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Q: Siege of Skardu, 1947-48 ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Siege of Skardu, 1947-48
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: venu56-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 22 Aug 2002 11:35 PDT
Expires: 21 Sep 2002 11:35 PDT
Question ID: 57480
Details of the siege and the Battle of Skardu, 1947-48, its analysis
and lessons learnt

Request for Question Clarification by huntsman-ga on 23 Aug 2002 01:45 PDT

Although I have been working on your question for some time, building
a complete answer has turned to be more complex and time-consuming
than I originally thought.

While painting a picture of the Skardu area is fairly straightforward,
and details and personal stories on both sides of this Indo-Pak battle
are available on the Web, analyzing its after effects is considerably
more involved.

At this point, I'm going to have to bow out, at least temporarily, and
open this question up to other Google Answers researchers. However, I
would like to present some geographical details and links below that
should help you.

Other researchers can feel free to incorporate any or all of this
information into their own answer.

Thank you,


The Scene of the Battle -

The town of Skardu is the capital of Baltistan, a region of northern
Pakistan in the disputed area of Jammu-Kashmir between Pakistan and
northern India. Skardu sits next to the Indus River, a few miles above
its confluence with the Shigar River.

Skardu is about 140 miles northeast of Pakistan's capital city,
Islamabad, and about 470 miles north of India's capital, New Delhi.
The Chinese border is about 40 miles to the northeast.

Located on a wide river plain about 7500 feet above sea level, Skardu
is surrounded by some of the most rugged mountains on Earth. The
mighty Himalayan Karakoram Range lies to the north and east, and the
Deosai Mountains to the south and west.

Here is a large map of the Kashmir region. Skardu is the upper center
portion, just above the "A" in "PAKISTAN":

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area

More regional maps and geographical information can be found here:

   University of Texas Library 
   Perry-Castaņeda Library Map Collection
   Kashmir Maps

   Global Gazetteer
   Skårdu, Pakistan Page

Here is a present-day street map:

   The Karakoram Highway
   Skardu [City Map]

Skardu's geographical coordinates are:
   Latitude:  35° 17' 6" North (Decimal: 35.3000)			
   Longitude: 75° 37' 0" East  (Decimal: 75.6167)

Although you can't see it precisely in the large (702k) satellite
photograph below, Skardu is in the lower half of the rectangle framed
by 35° (bottom), 36° (top), 75° (left), and 76° (right). You can see
the dark blue curves of the Indus river, surrounded by gray plains.
Skardu is on the river, probably between the legs of the large, faint
gray "A" in the label "BALTISTAN":

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area
   U.S. Geological Survey Map I-2587-A, 1997

Being in the western half of the Himalayan chain, Skardu is a central
gathering point for mountaineering and trekking throughout the region.
The famous Himalayan peak K2, Pakistan's highest point and the world's
second highest mountain (28,250 ft.), is about 65 miles to the
northeast. Another major peak, Nanga Parbat (26,658 ft.), is about 60
miles directly west. In case you're wondering, Mount Everest (29,035
ft.) is over 1000 miles to the southeast in Nepal.

The web site of a small hotel in Khaplu (about 60 highway miles east
of Skadu) has street photos of Skardu, panoramas of the area, and
clips of regional music:

   Hotel K7 Khaplu 
   Skardu Baltistan Pakistan

Although the terrain is larger in scale and more spectacular, it
appears similar to the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Colorado,
New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming come to mind.

To give you a better idea of what the country is like on the ground,
here are several travelogues and photos of the Skardu area. It doesn't
look like things have changed much in almost 100 years:

   Frederick Dixon: 
   India/Pakistan Trekking Diary - 1907
   Three Months Shikar from Kamptee to Baltistan
   [diary, maps and photos of a British officer's journey]

   Our Baltistan Adventure

   North Pakistan 2001 

   Mountain Travels Pakistan


And if you should ever want to visit Skardu without roughing it, this
looks like a nice place, complete with a "Lost Horizon" DC-3:

   Shangrila Resort Home Page


The Weather -

Generally things stay in the 80's, but Northern Pakistan can reach
over 100°F in the summer. Night temperatures can easily drop below
freezing. Rain showers are common, turning into snow at higher
elevations. Of course, the higher the altitude, the more Arctic the
conditions become.

The fall is cool and rainy. In winter, daytime temperatures may stay
below freezing, and storms and heavy snows block access to high
mountain valleys for months. Spring brings warmer temperatures and
rain, which combined with runoff from melting mountain snows, fills
the rivers and streams.

The Siege of Skardu was nearing its end by mid-August 1948. Perhaps
the weather conditions were similar to what you can see there today:

   Sabre Virtually There
   Conditions and Forecast for Skardu, Pakistan


References - 
   Cia World Factbook

   Cia World Factbook

   Shangri-la Atop the Roof of the World

   Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation
   Northern Pakistan

   Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia

Search Terms & Google Results - 

   :// skardu

   skardu pakistan gallery


Request for Question Clarification by justaskscott-ga on 23 Aug 2002 07:12 PDT
After an hour's worth of searching on Google, the only analyses I have
seen come from an Indian perspective.  (Of course, searching for an
hour on Google does not exhaust the range of sources on the Internet,
though it might provide a fair sense of what's out there.)

So I wanted to ask you:  Would descriptions and lessons of the siege
from India's point of view be sufficient?  Would you prefer analyses
both by Indians and Pakistanis?  Or do you want more neutral
perspectives, instead of or in addition to  partisan ones?
Subject: Re: Siege of Skardu, 1947-48
Answered By: huntsman-ga on 25 Aug 2002 19:42 PDT

Your question brings Skardu's unique place in history in front of a
new audience. The more I researched the Siege, the more intrigued I
became by its geographical similarity to my home state of Colorado.

Being familiar with the difficulties posed by mountain terrain and bad
weather here, even with today's good roads and communications, it is
hard to imagine what it was like carrying on a military campaign in
Skardu over 50 years ago.

The region's rich mix of religions, races, and cultures only adds to
the complexity of Skardu's history. Please realize that my answer can
only skim the surface: for more information, explore the various
links, references, and searches provided below.

Thank you,


Where is Skardu? -

The town of Skardu is the capital of Skardu District in Baltistan, in
Pakistan's "Northern Areas". It lies within Azad Kashmir ("Free
Kashmir"), the Pakistani-controlled portion of the disputed state of
Kashmir between northern Pakistan and India.

Skardu is about 140 miles northeast of Pakistan's capital city,
Islamabad, and about 470 miles north of India's capital, New Delhi.
The Chinese border lies about 40 miles to the northeast.

The town sits on the Indus River (which flows northwest towards
Gilgit), a few miles downstream of its confluence with the Shigar
River. Located on a wide river plain about 7500 feet above sea level,
Skardu is surrounded by some of the most rugged mountains on Earth:
the mighty Himalayan Karakoram Range lies to the north and east, and
the Deosai plains and mountains to the south and west.

Although larger in scale and more spectacular, the area around Skardu
looks similar to the Rocky Mountains in the western United States. The
high country of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming comes
especially to mind.


Putting Skardu on the Map -

On the following map of Pakistan, "SKARDU" district is the upper
right, labeled in red:

   Vista Tourist Management Services

The town of Skardu is on the blue line of the (unlabeled) Indus River,
below the "A" in "KARAKORAM". If you click on the red "SKARDU"
district label, you will see the following district map:

   Vista Tourist Management Services

In the center of this map, "Skardu" district is labeled in large blue
letters. The town of Skardu is slightly below and to the right of the
blue label, under the "T" in "BALTISTAN".

