. Therefore, a few days before, we had made arrangements for aircraft and for soldiers to be ready.

But we couldn't fly them in until the state of Kashmir had acceded to India. From the political side, Sardar Patel and VP Menon had been dealing with Mahajan and the Maharaja, and the idea was that VP Menon would get the Accession, I would bring back the military appreciation and report to the Government. The troops were already at the airport, ready to be flown in. Air Chief Marshall Elmhurst was the Air Chief and he had made arrangements for the aircraft from civil and military sources. Anyway, we were flown in. We went to Srinagar. We went to the palace. I have never seen such disorganisation in my life. The Maharaja was running about from one room to the other. I have never seen so much jewellery in my life - pearl necklaces, ruby things, lying in one room; packing here, there, everywhere. There was a convoy of vehicles.

The Maharaja was coming out of one room, and going into another saying, "Alright, if India doesn't help, I will go and join my troops and fight (it) out." I couldn't restrain myself, and said, "That will raise their morale Sir." Eventually, I also got the military situation from everybody around us, asking what the hell was happening, and discovered that the tribesmen were about 7 or 9 km from what was then that horrible little airfield. VP Menon was in the meantime discussing with Mahajan and the Maharaja. Eventually the Maharaja signed the accession papers and we flew back in the Dakota late at night. There were no night facilities, and the people who were helping us to fly back, to light the airfield, were Sheikh Abdullah, Kasimsahib, Sadiqsahib, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, DP Dhar with pine torches, and we flew back to Delhi. I can't remember the exact time. It must have been 3 o'clock or 4 o'clock in the morning.

On arriving at Delhi, the first thing I did was to go and report to General Sir Roy Bucher. He said, "Eh, you, go and shave and clean up. There is a cabinet meeting at 9 o'clock. I will pick you up and take you there." So I went home, shaved, dressed, etc. and General Bucher picked me up, and we went to the cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting was presided by Mountbatten. There was Jawaharlal Nehru, there was Sardar Patel, there was Sardar Baldev Singh. There were other Ministers whom I did not know and did not want to know, because I had nothing to do with them. Sardar Baldev Singh I knew because he was the Minister for Defence, and I knew Sardar Patel, because Patel would insist that VP Menon take me with him to the various states.

Almost every morning the Sardar would sent for VP Menon, HM Patel and myself. While Maniben (Patel's daughter and de facto secretary) would sit cross-legged with a Parker fountain pen taking notes, Patel would say, "VP, I want Baroda. Take him with you." I was the bogeyman. So I got to know the Sardar very well. At the morning meeting he handed over the (Accession) thing. Mountbatten turned around and said, "Come on Manekji (He called me Manekji instead of Manekshaw), what is the military situation?" I gave him the military situation, and told him that unless we flew in troops immediately, we would have lost Srinagar, because going by road would take days, and once the tribesmen got to the airport and Srinagar, we couldn't fly troops in. Everything was ready at the airport.

As usual Nehru talked about the United Nations, Russia, Africa, God Almighty, everybody, until Sardar Patel lost his temper. He said, "Jawaharlal, do you want Kashmir, or do you want to give it away? He (Nehru) said, Of course, I want Kashmir (emphasis in original). Then he (Patel) said, Please give your orders." And before he could say anything Sardar Patel turned to me and said, "You have got your orders." I walked out, and we started flying in troops at about 11 o'clock or 12 o'clock. I think it was the Sikh Regiment under Ranjit Rai that was the first lot to be flown in. And then we continued flying troops in. That is all I know about what happened. Then all the fighting took place. I became a Brigadier, and became Director of Military Operations and also if you will see the first signal to be signed ordering the cease-fire on 01 January (1949) had been signed by Colonel Manekshaw on behalf of C-in-C India, General Sir Roy Bucher. That must be lying in the Military Operations Directorate.

