Between the 11th and 18th centuries, Indian Subcontinent was ruled by Muslims. Historically, Muslims came to the Indian Subcontinent from the passes along the Afghan-Pakistan border in the region of Central Asia. The first invasion occupied the area that is now Pakistan. Over the centuries — under various rulers and dynasties, particularly the Mughals – Muslims expanded their power until they ruled much of India. European powers followed the Muslims into India en masse. Unlike the Muslims, they arrived from the sea. The British, who ruled Subcontinent for almost 90 years, used India's internal tensions to solidify their own position. They did not conquer India so much as they managed the internal conflicts to their advantage.
In 1930, philosopher and poet, Allama Muhammad Iqbal gave the idea of Pakistan based on the Two-Nation Theory. The theory centered on the idea that Hindus and Muslims constituted separate nations and therefore deserved separate states in the Subcontinent. It would become the guiding force that ultimately led to the name and idea of "Pakistan," meaning "The Land of the Pure" but also working as an acronym for the regions of Punjab, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sindh and Balochistan.
The main force behind the movement to establish Pakistan was the dynamic leader Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a constitutional lawyer and contemporary of Allama Iqbal. Quaid-i-Azam took the philosopher's ideas and translated them into action, driven by a historical movement rooted in religious minority dynamics, self-determination and Islamic revivalism. Amid an ever-growing movement demanding independence from the British, he sought to create a state out of the Muslim-majority northeastern and northwestern wings of British India. On August 14, 1947 Pakistan came into being as the first Muslim ideological state of the world comprising two parts: West Pakistan, located between Afghanistan and India, and East Pakistan, swallowed almost entirely by northeast India (in addition to sharing a small border with Myanmar). Nearly 40 percent of the region's Muslims ended up in the newly-created Pakistan. Provinces of Punjab and Bengal were partitioned by Radcliffe Commission based on the principle of Muslim and Hindu/Sikhs contiguous majority areas. The most significant objections regarding the Radcliffe Award were that the tehsils of Ferozepur and Zira in Ferozepur district, Nakodar and Jalandhar in Jalandhar district, Ajnala in Amritsar district and Gurdaspur and Batala in Gurdaspur district had Muslim majority and were almost contiguous to West Punjab, yet they were given to the Indian Punjab. It is an established fact that these Muslim majority districts were given to India as they provided the only land link to India with Kashmir. In addition, the whole of the Muslim majority district of Murshidabad and the greater part of Muslim majority district of Nadia, which were contiguous to East Bengal, were awarded to West Bengal in India. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor-General of Pakistan. The British had sided with Indian Hindu Congress while dividing Punjab and Bengal. Quaid-i-Azam begrudgingly accepted the compromise, he famously decried that it had resulted in a "maimed, mutilated and moth-eaten Pakistan".
The most problematic region between India and Pakistan is Kashmir, a region located high in the Himalayas. During the onset of independence procedure/process, Jammu and Kashmir, comprising 80 percent Muslim majority, still had not decided whether to join India or Pakistan. As per the principle of partition, being a Muslim majority area the state of Kashmir should have formed part of Pakistan. At the time of independence, Maharaja Hari Singh was the ruler of Kashmir when he delayed the announcement of accession of Kashmir to Pakistan. His Muslim subjects rebelled against him at this decision. In Jammu, Kashmiri Muslims were killed by Sikhs and Hindus who were in majority there. The Editor of The Statesman, Ian Stephens claimed that 500,000 Muslims, "the entire Muslim element in the population", was eliminated and about 200,000 "just disappeared". It means that at least 500,000 were killed and the rest fled to West Pakistan. In these circumstances Pathan tribesmen from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan waged Jihad to save their Muslim brethren and entered the state on October 20, 1947. Seeing the freedom fighters, the Maharaja panicked and requested India for help. Indian Prime Minister Nehru sent in 100,000 troops to crush what he claimed was an invasion of Indian territory. The Indian troops, which were airlifted in the early hours of October 27, secured Srinagar airport and thus India and Pakistan went to war in the coming months. A United Nations’ commission called for the withdrawal of both countries' troops in August 1948. The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1949, and a five-member commission constituting Argentina, Belgium, Colombia, Czechoslovakia and the U.S. drew up a resolution calling for a referendum to decide Kashmir's future through plebiscite. On January 1, 1949 a ceasefire was implemented through UN and a ‘ceasefire line’ was established that demarcated areas under Pakistan and India‘s control.
