The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965


The Revolutionary Council:

          It was on 8 August that an unfamiliar voice on the air announced the installation of a broadcasting station, calling itself Sadai Kashmir, to act as the mouth-piece of the under-ground Revolutionary Council organized to lead the liberation movement in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Taking up arms on 9 August, the freedom-fighters came into conflict with numerous units of the Indian Army of occupation and did considerable damage to military convoys and means of communication.

Obviously taken by surprise, India’s rulers tried to explain away the rising by fixing the blame on Pakistan and stating that the rebels were Pakistani infiltrators trained to fight their country’s battles in Kashmir. In a firm denial of the charge, the Pakistan Government advised New Delhi to give up this dangerous talk and abide by its treaty obligation in respect of Kashmir. Two Indian minister, who hastened to Srinagar, found the whole population up in arms, and admitted that the Indian forces in the valley had suffered grievous casualities. The Indian army retaliated by moving in the direction of Kargil and occupying three Pakistani military posts which it had evacuated barely a month ago at the intervention of the United Nations. The Indian Air Force bombed the civil population of Srinagar; the Indian army used tanks against the ‘infiltrators’ and intensified the campaign of exterminating the Muslims of the valley for ‘harbouring the rebels’. The entire Batamalu suburb of Srinagar was sacked and hundreds of innocent men, women and children were burnt alive.

New Delhi’s provocative chorus of threats became louder and the Indian military machine soon extended the area of its operations. The Indian Air Force violated Pakistan’s air space at several points including Kasur and Bahawalnager. Situated close to the border of Azad Kashmir, the village of Awan was hit by eight Indian missiles on 24 August which caused 25 casualities. The use of Air Force against Pakistan aggravated the conflict. Two days later the Indian forces crossed into Azad Kashmir and launched an offensive against military posts in Titwal and Uri sectors. Defended by a handful of soldiers, these posts fell before the invader. This area was intended to serve as a base of operations against the Poonch district which, in many ways, is the sword arm of Kashmir. The Indian parliament received the news amidst prolonged applause.

Pakistan watched and waited anxiously for days. The President uttered a stern warning against New Delhi’s war hysteria, but his plea fell on deaf ears. Assisted by the Pakistan army, the Azad Kashmir forces crossed the cease-fire line on the first of September, and advanced as far as Diwa and Chhamb. Crossing the river Tawi, they led a lightening assault on the heavily-garrisoned stronghold of Jaurian. The exceptionally well-prepared Indian defences crumbled. The Pakistani forces continued to march ahead and reached up to the gates of Akhnur from where the city of Jammu lay within a radius of 12 miles. Thus the Pakistani forces had covered a distance of 18 miles within five days of offensive.

India invades Pakistan

On the morning of 6 September came the carefully-planned invasion of Pakistan. Lahore was subjected to a three-pronged attack without a declaration of war. The suburbs of Jallo, Batapur and Model Town were the first targets of Indian bombing and caravans of the uprooted population of border villages streamed into the Shalimar town in the early hours of the day. The Indian authorities had completed all arrangements for offensive before moving their forces. They had the border villages evacuated and bunkers constructed all along the frontier. The first objective of the invaders was to occupy the city of Lahore before 12 o’ clock in the noon. By isolating the city from the rest of West Pakistan, they had hoped to subjugated the entire province within the next 72 hours. It was intended to move the Indian mountain division facing China into East Pakistan at a later stage. Some Indian leaders had described East Pakistan as the weakest spot in the defence of the country and its invasion formed an integral part of their strategy.

Indian threw the whole of her military strength, minus four divisions, into the battle-field. The Pakistanis soldiers stood the onslaught with courage and raised a wall of steel against the invaders who found themselves halted in spite of their overwhelming superiority in numbers, arms and equipment.

The first typical encounter of the war took place, on the Harike-Burki sector, between a company commanded by a Pakistani Major and an armoured Indian brigade. What followed was a head-on clash between men and tanks. The Pakistani soldiers kept the enemy at bay for 9 solid hours. Every time the enemy moved, he was hit in the face and thrown back. By the afternoon, the Pakistani forces had controlled the situation on a 50 mile front extending from Wagha to Jassar.

Earlier in the morning, the Indian Air Force machine gunned passenger trains at two different points between Lahore and Wazirabad. The town of Rahwali was similarly attacked. The Pakistan Air Force went into action at once and established its superiority by carrying the war into the Indian skies. More attacks on the Wagha front were repulsed with heavy losses on the following days.

