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chapter 11 The Third Indo-Pakistan War The 1965 war represented the last opportunity for the Pakistan military towin a quick victory against an Indian military in transition. By the time the two armies clashed again in 1971 the Indian military machine had matured into one of the world’s largest and most professional fighting forces. The most visible aspect of this change was the induction of many weapon systems, mainly Soviet, to replace the outdated and obsolete equipment in the army, navy, and air force. A hidden and no less significant aspect of this maturation was the evolution of an air, naval, and land warfare doctrine. The land warfare doctrine essentially continued the positional warfare doctrine evolved during the Second World War. The navy and the air force, on the other hand, embarked upon new and bold strategies. These changes occurred despite the economic decline of the 1960s due to the severe droughts from 1965 to 1967 that devastated the agricultural productivity of the country.The failure of the agricultural sector caused inflation in the economy and increased the nation’s reliance on food aid.1 The Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, like her father, Nehru, wanted to steer India toward a socialist pattern of development. Eradicating poverty thus remained a central plank of the Indira government, as did self-sufficiency in food production . The introduction of new strains of wheat and rice, which increased food production to almost 100 million tons in 1968–69 (the so-called Green Revolution), made the plan reasonably successful. Povertyeradication proved far more difficult, as radical measures such as nationalizing more industries and centralizing food-grain markets graduallycrumbled due to nepotism and corruption.The economic problems no doubt contributed to the fact that between 1966 and 1971 the government never spent more than 3.5 percent of its annual budget on the military.2 Confrontation and Buildup The 1971 war, although initiated by Pakistan, did not come as a surprise to the Indian government. Indeed, Gen. Sam Manekshaw, the army chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, controlled the escalation 197 The Third Indo-Pakistan War of pressure on East Pakistan that led to the Pakistani counterstrike in the West. In December 1970 Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Bengali Muslim Party, won an overwhelming victory in the East Pakistan elections. Gen.Yahya Khan, the Pakistani military dictator, was unwilling to accept this popular vote and declared martial law on 17 February 1971. On the night of 25–26 March the Pakistani garrison in East Pakistan under Maj. Gen. K. H. Raja commenced a brutal crackdown on Bengali dissenters, beginning with the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Bengalis resisted as much as they could, with the best opposition coming from the local police and the East Pakistan Rifles. As a result of the bloody fighting that followed, millions of Bengali Muslims fled into India. Staggering under an immense refugee problem and at the same time sensing a weakness in the Pakistani position vis-à-vis Kashmir, the Indian government began to back the Bangladeshi freedom fighters, the Mukti Bahini. The latter, however, failed to make an impression on the Pakistani army, and as the flood of refugees grew the Indian government decided to act. On 28 April 1971 the Indian cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, met General Manekshaw.The cabinet members told the general of their decision to intervene militarily in East Pakistan. Manekshaw insisted that operations begin only after careful planning and preparation. He noted that the month of May was during the monsoon season and that this would bog down any Indian offensive into East Pakistan. He also wanted to insure that all units were fully equipped, especially the First Armored Division, which suffered from a lack of spare parts for its new Vijayanta (Vickers) tanks.3 Like Montgomery before him, Manekshaw proved to be the masterof the set-piece battle. With the strategic initiative on the Indians’ side, Manekshaw would set the ball rolling only after he had every conceivable card stacked in his favor. Even before frantic activities began in the months preceding the December conflict, the Indian armed forces had undergone substantial modernization between 1965 and 1971. The air force was the main beneficiary. The program to manufacture Soviet MiG-21fl fighters was well under way, and the government equipped seven squadrons with this aircraft. There were three groundattack squadrons equipped with the...


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