I had mentioned earlier how, during Operation Gibraltar, whole infantry battalions were pulled out from their defensive positions by bleeding the holding brigades (Sectors) to beef up the infiltration forces. Some of the units were hastily moved into the area from their peacetime locations. When the Indians retaliated by attacking Pakistani posts all along the 1948 Cease Fire Line, the infiltrating units were recalled and asked to counterattack. There was little time for preparation. In the confusion of battle, companies lost contact with each other and with their battalion headquarters. This was the state of planning to liberate Kashmir.
The Battle of Haji Pir pass was fought from 26 to 28 August 1965. It resulted in India capturing the entire Haji Pir bulge including the 8,652 feet high Haji Pir Pass in Azad Kashmir. The Haji Pir bulge was within the area of responsibility of the Pakistan Army’s 12 Division, commanded by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik.
No.2 Sector of 12 Division was responsible for the defense of the Haji Pir bulge. The area of responsibility of No. 2 Sector extended from Pir Kanthi (northern shoulder of Haji Pir Bulge) to Battal (south-east of Bandi Abbaspur). This sector was attacked by 68 Indian Brigade in a pincer move on 26th August. By 30th August, the Indian army had captured the entire Haji Pir bulge.
Read more: Prelude to the September War
Operation Grand Slam
To ease the pressure on the 12 Division, which was defending against repeated Indian attacks, and to guard against the threat to the important city of Muzaffarabad, which resulted from the gain by Indian forces of strategic areas like the Hajipir Pass, the Pakistan Army commenced Operation Grand Slam at 0500 hours on 1st September 1965.
Chamb was defended by the Indian 191 Infantry Brigade Group (provisionally under command of 15 Division) and a squadron of AMX-13 tanks. The infantry was stretched thin along the border and the AMX-13 tanks, though possessing the same firepower as the Pakistani M47 and M48 Patton tanks, were outnumbered in this sector. For the operation, Major General Akhtar Husain Malik had set up his headquarters at Kharian.
Forces under his command were 3x infantry brigades (No. 4 Sector, 10 Brigade, and 102 Brigade), 2x armoured regiments (ex 6 Armoured Division), and Artillery I Corps (Amin, 2000). Against a militarily stronger and larger Pakistani thrust, the Indian forces retreated from their defensive positions.
On the second day of the attack, Major General Akhtar Malik was replaced by GOC 7 Division, Major General Yahya Khan, which delayed the attack by one day. Not only did this decision cause confusion among the Pakistani officer cadre, but the delay also permitted the Indians to rush reinforcements to the sector. When the attack recommenced on 3rd September, the Indian forces in the sector were sufficiently reinforced to hold out for a few more days, but they did not have the strength to launch a counterattack.
Read more: 1965 Kashmir War: The Political Dimension
However, it is naive to think that, had the change of command not taken place, Pakistan Army would have captured Jammu. Indian defenses in Jammu were layered and stronger than the defenses of Lahore. At best, Pakistan Army would have contacted Jammu and stopped there even as the Indian Army offensive against Lahore was blunted. In any case, It was the Valley, not Jammu, that was the plum on the cake. Pakistan Army had already lost the Haji Pir bulge – the mountain barrier that separates the Valley from Azad Kashmir.
The Pakistani attack staggered for two more days without any significant gains in territory. To relieve pressure on Chamb and Akhnoor, on the night 5th /6th of September India attacked Pakistan along the Radcliffe Line. The advance of the Indian Army also threatened to cutacross the right flank of the Pakistani attack. Realizing the gravity of the threat, the Pakistani Army stopped its thrust into Kashmir and diverted the 7 Division to counter the Indian incursion.
The limited war scenario, as fancied by the Foreign Office, some generals, Ayub Khan, and his army chief (in that order), proved wishful thinking. In case they were intent on a military solution, the operational strategy should have, as pointed out earlier, hinged upon fostering, incubating, and abetting an insurgency in the Valley for at least one year. We should have fully expected a backlash by India and, to counter it, maintained a defensive posture all along the Cease Fire Line, the Working Boundary, and the Radcliffe Line, while holding the strategic defensive balance with 1 Armoured Division, 6 Armoured Division, and 9 Division.
However, we started the war in the Valley and then reacted to the enemy’s moves. India responded to Operation Gibraltar by occupying the heights in the Kargil sector, Neelam Valley, and the Haji Pir Bulge. Pakistan reacted with Operation Grand Slam in the Chamb sector. India responded by attacking along the Radcliffe Line, and the 17-day war resulted in a stalemate.
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.