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Remembering the Pak-Indo War

By Talal Raza

September, 1965, thousands of Pakistani soldiers laid down their lives to repulse the Indian attack on Pakistan. Same month, after 47 years, the foreign ministers of both countries are meeting in Islamabad to hold CBM (confidence building measures) dialogue to address issues including visa liberalization, terrorism, trade and commerce. The questions that come to mind are: Aren’t we drifting further away from the Kashmir cause? Won’t we be wasting the blood of our soldiers and Kashmiris who laid down their lives against Indian aggression?
For the past 4 decades, our text books and TV programs have been filled with nationalist narrative that has a very simple story to tell about Indo Pak war in 1965. It can be summarized pretty much in this way:
“India felt aggrieved on India partition in 1947 as well as defeat of 1948 war, so it has been planning to attack Pakistan and teach us a lesson. The day they chose was the September 6, 1965.” However, things were slightly more complex than the above narrative and unveil as one tries to explore other history books. In fact nobody among us talks about the operation Gibralter which was a covert mission launched in Kashmir to instigate Kashmiris to start an armed struggle to liberate Kashmir from Indian control. According to Qudurat Ullah Shahab (a noted bureaucrat and author Shahab Nama),  it was planned by a Ahmedi Major General Akhtar Malik and then Foreign Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and executed with the approval of President Ayub Khan.
The operation had begun around Mid-August 1965 in Kashmir and apparently significant gains were achieved in a matter of days. However, Akhtar Malik was replaced by General Yahya Khan and that remains a mystery why was such decision made especially at a time when his men were advancing.
As soon as India detected infiltrators in Kashmir, it threatened Pakistan on the international borders. It is to be noted that earlier FM Bhutto had assured Ayub Khan that India won’t dare to attack Pakistan in response to Operation Gibralter. It is because after the humiliating defeat suffering at the hands of China in 1962 and Pakistani forces in Runn of Kuch in April 1965, a perception developed in Pakistani quarters that Indian armed forces’ strength was merely an exaggerated view. Therefore our top brass thought that India would neither be able to stop Pakistan from taking Kashmir nor cross the LOC.
Meanwhile, India was seriously thinking to launch an offensive on Lahore so that pressure on its Kashmiri border could be reduced. However, to their surprise, Indian armed forces crossed the LOC in the garb of darkness early in the morning on September 6 without any formal declaration of war.  It is said that the purpose of this offensive was that Indians wanted to take off the pressure from the Kashmir front and divert Pakistan’s attention towards Lahore. Historians also recall the very famous line of Indian Army chief he made the night before attack that he would do his breakfast in Lahore Gymkhana. It is because they were so confident to take over Lahore within few hours. According to Qudrat ullah Shahab, Pakistanis had no idea about Indian attack from Lahore and that is why our battalions were posted in Sialkot and other areas.
He added that on the morning of 6th September, when an IB officer was on a secret mission close to border area, he saw a number of lights racing towards the LOC. They were Indian tanks approaching Lahore. He rushed to the nearby Police station and informed the police officer. When the Police officer informed the Army high command in Lahore, they couldn’t believe at first. Meanwhile, the Indian army crossed the LOC and started penetrating deeper and deeper in Lahore without meeting any kind of resistance from Pakistan. According to Najam Sethi, the Indian army were shocked themselves that they didn’t meet any resistance and halted their approach for 8 to 10 hours for fear of being trapped by Pakistani forces. They didn’t have enough intelligence or surveillance equipment at that time to figure out that there were no Pakistani soldiers in reality!Pak-Indo War - Interaction
Lucky enough, Pakistan immediately moved its armed forces from Sialkot sector towards Lahore. It was at BRB canal where Pakistani and Indian soldiers met and fought for next 16 days. Pakistani forces successfully engaged the Indian troops and didn’t let them cross the BRB canal. Three days later, on September 9th, India also launched an offensive from the Sialkot sector where the biggest tank since WW 2 was fought. Conflicting claims and figures are available about the victory of either side.
During the war, Pakistan and India faced immense pressure from the international community. Even the UN passed a resolution on September 20th urging both parties to ceasefire. Meanwhile, the West particularly Pakistan’s “allied” ally USA remained neutral and cut off arms supplies to Pakistan. However, it received significant help from China, Iran, Indonesia, Netherlands and Turkey. Hamid Yusuf notes that China’s ultimatum to India to vacate north-eastern frontier posts barred it from launching an offensive on East Pakistan.
