Military & Aerospace

Indo-Pak Conflict of 1965 - Surrendering Victory
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Issue Book Excerpt: War in the Indian Ocean | Date : 05 Sep , 2015

Field Marshal Ayub Khan brushed aside the corrupt civilian coterie and with the support of bureaucrats assumed the presidentship of Pakistan in 1958. This military dictatorship within the Commonwealth was meekly accepted by those who had fought to remove dictators in Europe. India continued to be the only big nation practising democracy but her security needs were sidelined, both by the United States and Britain.

The Nehru era had also ended with the debacle in the Himalayas. But nonetheless, the political stability endured under Lal Bahadur Shastri, a staunch follower of Gandhiji, who maintained his faith in non-alignment and the moral force of non-violence. In a conflict-ridden decolonizing environment the military power blocks became the link between big powers and pliable client states in the Indian Ocean.

Islamabad was encouraged to confront India which they felt was flabby and divisive with Kashmir being the prize which Ayub Khan was sure would make him President for life.

The Pakistanis readily accepted military rule in preference to the corrupt and unstable civilian governments. The dictatorship of Ayub Khan which tried to evolve a developmental pattern saw the armed forces as the originators of policy instead of being the instruments of implementation. The policization of the Army commenced under the twelve years’ dictatorship of Ayub Khan followed by two years of Yahya Khan and another eight years of General Zia with all military governments attracting external defence aid accelerated by the spin-offs of petro-dollars and later by the narco currency from both the ‘Golden Crescent’ of the North-West and ‘Golden Triangle’ in the North-East which determined the products of the arms bazaar.

Islamabad was encouraged to confront India which they felt was flabby and divisive with Kashmir being the prize which Ayub Khan was sure would make him President for life. A conflict situation was consequently created in the waterlogged Rann of Kachchh in April 1965 as a probing operation where a Pakistani brigade caught the Indian Border Security Force unawares, thus confirming their perception that the numerically smaller Pakistan Army was more than a match for the larger but perhaps under equipped Indian Army, which took directions from a loosely knit democratic leadership consisting of the followers of non-violence.

The Indian Army, however, reacted strongly and recaptured the controversial border outpost. Prime Minister Shastri, during the Commonwealth Conference in London on 17 June 1965 when a cease-fire was brokered by the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, replied when taunted by Ayub Khan regarding the Indian rout in the Rann that ‘if India had planned to commit aggression, she would have not chosen a terrain where Pakistan had all the advantages’! However, cease-fire violations continued to rise dramatically with subversive activities in Kashmir which led to Pakistan launching Operation Grand Slam by again inducting so-called tribals into the valley of Kashmir. This was followed by an armoured thrust across the international border in the Chamba sestor to capture Akhnoor and thus cutting communications to prevent additional forces being rushed to Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian Air Force had perforce to be called in to halt the Pakistan advance and thus commenced the Indo-Pak conflict of September 1965.

…two Whisky class submarines and four Komar class missile boats were transferred to Pakistan despite the bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union forbidding such gifts to other countries

The strategists on both sides had forgotten that Pakistan was dependent on crucial imports of fuel, ammunition and military supplies to sustain their massive armoured and infantry thrusts which in many ways were considerably larger than the tank battles between Rommel and Montgomery in North Africa. But curiously, the Indian Navy was not even charged with the traditional missions of interdiction, blockade, bombardment or protection of the coastal region as General Chaudhuri felt that the Navy’s role ‘did not look like being a very big one’. Hence, emphasizing the ‘need to know’ yardstick, he kept out the naval Chief (Admiral Soman), who was none other than his pliable colleague of the Goa operations from even attending the Chiefs of Staff meetings! Again this Sandhursttrained General from the maritime state of Bengal had not realized that the West and East Pakistans were connected by the salt waters of the Indian Ocean. In his National Security lecture of 1971, he nevertheless stated that he had correctly guessed Pakistan’s intentions in 1965 of capturing Kashmir and. therefore, had obtained the necessary approval from the Defence Minister to take appropriate action. But he did not think it necessary to keep the other two Service Chiefs informed, let alone discuss the higher direction of war involving joint planning, joint intelligence and joint operations.

