Army, Navy and Airforce strategies


West and East Pakistan

ARMY Strategies

The South Western sector

India’s Eastern Command targeted all Pakistani communication centres. Dacca became the terminal objective.
The South Western sector was allotted to 2 CORPS which comprised 4 INFANTRY DIVISION, 9 INFANTRY DIVISION, 50 PARA BRIGADE less a battalion, and an Armoured Regiment of PT-76 tanks with a squadron of T-55 tanks.

Head towards Madhumati river, capture Jessore, Jhendia
Secure Hardinge bridge, Goalundo Ghat, Faridpur ferries and Khulna.

The North Western sector

The North Western sector was allotted to 33 CORPS which comprised 20 MOUNTAIN DIVISION and 71 MOUNTAIN BRIGADE.

Cut the Hilli- Gaibanda line and to capture Bogra and Rangpur.

The Central Sector

The Central Sector was allotted to 101 COMMUNICATION ZONE comprising 95 MOUNTAIN BRIGADE and F1 sector.

Capture Jamalpur, Mymensingh and subsequently Tangail.

Master Plan

A para drop by a battalion group was to take place at Tangail near Dacca. The Eastern sector was allotted to 4 CORPS which comprised 8 MOUNTAIN DIVISION, 23 MOUNTAIN DIVISION and 57 MOUNTAIN DIVISION.

Advance to the Meghna river, capture Maulvi Bazar, Sylhet, Mynamati, Lalmai Hills (South) – Laksham and Chandpur.


RAW (The Research and Analysis Wing, the primary foreign intelligence agency of India) helped Mukti Bahini and the Indian Army sometimes used artillery force in border clashes to provide cover for Mukti Bahini.

India had 15 CORPS and 11 CORPS under the Western Command

Objective : Confront West Pakistani soldiers in Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

Southern Command

Southern Command had 11 and 12 INFANTRY DIVISIONS

Objective :
Engage the Pakistani army in the desert sector.

East Pakistani Army Strategy

Gen A A K Niazi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of East Pakistan, adopted the fortress form of defence. He occupied important communication centres, filled gaps with patrols held all important bridges and communication centres in strength.

Accordingly fortresses were created at towns of: Jessore, Jhendia, Bogra, Rangpur, Jamalpur, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Bhairab Bazar, Comilla and Chittagong. No troops were earmarked for Dacca, apparently as no one imagined the fall of Dacca or collapse of East Pakistan.

Broadly the north west sector was allotted to 16 INFANTRY DIVISION with Headquarters at Bogra, 9 INFANTRY DIVISION for the defence of South Western sector with Headquarters at Jessore, 14, 39 INFANTRY DIVISION in the Eastern sector with Headquarters at Ashuganj and Chandpur respectively. Apart from this, he had a brigade at Mymensingh-Jamalpur.

West Pakistani Army Strategy

On the western front, Pakistan deployed nine infantry divisions, an Army Reserve North and an Army Reserve South, which comprised Armoured Divisions.

Out of these, six divisions were to hold ground and would therefore have three infantry divisions and two armoured divisions for launching a Corps sized offensive.
A contingency plan and a war game lasting for 94 days was plotted by Pakistan

A reserve force was created- armoured divisions, infantry divisions, armoured brigades.

The support of Pakistan’s air force was required to support the ground operations.
They started sending troops to East Bengal for control of the villages.

Forward Defence Posture:

Pakistan began to launch raids on Indian borders on pretext of encountering terrorists along the borders but their aim was to crush Mukti Bahini. They fortified defences along the East Bengal borders with supplies of 15-30 days and raised new units to meet the manpower shortage. East Pakistan planned a large number of ambushes along the border in a series of continuous mini wars. The aim was to deplete the Central reserve and destroy the cohesion and formation of the Indian army.

Holding Force and Strike Force (West Pakistan):

Two armoured divisions and ten infantry divisions were divided into the holding force and strike force to control J&K, Punjab and Rajasthan border.

In Azad Kashmir – 12 to 23 Infantry Divisions

Along Chenab and Ravi Rivers – 8 and 15 Infantry Divisions

Lahore and Bhawalpore Sector – Indep Bde Gp

In Sind Facing Rajasthan border – 18 Infantry Divisions

Formidable Strike Force – 2 Armoured Divisions, Three Infantry Divisions


Hold Ground, Attempt Limited and Offensive Thrust, Tie Down the Indian Troops, Assess their strength in different sectors


Pakistan Planned Infiltration in the West

West Pakistan’s Objective

Capture Poonch, launch a corps offensive in Chhamb sector and desert sector of Rajasthan.


Air Force Strategies
The attack from Pakistan as well as China was already appreciated beforehand by IAF. China at the time was facing logistical problems in respect to the airbases. The IAF was instructed not to make any offensive move against China except if China strikes first.
The plan of the Indian Air Force was to

  • Defend home bases against enemy air attacks
  • Support the army on ground, maintain air situation over tactical area
  • Take actions which will have outcome on the battles at land
  • Conduct Counter Air Attack On Pakistani Air Force and destroy its air bases
  • Provide support to own forces
  • Provide maritime and air support to Navy

The Pakistani Air Force launched a preemptive strike on the evening of December 3, 1971 – “Operation Chengiz Khan” on eleven airfield in north western India including Agra.
Note: The Taj Mahal was camouflaged in twigs and leaves as its marble glowed like a beacon in moonlight.
Indian intelligence reports and information passed on by the Mukti Bahini on Pakistan army movements, all pointed to a surprise air attack by the Pakistani Air Force. The Indians move all aircraft at strategic bases to reinforced bunkers placing dummy aircraft in their stead.

Indian Air Force responded with retaliatory air strikes on the same night.
West Pakistani Airfields bombed the very night – Murid, Mianwali, Sargodha, Chander, Risalewala, Rafiqui, and Masroor.
In the East, the IAF bombed airfields at – Chittagong, Jessore, Tezgaon and Kurmitola.
Damage done to – PAF sabre jets.

Seahawk attack aircraft from INS Vikrant attacked many coastal towns, and decimated Pakistani ships at Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar harbours, and later Khulna and Mongla.
By the first week of the war, the Indian Air Force dominated the skies achieving near total air supremacy.

The Central Air Command Headquarters of IAF located at Allahabad and Eastern Command headquartered at Shillong. Air Marshal PC Lal in consultation with Lt Gen Jacob, COS Army Eastern Command created another headquarter at Fort William, Calcutta for better coordination.

IAF conducted missions like –

  • Troop Support
  • Air Combat
  • Deep Penetration Strike
  • Para Dropping Behind Enemy Lines
  • Distracting Enemy Fighters
  • Air Raids

With a huge amount of losses surviving PAF aircrafts took refuge at Iranian air bases.
Number of sorties by IAF –
1978 in the East and about 4000 in West
Number of sorties by PAF –
30 in the East and 2840 in the West
Loss of Aircrafts by IAF- 45 (approx)
Loss of Aircrafts by PAF- 75
There was also the involvement of
The nascent Bangladeshi Liberation Air Force, with three DHC Otters (fitted with machine guns) of Mukti Bahini Air Wing.
It launched successful Attacks on East Pakistan’s:
Chittagong Eastern Refinery
Narayanganj Godanail Fuel Dump
Pakistan’s 14 division HQ at Comilla

Under the command of Group Captain A.K. Khandkar and Squadron Leader Sultan Mahmood, intense training took place in night flying and instrumental navigation. After 2 months of training, the formation of the Bangladeshi air force was activated for combat. The first sortie was scheduled to take place on 28 November, but was moved back 6 days, to 2 December 1971. The Otter – flown by Flight Lt. Shamsul Alam, with co-pilot F.L. Akram – was moved to Kailashsahar, and was prepared for a mission against targets in Chittagong. The helicopter, piloted by Flight Lt. Sultan Mahmood and Flight Lt. Bodiul Alam, was to hit Narayanganj, flying from Teliamura.

The PAF’s F-6s on the other hand only patrolled its own bases and failed to conduct any offensive.

