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1965 War: Pakistan's Tactical Concept
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1.  It was observed that the basic tactical concept of the PAK Army did not vary fundamentally from our own. In its application, however, there was an unmistakable evidence of the dominant influence of American and Chinese techniques of warfare. This selective grafting of tactical doctrine did not, however, pay the expected dividends for want of imaginative implementation.

2.  The American version was exemplified by the bias for massive fire support, the bold use of armour, relegating the contribution of infantry to a secondary place, and the adoption of the semi-mobile system of defence. Towards the closing phases of the conflict, however, there was an appreciable drop in the flagrant use of massive artillery support and the extravagant employment of armour. This was due to lack of indigenous backing and the fact that the expected stream of American replenishments dried up on account of political reasons. The situation would have worsened had the war continued for any length of time.1965_War

3. The Chinese concept found its expression in the multi-directional attack, emphasis on intensive digging and tunnelling in villages, the employment of paramilitary forces for infiltration and the waging of guerilla warfare under the guise of a ‘liberation movement’. Resort to jitter tactics especially in the mountains was another innovation copied from the Chinese who had employed this technique with great success during the 1962 debacle.

4. As far as PAK leadership in the field was concerned, the brilliant, the bold and the dashing were rather liberally interspersed with the mediocre, the cautious and the un-enterprising. There was no single universally dominant leadership trait that projected itself for attention. The younger generation appeared to be audacious and forceful; the older cadre gave the impression of being rigid and slow in reaction.

5. The salient features of the various operations of war planned and executed by PAK Army and the main characteristics of PAK’S fighting forces as gleaned during this short conflict are summarised in the succeeding paragraphs.

Pattern of Defence — Plains

Concept

6. The enemy’s concept of defence differed from our own in that they kept a very strong mobile reserve and committed minimum troops to hold a few strong positions on likely axes of advance. The reserve was based on armour, elements of Reconnaissance and Support Battalion and infantry and mortars mounted in Armoured Personnel Carriers.

The Chinese concept found its expression in the multi-directional attack, emphasis on intensive digging and tunnelling in villages, the employment of paramilitary forces for infiltration and the waging of guerilla warfare under the guise of a “˜liberation movement.

7. Their main positions (LAHORE – KASUR and SIALKOT Sectors) were fully developed, ringed with wire obstacles and extensive minefields and liberally interspersed with bunkers and pill-boxes. Selected villages were converted into strongholds with underground shelters inter-connected by a system of elaborate tunnelling. Units and sub units held relatively greater frontages compared to our own.

Conduct of defence

8. The enemy’s conduct of defensive operations was based on the American concept of semi-mobile defence. The entire area of operations had a series of control points which enabled the enemy to fight a controlled covering troops and/or defensive action. There was quick reaction to the loss of important localities. Counter attacks were launched by armour and infantry groups, supported by heavy, accurate and sustained artillery fire using variable time fuzes. The infantry, however, seldom pressed home the attack.

9. Enemy patrols appeared to fight shy of aggressive action. The aim of their patrolling seemed to be to show strength by appearing at a number of places. Protective patrols were often accompanied by two or three tanks, which withdrew to their main defended area at night.

Pattern of Defence — Mountains

Concept

10. With limited approaches in the mountains, PAK defensive positions were sited on dominating features and were generally well prepared. Bunkers were constructed in depth and were shell proof. The approaches were well covered by enfilade machine gun and light machine gun fire including fixed line fire at night. Mines and wire had been very sparingly used. In some cases, however, antipersonnel mines were very cleverly laid in a scattered fashion in the close vicinity of the Forward Defended Localities, in places where assaulting troops were likely to take cover, eg, behind boulders, under trees and so on. The general pattern of their defensive layout in mountainous terrain was as follows:

(a)  Reserve Slopes

The main defensive positions were prepared on reserve slopes while keeping only observation posts or listening posts on the top and light machine gun, medium machine gun and 81 millimetre Mortars on the flanks of the mountains, to break up the attack with enfilade fire.

