General Headquarters, Delhi, May 11, 1946 L/W/1/1092:ff51-6
A NOTE ON THE STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS OF THE INCLUSION OF ‘PAKISTAN’ IN THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH
1. It is assumed
(a) That India divides into two independent autonomous States- Hindustan and Pakistan.
(b) That Pakistan may consist of two parts- a Western zone and an Eastern zone, or of a Western zone only, comprising of Sind, Baluchistan, the NWFP Province and the Western Punjab.
(c) That HMG in the United Kingdom decide to leave Hindustan to its own devices and to have no more intimate dealings with it than the diplomatic and commercial relations usual between two friendly sovereign powers. HMG undertake no responsibility for the defence of Hindustan.
(d) On the other hand, HMG in the United Kingdom agree to the inclusion of Pakistan in the British Commonwealth as an autonomous Dominion having the same status as Canada, Australia etc, and, at Pakistan’s request, to lend her British sea, land and air forces and British personnel to aid in her administration and defence.
COMMONWEALTH STRATEGIC INTERESTS IN THE INDIAN OCEAN AREA
2. Vital Commonwealth strategic interests in the Indian Ocean Area are:-
(a) The oil supplies from Persia and Iraq
(b) Control of the Western entrance to the Indian Ocean-the Red Sea.
(c) Control of the Eastern entrance to the Indian Ocean-Singapore and the Malacca Straits.
(d) Ability to use the air routes across Arabia, Iraq, the Arabian Sea, India, Burma and Malaya.
(e) The control of Ceylon, fo use as a port of call and a naval and air base.
Should India be unfriendly or liable to be influenced by a power, such as Russia, China or Japan, hostile to the British Commonwealth, our strategic position in the Indian Ocean would become untenable and our communications with New Zealand and Australia most insecure.
3. A Hindustan outside the British Commonwealth might very well be tempted, in order to give effect to an inevitable urge to conquer and absorb Pakistan, and thus restore the unity of India, to throw in her lot with Russia. Russia with her taste for power politics and gangster methods would be likely to take full advantage of any such tendency on the part of Hindustan.
A Russian influenced Hindustan might well constitute such a menace to the security of the British Commonwealth as to cause its early dissolution.
INFLUENCE OF A BRITISH CONTROLLED PAKISTAN ON HINDUSTAN
4. In theory it might appear that a Pakistan under British influence could act as a check to the hostile potentialities of an independent Hindustan. Even if Pakistan comprised North-East as well as North-West India, a proposition which seems extremely unlikely to materialize owing to the great difficulties inherent in it, it is very doubtful if Pakistan would have the the necessary resources in raw material, industrial production, manpower, and, above all the requisite space to enable it to become a base for warlike operations against a Hindustan, supported and equipped by a hostile power such as Russia.
It seems more than likely, Pakistan were to be restricted to North-West India, it would most certainly not be adequate as a base for operations on a grand scale.
5. As atomic energy develops and weapons of all sorts, whether on the sea, on the land or in the air, improve, depth in the defence and adequate space for dispersion of base installations, including industrial plants, must become increasingly essential in war.
A united India has these qualifications, as would an independent Hindustan. Pakistan even if it includes North-East India could never possess them.
6. It follows, therefore, that Pakistan, whether it has two zones or the North-West India zone only, will not provide the means by which he British Commonwealth can hope to influence or coerce an independent Hindustan and keep it free of hostile foreign influences, so as to ensure the security of our communications through the Indian Ocean area. If we cannot secure these vital communications, it would seem that the break up of the British Commonwealth is likely to follow before very long.
THE PROBLEM OF THE DEFENCE OF PAKISTAN
7. (a) Apart from the question of safeguarding our communications in the Indian Ocean area, must be considered the probable reaction of an independent Hindustan to a Pakistan under British influence and included in the British Commonwealth.
(b) The separation of Hindustan from Pakistan instead of eliminating the fundamental enmity of the Hindu for the Muslim is likely to inflame it. Any attempt to establish a Pakistan zone in North-East India, which if it is to be effective at all, must include Calcutta and a very large Hindu population, is to be strenuously resisted by the Hindus.
(c) Should by some means or other, the Hindus be brought to agree to the setting up of such a zone, they will almost certainly at once start planning and working for its eventual elimination and reunion with Hindustan. A Hindustan without Calcutta and the control of the Bay of Bengal is not a practical proposition and the realization of this by the Hindus wil inevitably lead to war between Hindustan and Pakistan. In this event, HMG in the United Kingdom would be committed to fight for the retention of this zone by Pakistan and might well become involved in a world war on this account.
