Independence Day Special: This is how military assets were divided between India and Pakistan

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Srishti Singh SisodiaUpdated: Aug 14, 2023, 06:36 PM IST
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This photo taken in August 1947 shows Indian soldiers walking through the debris of a building in the Chowk Bijli Wala area of Amristar during unrest following the Partition of India and Pakistan. Photograph:(AFP)

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During the Partition, the old Indian Army stood divided between Pakistan and India. This is how the military assets were divided after the two countries got independence 

After decades-long battles and sacrifices, India got freedom from oppressive British colonial rule in 1947. But instead of celebrations, violence, riots and mass killings took place over the division of the sub-continent into two distinct countries - India and Pakistan. 

On 2 June 1947, the last Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, announced that Britain accepted that the country should be divided. He was later criticised for rushing the partition which led to massive bloodshed.

The sub-continent was divided into India with a majority of Hindus, and mainly Muslim East Pakistan and West Pakistan, now Bangladesh. 

British troops were withdrawn to their barracks soon after Mountbatten confirmed the date for independence as 15 August 1947 and after that, the responsibility for maintaining law and order was handed over to the Indian Army.

The history books have also mentioned that there were various meetings held between the British Government and Indian political leaders for a smooth transition of powers and assets. 

Lord Mountbatten meets Nehru, Jinnah and other Leaders to plan Partition of India.

IMAGE: Lord Mountbatten meets Nehru, Jinnah and other Leaders to plan the Partition of India. Credit: WikiCommons.

The partition came into effect on 15 August 1947 when India gained independence, but political unrest swept through the country.

Soon after that, the officials faced a series of other problems like the division of properties, assets and liabilities. 

Amidst that, the old Indian Army stood divided between Pakistan and India. As per the official site of the Indian Army, "The active strength of the Army along with countrywide movable and immovable assets was shared under a complicated scheme, supervised by a British presence in the form of a Supreme Headquarters."

Lord Mountbatten

IMAGE: Mahatma Gandhi with Lord and Lady Mountbatten. Credit: WikiCommons.

According to UK's National Army Museum, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck oversaw the division of this force.

Around 260,000 men, mainly Hindus and Sikhs, went to India.

And over 140,000 men, mainly Muslims, went to Pakistan. 

The Brigade of Gurkhas, recruited in Nepal, was split between India and Britain and individual units were split up.

The 19th Lancers in Pakistan exchanged their Jat and Sikh troops for Muslims from Skinner's Horse in India.

Many British officers stayed on to assist in the transition, including General Sir Robert Lockhart, India's first Chief of Army Staff and General Sir Frank Messervy, who became Pakistan's first Chief of Army Staff. 

"The level of violence had reached civil war proportions and had to be contained rapidly. It was a grave price to pay for India’s independence, although the Armed Forces of both India and Pakistan provided yeoman service in arresting further bloodshed and ensuring smooth exchange of service personnel opting for either India or Pakistan," said a report published on Indian Army website with a title "Partition and Indo Pak War 1947-48". 

"The Punjab Boundary Force came into being for this thankless task. It had elements of the Armies of both countries spread thinly on the ground, and was hard put to contain the increasing levels of violence. This was to be the last time that the old Indian Army deployed jointly as one body. After six weeks of continuous violence, peace gradually returned," it added. 

Following independence, British Army regiments were gradually withdrawn from the subcontinent, leaving the country in chaos and unrest before things stabilised. 


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