The commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of the 1965 War against Pakistan has drawn a wide range of comments, for the most part appreciative, from across the country. The commemoration is essential, firstly, to apprise the youth of this country, that peace can be achieved only through a strong military and secondly, to revisit history, look into what went wrong, and analyse whether we are better prepared to crush aggression from hostile neighbours.
The war thrust on India in 1965 was not one that India wanted, but once begun, both the political and military leadership, went about their task doggedly, and the nation rallied around in support, ensuring that the basic war aims were achieved. Surprisingly, however, the lessons from this war did not make it into the official teaching manuals of the Armed Forces, as a result of which certain weaknesses which were noticeable then, still remain. Equally unfortunate was the fact that the political leadership too, did not imbibe in full measure, the corrective actions that were required to be taken. A noticeable exception was in foreign relations, wherein the need for having support of one of the super powers was catered for through a ‘Treaty of Peace and Friendship’ with the Soviet Union, before we went in to war in 1971. However, the issue of integration of the Ministry of Defence and three Services still languishes.
In this issue, we have put together a series of articles of the 1965 War, written by those who fought the war and had a ringside view of battles as they unfolded. Some of these articles have been extracted from the forthcoming book of the 1965 War, titled ‘Honour Redeemed” which is under publication by Bloomsbury and is being released in October 1965. From the various first hand accounts in the book, told with remarkable candour, emerge a clear and honest picture of what actually happened in those exciting times. It is surprising that Pakistan touted the Kutch skirmishes as a success of Pakistan’s military might, when the reality on the ground was quite different. This brings into focus the importance of propaganda in war. Today, in the information age, this aspect assumes added significance, as perception is as important as the physical winning of wars. Wartime preparations, as brought out by various authors, were weak. It is hard to comprehend why the Indian Army did not have maps, when war broke out in September. It is equally difficult to comprehend why two decades later, the IPKF went into Sri Lanka, again without maps. This is but one of the lacunae facing the armed forces – a lack of forethought in administrative matters, which is a peace time function. This must be overcome. Some of the major lessons have been highlighted in a separate article in this issue. So who won the war? This question is often asked and the answer obviously lies in how victory is defined. Pakistan failed miserably in its attempt to grab Kashmir by force in Operation Gibraltar. It had an opportunity to take Akhnur, but poor Pakistani leadership and a gritty Indian defence put paid to those hopes. Its offensive in Khem Karan ended in disaster, with the destruction of its 1 Armoured Division. Pakistan, as the aggressor, had set for itself, certain war time aims and it failed to achieve any one of them. Pakistan’s claims of winning the war thus ring hollow.
What of India then? The Army defeated aggression in J&K and thus achieved its immediate war time aim. However, the Pakistan Army was not defeated, though it suffered very heavy losses in battle, especially with respect to its offensive capability. But perhaps, the question need not be looked at in those terms. For India, it was a time for redemption, after the humiliation of 1962. For Pakistan, it was a realisation that it could no longer match Indian military might, and had to look into other options to achieve its military aims. It is those options which Pakistan is exercising now, which we need to counter. Happy Reading.