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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

1965 War: The battle of Khem Karan and Asal Uttar

On the night of September 5th and 6th, Indians launched an all-out assault along the Kasur front. At around 0500 hours, replicating the 10 Division's chaotic response to the Indian attack in Lahore Sector, 11 Division units hurried up to occupy their defensive positions along the BRB canal just as the Indian offensive was unfolding itself.

On 6th September 1965, the Indian 4 Mountain Division (two mountain brigades and an armored regiment), advanced along the Khem Karan-Kasur axis, to capture Kasur.

Here Pakistan’s 11 Division (21, 52, and 106 Brigade), with under command 15 Lancers and 32 TDU. was pitted against Indian 4 Mountain Division (7 and 62 Mountain Brigade) with under command Deccan Horse. XI Corps reserve comprised 2 Independent Armoured Brigade (2x armor regiments). In the Kasur Sector, Pakistan’s 1 Armoured Division was the GHQ Reserve (North).

Read more: 1965 War – The Battle for Lahore

TDU or Tank Delivery Unit was a euphemism for “armor regiment” to circumvent the ceiling on raising of new armor regiments through U.S funding. These were not tank-destroyer units, as erroneously reported by the Indian authors.

The Indian attack unfolds

On the night of September 5th and 6th, Indians launched an all-out assault along the Kasur front. At around 0500 hours, replicating the 10 Division’s chaotic response to the Indian attack in Lahore Sector, 11 Division units hurried up to occupy their defensive positions along the BRB canal just as the Indian offensive was unfolding itself.

Fighting went on throughout the day. Counter-attacking all along the front, the 11 Division regained balance, threw back the enemy, and recovered the area on the far bank of BRB, including Sehjra Salient. During the battles on September 6, the Indian Army’s 7 Grenadiers (7 Mountain Brigade) and 13 Dogra (62 Mountain Brigade) suffered such heavy casualties that they ceased to exist as cohesive units. Meanwhile, the 4 Mountain Division managed to withdraw to the general area of Asal Uttar. According to Chakravorty (2014):

“The withdrawal took place on September 07, and our troops were able to dig defenses and lay mines. The three field companies laid the mines and the areas to the south and west of the defenses were flooded. Pakistan allowed the division to prepare its defenses methodically by not disturbing it on September 07”.

Pakistan’s 11 Division could not interfere because it was haltingly attempting to establish a bridgehead across Rohi Nullah.

Read more: The parody of national reconciliation

Khem Karan and Asal Uttar

Facing 1 Armoured Division (3,4, and 5 Armoured Brigade) were Indian 2 Independent Armoured Brigade (3 Cavalry and 8 Cavalry) and 4 Mountain Division (2x mountain brigades and Deccan Horse). As for the infantry complement, 7 FF and 10 FF, were mechanized infantry battalions whereas 1FF was plain infantry. It should be kept in mind that mechanized infantry provides intimate infantry support to tanks. It assaults and clears the enemy defenses overrun by tanks.

If we assign an infantry division a value of 1, an armored division a value of 3, and the independent armored brigade a value of 2, we can calculate the relative combat power in the Kasur sector. Using Lanchester’s equation, we square each side’s combat power and get 6.25 for India and 9 for Pakistan, or a 1.44 to 1 Pakistani superiority in the Kasur sector.

Pakistan launched the counter-stroke with its 1 Armoured Division in the Khem Karan area. According to the Pakistan Army’s official history (Riza, 1984), 1 Armoured Division “was required to debouch from a bridgehead provided by 11 Division and cut Grand Trunk road in area Jullundur, an advance of approximately 100 miles into India”. This aim was beyond the capability of 1 Armoured Division and was probably inserted into the operational instruction for psychological reasons, to raise the flagging morale of own rank and file. The actual motivation for launching the armored division was to threaten the Indian XI Corps left flank with a view to relieving pressure on Lahore.

5 Armoured Brigade broke out from the bridgehead at 0700 hours on 8th September and captured the Indian town of Khem Karan, 5 km from the International border. Beyond Khem Karan, under cover of artillery fire, the advancing tanks moved within 900 meters of the enemy’s defended area at Asal Uttar. At this point, they were engaged by tanks of Deccan Horse. The Pakistani armor broke up into smaller groups and tried to infiltrate the enemy defenses by carrying out an outflanking move. The Indians employed their tanks like pillboxes.

Read more: The Expendables in Pakistan

Utilizing standing crops, the attackers were engaged by Deccan Horse, artillery fire, and tank hunting teams. suffering heavy losses, Pakistanis retreated. During most of the attacks, the tanks were disabled on the minefields and effectively engaged by artillery, anti-tank weapons, and Indian tanks lying in ambush under cover of sugar cane crops. Wherever they tried to outflank the defender, Pakistani tanks were either bogged down or were channelized by the inundations into killing areas where they were destroyed at leisure. “Do not reinforce a failure” is a constant refrain during the exercises yet this dictum is quite often thrown overboard during an actual war.

By 11th September, having suffered heavy casualties, and with CO 4 Cavalry captured along with many of his officers, 1 Armoured Division had lost its steam. According to Chakravorty (2014), Pakistan lost 97 tanks (including 32 tanks bogged down and captured in running condition) as against Indian losses of 5 tanks. According to Riza (1984), 24 Indian tanks were destroyed between the 6th and 10th of September, which appears to be a more realistic estimate.

 

 

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.