8. (a) The actual defence of North-East Pakistan from the purely military point of view would be an extremely difficult problem, as the area could in no sense provide the needs of an army or air force adequate for its defence, and these would be almost entirely dependent on sea communication for their needs. These sea communications would be most vulnerable to attack by sea and air forces based on Hindustan and could in no sense be considered reliable. Moreover the attitude of Burma, which would be presumably be independent, cannot be predicted.
Burma influenced by China, as it always must be, might be hostile to British Commonwealth and see, in a quarrel between Hindustan and Britain a chance of improving her position. The possibility of North-East Pakistan having to defend itself from attack from the West as well as from the East and South cannot be excluded, and would make the problem well nigh insoluble. There can be little doubt that the drain on the resources of HMG in the United Kingdom would be immense and incalculable.
(b) Even supposing that Pakistan consisted of a North-Western zone only, the strategic problems involved in its defense would be many and difficult to solve.
The North-West Pakistan area is not self-supporting in any way, except possibly as regards cereals, it has practically no raw materials or industrial capacity and all war material would have to be provided from overseas for many years to come. It had one port only- Karachi–sea ward and landward approaches to which are constricted and most vulnerable to air attack.
For many years to come, Pakistan cannot hope to produce officers and technicians for the land and air forces necessary for her own protection, though it should be possible to produce sufficient men of the right quality for such forces.
(c) Physically, North-West Pakistan, like most other countries, has advantages and disadvantages from the defense point of view. Assuming that it will absorb or at any rate, dominate Kashmir, North-West Pakistan cannot be seriously threatened from the North, protected as it is by the Himalayas, though it might be vulnerable to a limited extent to air attack from bases in Sinkiang.
The deserts of Rajputana and Sind similarly preclude any large scale attack by land from the South, and this is true also of the approach from the West through the wastes of Mekran, though the possibility of offensive operations on these fronts by mobile armoured and mechanized forces supplied by air cannot be excluded.
Pakistan would, however, be open to attack by land on a large scale from the North-West and South-East.
Good communications within a country to be defended are essential to successful resistance and North-West Pakistan would be reasonably well provided with railways and roads running towards her Eastern and Western frontiers, and she would have good lateral railway communications. Her weakness in respect of communications would lie in the fact that the Indus and the great rivers of the Punjab run from the North-East to South-West at right angles to her main arteries of communication and because the bridges over them are few and far between and vulnerable to air attack. This disadvantage would probably outweigh in modern war any advantage which these rivers might confer as lines of defence. No power is now- a- days likely to venture to attack another unless it is reasonably sure of having initial superiority in the air.
(d) Let us first take the threat from the North-West. The aggressor would be Russia, supported possibly by Persia and Afghanistan, possibly unwilling but sovietized and coerced. The problem of the defence of India against Russian aggression is of course an old one, and the considerations involved in the problem of resistance to it have been, and still are, continuously under review. In the circumstances we are now considering the problem takes a new aspect because here we have Pakistan as a sovereign Muslim state controlling its own destinies, whereas before, the ruling power was Britain, a non-Muslim state and, therefore, disliked, suspected and feared by Afghanistan, and also Persia.
This change of affinities may it is true ease the problem of defence of the Western frontier of Pakistan to a considerable extent, but in view of the well known powers of infiltration and seduction possessed by Soviet Russia, it would be unwise to rely on it as a permanent solvent of the defence problem.
It is true that, in the conditions likely to prevail in any future war, a land invasion on a large scale of North-West Pakistan, through Northern Afghanistan over the passes of the Hindu Kush and the defiles of the Khyber and the Kurram, is most improbable.
Any land offensive against Pakistan from the West is likely to be made via Kandahar against Quetta and the Bolan Pass with the object of severing he railways leading from Karachi into the interior of the country and thus depriving its armies and air forces of their only source of supply of munitions of war.
It is true that the communications leading from Russia to Kandahar and beyond it are as yet underdeveloped and that their development would take time and could not pass unnoticed. Nevertheless, given proper preparation and a rapid advance by mechanized and armoured forces supplied partly by air, it is not an impossibility, as was proved in the campaigns in the Libya in the recent war. Quetta is connected with the rest of Pakistan by a single line of railway running through a narrow defile and extremely vulnerable to air attack besides being liable to periodic interruption by flood and earthquake. The approaches to Quetta from the West are much more suitable to the deployment and movement of mechanized forces on a wide front than are the approaches from the East through Sibi, although the Khawaja Amran range just West of Quetta does provide a defensive position of some value, but of little depth. The total length of frontier to be watched and defended by Pakistan is about 500 miles from Peshawar to Kalat. It must be assumed, therefore, that the British will be required to provide at least fifty squadrons of aircraft and ten divisions of troops to assist in the defence of the Western frontier of Pakistan against a determined Russian attack, as the forces which Pakistan would be able to maintain from her own very limited resources, must of necessity be small, however efficient they may be.
