NewZNew (Chandigarh) : Comfed (Communication for Education and Development) in collaboration with Indian Army held an Interactive session at Chandigarh Press Club, Sector 27 today. Commemorating The Heroes of 1965 war, comfed is running a 2 month long campaign “Thank You Heroes”. The 22-day war between India and Pakistan in 1965 took place in August -September and was mainly fought in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Punjab.
However, many significant aspects of the war have either been forgotten or are not known to Indian citizens of today. But Nations cannot afford to forget history. Many lessons are learnt from such episodes in our journey since 1947 as an independent country.
Lt. Gen. Retired Deepinder Singh who participated in 1965 war as a young major said, “It is important to remember the 1965 war because it allowed us to come out of the humiliation of 1962 defeat and gave us confidence to win the 1971 war subsequently.”
One way to reinforce such memories is to constantly recall the exploits of our valiant soldiers, officers and thousands of men who fought in the 1965 war against all odds and won. It brings us closer to appreciating sacrifices of our war veterans and creates a strong wave of patriotism.
To commemorate this momentous event many activities have been planned by the Government of India as well as the Indian Military. So how should today’s generation recall the 1965 war between India and Pakistan? Who won? Who lost? Or was it a stalemate as most commentators have concluded?
To get the right answer, we must first define what constitutes a military victory? Capture of larger territory than what the enemy does? Killing of scores of soldiers? Is it all about massive destruction of the enemy’s military assets? Or does it constitute thwarting the enemy’s main objective?
There is no single definition but if one sought answers to all the above questions, there is only one conclusion: India won the war. Let’s look at the numbers first.
India’s victory or Pakistan’s loss?
According to official historians Prasad and Thapliyal, India captured 1920 sq km of Pakistani territory while losing control over 540 sq km of its own land. While 2,862 Indian soldiers were killed, Pakistan suffered 5,800 killed, according then Defence Minister YB Chavan’s statement in the Rajya Sabha (although Pakistan puts the figure of killed at 1,033).
The biggest loss for Pakistan was however the destruction of its much feared armour. Laced with the latest M-47 and M-48 Patton tanks, Pakistan’s 1 Armoured Division was seen to be an invincible force at the start of the war. By the time war ended on 22 September, the Pakistani armour, despite its superior tanks, was destroyed by the less fancied Indian tanks of World War II vintage and the indomitable infantry. Over 450 Pakistani tanks were either completely destroyed or captured by the Indian Army.
But more than mere statistics, it is instructive to look back and figure out if Pakistan could really achieve the objectives with which it initiated the war.
Remember, the first objective was to liberate Kashmir from Indian control. Operation Gibraltar was aimed at precisely that. Bhutto had prevailed over the military and forced it to adopt a plan that was premised on a faulty assumption that the Kashmiri people would rise up in revolt. The second wrong assumption was the mixed force of mujahids and regulars would be able to stand up to the Indian army’s counter-measure. The Kashmiris did not rebel and the Indian Army, despite its relatively low strength in the Kashmir valley managed to neutralise the infiltrators with substantial help from the locals. Pakistan’s first strategic objective thus stood defeated.
As many neutral observers noted in the immediate aftermath of the 22-day war, India was a clear victor: Dennis Kux in his India and the United States: Estranged democracies says: “Although both sides lost heavily in men and material, and neither gained a decisive military advantage, India had the better of the war. New Delhi achieved its basic goal of thwarting Pakistan’s attempt to seize Kashmir by force. Pakistan gained nothing from a conflict which it had instigated.” English historian John Keay in his book “India: A History summed it up accurately: “The 1965 Indo-Pak war lasted barely a month. Pakistan made gains in the Rajasthan desert but its main push against India’s Jammu-Srinagar road link was repulsed and Indian tanks advanced to within a sight of Lahore.
Both sides claimed victory but India had most to celebrate.” Stanley Wolpert, the noted writer on the sub-continent’s history had this to say in his book India: “In three weeks the second Indo-Pak War ended in what appeared to be a draw when the embargo placed by Washington on U.S. ammunition and replacements for both armies forced cessation of conflict before either side won a clear victory. India, however, was in a position to inflict grave damage to, if not capture, Pakistan’s capital of the Punjab when the cease-fire was called, and controlled Kashmir’s strategic Uri-Poonch bulge, much to Ayub’s chagrin.”
Fifty years after, it is clear that India not only thwarted the Pakistani designs but also inflicted unacceptable losses on the Pakistani military triggering many changes within that country’s politico-military structure. Today, even Ayub’s own son, Gauhar Ayub Khan admits the war should not have taken place. In an interview to Outlook, he claims: “It was a war which should not have taken place. It set Pakistan back and was also costly for India. It led from events in Kashmir which Pakistan considered would be contained there and not turn into an open conflict between the two countries. But when India attacked Lahore and other fronts, it led to a general war between India and Pakistan. Ayub Khan was not looking for a war with India…”