After securing an absolute majority in the elections in 1971, the Awami League insisted upon autonomy for East Pakistan. The military rulers of West Pakistan responded with a military crack-down and repression. Consequently, about ten million East Pakistanis fled to India. This adversely affected the Indian economy. India asked Pakistan to create conditions for the return of the refugees to their homes in East Bengal. Pakistan sought to internationalise the issue by attacking India on 3 December 1971. The war was fought both on the eastern and the western fronts. India adopted aggressive strategy on the eastern front and a defensive strategy on the western front.

The Eastern Front

On the Eastern front the Indian Army defeated four divisions and 30,000 para-military forces of the Pak Army in the thirteen days' war. Three corps and 101 Communication Zone Area of the Indian Army participated in this war.

The Indian XXXIII Corps (20 Mtn Div, 71 Mtn Bde) conducted operations between the Jamuna and Padma rivers in the north-western sector of East Pakistan. The sector was defended by 16 Pak Div and 3000 para-military forces. While the Brigade advanced on Pachagarh-Thakurgaon axis, the Div attacked the waist line of the sector i.e. Hilli area. It was finally reduced on 11 December 1971. The corps also captured enemy strongholds of Rangpur and Bogra on the 16th. During the war it inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and captured some seventeen thousand of its troops. It suffered 471 killed and 1450 wounded in the war.

The II Corps (9 Inf Div, 4 Mtn Div) carried out operations in the south-western sector of East Pakistan. The sector was bounded by Padma river in the north, Jamuna river in the east and the Bay of Bengal in the south. One Pak infantry division with eight battalions was defending this sector.

The 4 Mtn Div carried out operations in the northern part of this sector. It fought its way through Jibannagar, Kotchandpur, Suadih, Jhenida and Magura. It also overcame tough enemy resistance at Kushtia. The Division fought a crucial battle on 15 December on the western banks of the Madhumati.

9 Infantry Division carried out operations in the southern part of the Corps sector on Garibpur-Jessore-Khulna axis. It captured Burinda and Jessore and then moved on to Khulna. The Pak Brigade commander surrendered here on the 17th with 3700 troops.

An important thrust into East Pakistan was made by 101 Communication Zone Area (95 Bde and FJ Sector with one battalion) from the north. It covered the area bounded by the Meghna in the east, Jamuna in the west and Padma in the south-west. The Zone launched its attack on two axes. 95 Bde advanced on Kamalpur-Jamalpur-Madhupur axis. The Brigade encountered tough opposition at Kamalpur and Jamalpur. Heavy use of air and artillery power finally broke the enemy resistance at these strongholds. The enemy broke out from Jamalpur on 10th night and suffered heavy casualties during the retreat.
Meanwhile, FJ Force made rapid progress on Haluaghat-Mymensingh axes. The Pak position at Haluaghat was outflanked and the defending battalion totally destroyed. The Force captured Mymensingh on the 11th and Madhupur on the 12th. This was the time when Indian 4 Corps was knocking at the eastern gate of Dacca. The Pak Commander panicked and withdrew the small force, which was defending this sector, to meet the threat from the east. This enabled the 101 CZA to advance unchallenged. The 2 Para landing at Tangail and its securing the Poongli bridge also facilitated the advance of CZA Force. It was FJ Sector (strengthened by two battalions) which finally made it to Dacca on the 16th.

But the most important thrust into East Pakistan was carried by IV Corps (8, 57, 23 Divs, Kilo Force, East Bengal Battalion). It covered the area stretching from Sylhet in the north to Chittagong in the south. The sector was defended by two Pak divisions.

The 8 Mountain Division operated in Sylhet area. It encountered the major part of the Pak 14 Division in this sector. Its 81 Bde advanced on Kalaura-Sylhet axis and 59 Bde on Kalaura-Frenchganj-Sylhet axis. It fought its way to Sylhet destroying all opposition enroute. On 7 December a battalion was airlifted to Sylhet to unnerve the enemy and break his will to fight. The Div captured Sylhet on 14 December. On 17 December, 107 officers and 6500 soldiers of the Pak army surrendered to 8 Division.

