The war that proved a turning point (Business Recorder (Pakistan))

This year, as we remember thesoldiers and officers of our armed forceswho valiantly defended Pakistan in the 1965 war with India, tension created by India’s daily attacks on Pakistan’s borders worry many at home and abroad about apossibleatomicwar becausea document recently posted on CIA’s websitestates that, worried about Pakistan’s rapid development of nuclear weapons, in 1981, Indira Gandhi, then India’s Prime Minister, had considered launching an aerial invasion of Pakistan to destroyits nuclear facilities.

Today, Pakistan faces enough challenges; provoking a war with a neighbour is not its priority. But some Indian politiciansthink differently; they still believe that the route to gaining a patriotic image is to seek the destruction of Pakistan. In 2013, during its election campaign, BJP vocally demanded killing 10 Pakistani soldiers for every Indian soldier. It is therefore no surprise that BJP won the 2014 general elections, and now rules India.

China’s victory against India in the 1962 border conflictshattered the confidence of India’s army; it sought to redeem itself, and the target it chose was Pakistan. Skirmishes on the Run of Kutch border in May 1965 (which demoralised the Indian army even more) was a preparatory exercise for India’s armed forces.Althoughunder international pressure (particularly Britain’s) troops on both sides reverted back to theirpre-clash positions, tension between them continued.

The Run of Kutch experience gave Pakistan the feeling that Indian army’s defensive capabilities were weak. After the troops’ withdrawal, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s warning that India will fight on a front of ‘its choice’ was considered a cover-up for India’s failure in Rann of Kutch. Therefore, invasion of Pakistan’s North Eastern borders was a shocker, but the 150 troopsposted on the Wagah border (led by Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed) fought valiantly and stopped hundreds of Indian tanks and artillery advancing towards Lahore.

Despite being outnumbered by 1 to 5, the way Pakistani forces confronted India’s assault on Chanwinda – the biggest tank battle after the WW-II battle for Stalingrad -remainsa glorious chapter in Pakistan’s history that raiseshigh the head of every Pakistani. During this war, almost the entire eastern border was on fire. In the battles in every sector, especiallySialkot and Kasur, Pakistani soldiers and officersfought valiantly todefend the homeland.

Pakistan Air Force performed as remarkably by securing Pakistan’s skies andprotecting our soldiers fighting on the ground by pounding India’s air bases, and troops and weaponry advancing towards Pakistan. PAF crew and pilots, especially M.M. Alam, set new records of working for long hours, accuracy, and gallantry; after bombing their targets and in the process being hit by enemy fire, they crashed their aircraft on the enemy lines and sacrificed their lives to maximise the damage.

Pakistan Navy too played its crucial role in keeping Pakistan’s sea-lanes secure and in protecting Karachi, which has the largest oil storage facilities. To forestall an assault on Karachi, Pakistan Nay launched a pre-emptive strike on India’s naval base at Dwarka. Five battle ships (headed by PNS Babur) attacked the Indian naval base with complete success and safely returned to Karachi. That attack proved decisive in preventing a naval attack on Karachi, which could disrupt the operations of Pakistan’s defence forces.

The whole nation wanted to fight alongside their soldiers who were sacrificing their lives in defending Pakistan, and showed the world that when Pakistanis stand with their soldiers, no power on earth can defeat them. During the war, and for months thereafter, people remained disciplined; prices of goods went down; despite problems in movement of goods there were no shortages, and crimes dropped to zero. That this response shocked the Indians is proved by the fact that India (not Pakistan) rushed to the UN for a cease fire resolution.

During the war, Pakistan had solid Indonesian support. A flotilla of Indonesian Navy – two submarines, two missile-launching boats and several gun-boats remained anchored at Karachi harbour, and President Soekarno assured Pakistan that Indonesia’s army, navy, and air force were available to Pakistan on demand. Iran and Turkey kept Pakistan supplied with oil as well as guns and ammunition. In Saudi Arabia, daily prayers were offered in the Kaaba for Pakistan’s victory, and Jordan and Algeria also pledged their support to Pakistan.

According to historians, the launch of “Operation Gibraltar” in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), and soon thereafter “Operation Grandslam” to block the only rail link between India and Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), triggered the September 1965 war. In his book “History of the Indo-Pak War-1965”, Lieutenant General Mahmud Ahmed (r) says that Operation Gibraltar was to disrupt Indian civil and military control of IOK, encourage, assist and direct an armed revolt against India’s military occupation of IOK, and createconditions for Azad Kashmir forces’ entry into IOK.

However, intelligence directorates were “unable” to provide timely and accurate intelligence on progress of Operation Gibraltar. In his memoirs, Lieutenant General Gul Hassan (r) says that it wasn’t anticipated by Pakistan that India’sretaliation for Operations Gibraltar and Grandslam could be of the size witnessed on September 6, 1965. Nor was it envisaged that India’s assaulton Chanwinda could prove as daunting and damaging as it did.

That’s why this war – with lasting after-effects – proved a turning point in Pakistan’s history. While Pakistan successfully defended its borders and hundreds of its valiant soldiers and civilians sacrificed their lives for that noble cause, the price paid was phenomenal. This 17-day war just 17 years after the creation of Pakistan, was a tragedy whose after-effects continued to bleed Pakistan beginning with the slowdown of economic progress and, six years later, Pakistan’s break-up; what made it worse were the after-effects of Pakistan’s joining the Afghan Jihad that continue to-date.

Industrialisation, which commenced duringthe Martial Law regime of 1958, attracted many Asian countries to learn from Pakistan’s experience. Even after the exit of the Ayub regime, beginning 1973 hundreds of South Korean engineers were trained at the Machine Tool factory in Karachi, which reflected the level ofeconomic development achieved by that time. Between 1960 and 1965, Pakistan had recorded average GDP growth of 6.4% – second highest in Asia after Japan. That promising pace of progress could have made Pakistan a developed country well before many South East Asian countries had it not been stalled by the 1965 war.

After the war losses were assessed, in particular of the armed forces, the reality that emerged was that economic advantages achieved after independence, were wiped out by the 17-day war. In the post-war era the measures adopted to rebuild its economy and its defence capabilities slowed Pakistan’s economic growth but the more unfortunate part was the economic imbalances these measures created between the two wings of the country, which began fuelling frustrations in East Pakistan.

The terms of the post-war Tashkent Treaty between Pakistan and India became a subject of controversy and ambitious politicians used it as the weapon tosack the Ayub regime. The resultant political chaos shifted the focus to achieving futile but self-serving political ends. Six years after the war, Pakistan was split after Pakistan lost the Indian-sponsored civil war in East Pakistan. This tragedy was the result ofthe economic distress caused by the 1965 war, and the bias in sharing its burden fairly with East Pakistan.

Diversion of resources to defence, though needed to rebuild the damaged defence capability to counter any future Indian invasion, caused a slide in import of industrial equipment, slowed the build-up of an industrial base that could compliment at least thecountry’s agrarian economy – agricultural equipmentand its related sectors, building silos along modern lines, and expanding the railway network and power generation capacity – to assure minimum needed economic growth and employment creation. That slowdown continues to-date. Proof: the Rupee’s exchange has weakened from Rs 4.8844/$ back in 1965 to Rs 105/$.

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