The Tribune - Spectrum

, April 7, 2002

Wars fought well, who is the winner?
Rajendra Nath

With Honour and Glory: Wars Fought by India 1941-1999
by Maj Gen Jagjit Singh (retd). Lancer Publications and Distributors, New Delhi.
Pages: 341. Price: Rs. 595.

THERE is dearth of military literature in India though more publications have come out since the 1999 war in Kargil. This book covers a wider scenario and discusses various wars fought between India and Pakistan since 1947. It also gives a good coverage of operations of Kargil in ’99. The author is a well qualified officer who has already written The Saga of Ladakh -1962 and The Indian Gunners at War on the Western Front —1971. An Artillery officer, the author has carried out an in-depth analysis of the Indo-Pak problems that have resulted in four wars between the two countries. At the start, he has raised a pertinent issue: How is it that Pakistan, a country one fourth the size of India, has always managed to be the first to start the war?

He states that the Pakistani mindset is obsessed with the exploits of Mohd Ghauri who invaded India about a thousand years ago and defeated various Indian kings. Incidentally, Mohd. Ghauri was from Afghanistan and not the area which is at present called Pakistan. Yet Pakistan has named its missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads, Ghauri. According to the author, Kashmir is not really the core issue, as the rulers of Pakistan would have the world to believe. The aim is far more sinister and is, in fact, to destabilise India.


The book describes the partition of India as well as the integration of various states into India. The Indo-Pak war 1947-48 which started on October 22, 1947 is then dealt with in a precise manner, bringing out the salient features of the operations. The cease fire from January 1, 1949 allowed Pakistan to retain large J&K territory in the north under its possession which has allowed it to claim the remainder of the J&K state. Pakistan had captured Zojila Pass area as well as Kargil in 1948 but our forces recaptured them, thus opening the road to Leh. Pakistani forces were on the run when cease fire was accepted by India on January 1, 1949.

The book then narrates the various important events as well as battles fought in 1965 Indo-Pak war. Pakistan’s aim in the 1965 war was to capture J&K and so its main thrust was in J&K. India’s offensive in Punjab came as a big surprise to Pakistan. External pressure compelled India to terminate the hostilities when the Pakistani forces had suffered sufficient attritions, particularly in the tank fleet. "Regrettably, what the Indian soldier had won with so mulch loss of blood was given away at the political table at Tashkent."

The 1971 war is described in detail. The Indian Cabinet met in April 1971 to take a decision regarding Pakistan. The general opinion in the government, as well as among the population was to go for war in order to stop millions of refugees pouring into Indian from Bangladesh. However, when Gen Manekshaw was asked for his opinion he is reported to have bluntly replied: "I guarantee you 100 per cent defeat if you want to go in now". So Gen Manekshaw was given time to gear up the forces which had a large number of deficiencies. No wonder, India achieved a marvellous victory in Bangladesh resulting in surrender of one lakh Pakistani forces in Dhaka in December 1971 after a short campaign of 14 days only.

India signed the famous Shimla Agreement of July 2, 1972. As a result of this agreement, India returned 13,309 sq. km. to Pakistan while she got back only 916 sq km of territory from West Pakistan. India returned nearly one lakh prisoners to Pakistan hoping that it would ease the relations between the two countries. However, they deteriorated markedly when Gen Zia took over as military dictator. Terrorism was introduced in J&K and it is continuing till today. The war in Kargil in 1999 was a part of this over-all scenario.

At the end it gives useful suggestions to improve the defence setup of the country. The Defence Ministry and senior military officers as well as intellectuals of the country would do well to go through the thoughtful suggestions put forward by the author in the last two chapters. The book is well illustrated with a dozen photographs and maps and makes an interesting reading.