Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Pakistan war of 65:.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Map showing Indian administered Kashmir in shades of orange and Pakistan held kashmir in green hues.
Date: August 15 – September 21, 1965
Location: Indian subcontinent
Result: Stalemate, UN mandated ceasefire.
Casus belli: Pakistan backed guerillas’ infiltration into Jammu & Kashmir, India
India Pakistan
Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh Field Marshal Ayub Khan
3,000 killed 3,800 killed

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, also known as the Second Kashmir War, was the culmination of a series of skirmishes that occurred between April 1965 and September 1965 between India and Pakistan. The war was the second fought between India and Pakistan over the region of Kashmir, the first having been fought in 1947. The war lasted five weeks, resulted in thousands of casualties on both sides and ended in a United Nations (UN) mandated ceasefire. It is generally accepted that the war began following the failure of Pakistan’s “Operation Gibraltar” which was designed to infiltrate and invade Jammu and Kashmir.

Much of the war was fought by the countries’ land forces in the region of Kashmir and along the International Border (IB) between India and Pakistan. The war also involved a limited participation from the countries’ respective air forces. This war saw the largest amassing of troops in Kashmir, a number that was overshadowed only during the 2001-2002 military standoff between India and Pakistan during which over a million troops were placed in combat positions in the region. Many details of this war, like those of most Indo-Pakistani Wars, remain unclear and riddled with media biases.

1. Pre War Escalation

A declassified US State Department telegram that confirms the existence of hundreds of "infiltrators" in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Dated during the events running up to the 1965 war.
A declassified US State Department telegram that confirms the existence of hundreds of “infiltrators” in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Dated during the events running up to the 1965 war.

Fighting broke out between India and Pakistan in an area known as the Rann of Kutch, a barren region in the Indian state of Gujarat. Initially involving the border police from both nations, the disputed area soon witnessed intermittent skirmishes between the countries’ armed forces firstly on March 20 and again in April 1965. In June the same year, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson successfully persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. The verdict which came later in 1968, saw Pakistan gaining only 350 square miles (900 km²) of the Rann of Kutch of its original claim of 3500 sq miles.

After its successes in the Rann of Kutch, Pakistan, under the leadership of General Ayub Khan is said to have believed that the Indian Army was unable to defend itself against a quick military campaign in the disputed territory of Kashmir, following a loss to China in 1962.Pakistan believed that the population of Kashmir was generally discontented with Indian rule and that a resistance movement could be ignited by a few infiltrating saboteurs. This was codenamed Operation Gibraltar. For its part, Pakistan claimed to have been concerned by the attempts of India to absorb Kashmir – a state that Pakistan claims as “disputed”, into the Indian union by way Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian Constitution allowing the President of India to declare President’s Rule in the disputed state. Pakistan was taken aback by the lack of military and moral support by the United States, an ally with whom the country had signed an Agreement of Cooperation. The United States refused to come to Pakistan’s aid and declared its neutrality in the war by cutting off military supplies to both sides.


2. The War

Ichhogil Canal Picture taken during 1965 Indo-Pak War.
Ichhogil Canal Picture taken during 1965 Indo-Pak War.

On August 15, 1965, Indian forces crossed the ceasefire line and launched an attack on Pakistan administered Kashmir, marking an official beginning to the war. Pakistani reports cite this attack as unprovoked. Indian reports cite the attack as a response to a tip the Indian forces received from Kashmiri civilians about Pakistani soldiers crossing the Line of Control (LoC) dressed as local Kashmiris.Most of the war was fought on land by each country’s infantry and armored units, with substantial backing from their air forces. Initially, the Indian Army met with considerable success in the northern sector (Kashmir). After launching a prolonged artillery barrage against Pakistan, India was able to capture three important mountain positions. However, by the end of the month both sides were on even footing as Pakistan had made progress in areas such as Tithwal, Uri and Punch and India had gains in Pakistan Administered Kashmir (Azad Kashmir, Pakistan Occupied Kashmir), having captured the Haji Pir Pass eight kilometers inside Pakistani territory.