All these forces whether provided by Britain or Pakistan would be completely dependent for their maintenance, except perhaps as regards food, on the one port of Karachi and on one line of railway leading thence to the main zone of operations. As already pointed out, Karachi and the approaches to it are very open to air attack from the South and North-West, and the sea approaches would also be liable to submarine and surface attack by craft based in the Persian Gulf, which in the circumstances we are considering would almost certainly be controlled by Russia.
The supply of forces in the Middle East from 1940 to 1943 was difficult enough when shipping had to use the Cape route, but it would be easy compared with the problem of maintaining an army and air force operating on the Western frontier of Pakistan in a major war.
(e) The frontier between Hindustan and North-West Pakistan must run through the flat plains of the Central or Eastern Punjab, and thence through the equally featureless, from the defence point of view, deserts of Northern Rajputana and the Southern Punjab, until it reaches the sea just South of Karachi. Even if we were to follow one of the rivers of the Punjab such as the Ravi or the Sutlej or even the Jumna, this would not give a really defensible frontier.
The communications running from the interior of Hindustan towards the frontiers of Pakistan are reasonably good and capable of maintaining considerable land forces in the Northern sector of the common frontier. Though less good in the Western or Rajputana sector, where they consist of metre gauge railway lines, they could support light mobile forces capable of striking at the rich corn producing areas of the South-Western Punjab. Pakistan then, would be open to heavy attack by land forces on a front of some 100 miles from Jullundur to Bhatinda, and to a lesser attack by light forces on a front of about 500 miles from Bhatinda to Kotri on the Indus above Karachi.
As the initiative and choice of the point of attack would lie with the aggressor, the whole of this long front would have to be watched even though it might be possible to hold the bulk of the main land forces more or less centrally in reserve.
The weight of the attack by land which Hindustan would be able to deliver would depend on the extent to which she had developed her industries and resources and raw materials, which would certainly be much greater than those of Pakistan, and on the amount of assistance in personnel, arms and equipment, she had received from any overseas ally, such as Russia. Hindustan as a base for warlike operations on a big scale, whether on the sea, on land or in the air, is and always must be, vastly superior to Pakistan, while her communications are far less concentrated and thus far less vulnerable to attack by sea or from the air. Hindustan, in fact, would be an efficient base for modern war, which Pakistan can never be.
Assuming then, that Hindustan is unlikely to attack until she organized and equipped adequate air and land forces, which she can do as quickly if not more quickly than Pakistan, it seems certain, even if Hindustan attacked Pakistan without the overt aid of Russia, that Britain would have to provide large air and land forces to ensure the integrity of Pakistan.
All these forces would be dependent for their maintenance on the single port of Karachi and on the 800 miles of railway thence to Lahore and Bhatinda. These railways would be exposed to attack throughout their length by mobile enemy forces operating from bases in Rajputana and by air forces based on existing airfields in Kathiawar and Rajputana.
(f) If Pakistan were to be attacked simultaneously, as is possible, by Russia from the North-West and by Hindustan from the South-East, then the air and land forces which would have to be provided by Britain to ensure its defence, would be very large indeed, as big if not bigger than those absorbed in the defence of the Middle-East before the forces of the Axis were expelled from North Africa. It is most unlikely that forces of this size could be maintained through the solitary port of Karachi, even if they could be provided by the British Commonwealth when it no longer has the manpower of India to draw upon as it had in the recent struggle.
9. (a) The inclusion of Pakistan in the British Commonwealth of Nations and the assumption by Britain or the British Commonwealth of the consequent responsibility for its defence could be justified on the following grounds:
(i) That it would enable us, so to dominate and control an independent Hindustan as to prevent her or her potential allies from disrupting our sea and air communications in the Indian Ocean area.
(ii) That it would aid us in maintaining our influence over the Muslim countries of the Near and Middle East and to assist us to prevent the advance of Russia towards the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.
(b) If the arguments contained in this note are being based on correct surmises, it seems perfectly clear that the first of these objects is unattainable, because of the large forces which it’s achievement would require, relative to the resources likely to be available to the British Commonwealth, at the outbreak of a major war. If the first object cannot be achieved, it would be useless to attempt to achieve the second, because it would b quite obvious to all Muslim countries that Britain has ceased o be a power in Asia.
(c) If we desire to maintain our power to move freely by sea and air in the Indian Ocean area, which I consider essential to the continued existence of the British Commonwealth, we can do so only by keeping in being a United India which will be a willing member of that Commonwealth, ready to share in its defence to the limit of her resources.
C. J. Auchinleck
By courtesy: Jinnah by Jaswant Singh, Published by Rupa. Co., New Delhi, India, 2009