Pakistan’s Alliance with the West
In the absence of direct external threats, India's strategic outlook at the time of independence was shaped by the dynamics of the Cold War. The most important strategic relationship that India had after gaining independence from Britain in 1947 was with the Soviet Union. Since India’s Prime Minister Nehru considered U.S. an imperialist power which replaced British as superpower in the military as well as maritime domains, India believed that the U.S. had the same capabilities and similar interests that had brought Britain to India. Since India did not want to replace the British with the U.S., therefore, every effort was made to block American foothold in the Indian Union. In addition, Prime Minister Nehru followed a strong socialist agenda, which is why there was some ideological affinity between Moscow and New Delhi. Though India's fundamental national interest was not centered on Marxism, however, Nehru wanted a state that was secured from a new round of imperialism. The Soviets had neither an overland route to India nor a navy that could reach it. Therefore, India sought an alliance with Soviet Union which could provide economic aid and military hardware, as well as a potential nuclear umbrella (or at least nuclear technical assistance). India also wanted the Soviet Union to act as a counterweight to American as well as Western imperialism and, at the same time, not to impose the satellite state on India.
From the U.S.’ point of view, however, there was serious danger in the Indo-Soviet relationship. The U.S. saw it as potentially threatening its access to the Indian Ocean and lines of supply to the Persian Gulf. If the Soviets were given naval bases in India, or if India were able to construct a navy significant enough to threaten U.S. interests and were willing to act in concert with the Soviets, it would represent a serious strategic challenge to the U.S. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the U.S. was also facing a series of other challenges. The British were going to leave Singapore, and the Indonesian independence movement was heavily influenced by the Soviets. The Egyptians, and therefore the Suez Canal, were also moving into the Soviet camp. If India became a pro-Soviet maritime power, it would simply be one more element along Asia's southern rim threatening the U.S. interests.
The U.S. had to act throughout the region, but they needed to deal with India fast. In these circumstances, to stop the spread of Communism and to check the anti-capitalist influences in the region, under the umbrella of Truman Doctrine, Britain and U.S. proposed the creation of the Middle East Defense Organization in 1951. The plan was shelved due to strong opposition shown by Egypt. In May 1954, Pakistan signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the U.S. The same year, Pakistan became a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). In 1955 Pakistan also became part of the U.S.-led Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), commonly known as the Baghdad Pact. Apart from Iraq (the only Arab country to join the alliance), Iran, Turkey and Britain also became part of the pact. In return for the military aid to the member Muslim states, the main objectives of CENTO were: to encircle the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe and to oppose the rise and ingress of Communism into the Middle East and South Asian Muslim states. Early in 1959, Pakistan signed a bilateral Agreement of Cooperation with the U.S., which was designed further to reinforce the defensive purposes of CENTO. As a result of these alliances, Pakistan became U.S.’ closest ally in South Asia. In return for military and economic aid by the U.S., Pakistan provided the air base in Peshawar to the U.S. for U-2 reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union and listening posts near Khyber Pass from 1959 to 1970. With Pakistan joining the western camp it provided following advantages to the U.S.: first, it provided another Muslim majority country as a counterweight to Nasser’s socialist Egypt and left-leaning Arab nationalism; and second, it posed a potential threat to India on land. This would force India to divert resources from naval construction and focus on building ground and air forces to deal with Pakistan.
