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Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts

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Since the partition of British India in 1947 and creation of dominions of India and Pakistan, the two countries have been involved in a number of wars, conflicts and military stand-offs. The Kashmir issue has been the main cause of all major conflicts between the two countries with the exception of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 where conflict originated due to turmoil in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).


Four nations (India, Pakistan, Dominion of Ceylon and Union of Burma) that gained independence in 1947 and 1948

The Partition of India came about in the aftermath of World War II, when both Great Britain and British India were dealing with the economic stresses caused by the war and its demobilisation.[1] It was the intention of those who wished for a Muslim state to come from British India to have a clean partition between independent and equal "Pakistan" and "Hindustan" once independence came.[2][failed verification]

The partition itself, according to leading politicians such as Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the All India Muslim League, and Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress, should have resulted in peaceful relations.[citation needed] As the Hindu and Muslim populations were scattered unevenly in the whole country, the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947 was not possible along religious lines.[citation needed] Nearly one third of the Muslim population of British India remained in India.[3][failed verification] Inter-communal violence between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims resulted in between 500,000 and 1 million casualties.[1]:6

Princely-ruled territories, such as Kashmir and Hyderabad, were also involved in the Partition. Rulers of these territories had the choice of joining India or Pakistan.


Refugees awaiting evacuation by IAF Dakota on Poonch Airstrip, December 1947.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1947

Indian soldiers during the 1947–1948 war.

The war, also called the First Kashmir War, started in October 1947 when Pakistan feared that the Maharaja of the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu would accede to India. Following partition, princely states were left to choose whether to join India or Pakistan or to remain independent. Jammu and Kashmir, the largest of the princely states, had a majority Muslim population and significant fraction of Hindu population, all ruled by the Hindu Maharaja Hari Singh. Tribal Islamic forces with support from the army of Pakistan attacked and occupied parts of the princely state forcing the Maharaja to sign the Instrument of Accession of the princely state to the Dominion of India to receive Indian military aid. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 on 22 April 1948. The fronts solidified gradually along what came to be known as the Line of Control. A formal cease-fire was declared at 23:59 on the night of 1 January 1949.[4]:379 India gained control of about two-thirds of the state (Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh) whereas Pakistan gained roughly a third of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit–Baltistan). The Pakistan controlled areas are collectively referred to as Pakistan administered Kashmir.[5][6][7][8]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

This war started following Pakistan's Operation Gibraltar, which was designed to infiltrate forces into Jammu and Kashmir to precipitate an insurgency against rule by India. India retaliated by launching a full-scale military attack on West Pakistan. The seventeen-day war caused thousands of casualties on both sides and witnessed the largest engagement of armored vehicles and the largest tank battle since World War II.[9][10] The hostilities between the two countries ended after a ceasefire was declared following diplomatic intervention by the Soviet Union and USA and the subsequent issuance of the Tashkent Declaration.[11] India had the upper hand over Pakistan when the ceasefire was declared.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi, the commander of Pakistan Eastern Command, signing the instrument of surrender in Dhaka on 16 Dec 1971, in the presence of India's Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora.
Pakistan's PNS Ghazi, the Pakistani submarine which sank during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War under mysterious circumstances[21] off the Visakhapatnam coast.

This war was unique in the way that it did not involve the issue of Kashmir, but was rather precipitated by the crisis created by the political battle brewing in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) between Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Leader of East Pakistan, and Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leaders of West Pakistan. This would culminate in the declaration of Independence of Bangladesh from the state system of Pakistan. Following Operation Searchlight and the 1971 Bangladesh atrocities, about 10 million Bengalis in East Pakistan took refuge in neighbouring India.[22] India intervened in the ongoing Bangladesh liberation movement.[23][24] After a large scale pre-emptive strike by Pakistan, full-scale hostilities between the two countries commenced.

Pakistan attacked at several places along India's western border with Pakistan, but the Indian Army successfully held their positions. The Indian Army quickly responded to the Pakistan Army's movements in the west and made some initial gains, including capturing around 5,795 square miles (15,010 km2)[25][26][27] of Pakistan territory (land gained by India in Pakistani Kashmir, Pakistani Punjab and Sindh sectors but gifted it back to Pakistan in the Simla Agreement of 1972, as a gesture of goodwill). Within two weeks of intense fighting, Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered to the joint command of Indian and Bangladeshi forces following which the People's Republic of Bangladesh was created.[28] This war saw the highest number of casualties in any of the India-Pakistan conflicts, as well as the largest number of prisoners of war since the Second World War after the surrender of more than 90,000 Pakistani military and civilians.[29] In the words of one Pakistani author, "Pakistan lost half its navy, a quarter of its air force and a third of its army".[30]

Indo-Pakistani War of 1999

Indian soldiers after winning a battle during the Kargil War.

Commonly known as the Kargil War, this conflict between the two countries was mostly limited. During early 1999, Pakistani troops infiltrated across the Line of Control (LoC) and occupied Indian territory mostly in the Kargil district. India responded by launching a major military and diplomatic offensive to drive out the Pakistani infiltrators.[31] Two months into the conflict, Indian troops had slowly retaken most of the ridges that were encroached by the infiltrators.[32][33] According to official count, an estimated 75%–80% of the intruded area and nearly all high ground was back under Indian control.[34] Fearing large-scale escalation in military conflict, the international community, led by the United States, increased diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to withdraw forces from remaining Indian territory.[31][35] Faced with the possibility of international isolation, the already fragile Pakistani economy was weakened further.[36][37] The morale of Pakistani forces after the withdrawal declined as many units of the Northern Light Infantry suffered heavy casualties.[38][39] The government refused to accept the dead bodies of many officers,[40][41] an issue that provoked outrage and protests in the Northern Areas.[42][43] Pakistan initially did not acknowledge many of its casualties, but Nawaz Sharif later said that over 4,000 Pakistani troops were killed in the operation and that Pakistan had lost the conflict.[44][45] By the end of July 1999, organized hostilities in the Kargil district had ceased.[35] The war was a major military defeat for the Pakistani Army.[46][47]

Other armed engagements

Apart from the aforementioned wars, there have been skirmishes between the two nations from time to time. Some have bordered on all-out war, while others were limited in scope. The countries were expected to fight each other in 1955 after warlike posturing on both sides, but full-scale war did not break out.[11]

Standing armed conflicts

Past skirmishes and standoffs

  • Indian integration of Junagadh: The princely state of Junagadh, which had a Hindu majority and a Muslim ruler acceded to Pakistan on 15 September 1947, claiming a connection by sea. Pakistan's acceptance of the Instrument of Accession was seen as a strategy to get a plebiscite held in Kashmir which had a Muslim majority and a Hindu ruler. Following communal tensions Indian military entered the territory which was protested by Pakistan as a violation of International law. Later a plebiscite was held and the accession was reversed for the state to join India.[56][57][58][59]
  • Operation Brasstacks: The largest of its kind in South Asia, it was conducted by India between November 1986 and March 1987. Pakistani mobilisation in response raised tensions and fears that it could lead to another war between the two neighbours.[11]:129[60]
  • 2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff: The terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December 2001, which India blamed on the Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, prompted the 2001–2002 India–Pakistan standoff and brought both sides close to war.[61]
  • 2008 India Pakistan standoff: a stand-off between the two nations following the 2008 Mumbai attacks which was defused by diplomatic efforts. Following ten coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city, tensions heightened between the two countries since India claimed interrogation results alleging[62][63] Pakistan's ISI supporting the attackers while Pakistan denied it.[64][65][66] Pakistan placed its air force on alert and moved troops to the Indian border, voicing concerns about proactive movements of the Indian Army[67] and the Indian government's possible plans to launch attacks on Pakistani soil.[68] The tension defused in short time and Pakistan moved its troops away from border.
  • India–Pakistan border skirmishes (2016–2018): On 29 September 2016, border skirmishes between India and Pakistan began following reported "surgical strikes" by India against militant launch pads across the Line of Control in Pakistani-administered Azad Kashmir.[69] Pakistan rejected that a strike took place,[70] stating that Indian troops had not crossed the Line of Control but had only skirmished with Pakistani troops at the border, resulting in the deaths of two Pakistani soldiers and the wounding of nine.[71][72] Pakistan rejected India's reports of any other casualties.[73] Pakistani sources reported that at least 8 Indian soldiers were killed in the exchange, and one was captured.[74][75] India confirmed that one of its soldiers was in Pakistani custody, but denied that it was linked to the incident or that any of its soldiers had been killed.[76] The Indian operation was said to be in retaliation for a militant attack on the Indian army at Uri on 18 September in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir that left 19 soldiers dead.[77][78] In the succeeding days and months, India and Pakistan continued to exchange fire along the border in Kashmir, resulting in dozens of military and civilian casualties on both sides.
  • 2019 India–Pakistan standoff: On 14 February 2019, in the 2019 Pulwama attack, the Pakistan-based, terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on a military convoy that killed over 40 Indian soldiers.[79] India claimed on 26 February 2019, in retaliation, Indian Mirage 2000 jets conducted an air strike on a terrorist camp in Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunwa province of Pakistan.[80][81] India claimed that it killed very large number of militants belonging to JeM[82] However, Pakistan claimed that its air force quickly scrambled to intercept the Indian air force attack, causing the attacking planes to drop their payload hurriedly in a wooded area near Balakot, causing four explosions and damage to conifers.[83] According the neutral source and satellite imagery analysis, Indian air force appears to caused no visible damage to the exterior of the buildings concerned.[84][85][86][87] The incidents escalated the tension between India and Pakistan. The following day, Pakistani officials announced that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had carried out airstrikes against targets inside Indian administered Kashmir. It also claimed to have shot down at least one Indian aircraft and capturing one pilot. Pakistan military officials claimed that the wreckage of one Indian aircraft fell in Pakistan administered Kashmir while the other one fell in Indian administered Kashmir.[88] Indian officials confirmed that Pakistan airforce had conducted airstrikes in Indian administered Kashmir. Indian officials initially rejected any Indian aircraft being shot down but later confirmed that one of their planes had crashed after Pakistani officials had uploaded the video of captured pilot. The captured pilot was identified to be Abhinandan Varthaman.[89] India claimed Abhinandan had shot down a Pakistani F-16 that violated its airspace, during the dogfight. The IAF also displayed remnants of an AIM-120 AMRAAM missile that they claimed could only be fired by F-16's air planes.[90]


Nuclear weapons

The nuclear conflict between both countries is of passive strategic nature with nuclear doctrine of Pakistan stating a first strike policy, although the strike would only be initiated if and only if, the Pakistan Armed Forces are unable to halt an invasion (as for example in 1971 war) or a nuclear strike is launched against Pakistan,[citation needed] whereas India has a declared policy of no first use.

