Written By: Lt Gen Mahmud Ahmed, Retd

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“At about 1300 hours on 6th September, General Officer Commanding 15 Division, Major General Niranjan Prasad, reported that the situation in his Sector was desperate on account of heavy casualties and that no further offensive action was possible….. I was astonished by his appearance. He seemed to be drained of all will and vision. His attitude was passively negative and there was the unmistakable air of the defeatist about him. He stated his inability to undertake any further offensive action on the plea that his formation had lost all capacity for operations.”

Lieutenant General Harbakhsh Singh, WAR DESPATCHES Indo-Pak Conflict 1965, p 91-92.

I [Corps Commander XI Indian Corps] visited 4 Mountain Division this afternoon from 1415 hours to 1615 hours (on 7 September) and met the GOC at his HQ. Most of the officers in the HQ and the GOC were wearing long faces. The troops I saw on my way to the HQ appeared slack and generally uninterested.

Lieutenant General Harbakhsh Singh, WAR DESPATCHES Indo-Pak Conflict 1965, p 100-101.

‘In the midst of this grim crisis on 10 September, Army Chief Chaudhuri asked Harbaksh Singh whether our forward positions should not be readjusted and established behind the Beas as the enemy armoured division might breakthrough.’

Lieutenant General Brij Mohan Kaul, Confrontation with Pakistan, p 38
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“The human heart is the starting point of all matters pertaining to war.”2

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Kashmir War of 1947-48

The heart of the matter which caused the Indo-Pak wars in 1947-48 and in 1965 was Kashmir. On 26 October 1947, V. P. Menon, advisor to the new Governor General of India, placed before Mountbatten, a paper purported to be the instrument of accession signed by a vacillating but now frightened Hari Singh, the last ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This enabled the Dominion of India to employ its military power to help an ‘endangered state’ to preserve its integrity. The very next day, on 27 October 1947, Indian Air Force transport aircraft carrying Indian troops landed at Srinagar airport beginning the military occupation of Kashmir which lasts till today. Pakistan barely two and a half months old tasted the first Indian aggression.

At partition India had inherited two-thirds of the well organized, well equipped and well experienced British Indian Army. Pakistan’s share was not only meager, but far from being a cohesive organization and spread all over the Subcontinent. Consequently when India began its military occupation of Kashmir in October 1947, there was nothing in the field to

resist it. Having quickly captured the Valley of Srinagar and pushed out the ill-equipped freedom fighters from all the heights which overlook the Valley, the Indian forces began to expand in all directions to annex the whole of Kashmir. It was not until May 1948 that the first few regular units of the Pakistan Army could reach Kashmir for the support of the hard pressed freedom fighters. Indian advance was slowed down and eventually brought to a halt but not before a considerable portion of Jammu and Kashmir territory had been lost. Cessation of fighting came about on January 1, 1949 and the positions held by opposing forces became the Cease Fire Line invigilated by UN Military Observers Group. The Line of Control dividing Kashmir today is more or less the same Cease Fire Line.

To the world in general, India repeatedly announced its pledge to hold plebiscite thereby allowing the 77% Muslims of Kashmir to decide their own future. But at home the Indian government consolidated its military hold by systematically removing all impediments that made the State of Jammu and Kashmir an entity separate from Indian Dominion. Thanks to her duality combined with vigorous diplomatic labours by early 1964 the world had grown sufficiently accustomed to the ground reality in the north-western part of the Subcontinent to look on it as a mere spectator. Ironically a military dictator of Pakistan tried in vain to resolve the dispute through negotiations with a democratically elected government of India which was inclined towards belligerency. The India-Pakistan Talks which began in 1962 ended inconclusively. To add injury to insult, when Pakistan vociferously protested in a meeting of the Security Council against India’s blatant amalgamation of the disputed State, the Indian representative in the UN announced arrogantly, that Kashmir had become an integral part of India on 27 October 1947 when the Maharajah of Kashmir had signed the instrument of accession and that, “You cannot make more complete what was already complete.”3 This meant that henceforth India had no intentions of holding plebiscite or of negotiating the dispute over Kashmir. The Indian government had calculated that in not too distant a future her five years re-armament programme started after the disastrous 1962 border war against China would clearly tilt the military balance in her favour so that even if the Kashmir problem lingered, India would have overwhelmingly military might to back her political arguments.