In the late 50s, the growing power of China began to change relationship in the subcontinent. India and China began to see each other as rivals for leadership in Asia and in the third world. Sino-Soviet relations started to deteriorate thereby intensifying Indo-Soviet relations. India started to fiddle into Tibetan region of China. The Dalai Lama visited India in 1956 and discussed the possibility of seeking asylum in India with India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. On March 19, 1959 a rebellion broke out in Tibet and the Dalai Lama fled the region and took asylum in India thus setting stage for animosity between India and China. Nehru unilaterally redrew Indo-China border map in 1954, claiming the Aksai Chin as Indian territory, which he knew was disputed for over a century; he refused to negotiate unless China first withdrew; even if it did, he would not discuss those “large areas”. He compounded rejection of negotiation with recourse to force (the Forward Policy). He spurned China’s recognition of the McMahon Line because it entailed recognition of China’s stand on the Aksai Chin. Fundamentally, China was right to assert that the boundary was undefined and call for negotiations without pre-conditions. Beginning in April 1961 and continuing throughout the year, Lt General Kaul directed all three Indian army commands to increase the strength of their forces along the border. India placed outposts along the border, including several north of the McMahon Line, the eastern portion of the Line of Actual Control. As a reaction, the Chinese launched simultaneous attacks in Ladakh and across the McMahon Line on October 20, 1962. Chinese troops advanced over Indian forces in both theatres, capturing Rezang La in Chushul in the western theatre, as well as Tawang in the eastern theatre. The war ended when China declared a ceasefire on November 20, 1962 and simultaneously announced its withdrawal to its claimed 'Line Of Actual Control'.
Despite being the front line state against the spread of communism in the region, Pakistan was betrayed by the U.S. and British leadership in 1962. President Kennedy and then British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan specifically asked Pakistan not to undertake any military action against Indian-occupied Kashmir during Sino-India War of October 1962. Both the leaders made Pakistan believe that they would use their clout to resolve Kashmir issue once Sino-India conflict was over. Despite Pakistan’s compliance not only was the Kashmir issue put on the back-burner once the crisis was over but India started to receive more importance and aid from the West.
India’s Efforts to Absorb Indian-Occupied Kashmir into Indian Union
After 1954, India accelerated the process of integrating Kashmir into its political system in an effort to make it impractical and politically unrealistic to hold a plebiscite. Pakistan began to see China as a potential ally against India after Tibet uprising. It entered into negotiations with China for border agreement in 1961 and finally signed it in 1963. Meanwhile India was provided with unprecedented military hardware and training support by the U.S. and UK on the pretext of containing the Chinese threat. Six rounds of talks were held between Indian Foreign Minister Sardar Swaran Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Zulifqar Ali Bhutto from December 1962 to 1963 for the esolution of Kashmir issue. But nothing came out of it. Mr. Bhutto even proposed that the Valley be internationalized as an interim arrangement for six months and then the Kashmiris be given the chance to decide their future. But this proposal was rejected by India. President Ayub also adopted “a very flexible attitude and stressed that he was prepared to consider a solution other than plebiscite”.
In December 1963, a strand of hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the most sacred Muslim relic in Kashmir, was stolen from the mosque at Hazratbal. The Kashmir Valley went into a brief chaotic spell which included riots and protests. The relic was quickly discovered by the Indian Intelligence Bureau and returned. The issue was defused almost completely in February 1964 when a panel of holy men confirmed the authenticity of the restored relic. In November 1964, Articles 356 and 357 of the Indian constitution were extended to Kashmir by virtue of which the Central Government can assume the government of the state and exercise its legislative powers. The State Assembly then amended the State Constitution, changing the posts of “Sadr-e-Riyasat” and "Prime Minister" to Governor and Chief Minister, consistent with the Indian Constitution.
