Why did Pakistan lose the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War?

Mudassir Ali
Jan 05, 2020 04:49 PM 1 Answers
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Why did Pakistan lose the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War?

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Sep 30, 2021

Besides the simple fact that tyranny never wins over freedom struggle, there are numerous reasons why Pakistan lost the war.I have tried to point out some of those:

->Catching India off guard was the only way Pakistan army could inflict any serious damage to India’s war making capability in 1971(particularly on western front). They had some success in this area when they preemptively bombed some Indian cities and bases on 3rd December. This was actually a good strategy as India has a ‘attack only if attacked first’ policy and Indian ground forces were already mobilized in the western front(in case of an attack,given their past experiences with Pakistani’s in 47 and 65). But the fatal flaw in this operation was that IAF wouldn’t have allowed large scale air raids as their numbers were significantly higher, so the operation was done using no more than 50 planes. The Pakistani high command(I assume) thought and hoped that these planes would inflict significant damages to the airbases thus slowing Indian mobilization. But in reality this plan can’t be successful and wasn’t successful for many reasons (but it should be noted that even with a meager force of less than 50 planes PAF has raided 11 air fields without losing a single plane in the operation which was a significant success, but just wasn’t big enough to make any significant difference in the outcome of the war).This attack gave India a valid reason to attack Pakistan and IAF had started its raids on the same night.

->Military support from western countries was the biggest hope for Pakistan against India in 1971 and it did have USA,UK,Saudi Arabia and even Indonesia … backing it both diplomatically and militarily. If USSR hasn’t supported India, then Pakistanis would have had a very good chance of winning the war with the help of US task force 74 which had USS Enterprise(World’s first nuclear powered aircraft carrier) and “Eagle” from UK. Although Indian Navy deployed INS Vikrant near Andaman as a part of a naval blockade to deter Enterprise, I don’t think it would be a match to the Enterprise in long run(as it was a WW2 era carrier built by British and was given the name HMS Hercules). But we are talking about cold war era..! So USSR obviously supported India (please note that I am not saying that this was the only reason for USSR support). INS Vikrant along with Soviet submarines thus successfully held off any naval intervention from western powers.

-> As we know, China supported Pakistan in this war. So Pakistani high command was hoping that a third front will be opened at Chinese border which will effectively drive India into defensive. But China feared that any actual intervention would result in Russia’s aggression toward its border. So, this proved to be a dead end as well for the Pakistani’s.

->Pakistan army at that time actually had good military equipment which it imported from western countries, but it’s numbers were no match to Indian army numbers. This was one of the primary reasons why Pakistan lost in 1971, and couldn’t mount a successful campaign in the remaining wars either.

->Pakistan had a standing army of 365000 men and 25000 paramilitary of which 90000 were stationed in East Pakistan(i.e Bangladesh). These were no small numbers, but the problem was logistical supply. It can’t send any of its troops through ground to Bangladesh as they have to pass through a hostile(to them) nation i.e India. For the same reason they can’t send through air as IAF was guarding Indian skies, making them impregnable. Sending from all the way through SriLanka was not always practical. So the only remaining option is the naval option.Pakistan’s navy at that time was actually quite good with 3 Daphne class and 1 Tench class submarines and can effectively combat Indian navy. But it’s numbers didn’t allow it to carry out operations on both sides and it was needed for support in West Pakistan, should India attack first(which never happened in Indo-Pak wars). Their ships and their flagship submarine PNS Ghazi(the mission was to attack INS Vikrant thus developing a naval blockade in East Pakistan and had it been successful it could have at least for some time halted Indian naval activity in the region) was sunk by INS Rajput at Vishakapatnam coast and their ships were pinned down. This incident tells us two things :First, the courage of the crew who knew there would be an absence of repair facilities and logistical supply in the vicinity (Although the officer in command for submarine operations and commander of the submarine objected the plan, it was still carried). Second, the poor decision making of Pakistani high command, as they never in the duration of the war sent a considerable force at a time to the Eastern front, instead sent forces bit by bit thus making them easy prey for INS (Ghazi was first spotted at Ceylon, so to be factual they never stood a chance without any immediate support). Even if they succeeded in this operation they could have only fractured INS Vikrant before losing their submarine as Vikrant had support from other vessels like Rajput in the region. So, either way it was a suicidal mission. This was a fatal mistake as Ghazi according to my opinion could have proved more useful in western front particularly after the attack on the port of Karachi during Operation Trident and Operation Python by Indian navy which completely crippled Pakistan’s ability to wage a naval war as Karachi was their biggest port at that time. Thus, though effective the PNS failed due to a variety of reasons like the above mentioned brilliant operations conducted by Indian navy.(I say brilliant because Karachi was at that time most heavily guarded ports of Pakistan with both aerial and naval support, still Indian navy preemptively attacked it successfully without losing a single ship which was quite remarkable, thus halting the Pakistan’s naval activity in western sphere also and creating a complete naval blockade in both the regions)

-> Lastly, the psychological state of the Pakistani soldiers in East Pakistan should be considered. They were surrounded on all sides with no naval or air support. So there really was no point in fighting to last man at least on the Eastern front. Thankfully the Pakistani high command realized this and thus Mukthi Bahani along with Indian army emerged victorious taking nearly 90000 POW’s and treated them in strict accordance to Geneva convention rules. What’s really great on Indian part is that they could have demanded anything for those men, instead they to chose to return all the prisoners unconditionally along with the 13000 sq.kms of territory they occupied in West Pakistan(except few strategic points like Turtuk) in accordance to Shimla agreement in 1972. This shows the moral soundness of a nation(although many till date feel that India was lenient with Pakistan in this agreement and that Pakistan didn’t keep its end of the bargain by attacking Kargil in 1999), which frankly is quite rare in human history.

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