1965: Time for Remembrance – Time for Introspection

Today we celebrate the 51st defence day of Pakistan. 1965 was the good war. It is worth celebrating. The soldiers fought valiantly and laid down their lives to defend their homeland. No sacrifice was too little to protect each inch of the homeland. The Pakistan Air Force subdued an enemy superior in numbers. The PAF airmen were able to outwit and out shoot the Indians. Ace pilot M.M. Alam shot down five Indian fighter jets in less than a minute. F86 sabres ruled the skies. The Navy sailed out and destroyed the Indian radar station at Dwarka. PNS Ghazi, the only submarine in the theater of war kept the only Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant out of action. The sea lines of communications remained open. The singers sang great war-songs to cheer the soldiers and to keep the morale of the nation at a high pitch. The common man was fully involved and backed the soldier to the hilt. The patriotic fervor was at its highest. The nation was united and everyone wanted the armed forces to perform well. The tales of valor of the soldiers of 1965 have been etched in the national psyche. In a way it is good because there is a need to build a positive national narrative.

There is nonetheless a need for deliberate introspection. It is a sad fact that the 1965 war was the result of a grand strategic miscalculation. Wrong lessons were drawn from the minor skirmish in the Rann of Kutch. False misconception gained roots among the civilian and military planners that the Hindu did not have an appetite for war and there would be no retaliation if a muscular approach was adopted in Kashmir. Infiltrators with little preparation and with little strategic direction were sent into occupied Kashmir in August with the purpose of initiating a guerrilla war of liberation. It was a lost cause from the word go. Grounds had not been prepared for a sustained armed struggle and the common Kashmiri was loath to become part of it. The men sent in to wage a successful insurgency were hunted down to the man. Very few were able to escape and return to tell the story. The Indians then launched a riposte across the international border. This move was entirely unexpected. The Army was in a peace time mode. If the soldiers had not risen to the occasion, the Indian generals might actually had been drinking the chota peg in Lahore gymkhana by the evening. A great tank battle was fought in Chawinda and the Indian juggernaut was brought to a halt. After 17 days the war ended. Both countries were bruised but not battered. Pakistan had miscalculated the Indian reactions. The Indians had not calculated the spirit of the Pakistani soldier. The two countries opted for a ceasefire. While Pakistan rejoiced that they had been able to stop a far superior enemy and defend its soil with grit and determination. The Indians straight away went to the drawing board. Their aim was simple and to the point: Defeat Pakistan at all costs. Their plan was also simple: Tear the country asunder. They had an ideal opportunity to create a rift between East and West Pakistan based on the recent war. The played upon East Pakistan’s fears that they had been left alone to fend for themselves during the War, since it had been fought within the framework of the defence doctrine based on the theory that the defence of the east lay in the west. Hatred was sown into the hearts and minds of the East Pakistanis. They were made to believe that West Pakistanis were insincere. They were using the foreign exchange through the export of jute grown by them to build their new capital in Islamabad. They had very little representation in government jobs and the defence forces. Very few of them were generals or federal secretaries. The venom spread. The result was that only six years later there was a civil war in East Pakistan. The Indians waited nine months till the small Pakistani garrison was spent and fatigued and then in November 1971 their tanks rolled in against little resistance. 16 December the Pakistani soldiers tired and humiliated surrendered to the Indian forces. This was the darkest day in the short history of Pakistan. The Indians are still conniving against Pakistan. While we celebrate 1965, we should not be oblivious of the fact that forces hostile to Pakistan are still at work. The solution lies in not only building a strong Army but also a strong nation.

Pakistan zindabad.

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