For a clearer view, here is a larger map of the Kashmir region. The
town of Skardu is on the Indus River in the upper center, just above
the "A" in "PAKISTAN":

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area

Descending a little lower, here is a street map of present-day Skardu.
Note the "KARPOCHO (Queen's Fort)" on the north side of town:

   The Karakoram Highway
   Skardu [City Map]

Additional regional maps and geographical information can be found at
the following links:

   University of Texas Library 
   Perry-Castaņeda Library Map Collection
   Kashmir Maps

   Global Gazetteer
   Skårdu, Pakistan Page

Skardu's geographical coordinates are:
   Latitude:  35° 17' 6" North (Decimal: 35.3000)			
   Longitude: 75° 37' 0" East  (Decimal: 75.6167)

Although you can't see it precisely in the large (702k) satellite
photograph below, Skardu is in the lower half of the rectangle framed
by 35° (bottom), 36° (top), 75° (left), and 76° (right). In it, you
can see the dark blue looping curves of the Indus river, surrounded by
gray plains. Skardu is on the river, probably between the legs of the
large, faint gray "A" in the label "BALTISTAN":

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area
   U.S. Geological Survey Map I-2587-A, 1997


A High Mountain Paradise -

Being in the western half of the Himalayan chain, Skardu is a central
jumping-off point for mountaineering and trekking, and has earned the
nickname "Little Tibet".

The famous Himalayan peak K2, Pakistan's highest point and the world's
second highest mountain (28,250 ft.), is about 65 miles to the
northeast. Another major peak, Nanga Parbat (26,658 ft.), is about 60
miles directly west. In case you're wondering, Mount Everest (29,035
ft.) is over 1000 miles to the southeast in Nepal.

Here are some photo galleries of the area:

   Adventure Travel
   Photo Gallery of Skardu and Baltistan

   Mountain Travels Pakistan


Seasonal Jeep roads were not constructed in the area until the late
1950's, and the Karakoram Highway (an engineering feat which greatly
improved the local economy), did not reach Skardu until 1988.

An airport has been built a few miles outside of town, and PIA
(Pakistan International Airlines) offers daily Boeing 737 flights from
Islamabad to Skardu, unless bad weather intervenes. These one hour
flights navigate *between* ranges of majestic snow-capped peaks, and
are hailed as one of the most spectacular aerial trips in the world.

To give you a better idea of what the country is like on the ground,
here are several travelogues from the Baltistan area, starting in

   Frederick Dixon: India/Pakistan Trekking Diary - 1907
   Three Months Shikar from Kamptee to Baltistan
   [diary, maps and photos of a British officer's journey]

   Our Baltistan Adventure

   North Pakistan 2001 

   Jeep Safari Across Pakistan
   14 days across Pakistan and through history

If you want to visit Skardu without roughing it, the Shangrila Resort
is the largest hotel around, complete with a "Lost Horizon" DC-3 and a
scenic lake stocked with trout:

   Shangrila Resort Home Page

For a taste of local culture, the web site of a more modest hotel in
Khaplu (about 60 highway miles east of Skardu) has street photos of
Skardu, panoramas of the area, and clips of regional music:

   Hotel K7 Khaplu 
   Skardu Baltistan Pakistan


Skardu's Climate -

Skardu is in a high mountain desert. The climate is Alpine in nature,
with conditions becoming more Arctic and extreme the higher you go.

In summer, temperatures range from about 45-90°F, but can go over
100°F. At night, temperatures easily drop below freezing. Summer rain
showers occur infrequently, turning into snow at higher elevations.
Annual rainfall in the Skardu area is only about 3-6". River valleys
are greener, containing patches of trees and irrigated fields of

The fall is cool, with some rain. In winter, Skardu's daytime
temperatures may drop below 10°F, with storms and heavy snows blocking
access to high mountain valleys for months. Spring brings warmer
temperatures and rain, which, combined with runoff from melting
mountain snows, fills local streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
Grass and wild flowers cover the slopes.

The Siege of Skardu was nearing its end by mid-August 1948. Perhaps
the weather conditions 52 years ago were similar to those of today:

   Sabre Virtually There
   Conditions and Forecast for Skardu, Pakistan


Life in Skardu -

Although population figures for Skardu are hard to find, there were
about 4000 people living there in 1960, and probably less in 1948 when
access was much more difficult.

With better roads and airline service, tourism is increasing, but the
local economy is based mainly upon agriculture. Many small landholders
in the river valley raise grain, vegetables, fruit, and small numbers
of livestock:

   History Of Baltistan

"The average farm size is half a hectare (about an acre), on which
they grow wheat, barley, millet, buckwheat and maize. Vegetables were
introduced about 50 years ago: peas, tomato, onion, potato, turnip,
cabbage,spinach, lettuce, beans, cucumber, radish, chilli and carrot.
Fruit is an important crop, each family owning 20 to 30 apricot trees,
plus some mulberry, apple, pear, peach, plum, walnut and almond trees,
and a few grapevines. Dried fruit and nuts are a vital part of the
winter diet."

"Each household owns an average of ten goats and sheep, and two or
three head of cattle, either yaks, cows or dozs (a yak/cow cross). The
animals spend the summer in the high pastures and the winter in stalls
in the ground floor of the houses. Butter was once used as a currency;
it was 'banked' underground for up to 50 years and withdrawn to buy
goods and make loans. Some households own a few chickens, and in some
villages you find donkeys."

Ready access to drinking water and daily electricity is still only
available to about half of the population. More details about today's
living conditions can be seen in this article:

   Socio-economic development in Northern Areas 
   By Dr Sabit Rahim

Although life is easier now, 1948 was considerably more primitive and
made fighting all the more difficult:

   The Human Capital 
   By Dr Sabit Rahim

"At the time of Independence, the Northern Areas were extremely
backward and in a deplorable economic condition. People lived below
subsistence level and eked out a meagre livelihood from a closed
mountain eco-system of mixed agriculture, horticulture and cattle
raising with small holdings and primitive methods of cultivation. The
entire region was mountain-locked and isolated from the rest of the
world. Only three middle schools and 85 primary schools functioned to
teach the children of the rajas and the rich. Health facilities were
also minimal with only two small hospitals with 49 beds and 10
dispensaries. Apart from seven foot-bridges and pony tracks there was
no infrastructure worth mentioning in 1947."

For more information on the history of the area, see:

   History Of Baltistan


Prelude to War -

The history of the subcontinent of India-Pakistan that led to war with
Pakistan (and the Siege of Skardu) is long, complicated, and beyond
the scope of this answer. I will only venture a brief summary here,
beginning with British rule.

From the first commercial ventures of the British East India Company
in the early 1600's, British economic, cultural, and political
influence gradually gained dominance:

   British Empire Studies
   The British Empire - A Survey

"India was at the heart of the British Empire but it was initially
controlled not by the British government but by the East India Company
. This huge company, chartered 1600, set up a number of factories, as
their trading posts were called, and steadily increased its
possessions and the territories over which it held treaty rights until
its power extended from Aden in Arabia to Penang in Malaya, both vital
ports of call for company vessels plying between Britain, India, and
China. The East India Company was the most powerful private company in
history, controlling India partly by direct rule and partly by a
system of alliances with Indian princes, and maintained by the
Company's powerful army. The company's political power was ended by
the Indian Mutiny 1857. Although this revolt was put down, it resulted
in the Crown taking over the government of India 1858; Queen Victoria
was proclaimed empress of India 1 Jan 1877. The British army fought
two wars with Afghanistan (1839-41 and 1878-80) to protect India's
northwest frontier and invaded Tibet 1904. British India gained
independence as the two dominions of India and Pakistan 1947. In 1950
India became a republic but remained a member of the Commonwealth."