Halted at Lahore, the Indian forces opened yet another front for a decisive encounter around Sialkot. Situated in the proximity of India held Kashmir, Sialkot occupied a place of prime importance in Indian strategy and the invader had already constructed roads and communications on his side of the territory. The Indians descended upon Chawinda, a strategic rail and road junction, on 10 September and advanced a few miles. They expected to make a vigorous thrust on Sialkot after the fall of Chawinda. A rainless summer had created ideal conditions for mobile warfare. All odds favoured the aggressor who threw 500 to 600 tanks in the field and spread the fighting over an area of 30 to 40 square miles. The most favourable ratio between the Pakistani and Indian soldiers was ¼; occasionally it was 1/7. The fighting went on for days and was carried far into the moonlit nights. The Indians drove their infantry to the front like cattle, but they could not use their armour as a weapon of offence. The Pakistani soldiers, on the other hand, relied heavily on natural features and made the maximum use of anti-tank devices. The Indian attack was decisively repulsed on 15 September when the area was found littered with disabled tanks, damaged armoured vehicles and decaying bodies of dead soldiers which could be counted in thousands.

Accompained by an extravagant use of fire-power, the Indian advance towards the city of Kasur was soon arrested. The Pakistani forces wrested initiative from the aggressor and occupied on 8 September the commercially important town of Khem Karan which lies six miles within the Indian territory and is connected with Amritsar by rail and road. Retreating Indians destroyed culverts and bridges all along the route. Later, they made repeated attacks from the front as well as flanks, but made no serious impression on Pakistani positions. It was in this sector that the East Bengal Regiment, raised after partition, had its first experience of fighting and its Bengal Tigers Batallion received the largest number of gallantry awards.

The Pakistani forces also frustrated the Indian attempts to destroy the Sulemanki headworks by air attacks by capturing 40 square miles of Indian territory.

The Indian army launched yet another attack on Pakistan at Gadaru, on 8 September. The advance was halted immediately. The invader was put to flight on 12 September and the railway station of Munabao was captured two days later. Altogether, an area of 1200 square miles in Rajastan was occupied by the Pakistan army, effectively assisted by the sturdy Hur tribes of Sind.

The brilliant naval attack on Dawarka was another epic of cold courage. Equipped with a powerful Radar station, Dawarka is situated at a distance of 210 miles from Karachi. It was from here that the Indian Air Force raids on the southern cities of West Pakistan were organized. The Pakistani ships, Jafar, Mansur, Badar and Babur led the attack. The Indian guns were silenced and the Radar station was completely destroyed after an hour of intensive bombing. Three Indian aeroplanes fell down in the course of the naval battle.

In the war that lasted for 17 days, the Pakistani soldiers knew neither fatigue nor sleep and accomplished big jobs with inadequate materials. A single gunner was often as effective as a strong gun position. Defiant of danger and death, the officers moved about freely in the most exposed forward areas and defended their position regardless of consequences.

A small and dedicated air force kept up relentless pressure on the enemy six times its number and provided an excellent cover to the land forces engaged in tank battles. This skilful co-ordination was decisive in keeping the invader at bay. Pakistani air fields were well-defended during the war, but indiscriminate or inaccurate bombing of the Indian Air Force damaged buildings and caused civilian causalities at Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Kohat, Karachi, Dacca, Jessore, Lalmunirhat and Rangpur. The  Indian air bases of Adampur, Halwara, Jamnagar, Pathankot, Jammu and Srinagar were pounded by the Pakistan Air Force which lost 14 aircraft and 11 pilots from all causes and emerged from this ordeal with its operational strength unimpaired. Indeed, the main problem of the Air Force command was to prevent the pilots from becoming too aggressive.

The home front:

The official announcement of outbreak of hostilities came from the President in a nation-wide broadcast. The development which was not wholly unexpected, steeled the peoples’ determination to meet all eventualities. The roar of the guns could be heard round the clock, yet life in Lahore was normal within the limits of a curfew and a dusk to dawn blackout. The factories and government offices observed their usual routine. In many cases they cut down holidays and increased the number of working hours. The peasants worked in their fields as they worked before. People in the city dug trenches and sat by their wireless sets. An Air of stern determination pervaded the capital and the civil servants worked indefatigably. The Quaid-i-Azam’s death anniversary was celebrated on 11 September and the customary ceremonies were omitted. The University of the Punjab re-opened on 13 September. Attendance was thin but the teaching departments resumed their normal duties. The Essential Commodities Ordinance was promulgated on 11 September but it did not make much difference to the situation as the trading community resisted all temptation to profiteering and enforced a rigid, but voluntary, price control. All internal differences were buried and the people developed a zeal that the country had never known before. The attitude of the Opposition was altogether changed and its leaders lined the Government in the prosecution of war. All section of the people from the wealthiest to the poorest contributed generously to the National Defence Fund.

