Against All Odds: Pakistan Air Force in the 1971 India-Pakistan War
Asia @ War Series
Author: Air Commodore Kaiser Tufail
Publisher: Helion & Company
While much of the world's eye was turned towards Southeast Asia and the US involvement in Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, many other small conflicts sprang up around the world. Often times these conflicts lasted only a few weeks or so, which helped keep them from the public eye compared to the years-long fighting in Vietnam. The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 was just such a conflict, lasting only a few weeks in December of 1971. This latest title in Helion & Company's Asia @ War Series takes a detailed look at the events leading up to the war, the conflict itself, and the aftermath.
The book begins by outlining the issues leading up to the war, and as is the case with most of the India/Pakistan conflicts, this one came about from religious differences and land. East Pakistan was the primary issue on the land side, and the Muslim population in the region was the primary issue on the religious side. Both of these are difficult to sum up in a paragraph, which is why the book devotes a good portion of the text to providing that background. Having a clearer understanding of these issues helps immensely in understanding how the conflict broke out in 1971.
Which brings us to the next part of the book, the war itself. The author had access to the PAF archives and therefore had a much better amount of data to work from than most other authors who have tackled this war. As the author was an officer of the PAF, he does indicate that there could very well be inherent bias in presenting the 1971 war, but he notes that he made an effort to try to present as evenhanded a story as possible. This is good as it would be easy to declare either side in this conflict the undisputed winner. The reality is different, though, as the text shows, with the PAF holding its own against a far more numerous Indian Air Force that also had more modern aircraft.
This outcome showed what just a few years difference can make, as the PAF performed to a far higher ability in the 1965 war. This is highlighted in the next section, the aftermath, where the author describes the outcome of the war and makes an assessment of the overall conflict. The PAF, while managing to achieve an equal attrition rate to that of the IAF, failed to press home in several areas that could have greatly improved the outcome of the war and even reduced losses.
This book is very well researched and written, and is probably the most comprehensive history of the 1971 war written in the last 40 years. The extensive access to archival materials, as well as the ability to communicate with a great number of participants of the war add a layer of knowledge that is unrivaled. Further complementing the text is the photographic record, which is packed with images from both sides of the war. The depth and breadth of aircraft types is fully covered, and to further aid that there are several color profile illustrations showing how many of these planes were camouflaged during the war. Overall, this is an excellent monograph on this conflict and Helion & Company continue to fill important gaps in aviation history with their @ War series. My thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy.