Military & Aerospace

1965 War: Observations, Comments and Lessons
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A major national war aim of Pakistan was the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir by force. As has been brought out earlier the Kashmir Issue remained dormant for a considerable period after 1949, because of Pakistan’s intransigence, in not implementing the Security Council’s Resolution of August 13, 1948, which called for withdrawal of her forces from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. During the period, India held three General Elections in Kashmir (including one for Constitutional Assembly), where people turned up in large numbers and exercised their franchise without fear or favour. In these, they gave a constitution for themselves and elected Governments of their choice. Thus, the Security Council Resolution with regard to the Plebiscite in Kashmir, became irrelevant After President Ayub came to power, he decided to reactivate the Kashmir Issue. General Mohammad Musa, the then Pakistani Commander-in-Chief, stated that Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Foreign Minister and other Advisors of President Ayub, pressurised him (the President) to take advantage of the disturbed situation in the Valley and direct the Army to send raiders into Indian-held Kashmir for conducting guerrilla activities there, for establishing bases, and for helping the locals in organising a movement with a view to eventually staging an uprising against the occupying power.

He says, “According to them, steps taken by the Director Intelligence Bureau (DIB), till then were not only ineffective but had also alerted the army of occupation, which as a consequence, had tightened its suppressive and security measures”. He further says, “but we were directed to prepare two plans for action in Kashmir – an all out one and another, in a lower key”. He goes on, “later, during the third week of August, as far as I remember, we received another brief Presidential Directive stating that steps be taken to de-freeze the Kashmir Issue in which the Army should take an active part”.

This indicates the strategic thinking of the Pakistani High Command Musa himself was not in favour of launching the infiltration operation at the time as “in the first place, adequate preparations had not been made in the Valley to start guerrilla activity. We had not even apprised the local pro­ Pakistan leaders of our intention and plan of action, nor ascertained from them whether they would be willing to, and could, help us in any way”. Despite advice to the country from Musa, it would appear that the decision was taken to launch the guerrilla war. When the guerrillas could not get any significant help from the local population of Kashmir and India was able to frustrate the evil designs of the Pakistanis, Pakistan launched a major attack across the International border on Chhamb.

It was clear that after this, India could not confine its counter measures to Jammu and Kashmir only, as it would have meant fighting in an area dis-advantageous to her, and also in the process, exposing her heartland to undue risks. In any case, India had made it clear several times, that an attack on Kashmir, would be treated as an attack on India and that she would take counter action accordingly. Thus, after the Chhamb attack, India quite rightly retaliated in Punjab. If was also clear that, in view of the arrogance of Pakistan brought about by the receipt of massive military aid from the United States of America, unless her wings were clipped, she would continue to pose a serious threat to Kashmir. It was thus decided to carry the war into Pakistan territory and inflict maximum possible attrition, on her armed might Capture of any territory in the process, was only of secondary importance. In this connection, it would be pertinent to mention General Chaudhuri’s views on the military aim and strategy during this war. In his autobiography, he states:

“…In 1964, when we were revising military plans to defend ourselves in case of an attack from our neighbour, the troops available on the Western Front in effective numbers were roughly equivalent to those of Pakistan.

“…In the limited advance which must form the fulcrum of any defensive plan, we were faced with three alternatives. The first one was the occupation of some unguarded territory. This second was the occupation of, and probably substantial destruction to, a big city. For this, there were insufficient troops…… In dealing with this alternative, there was also the political view that any substantial destruction of a major population and historical centre would leave a raw wound between two neighbours, delaying unduly the eventual aim of living in amity. The third alternative was the destruction of equipment cheaply obtained, but if destroyed, expensive in every way to replace. The third alternative seemed correct choice. I would submit that we were successful in the pattern we adopted and the ensuing heavy economic burden and political disturbances in Pakistan certainly contributed to the downfall of the Ayub Government.

…To capture Lahore was not the aim of 1965 operations. Our experience has shown that taking any such large town would require a very large number of troops and the process would involve destruction of the town un a large scale which would not be a good thing for the future. My aim was only to destroy the Pakistani fighting potential, that is, the equipment and trained forces and in this I feel I succeeded We played havoc with Pakistani tanks and I think this action alone was probably responsible for removing Field Marshal Ayub Khan from the position of Head of State.

As has been brought out, considerable attrition was inflicted on Pakistan, although in the process. India also suffered fairly significant casualties. This had compelled Pakistan, apart from other factors to agree to a cease5re and withdrawal of forces. The main point that comes out, therefore, is that India evolved the correct strategy for herself and adhered to it As for Pakistan, she had miscalculated India’s-likely response and under-estimated her military capabilities. Although Musa says that an Indian counter offensive was expected in the Punjab, the fact remains that Pakistan was unable to meet it adequately and at the same time achieve its war aim with regard to Jammu and Kashmir.

Maintenance of the Aim

In this war, Pakistan’s initial aim was to secure Jammu and Kashmir by the force of arms. She attempted large scale infiltration, with the hope of fomenting a revolt inside Jammu and Kashmir, but had not carried out the necessary preparations. Subsequently, when India took counter action across the International Border, Pakistan attempted to secure Indian territory upto the Beas river and later exploit further. She was not able to achieve either of her aims as both the operations petered out for various reasons, as brought out

On the Indian side the aim was to remain on offensive defence in Jammu and Kashmir, while launching a limited offensive into Punjab across the International Border, In the Lahore Sector, the aim was to secure the Ichhogil Canal and ,pose a threat to Lahore, while in the Sialkot Sector, the aim was to drive a wedge between Lahore and Sialkot Sectors and neutralize Sialkot While the initial operations went off well, owing to incorrect reaction by some of the Commanders to the Pakistani counter action, the objective (Ichhogil Canal) was lost after its capture. Subsequently, however, it was partially recovered, at considerable cost In the Sialkot Sector, while the performance was better the final objectives could not be captured. Of course, the offensive could not develop its full potential due to inadequate time available before the ceasefire.

The need for pursuing the aim relentlessly requires little stress. There is no doubt that this factor influenced the ultimate stalemate, to a considerable extent.

Guerrilla Operations

Experience not only in India but throughout the world has shown that, for a guerrilla war to succeed the support of the local population is an essential pre-requisite. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan could not receive such support. Because of the provocative statements of some Kashmiri leaders, because of some local disturbances caused by the temporary loss of a relic (hair of Prophet Mohammad) from the Hazaratbal Mosque, and because of the fissiparous tendencies that surfaced in India after Shastri took over as Prime Minister.

Pakistan mis-calculated that the time was ripe for starting a guerrilla movement in Kashmir. By infiltrating large numbers of irregular forces, and by backing with regular forces at a later stage Pakistan hoped to annex Kashmir by force, in conjunction with an ‘uprising’ in Kahsmir. As General Musa points out neither any effort was made to check whether the local people would support such a movement nor were any preparations made within Kashmir, for the success of such a concept. Apart from a few odd people who had pro-­Pakistani leanings, the bulk of the people had in fact, supported the Indian Army in its counter infiltration operations. Otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult for the Indian Army to defend Kashmir without the willing support of the local population. Most of the infiltrators were eliminated or apprehended, mainly due to the information given by the locals. Further, considerable logistic support was provided by the local people in the way of porters, ponies other transport and so on.

The Civil Administration which comprised mostly the local people was fully behind the Armed Forces. All these would not have been possible had the allegations in some quarters, that India was holding Kashmir by force, were true. On the other hand, because of the considerable autonomy that the State enjoyed within the Indian Union and because of the significant progress achieved by the State all-round since accession the people felt as nationalistic as anyone else in the rest of India and aligned themselves fully behind the war effort.

Offensive Operations

The results achieved by the Pakistan offensive In the Chhamb Sector were impressive, but the advantage was not fully exploited by Pakistan to capture Akhnur. In the subsequent counter offensive launched by India in Punjab from the East though some success was achieved in that most of the troops initially got to their objective, namely, the Ichhogil Canal it soon petered out; and many of the forces were more or less thrown back to the start line. Subsequently with great effort some of the forces managed to re-take some of their objectives, particularly in the 15 Divisional Sector.

