Saleem Akhtar Malik |
In this sector, Pakistan’s 11 Division (21, 52, and 106 Brigade), with under command 15 Lancers and 32 TDU* were pitted against Indian 4 Mountain Division (7and 62 Mountain Brigade) with under command Deccan Horse. XI Corps reserve comprised 2 Independent Armoured Brigade (2x armour regiments).
TDU or Tank Delivery Unit was a euphemism for “armour regiment” to circumvent the ceiling on raising of new armour regiments through U.S funding. These were not tank- destroyer units, as erroneously reported by the Indian authors.
Though Pakistan Army suffered heavily In the Kasur Sector, in the final analysis, Indian attack to capture Kasur was not only repulsed, Pakistan Army took the war inside the Indian territory
Indians attacked all along the front on night 5th /6th September. Whereas Pakistan’s 52 Brigade and 106 Brigade were to defend the Kasur Sector along the BRB canal, 21 Brigade was located at Luliani (northwest of Kasur along Road Lahore-Kasur) and was 11 Division reserve for the counter-attack. At around 0500 hours, 11 Division units hurried up to occupy their defensive positions along the BRB canal just as the Indian offensive was unfurling itself.
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To the south of Ballanwala, Indian 62 Mountain Brigade (18 Rajputana Rifles, 9 J&K Rifles, and 13 Dogra) supported by squadron ex Deccan Horse captured Sehjra Salient and Rohi Nullah bund. To the north, 7 Mountain Brigade (4 Grenadiers, 7 Grenadiers, and 1/9 Gorkha Rifles), also supported by squadron ex Deccan Horse, failed to capture its assigned objectives – Ballanwala and the bridges to its north.
Fighting went on throughout the day. Counter-attacking all along the front, 11 Division regained balance, threw back the Indians and recovered the area on the far bank of BRB, including Sehjra Salient. During the battles on 6th September, Indian 7 Grenadiers (7 Mountain Brigade) and 13 Dogra (62 Mountain Brigade) suffered such heavy casualties that they ceased to exist as cohesive units. Meanwhile 4 Mountain Division managed to withdraw to general area Asal Uttar. According to Chakravorty (2014):
The combat power of Pakistani armour was further degraded by the channelized terrain where Indian armour had transitioned into a defensive posture
“The withdrawal took place on September 07, and our troops were able to dig defences and lay mines. The three field companies laid the mines and the areas to the south and west of the defences were flooded. Pakistan allowed the division to prepare its defences 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.
The Battles of Asal Uttar
Facing 1 Armoured Division (4 Cavalry, 5 Horse, 6 Lancers, 24 Cavalry, 19 Lancers, and 12 Cavalry) 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 defences over- run by tanks. If we assign an infantry division a value of 1, an armoured division a value of 3, and the independent armoured brigade a value of 2. 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 Kasur sector.
Utilizing standing crops, the attackers were engaged by Deccan Horse, artillery fire, and tank hunting teams. Suffering heavy losses, Pakistanis retreated
Pakistan launched the counter-stroke with its 1 Armoured Division in Khem Karan area. According to the 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 Jullunder, an advance of approximately 100 miles into India”. This aim was beyond the capability of 1 Armoured. The actual motivation for launching the armoured division was to threaten Indian XI Corps left flank with a view to relieving pressure on 10 Division.
Indian war historians prefer to portray Asal Uttar as a monolithic battle. In fact, a series of armour battles took place at and around Asal Uttar between 8th and 11th September. The bridgehead on Rohi Nullah was made during night 6th /7th September by 2FF, under command 52 Brigade. This was a holding brigade responsible for defending the area from inclusive road Kasur-Khem Karan to inclusive road Kasur-Ferozepur.
An armoured formation breaking out of the bridgehead is always followed in a zone by an infantry formation. At dusk the armour hands over the area up to the line of control (forward edge of the area cleared by the armour) to the follow in zone infantry formation which then establishes its defences along the line against enemy counter- attacks. Normally, the formation establishing the bridgehead also acts as follow in zone infantry after the armour has broken out. With the tasks given to 1 Armoured Division, there should have been an infantry division following in zone. We have seen that what to talk about.
The Pakistani armour broke up into smaller groups and tried to infiltrate the enemy defences by carrying out an outflanking move. The Indians employed their tanks like pillboxes
With the tasks given to 1 Armoured Division, there should have been an infantry division following in zone. We have seen that, what to talk about follow in zone infantry, in this sector, there was not even enough infantry to establish the bridgehead. Hence, between 8th and 11th September, 1 Armoured Division had been advancing into the enemy territory, attacking the enemy, and then withdrawing at night due to the absence of infantry to hold ground won by the armour during the day. Talking about mechanized infantry, which followed own armour, it was sufficient only to clear minor enemy opposition. It also reinforced the night leaguer by deploying at its outer perimeter or getting tucked into the gaps between the tank positions.
Between 8th and 11th September, the brigades of 1 Armoured Division launched a series of attacks against the enemy dug up around Asal Uttar. 5 Armoured Brigade again broke out from the bridgehead at 0700 hours on 8th September. Under cover of artillery fire, the advancing tanks moved within 900 meters of the enemy’s defended area. At this point, they were engaged by tanks of Deccan Horse. The Pakistani armour broke up into smaller groups and tried to infiltrate the enemy defences by carrying out an outflanking move. The Indians employed their tanks like pillboxes.
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. “Do not reinforce a failure” is a constant refrain during the exercises yet this dictum is quite often thrown overboard during an actual war.
TDU or Tank Delivery Unit was a euphemism for “armour regiment” to circumvent the ceiling on raising of new armour regiments through U.S funding
By 11th September, Pakistan Army had suffered heavy losses in armour. 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 6th and 10th September, which appears to be a more realistic estimate. Indian tank losses are recorded below:
|1.||6 Sep||0600 hrs||3||Hit while the Indian tanks started shooting 7 Punjab position at Nathuwala Siphon (52 Brigade area)|
|2.||7 Sep||1600 hrs||2||Shot up by 6 Lancers while attacking Khem Karan|
|3.||8 Sep||1030 hrs||5||Deccan Horse tanks shot up by 24 Cavalry|
|4.||9/10- Sep||Night||3||Destroyed at Asal Uttar|
|5.||10 Sep||9||Destroyed by 24 Cavalry at Chima|
|6.||10 Sep||1230 hrs||2||Destroyed by 4 Horse at Kalanjar Uttar|
Notwithstanding the alleged superiority of Pakistani armour, Patton tanks had the same fire power as Indian Shermans. But the Indian Centurians, with their 105 mm main gun, were superior to the Pakistani Pattons. Pakistani and Indian armour, as discussed earlier, possessed almost equal combat power in Kasur sector. The combat power of Pakistani armour was further degraded by the channelized terrain where Indian armour had transitioned into a defensive posture.
1 Armoured division was launched in an area unsuitable for armour. Though Pakistan Army suffered heavily In the Kasur Sector, in the final analysis, Indian attack to capture Kasur was not only repulsed, Pakistan Army took the war inside the Indian territory.
Saleem Akhtar Malik was a Lt Colonel in the Pakistan Army. He holds an honours 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.