The incidents narrated ahead are based on the experience of 2nd Lieutenant Baljit Singh, 3rd Madras Infantry Battalion, 69th Infantry Brigade, who had participated in the legendary 1965 Indo-Pak war. The contents are a pen picture of the Indian counter offense in the Pakistani Punjab sector, which includes ‘Attack on Maharjke’, ‘Battle of Phillora’ and ‘Siege on Sialkot’.
In Tashkent, under Russia’s supervision a conditional ceasefire was signed by our Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan. The condition applied in this agreement was that both the nations would retreat back their armies and give away all the occupied area during war. Definitely it was not in the favor of India, since during war India had shown its military supremacy and had erased the blot of defeat at the hands of China in 1962.
Since India had captured over thrice the area than Pakistan, we could have made them to come down on an agreement as per our terms…
During war India had acquired more than 600 square kilometer area of the “Pakistani Occupied Kashmir”, which included the strategic ‘Haji Pir Pass’. The Indian forces had regained most of the lost part of Kashmir, which Pakistan had occupied illegally in 1947-48. In Punjab province the Indian forces had reached at the gates of Lahore, by capturing a town named ‘Barkee’ in Lahore district. The total area secured was approximately 360 square kilometer. In addition of this, nearly 460 square kilometer of area had been captured around Sialkot and roughly 380 square kilometer of southern Sindh province.
On the other hand Pakistan had some 500 square kilometer of Indian territory under its control after making an initial thrust and that was all it could do in the entire war. Since India had captured over thrice the area than Pakistan, we could have made them to come down on an agreement as per our terms or could have re-occupied that 500 square kilometer territory by encircling them from north and south, as Kashmir and major part of Sindh was under Indian control. But it never happened. There were many reasons perhaps and one of them was the lack of faith our respected Chief of Army Staff had on his soldiers.
We stayed in Pakistan from 1st September, 1965 till early February, 1966. This was more than enough proof of Indian dominance throughout the war. But all the efforts made by the officers and soldiers literally went in vain. Though Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was in the favor of inflicting a clear defeat on Pakistan and desired to delay the much pressed U.N. sponsored ceasefire. But the incorrect briefing given by General J.N. Chaudhari let everything go wrong. He informed that Indian army’s major portion of ammunition was exhausted, our tanks had been depleted greatly in strength and there were large casualties on our part, which was more or less incorrect. We had rather inflicted heavy casualties on Pakistanis, we still had more number of serviceable tanks than Pakistan and hardly 20% of our total ammunition had been used. This false information pushed Prime Minister Shastri to agree on the ceasefire.
During ceasefire Pakistan violated the rules several times by carrying out artillery fire on our forward posts at different places…
We had everything in our favor during and after the war but on the table we lost it just like that, owing to the incorrect decision made by the top brass. Had the ceasefire been delayed for some more time, then our country’s major troubles could have ended for once and for all. Not only this, Pakistan even tricked us after ceasefire, by not releasing all our POWs (Prisoners of War) whereas we had released each and every Pakistani POW after their interrogation. Many Pakistani POWs let us know that it was the unanimous decision taken by few members of the Pakistani top brass which led to 1965 Indo-Pak war. The POWs also told us that they were not even given a justified reason to fight but a crazy thought of separating the state of Kashmir from India and accomplishing the half done task of their former masters, which was left uncompleted in 1947-48, at the time of independence.
During ceasefire Pakistan violated the rules several times by carrying out artillery fire on our forward posts at different places, their spy planes and Air Observation Post planes used to enter Indian airspace for identifying targets and Pakistan even tried to capture a bordering village after the war was over. Although these incidents were met with good amount of retaliation from Indian forces but on most occasions, I felt that the Indian forces, after the ceasefire had been crippled to some extent. Since whenever we tried to give an apt reply of such ceasefire violations to Pakistan, the political party representatives used to prevent us from going ahead by pointing out to the rules of ceasefire.
Many officers and soldiers who had sacrificed something personal to them in the war, for their motherland were forced to think that were rules and regulations made only for one nation or they are equal for all. Was Pakistan taking undue advantage of India’s policies and the American soft corner it had or were we not politically strong and independent enough to act accordingly?
