Independence Day 2018: The Wars That Indian Armed Forces Fought Since 1947
Representational Image (Photo Credits: IANS)

India became independent on August 15, 1947. Not only land but Indian armed forces were also divided between the two newly formed countries, India and Pakistan. Four of the ten Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army. Army Day was celebrated on January 15 every year, as on this day in 1949 Lt. General K M Criappa, the first Indian taking over as Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. After Indian independence, India fought five wars with neighbouring Pakistan and China.

Kashmir War (1947):

During the partition, Princely states were given an option to go with India or with Pakistan or to remain an autonomous entity. Kashmir, one of the princely states was under the rule of Hindu King, Hari Singh with Muslim majority population. The ruler of Kashmir decided to be an autonomous entity. However, immediately after the Independence, Afghan tribals backed by the Pakistani Army attacked Kashmir on October 22, 1947, to take control of the state. The ruler of the state sought help from India. He signed Instrument of Accession with India on October 26, 194, in return India sent its forces to the valley on October 27, 1947.

However, by the end of 1948, the United Nations called for a ceasefire, and both the forces were stopped from making any advances, and the line was formed which is now called Line of Control (LoC), since then it has divided Kashmir into two parts, Indian Held Kashmir and Pakistan Held Kashmir. The resolution was also passed in the UN, to hold a plebiscite in the region only after the complete withdrawal of Pakistani Army. However, it never happened till now.

Indo-Sino War of 1962:

There are various reasons with added fuel to the border conflict between India and China and it resulted in a war in 1962. China claimed Askai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh as its part. However, India always opposed it. China considered Askai Chin as part of Xinjiang because of its important road link that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China's construction of this road triggered the conflict. China also considered Arunachal Pradesh as part of Tibet. The other reason for the conflict was the Asylum given to the Dalai Lama by India in 1959. China took it as an Indian intervention in its internal matter.

In 1962, the Indian Army was ordered to move to the Thag La ridge located near the border between Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh which is about five km north of the disputed McMahon Line. Meanwhile, Chinese troops had also made incursions into the Indian-held territory. Tensions between the two countries increased after Indian forces discovered a road constructed by China in Aksai Chin.

The People's Liberation Army attacked Indian Army positions at the Thag La ridge. India was taken by surprise and by 12 October, the then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru gave orders for the Chinese to be expelled from Aksai Chin. However, poor coordination between various divisions of the army and India’s decision of not using the Indian Air Force cost India Askai Chin. Areas of Arunachal Pradesh occupied by China was returned to India. The dividing line between the Indian and Chinese forces was named the Line of Actual Control.

Indo-Pak War of 1965:

India and Pakistan clashed again in 1965. Pakistani President Ayub Khan launched ‘Operation Gibraltar’ in August 1965. Pakistani Paratroopers infiltrated into the Indian side of Kashmir and tried to ignite anti-India protests in the valley. India launched a counteroffensive. In reply, on September 1, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam. Almost 3,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives, while 3,800 Pakistani soldiers were killed. In the war, Pakistan lost 200-300 tanks, while India lost 150-190 tanks.

On September 10, India defeated Pakistan’s 1st Armoured Division at the battle of Asal Utar. The war also witnessed the largest tank battle since the World War II in the Battle of Chawinda. Although it was declared as inconclusive, India had the better of the war and was a clear winner in tactical and strategic terms. Due to diplomatic pressure from the United States and the United Nations, India accepted the ceasefire. Pre-war positions were maintained after the Agreement of Tashkent.

Indo-Pak war of 1971:

As a large number of Bangladeshi immigrants took refuge in India due to atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army, it extended its support for the Bengali rebels, known as Mukti Bahini. On December 3, 1971, Pakistan carried out aerial strikes on 11 Indian air bases. In retaliation, India launched a full-scale war against Pakistan. The Indian Army won several battles on the eastern front including the Battle of Hilli.

Pakistan also started the war on the western front. On the western front, Pakistan faced defeat in the Battle of Longewal in which 120 soldiers of 23 Punjab Regiment not only stopped the movement of the 51st Infantry Brigade of the Pakistani Army but also inflicted massive causality on the enemy. During the battle, the Indian Air Force directed its fighters to engage the Pakistani tanks. Almost 38 Pakistani tanks were destroyed. In Battle of Basantar too, Pakistan was defeated, in which 66 Pakistani Tanks were destroyed.

After Indian forces entered Dhaka under the command of Lt. General JS Arora, Pakistani Army was forced to surrender. Around 93,000 Pakistani soldiers surrender on 16th December. Lt General A A K Niazi signed an Instrument of Surrender. After the war, East Pakistan was separated from West Pakistan, and Bangladesh came into existence. In 1972, the Simla Agreement was signed between the two countries.

Kargil War of 1999:

The Kargil war was fought from May-July 99. It was generally an untold tradition that the armies of both the sides leave their bunkers at high altitude places move downwards, and later during summers, they reoccupy their bunkers. But in 1999, Pakistan took undue advantage of India’s trust, and when Indian soldiers vacated their bunkers during the winters, mujahideen backed Pakistan’s 12 Northern Light Infantry soldiers occupied the bunkers. The Kargil war was an example of betrayal of Pakistan as just three months before in February.

The then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Pakistan with a message of peace and with a firm determination to solve the Kashmir issue peacefully. Bus service was also started between New Delhi and Lahore. According to reports, the then Pakistani Army chief General Parvez Musharaf without any consultation with the federal government started infiltration into the Indian Side along the LoC. India came to know about Pakistan’s plan in May, when the Indian Army’s patrol party led by Captain Saurabh Kalia, went missing.

The army realised the gravity of the situation launched ‘Operation Vijay’ to wipe out the infiltrators. Later, Pakistan sent back mutilated bodies of the captain and his four soldiers. The war was fought at the regimental and battalion level. The main aim of Pakistan was to cut the connectivity of Leh with rest of India by controlling NH 1 D highway, which connects Srinagar and Leh. The Indian Air Force also launched ‘Operation Safed Sagar’ in the war zone to provide support to the Indian Army. The army captured the highest and the most significant peak, Tiger Hill on the morning of July 8. Later in the war, the army also used Bofors artillery guns to provide cover fire to the troops. On July 26, The Indian government declared Operation Vijay a success, and from then on, every year it is celebrated as ‘Vijay Diwas’.

Besides these wars, The Indian Armed Forces also fought a war with Portuguese Army to get control of Goa, Daman and Diu in 1961. The Indian army launched ‘Operation Meghdoot’ to capture Siachen Glacier in 1984. India also sent its peacekeeping forces to Sri Lanka as part of Operation Pawan to fight against LTTE in 1987. Apart from these conflicts, India is one of the largest contributors to the United Peacekeeping Force. Indian forces are currently carrying out counter-insurgency operations in forward areas in the Kashmir Valley and the North –Eastern part of the country.  Indian Paramilitary forces are supporting the Indian Army in fighting insurgency and even conducting operations in Naxalite affected areas to flush out Naxals. Since independence close 23,000 Indian Army soldiers sacrificed their lives in the line of duty.