A more detailed explanation of British involvement can be seen here:

   Student's Britannica India
   India, History of>Modern+History&key=Modern+History

The above source chronicles the rise of two opposing streams of
anti-British nationalism within India that eventually led to Indian
self-rule and the separation of Pakistan:

"Nationalism emerged in nineteenth-century British India both in
emulation of and as a reaction against the consolidation of British
rule and the spread of Western civilization. There were, moreover, two
turbulent national mainstreams flowing beneath the deceptively placid
official surface of British administration: the larger [mainly Hindu],
headed by the Indian National Congress [first convened in 1885], which
led eventually to the birth of India, and the smaller Muslim one,
which acquired its organizational skeleton with the founding of the
Muslim League in 1906 and led to the creation of Pakistan."

"The last quarter century of British crown rule was racked by
increasingly violent Hindu-Muslim conflict and intensified agitation
demanding Indian independence. British officials in London, as well as
in New Delhi and Shimla, tried in vain to stem the rising tide of
popular opposition to their raj [rule] by offering tidbits of
constitutional reform, which proved either too little to satisfy both
the Congress and the Muslim League or too late to avert disaster. More
than a century of British technological, institutional, and
ideological unification of the South Asian subcontinent thus ended
after World War II with communal civil war, mass migration, and

"Britain's Parliament passed in July 1947 the Indian Independence Act,
ordering the demarcation of the dominions of India and Pakistan by
midnight of August 14-15, 1947, and dividing within a single month the
assets of the world's largest empire, which had been integrated in
countless ways for more than a century. Racing the deadline, two
boundary commissions worked desperately to partition Punjab [future
West Pakistan] and Bengal [future East Pakistan] in such a way as to
leave a majority of Muslims to the west of the former's new boundary
and to the east of the latter's..."

In an effort to satisfy Hindu and Muslim demands and ease tensions
between them, India was divided into two independent states, India and
Pakistan (West and East). This had tragic results as large local
populations from warring religious groups tried to move past each
other and cross the new border:

" soon as the new borders were known, no fewer than 10 million
Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs fled from their homes on one side of the
newly demarcated borders to what they thought would be "shelter" on
the other. In the course of that tragic exodus of innocents, some one
million people were slaughtered in communal massacres that made all
previous conflicts of the sort known to recent history pale by
comparison. Sikhs, caught in the middle of Punjab's new "line",
suffered the highest percentage of casualties. Most Sikhs finally
settled in India's much-diminished border State of Punjab."

On August 14, 1947, official British rule in India ended. Here are
some maps that show India before and after the Partition:
   Pre-Partition Map of India

   India Map
   [shows Bangladesh instead of East Pakistan*]

*The Partition split Pakistan in two parts, East and West, separated
by over 1000 miles of Indian territory. In its own successful bid for
self-rule, East Pakistan later became the independent state of
"Bangladesh" in 1971. For more details, see:

   Virtual Bangladesh


Jammu & Kashmir -

Although the 1947 Partition of India marked the end of British rule in
the Indian subcontinent and the creation of Islamic Pakistan, it
ignited new strife in the state of Jammu & Kashmir (or just "Kashmir")
which lay between northeastern Pakistan and northwestern India.

Before the Partition's August 15th deadline (for British withdrawal
from India), Maharajah Hari Singh, Kashmir's Hindu ruler, had to
choose one of three options:

   1. Join India, although Singh would have to hand over his rule
      to Sheikh Abdullah, a Muslim leader whose support India 
      wished to gain, but whose loyalty could not be guaranteed.  
   2. Join Pakistan, which was undesirable due to its full Muslim
      control, but they offered favorable terms to his continued
   3. Join neither (do nothing), and become independent.

Caught in a dilemma, the Maharajah waited until the deadline passed,
choosing independence by default:

   The Story Behind the Story

"During the time of partition of India in 1947, Jammu & Kashmir was
one of some 560 Princely States, which were not part of the
territories under British rule but owed suzerainty [acknowledgment of
dominion] to the British Crown. The rulers of these states were given
the choice to freely join either India or Pakistan, or to remain
independent. On 19 July 1947 the Muslim Conference gave their verdict
against India, opting for independence. But they were not
representative of all the people, in particular lacking Hindi support.
By 15 August deadline, Maharajah Hari Singh hesitated, and by default
the State of Jammu & Kashmir became independent."

For more about the Maharajah's difficult situation, read:

   Kashmir, The Storm Center of the World
   Chapter V - Hari Singh's Dilemma

Unfortunately, avoiding both sides only created more problems for
Kashmir. Inter-tribal fighting continued, and the Maharajah changed
his mind, deciding this time for option #1. He issued an "Instrument
of Accession" to join India that was to be signed on October 26, 1947,
but the legality of this document was (and still is) rejected by

From the Pakistani government's Web site, here is part of their
opinion on the matter:
   Islamic Republic of Pakistan
   Fact Sheet on Kashmir

"India’s forcible occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947
is the main cause of the dispute. India claims to have ‘signed’ a
controversial document, the Instrument of Accession, on 26 October
1947 with the Maharaja of Kashmir, in which the Maharaja obtained
India’s military help against popular insurgency. The people of
Kashmir and Pakistan do not accept the Indian claim. There are doubts
about the very existence of the Instrument of Accesion. The United
Nations also does not consider Indian claim as legally valid: it
recognises Kashmir as a disputed territory. Except India, the entire
world community recognises Kashmir as a disputed territory. The fact
is that all the principles on the basis of which the Indian
subcontinent was partitioned by the British in 1947 justify Kashmir
becoming a part of Pakistan:  the State had majority Muslim
population, and it not only enjoyed geographical proximity with
Pakistan but also had essential economic linkages with the territories
constituting Pakistan."
To counter what it saw as Kashmir's illegal move towards India, and to
encourage Kashmiri Muslims to join their Muslim state, Pakistan
stopped truck and rail shipments of gasoline, food, and other
necessities into Kashmir. They also started an anti-accession
propaganda campaign.

In their most controversial move, the Pakistanis allowed Muslim
tribesmen from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier to enter Kashmir and
attack the local Hindu population. Mixed forces of Pakistani officers,
regular troops, and Muslim tribesmen moved into Kashmir in late
October 1947. The Pakistani invasion plan was code-named "Operation
Gulmarg", and details of it can be read here:

   Defending Kashmir
   Official History of the Jammu & Kashmir Operations

"The Army Headquarters of Pakistan planned the main invasion plan,
code-named Operation Gulmarg ... planned meticulously with
considerable strategic and tactical insight. According to Operation
Gulmarg ... every Pathan tribe was required to enlist at least one
Lashkar of 1,000 tribesmen. These Lashkars were to be concentrated at
Baftnu, Wana, Peshawar, Kohat, Thal and Nowshera by the first week of
September 1947. The Brigade Commanders at these places were to issue
them arms, ammunition and some essential clothing items. Each Lashkar
was also to be provided with a Major, a Captain and ten JCOs of the
regular Pakistan Army. The entire force was to be commanded by Major
General Akbar Khan, who was given the code name Tariq."

"The D-day for Operation Gulmarg was fixed as 22 October 1947, on
which date the various Lashkars were to cross into J&K territory. The
invasion plan was tactically sound and, in the beginning, brilliantly
executed. The main attack had by necessity to be launched frontally
along the motor road. Apart from rifles, the standard weapon of the
raiders, the main force was also equipped with a few light machine
guns and traveled in about 300 civilian lorries."

