Saturday, August 22, 2015

Detailed Account of Fear and Panic Gripping Indian Army in 1965 War

A full-page Indian Army advertisement published in major Hindi national dailies recently says that the Indian forces responded to the Pakistan attack with fear (darkar muqabala kiya). It was later clarified as a typographical error which changed "datkar muqabla kiya" to "darkar muqabla kiya".

An ad in a national Hindi daily saying India ‘countered the Pakistan attack with fear (darkar muqabala kiya)’
Freudian Slip?

Let's examine whether the typo was in fact a Freudian slip: An unintentional error that revealed the real truth.  The best source to examine it is "1965 War: The Inside Story", an authoritative book on 1965 war written by RD Pradhan who was personal assistant to Indian Defense Minister Y.B. Chavan in 1965. Mr. Pradhan has based his book on Mr. Chavan's diaries kept during the war.

Indian Cowardice and Panic:

Mr. Pradhan has devoted an entire chapter of his book to how General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri, the Indian Army Chief, badly panicked when Pakistani forces mounted a fierce counter-attack during 1965 war. At one point, Gen Chaudhuri ordered Gen Harbakhash Singh to pull back behind the Beas, essentially leaving much of Indian Punjab to Pakistan.

In Chapter 8 titled "Of Cowardice and Panic" of his book "1965 War-The Inside Story", R.D. Pradhan describes the cowardice of Maj. Gen. Niranjan Prasad, the Indian general commanding officer in Kasur sector.  When Pakistan Defense Forces counter-attacked the intruding Indian military and the general was fired upon on Sept 6, 1965, he "ran away".  Here's an excerpt:

"On learning that, Lt. Gen. Harbakash Singh and the corps commander drove in a Jonga (Nissan P60 Jeep) to the battlefront. Army commander found that the enemy (PAF) air attack had created a havoc on G.T. Road. (Indian) Vehicles were burning and several vehicles of 15 Division abandoned on the road, the drivers having run away, leaving some of the engines still running. Maj. Gen. Niranjan Prasad was hiding in a recently irrigated sugar cane field. As described by Harabakash Singh: "He (Prasad) came out to receive us, with his boots covered with wet mud. He had no head cover, nor was he wearing any badges of his rank. He had stubble on his face, not having shaved." Seeing him in such a stage, Harbakhash Singh asked him: "Whether he was the General Officer commanding a division or a coolie? Why had he removed badges of rank and not shaved? Niranjan Prasad had no answer." 

Retreat to Beas: 

Chapter 12 of Pradhan's book is titled "Retreat to Beas" in which there is detailed discussion of Indian COAS's proposal for the Indian Army to retreat behind Beas in the face of Pakistan's fierce counter-attacks after India's attempted incursion in Lahore. Pradhan argues in this chapter that during the 1965 war with Pakistan, Indian COAS General Chaudhuri feared that "a major battle the west of the Beas would end in the destruction of the Indian Army and thereafter allow the enemy (Pakistani) forces to push to the gates of Delhi without much resistance".

Pradhan's book contains many different entries by Indian Defense Minister Y.B. Chavan. A Sept 9, 1965 entry reads:  

Had a very hard day on all fronts. Very fierce counter-attacks mounted and we are required to withdraw in Kasur area. COAS was somewhat uncertain of himself. I suggested to him that he should go in forward areas so that he will be in touch of realities. He said he would go next day.

Harbakhash Singh Memoirs:

In Line of Duty: A Soldier Remembers, according to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of Indian Express, Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh reveals that not only "did Gen Chowdhury play a very small role in the entire campaign, he was so nervous as to be on the verge of losing half of Punjab to Pakistan, including the city of Amritsar. Harbakhsh describes, in clinical detail, how our own offensive in the Lahore sector had come unhinged. The general commanding the division on Ichchogil canal fled in panic, leaving his jeep, its wireless running and the briefcase containing sensitive documents that were then routinely read on Radio Pakistan during the war. Singh wanted to court martial him, Chowdhury let him get away with resignation".

According to Shekhar Gupta, Harbkhash Singh recounts that a bigger disaster struck a bit to the south where the other division cracked up in assault, just as it encountered a bit of resistance. Several infantry battalions, short on battle inoculation, deserted and Singh gives a hair-raising account – and confirmation of a long-debated rumor – that Chowdhury panicked so badly he ordered him to withdraw to a new defensive line behind the Beas, thereby conceding half of Punjab to Pakistan. Singh describes the conversation with Chowdhury at Ambala where he refused to carry out the order, asking his chief to either put it down in writing or visit the front and take charge of the battle.