In the case of 4 Division, there was a near catastrophe. It would appear that their offensive was not well planned nor executed with the determination and aggressiveness that it warranted. Troops were brought from peace time cantonments and launched into operations without adequate reconnaissance preparations fire support logistic support and effective coordination. The main consideration appeared to be achievement of surprise. In peace time, the plans should have been drawn up and rehearsed in own territory as is normally done. In this case perhaps the time available was limited but even so, the broad strategic response to a Pakistani attack in Kashmir was well known. Based on this the necessary preparations could have been carried out better.

In the case of 1 Corps operations from the North into Punjab these were better executed although the time available here also was limited and not adequate preparations could have been made. The very concentration of this whole Corps for its offensive in the battle area in reasonable time was a feat of no mean magnitude. In the actual implementation of the plan it has to be realized that ultimately the bulk of the Pakistan armour was poised against the Corps. Further monsoon rains had made the ground soggy and difficult for movement. However from time to time, confusion occurred among the forces due to inadequate coordination. It had later transpired that the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division had not concentrated in the Sialkot Sector till September 9 and that the Indian offensive was really opposed by the integral armour of the defensive formations. On this Colonel S.C. Mehdi wrote, “If Pakistan ever had divine protection, it was on that night and forty-eight hours of September 8/9 because had the Indian armour broken through, consequences would have been as disastrous for Pakistan as the German Panzers’ breakthrough in France in 1940″. If this was correct, it would appear that if the Indian offensive pressed on more vigorously in the early stages, it might have achieved much better results.

The Pakistan counter-offensive in Khemkaran Sector was also not well planned nor efficiently executed. After securing a lodgment, a valuable twenty-four hours were lost before resuming the offensive. The momentum was thus halted and the Indian 4 Mountain Division utilized the vital respite to reorganize itself. Subsequently, after the offensive was resumed, it was not pressed home. As Musa pointed out, there was no excuse for troops to have fallen back, after securing or nearly securing their objectives. The Pakistani Armoured Division confined itself to a narrow corridor, the defence of which was well organized by 4 Division and 2 Independent Armoured Brigade.

There has been considerable criticism of the failure of the Pakistani counter-offensive in Khemkaran, among the Pakistani circles. Air Marshal Asghar Khan (earlier Chief of the Pakistani Air Force) considers that, the detachment of 7 Infantry Division from 1 Armoured Division with which it had been preparing for a crucial offensive South of Lahore was an unmitigated blunder.” He also felt that there were serious lacunas, in inter-Service cooperation. He was of the opinion that Ayub Khan had no understanding of the concept of air operations and little understanding of the maritime interests. Brig. Riazul Karim considers that there was inadequate reconnaissance, poor stage management and ineffective control on the operations. He also focuses attention on the lack of coordination between 1 Armoured Division and 11 Infantry Division. Lt. Col. Irshad Rashid brings out the absence of a Corps Headquarters for controlling, this vital offensive, the control having been exercised by GHQ direct. Lt. Gen. Attiqur Rahman in his book Our Defence Cause brings out that, “Our counter-offensive in the Khemkaran area failed after such a promising start chiefly because it lacked a suitable Headquarters.”

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General Musa, in support of his claim of achievements of the aborted Khemkaran offensive, quotes General Kaul’s book that the Indian Army Chief General Chaudhuri had ordered the Army Commander to withdraw behind the Beas river. However, there is really no evidence to this effect. General Chaudhari, who was considered an armour expert of repute, knew the potential of the defence, particularly of 2 Independent Armoured Brigade, against the 1 Armoured Division of Pakistan. Further, certain contingency planning to hold and breakthrough behind 4 Mountain Division, was carried out by 11 Corps and necessary troops earmarked for the purpose.

