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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

1965 War: Fighting in the Sialkot and Rajasthan sectors

After 9th September when the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division, and later the 1 Armoured Division, beefed up Pakistani strength, it was no longer a question of valor or superior generalship, but a simple, unimaginative frontal battle with both sides having an equal number of tanks.

This sector is essentially the Ravi-Chenab corridor. Its eastern boundary is defined by River Chenab which enters Pakistan in the vicinity of Marala, north of Sialkot, and, flowing northeast to southwest, cuts Grand Trunk road near Gujrat.

In this sector, Pakistan’s 15 Division 6 Armoured Division, faced the Indian I Corps, comprising 1 Armoured Division, 6 Mountain Division, 14 Division, and 26 Division. Pakistan’s 6 Armoured Division was 100 Independent Armoured Brigade re-designated as an armored division. It was not a full-strength division and consisted of divisional headquarters, two armored regiments, two artillery regiments, two mechanized infantry battalions, and no brigade headquarters. However, in the Sialkot sector, Pakistan Army also had four armor regiments under command of 15 divisions; 33 TDU, 25 Cavalry, 31 TDU, and 20 Lancers.

Read more: 1965 War: The battle of Khem Karan and Asal Uttar

Understanding the matter better

Indian 1 Armoured Division comprised 1 Armoured Brigade, 43 Lorried Brigade, and Divisional Reserves (4 Horse and 2x lorried infantry battalions). Besides 1 Armoured Division, India also had the 3 Independent Armoured Brigade (2x armor regiments) located in Jammu, and an armored regiment each under 14 Division and 26 Division. It is said that the main malady with which the Indians suffered was having too much infantry and not knowing how to use it, while the Pakistani problem seems to have been having too many tanks and not knowing how to use them.

Notwithstanding the imbalances in the 6 Armoured Division, if we combine its 2x armor regiments with 4x armor regiments under command 15 Division ( 31 TDU and 33 TDU though had second line tanks), we may roughly assign it the combat power of a fully-fledged armored division, i.e. a combat power value of 3. We also assign a combat power value of 1 to the 15 divisions, a total value of 4.

Assigning Indian 1 Armoured Division a value of 3, 3 independent Armoured Brigade a value of 2, and 6 Mountain Division, 14 Division, and 26 Division a combat value of 1 each, India gets a total combat power value of 8. Responding to the Indian assertion that the Pattons were superior to the Shermans (though the superiority had not been translated into physical gains in the Kasur sector), instead of 8, lower the total Indian combat power to 7 (this would also take into account the fact that the Indian armored division had a lorried brigade and a reserve comprising just one armor regiment with two lorried infantry battalions). Using Lanchester’s equation, we square each side’s combat power and get 49 for India and 16 for Pakistan, or a 3-to-1 Indian superiority in the Sialkot sector.

Read more: 1965 War – The Battle for Lahore

Major General Gurcharan Singh Sandhu (1994) wrote 

The first day’s battle could not have gotten off to the worst start. The armored brigade had been blocked by two squadrons of Pattons and in the first encounter, the brigade had lost more tanks than the enemy had. The whole of 1 corps had gained a few kilometers… The worst consequence of the day’s battle was its paralyzing effect on the minds of the higher commanders. It took them another 48 hours to contemplate the next offensive move. This interval gave the Pakistanis time to move up and deploy their 6 Armoured Division with five additional armored regiments. The golden opportunity that fate had offered to the 1st Armoured Division to make worthwhile gains had been irretrievably lost.’

Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh (2012) also accurately summed up the Indian failure:

‘both 16 Cavalry and 17 Horse failed to determine the strength of the opposing armor and displayed little skill in outmaneuvering it… the Brigade Commander made the unfortunate decision to withdraw 17 Horse from Tharoah for countering an alleged serious tank threat on the Left flank. This was a grave error of judgment as 4 Horse which by this time had been released to the Brigade by GOC 1 Armoured Division, could have been used to meet any flank threat posed by the enemy armor. The blunder cost us dearly. We made an advance of only four miles beyond the bridgehead when a much deeper penetration could have been achieved. The fleeting chance that could have been exploited to gain a striking success, was lost forever.

And while we were fumbling about ineffectively in a chaotic situation of our creation, the enemy had that vital breathing space so essential for a quick rally round from the stunning impact of surprise. We courted a serious setback through a faulty decision and immature handling of armor which the enemy was not slow to exploit. From now onwards, the thrust intended to keep the enemy off balance and reeling until the final blow by sheer speed of advance, turned into a slow slogging match—a series of battering-ram actions’.

Read more: The parody of national reconciliation

After 9th September when the Pakistani 6 Armoured Division, and later the 1 Armoured Division, beefed up Pakistani strength, it was no longer a question of valor or superior generalship, but a simple, unimaginative frontal battle with both sides having an equal number of tanks.

Rajasthan Sector

During the second week of September, the Indian Army attacked and captured Gadra Post in the Rajasthan sector. The Indian move was aimed at drawing the Pakistani forces to the south to relieve the pressure on the Indian Army in Punjab. In a counterattack, Pakistan Army recaptured the Gadra post. It also captured Munabao railway station and while progressing ahead, the Kishangarh Fort.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.