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Decoding politics: PM Modi says he would have taken Kartarpur gurdwara in 1971. Could India have done it? | News from the political pulse

Decoding politics: PM Modi says he would have taken Kartarpur gurdwara in 1971. Could India have done it?  |  News from the political pulse
Decoding politics: PM Modi says he would have taken Kartarpur gurdwara in 1971. Could India have done it?  |  News from the political pulse


Addressing an election rally in Patiala, Punjab on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that if he had been there, he would have ensured that the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan was captured by India before releasing the 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war after the 1971 battle between the two countries.

During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, a pitched battle took place between the Indian and Pakistani armies. Dera Baba Nanak sector in Punjab, a short distance from the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. The gurdwara, associated with Guru Nanak Dev, is located barely 2.46 km from the international border.

However, action in the Dera Baba Nanak sector was limited to capturing a Pakistani enclave near the gurdwara and denying the Pakistani army access to a road-rail bridge over the Ravi River which would would provide direct access to the town of Dera Baba Nanak in the Indian sector, with increased road and rail connectivity with the rest of Punjab.

How did the battle unfold in the Dera Baba Nanak sector?

The Army's 11th Corps, based in Jalandhar, was responsible for defending the area from the enclave of Dera Baba Nanak in the north to south of Anupgarh in Rajasthan. The 15th Division, based in Amritsar, was responsible for defending the Dera Baba Nanak enclave, and the 86th Infantry Brigade was deployed in the area.

Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.  (Wikimedia Commons) Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan. (Wikimedia Commons)

The task given to the 86th Infantry Brigade was to contain any Pakistani threat from the Kassowal enclave, a part of Indian territory across the Ravi River, which could provide a launching pad for the army Pakistani forces to attack Indian defenses in the region. Additionally, the brigade was to strike Pakistani defenses in the Jassar enclave, in order to protect the road-rail bridge and defeat any potential Pakistani threats.

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Was capturing the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara part of the plans?

There is no literature available on the battle which suggests that the capture of the historic gurdwara was a military objective of the Dera Baba Nanak Brigade, which was focused on the two strategically important enclaves north and south of the Ravi, belonging respectively to the India and Pakistan.

The Indian army managed to defeat the Pakistanis in the Jassar enclave, defended by the Pakistan Rangers paramilitary troops. Their commander was not present at the company headquarters when Indian troops launched their attack on the night of December 5-6, 1971.

Brigadier Gauri Shanker, commander of the 86th Infantry Brigade, responsible for operations in the region, was ordered to eliminate the Pakistani enclave of Jassar/Dera Baba Nanak on the morning of December 6.

This task was accomplished by troops of 10 Dogra and 1/9 Gorkha rifles, supported by tanks of the 71st Armored Regiment and artillery.

No attempt was made by the brigade to continue beyond capturing the enclave to take the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara, which was well within range of the Indian troops.

Writing about the battle in Indian Defense Review, Major General Sukhwant Singh (retd.) noted: “At first glance, this operation appears to have involved crushing a peanut with a hammer, but given the strategic importance of the enclave. , Indian planners could not take any risks.

He too made no mention of any intention to capture the gurdwara.

What would the capture of the gurdwara have entailed?

Since Indian forces had eliminated the Pakistani threat from the enclave near the gurdwara, it was enough to advance about 1 km to capture the shrine. There were no Pakistani forces between the gurdwara and the captured enclave. But the operational plans were only aimed at capturing the enclave.

The capture of the gurdwara could very likely have prolonged the war. India did not retain any territory from Pakistan that it captured during the war, except for some disputed areas in Jammu and Kashmir.

How and why did the gurdwara end up on the Pakistani side during partition?

The Punjab Boundary Commission, which drew the boundary between India and Pakistan during partition, divided the four tehsils of Gurdaspur district between the two countries on the basis of Hindu/Sikh and Muslim populations. The Shakargarh Tehsil in which the gurdwara fell was allocated to Pakistan while the tehsils of Gurdaspur, Batala and Pathankot were allocated to India. The Congress made a representation before the Punjab Delimitation Commission and demanded the inclusion of Kartarpur in Punjab, along with Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak, and Sacha Sauda, ​​another gurdwara associated with Guru Nanak, in Sheikhupura. However, this request was not taken into account by the boundary commission.




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