These territorial gains and rapid Indian advances were met with a counterattack by Pakistan in the southern sector (Punjab) where Indian forces, having been caught unprepared, faced technically superior Pakistani tanks and suffered heavy losses. India then called in its air force to target the Pakistani attack in the southern sector. The next day, Pakistan retaliated, initialising its air force to retaliate against Indian forces and air bases in both Kashmir and Punjab. India crossed the International Border (IB) on the Western front on September 6 (some officially claim this to be the beginning of the war). On September 6, the 15th Infantry Division of the Indian Army, under World War II veteran Major General Prasad battled a massive counterattack by Pakistan near the west bank of the Ichhogil Canal (BRB Canal), which was a de facto border of India and Pakistan. The General’s entourage itself was ambushed and he was forced to flee his vehicle. A second, this time successful, attempt to cross over the Ichhogil Canal was made through the bridge in the village of Barki, just east of Lahore. This brought the Indian Army within the range of Lahore International Airport, and as result the United States requested a temporary ceasefire to allow it to evacuate its citizens in Lahore.

The same day, a counter offensive consisting of an armored division and infantry division supported by Pakistan Air Force Sabres rained down on the Indian 15th Division forcing it to withdraw to its starting point. On the days following September 9, both nations’ premiere formations were routed in unequal battles. India’s 1st Armored Division, labelled the “pride of the Indian Army”, launched an offensive towards Sialkot . The Division divided itself into two prongs and came under heavy Pakistani tank fire at Taroah and was forced to withdraw. Similarly, Pakistan’s pride, the 1st Armored Division, pushed an offensive towards Khemkaran with the intent to capture Amritsar (a major city in Punjab, India) and the bridge on River Beas to Jalandhar. The Pakistani 1st Armored Division never made it past Khem Karan and by the end of September 10 lay disintegrated under the defences of the Indian 4th Mountain Division at what is now known as the Battle of Asal Uttar (Real Answer). The area became known as ‘Patton Nagar’ (Patton Town) as Pakistan lost/abandoned nearly 100 tanks mostly Patton tanks obtained from the United States.

The war was heading for a stalemate, with both nations holding territory of the other. The Indian army suffered 3,000 battlefield deaths, while Pakistan suffered 3,800. The Indian army was in possession of 710 mile² (1,840 km²) of Pakistani territory and the Pakistan army held 210 mile² (545 km²) of Indian territory, mostly in Chumb in the northern sector.

2.1 Naval War

A map of Kashmir shows the 1949 ceasefire line, Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Indian Jammu and Kashmir. Sectors of active conflict during the 1965 war such as Chumb are also shown.
A map of Kashmir shows the 1949 ceasefire line, Pakistan Administered Kashmir and Indian Jammu and Kashmir. Sectors of active conflict during the 1965 war such as Chumb are also shown.

The navies of both India and Pakistan played no prominent role in the war of 1965. On September 7, a flotilla of the Pakistani Navy carried out a bombardment of the coastal Indian town and radar station of Dwarka under the name of Operation Dwarka, which was 200 miles (300 km) south of the Pakistani port of Karachi. There was no immediate retaliatory response from India. Later, the Indian fleet from Bombay sailed to Dwarka to patrol off that area to deter further bombardment.

According to Pakistani sources, one maiden submarine, PNS Ghazi kept the Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier besieged in Bombay throughout the war. Indian sources claim that it was not their intention to get into a naval conflict with Pakistan, but to restrict the war to a land-based conflict.

Further south towards Bombay, there were reports of underwater attacks by the Indian Navy against what they suspected were American-supplied Pakistani submarines, but this was never confirmed.

