First Indo-Pakistan War
The first war was fought over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had been a notionally independent monarchy in British India. The terms of the British withdrawal had stipulated that such "princely states" were to join either India or Pakistan, according to certain guidelines. The first of these was that states with predominantly Muslim populations would accede to Pakistan, and states with predominantly Hindu populations would accede to India. The second was that states were to accede to the emerging country with which they shared a border. Kashmir had a primarily Muslim population and shared borders with both India and Pakistan. At first the monarch of Kashmir had refused to accede to either state. As the maharaja vacillated, a rebellion broke out in the western part of Kashmir. Hoping to take advantage of this rebellion to force the monarch to accede to Pakistan, the Pakistani leadership sent in regular troops disguised as local tribesmen. In order to obtain India's assistance to quell the rebellion and fend off the invaders, the maharaja agreed to India's terms: he acceded to India by signing the Instrument of Accession on October 26, 1947, and Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the leader of the largest secular and popular organization in the state, approved the accession to India. Shortly after Kashmir's accession, Indian troops landed in Srìnagar and blocked the advance of the invading forces. Fighting continued through early 1948. Mediation by the United Nations brought the war to a close on January 1, 1949. The total number of battle deaths was around 1,500.
Second Indo-Pakistan War
The second Indo-Pakistan war was also fought over Kashmir. It began on August 14, 1965. In January 1965, Pakistani military forces had made a series of illegal border crossings along the Rann of Kutch in the Indian state ofGujarat. As the region was of no great strategic significance, the Indian military response was not vigorous. The Pakistani military leadership concluded from this seemingly weak response that it was possible to forcibly wrest Kashmir from India.
Widespread disturbances had broken out in the Kashmir valley following the theft of a sacred relic, the Moe-e-Moqdas, from the Hazaratbal mosque in Srìnagar, the winter capital of Kashmir, in December 1963. Protests against Indian rule had reinforced the Pakistani belief that local Kashmiris would support a Pakistani invasion. As they had in 1947, the Pakistani military began infiltrating guerrilla forces, disguised as local tribesmen, into the Kashmir valley beginning in June 1965. These infiltrators were supposed to link up with Kashmiris disaffected with Indian rule and foment a full-fledged rebellion within the state. Then the Pakistani army would invade the Kashmir valley and seize it in a short, swift operation.
To the surprise of the Pakistanis, however, the local Kashmiris turned in the infiltrators to the Indian authorities. Despite this, the Pakistani leadership continued infiltration efforts throughout the summer of 1965. As the Indian authorities moved to seal the border, a number of skirmishes took place in August along the Ceasefire Line, the de facto border established after the 1947-1948 war in Kashmir. On September 1, 1965, the Pakistan army launched a major assault on Kashmir; a second, on September 5, penetrated 14 miles into Indian territory. To relieve pressure on the Kashmir front, Indian forces counter-attacked in thePunjab, near the Pakistani city of Lahore, and they crossed the international border. By mid-September 1965, the war had reached a stalemate. On September 20, the United Nations Security Council called for a ceasefire, to which both sides agreed by September 22.
This second war was costlier in terms of both personnel and material than the 1947-1948 conflict. India suffered about 3,000 casualties and Pakistan about 3,800. Following the imposition of the ceasefire, the Indian prime minister met with the Pakistani president in the Central Asian city ofTashkent on January 4, 1966, to negotiate a settlement. Although both sides made important territorial concessions in returning to the borders, the underlying causes of the Kashmir dispute were never resolved. The dispute continues to this day.
Third Indo-Pakistan War
The third war between India and Pakistan began after a civil war in the East Pakistan (nowBangladesh) province of Pakistan over the demand for regional autonomy. In December 1970, Pakistan had held nationwide elections. In East Pakistan, a locally based political party, the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, won an overwhelming majority of the parliamentary seats available. In the western part of Pakistan, the Pakistan People's Party of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto won the bulk of the parliamentary seats. Negotiations on power sharing between the two wings of Pakistan broke down by February 1971, after both sides had taken rigid stances. The growing political turmoil in East Pakistan produced increasing demands for regional autonomy.
On March 26, the Pakistani army began a crackdown on Dacca (nowDhaka), the capital of East Pakistan. Although estimates of casualties vary, it is widely held that well over 100,000 Bengali students, intellectuals, and professionals were systematically killed in the first several days of this military crackdown. Unprecedented numbers of refugees began to flood from East Pakistan into the neighbouring Indian state of West Bengal. By about mid-May 1971, the refugee population had climbed to around 9.8 million.
Faced with an extraordinary refugee burden, India made several diplomatic attempts to arrange a return of the refugees to East Pakistan. These attempts all failed. A group of Indian statesmen successfully argued that it would be cheaper to fight another war with Pakistan than to absorb almost 10 million refugees into India's already bloated population. Accordingly, Prime MinsterIndira Gandhi fashioned a strategy designed to accomplish two objectives: the return of the refugees and the creation of a new state in East Pakistan.
As part of this strategy, in order to prevent the People's Republic of China (PRC) from coming to the assistance of Pakistan, India signed a treaty of "peace, friendship, and cooperation" with the Soviet Union in August 1971. This treaty obligated each party to assist the other in the event of a clear threat to national security.
As indigenous resistance to the Pakistani army crackdown grew in East Pakistan, the Indians began providing the resistance movement, known as the Mukti Bahini ("liberation force"), with sanctuaries, training, and weaponry. By November 1971, the Mukti Bahini was attacking military installations in East Pakistan from bases along the Indian border. Unable to deter these attacks, Pakistan declared war on India along the western frontier on December 3, 1971.
The Indian army moved quickly into East Pakistan, and by December 16, 1971, had routed the Pakistani forces. On December 17, both India and Pakistan declared ceasefires. This war proved to be the costliest of the three Indo-Pakistani conflicts in terms of personnel and material losses. Pakistan lost some 9,000 men and India about 2,500.
Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war led to the creation of Bangladesh. India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as an independent state.