"... the first wave of tribal warriors from Pakistan invaded the
Kashmir Valley on 22 October 1947."

A chronicle of the Pakistani invasion can be read here:  

   Kashmir, The Storm Center of the World   
   Chapter VI - Accession To India

"The tribal hordes armed and supported by the Pakistan Government and
led by officers of the Pakistan army that entered the State from
Hazara district in the N.W.F.P. along the Abbotabad - Muzaffarabad -
Domel- Srinagar road on October 21, formed the spearhead of the final
and the biggest blow of Pakistan to the State [of Kashmir]. Its
objective was Kashmir valley and the capital city of Srinagar. Almost
simultaneously new thrusts were made all along the Kashmir - Pakistan
border including Gilgit [about 90 miles west of Skardu]. These other
thrusts did not get much publicity because they were directed against
comparatively little known though strategically equally important
parts of the State. They ultimately succeeded in gaining their
objective in Gilgit, and the western districts of the State. But their
master plan to occupy Srinagar and Jammu simultaneously and present
the world with a fait- accompli before any outside help could come to
the State was foiled by the timely arrival of air-borne Indian troops
in Srinagar and by the popular resistance put up by the people of

Use the map below to follow the Pakistani advances. Note that
Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, is about 100 miles southeast of
Skardu, across a range of mountains:

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area

Looking desperately for military support from India, Maharajah Signh
signed the Instrument Of Accession on October 26th, officially making
Kashmir part of India. The Maharajah handed over power to Sheik
Abdullah, and India began to intervene in Kashmir.

Local Kashmiri troops, although determined, were inadequate to meet
the stronger oncoming Pakistani forces. Indian troops entered the
battle on the ground and in the air. In a successful effort to stop
the Pakistani advance on Sringar, India began a major airlift
(Operation Jak) into Srinagar airport on October 27, 1947, bringing in
thousands of troops and many supplies. India and Kashmir State also
sent troops into other areas, including towns through the Indus River

Seeing India's troop movements as an attack upon Kashmiri Muslims,
Pakistan responded with more military pressure. Thus began the first
India-Pakistan (Indo-Pak) War, which continued for over a year until a
cease-fire was finally imposed on January 1, 1949.

The fate of Skardu was cast.


The Siege of Skardu -

Although they were quickly driven back from Srinagar and out of the
Valley of Kashmir by early November 1947, Pakistani forces had greater
military success further north, as they moved southeast along the
Gilgit-Skardu-Leh route.

Local geography worked in their favor. Two strategic mountain passes,
"Burzil" (about 65 miles north of Srinagar) and "Zoji La" (about 45
miles northeast of Srinagar) were the only land routes from the
Indian-occupied Valley of Kashmir north into the Indus River Valley
containing Gilgit, Skardu, and Leh. Note their positions on the map:

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area

By now, it was winter in the high country, and these passes were
blocked by snow. This prevented any Indian supplies or reinforcements
in Srinagar from reaching their forces in Gilgit or Skardu.

Naturally, Pakistan took advantage of this vulnerability and captured
the town of Gilgit on October 31, 1947. They kept moving:

   Kashmir, The Storm Center of the World
   Chapter VII - First Indo-Pak War
   Fall Of Gilgit

"[From Gilgit] Another column advanced west [east, actually], bypassed
Askardu [Skardu], the capital town of Baltistan, for it had a Dogra
[Hindu] garrison in its fort, and occupied Kargil without much
difficulty. Kargil lies on the road connecting Srinagar with Leh and
Askardu through the Yojila [Zoji La] Pass. From Kargil one of their
columns began to advance [east] toward Leh and the other advanced
south and occupied the Yojila pass. Some of them even succeded in
infiltrating into Kashmir valley."

Indian commanders had a good idea of Pakistan's intentions:

   Bharat Rakshak Monitor - Volume 2(6) May-June 2000  
   The Battle For Zoji La
   L. N. Subramanian

"Meanwhile as Srinagar Division became aware of the Pakistanis
successful strikes at Kargil, Gurez and also of the threats to Leh,
and its lines of communications from across Rajdhani Pass and ZojiLa,
it issued detailed orders on 20th May 1948 to 1 Grenadiers and 1
Patiala for operations in Gurez and ZojiLa areas, respectively. The
prediction was that having captured Kargil the [Pakistani] enemy
intended to cut the lines of communications between Sonamarg and
Skardu, isolate the garrisons at Skardu, Parkutta, Tolti and Leh, and
finally to liquidate them and infiltrate south into Sonamarg Valley,
Pahalgam and Anantnag in order to intercept with lines of
communications Jammu-Srinagar."

Having isolated Skardu on their way to capture Kargil, Pakistani
forces returned and began the Siege on February 11, 1948:

"The besieged garrison and Hindu population of Askardu was soon
reduced to sore straits by the besieging Pakistani forces. The I.A.F.
[Indian Air Force] did drop some supplies to them but due to bad
weather and great heights that had to be crossed, they fell far short
of the minimum needs of the besieged garrison. At last Colonel Sher
Jang Thapa of the State forces surrendered to the Pakistanis after a
gallant resistance of many months on August 15, 1948. The entire Hindu
population as also most of the surviving troops were put to the

Skardu's defenders and several hundred refugees were holed up in an
old stone fort on the northern edge of the town:

   Official History of the Jammu & Kashmir Operations
   Defending Kashmir - The fall of Skardu

"After the fall of Gilgit to the enemy in November 1947, it fell on
Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa and his men of 6 J&K Infantry to defend
Skardu. The troops reached Skardu on December 03rd and positioned
themselves inside a fort. With a total strength of about 285 men, Lt.
Col. Thapa was to defend his picket against a 600-strong enemy who was
equipped with modern rifles, 2" and 3" mortars and was led by
professional fighters."

"To make matters worse, the fort had hundreds of refugees men, women
and children who had trusted Lt. Col. Thapa with their lives against
the raiders. The brave men held the siege for more than six months
fighting not only the relentless enemy, but also ration and ammunition
shortage. A major attempt to send reinforcements to the besieged men
had ended in failure. There came a stage when there was just enough
food to feed 70-80 mouths, but the garrison and the refugees numbered

Confirming Skardu's historic and strategic importance in the area,
Kharpocho Fort was built in the 16th century:

   Kharfocho Fort

"The construction of Kharpocho fort of the King of forts at Skardu has
been attributed to the famous ruler of Skardu - Maqpon Bugha (1490 -
1515 AD), the great grand father of Ali Sher Khan Anchan (1560 - 1625
AD) by Hishatullah. However, Moghal historians are of the view that
the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan himself. This view is
upheld by European writers such as Cunningham, Foso Marine, GT. Vagne
etc. Some observations about this fort have been made in the Imperial
Gazetteer of British India. It states that one of the most famous of
the Gralpos (Monarchs of Skardu), Ali Sher Khan, who ruled till the
end of the 16th century, conquered Ladakh and built a fort at Skardu.
It is a twenty-minute climb to the partly reconstructed fort."

Foreshadowing events a century later, Kharfocho Fort endured a
previous siege in 1840:

   History Of Baltistan

"In 1840, the raja of Jammu, Gulab Singh, overran Baltistan, laid
siege to Skardu Fort and imprisoned the reigning raja, Ahmed Shah."

