Saleem Akhtar Malik l
General Chuadhari’s dream of having a toast at Gymkhana remained unfulfilled. At the Lahore front Indian XI Corps began its operations by advancing on three axes –15 Division (three infantry brigades and an armour regiment) was to attack Lahore along Amritsar –Lahore axis (Wagah road), 7 Division (three infantry brigades and an armour regiment) to attack Burki along Khalra –Burki axis, and 4 Mountain Division ( two mountain brigades and an armour regiment) advancing along Khem Karan- Kasur axis was to capture Kasur.
Facing the Indians along Amritsar-Lahore and Khalra- Burki axes was 10 Division (seven infantry battalions within three infantry brigades, and an armour regiment). Rann of Kutch clash had resulted in the forward deployment of troops along the international border. The official history tells us about troop deployment in early July. The defensive positions were strengthened with barbed wire and mines. In the last week of July, the troops were ordered to completely dismantle the defences and return to barracks. When the Indians attacked, there were no mines or barbed wire.
These were haphazardly blown up belatedly in the face of the stiff enemy pressure. While the advance positions were overrun by the enemy, some elements ex 10 Division continued operating on the east bank of BRB till the cease-fire. All the enemy attacks on forward defended localities were beaten back, mainly by own artillery.
On persistence from his brigade commanders, GOC 10 Division permitted them to take up defensive positions during night 5th / 6th September, start time midnight. This implied that the troops would not be in position before 0400 hours and defensive positions could not be occupied before 0700 hours, 6th September. As a result, infantry battalions, under command armour elements, and line parties of artillery observers bumped into the attackers while occupying the assigned forward defended localities/ artillery observation posts. None of the twenty odd bridges was prepared for demolition. These were haphazardly blown up belatedly in the face of the stiff enemy pressure. While the advance positions were overrun by the enemy, some elements ex 10 Division continued operating on the east bank of BRB till the cease-fire. All the enemy attacks on forward defended localities were beaten back, mainly by own artillery. By 22nd September, Indians, while leaning on the water obstacle, had captured two major villages, Burki and Dograi, to the east of BRB.
The Indian claim that the invading divisions did not attempt to establish a bridgehead anywhere across the BRB Canal has been rejected by Singh and Rikhye (1991). Pakistan prevented the Indian Army from crossing the last defence before Lahore, the BRB Canal just in time, and saved itself a very major defeat in the process. Much of the credit has deservedly gone to a single company of the 3 Baluch Regiment, which held up the Indians for several hours. Only this battalion was in position because the rest of Pakistan 10 Infantry Division had not been alerted as Pakistan did not expect India to cross the international frontier. But what few know is that the PAF also had a major role in stalling the Indians. But for the PAF, the weak Pakistani defence would have been overwhelmed and the Indian Army would have poured across the BRB Canal and into Lahore.
The Indians claim that during the 1965 War they stopped short of Lahore because, by their own admission, they did not want to get embroiled with Pakistan Army and para-military forces in the city and its environs.
The lead brigade of Indian 15 Infantry Division was about to throw a bridgehead across the BRB Canal when it was attacked by the F-86s ( of No 19 Squadron, sic) that strafed it and other elements of the Division up and down the Grand Trunk Road, throwing the Indians into confusion, delaying the advance, and thus allowing Pakistan’s 10 Division to assume its forward positions, which ended the hope of a quick victory.
Read more:What led to 1965 war? – Part 1
The Indians claim that during the 1965 War they stopped short of Lahore because, by their own admission, they did not want to get embroiled with Pakistan Army and para-military forces in the city and its environs. But then you do not attack with a superior force, yet avoid suffering casualties. General Chaudhuri claimed that during the war Indian Army’s aim was to destroy Pakistan’s war machine instead of capturing territory. We know that Chaudhuri was giving a lame excuse because the destruction of enemy forces and equipment requires superiority in the air, armour, and artillery. IAF possessed more aircraft than PAF but failed to translate this superiority in the air. It was because, according to Shukla (2014), PAF’s qualitative edge and superior training evenly matched IAF’s numerical superiority. Indian armour was, in quantity and, to some extent, qualitatively inferior to Pakistani armour, and during the war, only Pakistan had 155 mm heavy artillery. Yes, India had more infantry formations and we know that infantry is essentially employed not to destroy the enemy but to capture and hold ground.
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honors degree in War Studies, an MBA and an M.Phil in Management Sciences. He is the author of the book Borrowed Power. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.