Before proceeding further, let us analyze why India has always wanted Kashmir to be an integral part of the Indian Union. From the Indian point of view, the borderland between Pakistan and China, that is Kashmir, is a strategically critical matter of fundamental national interest for multiple reasons, most important of which are: Occupation of Kashmir is rooted in Gandhian ideology that has long shaped national strategy of the Indian Union. “According to this view, independent India was to be a secular state, whose strength would be derived from the cooperative efforts of a vast array of different religious and ethnic groups. To many, agreement to the partitioning of the subcontinent was an unfortunate departure from this ideal, and allowing further secessionism from the union on the basis of religion would imperil the national integrity.” Secondly, the more of Kashmir that India held, the less viable was the Sino-Pakistani relationship. Indian control of a major part of the region gave it control over the axis of a possible Pakistani threat and placed limits on Chinese assistance. Thirdly, India needs Jammu-Srinagar-Leh road, running through the heart of the vale of Kashmir, for supply of troops standing guard in the Ladakh area of Kashmir – an important area for India’s defense against the Chinese on Tibet and Xinjiang borders. Lastly, the headwaters of many of the rivers vital to Pakistan’s agriculture are in Kashmir.
The 1965 War
India, faced with internal economic problems, factional riots, and the death of Nehru, sought international unity through a military conflict with Pakistan from the beginning of 1965. It believed that Pakistan’s growing relationship with China had estranged its relations with the United States. This was coupled with India’s need to restore national pride, which was badly hurt due to its defeat in the war with China. The answer was to provoke Pakistan into conflict somehow and inflict a crushing defeat to it. In April 1965 India initiated a military buildup in Rann of Kutch. 51 Brigade ex 8 Division under Operation Desert Hawk was ordered to evict the enemy. Pakistan Army pushed the Indians back, took over Sardar Post and Biar Bet. With success in Rann of Kutch, Pakistan turned its eyes towards liberating Kashmir. Operation Gibraltar was planned and executed during July/August 1965 by Pakistan Army on persistence of Kashmir Cell and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan. Infiltration of freedom fighters was completed successfully by July 24-August, 1965 achieving complete surprise. The aim of this operation was to precipitate an insurgency against India’s unlawful rule. However, due to inadequate training, lack of information about the terrain and enemy and non-availability of local support, the mission could not achieve its desired results. India launched simultaneous offensive on August 24-25 to sever the infiltrating forces by capturing bases of infiltrators in Jura Bulge and Bedori Bulge areas. Indian forces managed to capture its objectives by August 29, 1965. Operation Grand Slam was put into action with the aim to relieve pressure on the 12 Division due to Indian attack across ceasefire line. The objective of this operation was to capture Akhnur and Akhnur Bridges over River Chenab so as to threaten the enemy’s line of communication. Operation started on September 1 and Chhamb was captured by first light on September 2. Jaurian, initially planned to be bypassed, was captured on September 5. Under extreme pressure, India then called in its air force to target the Pakistani forces in the southern sector. The next day, Pakistan retaliated, initializing its own 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, officially beginning the war. The same day, 15th Infantry Division of the Indian Army, under World War II veteran Major General Niranjan Prasad, battled a massive counterattack by Pakistan near the west bank of the Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian (BRB) Canal. The General's entourage was ambushed and he was forced to flee his vehicle. The same day, a counter-offensive consisting of an armored division and infantry division supported by Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) Sabres rained down on the Indian 15th Division forcing it to withdraw to its starting point. India's 1st Armored Division, labeled 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 leaving 100s of their tanks destroyed. Pakistan's pride, the 1st Armored Division, pushed an offensive towards Khem Karan, and captured it easily. The main target of Pakistan Army was Amritsar which Pakistan could not capture due to resistance by Indian 4th Mountain Division.
