Major wars fought between India and Pakistan
1947, the year India’s long and tumultuous struggle for independence from the British Raj bore fruit, was also witness to a very painful and violent partition. Pakistan split away and the split was on religious lines. While India chose to remain secular, Pakistan embraced Islam as its state religion. The partition was not only a division of territory – it was also one of the largest instances of population transfers after the World War era. Some 11.2 million people moved to either side of the border. Rampant instances of communal violence caused about 500,000 people to lose their lives. With this was also born a legacy of animosity and mistrust between the two countries. It is this legacy that has led to three full scale wars, an unacknowledged war, and numerous instances of border skirmishes. More importantly, it has led to an environment of deep rooted hostility between the two nations.
First Kashmir War (1947)
In 1947, following the India – Pakistan partition, Maharaja Hari Singh Dogra, the ruler of the princely state of Kashmir, was offered a choice to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Reassured by a Standstill agreement that Kashmir had signed with Pakistan the Maharaja decided that Azad Kashmir would remain independent of the two countries. At this time rebel factors in Poonch district decided to revolt against the Maharaja’s rule and invited Pakistani forces to assist them in a guerilla war. As violence broke out in the valley, Maharaja signed an instrument of accession agreeing to join India in lieu of concessions made to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Indian troops rushed in and engaged Pakistan in the First War of Kashmir. In 1948, India invited the international community to mediate and the United Nations established the Line of Control, ending the indecisive war in December 1948. Pakistan had by then gained control of the Gilgit–Baltistan and Azad Kashmir regions. To this day, India maintains that these are an integral part of Indian territory.
India-Pakistan War of 1965
The fact that a universally recognized International Border was not drawn in 1947-48 left both the countries simmering. By 1965, Pakistan decided to indulge in covert operations and launched Operation Gibraltar, an attempt to promote infiltration into the state of Jammu and Kashmir and support a rebellion against Indian administration. Pakistani troops entered the state disguised as Kashmiri locals and sparked off insurgency operations. This precipitated the onset of Indo-Pakistani War in August and September 1965 (22 day war). The war was fought between the armies, air forces, and navies of both countries and both nations sustained heavy losses. Though deemed inconclusive, the war was seen as a strategic defeat for Pakistan which not only revealed its military inadequacy but also failed to garner any international support for its cause. One of the fallouts of the war was that strong ties developed between Pakistan and China and between India and Russia. Having faced embargoes from the US and the UK respectively, Pakistan and India started to look towards their Asian neighbours for support and military supplies. The signing of the Tashkent Declaration on 10 January, 1966, forced an uneasy truce between the countries. This peace would not, however, last for even a decade.
India-Pakistan War of 1971
In 1947 East Bengal had decided to join Pakistan riding on the Islamic sentiment which formed the foundation of our western neighbour. East Pakistan was thus born despite the great and very disconcerting differences between the eastern and western regions of the country. Pakistan’s utter failure to recognize and promote East Pakistan’s language, culture, and economy led to a lot of heartache and the rise of Bangladeshi nationalism. In March 1971, the Pakistani military junta based in East Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight. Over 26,000 (official figures) Bangladeshi nationalists, leaders, students, and religious minorities were killed and tales of brutal violence and atrocities shocked the region. Over 10 million Bengalis took refuge in India. At this time anticipating India’s intervention, Pakistan launched airstrikes on many bases along the western border of the country. Indian armed forces responded to these incursions and soon made significant gains in terms of Pakistani territory. On the eastern front a 13 day intense war bled both the nations but resulted in a humiliating defeat for Pakistani forces. Pakistan’s army signed an Instrument of Surrender in December 1971 and Bangladesh gained its independence.
The Kargil War was unique in many ways. By May 1999 Pakistani troops managed to infiltrate the Line of Control and managed to occupy many key posts in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Diplomatically, however, Pakistan continued to deny, for a long time, that the troops were its own. India retaliated by launching a strong military operation and managed to recover all the lost territory. This is one of the unique instances of high altitude warfare fought on Indian soil in recent times. At least in the early days of the Kargil war Pakistan even refused to accept the bodies of its dead soldiers, sticking to a false narrative that they were “Kashmiri freedom fighters”. With the fall of Tiger Hill in July 1999, however, Pakistan came under immense domestic and international pressure to acknowledge its role and to withdraw.
While these remain the three full-scale wars and a limited war fought between the two nations, Pakistan has continued to encourage border skirmishes, infiltration, and supporting militancy in India. Indian intelligence reports conclude that the army of Pakistan continues to support terrorist bases in the regions of Kashmir that it occupies. These terrorists are fostered with the sole aim of attacking and creating unrest in India.