"Sam, We've Got Accession"

© Kashmir 1947, Rival Versions of History by Prem Shankar Jha Courtesy: Rediff.Com

Sam Manekshaw, the first Field Marshal in the Indian Army, was at the ringside of events when Independent India was being formed. Then a Colonel, he was chosen to accompany VP Menon on his historic mission to Kashmir. This is his version of that journey and its aftermath, as recorded in an interview with Prem Shankar Jha.

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Re-Organisation of Indian Defence Setup

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Life at 14,000 feet

 By © Rediff.Com - 30 April 2003

Subedar Harbinder Singh is looking forward to his retirement from the army in a year's time. Before that, the burly Sardar, who has served in the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles regiment for over three decades, is counting the months he has to spend at an altitude of 14,000 feet. After all, he has been guarding the Nathula post, across the Chinese border in Sikkim, for the past two years, braving high altitude, loneliness and sheer boredom. His only break from the monotony of maintaining a vigil over this vital sector on the India-China border comes twice a week -- on Thursdays and Sundays -- when a mailbag is exchanged between the two countries.

On these two days, Subedar Singh has a chance to see new faces as several Chinese officers and men throng the makeshift barbed wire fence on the line separating the two countries and exchange pleasantries. The Chinese even photograph themselves with Indian soldiers. And, as Subedar Singh and his post commander recall with a chuckle, "If the Chinese see the Khalsas [Sikhs], they go crazy. After all, we Sikhs are easily distinguishable among the Indians. When they go back home and show the photographs taken at the Indian border, their claims are believed only if we Sardars are in the photographs!"

Although the mail exchange, the only such overland facility between the two countries, lasts exactly three minutes beginning at 8.30 a.m., it is an occasion for a lot of bonhomie. Even as a civilian from the Indian postal department makes his way into Chinese territory, a small bag in hand, the Chinese soldiers, some with their wives and children, start shooting photographs. Once he enters the small hut-like structure, the Indian postman hands his bag over to his Chinese counterpart, receives a similar bag from him, signs for its receipt and makes his way back to Indian soil. This routine, both for the men in uniform and for the postman, is followed religiously every Thursday and Sunday. The routine over, the soldiers retreat to their respective posts, which are just 500 metres apart. A long wall is all that separates the two countries.

Both sides can watch each other closely, come snow, storm, fog or rain. 'Watch' is the operative word here. As a senior army officer puts it: "Constant vigil is the key to border management." On the ground, there is no tension between the two forces. There are no firearms on display here. In fact, it is the ubiquitous black umbrella, which almost everyone carries to ward off a sudden drizzle or a light snowfall, that is the constant companion of soldiers here. Beneath the apparent casualness with which the troops move about lies the steady routine of constant vigil on Chinese activities. The army knows if the Chinese want to create mischief along the Sikkim border, Nathula would be a major trouble spot. Not only is it well-connected by an all-weather, black-topped road, it is also just a two-hour drive from Gangtok, the Sikkim capital, which, in turn, is less than 150 kilometres away from the plains of north Bengal. Not that there is anything untoward happening here.

As a staff officer of the Nathula Brigade says: "Things are as normal as can be." To remove any possible misunderstanding, officers from both armies meet twice a year -- once in March and once in September. The commander of the Nathula Brigade represents India while the Chinese colonel, in charge of the border defence regiment posted to guard the border, represents China. Although Beijing officially does not recognise Sikkim's merger with India, it has refrained from creating any trouble. The last recorded skirmish between the two forces in Nathula was way back in 1967. A dispute about bunkers and defensive positions led to a fortnight-long conflict that saw a young Indian captain earn a posthumous Vir Chakra for his bravery. Since then, things have been quiet. And, unlike the Kameng sector in Arunachal Pradesh, the Chinese have refrained from 'nibbling' away at the Indian border. As a senior army officer says: "There are no disputes here unlike in Aksai Chin or Arunachal Pradesh."