Other spellings and names for Skardu's fort include: Karfocho,
Karpochu, Kharpiclure, Kherpachuo, Castle of Queen Mindoq, and
Mindoq-Khar. On this street map of present-day Skardu, Kharpocho Fort
lies immediately north of the town:

   The Karakoram Highway
   Skardu [City Map]

Pictures of the fort, located on high ground above the town of Skardu,
can be seen here. Imagine fighting from this place for six months:

   Frederick Dixon: India/Pakistan Trekking Diary - 1907
   Three Months Shikar from Kamptee to Baltistan

   Our Baltistan Adventure

   Adventure Travel
   Photo Gallery of Skardu and Baltistan
   "Kharpiclure fort over looking Skardu Valley"
   "Old Skardu Valley"

Kharpocho Fort was in an excellent position to make a stand, and the
defenders took full advantage of it. The following account describes
their valiant attempt to defend Skardu in the face of overwhelming
Pakistani odds, dwindling supplies, and faint hope of reinforcement:

   Brigadier Sher Jang Thapa, MVC, Indian Army

"...Skardu was surrounded by an enemy of about 600 troops, while the
strength of soldiers under Lt Col Thapa was only 130. Sporadic
fighting continued all through February but in March the raiders
strengthened by new supplies intensified their fire. Gradually, the
Indians ration position started worsening. The enemy tried to persuade
them to surrender. The offer was outrightly rejected by Lt Col Thapa."

"The night of August 13, 1948, saw a fierce battle at Skardu between
Pakistani and Indian troops. Lt Col Thapa and his men repulsed an
attack of around 200 raiders. But now Thapa knew he could not hold on
any longer and he ordered his men to leave Skardu in small numbers.
Thapa recalls, "We used our last box of ammunition. Everyone knew our
plight and there was panic and chaos all over ... my troops fought
under very adverse conditions and held Skardu for six months and three

Deserting Muslim soldiers and panicked refugees only worsened the

   The Hero of Skardu
   The Tribune [India]

"Lt. Col. Thapa ... had to face many odds during the war against the
Pakistani forces as scores of Muslims in the Skardu area had secretly
joined the enemy. Not only this, many of the Muslim soldiers in Indian
platoons deserted the army and joined the enemy."

"Everyone knew our plight and there was panic and chaos all over. The
women started committing suicide by jumping into the Indus and
poisoning themselves in order to save their honour. There was an
instance where a girl jumped thrice into the Indus to kill herself but
each time the waves carried her back to the shore."

The Indian Army attempted to reach Skardu on August 14th, but were
unsuccessful. Airdrops of supplies were ineffective. Finally, Lt.
Colonel Thapa had no option but to surrender on August 15th, 1948, a
choice no less dangerous than fighting on:

"My troops fought under very adverse conditions and held Skardu for
six months and three days. Then was left with no alternative but to
surrender. The surrender was followed by mass murder. All the Sikhs
were shot dead. Captain Ganga Singh, my Adjutant was tied, laid on the
ground and shot. The only Sikh who escaped was Kalyan Singh, my
orderly who was staying with me."

A Pakistani Web site gives a milder account of the surrender:

   The Northern Areas of Pakistan 
   The Area and its People

"In Baltistan the Dogra forces [loyal to Maharajah Singh] were
besieged by the freedom fighters at Kharfocho fort. Much of the force
outside the fort was killed. When the siege prolonged and the Dogra
army saw no chance of survival, it surrendered and was subsequently
allowed to leave. This coincided with the Independence day of Pakistan
of 14th August, 1948."

Thapa's defense of Skardu served as a valuable holding action,
reducing the effectiveness of Pakistani forces while Indian troops
regrouped in the southeast. His determination was credited with
preventing the loss of the entire Ladakh region to Pakistan. Thapa was
taken alive as a prisoner of war and sent to Pakistan, where fate
intervened to save his life:

"... [as a young man, Thapa] was an excellent hockey player and
frequently played with stalwarts of 1 Gorkha Rifles, Regimental
Centre, Dharamsala. In the hockey field, he became a close friend of
Captain Douglas Gracy, Adjutant of 1 GR RC, who encouraged Thapa to
join the forces of Jammu & Kashmir state as an officer. Thapa took his
advice and was commissioned on 01 September 1932. Thapa met Gracy
again after a lapse of 25 years under different circumstances."

"Lt. Col. Thapa was a Prisoner of War (PoW) in Pakistan and General
Sir Douglas Gracy was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army. Lt.
Col. Thapa's friendship with General Gracy came to his rescue
otherwise he would have met the fate of other prisoners of war who
were killed by the Pakistani Army."

Thapa returned to India and was awarded the "Maha Vir Chakra" (MVC),
medal for valor:

   The Story of the Skardu Siege 
   Lt. Col. Sher Jung Thapa

   Maha Vir Chakra 

He later became a Brigadier General and died at 90.

After the cease-fire, Thapa's commander, General Thimayya,
acknowledged the impossible situation faced by Skardu's defenders:

   The Hero of Skardu
   The Tribune [India]

"My strategy to save Ladakh was to hold on to Skardu at all costs so
that Pakistani forces may be prevented from reaching Kargil and Leh."

"While ordering him to defend Skardu to the last man and last round, I
had promised to send him reinforcements and supplies. Unfortunately
neither could reach Skardu. I also tried to air drop more rations and
ammunition but these were merely helping the enemy. At the end of six
months, when he completely ran out of ration and ammunition, I asked
him to surrender. My General Staff Officer, Colonel Shri Ram Oberoi,
gave this order to the gallant officer on radio in August 1948."


Air Support -

Since the passes were blocked by snow, no supplies could reach Skardu
by land. The Indian Air Force did its best to keep Skardu supplied,
but conditions proved difficult and dangerous:

   Indian Air Force - Major Operations
   1947- 48 Kashmir Operations
   An Air Force Perspective

"One can well imagine the skill and courage required to hit pin-point
targets, among high hills and deep valleys, in the face of heavy
machine gun fire. Though Skardu could not be maintained by air supply
and fell after six months of siege when ammunition was totally
exhausted, and tough inclement weather over the high hills sometimes
kept the planes grounded, the overall performance of the RIAF was
superb indeed."

Geography and weather hampered both sides, and the Pakistanis had
their own share of problems. They were badly outnumbered, yet managed
to fly hundreds of supply missions to Pakistani troops on the ground:

   Pakistan Air Force History
   An Account of the Pakistan Air Force

"During the 1948 Kashmir war the strengths of Indian and Pakistan Air
Forces was as under:

      Aircraft   India   Pakistan 
   1. Tempest      68       16 
   2. Spitfire     13        0 
   3. Vampire       6        0 
   4. Liberator     4        0 
   5. Dakota       30        8 
   6. Harvard      60       20 
   7. Tiger Moth   40       10 
   8. Halifax       0        2 "

"437 sorties had been flown and over a million pounds of supplies
dropped at Bunji, Skardu, Gilgit and Chilas."

With access to far fewer planes, Pakistan was unable to provide proper
air support when needed:

   Pakistan Air Force History
   Without Air Power

"In October 1947 Indian Army was airlifted into Srinagar to prevent
Kashmir's accession to Pakistan. This should have been prevented."

"In the four Indo-Pak wars ie., the Kashmir war (1947-49) the 1965
war, the 1971 war and the recent Kargil war [1999], Indian Army was
fully supported by the Indian Air Force. This was a big advantage.
Effective support to Pakistan Army was available only during the 1965
and 1971 wars. During the Kashmir and the Kargil wars the Kashmiri
mujahideen would have performed better had the enemy air attacks been
kept off their backs."

Due to the high altitudes and below-freezing temperatures, flying was
inherently dangerous, even if one ignored the risks of accidents or
being shot down:

   Pakistan Air Force History
   Halifax HP-57 bombers in the RPAF

"The [British RAF] HP-57 Halifax was built by the Handley Page Company
of the United Kingdpom. The Halifax was fitted with four Roll-Royce
Merlin engines and the designated loaded weight for the Halifax was
55000 pounds, with a maximum speed of 280 mph."

"The Royal Pakistan Air Force ... acquired two of these aircraft in

"During the 1948 Kashmir Operations, they proved extremely useful
during vital supply drop missions at night in the northern areas of
Pakistan, especially at Skardu. These night missions were
indispensable to the Kashmir War because this area was within range of
Indian fighters, which precluded day operations."

"It is noteworthy that the aircrew, besides being exposed to enemy
action also braved other problems: for instance, while operating in
one of the most hostile flying territories of the world and that too
at night, flying in the old and battle-weary aircraft, the tail gunner
usually froze in the sub-zero temperatures in the vicinity of
Pakistan's Nanga Parbat Peak (26,662 feet), and some of the other
peaks because by the time the 'hot' air in the heating ducts reached
his position, it was as cold as the outside air!"

The Pakistanis also had their share of heroes at Skardu: 

   Pakistan Air Force History
   Without Air Power

"Responding to call for help in December 1947, two war-worn Dakotas
[military versions of the Douglas DC-3] were pressed into service for
supply dropping operations at Chilas, Boonji, Gilgit, and Skardu. The
16 Tempest fighters with the RPAF were jealously preserved for a more
desperate situation. In spite of the Indian Air Force Tempests having
command of the sky, air drops of rations and munitions was continued."

"After a para[chute] drop of supplies at Skardu two IAF Tempests
attacked the returning Dakota flown by Flying Officer (later Air
Commodore) Dogar over Chilas. During their four attacks the Tempests
fired hundreds of bullets on the unarmed Dakota killing Army Naik
Mohammad Din and injuring Flying Officer Jagjivan. During the 25
minutes encounter Dogar's skilful flying and valour saved the Dakota
and the Army contingent on board. He was the first recipient of Sitara

Pakistan's "Sitara Jurat" medal can be seen here:

   Operational Awards

In the following interview after the War, Dogar gives a more personal
account of this same encounter:

   Pakistan Institute of Defense studies
   PAF's First Sitara-E-Jurat

The article's author also mentions various problems the Pakistanis
encountered flying missions in the Indus Valley, and voices the
concern that Muslims in the area were under attack by India:

"Pakistan faced a serious handicap in those formative years. Its
military stores were stuck up in Indian warehouses. Its Air Force had
only a handful of Tempest fighters as compared to its adversary.
Moreover, the Pakistan government had prohibited the employment of its
fighter aircraft to avoid a full scale air war. The only way to
respond to the SOS calls for help from the besieged people of Gilgit
and Skardu and the Azad Kashmir forces was through supply drops by its
Dakota aircraft."

"The four month old airforce had only two war-worn Dakotas when the
first call for help came in December '47. There was little or no
maintenance support available and its pilots had no experience in
supply dropping. Flying through the serpentine valleys to reach the
drop zones of Bunji and Skardu entailed operating through some of the
most hazardous terrain in the world; turning and twisting through
narrow valleys and gorges flanked by some of the highest peaks in the
world; where weather was highly changeable and no forecasting facility
was available, required not only a high level of professionalism but
also a great deal of pluck. These handicaps did not deter our aircrew
who accepted the challenge with exemplary courage and launched their
mercy missions without delay."

"The operations involved yet another hazard - the Indian Air Force.
Stung by the reverses suffered by their land forces, the Indian Air
Force increased its air patrolling over the area. Its aircraft lurked
around, harassing civilian population or Azad Kashmir forces,
unchallenged because PAF [Pakistan Air Force] fighters had been asked
to stay away."


End of the War - 

Bravely defended but without hope of rescue, the town of Skardu was
lost to Pakistan. The Paks also captured Kargil to the southeast, but
were  unable to secure Leh.

By this time, India had flown sufficient men and supplies into Leh,
enabling them to regroup and turn back Pakistani forces. Kargil was
recaptured on November 25, 1948, but India was not able to make much
additional progress towards Skardu before the cease-fire went into
effect on January 1, 1949.

   Defending Kashmir
   Official History of the Jammu & Kashmir Operations

"After intervention from the UN Security Council, the ceasefire was
announced at 2359 hours on the night of 1-2 January 1949. And with
that, more than one year of bitter fighting came to an end. It has
been said that the ceasefire came as a surprise even to the senior
military commanders concerned with the J&K operations. Those
responsible for the actual operations wished they had been warned
sufficiently in advance about the government decision to accept the
ceasefire from a particular hour. It would have enabled the troops to
make small advances and take up tactically much better positions
before the ceasefire actually took effect."

At the time of the cease-fire, the war had started to swing back in
India's favor. With additional time, and its greater economic and
military resources, India probably would have recaptured Skardu and
eventually pushed all Pakistani forces out of Kashmir.

Skumar Mahajan, author of the 1966 book "Debacle in Baltistan" (New
Delhi, 1966), reemphasized the importance of Skardu:

   Date: Sat, 19 Jun 1999 17:24:31 GMT
   From: Mo <>
   Newsgroups: soc.culture.indian, soc.culture.pakistan
   Subject: Kargil, a shadow; Skardu, the substance

"The present flare-up in Drass-Kargil-Batalik sector is akin
to shadow boxing, which India and Pakistan had been
indulging in from time to time. But the real battle between
the two in this sector was that of Skardu before its fall in
1948; and in case India decides to retrieve its territory
from Pak occupation, the future battle of Skardu would be
mother of all battles in this sector. One is reminded of
Skardu garrison commander, Lt-Col (later Brigadier) Sher
Jang Thapa's warning to his superiors on December 16, 1947,
that the important (high) ground once taken by the enemy
will be hard to recapture. However, if India is keen to have
permanent peace in Drass-Kargil-Batalik and Siachen sector,
the recapture of Skardu is essential. It is a key to stop
all future infiltration from across the border in this
sector. It's capture is also necessary as Army's morale


Then & Now -

The first India-Pakistan War ended with a United Nations cease-fire on
January 1, 1949. This established a "Line of Control" between
Pakistani-controlled western Kashmir and India-occupied eastern
Kashmir. It is visible as a dashed red line on the map meandering
between China on the north and the undisputed Pakistan-India border on
the south:

   University of Texas Library 
   India-Pakistan Border: Kashmir Area

Modified over the years and now known as the "Line of Actual
Controls", the LAC has become accepted as the defacto border:

   Kashmir: Distortions and Reality
   Chapter 1 : Territorial And Political Analysis

"India and Pakistan have accepted the cease-fire line between Indian
part of J&K and pakistan-occupied part of it, under the Shimla
agreement of 1972. The cease-fire line was given the name of Line of
Actual Control (LAC). Cease-fire line was demolished and LAC was
modified as a result of agreement between the Army heads of the two
countries. Kashmir ceased to be on the U.N. agenda and U.N. observers,
who were watching the cease-fire were withdrawn. Kashmir ceased to be
an international issue and became a bilateral issue between India and
pakistan. The two countries agreed to solve the issue by mutual
discussion and peacefully and in no circumstances use force. The
Shimla agreement was endorsed by the United nations, the Indian
parliament and the Pakistani National Assembly. It is, therefore, too
much to expect Pakistan to agree to part with the area, which is under
its firm control since 1948."

