‘All I will say here is that we failed to defeat Pakistan-a smaller power than us.’ –Lt Gen B M Kaul
Sixth of September is a day that shall live forever in the juniper memory of Pakistani hearts as a day when a young country warded off a clear and present danger to its national existence. Indian Army Chief JN Chaudry’s dream of drinking a toast in Lahore Gymkhana lay shattered in the shape of the “buckled and twisted remains of Indian armour (War Correspondent Daily Mirror)” in the sugarcane and millet fields of Sialkot and Lahore. It was a day that tested the resolve of a nation that rose to the occasion to defeat a country five times its size. Every year when a proud nation celebrates its Defence Day the memory of those halcyon days warms the cockles of every patriotic heart.
The 1965 War was a continuation of Indian obduracy and cussedness in denying Kashmiris their UN sanctioned right of self-determination. The Indian efforts to integrate Kashmir into its fold reached an ugly crescendo in 1963-65 after Hazratbal incident in 1963 and the arrest of Shiekh Abdullah in late spring 1965. India was a hairbreadth away from doing what it ultimately did in August 2019 i.e. annexation of a disputed territory, in flagrant violation of UN resolutions. What prevented India from doing that was an uprising in the disputed state supported morally and diplomatically by Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister after the botched Rann of Kutch operation and consequent loss of face trotted out a warning saying, “India will choose the place and time of attack on its own terms.”
The hostilities commenced in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir in the summer of 1965 with the incursion of a guerilla force of around 7000, across the Cease Fire Line (CFL). The Indians retaliated with a full-fledged offensive with army and air force across CFL in AJ&K seizing territory from an overstretched Pakistani infantry division in Tithwal and Hajipir areas. The menacing Indian advance was reminiscent of the Indian illegal occupation of a significant portion of the State of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947. To ward off this aggression Pakistan Army launched Operation Grand Slam in Chamb-Jaurian area aimed at capture of Akhnur. The Indian Army of Occupation in Kashmir was five times the Pakistani troops facing them but was so unnerved that it was compelled to commit 38 out its total 103 infantry battalions as opposed to only 15 Pakistani infantry battalions out of which 11 were irregular Kashmir battalions.
The Grand Slam counter-offensive that featured troops of 12 and 7 Division captured Chamb and then Jaurian on 5th September despite Indian Air and land forces throwing everything they could against our troops. The Indian leadership panicked in the face of impending fall of Akhnur, a strategic town whose capture would have severed line of communications of Indian occupying troops north of Akhnur. Consequently India attacked Pakistan across the international border at 3:30 am on 6th September. Two Indian divisions supported by tanks, artillery and air force attacked on axes Lahore-Amritsar and Harike-Lahore. The prodigies of valour by Major Shafqat Baloch at Hudiara and Major Raja Aziz Bhatti at Burki stopped the advancing Indian infantry divisions in their tracks. The 10 Division under its able GOC Major General Sarfraz blunted Indian offensive and also launched daring counter attacks with 23 Cavalry and 22 Brigade to push the enemy back.
In Kasur sector the Indians scampered for cover as PAF and 1st Armoured Division launched a daring counter-offensive capturing Khem Karen and reaching Valtoha and Assal Uttar. The offensive rattled the Indian Army Chief General Chaudry who in panic ordered the withdrawal of all Indian forces West of Beas. Had his subordinate Lt General Harbaksh Singh not ignored his orders the Pakistani spearhead would have cut off Road Harike Kasur, outflanking all Indian forces opposite Lahore. Some pedantic adherence to battle drills unsheathed the offensive sword as the Indians breached the canals and distributaries to flood the sugarcane fields, making movement of tanks difficult. Indians who had hurled 30 infantry battalions against BRBL canal failed to cross that providential barrier consecrated by the blood of Pakistani martyrs.
The Ravi Chenab Corridor where the famed Indian 1 Armoured Division supported by 6 Mountain and 14 Infantry Division posed a serious threat to the vastly outnumbered Pakistani troops the miracle of Gadgor unfolded on 8th September featuring 25 Cavalry facing four Indian tank regiments and a squadron. The men of steel under Lt Colonel Nisar beat back the repeated attacks by Indian armoured regiments. The Indian 1 Armoured Brigade’s commander lost nerve and failed to use uncommitted reserves of the much vaunted Poona Horse and 16 Light Cavalry to outflank the 25 Cavalry. Later in an offensive role on 11th September the legendary Guide’s Cavalry of Pakistan Army under the command of Lt Colonel Amir Gulistan Janjua launched a daring two squadron counter attack in classic tradition of cavalry and made mincemeat of Indian tanks belonging to 16 Cavalry while his third squadron led by Major Zia uddin Abbasi Shaheed mauled Indian 17 Poona Horse. The attack destroyed 21 Indian tanks and forced the Indian 62 Cavalry to beat an ignominious retreat.
The PAF gave an excellent account of itself and destroyed 104 IAF aircrafts as opposed to 19 of its own showing that it is not the numbers but better training, motivation and courage that matter in aerial battles. Likewise a vastly outnumbered Pakistan Navy carried battle to the enemy through a daring raid at Dwarka, forcing the Indian ships out of the safety of the harbours to the perils of high seas, to be hunted down by the intrepid submariners of Ghazi. At the end a harried India agreed to the Cease Fire avoiding further humiliation on the battle field. One could hope that if Pakistan lives more than a thousand years 6th September would be its finest hour.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2022.
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