India was the first to accept UN sponsored ceasefire (page 100 of RD Pradhan's book)  on Sept 21 followed by Pakistan on Sept 22, bringing the 1965 war to an end on Sept 22, 1965. As the ceasefire took effect, Indian Defense Y.B. Chavan wrote in his diary as follows:

"The ball is now in the political court again--where it should be--and not in the military one. I hope we have the vision and courage to (our) political leadership."


Alas, the core issue of Kashmir still remains unresolved 48 years since Mr. Chavan wrote his words of wisdom. And, unfortunately, India's Hindu Nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi refuses to even talk about the Kashmir issue, much less resolve it.

Haq's Musings

What If Modi Attacks Pakistan?

India Teaching Young Students Akhand Bharat 

Pakistan Army at the Gates of Delhi

India's War Myths

India-Pakistan Military Balance

Pakistan Army Capabilities

Modi's Pakistan Policy

India's Israel Envy

Can India Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?


Ravi Krishna said...

Riaz Bhai: The purpose of any war is to obtain political or strategic objective. Pls elaborate in which war Pak achieved anything. Christine Fair mentions in her book "Pak army has never won any war". We all know what happened in 1971 and 1999 Kargil war.
In the former you lost half of the nation in 16 days and in the latter you lost all the peaks you captured during the winter of 1998-99 (by fraudulent means when both armies vacate LOC in winter).

And it is so disappointing that while living in the US you talk about war and destruction. You are bordering on being flippant because you want both countries to be destroyed (as long as India is destroyed too). Could it be that Pakistanis know they can't ever compete with India on economy, so destruction is the only topic worth talking about.

Riaz Haq said...

RK: "Pak army has never won any war".

So where did "PoK" come from? All of 711 glaciers of the Karakoram and border with China that is making CPEC possible? And Muzaffarabad and Giligit-Baltistan? All these just fell in Pakistan's lap from the sky?

And how has Pakistan been able to keep "PoK", a territory claimed by India?

And how has Pakistan, a country described by Mountabatten and Nehru as a temporary tent back in 1947, been able to defy a 7X larger hostile neighbor?

And why is India unable to act on its "Israel envy", a term coined by India's own Sashi Tharoor?

RK: "And it is so disappointing that while living in the US you talk about war and destruction. "

No one talks more of war more than India's Hindu Nationalists and other Indians who have never reconciled with the idea of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Congress Leader Capt Amarinder Singh: "#India almost lost #Amritsar in 1965 war" via @sharethis

Fifty years after the 1965 Indo-Pak war, deputy leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh, has shed new light on an order allegedly given by the then Army Chief to withdraw Indian Army troops in Punjab, which could have led to the surrender of Amritsar.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Amarinder revealed he is writing a book on the 1965 war to mark its 50th anniversary. The book will trace battles fought in various theatres during the war, and give detailed information about several contentious issues.
One of these is an order allegedly given by then Chief of Army Staff Gen J N Chaudhari to the then General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Command, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, to withdraw Indian troops in Punjab. The order, had it been carried out, would have meant the surrender of Amritsar to the Pakistan Army, besides causing panic among Indian troops.
In September 1965, the Pakistan Army surprised Indian defenders in the Khemkaran Sector in Punjab when their armoured division made a dash towards the town of Khemkaran and captured it. The Indian Army had to pull back towards the village of Asal Uttar to consolidate their defence. The Pakistani division was believed to be in a three-pronged attack in which one column was heading towards south of Amritsar, one towards the town of Jandiala and another towards Beas. After the initial surprise, the Indian Army reinforced its presence in the area and the Pakistani advance was defeated in the Battle of Asal Uttar. The village is now known as the graveyard of Patton tanks.
Amarinder, who was the aide-de-camp of the GOC-in-C during the war, said he was a witness to the fact that Lt Gen Harbaksh received a call from Gen Chaudhuri late at night while the Pakistani armoured offensive in Khemkaran was under way. Gen Chaudhuri wanted the Indian troops to withdraw to river Beas, which would serve as a natural barrier to stop the advance of Pakistan’s armoured division.
“We had returned from Khemkaran very late and the general had gone to sleep when I received the call from the chief and put it through to the army commander. The general was heard telling the chief that he would not carry out those orders, and if he wanted this to be done, he should put it down in writing,” said Amarinder.
According to the former Punjab CM, the army chief went to Ambala the next day and met the GOC-in-C but did not mention his order of the previous night, because by then the battle in Asal Uttar had stabilised and the situation was under control.
“Had it been anyone other than Lt Gen Harbaksh, he would not have been able to resist the orders of the army chief. And had those orders been carried out, we would have had to surrender Amritsar, and the road from Beas onwards to Delhi would have been open because there would have been general panic. It would have been a repeat of 1962,” said Amarinder.
The book, expected to be out later this year, and will also include details about why several brigade and battalion commanders were removed from command during the war. Having witnessed the war from the vantage point of an army commander’s staff, Amarinder will be using the information to give a clearer version of what happened in those fateful days of September 1965

Riaz Haq said...