The 57 Division (71, 311 Bdes) operated on Agartala-Akhaura-Ashuganj-Dacca axis. In one of the initial attacks on Gangasagar near Akhaura on 3 December, Lance Naik Albert Ekka of 14 Guards displayed extraordinary gallantry. On 5 December, the Division attacked Akhaura with two Brigades and inflicted a crushing defeat on the defending 27 Pak Bde. It then advanced on to Ashuganj and beat a sharp counter-attack from the Pak Bde. Meanwhile, 61 Bde of the Division advancing on Commilla-Mynamati-Daudkandi axis in a wide outflanking move captured Daudkandi on 10 December. This move by 61 Bde forced the 117 Pak Bde to vacate well prepared defences at Lalmai and Comilla and fall back on Mynamati. This in turn facilitated the advance of Indian 23 Division.

The southern thrust in the IV Corps sector was carried by 23 Division (83, 181, 301 fides) on Himatnagar-Laksham-Chandpur axis. It completely encircled and emasculated 53 Pak Bde at Laksham. By 9 December the division had captured Chandpur. It crossed the Meghna on 14 December and then pressed on to Dacca, where it reached on the 16th, just after the 301, CZA area. Further south a two-pronged attack was made on Chittagong. The northern hook was led by 83 Bde and the southern hook by the Kilo Force. The enemy surrendered on the 16th after feeble resistance. It is said that precision rocket attack by IAF fighters on the Governor's Secretariat in Dacca hastened the Pak decision to surrender.

On 16 December at 1630 hrs Lt Gen Niazi surrendered to Lt Gen Aurora with 93,000 regular and para-military men. War on the Eastern front ended in a complete victory for India.

The Western Front

On the Western front the main battles were fought in Jammu & Kashmir, tor Punch and Rajasthan. On J&K front Pakistan had deployed two divisions, each four to five brigade strong, and about 20,000 para-military men. In the Rajasthan, it had one division plus one brigade, one regiment of armour on and a few thousand para-military men.

Jammu-Kashmir Sector

In Jammu & Kashmir Pakistan launched offensive on 3 December, with 107 an attack by 12 Division on Punch held by Indian 93 Brigade. Pak forces n. succeeded in occupying Thanpir and Mandi heights on 4 December. But ,anj- their attack on Shahpur, Guterian and Denna was repulsed with heavy A on losses. Renewed Pak attempt to capture these positions on the 4th night nary was also defeated. India then went on the offensive and recaptured Thanpir ades and Mandi positions, Within three days the Pak offensive in Punch fizzled then out.

In Kargil sector the Pak out-posts located at high altitudes posed a threat nat'- to Srinagar-Leh road. 121 Indian Infantry Brigade captured these posts Li on after a fierce battle.

The most fierce Pak attack came in Chhamb Sector. 10 Indian Division, with four brigades and ancillary troops under command, was holding this area. 23 Pak Division launched the offensive in Chhamb on 3 December 'ision with four brigades. It succeeded in capturing Mandiala Heights which was letely weakly held by the Indians. The Pak attack on Kachrial Height on the 4th the night was, repulsed, but the Indian counter-attack on Mandiala Heights !mber failed. Pakistan after a major attack on the 5th night forced 191 Brigade er the to withdraw from Chhamb.

Emboldened by its success in Chhamb, Pak decided to carry war across the Munnawar Tawi river. On 10 December, using tanks in assault role, 111 Pak Inf Brigade overran the Indian company positions at Darh and Raipur crossing. Pak Brigade made some more gains but owing to heavy losses suffered in the process, it decided to pull back. 10 Indian Division, therefore, regained the lost positions by 1700 hrs. That was the end of the Pak misadventure in Chhamb sector.

Punjab Sector

An important battle of this sector was fought in the Shakargarh area. Pakistan was holding the area with more than three divisions. I Indian Corps (54, 36, 39 Divs) launched an offensive between Basantar and Ravi rivers to break the enemy concentration in this area. The corps moved into Shakargarh bulge during the night on 5 December.

The Indian corps made a double thrust into the bulge—one from the north and the other from the east. The northern thrust was carried by 54 and 39 Divisions between Basantar and Bein rivers. This thrust had to negotiate deep mine-fields well covered by tanks, anti-tank guns and machine guns. In view of these hurdles, 39 Division could not make much progress in its area of responsibility. But the 54 Division succeeded in establishing a bridge-head across river Basantar on 16th morning, after defeating the enemy in many battles. Repeated counter-attacks by Pak forces failed to dislodge the bridge-head. In the day-long battle Pakistan lost about 46 tanks. Second-Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal distinguished himself in the battle of Basantar. By the time the cease-fire came into effect the Division had penetrated 21 km inside Pakistan.