Naval Headquarters appeared to be equally casual if not oblivious’ of the War Book measures and acquiesced with the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee that the Indian Fleet, which was exercising in the Bay of Bengal with the RN submarine, HMS Astute, should not be sailed back with despatch to Bombay. This was to avoid forewarning Pakistan of the movement of the Indian fleet at this juncture!1

In the meantime, as stated by Air Marshal Ashgar Khan in his book The First Round, Pakistan’s request to President Sukarno of Indonesia brought the response from their Naval Chief, Admiral Manadinata, ‘Don’t you want us to take over the Andaman Islands?’ Thereafter, two Whisky class submarines and four Komar class missile boats were transferred to Pakistan despite the bilateral treaty with the Soviet Union forbidding such gifts to other countries. These Indonesian vessels however arrived in Karachi after the cessation of hostilities. The vigil in the Andamari and Nicobar region had, therefore, to be maintained by the vintage frigates Kistna and Tir. So much for Delhi’s genuine efforts to establish friendly relations with her neighbours.

…cease-fire violations continued to rise dramatically with subversive activities in Kashmir which led to Pakistan launching Operation Grand Slam by again inducting so-called tribals into the valley of Kashmir. into the valley of Kashmir.

The raid on Dwarka

Pakistan was aware that the bulk of the Indian Fleet was in the Bay of Bengal and that the aircraft carrier Vikrant and cruiser Delhi were under refit at Bombay. The presence of Talwar off Okha may also have been known to Karachi. They were further informed that the Indian Fleet Commander and his staff had departed by air for Bombay.

The submarine Ghazi was sailed on 2 September to be off Bombay by 5 September to intercept the aircraft carrier or the cruisers. Babur with 5 destroyers and one frigate, sailed on 6 September with the tanker Dacca providing logistics at sea. The Pakistani flotilla was ordered by signal on 7 September to bombard Dwarka on the night of 7 September. The ships fuelled by 1700 and were in their Initial Position (IP) – 293 degrees Dwarka Light 120 miles – by 1800. Operational orders for the bombardment were passed by heaving line in order not to break WIT silence. Some messages such as ‘Do not ask for repetitions. I shall pass you by light’ were intercepted by Talwar and the intercept bearings Talwar immediately sounded action stations at 2200 hours as she came to the conclusion that she was the target.

The gunnery officer reported that the modem 4.5 inch gun mounting and fire control was fully tuned for combat. However, Talwar continued to remain immobilized in Okha with the intercept bearings drawing even more left. Shortly after midnight, the bombardment of Dwarka commenced with Pakistani ships in line astern, seven cables apart and at a distance of 5.8 nautical miles from the temple town of Dwarka. On completion of 50 rounds, which took four minutes, COMPAK altered course at 0025 and proceeded at 24 knots to patrol a hundred mile arc. The Pakistani flotilla resumed anti-aircraft dispositions at dusk and dawn as they were aware of the war planes at IAF Station Jamnagar which airfield had earlier been straffed by the Pakistan Air Force.

On the morning of 8 September, Naval Headquarters directed the commanding officer of INS Talwar to inspect and report the damage at Dwarka. Commander Dhareshwar reported back that the Pakistani vessels disguised as merchantmen had bombarded Dwarka at pbout midnight for half an hour with the majority of the shells falling between the temple and the railway station damaging only the railway guest-house and with over 40 rounds not exploding. This possibly could have been the same old RN stock which were also supplied to the Indian Navy as Godavari and Gomati while engaging an unidentified aircraft (later reported to be from the US aircraft carrier Ranger) had also several unexploded shells landing in the soft ground of Wellington Island. Hence, the citizenry of Cochin were satisfied with the Navy’s performance.

The Pakistani flotilla resumed anti-aircraft dispositions at dusk and dawn as they were aware of the war planes at IAF Station Jamnagar which airfield had earlier been straffed by the Pakistan Air Force.

But the Bombayites failed to understand the lack of success by the Indian fleet especially with sirens wailing, Jamnagar – attacked and Dwarka shelled. But nonetheless, the naval bombardment of Dwarka with the Indian fleet still preparing to sail was an affront to the sailors in white, who could not understand what was holding the fleet back. As Vice Admiral N. Kri;;hnan is supposed to have said:

One of our frigates Talwar was at Okha. It is unfortunate that she could not sail forth and seek battle. Even if there was a mandate against the Navy participating in the war, no Government would blame a warship going into action, if attacked. An affront to our national honour is no joke and we cannot laugh it away by saying “All the Pakistanis did was to kill a cow.” Let us at least create a memorial to the “unknown cow” who died with her hooves on in a battle against the Pakistan Navy.In this context, one recollects the court martial of Admiral Sir John Byng of the Royal Navy for neglect of duty when he failed. to take adequate action against the French fleet at the seige of Minorca.3 As a postscript, Admiral Byng was executed on the quarterdeck of the 74-Gun HMS Monarch in Portsmouth on 14 March 1757 as the ‘British found it necessary from time to time to shoot an Admiral to set an example to others’! While not suggesting such drastic action in the Indian context, it should never be forgotten that ‘it is the bounden duty of a sea officer to bring the enemy to battle’, which Nelson, time and again followed by disobeying orders on the pretext of the now familiar cliche of ‘turning his blind eye’.

Talwar having failed to sortie out rectified her defects and returned to Bombay at maximum speed. It was rumoured that the commanding officer of Talwar, who unfortunately is no more, brooded over the missed opportunity and had to be cajoled to return to his ship at Bombay. Ghazi continued in her patrol stations off the Kachchh and Bombay coasts and is said to have seen aircraft flying over her when she was snorkelling. Ghazi returned to Karachi on 11 September to rectify her ECM (electronic counter-measure) equipment and resumed her patrol on 15 September.

On 22 September, Ghazi gained contact at about 1830 which she closed by snorkelling to get within torpedo range of 8400 yards. At 1912 she fired four torpedoes from her bow tubes and then cleared the area after hearing the torpedoes hitting the target. She was reported to have arrived at Karachi on 23 September by proceeding at maximum speed on the surface.

Thus ended Pakistan’s debut at sea in the 1965 conflict which encompassed the bombardment of Dwarka and the sinking of the frigate Brahmaputra. Three gallantary awards were announced by Islamabad. The Pakistan Naval Chief, Vice Admiral A.R. Khan, was awarded Hilal-e-Juraat, Commander K.R. Niazi, Commanding Officer of Ghazi, and his Secondin-Command Lieutenant Commander A. Tasnim were both awaraed Sitara-e-Juraat. (Tasnim was later the Commanding Officer of the Submarine Hangar who sank the frigate Khukri in 1971 when he was awarded a bar to his Sitara-e-Juraat.)

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The Engine Room Artificer G. Nabi was also honoured with a Tamgha-i-Juraat. However, Brahmaputra was not aware of any underwater attacks and along with the other frigates of the same class had to be paraded at Bombay to satisfy the media. Perhaps the gossip of an Iranian frigate limping back to Karachi as also the decoration of an engine room artificer of Ghazi merits further analysis.

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Vice Admiral Mihir K. Roy

Vice Admiral Mihir K. Roy

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One thought on “Indo-Pak Conflict of 1965 – Surrendering Victory

  1. The Indian Navy’s official version of events states that, at around 23:55 hours, the Pakistani vessels fired on Dwarka for more than 20 minutes. The ships fired around 50 shells each, which included 5.25 inch rounds fired by the Pakistani cruiser PNS Babur. The report adds that the first 9 shells fell directly on the Naval Radar Facility destroying most of the infrastructure, killing 13 sailors and two officers, some of the shells fell between the temple and the railway station, which lay 3 km from the lighthouse. Some buildings were hit, the Naval Air Station at Dwarka also used for test flights for INS Vikrant received shells on the runway and was rendered ineffective for any use for at least 2 months. The Railway Guest House suffered some minor damages and a cement factory of Associated Cement Company was also hit. Smoke from the damage was visible to the Pakistani warships approximately 20 kilometers away.127

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