Indian journalist Shivam Vij on 1965 War: "India's own official history of the war, published only two years ago, is scathing in its review of how poorly the Indian army and air force performed. The Indian armed forces are now rewriting the history to show that it was a clear victory....On the outskirts of Srinagar, to make sure that no Pakistani fighters were hiding in an area, an entire colony was set on fire by Indian forces. I have been to that place, and people remember that even today, blaming India for being insensitive. The war showed it was not going to be easy for Pakistan to liberate Kashmir militarily, and though the Kashmiris didn't rise up with the Pakistani fighters, it exacerbated a conflict between India's security forces and the locals in Kashmir."

Riaz Haq said...

Manoj Joshi Op Ed published in India on 1965 war.

This is what the commander of the main effort, Lt Gen Harbakhsh had to say about the main thrust to Lahore that faltered on day one itself, largely due to incompetent leadership of the division and its brigades.

Also read: Why Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh's book on 1965 war is important to read today

Surprise attack

On September 6, XI Corps launched a surprise attack at 4am, led to the crossing of the Ichhogil canal and the capture of the Bata shoe factory on the outskirts of Lahore by 11am. But the senior commanders could not cope with the situation and ordered a withdrawal to the east bank of the canal by that evening.

Despite capturing some 140sq mi of land, and crippling Pakistan's 1st armoured division at Khem Karan, XI Corps performance, Singh says it was "a sickening repetition of command failures leading the sacrifice of a series of cheap victories."

The performance of India's premier I Corps, built around the 1st armoured division, was no less disappointing. I Corps captured 200sq mi of territory and destroyed a great deal of Pakistani armour. But it did not deliver what it was meant to - a decisive battlefield victory.

"With the exception of a few minor successes… The operational performance was virtually a catalogue of lost victories." Singh praised the performance of units like the Poona Horse, but was harsh in his judgement of the higher commanders.

Harbakhsh's third corps - the XV Corps, which then, as now, looks after Kashmir, fared better. It gained an unambiguous victory in capturing the Haji Pir Pass and in defeating Operation Gibraltar.

However, it was battered by the surprise attack launched by Pakistan in the Chamb sector on September 1. India also launched an offensive in the Rajasthan sector with a view of tying down Pakistani forces in Sind. But the plan was poorly conceived and executed. There was no joint planning, leave alone coordination, between the Air Force and the Army. This led to the Lahore fiasco when Pakistani air strikes disrupted the Indian offensive on September 6.

Despite seeing action on September 1 in Chamb, the IAF was unprepared for the strike on September 6 when the Pakistan air force (PAF) destroyed 13 aircrafts in a raid on Pathankot, including two new MiG-21s. Similar raids found the IAF station Kalaikunda in the east unawares leading to the destruction of eight aircraft on the ground.

Shoddy intelligence

Intelligence was equally shoddy. India failed to pick up the fact that the Pakistanis had surreptitiously raised an additional armoured division and the IAF could not locate the PAF aircraft in East Pakistan.

There are of course, bigger questions. Indian accounts claim that there was no plan to capture Lahore. If not, then why were three divisions thrown at it? And if the plan was to just carry out shallow attrition attacks, it nearly came a cropper in Khem Karan when Pakistan launched its 1st armoured division in a bid to reach the Beas bridge that would have cut off Amritsar. Fortunately, they were trapped at Asal Uttar and defeated.

AM - India said...

@Riaz Haq

1n 1965,

1. Pakistan had Aircraft/air defence superiority (courtesy the Americans)
2. Pakistan had armoured division superiority courtesy Patton tanks
3. Indians were just coming off a thrashing in 1962
4. India had to worry about a potential 2nd front from your deeper than seas friend
5. India had to worry about your army's all weather employer interfering

PAF was a superior force (technology, ASM, Air Defense) but was initially kept out of the war by your PA to ensure all credit remained with them. Idiots - if they had done a joint co-ordinated action, India would have suffered tremendous losses and perhaps Pakistan could have achieved some of its strategic objective.