After fighting for 16 days, both countries reached a ceasefire on September 22. There are two opinions on this. One of which is that Ayub Khan was pressurized by Britain and America to stop it and USA even cut its arms supply to Pakistan. The second says that Ayub made a pragmatic decision because if we kept on fighting for more days, we could have lost the war. According to an estimate given by Atique ur Rehman in Dawn (Sept. 6,2012), Pakistan had exhausted 80% of its ammunition during the 16 day war whereas India only exhausted 14% of it. But Dawn news adds that in a report drafted by Indian Ministry in 1992 on Indian blunders during 1965 war, it was noted that the Indian army lacked coordination and thought that they too were running out of ammunition.
By the end of war, both sides had lost a considerable number of soldiers, tanks, airplanes and area as well so it is difficult to say that who won the war. No authentic estimates are available online. But Wikipedia records these losses in this way: “The Indian army suffered 3,000 battlefield deaths, while Pakistan suffered 3,800. The Indian army was in possession of 710 miles² (1,800 km²) of Pakistani territory and the Pakistan army held 210 mile (550 km²) of Indian territory. The territory occupied by India was mainly in the fertile Sialkot, Lahore and Kashmir sectors. while Pakistani land gains were primarily south in deserts opposite to Sindh and in Chumb sector near Kashmir in north”
After the ceasefire, while West continued to maintain a neutral stance, USSR came forward to mediate between India and Pakistan and help resolve Kashmir issue. As Qudrat Ullah Shahab notes, nobody from Pakistan’s side expected that Ayub Khan would agree to ceasefire and even go to the table of Tashkent.  He said that he even wrote a letter to Ayub Khan urging him not to go to Tashkent after ceasefire because he thought that USSR was tilted more towards India and had always vetoed every resolution in favor of Kashmiris. But to his dismay, Ayub Khan accepted the invitation.
It was on January 4, 1966 when President Ayub Khan and his delegation from Pakistan and PM Laal Bahadur Shastri from India and his team commenced their dialogue to eventually reach an agreement on 10th January, 1966. It is said that Bhutto believed that Pakistan should not sign any declaration or peace agreement unless the resolution of Kashmir was achieved. However, as Hameed yusuf recalls in his book Pakistan-A Study of Political developments, that President Ayub Khan seemed less “emotional” about Kashmir. He even did two private meetings with USSR PM who apparently pressurized him to make a compromise with India.
Thus on January 10TH, President Ayub and Laal Bahadur Shastri signed Tashkent agreement. It was agreed that both sides will withdraw their forces to the position held before August 5, 1965 not later than February 25, 1966. Moreover, they made the following commitment on Kashmir: “The Prime Minister of India and the President of Pakistan agreed that both sides will exert all efforts to create good neighborly relations between India and Pakistan in accordance with United Nations Charter, they reaffirm their obligation under the Charter not to have recourse to force and settle disputes through peaceful means.”
“They considered that the interest of peace in the region and particularly in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and indeed, the interests of the people of India and Pakistan were not served by the continuance of tension between the two countries. It is against the background that Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and each of the sides put forth its respective.”
In fact, this took almost everybody by surprise that why did Ayub reach this compromise? But nobody clearly knew and still knows what exactly happened. Did his two meetings with USSR PM did the trick on him or were there some other factors? Ayub apparently remained silent on this issue (with Bhutto later exploiting his silence after parting ways from him).
According to Qudurat Ullah Shahab, Ayub Khan didn’t even touch the issue of 1965 war and Tashkent agreement in his book Friends not Masters, thereby making this issue prone to many conspiracy theories. One wonders what did Pakistan gain from 1965 war?  On a positive note, we saved Lahore from Indian attack, thanks to our foot soldiers and pilots who left no stone unturned to save Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Pakistani top leadership failed in its plan to get Kashmir. Before the question that whether Pakistan was morally right to go for Operation Gibralter or not, the question comes whether India was morally correct (and still is it) for not holding plebiscite against the desire of Kashmiri public and the UN resolution?
The 1965 Indo-Pak war was no doubt centered round Kashmir. Many lives were lost in this war. But today, even after 47 years, the issue of Kashmir still remains unresolved. It has apparently become irrelevant for both Pakistan and India as both sides are racing towards trade and visa liberalization and exploring other venues of cooperation. The Kashmir chapter is not closed but ignored definitely. In my opinion, the so called custodians of peace and their idea of resolving Kashmir issue amicably doesn’t hold any charm and reality. It is because no modern nation state will ever hold a dialogue or plebiscite and give up a major chunk of its territory. War seems to be the only solution that can solve this Kashmir issue a per the aspirations of Kashmiris. If it is to be resolved…

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