The eastern thrust was carried by 36 Division. Its main task was to advance across Ravi river in Gurdaspur area and capture Nainakot and Narkot. The Division inched forward in the face of tough resistance and reached Bein river on 12 December. It could not, however, make much progress due to heavy mining of Bein river.

The IX Corps, operating between Dera Baba Nanak and Ganga Nagar, also made some gains. The capture of Dera Baba Nanak by 15 Division was indeed a notable achievement. Rajasthan Sector In Rajasthan sector 11 and 12 Indian Infantry Divisions, were deployed. Pak forces in this sector included 18 Infantry Division plus one Brigade and some para-military forces. Indian forces had planned a double thrust in the Rajasthan sector-12 Division on Longewala-Rahim Yar Khan axis and 11 Division on Barmer-Naya Chor axis. The thrust of 12 Division could not materialise because of the Pak attack on Longewala on 3 December. This Pak attack was blunted with the tactical air support. The Pak army lost about 24 tanks, and 150 vehicles in this air attack.

In the south, 11 Indian Infantry Division overran Pak border posts on the 4th. Advancing 45 km into Pak territory it contacted Naya Chor defences on 11 December. A commando battalion also assisted the division in its advance. But the attack on Naya Chor could not materialise because of the cease-fire.

Further south in the Kutch sector Indian para-military forces made some effective thrusts. Consequently, Vingoor and Chhad Bet complex were captured by evicting the Indus Rangers. Indians suffered 90 killed, 252 wounded and 17 missing in these operations. Pak suffered many more casualties.

Role of Indian Navy

The Indian Naval offensive started on the morning of 4 December, when Vikrant based aircraft and ships of the Eastern Fleet struck military targets in East Pakistan. Cox's Bazar airfield was damaged and six Pak ships were destroyed at Chittagong harbour. The Pak submarine Ghazi was sunk off the coast of Vishakhapatnam. Round the clock attack by the naval aircraft, caused extensive damage to Pak military installations and harbours. By sealing all the escape routes to Pakistan Vikrant forced many Pakistanis to surrender.

A Naval Task Force of the Western Fleet attacked Karachi harbour on 4-5 December and destroyed 3 ships. It caused extensive damage to oil installations at the harbour. Another attack on Karachi harbour was made on 8 December. Simultaneously, another Task Force carried a diversionary raid on Makran Coast and captured a Pak merchant ship. By these daring acts the Indian Navy bottled up the Pak warships in harbours. Indian Navy lost anti-submarine frigate Khukri during the Naval operations in the Arabian Sea.

The Effort of IAF

IAF also gave a good account of itself. It fought a major aerial battle with four Pakistani. Sabres on a strafing mission on 22 November, and shot down three Sabres. Some more encounters took place on the following days.

On 3 December, the PAF launched pre-emptive strikes against major IAF bases in western India. It also attacked Indian railway stations, armour concentrations and other targets. In response, the IAF carried out 4,000 sorties in the west and 1,978 sorties in the east against Pak targets. In the west the IAF's primary task was disruption of the Pak communication system, the destruction of her fuel and ammunition reserves and the prevention of her ground force concentration. Flg Offr Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon distinguished himself in an air battle against Pak Sabres on 14 December. On the eastern front the IAF finished the PAF in a quick action. In 1971 War the IAF gave crucial support to the ground forces on both fronts and maintained its superiority over PAF.

The war lasted for fourteen days. Pak forces in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were convincingly defeated and about 93,000 of them were made prisoners. In the west, a large area of Pakistani territory was occu-pied by Indian troops. About 600 officers and men of the Indian Army were decorated with gallantry awards. Of these 4 earned_Param Vir Chakra, 76 Maha Vir Chalcia. and 513 Vir Chakra. In this war India suffered more than 12,000 cas_ualties. Of these 2,908 laid down their lives Tor the country.

The war on the eastern front ended with unconditional surrender of Pak forces at 1631 hrs on 16 December. Thereafter, the Indian Prime Minister announced a unilateral ceasefire effective from 2000 hrs on 17th. The Simla Agreement signed by the Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan at midnight of 2 July sorted out the residual problems of war.