Rann of Kutch Conflict: April-June 1965

Like the annual cycle of the monsoons, matters began to heat up in the Subcontinent in early 1965 when India established a border post in a disputable part of Rann of Kutch. Meetings between the officers of Indian border police and Pak Rangers ended inconclusively when India refused to dismantle the contentious post. On 9 April regular troops of the Pakistan Army attacked to remove the disputed post. In the ensuing tension both sides brought in additional forces and skirmishes continued until June. In fact on 24 June, the PAF fighters forced down an IAF Ouragon aircraft flying armed reconnaissance mission near Badin. “The cessation of hostilities finally came into effect on 1 July with the signing of the Kutch agreement on 30 June but by then the storm clouds were gathering over Kashmir.” 4

Escalation in Kashmir: July-August 1965

Disturbance in Indian Held Kashmir was the result of Indian intransigence combined with harsh rule following the theft of the Holy Relic from the shrine at Hazaratbal in Srinagar. The Indian Army went on full alert in July 1965 when a Kashmiri shepherd of Gulmerg reported presence of ‘strangers’ (actually Kashmiri freedom fighters) in the neigbouring hill meadows (locally called margs) where he was grazing his flock. A widespread crackdown by the Indian regular forces in Kashmir valley could not completely quell the insurrection. During the last week of August 1965, the Indian Army undertook three major attacks across the Cease Fire Line, viz, one in Tithwal area against Pir Sahaba and two attacks, one each from Uri and Punch aimed at eliminating the Bedori Bulge. All Indian attacks were partially successful; in Tithwal area, Pir Sahaba was captured by 25 August while in Bedori area the Indians occupied Haji Pir Pass on 28 August. Pakistan responded to the Indian aggression across the Cease Fire Line on 1 September with a powerful thrust consisting of infantry and armour supported by artillery in the area of Chhamb aimed at Akhnur. The Indians were completely surprised by the size and direction of the Pakistani riposte. The immediate Indian reaction appeared in the form of six Vampires of IAF which arrived over the battlefield of Chhamb late in the afternoon that day. Despite heavy odds, two F-86 fighters of PAF took up the challenge and in the ensuing aerial combat shot down four enemy aircraft in quick succession; the remaining two Vampires survived by vanishing over the pale horizon.

In New Delhi on 2 September the Indian Prime Mister ordered a reluctant Indian Army Chief to attack Pakistan itself in order to thwart the menacing operation which was likely to amputate Indian Held Kashmir altogether. The Indian forces took four days to move to the West Pakistan border and launch the famous attack on 6 September 1965.

WAR ACROSS INTERNATIONAL BORDERS

Comparison of Forces

By 1965 the Indian Army had expanded considerably and was well on its way to modernization. The land forces were grouped into four commands, Western, Eastern, Central and Southern. Of these, the Western Command was responsible for West Pakistan while the Eastern Command was responsible for NEFA and East Pakistan. The Indian Army comprised five corps of which three (I Corps, XI Corps and XV Corps) were committed against West Pakistan. The strength of infantry formations had nearly been doubled from ten divisions to twenty divisions with the raising of nine new mountain divisions as part of the Indian five years re-armament programme started immediately after the1962 debacle.

Bulk of the Indian Army grouped under the Western Command was employed against West Pakistan which is where all the major fighting took place. There was virtually no military action in East Pakistan. The forces arrayed against West Pakistan comprised the Indian armoured division and one independent armoured brigade as well as thirteen out of nineteen infantry and mountain divisions and six out of eight independent infantry brigades. To contest this massive Indian juggernaut Pakistan had only one and half armoured division, six infantry divisions and two independent infantry brigades; there was only one infantry division to defend the whole of East Pakistan against the India Eastern Command.

Indian Army’s Offensive Plan

As unbelievable as it may seem today, the Indian offensive plan in 1965 was neither bold nor spectacular nor imaginative. Of the two offensive formations, Indian I Corps was launched in Sialkot Sector and XI Indian Corps launched in Lahore Sector. The tasks of both these corps was simply advance into Pak territory up to the BRBL Canal (Bambanwala Ravi Bedian Link Canal) and destroy all bridges over it to preclude the possibility of any Pakistani offensive. In the Lahore Sector from Maqbool Siphon to Hussainiwala Headworks, the BRBL Canal flows close to border. However, in the Sialkot Sector it lies well away from the Working Boundary which meant that the Indian I Corps would have to cover much greater distances inside Pakistan. The Lahore Front

Indian XI Corps’ offensive which commenced around 3.30 a.m. on 6 September consisted of three main thrusts, each with an infantry division along axes Wagah–Atari, Barki–Hudiara and Kasur–Khem Karan; a fourth thrust with a brigade size force was launched from Dera Nanak towards Jassar Bridge. Despite the advantage of initiative and surprise, the Indian advance was characterized by extreme caution. Pakistani forces held firm in their defensive positions inflicting heavy casualties on the advancing enemy. In the skies overhead the PAF Shaheens ruled supreme exacting a heavy toll of Indian formations on the move in depth. On the ground below, Pakistan artillery impacted with paralysing effect. As early as afternoon on 6 September, this brave and magnificent Pakistani combined arms employment had spread panic among the Indian forces of which Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh writes unabashedly:

“At about 1300 hours on 6th September, General Officer Commanding 15 Division, Major General Niranjan Prasad, reported that the situation in his Sector was desperate on account of heavy casualties and that no further offensive action was possible….. I was astonished by his appearance. He seemed to be drained of all will and vision. His attitude was passively negative and there was the unmistakable air of the defeatist about him. He stated his inability to undertake any further offensive action on the plea that his formation had lost all capacity for operations.”5

Indian 15 Division had barely recovered from its clumsy start when a bold counter-attack by Pakistan’s 10 Division on 8 September once again sent the Indian troops reeling back toward the border. Withdrawing in alarm and confusion Major General Niranjan, GOC 15 Indian Division abandoned his jeep, with his flag and star-plates on full display, and preferred to retreat on foot! After a day or two however, XI Corps again regained its mental balance and the enemy was able to rally and resume the attack towards the BRBL Canal but now only on two axes Wagah–Atari and Barki–Hudiara; the situation on the third axis, i.e., Kasur–Khem Karan has been covered separately below. On the Barki–Hudiara axis Indian 7 Division was able to close up with the Canal only after the fall of Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, NH, and with him the fall of Barki village on 10 September. Thereafter the enemy remained contented with ransacking and looting villages lying abandoned between the border and the BRBL Canal. On the Wagah–Atari axis, Indian 15 Division was re-enforced by a para brigade and the enemy troops eventually reached the Canal on the GT Road painstakingly by capturing the village of Dograi only a day before the Cease Fire.

Withdrawing in alarm and confusion Major General Niranjan, GOC 15 Indian Division abandoned his jeep, with his flag and star-plates on full display, and preferred to retreat on foot!

Kasur–Khem Karan Area

As mentioned above, the third prong of XI Indian Corps was initially directed along axis Khem Karan–Kasur. Quite like its northern neighbour on the main GT Road (Wagah - Atari axis), Indian 4 Mountain Division also lost its zest and élan as soon as it tasted the very first few salvoes hurled at them by the Pakistani artillery. The situation prevailing in the enemy’s camp is best described by Lieutenant General Harbakhsh Singh, C-in-C Western Command himself:

“In the early hours of the morning of 8 September I received a very alarming report in the form of a handwritten letter through a special officer courier, from General Officer Commanding XI Indian Corps who had visited the formation (4 Mountain Division) on the afternoon of 7th September 1965. An extract from the letter is given below:6

I visited 4 Mountain Division this afternoon from 1415 hours to 1615 hours (on 7 September) and met the GOC at his HQ. Most of the officers in the HQ and the GOC were wearing long faces. The troops I saw on my way to the HQ appeared slack and generally uninterested. On enquiry I came to know the following:

The strength of the six infantry battalions had been reduced to an overall total of about three and a half battalions in 24 hours of action commencing 0400 hours 6th Sep. This reduction was partially due to enemy action but mostly due to desertion. The rot started with 13 DOGRA, who without orders left the position allotted to them without any enemy pressure except perhaps shelling. GOC 4 Mountain Division halted them as they were coming back. During Night 6th/7th Sep they all disappeared except the Subedar Major and the CO’s party. This rot quickly spread to the other infantry units. 4 Mountain have the following battalions under it at present:-

18 Rajputana Rifles

4 Grenadiers

7 Grenadiers

1/9 Gorkha Rifles

9 Jak Rifles

13 Dogra

Of these, only 4 GRENADIERS and 1/9 GORKHA RIFLES are intact. I am told by the GOC that the CO of 9 JAK RIFLES left his position, without orders, on the Night of 6th/7th Sep taking a company of infantry with him. 7 GRENADIERS are only about two companies strong. 18 RAJPUTANA RIFLES has about 10 per cent desertions and the GOC thinks that this unit is cracking up. I am further given to understand by the GOC that desertions are restricted to infantry units only and no other arm or service in the Division is affected.

Because of the situation not a single task given to 4 Mountain Division in the current operations has been carried out. No bridge on the ICHHOGIL (BRBL) Canal in 4 Mountain Division Sector has been blown up. The GOC had to readjust the position of 7th Sep. When I visited him today he was arranging the preparation of a defended sector in the ASAL UTTAR Area.

The morale of the Division being what it is, it is my considered view that any defenses held by the present infantry units in 4 Mountain Division cannot withstand even slight enemy pressure. This is a most serious situation in the present stage of operations. I recommend:

(a) That 4 Mountain Division be immediately replaced by some other formation for carrying out the role given to them.