  • Pokhran-I (Smiling Buddha): On 18 May 1974 India detonated an 8-kiloton[98] nuclear device at Pokhran Test Range, becoming the first nation to become nuclear capable outside the five permanent members of United Nations Security Council as well as dragging Pakistan along with it into a nuclear arms race[99] with the Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto swearing to reciprocate India quoting "My countrymen would prefer having a nuclear bomb even if they have to eat grass".[100] The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Chairman Munir Ahmed Khan said that the test would force Pakistan to test its own nuclear bomb.[101]
  • Kirana-I: In the 1980s a series of 24 different cold tests were conducted by PAEC, led by chairman Munir Ahmad Khan under extreme secrecy.[102] The tunnels at Kirana Hills, Sargodha, are reported to have been bored after the Chagai nuclear test sites, it is widely believed that the tunnels were constructed sometime between 1979 and 1983. As in Chagai, the tunnels at Kirana Hills had been bored and then sealed and this task was also undertaken by PAEC's DTD.[102] Later due to excessive US intelligence and satellite focus on the Kirana Hills site,[citation needed] it was abandoned and nuclear weapons testing was shifted to the Kala Chitta Range.
  • Pokhran-II (Operation Shakti): On 11 May 1998 India detonated another five nuclear devices at Pokhran Test Range. With jubilation and large scale approval from the Indian society came International sanctions as a reaction to this test, the most vehement reaction of all coming from Pakistan. Great ire was raised in Pakistan, which issued a stern statement claiming that India was instigating a nuclear arms race in the region. Pakistan vowed to match India's nuclear capability with statements like: "We are in a headlong arms race on the subcontinent".[103][104]
  • Chagai-I: (Youm-e-Takbir) Within half a month of Pokhran-II, on 28 May 1998 Pakistan detonated five nuclear devices to reciprocate India in the nuclear arms race. Pakistani public, like the Indian, reacted with a celebration and heightened sense of nationalism for responding to India in kind and becoming the only Muslim nuclear power. The day was later given the title Youm-e-Takbir to further proclaim such.[105][106]
  • Chagai-II: Two days later, on 30 May 1998, Pakistan detonated a sixth nuclear device completing its own series of underground tests with this being the last the two nations have carried out to date.[106][107]

Annual celebrations

The nations of South Asia observe national and armed forces-specific days which originate from conflicts between India and Pakistan as follows:

Involvement of other nations

  •  Soviet Union:
    • The USSR remained neutral during the 1965 war[111] and played a pivotal role in negotiating the peace agreement between India and Pakistan.[112]
    • The Soviet Union provided diplomatic and military assistance to India during the 1971 war. In response to the US and UK's deployment of the aircraft carriers USS Enterprise and HMS Eagle, Moscow sent nuclear submarines and warships with anti-ship missiles in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, respectively.[113][114][115]
  •  United States:
    • The US had not given any military aid to Pakistan in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.[116]
    • The United States provided diplomatic and military support to Pakistan during the 1971 war by sending USS Enterprise into the Indian Ocean.[117][118][119]
    • The United States did not support Pakistan during the Kargil War, and successfully pressured the Pakistani administration to end hostilities.[31][120][121]
  •  China:
    • China had helped Pakistan in various wars with diplomatic support.[13][122][123]
  •  Russia:
    • Russia maintained a non-belligerent policy for both sides. Russia helped negotiate peace in 2001–02 and helped divert the 2008 crisis.[124][125]

In popular culture

These wars have provided source material for both Indian and Pakistani film and television dramatists, who have adapted events of the war for the purposes of drama and to please target audiences in their nations.

Indian films

Pakistani films, miniseries and dramas

See also


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    p. 53: The story of the Kargil War—Pakistan's biggest defeat by India since 1971 —is one that goes to the heart of why it lost the Great South Asian War.
    p. 64: Afterwards, Musharraf and his supporters would claim that Pakistan won the war militarily and lost it diplomatically. In reality, the military and diplomatic tides turned against Pakistan in tandem.
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  • David R. Higgins (2016), M48 Patton vs Centurion: Indo-Pakistan War 1965, Osprey Publishing, p. 103, ISBN 978-14-7281-094-6
  • Rachna Bisht (2015), 1965: Stories from the Second Indo-Pakistan War, Penguin UK, p. 60, ISBN 978-93-5214-129-6

External links