Military & Aerospace

The 1965 War with Pakistan-I
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Issue Book Excerpt: In the Line of Duty | Date : 16 Feb , 2011

I was pleading all the time that an offensive, across the international border, towards Lahore, would compel the Pakistanis to pull back their Pattons from the Chhamb Sector. This was confirmed by a message sent by the Pakistan Army and picked up on the morning of our offensive. Another ruse I played to lull the enemy was not to move my Headquarters down to Ambala till the afternoon of the 5th of September. What is more, I accepted, and asked my senior Staff Officers to accept, an invitation to lunch, at Kanwar Dalip Singh’s house, in Simla, on the 5th of September, just a day before the offensive started. That afternoon, I had a helicopter waiting for me at Anandale, Simla, which flew me, after lunch, to Jalandhar, where I had arranged to pick up General Officer Commanding XI Corps, Lt Gen Joginder Singh Dhillon, before proceeding to Amritsar to see the various formations going into the attack. Besides, I had requested Mr Ashwani Kumar (Senior Superintendent of Police, Amritsar) and the local Deputy Commissioner to meet me at Tactical Headquarters of 15 Division, on the GT Axis, at midnight of the 5th, as I had something important to tell them, and that’s when I broke the news of our attack across the international border, for the first time, to the civilian Government of Punjab.

Book_in_the_line_of_dutyOn our way to Amritsar, the Corps Commander and I met military convoys of vehicles, both army and civil (we had requisitioned thousands of civilian trucks to make up for our deficiency of vehicles in the army), moving along the GT Road smoothly, and without lights, as ordered, and well to the left of the road, keeping their stipulated distance between vehicles. The orders for them were not to cross the line of the river Beas, before it was dark. At about 11 o’clock that night, we arrived at Tactical Headquarters of 15 Division. There, both of us, listened to the plan of attack of the Divisional Commander, Major General Niranjan Prasad, as he explained it on the map. Later, at midnight, I saw both Ashwani Kumar and the Deputy Commissioner and asked them to announce in the streets of Amritsar that we were going on the offensive against Pakistan and that people were not to panic if they hear thuds or saw fire. I also requested them to keep the local jail half empty so as to accommodate any civilians that we might capture. Lastly, I asked them not to allow any civilian vehicles to leave Amritsar by road, as we needed the road free for military traffic.From there, we went down the road, first to 7 Infantry Division (Major General Kishan Sibal), on the Kalra Axis, and then to 4 Mountain Division (Major General Gurbakhsh Singh) and found them both ready to go into the offensive at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 6th of September. At the 7 Infantry Division front, at Kalra, I looked through my binoculars (there was moonlight) and saw Pakistan Rangers sleeping in their mosquito-nets, oblivious of the fate that awaited them in the – next two hours.

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By 3 o’clock in the morning, both General Dhillon and I, were back at the forward Corps Headquarters, at Raya, and I requested everyone not to disturb me till 6 am, come what may, as I had busy nights ahead and needed some sleep. Punctually at 6 am, I was told that our assault had gone on well on all fronts. Soon, the Corps Commander and I drove up to the XI Corps’ Tactical Headquarters, which was nearer the Front. There, a map of the whole area was displayed on an easel, and the Brigadier General Staff of the Corps, Brigadier Parkash Singh Grewal, was manning, in a trench, the Forward Wireless link to the various Divisions.

The gist of what he (Ayub Khan) said was that the die had been cast; that India would get what it had asked for; that it would be a cake­walk to Delhi and .that he had declared war on India!

Here we listened, over a small dry-battery wireless set, to the broadcast made to the nation by Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the President of Pakistan. He seemed to be terribly nervous and was stammering. The gist of what he said was that the die had been cast; that India would get what it had asked for; that it would be a cake­walk to Delhi and .that he had declared war on India! Just after 12 noon, Brigadier Parkash brought a wireless message from General Officer Commanding 15 Division, on the GT Axis, where initially there had been reports that their leading Brigade had crossed the Ichhogil Canal. He said that his Division had been attacked by two Divisions of the Pakistani Army and that his leading Brigade had withdrawn to Gosal Dial, 7 miles behind the Ichhogil Canal; his flanks were exposed and, therefore, he had decided to withdraw behind the border.

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