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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A historical account from Khem Karan in 1965 war

Indo-Pak war of 1965 is globally known for its tank battles, largest ones after WWII, and one of such events happened in Khem Kharan. A Twitter user shared an account of how an Indian CO Lt. Colonel Anant Singh became POW in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s war with its western neighbor India in 1965 has been regarded as a unique war from many different aspects. Historically too, there have been events like the Battle of Chawinda, the largest tank battle post second world war, and dubbed as “Graveyard of Indian Tanks” also happened during this war.

However, Pakistan’s army wasn’t at its best. In an article in 2019, 1965 war veteran Major General Syed Ali Hamid wrote, “Compared to India, the army that Pakistan inherited at Independence was badly fractured and poorly equipped”, adding that India inherited British training bases and logistical infrastructure established during the WWII.

He said that the Pakistani leadership during the war was weak and in 1965, “Indian commanders at the division level and above had some 8-9 years more service and experience than their counterparts in Pakistan”, however Pakistani officers’ resilience and determination had led to the success of the defensive battle at Chawinda.

Read more: Indo-Pakistani 1965 War: Battle of Chawinda

However, the veteran recalled that failure of the counteroffensive launched from the area of Khem Karan was primarily due to the way the armored division was employed, and the area selected for the offensive by the highest levels of command.

A Twitter user Fidato shared a unique summary of Khem Kharan sector with Lt. Col Anant Singh, CO of 4 Sigh Regiment, and different ways both sides interpret an event.

What Fidato Wrote

Subedar Ghulam Muhammad, 15 Punjab regiment (Pakistan Army) greets Lt Colonel Anant Singh, CO of 4 Sikh regiment (Indian Army), as he arrives at prisoner of the war camp near Lahore in 1965.

It was the first meeting of the two since they fought together in World War II.

Lt Col Anant Singh along with 143 soldiers surrendered in Khem Kharan sector to an Artillery Regiment of Pakistan Army which was raised by Maharaja of Kashmir, as part of state forces in 1843.

4 Sikh (a regiment) was given a very ambitious task in extremely unfavorable environment. The brave CO still accepted the challenge but had to surrender to 6 Lancers.

Lt. Col Anant Singh’s unit was initially deployed at Burki village but later it was selected by General Harbaksh Singh to take part in a counterattack on Khem Karan scheduled on 12 Sept, Fidato.

Read more: ‘1965 war hero MM Alam’: Pakistan remembers veteran on 8th death anniversary

Lt Col Sahibdad Khan, CO 6 Lancers had embraced martyrdom on 9 Sept near Asal Uttar while leading his regiment from the front. Lt Col Anant Singh selected his fittest but exhausted 200 men for the operation to attack Khem Karan from southwest but was caught up among positions of 6 Lancers, B Squadron 15 Lancers and 3 SP Field Regiment.

All three units of Pak Army claim the capture of Col Anant Singh and his 143 men. None of these units is prepared to concede to other any more credit than bagging a few stragglers who slipped out of their hands.

What Indians claim happened

However, from the Indian accounts, Lt Col Anant Singh ran into a 2nd Lt of 3rd SP regiment, thinking that these were Indian tanks that had come to support his battalion. Some 20 men of 4 Sikh, out of the 200, who were launched on 12 September were killed while some 50 managed to escape taking advantage of the sugarcane fields.

When Anant Singh was repatriated to India after the Tashkent Agreement, Gen Harbaksh Singh received him personally and apologized for sending an already exhausted 4 Sikh on an impossible mission as they had underestimated the strength of Pakistan Army at Khem Karan.

Moreover, Indian wireless discipline had not been particularly good and was intercepted by the Armoured Division Signal Regiment. General Tajindar Singh Shergil, then a Troop Leader of 9 Deccan Horse, and who too became a prisoner of 5 FF at Khem Karan, gives the credit to Lieutenant Khizar Ullah of 3 SP for taking Lt Col Anant Singh as a POW.

Read more: What happened on the Kasur front in the 1965 war?

According to Gen Tajindar Singh, Lt Col Anant Singh saw the shapes of tanks nearby and persumed they were part of a squadron of 9 Deccan Horse that were to marry up with his battalion. Singh walked to one of the tanks and seeing a young officer atop the engine deck asked him if this was the Deccan Horse.

The officer whom he asked was Lt Khizar Ullah, the former Raja of Relu in Kangra District whose family had migrated to Pakistan. The young officer whipped out his revolver and told Col Singh that this was 3 SP and that he was his prisoner.

The Colonel had no choice and handed over his belt and gun to Lieutenant Khizar Ullah.