How heartbreaking was 1965?

Today I attended a lecture by Salman Khursheed, former secretary Indian Ministry of External Affairs and former union minister for foreign affairs during the Congress led government before BJP came into power. He was speaking at a local five star hotel organized by Islamabad based think tank Jinnah Institute (JI). The event was moderated think tank’s patron and PPP senator Sherry Rahman.

Khursheed spoke well. He condemned Modi for his anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan rhetoric. He regretted the myopic policies of the present Indian government. He, however, advised Pakistan to forget about Kashmir. He argued that the Indian Muslim population, which was growing rapidly, would soon overtake that of Pakistan and Indonesia did not consider an issue worth discussing, hence Pakistan should forget about it and not go for another partition.

He also narrated a story about 1965 war in which he tried to underscore how that war brought brothers against each other. The story went as follows. During the early days of the war, the Indian 1st Armored Division was making rapid progress in the Sialkot Sector and Pakistan forces defending the area was hard-pressed to stop the Indian juggernaut. To stop the Indian advance the Pakistani brigade commander sent a lieutenant on a mission to kill an Indian commander to arrest the Indian progress. The Pakistani lieutenant was able to infiltrate behind the enemy lines and reach the Indian forces lined up for an early morning attack. Seeing the cupola of an Indian tank open, the Pakistani patrol leader climbed up and shoot the Indian major dead. Just to prove his point, he quickly removed the ranks of the Indian major and also made away with an amulet. This evidence he produced before his brigade commander to prove the success of his mission. The brigadier seeing the ranks of major from 16 Cavalry and an amulet belonging to a Muslim major held his head in dismay. It turned out the squadron commander who had been killed by the Pakistani lieutenant was the brigadier’s younger brother. The Indian major was later awarded the Vir Chakar, one of the highest gallantry awards that Indians decorate their soldiers with. The lieutenant who had been sent on the daring raid was later Pakistan’s defense attaché in India, where he happened to meet the youngest brother of the two brothers, who fought against each other in Sialkot sector. The youngest brother took the Pakistani defense attaché to meet the elder begum, their mother, who wanted to meet a soldier, who had fought against her fallen son.

In the question and answer session, Major General Muhammad Ali Durrani got up and complemented Mr Khursheed for his erudite lecture and said that such visits indeed help to reduce tension. After pause, the general said he would, however, like to correct what the Indian former minister had said about the armor operations in Sialkot. He said it brought a lump to his throat but he wanted to correct Salman Sahib’s story. One, he said, the Indian first armored division was stopped by a single Pakistani regiment and forced to retreat. General Durrani had served in 25 Cavalry that earned the moniker Men of Steel on their performance in 1965 war. He also added that the story about the Pakistani lieutenant killing an Indian major in his tank also appeared dubious as no brigade commander would send his young officer on such a mission which would have little bearing on the course of war.

Salman Khursheed responded that he was not aware how the course of the battle went but that he was indeed narrated this story by another Indian army officer, Maroof Raza, a sword of honor recipient form the Indian Military Academy but who left the army early in his career to join the academia.

Salman Khursheed may be trying to prove a point but fake romanticism doesn’t help. The story he narrated could make for a good Bollywood script but may not be factually true.