(b)  Deception

To prevent close reconnaissance of the dispositions, light machine guns, medium machine guns and 83 millimetre Rocket Launchers were employed well forward of the main defensive system in temporary positions.

Conduct

11. The enemy was most sensitive to accurate artillery fire. To avoid the Pre H hour artillery bombardment, they withdrew their troops either to the reserve slope positions or to adjacent flanking posts. Once the attackers had committed their forces, they immediately moved into their defences, and simultaneously reinforced the post being attacked by rushing troops from neighbouring localities not under attack. In order to outflank or encircle the attacking echelons, the enemy often took prompt action to despatch troops from adjacent posts which were not threatened. However, all these manoeuvres lacked grit and determination and whenever own troops remained steady they invariably succeeded.

As far as PAK leadership in the field was concerned, the brilliant, the bold and the dashing were rather liberally interspersed with the mediocre, the cautious and the un-enterprising.

Paramilitary Forces

12. In J&K, the PAK paramilitary forces were integrated with the regular troops in defence. The ground of tactical importance was normally occupied by regular troops and paramilitary forces were used to hold lower spurs. The paramilitary forces were placed under command of the Officer Commanding regular troops. These forces whenever they operated in conjunction with the regular battalions generally gave a good account of themselves. This arrangement also afforded greater depth and strength to their defences. The POK troops generally proved better and more determined in defence than the regular Pakistani troops.

Pattern of Attack

13. In the plains the enemy attempted to establish complete fire superiority before mounting an attack. Objectives selected for attack were subjected to intense artillery preparation for prolonged periods lasting from two to several hours before mounting the assault. As already mentioned, the liberal use of artillery dwindled rapidly towards the closing phase of the campaign.

With limited approaches in the mountains, PAK defensive positions were sited on dominating features and were generally well prepared.

14. The enemy usually tried to create the impression of delivering the attack from several directions. Some armour would appear well away on a flank to lure away own tanks and to divert artillery fire. Simultaneously, an attempt would be made to neutralize own guns by counter bombardment, air action and fire from tanks. Thereafter, tanks approached the Forward Defended Localities six to eight abreast firing their secondary armament to frighten own infantry. This tanks assault echelon would stand off beyond the range of our recoilless guns and the follow up armour would try to envelop the locality and/or infiltrate into battalion areas. Behind the tanks, the infantry would dismount from Armoured Personnel Carriers or Troop Carrying Vehicles to advance in assault formation shouting war cries and firing weapons from hips. The infantry, however, generally halted outside the protective minefields. It would thus appear that the enemy mainly relied on their preponderance of fire power, both artillery and tank, to overwhelm our troops. Wherever own infantry stuck to their ground such attacks invariably fizzled out.

Advance

15. The planning of offensive operations by the enemy was bold. In their thrust into the KHEM KARAN Sector, the enemy selected objectives lying deep in XI Corps zone. As already described the aim of the enemy’s thrust was to cut off the GT Road at JANDIAL GURU and capture the vital bridges at BEAS and HARIKE. The line of advance was chosen carefully along the grain of the country to obviate the crossing of numerous water obstacles.

Withdrawal

16. Withdrawals were covered with a screen of strong covering troops consisting of armour, infantry, elements of reconnaissance and support battalion with artillery in support directed by observation posts. A few of the personnel at the observation posts remained behind hidden in villages and on trees, usually in civilian clothes.

The enemy usually tried to create the impression of delivering the attack from several directions. Some armour would appear well away on a flank to lure away own tanks and to divert artillery fire.

Harassing Tasks

17. The enemy made extensive use of medium machine guns or recoilless gun mounted jeeps and mortars on Armoured Personnel Carriers in a harassing role both during day and night. They would engage our defences for a short duration and then shift positions several times in an attempt to give the impression of greater strength.

Infiltration Operations

18. The infiltrators entered through wide gaps between our picquets with the help of local guides. They established bases up to a company in strength on ‘out of the way’ forested hill tops. A certain amount of digging was done but overhead protection was rarely provided.

