Pakistan started it. It was supposed to be a short, sharp push over the border into the disputed territory. Pakistan had prepared well, both militarily and diplomatically. Initially, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (IROP) gained tactical surprise over the armed forces of the Republic of India (ROI). Diplomatically, Pakistan secured the support of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
That was three weeks ago. Now? Well, it’s all over now. As radioactive clouds still hover over the war zone, a new regime is being established in Islamabad. Beijing is facing the most severe diplomatic pressure it has faced since the Korean War, and an international team of soldiers and specialists are preparing to move into the region to help with the ecological disaster now unfolding.
How did it come to this?
Everything, it seems, went Pakistan’s way in the first week. Three corps, the I, X, and the FCNA Mountain corps pushed hard into the rugged terrain surrounding the coveted vale of Kashmir.
Further south, the Pakistani XXX corps moved against the strategic border city of Jammu.
South of Lahore, the Pakistani XIV Corps was content to sit back in border fortifications and pin down the ROI XI Corps while the II Corps crossed the Sutlej River and drive on Abohar and Sri Ganganagar.
The Pakistani Air Force quickly achieved air superiority over the battlefield. The PRC were quick to lend a hand in achieving and maintaining this superiority.
The opening attacks from the north by the FCNA Mountain Infantry Corps were bloodily repulsed by mountain infantry of the ROI XV and XIV Corps. IROP forces never penetrated the border in any meaningful way in this sector.
Further south, it was a different story. X Corps overwhelmed the forward ROI divisions, while elements of I Corps cut the road to Jammu. By the end of the first week Jammu was being evacuated, as the ROI struggled to put together a defensive line behind the Chenab River south of Jammu.
Elements of the IROP II Corps crossed the Setlej River and secured a bridgehead over the river. The powerful 1 Armored Division pressed on to the city of Abohar. In the face of all this, the ROI X Corps fell back to Bathinda.
Both sides made ample use of special operations forces. Mostly these SOF teams were used to attack each other’s HQs, airfields and airbases, and air defense networks. In this particular arena, it appears that the ROI caused more havoc than the IROP. The reason for this was due to US teams that arrived soon after the conflict erupted. Soon, US SOF teams were blowing up radar sites in preparation for the arrival of US air power to the war zone.
By the end of the first week, however, attrition was taking its toll. Pakistani special forces had suffered over 50% losses. India’s losses were even higher. By the end of the conflict, only US and Chinese SOFs were still operating in the region.
By the end of the first week, Pakistani forces had captured the towns of Poonch, Rajauri, and Sunderbani in the wooded highlands, Akhnoor north of Jammu, and Fazilka north of Abohar. Clearing operations were underway in Jammu and Abohar. Things looked grim. Indian air losses were high and the ability to support ground forces was diminishing under the weight of IROP-PRC air power.
Then the US Navy arrived. A carrier battle group began supporting launching sorties against the Pakistani air defense network. Hornets were a welcome help to the beleaguered ROI Air Force, but still not nearly powerful enough to begin to turn the tide.
The US carrier strikes were a start, however, a harbinger of things to come. Over the next three days, US air power increased dramatically. Front-line F-15s and F-22 quickly took control of the air war. IROP and PRC fighter losses increased exponentially. Once the F-15s and F-22s arrived, the IROP and PRC never again regained control of the air.
While IROP air power was being systematically fed to the buzz saw, B-2 stealth bombers and American cruise missiles began a relentless pounding of enemy airbases. F-16DJ and EF-18G wild weasels suppressed and degraded the enemy air defense network. This freed F-15E strike eagles to began hitting the Pakistani heavy divisions. This set up the coup de grace in the ground war.
On the ground, key IROP divisions got bogged down in clearing operations in Jammu and Abohar. Pinned down by heavy American air strikes, IROP divisions north and south of Jammu were hit hard by a crushing counterattack by tanks and infantry of the ROI IX and XVI Corps. The heart of the Pakistani I Corps, the 6th armored and 37th infantry divisions, found themselves isolated while still clearing Jammu. Jammu had become a Pakistani Stalingrad.
In the south, the arrival of the ROI I and II Corps tore a huge gash in the Pakistani lines by mauling the divisions clearing Abohar. This opened the door to an advance virtually unopposed into the southern flank of the Pakistani lines.
In the highlands, the Indian 50th airborne brigade was landed by helicopter into the highland town of Rajauri. Seizure of the airfield there allowed the 6th Mountain Division to be brought in by air transport. The war had completely turned around.
As the Pakistani X corps turned about from its attempt at forcing the pass into the vale of Kashmir and faced this new threat to its rear, the ROI IX and XVI Corps advanced on, captured, and cleared the city of Siākot, thus making safe the strategic city of Jammu.
It was at this stage that the Pakistani regime made its fateful decision. Nuclear release was authorized. To everyone’s horror, nuclear weapons were deployed against the Indian I, II, and IX Corps.
The attacks were successful, but proved to be too little, too late. Battlefield use of nuclear weapons found tactical success, but resulted in strategic failure. Within hours, international outrage had translated into a UN resolution and Pakistan’s abandonment by the People’s Republic of China.
The war is over. India is victorious. But at what cost?