Instead, despite so many advantages, the PA failed to finish what they started and were in fact looking for a way out by mid-end September, cause any longer and the sheer weight of Indian numbers would start telling on the war outcome. (Read State Department historical cables to confirm)

There are plenty of stories on PA blunders (including pausing the Akhnoor charge to change the commander) but listing blunders or cowardice in War is just downright petty and crass. Atleast those men (on both sides) had the courage to be on the front, unlike you and I.

Riaz Haq said...

Retired General Hoon of #India reveals Brasstacks was prep for invasion of #Pakistan by #Indian Army Chief in 1987 …

Operation Brasstacks was the army’s preparations for a war against Pakistan and not a military exercise, says Lieutenant General PN Hoon (retired), who was the then commander-in-chief of the Western Command. The revelation was made by the veteran during the launch of his book, “The Untold Truth”, on Saturday evening.
In the book, Lt Gen Hoon has revealed behind-the-scene politics of major operations and events that took place during his 40-year service in the army. While in one chapter, the author has called the Operation Blue Star a “botched-up operation”, in another chapter he has revealed that Operation Brasstacks was a “war against Pakistan”.
“I have written about operations I have been part of and no one else knows about till today,” said the author.
The chapter 9 of the book reveals the inside story of Operation Brasstacks. It was in peacetime in January 1987 that the Indian Army began moving to the western border carrying live ammunition. The citizens were told that it was an exercise. The book suggests that “it could only be a preparation for a war”
Talking about the operation, Lt Gen PN Hoon said, “Brasstacks was no military exercise, it was a plan to build up a situation for a fourth war with Pakistan. And what is even more shocking is that the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, was not aware of these plans of a war.”
The author said that it was General Sundarji’s (the then chief of army staff) and minister of state for defence Arun Singh’s plan to provoke Pakistan “into launching an offensive in Kashmir”.
“... an attack on Kashmir would be an attack on India and in the garb of the exercise that India was already conducting, India would go into a full-fledged war with Pakistan,” reads the chapter.
Lt Gen Hoon said that it was during a dinner party on January 15, 1987, (Army Day) that the PM came to know about the exercise.
“Rajiv Gandhi asked me, ‘How is the western front?’ To this I replied, “Mr Prime Minister, sir. The western army is in fine fettle and very soon I shall be past our battle stations and will give you Sind on one side and Lahore (Pakistan) on the other,”said the author.
“Rajiv was totally aghast and visibly angered. He left the party immediately. The PM did not want to go into a war. Hence, on January 20, Sundarji, pleaded me to stop moving forward,”he added.
When asked as to why Arun Singh and Sundarji would want a war while keeping the PM in the dark, Lt Gen Hoon said: “It was a power game. Sundarji wanted to become a Field Marshal and Arun Singh wanted to become the Prime Minister.”
Apart from these issues, the book reveals behind-the-scene politics when India was forced to take over Sikkim. The author has tried to expose the true nature of political mindset, which should have been protecting the economic, political and strategic interests of the country.
The author also reveals that how President Giani Zail Singh was planning to take the help of the army in dismissing Rajiv Gandhi. “The army had a role to play in the plans to dismiss Rajiv Gandhi. The conflict between the former President Giani Zail Singh and then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was well known by all. But what is still not known is the real politics that continued during the period and how army was involved in all this,” mentions the book.

Riaz Haq said...

US President JFK stopped #Pakistan from attacking ‘vulnerable’ #India in 1962 #China war: Ex-#CIA official …

Former US President John F Kennedy had played a “decisive role” in “forestalling a Pakistani attack” on India during the 1962 Sino-India war, even as Pakistan was capable of taking advantage of the situation to take control of Indian-occupied Kashmir, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official, has revealed in his book.

“Pakistan was clearly capable of initiating war with India, but decided in 1962 not to take advantage of India’s vulnerability,” Riedel wrote in his book titled JFK’s Forgotten Crisis: Tibet, the CIA and the Sino-Indian War.

The book also revealed that on October 28, 1962, the day before former Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru asked for American military help, then US ambassador to Pakistan Walter McConaughy met with the then Pakistani ruler Ayub Khan.

“The Ambassador urged him to send assurances to Nehru that Pakistan would not take advantage of India’s war with China,” Riedel wrote.

In response to that, Khan suggested that “the Americans and Pakistanis work together to seek the surrender of Indian territory just as the Chinese were grabbing land”. However, the US considered this as ‘blackmail’.