2.2 Covert operations

There were a couple of covert operations launched by the Pakistan Army to infiltrate Indian airbases and sabotage them. The SSG (Special Services Group) commandos were parachuted into enemy territory and, according to the then Chief of Army Staff General Musa Khan, more than 180 commandos penetrated the enemy territory for this purpose. Indian sources however claim as many as 800-900 commandos were airdropped, though the figure is probably for the whole war. Given that most of the Indian targets (Halwara, Pathankot and Adampur) were deep into enemy territory only 11-15 commandos made it back alive and the stealth operation proved ineffective. Of those remaining, 136 were taken prisoner, and 22 were killed in encounters with the army, police or the civilians. The daring attempt proved to be a disaster with the Commander of the operations, Major Khalid Butt also being arrested.

3. Losses

India and Pakistan hold widely divergent claims on the damage they have inflicted on each other and the amount of damage suffered by them. The following summarizes each nation’s claims.

Indian claims Pakistani claims Independent sources
Casualties 3000 Indian soldiers, 3800 Pakistani soldiers
Aircraft destroyed 35 IAF, 73 PAF 19 PAF, 104 IAF 20 PAF aicraft
Aerial victories 13 30
Tanks destroyed 128 Indian tanks, 300-350 Pakistani tanks 165 Pakistan tank, ?? Indian tanks 200 Pakistani tanks
Land area won 1,500 mi2 (2,400 km2) of Pakistani territory 2,000 mi² (3,000 km²) of Indian territory India held 710 mi² (1,840 km²) of Pakistani territory and Pakistan held 210 mi² (545 km²) of Indian territory

There have been only a few neutral assessments of the damages of the war. In the opinion of, “The losses were relatively heavy – on the Pakistani side, twenty aircraft, 200 tanks, and 3,800 troops. Pakistan’s army had been able to withstand Indian pressure, but a continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan.”

4. Ceasefire

On September 22, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution that called for an unconditional ceasefire from both nations. The war ended the following day. The Soviet Union, led by Premier Alexey Kosygin, brokered a ceasefire in Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan), where Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Pakistani President Ayub Khan signed an agreement to withdraw to pre-August lines no later than February 25, 1966. The war remained largely inconclusive despite Pakistan suffering relatively more losses, and saw a six year period of relative peace between the two neighboring rivals before war broke out once again in 1971.

5. Intelligence Failures

5.1 Indian Miscalculations

Tanks of 18th Cavalry (Indian Army) on the move during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
Tanks of 18th Cavalry (Indian Army) on the move during the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

Strategic miscalculations by both nations ensured that the result of this war remained a stalemate. The Indian Army failed to recognize the presence of heavy Pakistani artillery and armaments in Chumb and suffered significant losses as a result. The “Official History of the 1965 War”, drafted by the Ministry of Defence of India in 1992 was a long suppressed document that outlined intelligence and strategic blunders by India during the war. According to the document, on September 22 when the Security Council was pressing for a ceasefire, the Indian Prime Minister asked the commanding Gen. Chaudhuri if India could possibly win the war, were he to hold off accepting the ceasefire for a while longer. The general replied that most of India’s frontline ammunition had been used up and the Indian Army had suffered considerable tank loss.

It was found later that only 14% of India’s frontline ammunition had been fired and India still held twice the number of tanks than Pakistan did. By this time, the Pakistani Army itself had used close to 80% of its ammunition. Air Chief Marshal (retd) P.C. Lal, who was the Vice Chief of Air Staff during the conflict, points to the lack of coordination between the IAF and the Indian army. Neither side revealed its battle plans to the other.The battle plans drafted by the Ministry of Defence and General Chaudhari, did not specify a role for the Indian Air Force in the order of battle. This attitude of Gen. Chaudhari was referred to by ACM Lal as the “Supremo Syndrome”, a patronizing attitude sometimes attributed to the Indian army towards the other branches of the Indian Military.

5.2 Pakistani Miscalculations

The main axis of the Indian Offensive in West Pakistan.
The main axis of the Indian Offensive in West Pakistan.