The PAF was reinforced by
F-104s from Jordan
Mirages from an unidentified Middle Eastern ally
F-86s from Saudi Arabia
Libyan F-5s

Naval Strategies
West Pakistan’s Naval headquarters, Karachi became a prime target for India after West Pakistan’s preemptive airstrikes on India. Karachi was heavily guarded and was the main hub for inflow of petroleum, arms and war supplies from its allies. The Indian Navy planned a surprise attack with simultaneous aerial bombardment in Karachi. A night attack also prevented any air support by Pakistani air force.

Identification and Targets by Indian Navy

Naval operations in the Arabian Sea were the responsibility of V Adm SN Kohli, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western naval Command at Bombay (Mumbai) and R Adm VA Kamath, Flag Officer Commanding, Southern Naval Area at Cochin (Kochi).

Seek And Destroy Strategies In The West:

INS Nirghat engaged its first target, the Pakistani destroyer, PNS Khaibar and fired the first Styx anti-ship missile. With a second strike the PNS Khaibar was destroyed.  INS Nirpat identified 2 targets approaching Karachi, The Venus Challenger, a merchant ship and the destroyer PNS Shahjahan. The Venus Challenger, a key target, was carrying a near full load of ammunition for the Pakistan Army and exploded in flames as the Indians fired on point. The Shahjahan sank in about 8 minutes after being hit by an Indian missile.  INS VEER’s missile hits minesweeper PNS Muhafiz destroying the vessel before she could send a transmission to Pakistan command.

INS Nipat continued towards Karachi targeted the port of Kemari in Karachi. It fired 2 missiles at the fuel storage tanks of the port. The port burned for 7 days.

Damages Done To Karachi Port: $3 billion.

Result: Most of Pakistan’s oil reserves and ammunition was destroyed. Pakistani Navy decided to withdraw all naval surface ships to harbour.

India’s Tiny Missile Boats : These boats attacked Pakistan’s heavily defended naval base after a safe passage through submarine infested waters.

All ports were to be made secure against pre-emptive underwater attacks and shores like Saurashtra.  To forestall sneak raids on Saurashtra coast – Missile Boats were designed by Soviet Navy were now being improvised for an offensive.


To counter PAF and PN submarines which would strike hard if IN units attacked Karachi, Pakistan’s maritime headquarters.


To stall underwater attacks by midget submarines on Bombay, Goa and Cochin – a pattern evolved for all Western Units to sail out whenever required.

To stop surprise attacks – Series of attacks against Karachi and Makran coast were planned so that PN either withdraws to Karachi or get destroyed at sea.

To stop the possible re-route of East Pakistan bound merchant ships under Pakistani authorities (potential threat)  via Sri Lanka – Merchant ships were captured and sealanes were denied to the enemy.

Safety For other Merchant Ships had to be planned to:

  • Ensure no damage to large number of US, Britain and Iranian warships were present in North Arabian Sea for CENTO (The Central Treaty Organization) exercises.
  • Safeguard Innocent neutral merchant ships during the missile attacks as well.


IN trapped PN to believe INS was operating off Visakhapatnam while it was operating many miles away. Many other ships masqueraded as INS and made signals to various authorities.

Naval Strategy In The East:

Naval blockade in Bay Of Bengal isolated East Pakistani Navy and foreign merchant ships.

Pakistani Navy in The East  were frequently carrying out exercises at sea, patrol crafts were being camouflaged. On 24th November 1971, the Pakistani Commander in Chief took control of shipping and routing Pakistani merchant ships. All aircrafts were prohibited from flying within Karachi port by November end.  These developments indicated strategies for a full scale war by end November/early December. The PN (Pakistani Navy) strategy was to inflict the maximum damage to incoming IN units.

The Eastern Naval Command under Vice Admiral Krishnan isolated East Pakistan via a naval blockade in East Pakistan.

Blocked and Tracked: Eastern Pakistani Navi and Eight Foreign Merchant  ships

INS Vikrant was deployed and its Sea Hawk fighter bombers attacked many coastal towns in East Pakistan like Chittangong and Cox Bazar.

East Pakistani Navy countered this by deploying: PNS Ghazi which sank off Visakhapatnam’s coast.

The Gunboat Squadron or Brown Water Navy of East Pakistan under Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff who also served as the right-hand of Lieutenant-General Niazi, each crewed by 29 sailors was effective only for anti-insurgency operations and suffered in this war.