Dispute or no dispute, the Chinese, as Defence Minister George Fernandes won't say in public (and as senior army officers say in private), cannot be trusted. Hence, there is no let-up or laxity as far as India's defences along the Chinese borders are concerned. The troops are well looked after, well-fed and given the best of facilities. Their only complaint: the isolation and physical problems resulting from staying at super-high altitudes are more lethal than enemy threats. The Nathula post commander says: "At this altitude [14,420 feet], a man's physical efficiency reduces by over 40%. During winter, when the oxygen level in the mountains falls further, it is painful even to walk short distances. You can imagine the plight of troops staying at posts which are at even higher altitudes than this one."

Physical pain apart, mental isolation can also prove unnerving. Although no jawan is allowed to stay alone, the fatigue of seeing the same faces over and over again gets to them. Hence, any visitors, be it journalists or touring generals, are a welcome respite from the monotony. If the top brass tries to keep up the morale by looking after the troops, the soldiers themselves attempt to find solace through devotion to a common deity. But their deity is not god; it is a dead soldier. Baba Harbhajan Singh is the presiding deity of the Nathula Brigade. Three decades ago, he was an ordinary soldier posted here to escort the mules that carried supply loads. One day he died -- buried under an avalanche.

End of Story?

Not quite. Some months after his death, the Commanding Officer of his unit, the 23rd Punjab, apparently saw Harbhajan Singh in a dream. The dead soldier apparently urged the Commanding Officer to construct a small samadhi (memorial) for him, which the officer promptly did. Today every soldier in the brigade pays his respect to 'Baba' Harbhajan Singh. Every Sunday, a langar (free lunch) is organised at the temple. All the soldiers posted here believe they are blessed by the Baba, who looks after their well-being. To those who do not live for days on end, under hostile conditions, in these mountains, this blind faith may appear inconsistent with rational and modern thought. But, as a staff officer of the brigade says, "It is this kind of faith that sustains the soldier in these extreme conditions." Clearly, faith, constant vigil and devotion to duty are on permanent display at this frontier.

A Time to Kill

 © Rediff.Com - 30 April 2003

Gruesomely colourful, huh? Neatly shot in the plasma on khaki leaves. Typical of this shock-jock to begin an article in this fashion, you think? Well, learn to live with realities - blood and gore is the unavoidable currency of all insurgency. This photograph hasn't been shot by Jewella; it's from the evidence files of the Indian Army's Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) in Mizoram. When the body was searched, they found an undeveloped roll of film in one pocket.

The following two photographs are from that roll and were probably shot by this dead terrorist. Young boys - not one seems to us to be over 19 years. The one on the rock is posing like he's modeling Dockers. In the other image, note the happy and carefree smile of the patka-ed lad gazing into the lens as two others share a laugh. They are so well-equipped that at first we thought they were jawans of the Naga Regiment. The other photographs from the roll - we couldn't steal them all - included interior shots of men, women and children gathered around these boys.

The kind of scene in any ordinary household when a brother or nephew comes visiting after years abroad. Pictures of domestic excitement. Youths fiddling with the television, eating cake, hugging friends... Who knows how many of them are alive today. We pray, not even one. Heartless, you say...? Also, between February 1 and 7, NLFT terrorists gang-raped at gunpoint 23 women and minor girls at Riabari village in south Tripura. The group had befriended the locals and was using the village as a safe hideout. The rapes were committed in front of the villagers, who dared not protest at their new, trigger-happy friends.

39 killed; 22 injured; 23 raped; 16 kidnapped; 35 houses torched - in 48 days. These are not comprehensive, official figures but what we've gleaned from newspapers - and we've surely missed quite a few items. Yet our heart should bleed for terrorists since they happen to be pasty-faced young boys...? Bullshit! And we'll tell you why. After Lieutenant Colonel Tiwari, we met another officer, Colonel Shankar of JAK LI, in-charge of the Battalion Training Wing of CIJWS, whom we'd have happily followed around like a lamb.