The Pakistani Army’s failures started from the drawing board itself, with the supposition that a generally discontent Kashmiri people would rise to the occasion and revolt against their Indian rulers, bringing about a swift and decisive surrender of Kashmir. For whatever reason, the Kashmiri people did not revolt, and on the contrary provided the Indian Army with enough information for them to learn of “Operation Gibraltar” and the fact that the Army was battling not insurgents, as they had initially supposed, but Pakistani Army regulars. The Pakistani army failed to recognize that the Indian policy makers would attack the southern sector and open up the theater of conflict. Pakistan was forced to dedicate troops to the southern sector to protect Sialkot and Lahore instead of penetrating into Kashmir.

“Operation Grand Slam”, which was launched by Pakistan to capture Akhnur, a town north-east of Jammu and a key region for communications between Kashmir and the rest of India, was also a failure. Many Pakistani critics have criticized the Ayub Khan administration for being indecisive during Operation Grand Slam. They claim that the operation failed because Ayub Khan knew the importance of Akhnur to India (having called it India’s “jugular vein”) and did not want to capture it and drive the two nations into an all out war. Despite progress made in Akhnur, General Ayub Khan for some inexplicable reason relieved the commanding Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik of charge and replaced him with Gen. Yahya Khan. A 24 hour lull ensued, which allowed the Indian army to regroup in Akhnur and oppose a lackluster attack headed by General Yahya Khan. “The enemy came to our rescue”, asserted the Indian Chief of Staff of the Western Command. Many authors like Stephen Philip Cohen, have consistently viewed that Pakistan Army “acquired an exaggerated view of the weakness of both India and the Indian military… the 1965 war was a shock”. As a result most of the blame was heaped on the leadership and little importance given to intelligence failures that persisted until the debacle of the 1971 war, when Pakistan was comprehensively defeated and dismembered by India, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.

6. Consequences of The War

The war had created a tense state of affairs in its aftermath. Though the war was indecisive, Pakistan suffered much heavier material and personnel casualties compared to India. Many war historians believe that had the war continued, with growing losses and decreasing supplies, Pakistan would have been eventually defeated. India’s decision to declare ceasefire with Pakistan caused some outrage among the Indian populace, who believed they had the upper hand. Both India and Pakistan increased their defense spending and the Cold War politics had taken roots in the subcontinent. Partly as a result of the inefficient information gathering, India established the Research and Analysis Wing for external espionage and intelligence. India slowly started aligning with the Soviet Union both politically and militarily. This would be cemented formally years later before the Bangladesh Liberation War. In light of the previous war against the Chinese, the performance in this war was viewed as a “politico-strategic” victory in India.

Many Pakistanis, rated the performance of their military positively. September 6 is celebrated as ‘Defence Day’ in Pakistan in commemoration of the successful defence of Sailkot against the Indian army. Pakistani Air Force’s performance was seen in much better light compared to that of the Pakistani navy and army. However, the end game left a lot to desire as Pakistan had lost more ground than gained and more importantly did not achieve the goal of occupying Kashmir, which has been viewed by many impartial sources as a defeat for Pakistan. Many high ranking Pakistani officials and military experts later criticized the faulty planning in Operation Gibraltar that ultimately led to the war. The Tashkent declaration was further seen as a raw deal in Pakistan though few citizens realised the gravity of the situation that existed at the end of the war. Under the advice of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s then foreign minister, Ayub Khan had raised very high expectations among the people of Pakistan about the superiority – if not invincibility – of its armed forces, but Pakistan’s inability to attain its military aims during the war, created a political liability on Ayub. The defeat of its Kashmiri ambitions in the war led to the army’s invincibility being challenged by an increasingly vocal opposition. BBC And with the war creating a huge financial burden, Pakistan’s economy which had witnessed rapid progress in the early 60s, took a severe beating.

Another negative consequence of the war was the growing resentment against the Pakistani government in East Pakistan. Bengali leaders accused the government for not providing adequate security for East Pakistan during the war even though large sums of money were taken from the east to finance the war. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was apprehensive of this situation and the need for greater autonomy for the east led to another war between India and Pakistan in 1971.