1965 war
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Saleem Akhtar Malik l
The 1965 War

Kashmir is simmering with a brazen homegrown resistance movement against the Indian state. Since last year, Kashmir is back as the main issue which could potentially start a war between two nuclear-armed rivals in India and Pakistan.

The war in 1965 has been couched in historical aberrations where historians from both sides of the border take diametrically different positions.

War and Kashmir have been intrinsically intertwined in the history of Indo-Pak ties. Both have locked horns many times in the past seven decades. The skirmishes in 1947-48 were followed by a full war in 1965. The war in 1965 has been couched in historical aberrations where historians from both sides of the border take diametrically different positions.

This is the first article of the six-part series which attempts to understand the 1965 war from its planning to its conduct and termination.

Read more: Changing Kashmir’s demography: India’s tactics to win Kashmir

 PART-1

The first Kashmir war did not end in a decisive solution for either of the contestants. Pakistanis felt frustrated and bitter while their leadership tried to hide behind the United Nations resolutions and similar excuses.

On the other hand, Nehru, the man who had promoted himself as a person, symbolizing India, was generally content with what India had grabbed. For now, he appeared sated like a cat after it has polished off the mouse. For him, Pakistan-administered Kashmir could wait for another day. The Indian leadership, however, occasionally made noises about recovering the chunks of Kashmir India had lost to Pakistan.

According to the Indian version, Pakistan Army, having received military aid from the United States during the Cold War, and encouraged by India’s defeat in the 1962 Sino-India border war, was longing for a showdown with India.

Breaking the inertia was the main motive for Pakistan to move forward, hence the 65 War. There are many theories about the causes of this war. The explanation given by the Pakistani leadership is the refusal by India to grant the right to self-determination to the Kashmiris.

According to the proponents of this theory, the Valley was simmering with unrest due to the inept Kashmiri leadership, high- handedness of the occupation administration, and perhaps because Indian leadership was contemplating on withdrawing the special status accorded to the state under the Indian Constitution.

Presumably, Ayub based his calculations on two premises 1) a contrived insurgency will result in a major revolt against the Indian occupation. 2) The operations will remain localized to the disputed state. Bhutto’s opponents accuse him of misguiding Ayub regarding the second premise. This does not, however, exonerate Ayub from his responsibility.

According to the Indian version, Pakistan Army, having received military aid from the United States during the Cold War, and encouraged by India’s defeat in the 1962 Sino-India border war, was longing for a showdown with India.

Whatever the reason, Ayub Khan took steps to break the inertia. There should be nothing to apologize about this and start a blame game. However, Ayub started a war without proper planning and with faulty appreciation. Presumably, Ayub based his calculations on two premises 1) a contrived insurgency will result in a major revolt against the Indian occupation. 2) The operations will remain localized to the disputed state. Bhutto’s opponents accuse him of misguiding Ayub regarding the second premise. This does not, however, exonerate Ayub from his responsibility.

Read more: Pakistan finally learns what it must do to help Kashmiris

Escalation

Rann of Kutch, comprising an area of 30,000 square kilometers, is a seasonal salt marshland located between the Indian state of Gujarat and the southern tip of Pakistan’s Sindh province. Due to its marshy nature, the area was not regularly patrolled on the Pakistani side. In January 1965 the Indians reinforced the area with approximately two BSF battalions, and their patrols started probing forward towards the Rangers posts located along the Customs Track – the de-facto border.

Pakistan Army, while denying the Indian Army the possession of Rahimki Bazaar Post, captured Biar Bed, a strip of marshland to the south- west of the de facto international border.

There were accusations and counter accusations by both the sides about border violations. These were followed by attacks on each other’s posts. Pakistanis blamed Indians of establishing new posts on their side of the border, particularly the Sardar Post which was established in March 1965 on a high ground located to the south- west of Rahimki Bazaar.

The ensuing skirmishes remained localized and, harking back to the era of the limited wars, the two air chiefs agreed on keeping their respective air forces out of the conflict. Pakistan Army, while denying the Indian Army the possession of Rahimki Bazaar Post, captured Biar Bed, a strip of marshland to the south- west of the de facto international border. This was hailed as a great victory for Pakistan. Emboldened by the setback to the Indians, Major General Tikka Khan, GOC 8 Division, outlined a tactical plan called Plan Alpha to capture the northern half of the Rann. However, Ayub Khan did not allow such an offensive. Ayub Khan’s critics think he had missed an opportunity to push India further to the south (Ali, 2009; Gauhar, 1993).

Read more: Indian army officer who used Kashmiri youth as human shield praised…

 Prerequisites to a Military Option

How serious was Ayub Khan in opting for a military solution to break the inertia? Such an option implied meeting the following pre-requisites:-

  1. Formulating a national policy by identifying and merging the political and military objectives.
  2. Neutralizing the pro-India J&K National Conference in IHK and cultivating a parallel pro-plebiscite leadership.
  3. Nurturing political awareness in IHK conducive for an uprising in the state.
  4. Exploiting the UN resolutions and international opinion to the hilt, wherever they suited Pakistan, without making them the sole instrument of conflict resolution.
  5. Identifying the type of war required to achieve the military objectives and training for it.
  6. Crafting a comprehensive plan aimed at achieving the military objectives across the Cease-fire Line while holding the enemy along the international border. This required abandoning the limited war mindset.

Let us see to what extent the decision makers addressed the prerequisites to a military option to unfreeze the Kashmir dispute.

Read more: Kashmir on fire: Has Pakistan really helped the cause?

 Pakistan’s National Policy on Jammu and Kashmir?

Pakistan’s national policy regarding Jammu & Kashmir is based on two broad precepts: 1) Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein. 2) The future of Jammu & Kashmir should be decided through a UN- sponsored plebiscite. Over the period of time, these precepts have been reduced to clichés.

True, the Military Operations Directorate at the General Headquarters had ponderously made and kept updated contingency plans to recover the IHK, these plans were ( and are even today) broad guidelines. No effort had been made to mesh these plans with the political strategy

Whereas Pakistani leadership hoped against hope that someday, somehow the Kashmiris will be allowed by India to exercise their right to self-determination as a result of which IHK will become part of Pakistan, short of half-hearted attempts like the one sponsored in 1947 through the tribal invasion, they had never seriously thought of a military solution. True, the Military Operations Directorate at the General Headquarters had ponderously made and kept updated contingency plans to recover the IHK, these plans were ( and are even today) broad guidelines. No effort had been made to mesh these plans with the political strategy (How to transform the general resentment among Kashmiris into a meaningful insurgency? How to exploit the world opinion in favor of a projected Kashmiri uprising? How to deliver, in concert with a fomented Kashmiri revolt, the coup de grace on India? Etc.).

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.

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.

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