A Soldier’s Word
The impact of actions done by Pakistan after ceasefire and the kind of cold shoulder many of South East Asian nations and middle east countries as well as many European union members including America had done to India made me and many others of my time think, who had risked their life for fighting the war with a cause, that it was necessary for a country like ours to be strong and independent with respect to all spheres.
If our political party leaders had given equal importance to defense forces and their welfare after India attained independence then perhaps the present imbalance between men and material would not have even existed.
Just after and well before 1962 we were left with almost nothing for protecting our country, our citizens, or our families. The 2.5 lakh strong Indian army at the end of world war-2, which had made Pakistan taste defeat and feel fear in 1st Kashmir war, in 1947-48, was reduced to just a few thousand men equipped with something that would cause dishonor even to the word called ‘weapon’.
If our political party leaders had given equal importance to defense forces and their welfare after India attained independence then perhaps the present imbalance between men and material would not have even existed. Every time it is seen that our soldiers are equipped with under par weapon system and then are made to accept their responsibility towards their duty of fighting and keeping all enemies of our motherland away from our gates. Whether it was 1962, 1965 or even 1999 never our officers or jawans have appropriate fighting gear. On most occasions the equipments provided are more or less useless and the soldiers are left on their own to fight with their bare hands and hold the enemy fire on their chest. Due to this practice adopted, the thought that everyone who wishes to join armed forces has made up his mind to sacrifice himself for the sake of nation has cropped up. Well, to the surprise of most the soldier when recruited and while he is given the training is not taught to sacrifice himself but to finish off the enemies of his country and survive under all circumstances.
It has been noticed that any ruling party which comes into power simply neglects the immediate needs of forces irrespective of the fact that a nation can progress only when it feels safe and this is possible only when the defense of a nation is strong. From my point of view, as a war veteran, I think that a country should become independent as fast as possible when it comes to the availability and production of weaponry. The ruling government should encourage indigenous defense industries that are manufacturing arms and have committed themselves for the betterment of the nation. At present we see that DRDO is India’s organization who manufactures different defense equipments like Arjun tank, Nag anti-tank missile, Akash air-defense system, INSAS rifles, Light Combat Aircraft- Tejas, Trishul, Prithvi and Agni missiles. The government in order to cut down expenditure on defense, which more often they portray as a major reason for delays in procurement, should encourage DRDO and even try to export the products produced.
It has been noticed that any ruling party which comes into power simply neglects the immediate needs of forces irrespective of the fact that a nation can progress only when it feels safe and this is possible only when the defense of a nation is strong.
The other factors which should be taken care of are the kind of officers in forces who are leading the force. At the moment we see that most of the officers opt for voluntary retirement for the simple reason of the presence of inequality in field of promoting people. Hardly 5% of the people who are clearing as Lieutenants are able to reach the post of Brigadier or General, particularly the Chief of the force should be a person who knows his job. Since only when the leader is strong then only the people following him will have the courage to do even the close to impossible things. For things to happen in this manner it is very important for a country to have a stable and strong government. Since if the people governing the nation are bold enough to take important and on the spot decision for the betterment of the citizens, only then the people will support the government. This can become possible only when we adopt one party rule so that there is not much trouble in taking important decisions or the democratic government elected should be free from the bain called ‘collation’.
If our soldiers are strong, the officers whether a General or a Lieutenant are sincere towards their duty, the government is capable of taking bold actions depending on the situation, then how can we be bullied every now and then by our neighboring nations, how can any other country try to influence us against the wish of our people. The small nation in the midst of Arab world named Israel is not withstanding blows from its enemies just because it is having American back-up but its people are the senses of its government which in return ensures them safety by providing the best possible defense system and the strongest possible soldiers.
Now it’s our time to do so, since if we continue to ignore many of such things then we may have to review the period when we had to fight hard enough to attain or maintain our freedom.
By presenting articles, through www.indiandefencereview.com, related to the operations carried out by the Indian Army, on the western front during 1965 war, I intend not to question anybody’s contribution who had participated in that war. But I wish to tell to our upcoming generations about the significance of this war, which was termed as the “War of Young Officers” as well as ‘The bloodiest war fought by the Indian army ever’, not only owing to the high number of casualties inflicted on the part of the enemy but due to the quality of leadership shown by young recruits irrespective of the kind of commission which was offered to them. – Colonel Baljit Singh.