Earlier generations of military men in India were of the view that autumn was the time that India should be prepared for a war. Their view was based on the experience of the campaigns we had fought in 1947, 1962 and in 1965; the weather they said was favourable. Subsequent conflicts in 1971 and over Kargil in 1999, had other strategic constraints and hence were fought at other times. And in all these conflicts, the 1965 Indo-Pak war — which by many accounts was neither won nor lost — is the least talked about. But its lessons are relevant more than that of the other campaigns.
Pakistan’s motivation for launching a campaign was based on wrong inferences from India’s restrained approach as Pakistan probed our frontlines in the Rann of Kutch in 1964. Zulfikar Bhutto, then a young foreign minister, felt India had lost its military confidence following the humiliation of the Chinese aggression in 1962. He thus urged Ayub Khan to launch Operation Gibraltar in 1965, to wrest Kashmir from India. This saw the infiltration of thousands of Razakars, as guerilla, to create an uprising in Kashmir. Pakistan assumed that the riots in Kashmir valley in late 1964, that followed the mysterious disappearance of the Moe-e- Muqaddas (the Prophet’s hair, and Kashmir’s symbol of Islam) from Hazrat Bal, was an expression of anger against New Delhi’s rule. Moreover, a war game enacted in the US, said that Pakistan could win another war over Kashmir, if it didn’t repeat the mistakes it made in 1947.
But Pakistan’s plans went horribly wrong as many of its guerillas failed to get the people’s support once inside the Valley, and were instead captured and handed to the local police! But still Pakistan went ahead with its military campaign and launched attacks along the cease fire line (now LoC). However, they were taken by surprise by the resolve and determination of an otherwise mild mannered Indian Prime Minster, Lal Bahadur Shastri, whose government retaliated by expanding the conflict along the entire Indo-Pak border from Jammu to the Rann of Kutch. And though, at the end of it all, neither side made any substantial gains, there were some notable acts of gallantry.
The first, is the awe inspiring tale of CQMH (Hawildar) Abdul Hamid of 4 Grenadiers. A top notch 106 mm Rcl gunner, he rose to the occasion almost single handedly stalled the advance of Pakistani tanks at Asal Utar in the Khem Karan sector in Punjab, when he destroyed a total of seven M-48 Patton tanks, for which he received the highest gallantry award, the PVC. Today’s ‘Patton nagar’ is a testimony to his valour. And two other acts of leadership of exceptional order from 1965 are inspiring tales.
One is the exemplary leadership of Lt. Col (later Brigadier) Desmond Hayde. He led his battalion, 3 Jats, to capture Dograi — across the Icchogil canal — twice over! In the first instance, his GoC apparently felt hayed had gone too far — as the GoC was dithering — and so Hayde was called back! A fortnight later he led another attack, this time capturing Dograi and even Batapore, and earned the MVC.
And finally, the operation of Major (later Lt. Gen) RS Dyal of 1 Para, who set out to capture “sank” and important feature, but then went on to capture “ledwali gali”. But he kept moving and climbed 2200 metres in darkness and inclement weather, until he led his team after a fierce fire fight to capture the virtually impregnable vantage point at “Haji Pir pass”.
Major Dyal was awarded the MVC, but India’s diplomatic negotiators at Tashkent, gave that formidable feature back! In later years, India has lived to regret it.
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