  Killed/Injured Method/Other Area/State
1 January 2000   ONGC pipeline blown Disangpani, Assam
5 January 2000 7/10 jawans IED blast Imphal, Manipur
6 January 2000 7/-- jawans IED, PLA women's wing Pungdongbam, Assam
8 January 2000 5/6 civilians ATTF firing on jeep Khowai, West Tripura.
8 January 2000 1/-- commando Shot dead by PLA Imphal East, Manipur
17 January 2000 1/1 civilians 5 kidnapped by ATTF Khowai, West Tripura
17 January 2000   15 houses torched Urbani, West Tripura
17 January 2000 1/-- civilians 3 civilians kidnapped Amarpur, Tripura
18 January 2000   5 civilians kidnapped Urbani, West Tripura
18 January 2000   20 houses torched Urbani, West Tripura
19 January 2000   Rail track blasted Golaghat, Assam
1 February 2000 1/-- JD-U man Shot dead Churchandpur, Manipur
6 February 2000 1/-- civilians Shot dead Bishenpur, Manipur
7 February 2000 3/5 civilians 3 kidnapped by NLFT Dalubari, Tripura
12 February 2000 5/-- incl 2 jawans Firing Saji Tampak, Manipur
12 February 2000 1/-- BSF jawan Shot dead Khopipung, Manipur
12 February 2000 2/-- civilians Indiscriminate firing, NLFT South Tripura
17 February 2000 2/-- policemen IED blast Nalbari , Assam
17 February 2000 2/-- policemen Firing Dhubri, Assam

Not because he's the spittin' image of our brother and the resulting warmth we felt for him, but because he candidly answered questions which had less to do with BTW and more about the profile of the terrorist. (It's a pity that we can't reproduce a photograph of the colonel; both of us were puffing away so much that the film got fogged). Colonel Shankar, who has served many years in J&K, portrayed the NE ultra by contrasting him with that of the Valley: While the NW's is a foreigner, mostly Afghan or Paki, the NE's is a local and knows the land and its people.

Kashmir's terrorists are, by and large, drugged; the NE's are alert and intelligent. There's an established women cadre of terrorists in the NE; there are few in the Valley. While there are hundreds of captured terrorists thronging Kashmir's jails (the deadliest of whom was kindly released by Mahatma Vajpayee), it's extremely difficult to nab the NE ultra - he's quick and prefers to fight to death. The ultras from here are well-trained; all the seniors have been disciplined by the Burmese army.

There are far more cases of IED blasts in the NE than in the Valley - the ultra is educated, uses the Internet for garnering information, disseminating propaganda, negotiating arms deals, and is familiar with hi-tech explosives. At the same time, he's replete with native skills and can devise deadly traps that can kill an elephant with nothing more than bamboos and vines.

But, most ominously, with a history of 54 years of insurgency, the ultra has "understood us" - he knows the pressures on the army and the limits imposed upon it by a democratic system. Thus, "we can't take him for granted." The inherent characteristic of insurgency in the NE is its small-scale, low profile activities, with the main insurgent bases located across the IB, in camps in Myanmar, Bangladesh, China and Bhutan. Terrorist units infiltrate into India through inhospitable terrain, strike fast, and flee. Their ambushes - 72% of which are directed against the security forces - are meticulously planned and ruthlessly executed.

Such hit-and-run tactics of small units force a large deployment of defence forces to counter them. But simply being on the killing ground pays no dividends: Learning to operate in small teams, studying the patterns of the militants, establishing an intelligence network, knowing their traditional sanctuaries, maintaining the element of surprise, selecting the site for the counter ambush, observing the discipline of when exactly to open fire, knowing field and jungle craft well enough to remain undetected, and improvising within a given situation, is the kind of stuff that breaks an ambush. And it's this that's taught at the CIJWS as part of the pre-induction training.

And so we went to witness a drill where a convoy of 3 trucks would be attacked by "militants" from two flanks and the counter ambush would be watched by instructors. To tell you the truth, it didn't do anything for us: The truck drove through the marked stretch of road, the "militants" threw a few blank grenades and fired some blank rounds, soldiers crawled here and there and did likewise, the convoy drove off, the observers observed, and that was that.