19. Ammunition and supplies were brought in by the maintenance columns of MUJAHIDS who took back casualties. In pro-PAK areas the infiltrators lived mainly off the land. During the later stages, air maintenance by night drops was resorted to but on a limited scale.

20. The raiders opened fire with automatic weapons at night from different directions to simulate an encirclement, as did the Chinese in 1962. But wherever own troops held their ground, observed strict fire discipline and reacted aggressively, the Chinese-imitated tactics hardly created any impression. The infiltrators’ use of explosives for blowing or damaging bridges and culverts was not very effective.

Armour

21. The enemy made bold and extensive use of their armour in defence, attack and withdrawal. Armour deployed as covering troops was found to be sensitive to outflanking moves. Enemy armoured tactics were poor and the principle of fire and movement was often neglected. The standard of training of tank crews appeared to be decidedly low compared to own. The crews were very shy of firing the main armament, probably because they were not sufficiently conversant with the complicated devices of the sophisticated PATTON tank. Infantry-cum-tank cooperation was of a poor standard.

22. The enemy armour had an edge over our own in that it was trained to fight both by day and night and was equipped with infra red equipment. Night firing was, however, neither very effective nor accurate. Night flares were used to guide tanks onto the objectives.

Role

23. The main roles in which armour was used in various operations of war are given below in brief outline:

(a)  Defence

(i)  To form the hard core of the counter attack combat force.

In order to outflank or encircle the attacking echelons, the enemy often took prompt action to despatch troops from adjacent posts which were not threatened.

(ii)  Protection of flanks

(iii)  Engagement of Defensive Fire tasks – this was generally ineffective.

(b)  Attack

(i)   Fire support role

The first wave of tanks, moving six to eight abreast would form a firm base approximately 1500 metres away from own positions so as to keep out of our recoilless gun range. The next wave or waves would move to our flank or flanks to lure own armour out of the defended locality, attract artillery fire and frighten our infantry into vacating their positions. Where own troops abandoned their localities under this threat, enemy infantry walked in to occupy the vacated positions.

(ii)  Assault role

This was usually carried out against hastily prepared positions. The armour-cum-infantry combat groups normally operated along the same axis.

(c)  Withdrawal

Armour operated in conjunction with motorised lorried infantry supported by artillery and sometimes even by air, in a rearguard action role.

Artillery

Employment

24. Artillery was PAK’S most decisive weapon, and it was extensively used with devastating effect. Generally, all PAK operations, including patrolling and raids, were supported by artillery fire. During deliberate attacks, integrated fire support from both artillery and armour (and often air, too) was brought down. The fire support was initially directed on to the gun areas and then shifted to the objectives. Preparatory bombardment, using medium, heavy and even super heavy artillery was a common feature of all attacks.

In J&K, the PAK paramilitary forces were integrated with the regular troops in defence.

25. It appeared that PAK had prepared the gun areas in elaborate detail, during peace. Not only had survey been done, but target records from various gun positions had been prepared and kept ready for prompt engagements. The gun areas, however, were not dug in properly, more reliance being placed on moving to alternate positions to escape counter-bombardment or air action. Very often, for harassing roles, guns and mortars were invariably deployed in temporary gun positions.

Observation Posts

26. The enemy made extensive use of Air Observation Posts. Ground Observation Posts were boldly employed in an unconventional manner. Some of the observation post parties were in civilian clothes and were deployed on housetops, trees and inside abandoned villages. A few observation posts were usually left behind during a withdrawal to direct observed fire on our advancing columns.

Counter-bombardment

27. The counter-bombardment organization was good and enemy counter –bombardment was prompt and accurate. This was partly due to the bold deployment of ground observation posts and also because of the radar devices available for locating guns and mortars.