The return of wounded soldiers imposed a heavy strain on blood transfusion services. Blood donors thronged the blood banks and cheerfully stood in long queues for hours. Blood was received till the storage capacity of the banks was exhausted. The total quantity of blood received on one day (i.e. 11 September) amounted to one ton. The Red Cross offices received figts (like soap, blankets, towels, reading materials and cigarettes for the soldiers from morning till evening. The Radio broadcasts became) an important feature of the home front. The old programmes were drastically modified and the unscheduled broadcasts breathed a robust spirit of self-confidence, self-denial and austerity. Enemy paratroops were believed to have been landed in Chiniot, Sangla Hill, and Wazirabad areas. The citizens were cautioned against the activities of these unwanted arrivals. There was a great enthusiasm for catching these invaders from the air.

Pakistan’s friend and allies:

On 8 September Indonesian army chiefs met to consider the ways and means of helping Pakistan. President Sokarno supporting the Kashmiri demand for self-determination and appealing in the name of Muslim solidarity. On the same day, the Iranian Government denounced the act of unprovoked aggression on the part of India. A representative of the Chinese foreign ministry spoke of India lapsing into a state of barbarism and cited this war as another instance of India’s cynical disregard of all rules of international morality. Student’s Unions organized rallies in Turkey and Indonesia asking India to desist from aggression. The Iraqi President, Abdus Salam Arif, supported the Pakistani demand on the issue of Kashmir and declared that he would raise the issue at the conference of the Arab heads of states. In Saudi Arabia this country found another doughty champion of its cause. Some Iranian newspapers declared that the indecision of the United Nations was directly responsible for this conflict. Pakistan’s partners in R.C.D., Turkey and Iran, characterized the Indian adventure as a threat to world peace and asked India to give up shooting innocent civilians. The Iranian Prime Minister and the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs reached Rawalpindi on 14 September to take stock of the situation and form an idea of Pakistan’s defence requirements. The Turkish Red Crescent sent a unit of nurses and doctors to look after the Pakistani soldiers wounded on the field of battle. On 17 September China sent an ultimatum to India demanding India’s withdrawal from all military posts on the Sikkim-China border. The ultimatum, which appears to have caused greater concern in Washington than in New Delhi, was broadcast on the Peking Radio. The time limit of this ultimatum expired on the night of 19 September when it was extended by another 72 hours. On 19 September, Mr. Kosygin offered his good offices stating that a meeting between the heads of the two governments could be arranged on the Russian territory.

Much more perplexing was the attitude of the principal architects of the Western Alliance, America and Britian. Both of them were treaty bound to come to the aid of Pakistan, but they watched silently and had no word of condemnation for aggression. All that the U.S. government did was to announce the suspension of its military and economic aid to Pakistan.

Many foreign observers were convinced that the Indian invasion could not have occurred without the instigation of powers controlling the United Nations. Bertrand Russell expressed the opinion that Western Alliance was determined to punish Pakistan for pursuing an independent foreign policy. The reports of the foreign correspondents, who had given accurate coverage to war news, grew tendentious and, as days passed, increasingly subject to the political calculations of their government. These who had bestowed unstinted praise on the fighting qualities of Pakistani soldiers began to belittle Pakistan’s achievements. Some of them even went to the length of saying (and, thus contradicting their earlier dispatches) that Pakistan had a good licking from India. The generality of foreign correspondents admitted that while Pakistan had given them full facilities to visit the various theaters of War, India grudged them the opportunity of seeing things for themselves.

India and War:

Some time later India took up the position that she never meant to invade Pakistan and had not, in fact, done so. The facts of the case do not support this contention. The Indian Prime Minister had threatened this country with a war at a time and front of this own choosing and proceeded to substantiate his threat by ordering a massive concentration of troops on the borders of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi had stated in Srinagar, a week before the opening of hostilities, that her country was out to end the Kashmir problem once and for all. In a nationwide broadcast from Srinagar, on 26 September, the Indian President had philosophized about offence being the best form of defence. The officers of the Indian army, according to Indian reports, in fact carried their dinner jackets to be able to celebrate their victory at the Lahore Gymkhana Club on the evening of 6 September. The report of the ‘capture’ of Lahore was given to the Indian Parliament amidst deafening cheers in the forenoon of the same day. The Indian Defence Minister was said to be absent from Delhi in the afternoon to deliver his victory oration from the Lahore Radio Station.

The Indian newspapers carried reports of the ‘fall’ of Lahore on the morning of 6 September adding fictitious details of the seizure of Lahore Air Port, destruction of the Broadcasting House, capture of Lahore Railway Station and fighting in the streets, some of them even told their readers that India had established its own administration in the cities of Lahore and Kasur and that India’s youthful soldiers had won the hearts of the Lahorites by their superb manners. The Indian news agencies had broad-cast the same reports to all European capitals and supported their claims by the televised movements of a Lahore bus captured at the border and driven through the streets of Amritsar. It appears that the Indian G.H.Q. had ordered the preparation of advance bulletins regarding the ‘progress made by the Indian Army.’ These were regularly released after every two hours without checking them against the progress actually made on the front.  

