Pakistan’s ‘trial’ war

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Alien, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. Alien

    Alien Regular Member

    May 20, 2015
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    Plans are afoot to celebrate the 50th anni-versary of the 1965 Indo-Pak War, the first major military operation on the western front after 1947-48, and one in which Indian and Pakistani Air Forces engaged in large-scale aerial combat. If little is remembered about the 1965 war, much less is known of the battle of Rann of Kutch which was conceived by the Pakistan military as a “trial run” before launching a full-scale war to annex Kashmir.

    That Pakistan, despite its obsession with Kashmir, maintained the ceasefire for over 16 years (1949 to 1965) was due to two factors: India had a strong and stable government under a towering leader and the western front, unlike the eastern border, was well fortified. Jawaharlal Nehru died in May 1964 and by the end of the year Pakistan had finalised plans to seize Kashmir by force. The defeat of the Indian Army by the Chinese in 1962 and Nehru’s death had given the Pakistanis the erroneous impression that India was vulnerable.

    Early in January 1965, Ayub Khan, who had assumed power following a coup in 1958, had legitimised his rule and was in full command as President of Pakistan. He chose the Rann of Kutch as the area for the Pakistan Army’s “trial operation” against India. He raised a claim of about 3,500 square miles of territory in this area which, according to his foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was in the “adverse possession” of India. He followed up this specious claim by police and later military action.

    In January 1965, an Indian police patrol noticed that an 18-mile long track, running within the Indian territory and connecting Ding (in Pakistan) with Surai (in India), was being pat-rolled by Pakistanis border guards on the plea that it lay within the Pakistani side of the border. The Indian police expelled the Pakistani guards and destroyed the outposts they had erected to secure the area.

    A further incident of violation of Indian territory by Pakistani patrols took place in February 1965. When the Indian government lodged a protest, the Pakistan foreign office denied any such violation and claimed that the area in proximity to Kanjarkot had been in the continued possession of Pakistan since August 1947. Simul-taneously, the Pakistan authorities established a checkpost at Kanjarkot. They did not, however, occupy Kanjarkot Fort. Pakistan, having decided to escalate tensions, began to amass substantial force in proximity to Kanjarkot and, on April 9, 1965, Pakistani troops launched an attack with artillery, heavy mortars and MMGs on Sardar Post near the small town of Vigokot. Indian policemen, the only defence force at this point, fought bravely, inflicted heavy casualties on the invaders and made them retreat.

    On April 24, Pakistan simultaneously attacked four Indian positions — Sardar Post, Biar Bet, Vigokot and Point84 — using Patton tanks and 100-pound guns for the first time. Fierce fighting continued till April 30, when Indian Army artillery caused heavy damage to Pakistani ammunition dumps. The Pakistani attack faded away.

    At the end of this week-long fierce engagement, India was still in possession of Sardar Post, Vigokot and the southern tip of Biar Bet, but had lost its hold on Point84. Pakistan then made a proposal for talks but India insisted on the vacation of Kanjarkot by the occupying Pakistani forces before any talks could be held. Rawalpindi would not agree to the vacation of Kanjarkot and no talks were therefore held.

    On April 30 there was persistent demand in the Lok Sabha for some clear information about the peace proposals suggested by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

    Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri told the House, “While these discussions are taking place… it will not be in public interest to spell out details of the British proposals. I would, however, assure the House that we shall not accept anything which is not consistent with what I had stated and which this House generously approved.” He was referring to his assurance that the status quo ante would have to be restored as an essential prerequisite to ceasefire.

    Wilson and the British high commissioners to India and Pakistan continued their efforts to secure the agreement of both Shastri and Ayub to Wilson’s proposals.

    After an immense amount of diplomatic activity, Wilson succeeded and a ceasefire became effective on July 1, 1965. As a part of this arrangement the status quo ante as on January 1, 1965, was fully restored.

    Paradoxically, even Ayub did not want to intensify the Rann of Kutch conflict. He had launched that operation because he wanted to give his troops and armour, the newly acquired American Patton tanks, a full dress rehearsal to prepare them for a full-scale invasion of India, first in Kashmir and immediately thereafter Punjab. He also wanted to assess the will and capability of Indian soldiers to fight a war. By the end of May 1965, the Pakistanis seemed to have completed their “trial run” to their apparent satisfaction.

    Military historian Russel Brines writes, “Ayub and the Pakistani military top brass drew self-comforting and encouraging conclusions from the Rann of Kutch conflict.” Emboldened by his Army’s adventure, Ayub Khan authorised a covert invasion of Kashmir that would escalate into a full-scale war with far reaching consequences for India-Pakistan relations.

    The writer, an ex-Army officer, is a member of the National Commission for Minorities. The views expressed by him are personal.

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