Even if the odd enemy tank got through, these would have been effectively dealt with. Thus, it is inconceivable that a knowledgeable person like General Chaudhari, could have ever issued any such orders. The very fact that Pakistan had to shift the bulk of this armoured division to the Sialkot Sector shows the havoc that the Indian offensive there would have played behind the Pakistani lines. Thus, even if Pakistan achieved some success at Khemkaran, it would have been more than compensated for by the Indian offensive in the Sialkot Sector. Lahore might have been completely isolated and might have been seriously threatened. This should be seen in the light of the fact that in the early stages of the Indian counter-offensive, Lahore was evacuated to some extent and Indian permission had to be sought by foreign planes to land at Lahore airport!

To revert to the Indian side, subsequently Divisional-sized counter-offensives by 4 Division and 10 Division also met with no success, due to inadequate preparations. These were launched within a matter of twenty-four hours or so.

All these bring out the need for pre-planning to the extent possible during peace time, subsequent refining of plans when the actual war starts, adequate reconnaissance and preparations, thorough coordination and vigorous execution of plans. Some of the other points needing attention, that came out were as under:

  1. Re-organization on a captured objective must be carried out speedily and efficiently.
  2. Armour must move to the captured objective at the earliest, in order to prevent enemy armour overrunning the captured objective.
  3. Subsequent phases of an attack must be launched without loss of time.
  4. Commanders must be well forward, in order to acquaint themselves with the developing situation and to take speedy decisions.
  5. Frontal attack should be avoided. The potential of outflanking movement must be fully exploited.
  6. Bold use should be made of armour, to achieve worthwhile results. Cooperation between infantry and tanks should be intimate.
  7. Failures should not be reinforced, to the extent possible. On the other hand, success should be exploited, to achieve the ultimate aim of the commander.
  8. Fire plan must be thoroughly coordinated and adequate support ensured for an attack.
  9. An attack must always be launched from a secure base.

Defensive Operations
In Jammu and Kashmir, India chose to remain basically on the defensive. Despite large scale infiltration by Pakistan, and despite being cut off or the threat of being cut off, the Indian forces held to their ground, unlike what happened in the Kameng Sector in 1962. Further, it was also realized that, for defence to be successful, a certain amount of local offensive operations have to be launched; in other words, it had to be offensive defence. Thus, the capture of Hajipur which had not only resulted in capturing a major base of Pakistani operations, but had also relieved pressure in other sectors, was a significant achievement for the Indian Army. The capture of the Bugina Bulge in the Tithwal sector, was a creditable achievement too. In the Turtok sector in the North also, a local offensive prevented the Pakistanis from posing any serious threat to Ladakh or against the communications to Ladakh.

Some of the important lessons that came out of defensive operations were as under:

  1. In the plains, the positions selected should be such, that outflanking movements should not be possible.
  2. When a defensive position is to be occupied at short notice in the face of the enemy, adequate elements must be deployed forward to delay the enemy and to gain the requisite time for preparations of the defences.
  3. The vital need for speedily digging down, in order to minimise casualties, cannot be over emphasized.
  4. Effective coordination must be carried out to the extent possible, even if time is short in particular, maximum fire support should be available at the point of attack by the enemy.
  5. The main thrust of the enemy must be carefully discerned, before deciding to commit the reserve.
  6. Defence must be carried out aggressively and maximum attrition imposed on the enemy.
  7. The importance of aggressive patrolling and tank hunting.
  8. The need for timely and accurate intelligence about enemy concentrations, particularly his armour.
  9. Troops must be trained to withstand heavy artillery and tank fire. For this purpose, battle inoculation during peace time is important.


It has been brought out that large numbers of irregular forces were infiltrated into ‘Jammu and Kashmir during the period August 5 to 10, 1965, in columns of 600 or more. It had later transpired that the recruitment, training and organization for infiltration operations started as early as May 1965. Yet, no clear assessment of Pakistan’s intention to launch a large-scale infiltration campaign in Jammu and Kashmir in this manner was ever made by our Intelligence Agencies. Similarly, it was reiterated that Pakistani 1 Armoured Division had moved to Kharian after ‘Op Ablaze’ whereas it was discovered later that the Division had stayed back in area Raiwind. The fact that Pakistani 6 Armoured Division was equipped with Patton tanks was also not known, nor that they had raised four tank destroyer units. The concentration of Pakistani 7 Infantry Division for attack on Chhamb, was also not known. The raising of 11 Division was not brought to notice either.

As far as Pakistan was concerned, despite the Indian Prime Minister declaring openly to the effect that India would retaliate wherever it suits her, the Pakistan Army was not properly prepared for an Indian attack across the International Border in the Lahore Sector. Defences on the Ichhogil Canal were not manned, when Indian forces reached the line on the night of September 5/6 and the Lahore Divisional Commander as well as his Division were still reportedly in the contentment area during that night! It was only on the morning of September 6 that the formation reacted.

In this connection, Brig. Riazul Karim (retired) wrote. “In the Lahore Sector, it was Allah who saved us by making the Indians falter on their own and stop at the Batapur canal thinking there was some trapped on by the Pakistan forces. On receiving flash information from our screen, troops located on the canal banks. Our main forces went forward on 6th morning after they had done their morning PT in the unit lines”. Another writer Colonel Irshad Rashad (retired) stated, “It would not be incorrect say in all honesty that on the night of September 5/6, when the Indians attacked the bulk of the forward divisions of the Pakistan Army were not in their battle locations”. Further, from the panic reactions in the Sialkot Sector, it is apparent that Pakistan did not have adequate information of the Indian 1 Corps thrusts from the Jammu Sector on September 8.

From the above examples, it would be apparent that a lot was left to be desired on both sides as far as intelligence was concerned.


Despite the Indian Prime Minister’s open declaration that India would retaliate wherever it chooses to, the Pakistani high command was surprised when an’ actual attack was launched by India across the International Border on the night of September 5/6. This was mainly due to a mental fixation that India may not actually do so, due to likely international repercussions. Of course, lack of intelligence also contributed to this situation. On the other hand, Indian forces achieved initial surprise, but did not exploit the situation due to clumsy handling by some local commanders in tile Lahore Sector. Equally, while initial surprise was achieved in the Sialkot Sector it was not fully exploited due to inadequate boldness and aggressiveness in the handling of armour. Earlier Indian Forces allowed themselves to be surprised by the Pakistani infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir, as well as by the attack on Chhamb. As the Kashmir question remains unresolved the threat of infiltration which is a low cost option, would always be there; and appropriate and effective measures need to be taken, to prevent it from succeeding.

Unity of Command

One of the main reasons for the initial success of infiltration into Jammu and Kashmir was because the various agencies responsible for dealing with the threat were functioning on their own. These included the Army the Jammu and Kashmir Militia, the Armed Police Battalions the Jammu and Kashmir Police and so on. Each of these forces had their own control Headquarters and were receiving conflicting directions or in some cases inadequate guidance. To deal with a threat of the magnitude that took place, it was obvious that all the forces should have been put under the operational control of the local Army formation commanders so that their actions could be fully coordinated and an integrated plan could be evolved and implemented.

Entity of Formations

In this war almost all the Divisions of 11 Corps, functioned with only two brigades under command the third brigade having been assigned other tasks. Thus, when attacks were held up they found themselves at a disadvantage due to the lack of the requisite reserves. There was of course, the problems of shortage of troops to man the long border, as well as lack of adequate reserves at the Corps level. There were other deficiencies too, such as no availability of an integral armoured regiment in the infantry division, no availability of a medium artillery regiment and so on. 4 Mountain Division had its own organizational weaknesses, being a Mountain Division with a task in the plains. A number of these deficiencies have been made up. or are being made up. It must be ensured that a formation’s or a unit’s entity is always maintained. Any detachment should be an exception rather than the rule. Equally, if a Mountain Division has an alternative role in the plains. the requisite equipment for plains warfare must be catered for and the necessary training imparted for the purpose.

Effect of Weather

One of the considerations with regard to the timing of a war has always been the question of suitability of the weather. This war was fought towards the later part of the monsoon. Owing to the ground conditions, the offensive operations were adversely affected to some extent. The ground imposes serious constraints on the employment of armour. However, it has to be remembered that in between the spells of rain, if there is a long enough gap, some movement does become possible. There is also the problem of the numerous innocent looking streams and minor rivers which become heavily flooded soon after a rain. but become passable after a suitable lapse of time. It would thus be incorrect, to rule out military operations altogether, during the monsoon period. Equally, it has to be accepted that certain constraints would be imposed by weather on the smooth conduct of operations.

Air Support

During this war, it was felt that air support was inadequate. Substantial part of it was apparently directed towards strategic tasks and air defence. Thus, for close support of the Army, sufficient air support was not forthcoming. The available air effort was kept centralised at Advance Headquarters Western Air Command and it took time for formations to receive air support. Further, the aircraft were moved to airfields well away from the theatre, for reasons of security. There were other weaknesses, such as unsatisfactory communications between JOCs and airfields, limited range of wireless sets, inexperienced officers with ACTs, inadequate training in aircraft recognition and so on. The problem of enemy aircraft being superior in some respects was also there. Many of these weaknesses were remedied subsequently after the war.

The Navy

In this war, ships of the Indian Navy maintained vigil and ensured the defence of sea lanes and shore facilities. There were, however, no clashes with the Pakistani Navy.


A major achievement of the Indians was the concentration of 1 Corps in the Jammu Sector at very short notice, from its peace time locations in Central India. This was done very efficiently, with the help of the railways and civilian transport from States. As Indian cantonments are far away from the borders, this will always be a basic requirement in a war. The need for proper planning of moves during peace, and cooperation and coordination between various agencies at the imminence of a war, cannot be over­emphasized. The Railways, Airlines and State Governments have an important responsi­bility in this regard.

Enemy Tactical Concepts

Originally, the technical concepts followed both by India and Pakistan, were based on the British Indian Army concepts. However, after receipt of significant military assistance from the USA, including training facilities, there was a change in the Pakistani tactical concepts. These were more of the American type, which are somewhat different from the British type, for various reasons. In the 1965 War, these concepts came to light for the first time. It may be mentioned that in the 1962 War, the Chinese tactical concepts also came to light for the first time. All these bring out the need for studying the potential adversaries in a comprehensive manner during peace time. This will ‘ensure that troops are not surprised when the war starts.


In this war, Pakistan entered the field with superior military equipment In fact, one of the main reasons for her starting the war, was the perceived qualitative superiority of her personnel and equipment over the Indians. On the Indian side, the arms and equipment were still of Second World War Vintage due to which the troops were at a disadvantage. However, the Pakistani personnel found it difficult to handle the sophisticated arm our (Patton tanks), as opposed to the Indians who, though equipped with older Centurious and Shermans, managed to get the first shot in. This brings out the need for proper training of personnel. The requirement of up-to-date equipment for a modem army is of course unexceptionable. Further, it would be wrong to assume that Pakistan has not learnt its lesson. In case of a future confrontation, it should be excepted that their personnel would be well trained in handling the equipment at their disposal. There should be no complacency in this regard.


It would be interesting to carry out a broad analysis of the leadership on both sides, in this war.

On the Pakistani side, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the President, had a military background, and when he seized power, was generally accepted by the nation as one who could bring stability and protect and promote the interests of his country. Although he is supposed to have rejected an earlier plan for massive infiltration into Kashmir, he is reported to have agreed to reviving the plan in 1965 for various reasons which were considered to be favourable for Pakistan.

The reverses suffered by India during the Chinese invasion of 1962, the willingness shown by India during talks with Pakistan to make adjustments on the cease fire line in Kahsmir, the disturbed situation in India after the death of Nehru and the coming into power of Shastri as the Prime Minister, the aid provided by the US to India after the Chinese Aggression whereby India could become stronger, the disturbed situation in Kashmir as a result of the theft of the holy relic and alleged closer integration of Kashmir with India, the performance of Pakistani forces in Kutch with modern US equipment and the limited Indian reaction, the anticipated help from the Chinese and other Allies and the assessment that India would not retaliate across the International Border were some of the reasons which prompted Ayub to defreeze the situation and attempt ‘liberation’ of Kashmir.

There are also other reasons given by certain Pakistani leaders and writers, the chief of which was that Bhutto planned to project himself into power, by involving Ayub in a war which he could not win! Whatever be the reasons, Ayub had obviously miscalculated and underestimated Indian capabilities and reactions. General Musa, the Commander-in-Chief, was apparently against the Kashmir adventure, but still went along with it There are allegations that he had not given proper directions to meet the inevitable counter-offensive by the Indians. His earlier Chief of Staff Lt Gen. Habibulla Khan Khattak (retired) wrote, “The forward battle formation kept on requesting permission to move into forward battle positions: but there were firm negative orders from the Army Chief.”

The counter-offensive that he planned and launched in the Lahore Sector failed. His reaction to the Indian advance from Jammu area into the Sialkot Sector was panicky. At the lower levels, Lt. Gen. Akhtar Hussain Malik, was removed from command after the failure of the infiltration operation. Maj. Gen. Yahya Khan the 7 Divisional Commander initially displayed competence and aggressive spirit in capturing Chhamb-Jaurian but could not secure the ultimate objective Akhnoor. He is reported to have said that he was dissuaded from doing so. In the Sialkot Sector, Lt. Gen. Bakhtiar Rana performed reasonably well, in that he prevented the Indians getting to their final objectives. In the Lahore Sector, the performance of the commanders including Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid the ad hoc force commander was inadequate. The Armoured DIvisional Commander Maj. Gen. Nazir Ahmed Khan had not displayed adequate professionalism and aggressiveness, due to which his operation failed. Maybe, he was let down by his subordinate commanders.

On the Indian side, the leadership was better. General Chaudhuri, the Chief of the Army Staff, was experienced, competent and realistic. His reaction to a Pakistani adventure in Jammu and Kashmir, was absolutely correct, namely, a counter-offensive across the International Border. He ensured that the offensives were launched as planned, although all the objectives were not secured.

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The main achievement was that the better part of the fighting was done in Pakistan territory and considerable losses were inflicted on the Pakistanis, particularly of war-like equipment. Lt. Gen. Harbakhsh Singh, the Army Commander Western Command, who was responsible for the main fighting, was cool, competent and aggressive, and inspired tremendous confidence among the subordinates and the troops. Lt. Gen. Dunn the Corps Commander in the Jammu Sector was a professional, who earlier on blunted the enemy in Kutch and provided proper directions and guidance to his Corps in the offensive. In the 11 Corps Sector General Dhillon was aggressive but there was some crisis of confidence, due to the removal of a number of formation and unit commanders.

In the 15 Corps Sector, Lt. Gen. KS. Katoch stood like a rock and more than compensated for any losses he suffered. Among the Divisional Commanders particular mention needs to be made of Maj. Gen. Gurbakhsh Singh the General Officer Commanding 4 Mountain Division. But for his correct appreciation timely occupation of the Asal Uttar position and aggressive conduct of the defensive battle in conjunction with 2 Independent Armoured Brigade, the Pakistani Armoured thrust could well have got through and created an extremely difficult and unenviable situation for the Indians. At the lower levels, the quality of leadership varied from very good to weak in some cases. Some .of the lower commanders tried to control battles from their Headquarters, instead of going forward.

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One thought on “1965 War: Observations, Comments and Lessons

  1. This is an excellent article to read for us non military observers. But by reading other records by some other generals, we get conflicting views on the role of the Army Chief Gen Chaudhuri on the war in Khem Kharam sector. A number of retd army commanders have written that Gen Harbaksh Singh prevailed over his chief Chaudhuri, and stood firm on not to withdraw from the forward positions. And that led to the smashing of Pattons and the Paki forces to “win” the war for India. In fact, in the book by Gen Harbaksh something like that has been noted. It will be crucial for the history of that war, if now you, Gen Krishna Rao, clarify the matter for us. In other words, did Gen Chaudhuri really order such withdrawal that could have led to a disaster for India ? I look forward to your input in this context. It will be also of interest to know from you, why India lost Chamb in 1971, why did the Army not learn from the lesson there in 1965 ?

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