1965 WAR AGAINST PAKISTAN: CRITICAL ANALYSIS
1965 WAR AGAINST PAKISTAN: CRITICAL ANALYSIS
India and Pakistan fought the 1965 war from September 6 to 22, after the conflict had started with the skirmishes in the Rann of Kutch in April that year. Emboldened by its relative success in the Rann, and buoyed by India’s defeat to the Chinese in 1962, Pakistan attempted to create an uprising in Kashmir Valley and followed it with a military attack in August. India, under Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, responded with opening the front in Punjab on September 6. The 17-day war ended with a ceasefire and the subsequent Tashkent Declaration between the two countries.
India captured 1920 sq km of Pakistani territory while Pakistan had 550 sq km Indian territory in its possession at the time of the ceasefire.
What encouraged Pakistan to attack India
- In 1954, America agreed to arm up to five divisions of the Pakistani Army with the latest weapons and supply modern fighter jets. According to one estimate, between 1956 and 1964 Pakistan was supplied with 100 F-86 Sabre jets, one squadron of F-104 Star Fighters, 30 B-57 bombers and four C-130 transport aircrafts, allowing it to narrow the gap with India. In 1965, the Pakistani Army’s armour strength was superior to that of the Indian Army.
- Recovering from the ignominy of the 1962 Chinese attack, India was in the midst of giving its Army a face-lift. Pakistan, already better equipped and prepared for war, and still simmering from what it could not achieve in 1947-48, considered this an apt moment to attack India while it was still unprepared.
- Pakistan was confident that China, its new found ally and friend would make a threatening move against India, if only to keep some of its newly raised formations in the East from being moved into Kashmir.
- Pakistan, carried away by India’s measured response in Kutch, banking on India’s low preparedness and misreading Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri whom they perceived as a diminutive man unlikely to take a strong decision, deemed it fit to walk into a very ambitious project of wresting Kashmir away from India.
- Last but not the least reason was the belief among some of Ayub Khan’s hawkish advisers that the general population in Kashmir valley was ready to rise in revolt against India, led Ayub to go along with, what later turned out to be a militarily unsound operational plan. Pakistan’s Military Intelligence and the Foreign Ministry (headed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto) were of the view that from late 1964 onwards, there was a surge in anti-India feelings in the Kashmir valley and the people would be more than willing to welcome Pakistani intervention.
Critical lessons from 1965 war for future
As the country celebrates the achievements of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, a simultaneous attempt must be made to ensure that weaknesses if any must be addressed so that the country and its armed forces are prepared to successfully achieve national objectives.
- Intelligence regarding Pakistan’s activities and intentions was wanting, inaccurate and misleading at best. While ground soldiers had an inkling of the Pakistan build-up opposite Akhnoor, commanders at higher levels seemed to know less of it, and apparently failed to attribute credence to such ground intelligence.
- Information of Pakistani pre-war activities in general, including ignorance of the impending Gibraltar infiltrations, was a major reflection on the capability or lack of it of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The dismal performance of the IB had been earlier noted during the 1962 episode. Consequently, in 1968, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was raised to overcome this critical lacuna.
- Field commanders were apparently not very clear about the goals of the war and, thus, of their goals – whether it was an all out war, a war of attrition, a war to capture territory or a war to destroy the enemy’s war machine?
- While reserves for major operations were available, they were not employed in time or fully; even complete resources were not employed, both indicating a hesitation and lack of aggressive mentality, much required for successful operations, especially at a higher level. As a result, concentration of forces was not achieved when required.
- Attacking many places along the border did not work out in favour of India and ended up dissipating its forces. A well-intended concentrated breakthrough and thrust may have unbalanced Pakistan. Deliberative planning, preparation and bold execution may well have led to India delivering a lethal blow to Pakistan, not just a mauling.
- Basic field craft and battle craft, including digging for defences were found to be insufficient, leading to increased casualties and hasty retreats during counter-attacks by the enemy.
- Training for night operations was highlighted by the fact that enemy artillery barrages played havoc with our movement during day-time.
- While helicopters as a resource were minimal, the effective employment of available helicopters has been observed.
- In most of our battles, commanders rarely, if ever, deviated from the orthodox methods of fighting by the book. There was a marked tendency to fight shy of the unconventional in battle. In consequence, many a favourable opportunity was allowed to slip away unexploited. The rigid application of tactical doctrine and the unimaginative adherence to the principles of war did win us a few fights.
After effects of 1965 war
Although Pakistan tried very hard to hide its defeat from Pakistani citizens but it could not deceive Sheikh Muzibur rahman, considered as the father of Bangladesh. When the question was raised about the security of what was then East Pakistan vis-à-vis India in case of another war, Bhutto, as foreign minister, implied in his answer that Pakistan depended on Beijing to ensure the security of that part of its territory.
That led Rahman to ask for greater autonomy from Islamabad and to formulate his six points which became the basis for the subsequent secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
The 1965 war also led to an embargo of US arms supplies to Pakistan. Islamabad’s use of American arms against India was against the assurances given by President Dwight Eisenhower to Jawaharlal Nehru that in case Pakistan used US-supplied arms against India, necessary corrective action would follow. Which made China the biggest weapon supplier of Pakistan.
1965 was a watershed event for the subcontinent. For India, it banished the ghosts of 1962, and proved to be a litmus test for its capabilities both on the battlefront and the diplomatic chessboard. The war also established that the China-Pakistan entente was now a reality India will have to live with and battle, both militarily and politically, for years to come.