Riedel also wrote that the then US ambassador to India J K Galbraith sent an ‘alarming telegram’ to Washington and Karachi, asking, “for God’s sake that they keep Kashmir out” of any American message to Pakistan. US immediately sided with Galbraith on Kashmir and advised Nehru to write a letter to Ayub Khan.

“Kennedy’s message to Ayub Khan, reinforced by a similar message from [then British] prime minister [Harold] Macmillan, left little in doubt that the US and the UK would view a Pakistani move against India as a hostile and aggressive action inconsistent with the SEATO and CENTO Treaties,” he wrote.

“The Americans told Pakistan that the Chinese attack was the most dangerous move made by Mao since 1950 and that they intended to respond decisively,” he added.

The book also disclosed that as India began to lose territory to China, Nehru asked for US help in the war and wrote to Kennedy asking him to provide jet fighters to defeat the Chinese. “A lot more effort, both from us and from our friends will be required,” Nehru wrote in his letter.

In a state of panic, Nehru wrote another letter to Kennedy which was hand-delivered by the then Indian ambassador to the US on November 19.

“Nehru was thus asking Kennedy to join the war against China by partnering in an air war to defeat the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army of China). It was a momentous request that the Indian Prime Minister was making. Just a decade after American forces had reached a ceasefire with the Chinese Community Forces in Korea, India was asking JFK to join a new war against Community China,” Riedel wrote.

According to Riedel, Nehru asked for 12 squadrons of US air forces, as well as, “two squadrons of B-47 Bombers” to strike in Tibet. “A minimum of 12 squadrons of supersonic all-weather fighters are essential. We have no modern radar cover in the country. The United States Air Force personnel will have to man these fighters and radar installations while our personnel are being trained,” Nehru wrote in the letter.

Further, in the letter, Nehru assured Kennedy that these bombers would not be used against Pakistan, but only for “resistance against the Chinese.”

Nehru had also written to Britain for help. However, China soon announced unilateral ceasefire, fearing that both Britain and the United States were preparing to help India win the war.

Riedel admits that although we will never know what the specifics of American assistance to India would have been if the war had continued, “We can be reasonably certain that America, India and probably Great Britain would have been at war together with China”.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Air Force pilot M.M. Alam among 7 of the Greatest Flying Aces in World Aviation History - … via @PopMech

A dogfight between two aircraft is perhaps the most fascinating type of combat. The technical knowledge and precision required to operate a fighter aircraft combined with the physical and mental strain of a dogfight make the fighter pilots who excel at them truly exceptional.

Unofficially, a flying ace is a fighter pilot who shoots down at least five enemy aircraft, though the number a single pilot can achieve has steadily decreased because anti-aircraft and tracking technology has made dogfights rare in modern warfare. From Erich Hartmann, the Nazi fighter pilot credited with the most aerial victories of all time, to Giora Epstein, the ace of aces of supersonic jet pilots, these men are among the most skilled fighter pilots to ever enter a cockpit.

Muhammad Mahmood Alam was a Pakistani Air Force jet fighter pilot in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He was the last fighter pilot to become an ace in a day, shooting down five Indian Hawker Hunter fighter jets in less than a minute on September 7 1965, the last four of which he downed within 30 seconds. A national hero in Pakistan, Alam holds the world record for becoming an ace in the shortest amount of time. This bold feat also makes him the only jet pilot to become an ace in one day. Alam was already a respected leader and proficient pilot and gunner when the war started in April 1965. He piloted an F-86 Sabre and downed a total of nine Indian Hawker Hunters in the 1965 war, as well as damaging two others.

Top 7:

Manfred von Richthofen - World War I

Erich Hartmann - World War II

James Jabara - Korean War

Muhammad Mahmood Alam - Indo-Pakistani War

Charles B. DeBellevue - Vietnam War

Giora Epstein - Arab–Israeli Wars

Cesar Rodriguez - Gulf War

Shuvodeep said...

What was the point of attacking an inferior country like India in the first place? India took kashmir via legal channel and the political leader of Kashmir Seikh Abdullah was ok with it. but after 18 years of independence attacking a peace loving democratic country like India under the whim of a military dictator Ayub Khan was brutal enough in the first place. In such a position India defended itself from further aggression which is more than okay.

Riaz Haq said...

Shuvodeep: "India took kashmir via legal channel and the political leader of Kashmir Seikh Abdullah was ok with it."

So why did India go back on its commitments of plebiscite to the Kashmiris and the international community?