By Col Alok Mathur, SM (Retd)
After the Sino-India War of 1962, Pakistan think tanks concluded that military solution to Kashmir was a possibility as they were equipped with modern American weapons like M 47/48 Patton tanks, F86 Sabre and F104 Star fighter aircrafts under Mutual Defence Assistance agreement with United States and South East Asia Treaty Organisation, in 1954. Lal Bahadur Shastri was sworn in as second Prime Minister of India in 1964 after sudden demise of Pandit Nehru, who could not tolerate the betrayal by Communist China. General Ayub Khan had taken over as President in 1958 after toppling Iskander Mirza. He provided Air/ Logistics bases to United States for spy missions against Soviet Union. New untested leadership in India, American support and proximity to China, motivated Pakistan to launch campaign against India (still recovering from the aftereffects of Chinese debacle) to annex Kashmir with help of local uprising. The operation was planned in three phases. Phase 1 was to undertake low level operation in Rann of Kutch to test Indian willingness and capability to react. Phase 2 was to infiltrate Pak officers led Razakars columns secretly in to Jammu Kashmir and foment arson, insurgency and flame anti-India uprising. Phase 3 plan was to launch major offensive towards Akhnur Bridge on Chenab River through Chamb-Jaurian and threaten Jammu.
India was also gradually upgrading its Armed Forces. Defence Minister Krishna Menon was sacked by Pandit Nehru and Yashwant Rao Chavan was selected as New Defence Minister. Army Chief General P N Thapar resigned. Lt Gen B M Kaul, 4 Corps commander proceeded on premature retirement. General Jayant Nath Choudhary was appointed as Chief of Army Staff (COAS). The new command structure of Indian Army in 1965 was divided in to four commands. The Western Command – Area of Responsibility (AOR) covered from Ladakh, Kashmir, Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, VrC was the Army Commander. Central Command AOR was Uttar Pradesh to Bihar. Lt Gen K Bahadur Singh was the Army Commander. Eastern Army Commander was Lt Gen SHJF Manekshaw, MC with AOR covering Sikkim, Bengal, NEFA, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, entire North East and also Orissa. Southern Command was commanded by Lt Gen Moti Sagar with AOR as all southern states and Islands in Indian Ocean. There was no Northern command in 1965. We had already procured Centurian Mk Vll Tanks, Folland Gnats, and Hawker Hunters fighters from Britain and Dassault Mysteres Lv aircrafts from France and raised new divisions.
In Phase 1, Pakistan’s 8 lnfantry division attacked under General Tikka Khan, with two Infantry brigade in northern part of Rann of Kutch and captured two Indian Police Posts of Sardar and Kanjrakot on April 7, 1965 and also isolated Vigokot, Biar bet, Chand bet posts. The 31 Infantry brigade was moved from Ahmedabad to reinforce the area. Kilo force was raised after assessment of threat. 50 Para Brigade also was moved. We recovered most of the area by April 23. The hostilities finally ended on July 1, 1965 due to British mediation. The code name for Phase 2 was “Operation Gibraltor”, under which six self-contained of battalion strength groups were inducted in first week of August in Jammu Kashmir. They were called as Tariq force to operate in Kargil, Sonamarg area, Qasim Force for Chowkibal , Keran area, Khalid force for Handwara , Tithwal , Salahuddin Force to operate in Gulmarg , Baramulah , Ghaznavi Force for area Mendhar, Rajuari, Naushera and Babur Force for Udhampur, Ramban area. Sri Force was raised to deal with these intrusions. There was no local support. Civilians reported the intrusions immediately and most columns disintegrated and returned back to Bases behind cease fire Line (CFL). 15 Corps now resorted to offensive plan to capture Uri Punch Bulge. Op Bakshi and Op Faulad was launched from North and South. Major R S Dyal, second in command, 1 Para with his task force captured Haji Pir pass at 1100h on August 27, 1965 and was held till end of War. He was awarded Mahavir Chakra for the daring action. Gibraltor was a total Disaster. Pakistan, now frustrated by retaliatory action, launched Phase 3 called Operation Grand Slam on September 1, 1965 was launched, through Chamb-Jaurian defences across Manawar Tawi with a division and two armoured regiments with an aim to capture Akhnur and Jammu and cut off communication line to Kashmir Valley.
General Harbaksh Singh assessing the critical situation approached COAS for permission to launch counter offensive in Punjab and Rajasthan. COAS immediately contacted Defence Minister for clearance. Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri cleared offensive within 6 hours and gave total free hand to Army. Strike Corps was released towards Sialkot and 11 Corps troops headed for Lahore. The Pak offensive in Akhnur and Jammu was recalled. The largest tank battle, after Second World War, was fought in Phillora, Wazira wali area deep inside Pakistan. Indian Forces reached Batapur, across Ichogil Canal just 5 Kms from Lahore. A graveyard of Patton Tanks was created by Indian Armoured Brigade and IAF at Valtoha on Bhikiwind- Khemkaran axis.
Pakistan approached UN for ceasefire. India announced ceasefire on September 23, 1965. Ayub Khan’s dream was shattered. Tashkent Agreement was signed on January 10, 1966 between two heads of states mediated by Soviet Union. India returned all occupied territory including Haji Pir. Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent, now in Uzbekistan on, January 11, 1966 under mysterious circumstances.
Let us remember the War heroes of 1965, who made supreme sacrifices and were awarded highest battle honour Paramvir Chakras for conspicuous bravery, while fighting the enemy for integrity and safety of country.
Lt Col Ardeshir Burzorji Tarapore, 17 Horse, PVC (Posthumous)
Lt Col AB Tarapore was the commanding officer of Poona Horse during Indo Pak War of 1965. He was born in Mumbai (Bombay) on August 18, 1923. He studied in Sardar Dastur School in Pune and matriculated in 1940. He was an excellent sportsman, ferocious boxer, good swimmer and also played tennis and cricket. He was commissioned on January 1, 1942 in the 7 Infantry Regiment of Hyderabad State Forces and later joined 1st Hyderabad Imperial Lancers and saw active service in West Asia during Second World War. Hyderabad joined Indian Union on September 17, 1948. He was commissioned in the Indian Army in 1951 and was posted to Poona Horse, the elite Armoured Regiment of Indian Army. He was fondly known as Adi in the Regiment. While serving with in Alfa squadron, he established a close rapport with proud and valiant Rajput troops and learnt their customs and traditions. His wife name was Perin and had son Xerxes and daughter Zarine. Adi was loved by his troops. One day, he had invited some guests at his house. He had gone out for a training exercise, his Jeep got bogged down in a nala. He himself got down and pushed the vehicle out along with his crew and got mud all over his overall. The guests were surprised to see him in the state and told that he could have asked for another vehicle. He told them that he will never abandon his troops in war or peace. He smilingly excused himself, changed and joined them. He was a perfect officer and gentleman.
Pakistan had launched Operation Grand Slam on September 1, 1965 and headed for Akhnur and Jammu overrunning Chamb-Jaurian defences. Strike Corps was launched to counter the threat in Sialkot Sector. Poona Horse equipped with Centurian tanks was the leading Regiment (Regt) of 1 Armoured Division and was tasked to capture Phillora from rear on September 11. While the regiment was advancing between Phillora and Chawinda, Pak Armour counter attacked from Wazirwali. Ferocious tank vs tank battle took place. 10 enemy tanks were destroyed and Phillora was captured. He himself led from front and controlled the battle. During the battle,he was severely wounded but he refused to be evacuated. Again on September 14, he led the regiment and captured Wazirawali under heavy Armour and Arty Fire. He had such a determination and grit that in spite of his tank getting several hits, he led attack on Jassoron and Butar Dograndi, west of Chawinda, on September 16, 1965. He further supported Infantry battalions for capture of Chawinda deep inside enemy terittory. He was fatally wounded during attack by a direct Artillery shell hit. Poona Horse under his command destroyed 60 Patton tanks at cost of 9 own tanks. This was one of the most deadly Tank battle after 1945. For the conspicuous bravery, steel determination, heroic action, valour during six days of Armour battle in the best traditions of Indian Army, Lt Col AB Tarapore was awarded Paramvir Chakra posthumously.
Company Quarter Master Havildar Abdul Hamid, 4 Grenadiers, PVC (Posthumous)
CQMH Abdul Hamid of 4 Grenadiers was a dare devil, who stalled the Pak I Armoured Division at Village Chima on Khemkaran –Taran Taran axis. He with his 106 mm recoilless Jeep mounted Gun destroyed 6 Patton tanks and made a supreme sacrifice. He was born in Village Dhamupur, Ghazipur District. Uttar Pradesh on July 1, 1933. His father Mohmmad Usman Idrishi was a tailor by profession and mother Sakina begum was a home maker. He was married to Rasoolan bibi. He was enrolled in 4 Grenadiers on December 27, 1954. He fought valiantly against Chinese Army at Nam Ka Chu River, NEFA sector, as part of 7 Infantry brigade in 1962 war.
During Indo-Pak War of 1965, 4 lnfantry division was entrusted with dual role. Firstly, advance rapidly up to eastern bank of Ichogil canal and capture maximum Pak territory and threaten Lahore. Secondly, if Pak launches offensive from Kasur Khemkaran axis then take up defences at vital area Asal Uttar and Chima east of Bhikiwind as part of Div Defence plan. 4 Grenadiers occupied defences at Village Chima on night of September 7, 1965. A tank troop of 3 Patton tanks appeared from Khem karan side at 0730h, rumbling on the road. Abdul Hamid had deployed his RCL well camouflaged in sugarcane field, he opened at the range less than 50 yards and destroyed it. The following tanks crews fled from spot, where tank was burning. Again, Tanks appeared at 1130 h, and he fired again and killed another tank. Next two days, there was heavy shelling and Air attacks bur 4 Grenadiers held firm. On September 10, again enemy launched another Armour attack.
CQMH Abdul Hamid moved to the flank. He destroyed two leading tanks with accurate anti tank fire and swiftly changing position. CQMH Addul Hamid was spotted by other enemy tank in support role. Undeterred, he destroyed yet another tank but was mortally wounded by intense Tank Main gun and Machine gun fire of following Tanks. His gallant action inspired his comrades to put up brave fight and beat back the heavy armour assault. Pak Armoured Division was also ambushed by Deccan Horse and 3 Cav and suffered heavy casualties and abandoned the offensive in this sector. His complete disregard to personal safety during operation and sustained act of bravery in face of constant enemy fire, were a shining example not only for his unit but whole division. For this gallant act, he was awarded the highest Bravery award of Indian Armed forced “Param Vir Chakra” posthumously.
The adventure of Pakistan Army proved to be a total disaster. Pakistan suffered heavily in terms of men, war machines and material. It is estimated almost 6000 Pak soldiers were killed and 475 tanks were destroyed. We also suffered losses. 2700 Indian troops made supreme sacrifice and 80 armoured fighting Vehicles were lost. India returned all occupied territories including strategic Haji Pir Pass. The biggest shock India suffered was tragic loss of Indian Prime minister, who was praised by Pak President Field Marshal Ayub Khan in his autobiography that “I could never imagine that short, soft spoken, Indian PM could take the tallest decision of opening fronts in Punjab and Rajasthan to counter Op Grand Slam in Jammu Kashmir in Monsoon War of 1965”.
The best reward of September War was that Indian Army got rid of the ghost of 1962 debacle and regained its status as a strong regional military power.
-The writer is an Indian Army veteran and a defence analyst. He has keen interest in Geo-strategic affairs and writes regularly on internal and external affairs issues related to India and neighbours. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda.