The shifting sands of Rajputana

Sind was the second front opened boastfully by India, when a company of Indus Rangers in Darda village was attacked by an Indian battalion and two squadrons of armor. The rangers halted the advance for over three hours but, being outnumbered and not having any A/Tk weapons, had to withdraw. The Indians occupied the village with all the fanfare that All India radio and the Indians press could make. The idea was clear. The move fitted into the Indian strategic plan. As the BBC announced,

“Indian troops are meeting no resistance and have captured the town of Gadro, six miles over the border. They are now said to be advancing on another town called Khokhrapar, 15 miles further on. This new front is in desert country as a route towards Pakistan’s most important cities – Hyderabad and beyond that Karachi, which is 200 miles from the frontier. And with a new assault, fighting is now going between the two countries in five sectors spread along some 850 miles of border. This extending of line will help India, which has far more infantry divisions to deploy along it than Pakistan.”

The real object of India is opening a large number of fronts and trying to grab as much territory as possible, has been explained earlier, but as elsewhere, her troops were not destined to succeed in their efforts. The march of Khokhrapar remained as to many other places, only a narrow mark on the maps in Army headquarters India. It was never allowed to materialized. In pursuance of instructions from Commander-in-Chief, Pakistan Army, 51 Infantry Brigade, (2 Infantry battalions, 18 Punjab and 8 FF) had moved from Karachi on 5 September and were getting into their battle locations when the Indian invasion came.

Commander 51 Infantry Brigade, Brigadier (later Brigadier General) K. M. Azhar Khan, asked permission to undertake offensive operations instead of waiting of the Indians to attack Khokhrapar. GHQ were reluctant to let this brigade disappear into the vastness of Rajputana desert but permitted the undertaking of limited offensive. The town and railway station of Monabhao was nearest Indian target. It lay six miles inside Indian territory and was being used by them, as railhead for the desert campaign in this area. A battalion of Mahratta Regiment and three companies of RAC held it.

The pre-attack shelling was undertaken on the evening of 9 September by mortar batteries. There was no great deal of ammunition to be used by the Indians needed even less to evacuate their positions. Only 17 rounds fired. 18 Punjab put in an attack on 10 September but the Indians did not wait long enough to fire the mortar shells they had stacked near their mortars and fled. The Indians as usual denied the fall of Monabhao and did not admit until foreign correspondents had visited the place. The Indian casualties in this encounter could not have been very heavy and their running away cannot be explained except, that, their soldiers from the south of India had no sympathy with the war which was of Northern India’s making.

The next place to fall on 13 September , to 51 Inf. Brigade was Panchilla, pronounced like Panchshila. The men, a company of 8 FF who captured this post had better luck. The Indians put up a better show. The result was that, one JCO and 33 ORs were captured in addition to a number of Indians killed. The quantities of Rum found among the rations left behind the Indians spoke well of the minute care given to proper logistic support of the army in this sector by the Indian High Command. D Company of 18 Punjab commanded by Major Mohammad Taj, put in well directed attack on Shakarbu Post on 15 September. The enemy was holding the post with one company and was entrenched. The Indians put up a fairly good fight but did not wait for the final charge. They left a number of dead and the trenches were found to be well stocked with ammunition, rations and rum.

Kharin Post was close by and as a movements of men and vehicles were observed it was decided to capture that post as well. The day still young, it was only 1500 hours, and the men were keen for another dash forward. They were not very fortunate. The Indians sensed the attack and when the company reached the enemy position, it found plenty of rations but no Indians. Theyhad left in a hurry.

The indians however came back and launched a counter-attack, supported by tanks at 1730 hours. The platoon commander of the forward most platoon, Subedar Mohammad Elias handled his platoon in a superb manner. The two leading tanks were destroyed by one round eachof RR which discouraged the others. The counter-attack gradually slackened and by 1945 hours the Indians started breaking contact and eventually retreated, having suffered fairly heavy casualties.

‘A’ Company 8 FF, commanded by Major Aqil dad, raised the enemy position in the area of Jaisandar on 17 September. The information must have been incomplete. It was thought that there was hardly an enemy infantry battalion at this place. It, however, turned out to be occupied by the entire 30 Indian Infantry Brigade, consisting of 3 Guards, 1 Garhwal and a Border Police battalion. The raid was a complete success. The outer cordon was broken through and two Indian companies badly mauled. This forced and Indians to put in a number of couter-attacks, on the position held by them, a little while ago. Indians suffered as a result very heavy casualtie47s. The company commander, although wounded earlier on, continued to exercise control, and withdraw his company after a good day’s fight.

The next target was Roheri. By then the local Mujahids, Hurs Free men, had joined the ranks of pakistan Army as volunteers. An infantry patrol aided by Hurs raided this post. The Indians put up better resistance at this point but eventually evacuated it. Initially it was not meant to occupy Roheri, but as it appeared to be an ideal base for deep patrolling and raiding the Indian posts in the rear, it was occupied and made good use of until the end. The Hurs loved this sort of task. They are born fighters and an extremely disciplined body of men. They obeyed orders as if they had spent a lifetime in the army and were perfect sportsmen. They refrained from looting and burning or shooting after the enemy had turned its back. It was against their code of conductin battle. The country was also suited for deep raides. Rajputana, in thispart, is a vastdesert, full of sand dunes, dotted with occasional stretches of under growth nut, has very little water. It is fairly hard soil in places but mostly there are soft patches and M.T. movement is not easy. Troops used to long marches alone can operate in it. The indians do not seem to have chosen the ideal troops for this area. They had;

5 maharatta Light Infantry from Maharashtra: 30 Indian Inf. Bde.
3 Guards (a mixed unit)
1 Garhwal
6 RAC (a mixed unit)
7 RAC (a mixed unit with some locals)
4 Maharatta Light Inf. From Maharashtra: 85 Indian Inf. Bde
17 madras
13 Grenadiers (a mixed unit – Camel borne)

51 Infantry Brigade, had to undertake the major portion of its fighting after the cease-fire, when the Indians launched a major offensive all along this front to avenge their past defeats. It resulted in some severe battles but except adding to the number of their casualties the Indians did not achieve anything. They lost 5 officers, 3 JCOs and 50 ORs as prisoners in the battle of Sundra alone. 8 FF commanded by lt. Col. M. M. janjua despatched a company to defend it against the Indian attack by 4 Maharatta Light Infantry. They not only drove them back but also having inflicted heavy casualties, stopped them from coming forward again.

Desert Force

The Desert Force consisted of a few companies of West Pakistan Rangers and mujahids – the Hurs of Sind. They were allotted the Sector opposite the Indian State of Jaisalmir. Their task was to protect the LOC Lahore-Karachi in the area of Rohri and Khairpur and stop any aggressive move by India in this sector.

The indian forces opposite this small but determined band of men were Rajistan Armed Constabulary and units of Indian Army supported by light and medium artillery. They had also some of horse and camel cavalry units. The indians started the war in this sector on 8 September, this trying to coordinate their efforts wuth the attack into Sind against Gadro. Their attacks were not allowed to materalize and in fact they were pushed back.

Desert Force retaliated soon after and attacked tannot post. The lack of artillery support did not permit the attack to go in which was, therefore called off. The Sector however received reinforcement in the shape of 23 FF, a newly rasied battalion, from amongst the Army reservists, and a mortar battery. This made all the differences and the Desert Force was ready to go the offensive.

The main battle in the sector was was Sadhewala but this happened after the cease-fire . the Indians suffered heavy casualties in this actions and it stopped their inching forward movement which as elsewhere, they had started after the cease-fire agreement.