In the contemporary world of mass media, Pakistanis fighting in Bangladesh first heard of the attacks on Pakistan from breathless BBC and CNN reporters. The onset of another India-Pakistan war at this time was no surprise, and international media were prepared. Indians, too, were for the first time seeing what their military was doing to Pakistan. The awesome conflagrations in Karachi harbor and Sui Gas works, in particular, were manna from heaven for international media who were always on the lookout for a spectacular disaster to boost their ratings.
The effect on the Pakistanis in Bangladesh was as predicted by Gen Tomar. Their morale, already brittle from the strains of the last several months, now collapsed totally. It was not as if the Pakistanis were cowards. They would have willingly fought the Indians, but this was not their place or their war. Entire units deserted their posts, and made harbor wards in their desperation to catch the first ship home. They were too frantic to get back to Pakistan to even consider the little matter of India’s throttling naval blockade of Bangladesh. Bangladeshi units and populace were severely discombobulated by their hostility towards the now seriously unpopular Pakistanis; their contempt of the ruling junta that had brought about the turn of events; and by their animosity to the overbearing power of India’s military.
Lt Gen Bandhukwala, an astute veteran of countless CI campaigns, soon caught on to the changed tenor of his campaign. A glory seeker would have seized the opportunity to unleash his formations in a spectacular dash to Dhaka, crushing any remaining opposition in his way. But Bandhukwala grasped that the essence of his mandate was to rebuild the India-Bangla relationship. Humiliating the strife-weary Banglas, already seething in animosity at perceived Indian hegemony, would have been totally counterproductive to India’s true aims on the Eastern Front. So Bandhukwala changed tack dramatically, within hours of the initial fire assault. His appreciation was that any opposition to his army would be from the jehadis and some hard core junta supporters. The majority of Bangla army and populace would be ready for an honourable rapprochement that included reinstatement of their own democratically elected leaders. So Hormaz entered Bangladesh through West Bengal, and instructed all his corps and division commanders to personally take charge of their formations advances. The intended pincers were now converted to a slow advance with a series of public ceremonies for reestablishing contacts with “estranged” Bangla army units, who were allowed to use the opportunity to declare their allegiance to the constitutionally elected government currently operating from exile in Calcutta. His altruism, however, did not stop him from using the opportunity to address the festering problem of ULFA and jehadi camps in Bangladesh. These experienced some tender loving care; joint forces units also fanned out in the chaos to hunt for any remaining nukes.
By the second day itself, the Bangla military junta had sensed the winds of change, and was sending out feelers to Norway for an exile package. The Indian government, with its hands full on the western front, was quite willing to look the other way while these negotiations got underway through the auspices of the Norwegian embassy in Dhaka. The exiled Bangla leadership began to make public noises about reclaiming their mandate; the situation on the eastern front was fast becoming one a post-conflict consolidation.
The picture was totally different on the Western Front.
The median age of Pakistani population at the time of the war was 28 years. This ment that most Pakistanis, and all soldiers of the Pakistani army grew up on an diet of unceasing hositily towards India and all things Indian. They were indoctrinated on the evilness of Hindus; on what they did to East Pakistan; on how they raped and massacred muslims in Kashmir, Ayodhya and Gujarat. The Pakistani soldier is a simple person – he may not buy into complicated theology, but he does rely on his religion for getting him though his harsh, brutal life. He also loves his country in spite of all the imperfections of the ruling system, because that is the only type of rule he knows about. Pakistanis were also keenly aware of Pakistan’s role in the terrorism in Punjab, Kashmir and other places in India, and were genuinely terrified of what the Indians would do to extract their revenge.
The Indian soldier in the west fought out of a sense of discipline; for the izzat of his regiment; for the abstract ideals of duty, honour, country. The Pakistani soldier, on the other hand, fought for survival; for home; for the only way of life he knew. He fought with the desperation of a cornered animal. He fought for every inch as if it was the last that could be ceded before national dissolution. He fought like a man possessed for every MG nest, bunker, height, water line obstacle. When Indian artillery gouged huge craters and evaporated entire platoons, others would step in to fight from the rubble. Taking a page out of the jehadi brethrens’ war manual, the regular army soldiers strapped on mines to their bodies and infiltrated Indian lines. Every Indian armoured advance was greeted with a storm of the derisively termed Butter Chicken anti-tank missiles. Pakistani artillery, way outmatched in numbers, quality and firepower, relied on old fashioned human observers to mount shoot and scoot attacks on Indian concentrations. Scrappy F-7s rose, kamikaze like, to face off against gorillas of F18Is, Su30MKIs, M2ks, and Jaguars. Refurbished Mirages 3s tore holes in Indian formations before going out in a blaze of glory.
The Indian soldiers fought hard and honourably, like they always do. They were highly motivated, disciplined to rock hardness, trained to a fine edge, and equipped with the best equipment their country could afford (after kickbacks, of course).
The fighting was primal in its ferocity. Vajra met vajra. Irresistible force met immovable object.
India’s army of decision, the proud Southwestern Command, was stopped cold in its tracks. Pakistan’s 34 Corps, augmented with 11 Infantry division from the west, fought off the combined assaults of the two pivot corps – India’s 10 and 1 Corps could barely make a dent in Pakistan’s first line of defence in southern Punjab and northern Sindh.
Lt Gen Avadhesh Kumar Jaiswal was in a towering rage. He had spent the last two days screaming alternately at the two hapless pivot corps commanders. Lt Gen Dushyant Saha, GOC of the Bhatinda based 10 Corps, was the current target of his ire. Gen Saha was seeking time for a deliberate assault, and time was a precious commodity that Avadhesh knew he had in very short supply. Save the elegant theory for your ****** IDSA fellowship, madarchod! Angry spittle sprayed Saha’s face. Then, abruptly, Gen Jaiswal went from combustible wrath to an even more terrifying glacial calm. Okay, Gen Saha. I order your units to take up defensive positions. Since you have proved to be incapable of breaking through a simple DCB line, I will now use 41 Arty to shoot 606 IBG in. Start making plans to open up lanes for 606. It will go in with Brigade plus frontage.