The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965 saw both air forces conduct defensive and offensive operations over Indian and Pakistani airspace. During the war the PAF flew a total of 2,364 sorties while the IAF flew 3,937 sorties. September 6 marked the beginning of “air operations” by PAF. As the Indian Army was forming up to launch an attack across the BRB Canal towards Lahore, it was halted by streams of formations of F-86s from Peshawar. B-57s commenced their bombing raids on the night of September 6 against all major IAF airfields inflicting damage, creating panic and lowering the morale of adversary. During the 17 days’ war, 167 successful sorties were flown by B-57. PAF also utilized C-130 for night bombing on enemy artillery and troop concentrations. Night operations accounted for seven IAF Canberra destroyed on ground whereas PAF lost four B-57. IAF launched massive counter airstrikes on September 7 on three PAF bases. However, PAF was ready for this and in the ensuing combats, IAF lost nine aircraft to PAF’s two aircraft without inflicting any notable damage to the airfields. On September 7, Squadron Leader M. M. Alam showed brilliance by shooting down five Hawker Hunters Jets of IAF in one minute which remains a world record and a glory for PAF. Pakistan claimed to have destroyed 104 enemy aircraft against its own losses of 19.
On September 7, a flotilla of the Pakistan Navy under the command of Commodore S. M. Anwar, carried out bombardment of the Indian Navy's radar station in the coastal town of Dwarka, which was 200 miles (320 km) south of the Pakistani port of Karachi. This audacious operation established the superiority of Pakistan Navy over Indian Navy despite its very small size. Therefore, Operation Dwarka is considered a significant naval operation which beyond a doubt brought forth the fact that Pakistan Navy is a force to reckon with. In addition to this operation, one Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, kept the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikrant and bulk of its surface fleet bottled up in Bombay harbor throughout the war. In a nutshell, Pakistan Navy emerged as a dominant force in the North Arabian Sea during the 1965 War.
In pure military sense, Pakistan won the September war with India by causing heavy damages to Indian war machine and lowering its morale. In terms of political objectives gained, Pakistan succeeded in internationalizing the Kashmir issue but fell short of liberating Kashmir from Indian control. Internationally, Indian claim to the leadership of non-aligned countries received a great setback as it was defeated by two neighbours in two successive conflicts.
The behavior of the U.S. before, during and after the war – including the placement of military sanctions on Pakistan – was strange and unbecoming of a reliable friend. On the other hand, China demonstrated unwavering support to Pakistan. It went as far as issuing an ultimatum to the Indian Embassy on September 16, 1965 threatening “dire consequences” should India persist with “aggressive designs” in Kashmir. China’s statement effectively tied down Indian forces in the eastern sector of the Himalayas and was a proof of China’s support and association with Pakistan. China’s ultimatum sought to balance the Indian threat by demonstrating offensive capability, pledging military support and utilizing geographic proximity. After the 1965 War Pak-China relations gained more depth which have now manifested into China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
The 1965 War is an important milestone in the history of Pakistan. The valiant people and the armed forces of this Muslim ideological state put their territorial integrity and security at peril to liberate Kashmiri Muslims from the illegal occupation. Despite overwhelming numerical superiority in terms of men and material, Indian Armed Forces experienced humiliating defeat on all fronts i.e., land, air and sea in all battles. Majority of the muslim countries, whether in Western or Soviet bloc like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia and Jordan, supported Pakistan. The war created an opportunity for Kashmiri Muslims to liberate their homeland from Indian occupation. However, they did not avail this chance, and resultantly their present generations are now paying the price for this with their blood. Over the years thousands of Kashmiri Muslims have been killed, hundreds of women have been raped and number of houses/mosques have been demolished by Indian occupying forces. The 1965 War tested our alliance with the West and U.S. in particular. In contrast to the role of the erstwhile Soviet Union which was totally favourable to India, our alliance with the West was a total embarrassment. The U.S. not only placed military embargo on Pakistan but also did not help it in any way at the UN or elsewhere to resolve the issue of Kashmir.
The writer is a retired Vice Admiral of Pakistan Navy. He is currently serving as Ambassador of Pakistan to Maldives.
E-mail: [email protected]
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