Intro: There have been many debates and discernment in the public domain regarding the outcome of the 1965 war as an inconclusive and directionless with regard to the concerns of Bharat. This had been the public perception till the current Government at center declared it as a victory over Pakistani designs of destabilising Bharat and grab Kashmir and decided to celebrate the same. To rationalise the conclusion regarding the objectives and outcome, we have to go through the history and analyse the causes & course of events of the war.
Before partition of Bharat in 1947 itself, Muslim league led by Mohamed Ali Jinah was trying to incite the Muslim majority in the Kashmir valley to rebel against the Dogra rulers of Kashmir. The accession and subsequent defeat of Pakistan left the dream of grabbing the valley in the name of Islam incomplete. When Paksitan was preparing for an open war after a military coup by Genral Ayub Khan, with military and political alliances such as SEAT and CENTO, Bharat was concentrating on nation building through economic development. There was a total neglect of security on Bharatiya side. Then came 1962, China attacked Bharat and gave a brutal blow to Bharat’s policy of military power neglect. Disheartened due to this loss and embarrassed by cheating of his Chinese counterparts whom he trusted blindly ,the then Prime Minister Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru passed away leaving a huge vacuum of leadership in a demoralised and impoverished nation. Immediately after his death a US author Hengens Willes in his book “After Nehru, Who?” commented that Bharatiya political system will be in chaos and disintegration and named eleven possible successors of Nehru, he put Lal Bahadur Shastri at number eleven in capability of leading Bharat. This book was accepted for reference by the Pakistani leadership to gauge the domestic situation in Bharat.
Another Story : Always Be Prepared!
After the loss of territory to China, loss of Nehru, dwindling financial condition (annual GDP growth of above 1 per cent), huge regional unrest (anti Hindi agitation in Tamil Nadu) extremists problem in Nagaland and worst food shortage to feed its people, Bharat was passing through testing times. After the 1962 war Bharat appointed its first Defence Planning plan by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, which was earlier suggested by Late Sardar Patel. Such plans take at least four to five years to take some shape.
Another Story : Victory that Made us Wise
Pakistan assessed this situation as an opportunity. Amused with series of events in Bharat and military power of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, the President of Pakistan tried to establish himself as a leader of Muslim world. He sent his foreign minister ZA Bhutto to tour West Asia and gather support for Pakistan. Pakistan found majority of Muslim nations indifferent towards Bharat and USA being deeply involved in Vietnam. Seeing nothing in favor of Bharat, Bhutto advised Ayub Khan to attack Bharat. Ayub Khan fell for this allurement and ignored the advice of his army general Mohammed Musa which was against the war. Bhutto was made political leader and Major General Akhtar Mallik, Incharge of PoJK as army leader of this clandestine operation to grab Kashmir by the spring of 1965. In phase one, military intrusion was planned in Raan of Kacchh and to capture some unoccupied areas and then to see the Bharatiya response. There were many skirmishes and probing operations by Pakistani infantry divisions in Raan of Kutch from January till May 1965. According to Lt General VM Patil (Retd.) former GOC in C Southern Command, who was Captain adjutant of 11 Field regiment in Raan of Kutch at that time, all Pakistani efforts were thwarted by Bharatiya infantry divisions. The Prime Minister Lal Bahdur Shastri reacted to these Pakistani efforts and warned that Bharat reserves the right to retaliate anywhere along the International Border to the hostilities of Pakistan in Raan of Kutch. His statement reflected his personality as a strong leader and raised the morale in Bharatiya and Army to strike back in case of any provocation by Pakistan. Seeing the escalation in the region the then PM of UK, Herrald Wilson mediated between Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan in London and tried to bring situation to normal but Pakistan continued to plan for an attack. Operation Gibraltor was planned, under which some trained local tribesmen from PoJK along with Pakistani army regulars were to infiltrate into Bharat and incite a rebellion, capture Srinagar airport, State Secretariat, Radio Station and make it as Sayade Kashmir Radio and declare Independence from Bharat and establish Kashmir Revolutionary Council (KRC) with the active support of Kashmir Plebiscite Front (KPF) led by Ammanullah Khan and Maqbool Batt head quartered at Batmaloo area of Srinagar.
At the same time attack Akhnoor sector in Jammu region by Pakistan Army and cut off the Kashmir from rest of Bharat. Bharatiya Army got the credible intelligence about this plan and Srinagar Air force Station and Radio station were heavily fortified, Batmaloo area was cordoned off and maximum number of infiltrators were killed or captured along with some local supporters during 15-28 August. Bharatiya infantry divisions crossed the ceasefire line and reached Tithwal, Hajipir and Kargil sectors in Kashmir thus chasing away the infiltrators. Operation Gibraltar faltered away in no time. Infuriated by Bharatiya Army’s response in Kashmir, Pakistan opened fully fledged assault in Akhnoor sector on August 29 with a regular armed brigade and infantry divisions to cut off J&K from rest of Bharat. Bharat reacted wisely to the situation and brought in the Air force to blunt the armed brigade attack. During twenty eight sorties in half an hour, Bharatiya Air Force’s Vampire fighters knock downed over twenty enemy tanks. Further to ease pressure from Akhnoor Sector Bharat opened front along Punjab border with a full force and caught Pakistan by its throat threatening the city of Lahore by reaching Ichogill canal. Bharatiya army under the political leadership of Lal Bahadur Shastri, Army General JN Chaudhary, Air Force Chief Arjan Singh (Presently Marshall of Air Force), Lt Gen Dunn of 1 Core, Lt Gen KP Kundut of 15 core at Udhampur, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh of 11 core in Punjab fought courageously and devastated Pakistani dream of capturing Kashmir.
Pakistan hoped that seeing Bharat at war with Pakistan, China would attack Bharat in Sikkim, giving it some respite. It was also shattered by USA with stern warning by President JF Kennedy to China against any such move. After this military set back and under international pressure from USA and Russia, Pakistan declared a cease fire on September 22, 1965 which Bharat too adhered to.
There were clear objectives laid down by the political leadership of Bharat to its army in 1965 war i.e. to save Kashmir in going into hands of Pakistan, to inflict maximum damage to Pakistani military machinery, to capture a minimum possible territory of Pakistan to bargain in case of a ceasefire agreement. Bharatiya army achieved all three objectives despite being in lack of modern weapons, Kashmir was saved, around 400 US origin Patten tanks were destroyed (Khemkaran sector in Punjab is referred to as graveyard of Pakistani Patten tanks), and around 2,000 sqkm area of Pakistan and PoJK was captured.
In Lt Gen VM Patil’s words, “War of 1965 woke up the Bharatiya Leadership to the importance of military preparedness and planning, to defend the territorial integrity of Bharat against any belligerency and aggression by China or Pakistan.”
So this won’t be right to say that war of 1965 was inconclusive but a decisive military victory of an ill-prepared, impoverished and fatigued nation over a well equipped adversary. Air Force was used actively and effectively for the first time by Bharat in the sub continent, changing the contours of war. Navy was also put on alert but was not used.
The defeat of Pakistani Army and ruining of its dream of capturing Kashmir by force raised the morale and confidence of Bharatiya citizens and its Army. This adventurism of 1965 by Bhutto and Pakistani Army Generals sowed the seeds of disintegration of Pakistan in 1971.
Sukhvinder Singh (With inputs from Lt Gen (Retd)
VM Patil, former GoC in C, Southern Command)