Availability of ammunition

28. In the first few days of the operations, the enemy exercised no restraint on ammunition expenditure and appeared to have large stocks in well prepared positions. This unrestricted use of ammunition had a demoralizing effect on own troops in the initial stages of the war. Subsequently, as stocks of ammunition dwindled down, without any hope of foreign replenishment, the enemy was less extravagant in the use of artillery fire.

Infantry

29. The Pakistani infantry lacked the will to close in with our infantry and shirked close quarter battle. In defence, when a determined attack was made by own troops, PAK infantry invariably abandoned its positions well before our assaulting echelons reached the objective.

The enemy made bold and extensive use of their armour in defence, attack and withdrawal.

30. PAK infantry seldom launched an attack unless supported by armour, both during day and at night. Even then it showed little inclination to close in with our defences. The infantry attacks, in most cases, only amounted to jitter raids.

31. The enemy organized effective and bold tank-hunting parties armed with recoilless guns and supported by medium machine guns mounted on jeeps. We suffered a few tank losses through these tank-hunting parties.

32. The POK troops were found to be more determined than the regular army personnel, especially in the mountains. They were steady in defence, did not abandon their positions easily and were good at infiltration.

Air

33. Due to an effective radar screen, enemy aircraft invariably synchronised their arrival over own troops with the withdrawal of our aircraft from the area. The targets selected by their aircraft were mainly gun areas and vehicles. The actual damage was negligible but the demoralising effect on own troops, particularly during the first few days, was great. As the troops got used to enemy air, they ignored the air strikes and in some cases even brought down enemy aircraft with small arms fire.

The enemy usually tried to create the impression of delivering the attack from several directions. Some armour would appear well away on a flank to lure away own tanks and to divert artillery fire.

Conclusion

34. The War with PAK confirmed the old adage that in the final test of battle it is the man behind the gun that matters. PAK infantry was equipped with a range of sophisticated weapons which was the envy of any Eastern Army. Its actions were supported by tank and artillery fire on a scale comparable to the extravagance practised in the American Army. And yet in most cases, where our troops stood their ground, PAK infantry failed to make any impact for it fought shy of closing in physically with the defender. The lesson is clear. Sophistication in weapons and a preponderance of fire support do not by themselves provide an answer to a successful attack: the infantry must come to grips with the defender and evict him by physical force, if necessary. In war, will power is as important as weaponry.

35. Contrary to popular belief, an ultra modern equipment is not always an asset unless it is matched by the genius of the user. The PATTON was the last word in armour at that stage in both our Armies, but its complicated gadgetry was beyond the understanding of the average Pakistani. In this case, the man behind the gun was literally found wanting. Computers often went wrong, the tank crews fed in misleading information into the electronic brain and the gunner usually got so involved in ensuring a perfect shot that he rarely got the chance to fire before the rough and ready gunnery of our older, simpler and less complicated armour knocked his tank off. In consequence, this excellent tank met its WATERLOO on the fields of PHILLORA and ASAL UTTAR. This may sound like a paradox but the sheer modernity of the PATTON was its undoing.

36. As mentioned above PAK made a lavish use of its artillery and armour in the opening stages of the War. This may have been done to telescope gains within a short space of time in anticipation of the early intervention by the United Nations to end the campaign. Conversely, it may be attributed to an unimaginative adoption of the American doctrine for the massive use of fire power to conserve manpower. Whatever the reasons, I consider it an unwise policy to indulge in an extravagance which has no foundation in indigenous production. The availability of foreign supplies during war should be treated only as a bonus – a complete reliance on it is tantamount to courting disaster.

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37. The Pakistanis borrowed a leaf from the teachings of MAO TSE TUNG in their plan for instigating an insurrection in J&K under the guise of a spontaneous ‘Liberation Movement’. But it was in the implementation of the Chinese doctrine on the subject that Pakistani leadership faulted and fell. To succeed in this form of subversive warfare, it requires meticulous organization, detailed planning, a high standard of training, aggressive leadership and universal local support. Without these basic essentials a ‘Liberation Movement’ is bound to fizzle out – as it did in J&K.

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