1965-Crushing the invasion of India (Part II)

New Delhi, Sept.15 (ANI): With Haji Pir securely in the hands of the Indian Army, Pakistan’s main route of infiltration into the Kashmir Valley had been closed. Desperate and last ditch efforts by Pakistan did not bear any fruit. I had the opportunity to watch one battle ahead of the pass in which the Indian infantry inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, well supported by mountain artillery.

However, amidst all those Indian victories in various battles nothing prepared me to see the bodies of martyred Indian jawans and their injured comrades The scenes still remain one of my saddest memories.

Pakistan had started this war with the aim of taking Kashmir from what it perceived to be a weak Indian state led by a “weak” new Prime Minister. With losses mounting, Pakistan had no alternative but to raise the level of its offensive .

Pakistan made a last ditch, ‘Hail Mary’ effort, with the mobilisation of its U.S.-donated Patton tanks of it’s armoured corps. It must be mentioned here, that till 1962, India had ignored modernising its armed forces.

Pakistan, being a member of the U.S. anti Communist alliances; had been the direct beneficiary of Uncle Sam’s largesse. It had received vast amounts of modern weaponry and was able to build up a modern fighting machine. As India had warned the United States, these weapons were now being used by the army of Pakistan against India.

With its vastly superior Patton tanks, Pakistan’s armoured corps was ordered by its rulers in Islamabad to advance towards Chhamb-Jaurian and cut off access of the Indian Army to defend Jammu and Kashmir

It was a desperate , but very bold move by the Pakistani leaders. Little did they realise that Indian resolve to fight and defend itself could be greater and their strategy to cut off the Indian Army, would be met by a counter offensive on the city of Sialkot to foil Islamabad’s military plans.

As news came in of Pakistan’s attack on Chhamb-Jaurian , this author made a hasty downward journey from the Haji Pir Pass. The Pakistani attack, supported as it was with its heavy armour, began moving forward and menacingly threatened the town of Akhnoor. Indian forces were fighting back valiantly in Chhamb supported by the Indian Air Force.

To ease the pressure on Indian Army fighting this huge attack in the Chhamb Jaurian sector, India moved quickly and ordered its forces to move towards Lahore. It was the first time in India’s long history that its army had been ordered to march into another country. The exception being the capture of Afghanistan by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in an earlier era. Pakistan was now truly facing the collapse of its Operation Grand Slam in Chhamb-Jaurian.

Coming down from Haji Pir, I made a dash for Srinagar, and then, onto Jammu. In Jammu, one heard the wailing sirens warning of an air raid. The Pakistan Air Force had attacked Jammu airport. Rushing there to see the aftermath of the attack, all that this author saw was that the four Pakistani planes that had attacked the airport could not succeed in hitting the terminal. All that they had succeeded in hitting was a dummy Dakota plane parked in a corner, far away from the runway!

That evening, we also got news that not only had the Pakistani armoured attack towards Jaurian led by its powerful Patton tanks been foiled, but that Indian tanks had begun rumbling towards the city of Sialkot. This author’s visit to the battlefield of tanks the next day was quite an experience!

The small press party of which this author was part of, had the company of no less a person than Major General Rajinder Singh Sparrow” himself. This commander of an armoured division, was leading his troops from the front and his men were now on the outskirts of Sialkot.

The tanks was surrounded by other support tanks and troops as Major General Singh briefed us in the field before moving ahead. Suddenly, four Pakistani Sabre jets appeared above. With no airpower and our little press party and the major general in the crosshairs of those Sabre jets, we all thought this was the end of the line for us.

As the Pakistani Sabres circled and moved in to attack, we were all rushed into nearby trenches.The major general ordered his troops to cover him up with their bodies piled on him so no harm would come to him. For the next twenty minutes or more, the four Sabres would circle, go up and then attack releasing their array of ammunition each time.

As the planes menacingly dived downards in attack releasing ammunition one felt the plane and the ammunition coming towards you. Anti-aircraft guns were in action, but could not achieve any result.

When the all clear was sounded, with the four enemy planes having turned back after finishing their ammunition, all that they had achieved were a few bullet hits on the jeep of the General’s ADC. He had also been hit in the leg. His jeep was under a tree and he had stayed put there.

That was the extent of the damage inflicted by the much vaunted US-donated Sabre jets. Pakistani fighter pilots had failed even to hit targets that were sitting ducks.

That has left a lasting impression on this author of that battlefield. Before turning back towards Jammu, we saw the distant buildings of Sialkot. India was now truly in control and had blunted the invasion.

Driving through the blacked out night towards Delhi, this author saw how vigilant India’s civilian population was from Jammu to Delhi. Everywhere, in darkness, large groups of people were on watch and on the look out for any infiltrators. The people of India were truly standing behind their army and giving it every possible support in its effort to keep the enemy out.

The attack on Lahore by India was in its own place of choosing. As it transpired later, Pakistan had planned to capture the holy city of Amritsar and march upto the Rver Beas.

The Pakistani plan had been turned the other way around, and Indian Army marched right upto Ichhogil Canal, a sort of moat to stop tank movement into the city of Lahore..

Badly mauled, and its plans to capture the valley of Kashmir in disarray, the Indian Army at the gates of its two major cities-Lahore and Sialkot, Pakistan quickly grabbed the opportunity to have a cease fire.

The Indian Army had achieved its objective of destroying a major amount of Pakistan’s armour, particularly the Patton tanks. Havildar Abdul Hamid of Indian army destroyed Pakistan tanks in the battle of Asal Uttar.

The Indian Army had regained the confidence that it had lost in the war against China in 1962. While it fought Pakistan in the West, the Indian Army kept a close watch on the Line of Control along the Chinese border and also a watch on the border with East Pakistan.

The cease fire came on the morning of September 23, 1965. An adventure Pakistan started with the dawn of New Year from the Rann of Kutch had now come a full circle. When this author drove towards the cease fire area on Amritsar-Lahore road, little did he expect to see the battle field still littered with the dead bodies of Pakistani soldiers.

The Indian bodies had been removed. The Pakistan Army had made a last ditch effort before the cease fire to try and push Indians behind the canal, but failed. The Indians were now handing over the dead bodies with the respect due to a soldier.

When the cease fire came, the two armies were facing each other across the Ichhogil Canal.

Pakistan’s invasion had been crushed and its army had accepted a cease fire . India’s Prime Minister may have been short physically, but looks can be deceving, something that Pakistan learnt the hard way.

Lal Bahadur Shastri, in almost Napoleonic fashion, led India to victory in 1965. India’armed forces had regained their reputation

Mr. Prem Prakash is the Chairman of ANI Media (P) Limited. This is Part-II of the article. The first part of the article was released last week.

By Prem Prakash (ANI)

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