(b) Except for 4 GRENADIERS and 1/9 GORKHA RIFLES the four infantry units of 4 Mountain Division as given in Para 4 above should be disbanded. I request that you pay a visit to this formation at your earliest convenience to see at first hand its state of morale and the competence of its commander.

It was privilege and an honour to have you here on the epoch making day – 6th Sep 1965.

With warm regards

Thus the commander of Indian Western Command once again found himself seized with the onerous and odious task of rallying his shaky and unsteady formations. On the morning of 8 September he rushed to the HQ of 4 Mountain Division located at Gharyala (north east of Khem Karan) just in time to arrest a rapidly deteriorating situation. No soon had he reconciled to the idea of 4 Mountain Division giving up its offensive role and assuming a defensive task, than the Indian Western Command C-in-C was confronted by an even more serious

The Indian 1 Armoured Division advanced with two tank regiment groups and made good progress until they ran into ‘Men Of Steel’ belonging to 25 Cavalry at Phillaurah where the advancing Indian armour units were effectively checked.

crisis. Pakistan had launched its armoured division against the very formation he had just visited and stabilized.

Pakistani Offensive in Khem Karan Area

Even before absorbing the full impact of the sudden Indian attack across the international borders on 6 September morning, Pakistan’s high command ordered its own offensive to commence as early as night 6/7 September from Kasur towards Khem Karan and beyond. The plan was bold and spectacular in conception but alas not so in its execution. Pakistan’s 11 Division responsible for defense of Kasur Sector was assigned the task of providing a bridge-head in the area of Khem Karan from which Pakistani 1 Armoured Division was to debouch and advance along the west bank of River Sutlej and cut off the GT Road Jullundur–Amritsar at Jandiala Guru. The bridgehead was successfully established and sufficiently enlarged with the capture of Khem Karan on 8 September. The breakout by armour that began on 9 September made reasonably good progress with 6 Lancers reaching as deep as Valtoha Railway Station. The crisis which prevailed in the Indian Army Headquarters at that time is described by General BM Kaul:

‘In the midst of this grim crisis on 10 September, Army Chief Chaudhuri asked Harbaksh Singh whether our forward positions should not be readjusted and established behind the Beas as the enemy armoured division might breakthrough.’ 7 Inexplicably however, in the evening Pakistani tanks were withdrawn for night leaguer, relinquishing all the gains of that day. The offensive was resumed on 10 September only to stall on account of disorientation and lack of sufficient information about the enemy in front. By 12 September the GHQ felt compelled to transfer 1 Armoured Division to Sialkot where the situation was deemed desperate.

Operations in Sialkot Sector

In the Sialkot Sector, Indian I Corps much like its neigbouring XI Corps, attacked on a broad front keeping no reserves for exploiting deep. The Indian attack on Sialkot front began on night 7/8 September, i.e., two days after their attacks in the Lahore Sector. This was due to longer time taken by Indian I Corps for it movement and assembly rather than any finesse or attempt at achieving strategic surprise. 26 Indian Division (belonging to I Indian Corps) attacked on two axes, Jammu–Sialkot and Bajragarhi–Sialkot. After some early success 26 Division’s steam ran out and its attack ground to halt only a short distance from its starting point on the Working Boundary near Suchetgarh. Here it remained during the remaining days of the war. A bold counter-attack by Pakistan’s 15 Division launched on 9 September caused some disarray among Indian troops. However, 26 Division launched a fresh attack but not until 18 - 21 September when it was reinforced by a brigade size force. Launched north of the Suchetgarh – Sialkot axis, the fresh enemy attack met initial success only to peter out eventually.

The main thrust of I Indian Corps was launched with three divisions including their armoured division well east of Sialkot, from the area extending from Maharajke to Degh Nadi. 6 Mountain Division and 14 Division were to establish a large bridge-head in the area Maharajke–Charwa–Nakhnal from which the Indian 1 Armoured Division was to breakout on 8 September morning towards Phillaurah- Chawinda. In the event however, 14 Division could not reach its operational area in time to establish its part of the bridge-head. Consequently the Indian 1 Armoured Division entered Pakistani territory east of Charwa without the benefit or safety of a bridge-head! The Indian

Defence of Sargodha was vital for PAF to remain an effective force. The Shaheens rose to meet the Indian aerial onslaught and shot down eleven enemy aircraft for the loss of only one; there was absolutely no damage to the Sargodha airfield.

cavalry, “….. crossed into Pakistan early in the morning at a trot, and finding no opposition en route broke into a canter which changed into a gallop as the leading units gathered speed.” 8

The Indian 1 Armoured Division advanced with two tank regiment groups and made good progress until they ran into ‘Men Of Steel’ belonging to 25 Cavalry at Phillaurah where the advancing Indian armour units were effectively checked. In an attempt to manoeuvre around the flanks of the Pakistani opposition, the Indian units mistook each other for Pakistani tanks and opened fire which though very accurate proved fatal for both the enemy tank regiments. This involuntary fratricide added more casualties to the list already made large by the Pakistani tanks. Assuming erroneously that his flanks were vulnerable, the Indian armour commander ordered both his leading tank groups to turn about and withdraw. One of the two groups was tasked to withdraw and thwart a Pakistani thrust suspected to be moving towards a village in their rear called Pindi Bhago. This new Pakistani threat injected more panic among the Indian troops who were already experiencing jitters induced by confounding confusion:

“The order to go back to village called Pindi Bhago was misunderstood by some who mistook it to mean, ‘hurry back to your own village’ (apne pind ko bhago)! They (17 Poona Horse Group) started heading for the international border in a hurry.”9

It took the Indians nearly two days to disentangle and resume their offensive. In the meantime the nascent Pakistani 6 Armoured Division which was still going through the process of transformation from an independent brigade into a division was deployed to defend the area between Sialkot and Pasrur. However, before the Pakistani formation could complete its deployment, the Indians launched a fresh attack on 11 September resulting in the capture of Phillaurah. Unfortunately the Pakistani troops at Phillaurah were engaged in an ill-timed redeployment operation when the full weight of nearly three Indian tank regiments fell on them. It was perhaps the impact of this Indian thrust at Phillaurah that obliged the GHQ to pull out 1 Armoured Division from Khem Karan on 12 September and redeploy it in the Sialkot Sector. The Indians did not exploit their success at Phillaurah as expeditiously as they could have. Their next attack directed at Chawinda materialized two days later on 14 September only to be beaten back. Then the Indians took another two days to prepare before launching a renewed attack on Chawinda on 16 September with even worse results. Having received severe mauling at the hands of Pakistani ground forces and PAF since 8 September, the Indian 1 Armoured Division pulled out of battle altogether. The task of capturing Chawinda before the imposition of Cease Fire was ultimately given to 6 Mountain Division. “Never before had the Indians attacked so desperately nor were they more comprehensively defeated. The affront suffered by the Pakistan Army at Khem Karan was suitably avenged at Chawinda. In fact the defeat of the Indian Army in Sialkot was far greater in magnitude than the failure of Pakistan’s offensive north east of Kasur.” 10

Running silent, running deep and operating alone, the submarine GHAZI did not lag behind in action. Having returned to port on 14 September for repair of an ECM defect, GHAZI sailed out again on 16 September with the task to patrol off the Kathiawar coast. On night 22/23 September it encountered enemy activity and fired its torpedoes badly damaging INS BRAHMAPUTRA.

NAVAL OPERATIONS

Pakistan Navy was a tiny force compared to its Indian counterpart. Besides an aircraft carrier with thirty combat planes, the Indian Navy comprised two cruisers, three destroyers and sixteen frigates. Against this armada, the Pakistan Navy had only one cruiser, five destroyers, two frigates, four gunboats and one submarine.

A flotilla of surface ships comprising destroyers and frigates was deployed to patrol the Arabian Sea off Karachi to keep the enemy at bay while the lone submarine GHAZI positioned itself off Bombay bottling up all the Indian naval vessels anchored in that harbour. This afforded an opportunity to the Pakistan Navy to launch an offensive strike against Dwarka without any fear of interference from the enemy navy. Accordingly at 6 p.m. in the evening on 7 September, one cruiser accompanied by five destroyers and a frigate set course for Dwarka with the Indian naval radar station located there as the target. The Pakistani task force arrived at its designated position by midnight and shortly thereafter opened fire. Although effectiveness of this firing activity could not be ascertained, it definitely raised the morale of the Pakistani sailors who though few in number had given a befitting reply to the India aggression across the international borders.

Running silent, running deep and operating alone, the submarine GHAZI did not lag behind in action. Having returned to port on 14 September for repair of an ECM defect, GHAZI sailed out again on 16 September with the task to patrol off the Kathiawar coast. On night 22/23 September it encountered enemy activity and fired its torpedoes badly damaging INS BRAHMAPUTRA.

The leadership and sailors of Pakistan Navy relied on imaginative planning and extra-ordinary boldness in operational execution sustained by high level of motivation. Their courage adequately compensated the enemy’s maritime numerical and qualitative superiority. The outcome of hostilities at sea was inversely proportionate – moral victory of the small Pakistan Navy over the much bigger Indian Navy.

PAF VERSUS IAF

IAF enjoyed an overall superiority in number of aircraft as well as in air support infrastructure (bases and radars etc). Against approximately IAF 30 squadrons the PAF had only about twelve squadrons. However, what PAF lacked in quantity, the Shaheens made up in quality. A sizeable number of PAF’s front line aircraft were armed with air-to-air missiles which IAF did not have. Besides this technological edge, the PAF displayed remarkable level of professional training and a very high degree of personal motivation, courage and valour at all levels throughout the short but intense war. The skirmish in Rann of Kutch followed by the insurrection in Kashmir had obliged both air forces to maintain a high level of alert from April through August 1965. As mentioned above, the IAF lost four out of six Vampire aircraft on 1 September in their very first aerial combat with the PAF. This victory not only boosted PAF’s morale tremendously but also transformed the total air power situation in Pakistan’s favour. On 5 September, IAF suffered another blow to its prestige when a Gnat aircraft was forced by PAF fighters to land at Pasrur airfield. Thus by the time the Indian Army attacked across the international border, IAF’s morale was already considerably diminished. The PAF followed up its early successes with pre-emptive air strikes on 6 September against Indian air bases at Pathankot and Kalaikunda destroying 24 enemy aircraft and damaging seven. Nevertheless the enemy air force launched a series of air strikes on 7 September at the pivotal air base of Sargodha. Defence of Sargodha was vital for PAF to remain an effective force. The Shaheens rose to meet the Indian aerial onslaught and shot down eleven enemy aircraft for the loss of only one; there was absolutely no damage to the Sargodha airfield. Thereafter IAF gave up daytime raids altogether and resorted to night sorties without achieving any meaningful result. A tiny PAF had attained a decisive victory over a much larger adversary long before imposition of Cease Fire on 23 September.

ANALYSIS OF THE WAR

The Indian Army’s plan lacked finesse in conception and was bereft of boldness in conduct. The advantages of surprise and superior size were squandered at the hands of rather clumsy execution choked with caution punctuated with fits of utter

IAF enjoyed an overall superiority in number of aircraft as well as in air support infrastructure (bases and radars etc). Against approximately IAF 30 squadrons the PAF had only about twelve squadrons. However, what PAF lacked in quantity, the Shaheens made up in quality.

panic. Incredible as it may seem both offensive corps (I and XI) attacked on such broad fronts as to be completely ineffectual; both these Indian corps committed all their forces at the very outset retaining nothing in reserve! XI Indian Corps employed all its three divisions on 6 September at the start of the offensive; all the three divisions in turn committed nearly all their brigades at different points. The only element of XI Corps not committed on 6 September was 2 Independent Armoured Brigade. Similarly, Indian I Corps operating in the Sialkot Sector also committed all its three divisions including 1 Armoured Division at six points starting from Jammu–Sialkot axis all the way to Degh Nadi; the fourth division (14 Division) could not be committed because it was not able to complete its movement in time. The result of such over-extended deployment was that the Indian Army was stretched along a wide frontage without being strong anywhere to achieve meaningful results.

Outcome of the War

Essentially the Governments and the military on both sides were dissatisfied with the outcome of the 1965 War though the general public of both Countries claimed and continues to claim complete victory.

Pakistani people’s claim to victory is absolutely justified; with much lesser population (one fifth of India’s), smaller armed forces (less than half of the Indian army and miniscule air force and navy) and fewer resources they had not only held the Indian giant at bay and frustrated his reprehensible designs but also caused him to panic on several occasions.

What has India to boast about? That in a fit of nervous fright her ‘seasoned’ political leadership turned volte-face on its pledge of plebiscite and instead decided to wage war only to retain its military hold over Kashmir? That its armed forces though much bigger in size failed to achieve their objectives suffering disproportionate attrition in the bargain? Hardly anything much to boast about for the biggest democracy in the world. Ironically the war in 1965 was initiated by a civilian democratic government of India which ostentatiously avowed peace and the principles of Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (kindness) but was inwardly belligerent while a ‘military dictator’ in Pakistan who, far from being a war monger, had bent all his militaristic energies before 1965 to persuade India to the table.

History’s verdict ought to be dispassionate:

“The Indo-Pak War of 1965 may be summed up as a war of lost opportunities, a war of reactions and a war of disillusionment. …. what did the two countries achieve through war….. In the case of Pakistan, if it was solution of Kashmir, then we failed; if it was to de-freeze the issue, then the means employed and the risks taken were grossly disproportionate to the results achieved….. In the case of Indians, if their aim was to save IHK, by attacking Pakistan they succeeded but at a cost disproportionate to the gains; if their aim was capture of Sialkot, Lahore or Kasur, then they too failed totally; if their aim was to cause attrition to the Pakistani Armed Forces then the Indians suffered no less than us”.11 In fact Indian losses in military material, especially in personnel, tanks and aircraft far exceeded those of Pakistan. While his candor is to be appreciated, Lieutenant General Harbakhsh Singh, GOC-in-C Western Command seems to shift the responsibility for the Indian Army’s failure from the higher military leadership to the shoulders of subordinate commanders:

“The Press….. carried banner headlines describing our armour actions as comparable to some of the greatest tank battles of World War II. The action at PHILLORA, it was claimed, surpassed even the sensational feats of ROMMEL at the height of his glory….. This was all very complimentary and it was also natural that in the first flush of victory we should be carried away by sentiments in which cold logic found no place….. when the dust settled down and the achievements ….. were viewed in their correct perspective, stripped of the aura of sensation, the initial feeling of exaltation gave way to one of disillusionment.…. The sense of disillusionment deepened to chagrin when ….. it was revealed that a decisive victory slipped out of our hands due to poor leadership on the battlefield”12

Future Outlook

War should not be regarded as an event but rather as an ever enduring human obsession constrained only by time and space dimensions. Dedication to peace does not automatically obviate incidence of war. Therefore while we must reconcile ourselves to its inevitability we must also always have the determination and reliable means to deter it. Barely six years after 1965, Pakistan again found itself engaged in another war with India which ended with ignoble and fateful results because we were a house divided. The laurels won in September 1965 were of little consequence in December 1971. Conversely, we should not allow the setback of 1971 to weaken our resolve to re-dedicate ourselves to the true cause set by our noble ancestors. As Muslims and as Pakistanis, we need to be very clear in our minds about who we were, who we are and, who we want to be. Correctness of answers to these questions will rectify our direction as individuals and as a people:

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The causes of Muslim decline in India (and elsewhere) must be studied with greater diligence than may have been done by us in the past. We lost the Subcontinent to the British because Muslim rule had festered with abject degeneration and frailty for nearly half-a-century - from 1707 to 1757 which the English found opportune to exploit to their advantage. We forgot who we were and what our true destiny was and thus fell victim to a fate of our own making:

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The period from 1757 to 1947 is one long heart-rending episode of retreats and defeats of Muslims in the Subcontinent; seven years after 1757, the British annexed the whole of Avadh followed by Mysore in 1799. Perhaps Tipu Sultan could have saved his kingdom and retained his crown – he only had to bow before British supremacy. He did not – he chose martyrdom instead! The upheaval in 1857 gave the British the excuse to deliver coup de grace ultimately:

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The Ultimate Truth

We only need to look through annals of history to realize that Muslim destiny is struggle and perseverance against staggering odds. Although even today Kashmir ostensibly is the focal point of Indo-Pak rivalry, in reality this territorial dispute is not the cause but merely a tangible manifestation of a much older and deeper conflict between truth and falsehood. The very basis of our faith is Ultimate Truth–Oneness of Allah and the finality of Muhammad’s (PBUH) prophethood. Thus Muslim belief system is fundamentally irreconciliable to any belief system which conflicts with the Ultimate Truth:

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But Muslims beware; our uncompromising belief system does not forbid normal human relations based on equality with the rest of mankind. We need our non-Muslim friends today just as our noble ancestors did in times gone by:

“Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel”17

The crucial clause here is, ‘their adoption tried’. In other words we must nurture such friends whose reliability and sincerity in fulfillment of mutual obligation has been tried and tested over time. The Holy Qur’an makes it mandatory to fulfill all obligations of treaty or agreement regardless of creed. It is well known that it was for fulfillment of his treaty with the pagan tribe called Banū Khuza’ah, that the Holy Prophet(PBUH) marched on Mecca, his home town, and against pagan Quresh, his own tribe!

As true Muslims our struggle must not be to seek past glory but only sincere fulfillment of our destiny as defined in the Holy Quran – establishment of justice, enjoining righteousness and thwarting transgression. Belief is one part of the faith – its practical fulfillment is the crucial component.

But this is a subject which demands exclusive and comprehensive treatment.

The writer is a former Corps Commander and DG ISI.

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1 Kulyat-i-Iqbal (Urdu), 1979 Edition, published by Sheikh Ghulam Ali and Sons, Publishers, Lahore – Hyderabad – Karachi, Poem 11, Page 307

2 Maréschal de Saxe, Reveries on the Art of War, (Preface), 1752

3 Brines, Russel, The Indo-Pak Conflict, Pall Mall Press, London. 1968, p. 236Maréschal de Saxe, Reveries on the Art of War, (Preface), 1752

4 Mahmud Ahmed, Lieutenant General, Illusion of Victory, Lexicon Publishers Karachi, 2002, p. 9.

5 Harbakhsh Singh, Lieutenant General, WAR DESPATCHES Indo-Pak Conflict 1965, Lancer International B-3 Gulmohar Park, New Delhi, 1991, pp. 91-92.

6 Ibid, pp. 100-101.

7 B M Kaul, Lieutenant General, Confrontation with Pakistan, Vikas Publications, Delhi, India, 1971, page 38.

8 Mahmud Ahmed, op cit. p. 395.

9 Bhupinder Singh, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired), 1965 War – Role of Tanks in India-Pakistan War, BC Publishers, Pattiala, India. April 1982, p. 190.

10 Mahmud Ahmed, op cit, p. 482.

11 Mahmud Ahmed, op cit., p. 533.

12 Harbakhsh Singh, op cit, paras 130-131, p. 159.

13 Kulyat-i-Iqbal - Masjid-i-Qurtaba, Page 393

14 Kulyat-i-Iqbal - Abul Ma-arri, Page 449

15 Kulyat-i-Iqbal - Tan ba Taqdeer, Page 478

16 Kulyat-i-Iqbal - Tipu Sultan ki Wassiyat, Page 535.

17 Shakespeare, HAMLET, Act 1 Scene III, advice by Polonius to his son Laertes.

1965 War Chronology of Events

The Vale of Kashmir
July 1947 – 1 January 1949: Military occupation of Kashmir and war in Kashmir.
July 1953: Sheikh Abdullah’s cabinet dismissed
February 1954: Ratification of accession by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad
1960: Indian Supreme Court assumes jurisdiction over IHK
1962-63: Indo-Pak talks
27 December 1963: Holy Relic stolen from Hazratbal shrine in IHK
December 1964: Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution enforced in IHK
Rann of Kutch Conflict
6-7 March 1965: 51 Brigade moves to Rann of Kutch area
14 March 1965: Indians construct Sardar Post
9 April 1965: 51 Brigade’s attack on Sardar Post
19 April 1965: 50 Indian Para Brigade moved from Agra to Biar Bet area
23 April 1965: 6 Brigade’s raid on Saira Bet and Gullu Talai
26 April 1965: Biar Bet captured by Pak troops
April – May 1965: Indian and Pakistani forces deployed on borders
30 June 1965: Rann of Kutch Agreement; forces withdrawn from borders
The Wail of Kashmir
May 1965: Indians occupy posts across CFL in Kargil area
15 August 1965: Pak artillery bombardment in Chhamb area
24-25 August1965: Indians attack Pir Sahaba in Tithwal area
26 August 1965: Indians attack Bedori Bulge
28 August 1965: Indians occupy Haji Pir Pass
1 September 1965: Pakistani operation launched in Chhamb area First aerial combat between IAF and PAF
2 September 1965: Capture of Chhamb and change of command in Chhamb area
5 September 1965: Capture of Jaurian
War Across International Border
5-6 September 1965: Pakistan Army occupies defensive positions on the borders
6 September 1965: Indian Army attacks in Jassar, Lahore and Kasur areas.PAF strike on Indian air bases
Night 6-7 September 1965: Bridge-head operation launched by 11 Division in Kasur area
Night 6-7 September 1965: 105 Brigade attacks in Sulemanki area
7 Sep 1965: IAF launches retaliatory strikes at Sargodha Air Base
Night 7-8 September 1965: Indian I Corps launched in Sialkot area PN bombards Indian naval radar installation at Dwarka
8 September 1965: Indian 1 Armoured Divisions launched in Sialkot area Indian 11 Division launches attack against Gadra Salient 5 Armoured Brigade launched from Khem Karan 10 Division counter attack against Indian 15 Division
9 September 1965: 6 Armoured Division takes up defensive role in Sialkot area
10 september 1965: 4 and 5 Armoured Brigades’ operations beyond Khem Karan
Night 10-11 Sept 965: Indians capture Barki
11 September 1965: Battle of Phillaurah Pak offensive in Khem Karan called off
12 September 1965: Pak 1 Armoured Division moved to Sialkot Indian attack in Khem Karan beaten back
14 September 1965: First Battle of Chawinda
16 September 1965: Second Battle of Chawinda
18 September 1965: Move of HQ 8 Division to Sialkot
Night 21-22 Sept 1965: Third Battle of Chawinda Last Indian effort to capture Khem Karan Battle of Dograi
Night 22-23 Sept 1965: PN GHAZI torpedoes INS BRAHMAPUTRA
23 September 1965: Cease Fire
24 Sep to16 Oct 1965: Fighting continues in Kashmir
5-10 January 1966: Tashkent Talks
25 Feb 1966: Withdrawal of forces to pre-5 August 1965 positions
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