Before the first War broke out, the Lord Louis Mountbatten (still
Governor General of India at the time) suggested that a popular vote
be held within Kashmir to see if the people really want to join India
or Pakistan. The idea of a referendum was later included in the
cease-fire agreement mandated by the United Nations, but no such vote
has ever taken place.

Pakistan objected to a vote on the grounds that Muslims in
Indian-occupied Kashmir would be too afraid to vote freely until India
withdraws. Not wanting to leave, India felt that Kashmir's accession
was (and is) completely legal, so no vote is necessary.

It has also been proposed that both sides simply withdraw from any
areas they gained in Kashmir during the first War. However, India
counters that while it might be easy (and obvious) for Pakistani
forces to withdraw, what about the Muslim tribesmen that also entered
and remained in Kashmir?

Pakistan still regards Kashmir's "Instrument of Accession" with India
as illegal, and sees India as the aggressor nation. India regards
Kashmir as a fully legal part of India, and is unwilling to give up
any portion of it. India has also accused Pakistan of building up its
military forces in the captured areas, and has built up sizable forces
of its own. They face each other across the LAC, guarding their
hard-earned territory and waiting for the other side to make a wrong

Major flare-ups between India and Pakistan occurred again in 1965,
1971, 1988, and 1999, with minor ones raising their ugly heads more
frequently. All in all, it is estimated that some 60,000 people have
been killed in Kashmir just in the last ten years.

With the possible threat of nuclear weapons -- India and Pakistan both
held nuclear missile tests in 1998 -- we can only hope that everyone
keeps a cool head during the next flare-up. Sadly enough, another has
occurred since I began this answer, spurring more rounds of charges
and counter-charges:

   Yahoo! News
   Kashmir Dispute

Since 1948, Skardu has been administered by Pakistan, and as noted
above, this has been very beneficial to the area and its people.
Unfortunately, the turbulent mix of tribal alliances and feuds, major
religions, conflicting politics, and cultural differences keeps
everything simmering.

And, we haven't even touched on the influence and intrusions of a
nearby giant: China. This is another question altogether.

Although of supreme personal importance to those who lived through it
(and died in it), the Siege of Skardu remains largely unknown outside
of Pakistan and India. The events of 50 years ago in a small, remote
mountain town have been overshadowed by the world-threatening tensions
that hang over Kashmir. In the next siege, where machine guns and
mortars may be replaced by missiles and nuclear warheads, neither the
defenders nor the attackers may get out alive.

That would be the worst lesson that we could possibly learn from the
Siege of Skardu.


References - 

   Adventure Tours Pakistan
   About Pakistan

   Aga Khan Rural Support Programme
   Agricultural University of Norway
   High Altitude Integrated Natural Resource Management
   [Details about climate, geography, flora, fauna, village life]

   Shangri-la Atop the Roof of the World

   CIA World Factbook

   CIA World Factbook

   Dawn - The Internet Edition
   Pakistan's most widely circulated English newspaper

   DEFENCE NOTES - August 2001
   The Anatomy of Indo-Pak Wars
   A Strategic and Operational Analysis 
   [Google Cache]

   Defending Kashmir
   Official History of the Jammu & Kashmir Operations

   Indo-American Chamber of Commerce
   Keynote Address by Mr Omar Abdullah
   (An informative outline of a 13-part documentary series)

   Islamic Republic of Pakistan

   Jammu & Kashmir
   The Complete Knowledge Base

   Kashmir Record & Research Council
   Articles on Kashmir

   The Kashmir Story

   The Mid-Cretaceous Period
   Formation of Himalayas

   Northern Areas
   Skardu Valley
   Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation
   Northern Pakistan

   Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation

   Peakware World Mountain Encyclopedia

   Population Association of Pakistan

   Student's Britannica India
   History of India

   The Tribune 
   [of India]

   Jammu And Kashmir


Search Terms & Google Results - 


   bangladesh history

   british empire india

   battle of skardu 1948

   india partition maps

   kashmir history

   sher jung thapa

   "siege of skardu"


   skardu climate

   skardu fort siege

   skardu pakistan gallery

Request for Answer Clarification by venu56-ga on 26 Aug 2002 07:38 PDT
Thank you for the inputs till now ! For the lessons learnt from the
Siege of Skardu, I would like to have separate analyses each of the
Indian , Pakistani and a neutral perspective. That is , the partisan
ones in addition to the neutral perspective.  They may be placed under
respective heads. These would form the crux of my study and provide
important lessons in the present context of mountainous warfare even
though a few may not have the applicability as they did at that point
of time. I hope my requirement stands clarified.

Clarification of Answer by huntsman-ga on 26 Aug 2002 21:06 PDT
When you compose your study, you will have to assemble pieces of
information from individual sources. Whether online or in print, there
does not appear to be a formal, all-inclusive military analysis of the
Siege of Skardu. One may exist somewhere, but I have not been able to
find it after many, many hours of searching.

As you will see below, I have found additional references with various
military perspectives on the Siege of Skardu in 1947-48. You can read
some of these online, but you will have to visit your local library or
bookstore for others.

I suspect that the most detailed information about the Siege of Skardu
will be found in printed materials, and most likely in books and
magazines published in India. Several books are also referenced below.

Most online information is from India, perhaps because English is
spoken more widely there, but most likely because the loss of Skardu
is a more important issue. There are some Pakistani references, and
even fewer international sources.

Thank you,


Indian References -

History and photos of the 1947-48 War from the official Indian Army

   Indian Army
   Major Operations

A brief history of the Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, the soldiers who
defended Skardu:

   Jammu & Kashmir Rifles

The following articles criticize India's 1947-48 strategy as
inadequate, poorly planned, or willingly ignorant. Blame is placed on
senior British commanders who served on both sides:

   Institute for Strategic Research and Analysis
   The Rape of Skardu: Part I
   The Rape of Skardu: Part II

   The articles quote the following books:

   The Battles of Zojila, 1948
   Sudhir S. Bloeria
   Har-Anand Publications Pvt. Ltd. 
   ISBN: 81-241-0509-X 

   Operation Rescue: Military Operations in Jammu and Kashmir,1947-49
   Lt. Gen. S. K. Sinha 
   New Delhi, Vision Books, 1977
   ISBN: 81-7094-498-8

   Slender is the Thread
   General Bogey Sen
   [publisher not found]

This article discusses the issues raised by Sudhir Bloeria's book,
"The Battles of Zojila, 1948";

   The Indian Express
   Kashmir conflict floundered on misplaced political will

This book review mentions that top British commanders on both sides
were communicating with each before and during the War:

   The Indian Express
   ‘Pak’s moves are based on supposed assurances from UK Govt’

   The book reviewed is:

   War and Diplomacy in Kashmir 1947-48
   C. Dasgupta
   New Delhi, Sage, 2002
   ISBN 81-7829-069-3

Here is a review of a book critical of Indian military operations:

   The Sunday Tribune
   A controversial General recounts his experience

   The book reviewed is:

   In the Line of Duty — A Soldier Remembers
   Harbaksh Singh
   Lancer Publications and Distributors, New Delhi

Here are various reactions to the UN cease-fire:

   The Indian Express
   Strategy behind ceasefire

Comments on Pakistan's 1947 strategy by a veteran Indian reporter who
was there:

   Indian Express
   The Kargil operation, circa 1947

This two-volume book lists a chapter entitled "2. The fall of Skardu :
"All Sikhs shot, all women raped".":

   Military Plight of Pakistan : Indo-Pak War 1947-48 (2 vols)
   M.N. Gulati 
   Delhi, Manas, 2000
   ISBN 81-7049-123-1.

History and photos of 1947-48 from the official Indian Air Force site:

   Indian Air Force
   Independence and Partition

   Indian Air Force
   Major Operations

History and photos of Royal Indian Air Force operations in 1947-48:

   The RIAF in the Kashmir Operations: 1947-48

   1947-48 Kashmir Operations
   An Overview Of The RIAF In The Kashmir Conflict


Pakistani References -

Pakistan's official Kashmir site has very few "skardu" documents
available online, and none relating to Skardu in 1947-48. However,
they have posted all of the United Nations resolutions about Kashmir:

   United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir

The official Pakistan Army site appears to be under construction:
there are no buttons or active links there at all:

   Pakistan Army

The following private site has articles and maps about Pakistan's
operations in and around Skardu during 1947-48:

   Fifty Years of Pakistan Army


   They have a map showing the movements of Pakistani and Indian
   during the War:
   Jammu & Kashmir War (1947-48)
   Map 1

Here is a 1947 Independence Day parade photo of Pakistan's three
British Commander-in-Chiefs (Rear Admiral J.W. Jefford, Gen. Sir Frank
Messervy, AVM Perry-Keene,). As you know, Skardu surrendered on August
14, 1948, one year after this parade:
   Then & Now 1

Portraits of Pakistan's Army commanders can be seen here. These
include General Sir Douglas David Gracey, who intervened on behalf of
Colonel Sher Jung Thapa when he was held as a POW in Pakistan:

   Commanders of the Pakistan Army 

From DAWN, "Pakistan's most widely circulated English language
newspaper", here is an obituary of Shahzada Mataul Mulk, the Pakistani
commander at Skardu:

   CHITRAL: Sons of former ruler of Chitral pass away

Another official military tribute (and book announcement) gives a few
comments about the battle around Skardu:

   Tributes paid to N. Areas liberation hero

   The book mentioned is:

   "Shamsher Say Zanjeer Tak"
   Col. Hassan Khan 

I found no other references on DAWN about Skardu military operations
in 1947-48.

I also found no "skardu" results at the official Pakistan Air Force

   Pakistan Air Force

The "Pakistan Institute of Defense Studies" has several articles with
details, maps, photos, and stories about Pakistani air operations in

   The Opening Round – 1948 Air War

   An Account of the Pakistan Air Force

   Halifax HP-57 bombers in the RPAF

This Pakistani air defence site has only three references to Skardu
(two of which I cited in my answer):

   Pakistan Institute For Air Defence Studies

   Flying Officer Mukhtar Ahmed Dogar: 
   PAF's first recipient of 'Sitara-e-Jurat'

   Halifax HP-57 Bombers in the RPAF by Group Captain Sultan M. Hali

Here is a history of the Pakistan Air Force from 1947 to 1954:

   Pakistan Air Force
   [Google Cache]

This history of the Pakistan Air Force has several paragraphs about
their 1947-48 operations:

   Pakistan Air Force


International References -

An internal search on the United Nations Web site gives no results for

   Search the United Nations Website

Note the link to the UN resolutions mentioned above in the Pakistani

In the United States, the Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO)
Web site ( has two articles from the "Institute
for Defence Studies & Analyses" ( in New
Delhi, India. To read articles directly from CIAO's Web site, you must
first register with them for a free 30-day trial:

   Operational Art in the Indian Context: An Open Sources Analysis
   A Century of Air Power: Lessons and Pointers - 45.6KB 

However, you can read the articles in Google's cache by using the
following URLs (just cancel any login boxes that appear):

   Strategic Analysis: A Monthly Journal of the IDSA
   September 2001 (Vol. XXV No. 6) 
   Operational Art in the Indian Context: An Open Sources Analysis
   The 1947-48 Conflict in Kashmir
   [Google Cache]

"The Indian Air Force (IAF) flew in troops in a fire fighting mode
that was able to stem the tide of the Pathan Lashkars intent on loot
and mayhem. A series of operations to lift the seige of Poonch, Skardu
and Leh was launched. The absence of an air head in the Skardu
garrison led to its eventual capitulation after a six-month-long seige
(the longest in recent military history). 4"

The number "4" footnote refers to the following book:

   A History of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles 1820-1956
   Maj Dr. K. Brahma Singh
   New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 1989

"...for an in-depth treatment of the 1947-48 Indo-Pak conflict. In
particular, this book covers the lifting of the seige of Poonch and
Leh and the failure to lift the seige of Skardu in fair detail. (Refer
pp. 248, 260 and 264)":

Here is the second CIAO article:

   Strategic Analysis: A Monthly Journal of the IDSA
   March 2001 (Vol. XXIV No. 12) 
   A Century of Air Power: Lessons and Pointers 
   [Google cache]

"The natural desire of a battlefield commander to control his own
firepower has led to too many controversies clouded by vested
interests of resource allocation and force structure. For the
effectiveness of counter surface force campaign the answer lies in
having increasingly close coordination between army and air staff to
achieve the convergence of joint operations. It applies equally if not
more to the higher direction of defence. The record of India's armed
forces in this respect has been far from laudable. For example, why
the garrison in the geostrategically important area of Skardu was
allowed to surrender to a small Pakistani force for want of
reinforcements by air in the 1947-48 Indo-Pak war has not emerged
clearly. 14"

The number "14" footnote refers to the following book:

   My Years with the IAF
   Air Chief Marshal PC Lal
   New Delhi: Lancer Publishers, 1986

"... avers that Air Commodore Meher Singh did not think it advisable
to accept the Skardu commitment due to performance limitation of
Dakota MKIII for operating at this high level airstrip (ht. 9500 ft).
Yet, just then, the same aircraft was operated at a still higher level
airstrip at Leh (ht. 10,500 ft).

This Tibetan news site has a historical article about Baltistan that
mentions Skardu:

   World Tibet Network News 
   Wednesday, December 2, 1998 
   1. Little Tibet-Renaissance and Resistance in Balistan

A Canadian Web site mentions that Anglo-Indian pilots flew in the
1947-48 RIAF campaigns, including missions in Skardu:

   The Anglo-Indian Association of Canada
   None But The Brave.....


Search Terms & Google Results -

One suggestion for your own searches: use Google's search engine to
examine one specific Web site. Do this from Google's main page
(:// by entering the Web site's domain name in
front of your search terms. The following example uses the string
" skardu 1948" to do a Google search on Pakistan's
DAWN newspaper: skardu 1948

Out of the six results, the most relevant one is an obituary of one of
the Pakistani commanders at Skardu:

   CHITRAL: Sons of former ruler of Chitral pass away

Additional searches performed for this clarification (in alphabetical
order) are:

   "military strategy" skardu

   pakistan military skardu 1947

   pakistan army 1947 siege skardu

   "siege of skardu" analysis

   skardu 1947

   skardu 1948

   skardu analysis 1947

   skardu analysis 1948

   skardu liberation pakistan
Subject: Re: Siege of Skardu, 1947-48
From: woi-ga on 29 Mar 2004 04:50 PST
Wonderful Work on Skardu. There is another published source that
youmight want to consult - "Inside Occupied Kashmir" by PN Sharma.
Sharma was an ex POW from the 47-48 Ops and writes a few pages on
Skardu battle. He had met Lt Col KS Thapa during his period of
Subject: Re: Siege of Skardu, 1947-48
From: iqbal101-ga on 26 Jan 2005 10:24 PST
You can also have a look at anaccount by a British Officer.
"The Gilgit Rebellion 1947"
By Capt William A Brown.
Publisher IBEX, London
ISPN Booocp7w8

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