Military & Aerospace

1965 War: Observations, Comments and Lessons
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A major national war aim of Pakistan was the annexation of Jammu and Kashmir by force. As has been brought out earlier the Kashmir Issue remained dormant for a considerable period after 1949, because of Pakistan’s intransigence, in not implementing the Security Council’s Resolution of August 13, 1948, which called for withdrawal of her forces from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. During the period, India held three General Elections in Kashmir (including one for Constitutional Assembly), where people turned up in large numbers and exercised their franchise without fear or favour. In these, they gave a constitution for themselves and elected Governments of their choice. Thus, the Security Council Resolution with regard to the Plebiscite in Kashmir, became irrelevant After President Ayub came to power, he decided to reactivate the Kashmir Issue. General Mohammad Musa, the then Pakistani Commander-in-Chief, stated that Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Foreign Minister and other Advisors of President Ayub, pressurised him (the President) to take advantage of the disturbed situation in the Valley and direct the Army to send raiders into Indian-held Kashmir for conducting guerrilla activities there, for establishing bases, and for helping the locals in organising a movement with a view to eventually staging an uprising against the occupying power.

He says, “According to them, steps taken by the Director Intelligence Bureau (DIB), till then were not only ineffective but had also alerted the army of occupation, which as a consequence, had tightened its suppressive and security measures”. He further says, “but we were directed to prepare two plans for action in Kashmir – an all out one and another, in a lower key”. He goes on, “later, during the third week of August, as far as I remember, we received another brief Presidential Directive stating that steps be taken to de-freeze the Kashmir Issue in which the Army should take an active part”.

This indicates the strategic thinking of the Pakistani High Command Musa himself was not in favour of launching the infiltration operation at the time as “in the first place, adequate preparations had not been made in the Valley to start guerrilla activity. We had not even apprised the local pro­ Pakistan leaders of our intention and plan of action, nor ascertained from them whether they would be willing to, and could, help us in any way”. Despite advice to the country from Musa, it would appear that the decision was taken to launch the guerrilla war. When the guerrillas could not get any significant help from the local population of Kashmir and India was able to frustrate the evil designs of the Pakistanis, Pakistan launched a major attack across the International border on Chhamb.

It was clear that after this, India could not confine its counter measures to Jammu and Kashmir only, as it would have meant fighting in an area dis-advantageous to her, and also in the process, exposing her heartland to undue risks. In any case, India had made it clear several times, that an attack on Kashmir, would be treated as an attack on India and that she would take counter action accordingly. Thus, after the Chhamb attack, India quite rightly retaliated in Punjab. If was also clear that, in view of the arrogance of Pakistan brought about by the receipt of massive military aid from the United States of America, unless her wings were clipped, she would continue to pose a serious threat to Kashmir. It was thus decided to carry the war into Pakistan territory and inflict maximum possible attrition, on her armed might Capture of any territory in the process, was only of secondary importance. In this connection, it would be pertinent to mention General Chaudhuri’s views on the military aim and strategy during this war. In his autobiography, he states:

“…In 1964, when we were revising military plans to defend ourselves in case of an attack from our neighbour, the troops available on the Western Front in effective numbers were roughly equivalent to those of Pakistan.

“…In the limited advance which must form the fulcrum of any defensive plan, we were faced with three alternatives. The first one was the occupation of some unguarded territory. This second was the occupation of, and probably substantial destruction to, a big city. For this, there were insufficient troops…… In dealing with this alternative, there was also the political view that any substantial destruction of a major population and historical centre would leave a raw wound between two neighbours, delaying unduly the eventual aim of living in amity. The third alternative was the destruction of equipment cheaply obtained, but if destroyed, expensive in every way to replace. The third alternative seemed correct choice. I would submit that we were successful in the pattern we adopted and the ensuing heavy economic burden and political disturbances in Pakistan certainly contributed to the downfall of the Ayub Government.

…To capture Lahore was not the aim of 1965 operations. Our experience has shown that taking any such large town would require a very large number of troops and the process would involve destruction of the town un a large scale which would not be a good thing for the future. My aim was only to destroy the Pakistani fighting potential, that is, the equipment and trained forces and in this I feel I succeeded We played havoc with Pakistani tanks and I think this action alone was probably responsible for removing Field Marshal Ayub Khan from the position of Head of State.

As has been brought out, considerable attrition was inflicted on Pakistan, although in the process. India also suffered fairly significant casualties. This had compelled Pakistan, apart from other factors to agree to a cease5re and withdrawal of forces. The main point that comes out, therefore, is that India evolved the correct strategy for herself and adhered to it As for Pakistan, she had miscalculated India’s-likely response and under-estimated her military capabilities. Although Musa says that an Indian counter offensive was expected in the Punjab, the fact remains that Pakistan was unable to meet it adequately and at the same time achieve its war aim with regard to Jammu and Kashmir.

Maintenance of the Aim

In this war, Pakistan’s initial aim was to secure Jammu and Kashmir by the force of arms. She attempted large scale infiltration, with the hope of fomenting a revolt inside Jammu and Kashmir, but had not carried out the necessary preparations. Subsequently, when India took counter action across the International Border, Pakistan attempted to secure Indian territory upto the Beas river and later exploit further. She was not able to achieve either of her aims as both the operations petered out for various reasons, as brought out

On the Indian side the aim was to remain on offensive defence in Jammu and Kashmir, while launching a limited offensive into Punjab across the International Border, In the Lahore Sector, the aim was to secure the Ichhogil Canal and ,pose a threat to Lahore, while in the Sialkot Sector, the aim was to drive a wedge between Lahore and Sialkot Sectors and neutralize Sialkot While the initial operations went off well, owing to incorrect reaction by some of the Commanders to the Pakistani counter action, the objective (Ichhogil Canal) was lost after its capture. Subsequently, however, it was partially recovered, at considerable cost In the Sialkot Sector, while the performance was better the final objectives could not be captured. Of course, the offensive could not develop its full potential due to inadequate time available before the ceasefire.

The need for pursuing the aim relentlessly requires little stress. There is no doubt that this factor influenced the ultimate stalemate, to a considerable extent.

Guerrilla Operations

Experience not only in India but throughout the world has shown that, for a guerrilla war to succeed the support of the local population is an essential pre-requisite. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan could not receive such support. Because of the provocative statements of some Kashmiri leaders, because of some local disturbances caused by the temporary loss of a relic (hair of Prophet Mohammad) from the Hazaratbal Mosque, and because of the fissiparous tendencies that surfaced in India after Shastri took over as Prime Minister.

Pakistan mis-calculated that the time was ripe for starting a guerrilla movement in Kashmir. By infiltrating large numbers of irregular forces, and by backing with regular forces at a later stage Pakistan hoped to annex Kashmir by force, in conjunction with an ‘uprising’ in Kahsmir. As General Musa points out neither any effort was made to check whether the local people would support such a movement nor were any preparations made within Kashmir, for the success of such a concept. Apart from a few odd people who had pro-­Pakistani leanings, the bulk of the people had in fact, supported the Indian Army in its counter infiltration operations. Otherwise, it would have been extremely difficult for the Indian Army to defend Kashmir without the willing support of the local population. Most of the infiltrators were eliminated or apprehended, mainly due to the information given by the locals. Further, considerable logistic support was provided by the local people in the way of porters, ponies other transport and so on.

The Civil Administration which comprised mostly the local people was fully behind the Armed Forces. All these would not have been possible had the allegations in some quarters, that India was holding Kashmir by force, were true. On the other hand, because of the considerable autonomy that the State enjoyed within the Indian Union and because of the significant progress achieved by the State all-round since accession the people felt as nationalistic as anyone else in the rest of India and aligned themselves fully behind the war effort.

Offensive Operations

The results achieved by the Pakistan offensive In the Chhamb Sector were impressive, but the advantage was not fully exploited by Pakistan to capture Akhnur. In the subsequent counter offensive launched by India in Punjab from the East though some success was achieved in that most of the troops initially got to their objective, namely, the Ichhogil Canal it soon petered out; and many of the forces were more or less thrown back to the start line. Subsequently with great effort some of the forces managed to re-take some of their objectives, particularly in the 15 Divisional Sector.

In the case of 4 Division, there was a near catastrophe. It would appear that their offensive was not well planned nor executed with the determination and aggressiveness that it warranted. Troops were brought from peace time cantonments and launched into operations without adequate reconnaissance preparations fire support logistic support and effective coordination. The main consideration appeared to be achievement of surprise. In peace time, the plans should have been drawn up and rehearsed in own territory as is normally done. In this case perhaps the time available was limited but even so, the broad strategic response to a Pakistani attack in Kashmir was well known. Based on this the necessary preparations could have been carried out better.

In the case of 1 Corps operations from the North into Punjab these were better executed although the time available here also was limited and not adequate preparations could have been made. The very concentration of this whole Corps for its offensive in the battle area in reasonable time was a feat of no mean magnitude. In the actual implementation of the plan it has to be realized that ultimately the bulk of the Pakistan armour was poised against the Corps. Further monsoon rains had made the ground soggy and difficult for movement. However from time to time, confusion occurred among the forces due to inadequate coordination. It had later transpired that the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division had not concentrated in the Sialkot Sector till September 9 and that the Indian offensive was really opposed by the integral armour of the defensive formations. On this Colonel S.C. Mehdi wrote, “If Pakistan ever had divine protection, it was on that night and forty-eight hours of September 8/9 because had the Indian armour broken through, consequences would have been as disastrous for Pakistan as the German Panzers’ breakthrough in France in 1940″. If this was correct, it would appear that if the Indian offensive pressed on more vigorously in the early stages, it might have achieved much better results.

The Pakistan counter-offensive in Khemkaran Sector was also not well planned nor efficiently executed. After securing a lodgment, a valuable twenty-four hours were lost before resuming the offensive. The momentum was thus halted and the Indian 4 Mountain Division utilized the vital respite to reorganize itself. Subsequently, after the offensive was resumed, it was not pressed home. As Musa pointed out, there was no excuse for troops to have fallen back, after securing or nearly securing their objectives. The Pakistani Armoured Division confined itself to a narrow corridor, the defence of which was well organized by 4 Division and 2 Independent Armoured Brigade.

There has been considerable criticism of the failure of the Pakistani counter-offensive in Khemkaran, among the Pakistani circles. Air Marshal Asghar Khan (earlier Chief of the Pakistani Air Force) considers that, the detachment of 7 Infantry Division from 1 Armoured Division with which it had been preparing for a crucial offensive South of Lahore was an unmitigated blunder.” He also felt that there were serious lacunas, in inter-Service cooperation. He was of the opinion that Ayub Khan had no understanding of the concept of air operations and little understanding of the maritime interests. Brig. Riazul Karim considers that there was inadequate reconnaissance, poor stage management and ineffective control on the operations. He also focuses attention on the lack of coordination between 1 Armoured Division and 11 Infantry Division. Lt. Col. Irshad Rashid brings out the absence of a Corps Headquarters for controlling, this vital offensive, the control having been exercised by GHQ direct. Lt. Gen. Attiqur Rahman in his book Our Defence Cause brings out that, “Our counter-offensive in the Khemkaran area failed after such a promising start chiefly because it lacked a suitable Headquarters.”

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General Musa, in support of his claim of achievements of the aborted Khemkaran offensive, quotes General Kaul’s book that the Indian Army Chief General Chaudhuri had ordered the Army Commander to withdraw behind the Beas river. However, there is really no evidence to this effect. General Chaudhari, who was considered an armour expert of repute, knew the potential of the defence, particularly of 2 Independent Armoured Brigade, against the 1 Armoured Division of Pakistan. Further, certain contingency planning to hold and breakthrough behind 4 Mountain Division, was carried out by 11 Corps and necessary troops earmarked for the purpose.

Even if the odd enemy tank got through, these would have been effectively dealt with. Thus, it is inconceivable that a knowledgeable person like General Chaudhari, could have ever issued any such orders. The very fact that Pakistan had to shift the bulk of this armoured division to the Sialkot Sector shows the havoc that the Indian offensive there would have played behind the Pakistani lines. Thus, even if Pakistan achieved some success at Khemkaran, it would have been more than compensated for by the Indian offensive in the Sialkot Sector. Lahore might have been completely isolated and might have been seriously threatened. This should be seen in the light of the fact that in the early stages of the Indian counter-offensive, Lahore was evacuated to some extent and Indian permission had to be sought by foreign planes to land at Lahore airport!

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One thought on “1965 War: Observations, Comments and Lessons

  1. This is an excellent article to read for us non military observers. But by reading other records by some other generals, we get conflicting views on the role of the Army Chief Gen Chaudhuri on the war in Khem Kharam sector. A number of retd army commanders have written that Gen Harbaksh Singh prevailed over his chief Chaudhuri, and stood firm on not to withdraw from the forward positions. And that led to the smashing of Pattons and the Paki forces to “win” the war for India. In fact, in the book by Gen Harbaksh something like that has been noted. It will be crucial for the history of that war, if now you, Gen Krishna Rao, clarify the matter for us. In other words, did Gen Chaudhuri really order such withdrawal that could have led to a disaster for India ? I look forward to your input in this context. It will be also of interest to know from you, why India lost Chamb in 1971, why did the Army not learn from the lesson there in 1965 ?

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