Of course, it would have been different if we'd been allowed to learn the theories behind the operation, or if our future depended upon knowing how to peer through bushes. Since it didn't, all we were interested in was the blank grenade: we thought it would make a splendid ornament for our dresser. But since the army must account for every bullet, we were refused. Perhaps because we were obviously morose and had lost interest in the proceedings, we were given the opportunity of witnessing an actual IED blast.

We perked up, entrusted our handbag to Farooq-Sahab, stuffed our fingers in our shell-like ears, and stood some 25 foot away from the spot. Next thing we knew, we were on the tar and a huge column of black smoke was rising in the air. Honestly, the sound of an IED blast cannot be prepared for: "loud," "ear-shattering," can't begin to describe it. Even after anticipation, it still made our heart flutter for minutes later. We do not understand how people survive an unexpected explosion! Anyway, it was a good thing, for our sorry state brought us some attention from the young instructors: Captain Rishi Khosla of Garhwal Rifles, a capped Punju with two commendation medals; Captain Luwangcha of our Maratha LI, a witty Mizo just in from J&K; and Major T.S. Hothi of Jat Regiment, a gorgeous, turbaned Sikh. We chatted awhile and left - had to prepare for rum time...

That evening was a particularly raucous one - the senior officers had stayed away from the mess. We were irritating the heck out of the oh-so-politically-correct students when this frail young man in a jazzy pullover, a thick chain around his neck, and a haircut we could die for, walked in and asked us for a cigarette. We had no clue who he was but obliged, and he left. "Looked like he just stepped out of Delhi's discos! What's a trendoid doing in a place like this?" we muttered.

Our bar-buddy replied, "Oh really! You should've seen him two months earlier. He lived in a filthy Pathani and had a beard up to here when he infiltrated the mujahideen. Got a commendation for it, too." Commendation...? Omigawd, it was Captain Rishi Khosla! We dragged out the story: "Information came in that Arifullah would be meeting his girlfriend in Srinagar's Nishat Garden one afternoon. Rishi and two others who were detailed to nab him sat with a hookah, keeping watch. The UG [army for "underground"] came and met the woman, but before the team could make a move, he saw and recognised the informant who was there to point him out. Arifullah got suspicious and ran for it. Rishi chased him over the slopes and bushes and caught up with him.

UG drew a grenade and pulled out the pin, but Rishi was too close to him for the grenade to be safely thrown. And in that split second, Rishi leapt on him and tightly held the fist with the grenade closed. A struggle ensued aur dono liptey. Arifullah was hatta-katta and 6 feet tall, and yet Rishi managed to hold him off, keep his fist closed, and hit him on the head with the butt of his gun. UG went down, the rest of the team arrived, and grenade mein maachis laga di...Don't go by appearances; changing them is part of CI Ops."

We were still marvelling about the power of mind over matter and what makes the Indian soldier such a force to reckon with, when in walked a gorgeous guy with another great haircut and said to us: "I'm trying to get Rishi to quit smoking and you're plying him with cigarettes..." Excuse me, do I know you?! "Hothi, ma'am." Rot! He's a Sardar! "Yes, ma'am, I'm still a Sardar. But I've cut my hair and am awaiting permission from the army to shed my turban and shave off my beard." Permission? "For the id card. Or it will confuse security." But how in heaven's name could you do it?! "After a while the turban hurts my ears, I get a headache, and when I'm in the field, that makes me very irritable. That's not good for my men. My comfort is their comfort. So I had no choice but to discard it."  Comrades before self... Nation before self...

When we got back and showed the photographs of the NE terrorists to a friend, he said, "It's pathetic; they're so young to kill and die! Soldiers are one face of the coin, terrorists are the other." And we recoiled in fury. Every person *has* a choice - the choice to attack, destroy and murder innocents, and the choice to kill in defence. Men like Khosla and Hothi and the scores of soldiers we've met can in no way be compared to rapists, arsonists, pillagers and murderers. We realise that we land up telling you less about the NE and the CIJWS and more about the people who fascinated us. Point is, none of it would have existed if not for the human factor - the individual who holds up and holds forth for us. He has always been and will always remain our primary refrain.

A New Intelligence Organisation


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