What happened in the 1965 Indo-Pak War? Perhaps a good way to find out would be to read the first hand accounts of the men who fought in that conflict. ’Honour Redeemed’ is perhaps the first book in that genre, which has brought out the subaltern history of that war. This was also the time when the Cold War was at its peak and rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union was at an all time high. India was going through a bad phase, economically and militarily, being hampered by a slow growth rate, the result of Nehruvian socialism and still recovering from the humiliating defeat at Chinese hands in 1962. Pakistan, however had a strong economy and was flush with funds and military hardware from the West and the United States. In Pakistani eyes, the time was ripe to take on India and settle the Kashmir issue on terms favourable to it.
The book starts with an account by Lt Col Keshav S Puntambekar who saw operations first hand as a young Captain. His account of the ‘Battle in Kutch’, captures in totality the operations which took place in this sector, to include the heroic defence of Sardar Post by a company of the Central Reserve Police Force against the might of a regular brigade of the Pakistan Army. From there, the book seamlessly delves into Pakistan’s nefarious plan to attack and seize Jammu and Kashmir in an operation code named ‘Operation Gibraltar’. The account of Operation Gibraltar, by Maj Gen. H.S. Kler, inspires awe, and is a testimony to the heroism and grit of the Indian soldier.
The book is a treasure trove of inspiring and unforgettable accounts of the most important battles of the 1965 war. The Battle of Chhamb comes alive with its telling by Lt Col Anil Heble. The fields of Khem Karan once again reverberate to the sounds of gun fire with the poignant battle accounts of Col VN Bhatia, Lt Col NK Rastogi and others. The Battle of Barki by Colonel Duggal and Brig Kanwaljit Singh make for unforgettable reading and transport the reader to the battlefield, as if it was yesterday. And then there are fascinating accounts of the 1 Corps Indian offensive into Pakistan by Lt Gen. N.S. Cheema, Lt Gen. Ajai Singh, Brig. M.M.S. Bakshi and Brig. O.S. Goraya. Another inspiring anecdote which is certain to grab the reader’s attention is the account of the battle of Miajlar, by Lt Gen. Duggal, which “is a tribute to the spirit of young officers who have carried the burden, so valiantly, of all wars that India has fought against her adversaries.” The air warriors are not far behind with fascinating tales of valour by Wg Cdr Vinod Nebb, Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar and Air Marshal V.K. Bhatia, each story a masterpiece, remaining etched in the mind for long.
It is indeed fortunate that many of the people who fought that war over fifty years ago had preserved their war accounts. Despite their age, despite some being seriously ill and under medical care, they pulled out their accounts, so that their experiences could be shared with the youth of today. The editor has done a remarkable job in putting it all together in a manner that is easy to read and comprehend. Since publication of this book in 2015, a few of these veterans have passed away to their rightful place in Valhalla, but the book remains a testimony to the spirit and valour of India’s Armed Forces.
This is a book which must be read not just by the officers and men of our armed forces but by the youth of India. The stories are indeed awe inspiring and will most certainly leave the reader with a sense of pride. And, as the title of the book so eloquently states, the Honour of the Nation stood Redeemed.