Every year the month of Sep reminds us the heroic contest by Pakistani nation and her soldiers against Indian aggression across the international border. While there is a lot of debate on causations of this war, Pakistan had been legally trying to get the Kashmir issue moving for a final solution. India being the status quo power had continued to flout all legal provisions for resolution of Kashmir dispute. As things started heating up in Indian Held Kashmir, Indian politico military leadership decided to attack Pakistan across the international border. India selected the time and place of her choosing and developed three major strategic thrust lines to cut Pakistan to size.
Indian crossing of border on 6th September formally initiated the proceedings of a general war. While Lahore was selected as the secondary effort and the psychological target, India played her trump card in the Ravi Chenab Corridor by launching her Ist crack Corps spearheaded by Black Elephant or the 1stArmored Division on 8th September. Kashmir and Rajhasthan desert were subsidiary efforts to tie down Pakistan Army all along the international border.
Maritime zone saw deployment of Indian Navy with an attempted Sea Domination strategy, in the Air, despite Indian superiority in numbers, Indian Air force was put on strategic defensive by PAF through a very aggressive posturing and hard hitting operations deep inside Indian Territory. This helped Pakistan Army and Navy to get freedom of action within initial phases of the war and bring a superior enemy onto his knees.
On ground, the strategic communication network was rudimentary with fewer roads and dirt tracks, military communication systems were barely sufficient to command units and formations. Military information and intelligence sharing between the GHQ and formations relied on post WW2 technology which created information gaps. For tactical units, verbal orders and command by physical presence of officers in the battle field was considered panacea for success. This tactical aspect affected overall strategy of entire war, where Pakistan’s superior middle order leadership (battalion and company level) soon became a decisive factor.
Lt General Harbakhsh Singh, who was Indian GOC in C Western Command has acknowledged in his famous book, ‘War Despatches-Indo Pak Conflict 1965’ that Pakistan Army maintained the initiative right from the word go and kept Indian Army on defensive for better part of 65 War.
The general describes how he had to sack Major-General Niranjan Prasad, commanding the division that made the first breakout towards Lahore on the spot, as "he had lost all will for battle and his stay in the division was most harmful". This within 24 hours of the celebrated assault on Lahore. Close by, in the Khem Karan sector, four of the six infantry battalions involved in the 4th Division's assault had disintegrated through desertions by panicky troops. As Harbaksh's account shows, results in individual battles depended entirely on the courage and initiative of junior officers and jawans confirming the age-old slur that generalship is not so much about brilliance as about bungling.
This tribute by a senior Indian Commander is a testament that Pakistan Army and her sister services fought gallantly at Battalion, Squadron and Company level and turned tactical brilliance into a strategic victory.
Just to mention Regimental level actions, let’s turn to a gallant chapter in the history of armoured warfare in South Asia.25 Cavalry(Men of Steel) was deployed in Ravi Chenab Corridor, mainly looking after area in Sialkot-Chawinda sector. An episode east of Narowal along the banks of Ravi had created ripples in the formation headquarters and it stretched 25 Cavalry to her operational limits. Jassar salient was attacked by Indian troops and the reporting channels of 60s technology snowballed this information into a monster; forcing Pakistani command to send reinforcements to stabilize the situation. 25 Cavalry being the only mobile force available to higher command was asked to rush from Chawinda to Narowal on 6th September.
If we keep the military technology and operational imperatives of the sixties in view, 25 Cavalry was pitched against a combat force ten times superior in numbers and firepower. Indian Armoured division was not alone, it had the full barrage of Corps artillery at its back, three Infantry Divisions in support and the entire communication and surveillance system of Indian Army at its disposal. Entire chain of Indian Command upto Army Headquarters in Dehli gazed at GT road to cut Pakistan to size.
The regiment moved at break neck pace and was about to reach the objective when Indian Armour crossed the international border and entered the battle field of Chawinda. This created a strategic vacuum along the Indian thrust line as there was no major armored force available to contest the advance from Chawinda to Pasrur. The higher command asked 25 Cavalry to fall back to Chawinda and take on the Indian Armour head on; Pakistani Higher command was yet not sure of the quantum and scale of Indian offensive.
25 Cavalry reached Chawinda at night, the tanks were refueled and orders issued based on a tactically brilliant but simple plan(common sense).The men and officers had travelled 100 miles for two continuous nights and started placing tanks in their positions, early morning the regiment had deployed in a bold fashion, all abreast with just few tanks in reserve, not knowing that the David was about to collide with the Goliath in an epic battle. For two days it was going to be 25 Cavalry vs the Indian 1stArmoured Division with tank to tank ratio of one to six in Indian favour.
8 Sep to 10 Sep saw the finest hour of Men of Steel in the largest tank battle of South Asia recording a legend of steel and fire. By mid-day 9th Sep the Men of Steel had established moral and operational ascendency on the pride of Indian Armored Division, the crack Indian regiments like 16th Cavalry and 17 Poona Horse had been badly mauled with enormous losses of tanks (approximately 55 Indian tanks were destroyed in seven hours).Indian higher Command had been paralysed; Chawinda, Gadgor, Maharajke, even Phillora were littered with charred tanks; Men of Steel got the trophy of Colonel Tarapore’stank .
In the Air,it was the PAF boys like MM Alam and Rafiqui who not only wrested the initiative from numerically superior Indian Air Force but gained moral and physical ascendency and maintainedit right through the entire war.
Pakistan Navy rallied out of her harbors and dominated the maritime scene through actions like Dawarka and our elite submarine Ghazi scored strategic hits against all powerful Indian Navy.
1965 War found Pakistani Defence Forces rising to the occasion and coming out in flying colours. Today when we look at Indian atrocities against our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, it’s important to re-live the history of 1965 war as a beacon of light for the new generation. There is a need for recording such actions through film and electronic media to build the legends like Men of Steel, Dawarka and MM Alam into high quality movies so that our next generation can pay homage to the gallant soldiers and officers of the 65 War. (The authors are freelance columnists,firstname.lastname@example.org)