The Indian opening of a second front in Punjab on 6 September forced Ayub Khan to pull troops out of the Chhamb-Jaurian sector to reinforce the Lahore and Sialkot sectors. Despite thinning out, Pakistan continued to occupy the captured territory till the settlement after the ceasefire.
Chaudhuri opened the second front with a corps of three divisions, supported by the Independent Armoured Brigade, advancing along three major axes leading to Lahore with a view to securing the line of the Ichhogil Canal. Fearful of the intended offensive in Punjab by Pakistan 1 Armoured Division, Chaudhuri aimed at achieving greater defence potential in the area by leaning on a recognized anti-tank obstacle in the canal, which lay deep in Pakistani territory. Chaudhuri launched his own offensive on 9 September in the Sialkot sector1 with the newly created 1 Corps comprizing 1 Armoured Division and two infantry divisions.
The Pakistani offensive in the Khemkaran sector was stoutly held by the Indians when a truncated Mountain Division destroyed about 107 Pakistani tanks, thus writing off about two armoured regiments. This attrition as well as the Indian offensive forced Ayub Khan to cut his losses at Khemkaran and withdraw his Armoured Division to reinforce Lahore and Sialkot. The Indian offensive was barely able to penetrate about six to seven miles deep on widely separated thrust lines.
The head on battle between the armoured formations of the two sides in the Sialkot sector, ding-dong defensive battles in Punjab and a sideshow offensive in Rajasthan had created a stalemate over a period of three weeks. The troops on both sides were tired of continuous engagement, their commanders were weary of fruitless struggle, and the administrators feared that reserves would touch rockbottom. All awaited the ceasefire expectantly and were glad when it became effective.
As far back as 1962 Ayub Khan had openly threatened India with an Algerian type of guerilla war in Kashmir, but considering Indias firm hold on Kashmir politically nobody took him seriously.
Nonetheless, both sides claimed a decisive victory. The truth lay somewhere in the middle, for neither side had won or lost. They had fought each other without achieving any definite war aims. It is apparent that they lacked a clearcut war strategy, and as a result their field commanders were uncertain about their missions. Lacking certainty about the outcome and without a strategic master plan, both armies just slugged it out. In planning and conduct of operations they adhered to standard British World War 11 practice, never deviating from the orthodox methods of fighting by textbook. The result was that their planning was conservative, where all moves could be predicted and countered with orthodox moves by the opposite side. In this regard, the Indo-Pakistani conflict of 1965 was an amateurish affair in which two professional armies fought each other like novices.
Since nothing substantial was achieved in either the political, economic or military spheres, Chaudhuri, with his characteristic gift of the gab, sought to justify turning the conflict into a war of attrition. He emphasized at a special news conference on 24 September that “India had essentially fought a war of attrition in which territorial gains or losses were comparatively of little consequence.”2 What really mattered was the extent of damage inflicted by India on Pakistan’s armed forces. The casualty figure quoted was 4,802 Pakistani soldiers, including 22 officers, killed and 457, including 20 officers, taken prisoner against Indian casualties of 1,333 troops, including 80 officers, killed.
Chaudhuri further claimed the loss of 471 Pakistani tanks, including 38 captured. These figures included 236 Pattons destroyed and 26 captured, 60 Chaffees destroyed and one captured, and 26 Sherman destroyed and 11 captured. Another 111 were claimed to have been destroyed in Pakistani territory, where identification was not feasible.3 Against this India was said to have lost only 128 tanks in all these battles. Chaudhuri’s figures of Pakistani tank casualties appear to be exaggerated.
Pakistans use of American weapons, as substantiated by serial photographs taken within Indian territory in Kutch, belied the guarantees the US Government had given New Delhi earlier that these weapons would not be used against India.
Pakistan employed a total of 11 armoured and three reconnaisance regiments in the conflict with approximate tank holdings of 620. It is inconceivable that it lost more than three-fourths of its tank strength in this minor war. At least the post-conflict war potential of the Pakistani armoured formations, as estimated by foreign military observers, belied Chaudhuri’s claims. It would seem that Chaudhuri’s explanation that the war was one of attrition of Pakistan’s armed forces was an afterthought, more in a spirit of self-justification than a genuine belief. Attrition is meant to clear the way to achieve the ultimate war aims. Since no aim seemed to have been achieved in the end attrition by itself was meaningless.
For the layman Chaudhuri counted India’s war gains in terms of loss or gain of territory. He claimed that India was at the time of the ceasefire in occupation of nearly 700 square miles of Pakistani territory against a loss of 210 square miles of Indian territory. The breakdown was 20 square miles in the Tithwal sector, 200 square miles in the Uri-Poonch bulge, 180 square miles in the Sialkot region, 140 square miles in the Lahore-Kasur sector, and about 150 square miles across the Rajasthan border in Sind.4
When these figures were added up they looked very impressive, but they did not confer any military, economic or psychological advantage. The measurement of military gains in terms of square miles of barren sands or empty waste had no meaning, but since nothing tangible was otherwise achieved it became a convenient yardstick for a comparative assessment of winning or losing in war. Pakistan celebrated its day of victory, and India felt equally jubilant at its performance. But irrespective of the claims of propaganda media, the fact remained that the Indo-Pakistani conflict had ended in a stalemate. It was nevertheless a major engagement for both, involving participation on the national plane.
The Tashkent Agreement nullified these territorial gains as both sides has to vacate the occupied areas to restore the status quo ante.5 After the withdrawal of both armies it was time to take stock of the conduct of the war, analysing the weakness as well the strength of tactical concepts, organisations and weaponry. Chaudhuri accordingly asked for after-action reports from the formations which had participated, down to the level of division and independent brigade. These reports were submitted two to three months later. This time-lag gave ample opportunity to the parties concerned to change their stories to suit the image of the formations and their commanders the propaganda media had built up earlier. Some formations even reconstructed their war diaries to fit the new version of what took place.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 40, “India Opens Two New Fronts in Sind and Sialkot Regions,” p. 6691.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “Indian Gains during War–Service Chief’s News Conference.” p. 6707.
- Ibid., p. 6707.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “The Fighting,” pp. 670 06-6707.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XIII, No 5, “Tashkent Declaration by India and Pakistan–Withdrawal of Troops,” p. 6896.
It appeared that Chaudhuri had deliberately tried to conceal weaknesses under a fog of ignorance and the lack of desire on the part of the politicians and the nation to seek the truth. The nation’s indignation after the Chinese aggression in 1962 resulted in the Henderson-Brooks report, which however never saw the light of day. But there was no report in 1965 as the nation, and particularly the Indian Army, was not prepared to face the mirror squarely. Chaudhuri is to blame for this as he concealed the truth for the sake of his personal vanity.
Chaudhuri bowed out in April 1966. At the time of handing over to his successor, Gen PP Kumaramangalam,1 commonly known as Kay to his colleagues, Chaudhuri left one of the largest standing armies in the world. The Army had four corps headquarters on its Orbat, one armoured division, eight mountain and 12 infantry divisions, one independent armoured brigade, and two independent artillery brigades. The Army had been recently blooded, and the fact that its equipment and weaponry had been recently procured added to its war potential. It fell to Kumaramangalam to revamp the Army by drawing upon the experience gained in the Indo-Pakistani war, but this was far greater than his capacity. He was lethargic, slow on the uptake, and far too deliberate in his ways to keep pace with the march of time. And he had difficult subordinates in his army commanders, whom he could not bring together. His advisers among principal staff officers were mediocre and incapable of giving him a hand in carrying out reforms, requiring vision and pragmatism.
In the first week of August, the presence of infiltrators in depth areas began to be felt through attacks on bridges, administrative installations and ammunition dumps all along the ceasefire line, particularly in Kashmir Valley.
Luckily, Kumaramangalam’s tenure was short, and despite his shortcomings circumstances changed for the better. The new friendship forged by the Tashkent Agreement opened the doors of the Soviet arsenal to India. Using this new source of supply, Kumaramangalam acquired tanks and guns to replace the aging equipment of the existing formations and units and to raise new ones.2 In his time two independent armoured brigades, six armoured regiments and one guided missile regiment came into being. But his activities were so circumscribed by the manpower ceiling of 850,000 that he had to convert the existing artillery and engineer units into armoured regiments, thus upsetting the overall balance of the Army.
The Regiment of Artillery, to which Kumaramangalam belonged, accused him of anti-gunner policies, while the Armoured Corps, which benefited most, acclaimed him, saying: “He has done more for the Armoured Corps than the cavalrymen who ruled the Army for over a decade.” The fact remains that he robbed Peter to pay Paul, resulting in unbalanced growth, with a bias towards the Armoured Corps. Both the old and newly created armoured formations lacked motorized infantry and self-propelled artillery support, thus nullifying their added mobility.
Despite the inherent weaknesses in the re-equipment and reorganisation plan the creation of six armoured regiments to provide greater punch to the strike element was a progressive step. Otherwise there was no visible change in Kumaramangalam’s time either in operational plans or in the concepts for their implementation.
A definitely retrograde step was introduced in the selection system for higher commanders, and this was to tell in the Army’s performance in war later. Kumaramangalam accepted that there were two classes of brigadier in the Army: one the general cadre who could aspire to higher command, and the other purely regimental or corps who could fit vacancies only in their own organisations. This denied the higher command the use of some brain power and cost some competent professionals their careers. Mediocrity was allowed to flourish and prevail, and for this the blame his squarely on him. The poor man could hardly see beyond his nose. Otherwise, his tenure passed uneventfully. An upright gentleman steeped in British traditions, he acted as a mere bird of passage.
A ghost radio broadcasting from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir hailed this sabotage as a “mass uprising” and appealed to the Kashmiris to rise against the “Indian occupation.”
The artillery suffered most in this regard. Because of constraints on the availability of equipment the growth of this arm had never kept pace with that of the infantry and armour. As a result some of the infantry formations were without adequate supporting artillery. Although some of these formations could perform their peacetime counterinsurgency tasks without their full complement of artillery, in times of war such formations could not be used without last-minute ad hoc arrangements. Shortage of artillery had plagued the Indian Army order of battle throughout. In addition, there was the question of procuring suitable guns, firstly to replace the existing inventory, which was of World War II stock and fast wasting out, and secondly for issue to new raisings.
When the Soviet Union became a source of arms supplier to India, some of these units switched to 100-mm guns which were primarily designed for anti-tank operations and had more than amply proved their worth against the German Panzers in World War II. But its performance as a field gun had still to be proved. Its weight restricted its cross-country performance and its high velocity, combined with low trajectory, created crest clearance problems. Because of these constraints the gun had to be sited close to roads and away from cover cresting its trajectory. Despite these inherent shortcomings, the Indian Army accepted this gun as field equipment for formations operating in the plains. But since its availability was restricted, about three-fourths of the field force artillery units continued to use the 25-pounder.
Prior to the Chinese invasion in 1962 there were only two mountain artillery regiments which could operate with animal packs in the Himalayan border regions, which had poor communications. These regiments were equipped with the Indian 3.7-inch howitzer of the 1920s, originally designed to support punitive operations against the Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province of British India. This gun had limited range and was heavy for its range and shell weight. In the post-1962 period of Army expansion and modernisation the need was felt for immediate replacement of the outmoded screw gun. An assortment of lighter pack guns was received as part of the military aid and they included the 75-mm pack howitzer (USA) used by parachute and air mobile formations, the 76-mm howitzer (Yugoslavia), and the 105-mm Italian pack howitzer which came through Britain.
With the raising or conversion of eight mountain divisions a large number of new regiments were raised, but the trickle of new equipment coming as aid could equip only a few of them. The majority of these regiments perforce continued to be equipped with the 3.7-inch howitzer. A project to produce an indigenous mountain gun had been engaging the decisionmakers’ attention even in Menon’s time. Drawings of a Canadian pack gun had even been procured for Indian R&D to work on.
After 1962 a big fillip was given to the project by setting up a production infrastructure in the way of tooling facilities and extensive proving trials of prototypes. Production was started on an emergency basis under an energetic retired brigadier of artillery, and the first 75-mm Indian pack howitzers were ready for commissioning in the later half of 1967. The gun had a range of 12,800 metres and a shell weight of about 14 pounds. In addition to being towed it could be carried by mule pack. Despite its crude appearance it proved an accurate and sturdy weapon to withstand sustained firing.
Along with the development of this gun the development of road communications in the Himalayan border regions was pursued at a fast pace. As the gun became available for introduction in the field force a road network also came into being, allowing for flexibility in moving heavy guns in operational areas. At its very birth however a cry was raised that the new gun was redundant. Formation commanders now demanded a weapon with a heavier shell to deal with defences with overhead cover instead of a 14-pounder which on exploding made hardly any impact on the type of defences likely to be encountered in the region.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XII, No 23, “New Chief of Army Takes Cver,” p. 7176.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XII, No 22, “New Mountain Gun,” p. 7102.
But production was not sufficient to replace the 25-pounder completely. The replacement process perforce had to be slowed, and as a result the majority of field regiments continued to be armed with the obsolescent gun. The Indian 105-mm gun was a hotch-potch of several known foreign designs and heavier than others of equivalent calibre, but it was an Indian gun, and that is what mattered most. Its ammunition inventory, especially of the sophisticated variety, was experiencing teething troubles, but those were bound to be solved. Of the mortar units, the 4.2-inch World War lI mortar was replaced by the 120-mm Tempela and Brandt, of Finnish and French design respectively.
Facilities were later created for manufacturing the Brandt under licence and eventually to phase out the Tempela. The Soviet 130-mm field gun was selected to equip new medium regiments for the infantry divisions operating in the plains and to equip independent artillery brigades created to increase the firepower of the field force. Established regiments equipped with the British 5.5-inch howitzer were relegated to support the mountain divisions earmarked for operations in the Himalayas, where road conditions and crest clearance constraints forbade the use of the Russian gun. In view of the importance attached to developing an Indian 105-mm field gun the manufacture of a medium gun was temporarily shelved.
The failure of the Pakistani guerilla operations can be attributed to lack of popular support in the valley. Indiscriminate Pakistani burning of houses further alienated the local population.
In the sphere of defence against aerial attack the Army had inherited one heavy ack ack (HAA) regiment equipped with the British 3.7-inch HAA gun integrated with an early warning and gun control radar system well tried out in the Battle of Britain. The system was meant to take on high-flying aircraft, mainly bombers, especially in the hours of darkness or when visibility was poor. At a low level there were six to eight regiments equipped with 40-mm light ack ack (LAA) Bofor guns of Swedish make. The sighting of this weapon was visual and firing control manual. For early warring, a ring of observation posts was established all round protected vulnerable points. The gun system and the concept were mainly meant for pistonpropelled aircraft flying at slow speeds compared with jetcraft. These units were allocated on an ad hoc basis, some to field formations, some for defence of air bases, and yet others for civilian targets.
Very little effort was made initially to build integrated air defences for vulnerable areas jointly by the Air Force and the Army. Radar cover for early warning with both service wings was very scanty, and no effort was made to organize manual observation with fast communications along the border to alert the Air Force and air defence guns in time. As a result each was left to fend for itself. After the Chinese invasion the authorities became aware of air defence requirements, especially the glaring shortcomings brought out by an air defence exercise carried out in 1963 in conjunction with the United States Air Force. The Americans employed the latest sophisticated air defence systems and demonstrated their efficacy against likely threats with telling effect, bringing home the serious gaps in Indian thinking and actions.
As follow-up action, India procured some early warning radar systems and tried to create a communications network to serve the minimum requirements of early warning and co-ordinate the activities of the executing agencies. Only a beginning had been made when war broke out in 1965. The air defence units gave a good account of themselves individually against Pakistani air attacks wherever employed and won national acclaim, but the shortfall in the performance of early warning, and the overall integration of air defence resources was revealed glaringly.
Since the air attacks penetrated deep to take on civilian targets the Government soon became alive to the problem and speeded up followup action. The responsibility for air defence was divided between the Air Force and the Army. Defence against high-level attacks went to the Air Force, which in addition to the air-to-air aspect took over ground-to-air weaponry. It acquired the Russian SAM-3 guided missile to raise a number of air defence missile units. The Air Force was rapidly expanded, and some different flying cadres were transferred to ground jobs created by the programme of expansion. The only surviving heavy air defence regiment on the Indian Army strength was consequently converted into a light air defence regiment and discarded the outmoded 3.7-HAA gun.
The troops on both sides were tired of continuous engagement, their commanders were weary of fruitless struggle, and the administrators feared that reserves would touch rock bottom. All awaited the ceasefire expectantly and were glad when it became effective.
There was much controversy in the services about the Air Force’s propriety in taking over guided missiles, and Kumaramangalam was blamed for surrendering the artillery’s prerogative to control these weapons without putting up a fight. Plans were drawn up to install a foolproof radar system to cover the entire border against Pakistan, and to create a troposcatter communications network to provide instant warning of developing air threats. The air defence artillery complement was mainly drawn from the Territorial Army, especially for the defence of airfields and for other communication-zone tasks.
In 1965, luckily for Chaudhuri, Pakistan’s little incursion in the Kutch region had allowed mobilisation of the TA before the main round.1 Otherwise, the inordinate time taken for mobilisation would have caught the Indian Army unprepared for air defence of vulnerable areas. As a result of this experience, it was decided to keep one battery per air defence regiment on a permanent footing so that at least partial cover was available for all vulnerable points at short notice. Accepting the need to replace the outmoded L-60 air defence gun, the latest version of the L-70 was procured with allied radar systems to equip a few units, while facilities were established to produce them indigenously under licence. The pace was set to replace the entire L-60 inventory, at least in the priority areas, over a period of time.
There was much delay on the part of the Government in naming Kumaramangalam’s successor. It was not till March 1969, that the then Lt Gen SHFJ Manekshaw, MC, Army Commander Eastern Command, was nominated to take his place.2 It was then rumoured that the inner cabinet favoured the other contender, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, but eventually the Prime Minister’s views prevailed. History proved her right in this decision. With Manekshaw’s appointment, a new chapter opened in the history of the Indian Army. He was the first Indian Commissioned Officer (ICO) to head the service after almost two decades of KCIO’s rule. He was trained in India and brought up in true Indian traditions, and by virtue of holding responsible appointments on various rungs of the military hierarchy he had painstakingly prepared himself for the job. He had carefully watched the growth of the Indian Army, assessed its strength and weaknesses objectively, made close contact with its leaders, and chartered for himself a course which would bring back the glory that rightfully belonged to it. His knowledge of men and matters was astute, and he knew how to mould both to the best advantage in achieving his aims. His sense of priorities in tackling problems was excellent.
From the time of independence, politician and bureaucrat have been asserting the supremacy of the civilian over the military. The constitutional position was well understood by both sides, but as a hangover of the resentment against the British military past the civilian tried to rub this in crudely, and in a rather humiliating way. The status of the Army officer in the official order of precedence was lower than that of his civilian equivalent, his pay was reduced far below the level of’ the civilian rates, and housing and schooling conditions and other basic amenities were poor, giving the general impression that there was a deliberate attempt to “discipline” the soldier by virtually rubbing his nose in the dirt.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 25, “Indo-Pakistan Fight in Rann of Kutch—a Narrative,” p. 6509.
- Asian Recorder, Vol XV, No 16, “Chief of the Army Staff,” p. 8875.
Although the debacle in NEFA highlighted the importance of the soldier and some attention began to be paid to sharpening his sword, soon things were allowed to slide backwards through the reassertion of civil power. Manekshaw had observed this game at close quarters and was intent to restore the military’s lost prestige. He knew his tenure was short and that if he wanted to leave his mark he had to act fast. Three years were not enough to make up for the two decades of neglect, but he was going to have a good try. This turned him into a man in a hurry. It became a crusade for him.
His first priority was improving the lot of the soldier. From the time of independence, two-thirds of the fighting strength of the Army was committed in the field, either holding the cease-fire line in Jammu and Kashmir or facing the Chinese in the Himalayas, or engaged in counterinsurgency operations in Nagaland and Mizoram. As a result, the soldier was separated from his family most of the time. And when his turn came to be posted to a so-called peace station the amenities in the way of accommodation, schooling and other facilities fell woefully short of his entitlements.
When HM Patel was Defence Secretary, he exploited the soldiers weaknesses to emphasise civilian supremacy in tangible terms without a word of protest from the soldiery.
Under the British, most cantonments were sited in NWFP and Punjab for strategic reasons, and most of them went to Pakistan on the partition of the country. The Indian share of cantonments lay so far from the newly created border between India and Pakistan that the time taken to concentrate troops in the region forbade making full use of them. The cantonments closer to the border got inevitably congested, overtaxing the facilities available, and those in the hinterland could only be used for training and quartering troops not initially required in battle.
Earlier, in Jammu and Kashmir, and later in the wake of the Chinese invasion of NEFA, the whole Himalayan border became alive and areas hitherto completely underdeveloped had to be shaped to house troops in the areas with minimal infrastructure or none at all. With progressively increasing military commitments on the ceasefire line in Jammu and Kashmir, in the Himalayas, and in the counterinsurgency operations in Nagaland and Mizoram, the Army steadily expanded, and its housing needs grew manifold in areas where a start had to be made from scratch.
With the limited funds available to the Army, priority went to expansion and re-equipping, and very little margin was left for accommodation and allied facilities. As a result, cantonments in the newly developed military areas were haphazardly planned shanty towns built piecemeal without any attention to overall growth according to a. master plan. These habitations lacked central services in the way of electricity, water and sewage among other things. The old accommodation was falling apart because of overcrowding and lack of proper maintenance. Most of the funds allotted for the purpose went to support Military Engineering Services establishments and very little went into actual maintenance work. It was quite common to find part of a unit in barracks and the rest under canvas in the same compound.
Manekshaw had observed this game at close quarters and was intent to restore the militarys lost prestige.
Amenities like fans, flyproofing of cookhouses and dining halls, waterborne sanitation, running water in bathrooms and so on fell far short of actual requirements. There was an acute shortage of married accommodation both for officers and other ranks. There were long peace station waiting lists, and in his stay at such a station a soldier hardly got to live with his family more than a year or so before his turn for field service came again.
This was hard for the man in uniform, but doubly so for his family because the result was an unsettled life. With rapid socioeconomic changes in the mainstream of national life, it was becoming increasingly difficult for families to stay with their parents or parents-in-law in the long absences of the breadwinner on active duty. A growing need was therefore felt for providing some accommodation to separated families. But because of an acute lack of finances, indecision on firm key locations of formations, and a poor sense of priorities Manekshaw’s predecessors had left the problem unsolved, hoping it would solve itself with the passage of time.
The new Chief set about his task with missionary zeal. He pressed the Government for larger funds, got the key location plans finalized, organized machinery for proper cantonment planning, campagined vigorously for amenities and insisted that these be procured post-haste. He visited each formation, and if funds allocated had not been judiciously spent and the entitlements provisioned before he arrived the station commander and his administrative staff were hauled over the coals.
Nothing, however small, escaped his notice. He insisted on proper town planning, with all the civic amenities provided to the troops and their families alike. Each cantonment was to have its own shopping centre, school, cinema, club, swimming pool, sports ground and so on. Where, due to lack of space, expansion sideways was not feasible, he went in for vertical growth in the form of multistoried buildings. He insisted on long-term housing plans for the Army and got them implemented in his tenure. By the end of it, the building programme was well on the way, and if only his successors can keep it going the problem will be solved in the next ten or 15 years.