The personal papers of an Indian General, Narinjan Prasad, collected from his abandoned jeep, revealed that all details of the Indian plan of invasion had been settled by the preceding May. The fact that the various units of the Indian army were kept at advance positions (instead of being sent back to their barracks) after the Battle of Kutch in another instance of India’s warlike intentions. The presence of Pakistani ‘infiltrators’ furnished India with a ready excuse for an invasion which had been laboriously planned over years and was bound to come in any case. A former Chief Justice of India, Mehr Chand Mahajan, disclosed in the course of a newspaper article that the decision to annex Pakistan had emerged from the discussions of a meeting held at Jammu in December, 1947 and that the plan could not be carried out for 18 years for one reason or another. The Justice further advised his government to put the country on a footing of emergency for eventual trial of strength with Pakistan.

On 7 September the Indian Defence Minister told the Lok Sabha that Lahore still remained unsubdued and explained this temporary reverse as one of the ups and downs of war, but he promised more hopeful news within 24 hours.

Some days later, India’s Army Chief told a Press Conference at Delhi that India had never intended to occupy Lahore on account of the difficulties of holding a city of this size. Evidently, this was an after-thought to cover a military reverse.

Numerous armed gangs of Jan Sangh and other anti-Pakistan Hindu organizations set out for Lahore to enter the city as conquerors and assist their soldiery in butchering the civil population. Stopped at the battle line they had to go back. The rabble vanished from the scene causing considerable commotion in the Indian Punjab and sending swarms of refugees towards Delhi. Even the India’s propaganda claims were starling. The All-India Radio continued to broadcast incredible reports of Pakistani losses and was trying to convince its listners on 16 September that the Indian army, still heading for Lahore, was only six miles away from the city. The Indian Air Force claimed to have shot down 472 jet fighters while the total number of this type of aircraft with Pakistan did not exceed 300!

Indian pro-consuls abroad would not forgive those who dared to tell the truth about War. Mrs. Vijayalakhshmi Pandit, for instance, flared up at the representative of an offending news agency and bluntly told him that time had come for India to reassess its relations with Britain. Bitter and unending was Indian criticism of the B.B.C. news commentators who mentioned the world Kashmir and plebiscite in the same sentence.

The U.N. and the War:

Landing at Karachi on a peace mission, U. Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, had a round of meeting with the leaders of Pakistan Government from 9 to 13 September. The Pakistan President pointed out the futility of an unconditional cease-fire and demanded self-executing guarantees for the removal of tensions that had led to the outbreak of war. On 13 September Thant flew off to New Delhi. Few were optimistic about the outcome of his efforts. The members of the Security Council kept on examining alternative plans for cessation of hostilities.

The Indian Government rejected Thant’s proposals and continued to demand guarantees against aggression. The Secretary-General went back to New York on 17 September and made his report to the Security Council.

Thant’s report was a tepid document making no distinction between the aggressor and the victim of aggression. Indeed, its author spoke of the two in the same breath. Although, he stated that a delicate question like that of Kashmir could not be left to solve itself, the Secretary showed greater enthusiasm for a cease-fire then a genuine peace settlement. The Security Council accepted Thant’s recommendations and passed a resolution non 20 September, 1965, asking the parties to stop fighting from the midday 22 September and withdraw their forces to positions they occupied on 5 August, 1965. Political settlement, stated the resolution, was to come after the first two parts of this resolution had been carried out.

Formally sponsored by Holland, this vague resolution was a big power affair which the Jordan representative declined to support. Difficult to understand was the attitude of the Malaysian representative who made a vitriolic attack on Pakistan and questioned the justification for its existence. While India was prepared to accept this resolution unconditionally, the representative of Pakistan was disturbed as it made no mention of the Kashmir problem. After consulting with the Opposition leaders on 21 September in the interests of international peace even though the Security Council resolution was inadequate and unsatisfactory in Pakistani eyes. The forces, however, were asked to remain in battle position. The President also expressed the hope that the Big Powers would honour their commitments by securing a lasting settlement of the Kashmir issue.

The cease-fire became effective at 3 A.M. on 23 September, The Indian forces made a final effort at midnight to advance to a position within shelling range of Lahore and gained some half a mile of ground; but a counter-attack restored the Pakistan position about 12 miles outside the city.


Journal of the Punjab University Historical Society,
Vol. XX, (Jan – April, 1967) PP. 1 – 10