Since the independence of Pakistan in August 1947, the country has faced a major external threat in the form of its eastern neighbour i.e. India. Indian leadership could not digest the creation of Pakistan and had a false belief that Pakistan will merge with India within six months of its creation. However, history bears witness of the fact that the country stood steadfast despite number of internal and external challenges. 6th September 1965 marks an important landmark in the seven decades of Pakistan’s history. It is the day of reckoning when Pakistan Armed Forces (PAF) with the support of entire nation thwarted Indian designs of invading Pakistan by cross international border. This piece revisits the contribution of Pakistan Armed Forces during the 1965 War and attempts to study the evolution of war fighting capabilities of Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy (PN) in subsequent decades.
During the 1965 war, Pakistan faced an enemy which was militarily superior to it at least three or four times in size and had quantitative superiority in military resources. However, military superiority is not a decisive factor on the battlefield. Instead, strategic maneuvering with efficient use of military resources plays a pivotal role in a war. Pakistan Armed Forces fought with this approach in the 1965 war against Indian Armed Forces. In aerial combat, the PAF maintained a stunning superiority over the Indian Air Force, which was six times in size of the PAF and equipped with modern fighters. The then PAF chief Nur Khan himself flew the first sortie to engage Indian jets. Squadron Leader MM Alam stunned his Indian counterparts by downing their nine jets and damaging two others, five of which were shot down in global record of one bout. Five decades down the line, this individual feat of valour remains unmatchable. The war also manifested an excelled air-ground coordination between Pakistan Army and PAF. Many crucial land operations achievements not have been materialized without the synergized efforts of Pakistan Army and PAF.
On the naval front, numerical constrained Pakistan Navy conducted a number of operations for creating strategic deterrence, offering a befitting response to Indian Navy. The prowess exhibited by PN ensured that Pakistani waters and sea lanes remain operational for ships coming to Pakistani ports. Operation Dwarka by Pakistan Navy caused India significant loss in the form of radar system destruction. Additionally, Pakistan Navy submarine Ghazi was tasked to engage INS Vikrant and INS Mysore at Bombay harbour and halt their movements. In subsequent decades, Pakistan Army and Pakistan Navy have evolved their warfighting capabilities with the passage of time. The sinking of Indian warship Kukri during 1971 war and detection of Indian naval submarines following Uri and Pulwama-Balakot military standoff manifest professional acumen of Pakistan Navy in addition to effective employment strategy.
The shift in the global landscape due to globalization and technological advancements demanded both forces to enhance their capacity building to make a fair share of contribution in regional and international security. Following the tragic 9/11 attacks, global security landscape evolved with Islamist terrorism gaining prominent importance. From 2002 onwards, the Pakistani military launched a number of military operations to flush out terrorists from tribal areas. The gains made in the war against terrorism were achieved despite the presence of several challenges like difficult terrain, misrepresentation of the concept of Jihad and significant human and economic losses. For ensuring international peace and stability, Pakistan continues to remain one of the top contributors to UN peacekeeping missions. Nearly 160 personnel have lost their lives in this noble cause.
In the post-9/11 scenario, as part of the UN-mandated Maritime Campaign Plan, PN actively participated in maritime security and counter-piracy operations. After the US Navy, the Pakistani Navy has a dominant share at maritime security despite numerically less in size. The plan ensured that maritime zones of the region are excluded from piracy threats. Furthermore, PN instituted Regional Maritime Security Patrols for continuous support to regional maritime security and protection of domestic and international trade. For protecting trade activities to be conducted along maritime route pertaining to CPEC, PN established Task Force 88 (TF-88). TF-88 is tasked for maritime security of Gwadar port and protection of associated sea lanes against both conventional and non-traditional threats.
The recent reunification of Islamist terror groups and ethno-nationalist militant outfits emerge as new threats for Pakistan’s internal security landscape. Coupled with internal security threats, the evolving security landscape in Pakistan’s neighbourhood demands that Pakistan Armed Forces continue to enhance their capacity building and prepare an effective response against both internal and external threats.