1965: Crushing the invasion of India (Part-I)

New Delhi, Sept.9 (ANI): India’s First Prime Minister and one of her founding fathers Jawaharlal Nehru began the modernization of India’s armed forces following the humiliating defeat the country faced at the hands of the Chinese in 1962.

The task was not easy as Nehru had ignored the modernisation of the Indian armed forces since Independence, believing firmly in his political theory that following the horrors of the Second World War, no nation should use war to solve national differences.

That ideology lay in tatters when China attacked India’s borders and an ill equipped Indian Army was overwhelmed.

The workload that Nehru had taken upon himself to rebuild the Armed Forces proved fatal. He passed away in May 1964.

In the wake of the 1962 border war with China, it was now clear that India had two hostile neighbours – Pakistan and China. The United States had armed Pakistan to the teeth with modern weapons following the partition of India. Pakistan joined the US-led alliances against the Soviet Union.

A defeat at the hands of the Chinese, the low morale of the Indian Armed forces and a Pakistan Army equipped with the latest American military hardware made a Pakistan offensive against India an attractive proposition for that country.

Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded Jawaharlal Nehru as India’s second Prime Minister. General Ayub Khan was the military ruler of Pakistan. He launched a second war between India and Pakistan.

Pakistani leaders thought Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri was a weak person. They were in for a shock!

Towards the end of 1964, Pakistani patrols began to intrude into the Rann of Kutch, an area that had not seen any such activity before. It was an area which was under the control of local police.

Pakistani forces captured Kanjarkot in the Rann of Kutch which was prelude to a major offensive in April 24.

Indian forces responded effectively against Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch In the barren straits of the Rann of Kutch, amidst mirages that popped up due to the searing heat, this author saw how the Indian Army pushed back the invaders.

Having failed in its attempt to beat the Indians in what was perceived to be our soft under belly, Pakistan announced on May 3, 1965 that it was ready to settle the dispute.

Great Britain interceded and India and Pakistan reached an agreement on June 30, 1965, stating that each side will withdraw its forces back to their original positions. Pakistan’s first misadventure after Nehru had failed.

Pakistan’s real design was not Kutch, but Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership having failed in its surprise opening of a front in the Rann of Kutch now harked back to its age-old strategy of infiltration and shoot and scoot tactics in Kashmir.

Pakistan launched “Operation Gibraltar early in August. It infiltrated a division- strong guerrilla force dressed as civilians and tribals into Kashmir. When I reached Srinagar to cover what was going on in the Kashmir Valley, I noticed that the infiltrators had almost reached Srinagar. My car came under fire from the airport to the hotel where I had booked my stay in the city.

Pakistan’s expectation was that the civilian population of Kashmir would rise against India once the infiltrators landed there. That came to nought. The civilian population of Kashmir alerted the Indian Army about the movement of these infiltrators.

The Indian Army attacked the infiltrators in intense encounters.

Srinagar city was put under night curfew, yet the movement of people was allowed. Such was the confidence of the adminsitration. Each day, tens of bodies of infiltrators would arrive in the military area. It was evident that the Pakistani gamble had failed.

Fighting the infiltrators in civilian areas was not so simple. India had to make sure that the civil population was not hurt. And, it did succeed in that effort, thanks largely due to the absolute lack of sympathy that Kashmiri locals had for the Pakistani forces.

I found that the people everywhere in Kashmir were hostile towards the infiltrators and any movement was quickly reported to the Indian security forces.

Not taking into account the hositility that Kashmiris had for the infiltrators, Pakistan continued with insertion of more of its troops into the valley.

With the infiltration continuing, India decided to choke the main route of infiltration.The army, with the blessings of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, decided to attack the Pakistan-held Haji Pir Pass.

It was a brave and bold move, one of which the Indian Army is rightly proud of. The tip of the spear of the Indian offensive comprised of officers, made a speedy progress in dislodging the Pakistanis from the mountains and reached the pass. This author had the privilege of climbing to the top of the Haji Pir Pass with the Indian Army. Pakistan’s design on Kashmir lay in ruins.

Once the Haji Pir Pass was captured, the Indian Army was now in a commanding position to stop inflitration and the earlier batch of Pakistani intruders in the valley could no longer get any support.

This author was a witness to how bravely the Indian Army fought back desperate efforts by the Pakistan Army to retake the Haji Pir Pass.

The strategy of the commanders, the bravery of the Indian troops and the support the army received by the civil population made an indelible mark on the media persons covering the operations.

Pakistan now had to plan some other ploy to save face.. Unable to retake the Haji Pir Pass, it decided to open another front against India.

The war had now begun.

Mr. Prem Prakash is the chairman of ANI Media (P) Limited. Part II of article to follow. ( ANI)

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