BLOODY SEPTEMBER – THE STORY OF THE 1965 INDO-PAK WAR
It was the year 1965. The Indian Army was recouping after a brutal defeat in the 1962 Indo-China War and was in the process of re-organization. Nehru had died in 1964 and the nation was in political turbulence. On the other hand, Pakistan was on an upswing. The army under General Ayub Khan had taken over in a military coup and was in full control of the nation. It had received brand new Patton tanks, artillery guns and Sabre jets from America and was assured of Chinese support. The time seemed right for it to take on a weakened India and seize Kashmir – which it had claimed since Partition - by force.
The 1965 Indo-Pak War is officially said to have lasted for 21 days – from 01 Sep to 22 Sep 1965. In actuality, it began in April 65 when the Pakistani army began a series of raids in the arid Rann of Kutch claiming the border areas. In a series of bitter skirmishes they got the better of their Indian counterparts and seized many border posts, including the fort of Kunjarkot. These skirmishes ended only in end July when the United Nations brokered a cease fire and called for the two sides to return to their original positions.
Emboldened by what they perceived as a victory, Pakistan now launched the second phase of their plan – called OP GIBRALTER - . From July - August they sent over 20,000 tribals and soldiers in civilian clothing into Kashmir hoping to incite the population to revolt. The infiltrators caused considerable damage, ambushing convoys, blowing up bridges and installations, but they Kashmiri population did not support them and most of the infiltrators were captured or killed. Then, in a unexpected move, the Indian army attacked across the Line of Control to capture the areas through which the infiltrators were pushed in – which included the vital passes of Haji Pir and Kishenganga. The capture of Haji Pir was a feat of great courage and endurance and was a severe blow to the Pakistanis. To read the detailed story of the capture of Haji Pir see http://olivechats.com/t/hajipir-captured-on-ground-lost-on-the-table/772
Seeing their plans go awry, the Pakistanis now embarked on a full-fledged military offensive directed towards Akhnur in the Jammu Sector. This offensive would cut off Kashmir from the rest of the nation and enable Pakistan to take it by military force. Launched on 01 Sep 65, the offensive made major inroads and was within an ace of victory when India launched its own offensive in Punjab forcing the Pakistanis to recoil to meet this new, unexpected threat.
Pakistani Commanders during the Offensive. Third from left is Major Parvez Musharaff
On 06 September, India launched two major offensive in Punjab – with 11 Corps in the South towards Lahore and with the newly raised 1 Corps in the direction of Sialkot further North. This unexpected offensive took the Pakistanis by surprise, more so since they did not expect the Indian ‘banias’ to act so boldly and violently. Both offensives made good progress initially. The Indian thrust towards Lahore moved in three prongs and succeeded in crossing the Icchogil Canal, the British era canal which was the last obstacle on the way to Lahore. Indian troops even reached as far as Bata Nagar, a suburb of Lahore and the US consulate ordered its staff to evacuate from the city. Yet what could have been a major success was not exploited as the Indians troops did not follow up, and rather pulled back across the canal. Then the Pakistanis launched their own offensive.
Indian Flag across the Icchogil Canal
Pakistan’s 1 Armoured Division, with their brand new Patton and Chaffee tanks had been in the area of Lahore when the Indian attack came and now launched their own offensive towards Indian Punjab. They brushed aside the Indian defenses, captured the township of Khem Karan and began moving inwards hoping to reach the line of the Beas River. A resolute Indian defence delayed them and they were halted in area appropriately named as Asal Uttar or right response. Here the Indians had breached the canals and distributaries. The waters seeping out turned the area in to a boggy marsh and its tanks were bogged down in the flooded fields. Indian tanks and anti-tank jeeps took a huge toll on the enemy and 97 tanks – most of them in mint condition- were captured or destroyed. Many of them adorn war memorials even today. The Pakistani offensive came to a halt and even the GOC of the division was killed along with most of his staff.
Pak tank burning on the road to Amritsar
The Indian offensive towards Sialkot saw the greatest tank battle in the sub-continent with 100 Indian and 120 Pakistani tanks clashing in the battles of Phillaura and Chawinda. In spite of this titanic clash of arms, neither side could attain their aims and it was at best a stalemate. Finally on 22 September 1965, after 21 days of intense fighting, a United Nations sponsored ceasefire came into being and the guns fell silent, though the sporadic sounds of fire continued for weeks after the ceasefire. To read a detailed account of the Indian Counter offensive see http://olivechats.com/t/the-indian-counter-offensive-punjab-september-1965/773
Both India and Pakistan claim victory in the war. Pakistan celebrates 01 September as ‘Defence of Pakistan’ day and India commemorates its victory in the war. Yet, neither side really attained their military objectives. India lost 2902 soldiers in the war – the Pakistanis 3800. Over 150 Indian tanks were damaged or destroyed with 220 Pakistani ones. In the air war, the Pakistanis did hold an edge especially in the early days of the war. Yet at the end India held on to 1528 square kilometers of Prime territory, while Pakistan claimed 544 kilometers, the notable successes being Haji Pir pass by India and Khem Karen by Pakistan. Both would be returned after the Tashkent Agreement and the two sides would go back to the original positions. To read about the Air War of 1965 also see http://olivechats.com/t/air-campaign-1965-fought-on-ground-and-air/774
So who really won? I would say, the only true victor was the Indian soldier.
See a video on the war at