Cessation Of Hostilities and Conclusion

Throughout the year of bitter fighting in 1948, the UN Security Council was considering and debating the Kashmir situation. India , keen to end the conflict in Kashmir , which threatened to escalate a major Indo-Pak conflagration, made repeated efforts through diplomatic channels to persuade Pakistan to terminate her assistance to the tribal raiders.

The United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) issued a supplementary Resolution on 11 December 1948 , detailing steps to be taken after the Cease Fire to satisfy the conflicting demands of India and Pakistan . India accepted the proposals.

The Supplementary Resolution did not offer any substantial concessions to Pakistan , but she was obliged to accept it because of the military situation in Kashmir and political developments in the sub-continent. There was a marked improvement in India's military position in Kashmir during the autumn of 1948. The lifting of the siege of Punch in November 1948 was a great setback for Pakistan. An even heavier blow was the loss of the Zoji La - Kargil region. The successful Police Action in Hyderabad in September 1948 released sizeable Indian forces for deployment in J&K or in the Punjab , if absolutely necessary. The death of Jinnah, in September 1948, had introduced an element of political instability in Pakistan. There was also a heavy drain on Pakistan's limited financial resources, and her industrial and military infrastructure could not cope with a protracted war. Consequently a Cease Fire became effective on the night 1st -2nd January 1949 . An agreement on the Cease Fire Line was signed, and the Cease Fire Line continued to exist till the Line of Actual Control supplanted it after the Indo-Pak conflict of 1971.

The large scale operations in Jammu & Kashmir were planned, directed and conducted almost entirely by Indian officers. The British officers still holding some senior appointments in India gave some advice and assistance only in the first few months of the operations. The Indian officers had till then little experience in the higher planning and conduct of war. It is a remarkable evidence of their high calibre and professional competence that the long campaign was managed well in exceptionally difficult circumstances.

As already stated, there had been no previous planning at all for any military action in J & K. The first troops were flown to Srinagar with hardly a couple of days of planning and preparation. The liberation of the Valley in early November 1947, was a splendid feat of arms by 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, Naushera and Rajauri sectors were liberated from the invaders, and were held against repeated attacks by vastly superior numbers of the 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 Gurez and Drass areas were successfully recaptured against tremendous odds. The Army won five Param Vir Chakras, forty-seven Maha Vir Chakras and 284 Vir Chakra awards, including three twin awards of Vir Chakra, during the J & K Operations 1947 – 48.

During the long campaign, the Indian Army lost 76 officers, 31 JCOs and 996 Other Ranks killed, making a total of 1103. The wounded totaled 3152, including 81 officers and 107 JCOs. Apart from these casualties, it appears that the J & K State Forces lost no less than 1990 officers and men killed, died of wounds, or missing presumed killed. The small Royal Indian Air Force (RIAF) lost a total of 32 officers and men who laid down their lives for the nation during these operations. In this roll of honour, there were no less than 9 officers. The enemy casualties were definitely many times the total of Indian Army and RIAF casualties, and one estimate concluded that 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 foregoing account 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 emphasised. The impromptu airlifts to Srinagar in October 1947, saved the Kashmir Valley . A hundred planes landed every day on the improvised air field at Srinagar , bringing in troops, ammunition and supplies and evacuating casualties and the refugees. The Air Force and civilian pilots of these Dakotas defied the mountains, the weather, and fatigue, to continue the airlift till the Valley was saved. Leh and the entire Ladakh region was saved by Air Commodore Mehar Singh and his gallant boys; the Air Commodore himself landing the first Dakota at the hastily prepared and untested airstrip at Leh. Flight Lieutenant DE Pushong similarly landed the first Dakota at Punch, and made almost a hundred landings thereafter, bringing in, often under enemy shelling, the urgently needed 25 pounder guns and essential supplies. Sqn Leader VP Hegde, Flight Lieutenant LS Grewal and Flight Lieutenant DN Ghadiok were among the many other transport pilots who supplied the hard pressed garrisons in Punch, Tithwal, Dras, Kargil, Leh etc, in innumerable sorties, in spite of getting hit many times by enemy ground fire. They all received Vir Chakra awards for their skill, dedication and gallantry.

In the close support role, intrepid fighter pilots like Sqn Ldr D Subia and Sqn Ldr RS Kalyaniwala accurately and repeatedly attacked enemy positions at Gurez, Zolila, Pindras, Rajauri etc, winning many Vir Chakra awards. One can well imagine the skill and courage required to hit pin-point targets, in the high hills and deep valleys, in the face of heavy machine gun fire. Though Skardu could not be maintained by air supply and fell after six months of siege when ammunition was totally exhausted, and tough inclement weather over the high hills some times kept the planes grounded, the overall performance of the RIAF was superb indeed. Not only Air Commodore Mehar Singh, the AOC No 1 Group RIAF controlling all the air operations in J & K, but also Wg Cdr MM Engineer, Wg Cdr H Moolgavkar and Wg Cdr SB Noronha were honoured with the MVCs for their superb performance. The RIAF won, in all, four Maha Vir Chakras and 28 Vir Chakra awards in operations in J & K in 1947-48.

Apart from the army and the air force, even civilians acted like heroes in these operations. The dedication and skill of the civilian pilots flying to Srinagar in October 1947, have already been highlighted. But few might be aware that a civilian dhobi (washerman), Ram Chander, won a MVC for rescuing an officer wounded during an ambush, shooting down several enemy troops in the process. Another civilian, a porter named M Ismail, also won a MVC for similar heroism on the Zoji La front, while another porter Zuma Mohammad received the Vir Chakra for saving the life of Lt Col MM Khanna when he was severely wounded in an enemy ambush near Pandu.

Thus in the very first military campaign forced on India after her Independence and Partition, her armed forces and many civilians gave an account of themselves of which any nation may feel proud. Her good old sword, the world saw, was still not rusted. And the ancient land of sages was also the land of heroes.