Chapter 13

Indo-Pak War of 1965

Prime Minister Nehru made the last effort of his life to settle the Kashmir issue in May, 1964. He invited Abdullah to come to Delhi as his personal guest. This esture made it clear that he wanted to placate Abdullah and made a new beginning in the spirit of forgive and forget.

Sh. Abdullah has given a graphic account of his meeting with Pt. Nehru after eleven years of estrangement in his autobiography. He claims to have suggested to Pt. Nehru to invite President Ayub of Pakistan to Delhi for direct talks on Kashmir and other related issues. According to him Pt. Nehru accepted his suggestion and requested him to visit Rawalpindi and invite Ayub on his behalf. According to Abdullah's version Pt. Nehru was "Prepared to consider all earlier proposals as also any alternative proposals that may be brought forward during talks to arrive at just, fair and mutually acceptable conclusions."

Sh. Abdullah received an invitation from President Ayub to visit Pakistan just at that time. It appeared to be pre-arranged and not just a coincidence. This cleared the way for his visit to Pakistan in the third week of May, 1964.

Before leaving for Rawalpindi Abdullah issued a press statement in which he gave his thinking about the possible solution of the problem. "The solution" he said, "should be such as does not create the feeling of defeat in any party, strengthening the foundations of secularism in India and satisfies the urge for freedom of the people of Kashmir". It pointed to a compromise solution suiting his ambition about freedom for Kashmir through some kind of mutual a rangement between New Delhi and Rawalpindi.

Abdullah and his entourage, which included his son Farooq Abdullah, got red carpet reception at Rawalpindi. He had detailed talks with President Ayub and other leaders of Pakistan. He must have conveyed to them his own plan and thinking of Pt. Nehru. Ayub accepted the invitation of Pt. Nehru and June 15, 1964 was fixed as a tentative date of his visit to New Delhi.

From Rawalpindi, Abdullah went to Muzzaffarabad, the capital of the so-called "Azad Kashmir". This Pak occupied district was of vital importance for Kashmir Valley because the roads which linked it with rail-heads of Rawalpindi and Havelian passed through it. He was therefore keen to woo its non-Kashmiri people to unite it with independent Kashmir of his dreams.

While Abdullah was still in Muzzaffarabad, Pt. Nehru breathed his last at New Delhi on May 27, 1964. This marked an end of an era in free-India. It also aborted the plan of direct talks between him and President of Pakistan for the settlement of Kashmir problem.

Pt. Nehru's death at that juncture was a great blow to Abdullah. He was confident of manipulating Nehru to hammer out a solution suiting his ambition and the plans of Pakistan. He cut short his visit and rushed back to Delhi.

As discussed earlier, special relationship between Nehru and Abdullah was a major factor in the making of the Kashmir problem. There was much in common between them. Both originally belonged to the Kaul Tribe of Kashmiri Pandits, both were voluptuous and ambitious and both shared weakness for women and good things of life. Pt. Nehru banked on Abdullah to retain Kashmir valley in truncketed India. Apart from his attachment to Kashmir for perochial reasons, he wanted to disprove the two nations theory on the basis of which he had accepted partition of British India in 1947. Sh. Abdullah wanted to exploit Pt. Nehru to put through his three nation theory according to which Kashmir was to be the third nation in the Indian sub-continent besides India and Pakistan. He might have succeeded in his game but for the twist of history mentioned above. Just as transfer of Hyderabad from Nehru's jurisdiction to Sardar Patel shattered the plan of Nizam Osman Ali about "Sovereign Hyderabad", death of Pt. Nehru destroyed the hope of Abdullah about securing an independent Kashmir with the concurrence of India and Pakistan.

Sh. Abdullah had paid handsome tribute to Pt. Nehru in "Atish-i-Chinar." But he has also betrayed his distrust for him in a very subtle way. According to him "Pt. Nehru's love for Kashmir was more like love for a beaufitul woman whom he wanted to possess and that he had come to regard him (Abdullah) as a Rakib or rival in love-for the possession of the beautiful valley."

Soon after Nehru's death Sh. Abdullah went abroad ostensibly for pilgrimage to holy places of Islam. He awaited this opportunity to establish contacts with heads of many Islamic states and also had a long meeting with Premier Chou-en-Lai of China at Algiers, capital of Algeria. The reports of his parleys as published in the foreign and Indian press and intelligence reports received by Government of India from its own sources created grave doubts about him. He was reported to be thinking of an Algeria like liberation movement to secure freedom for Kashmir. He was therefore ordered to return to India. On arrival at New Delhi he was arrested and put under detention. This pointed to more realistic thinking on the part of the new Govemment led by Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Lal Bahadur Shastri had little in common with Pt. Nehru. He was short in size, rustic in looks and unassuming to a fault. He had a mind of his own. Like Sardar Patel he was a man of the masses who had risen from ranks by dint of hard work. He was a nationalist and realist. He had gained first hand experience of the tricky mind of Kashmiri Muslims during the planned disappearance and reappearance of the reputed hair of prophet Mohammed kept in Hazrat Bal Shrine at Srinagar, in winter of 1963 and the anti-India frenzy that it had created. He had no misconception about Abdullah. By his decision to arrest and detain him he made it clear to all concerned that he was not prepared to treat Kashmir as anybody's fief. This step sent right signal to Pakistan also. It made President Ayub realize that he could not expect a soft line on Kashmir from the new government of India. President Ayub had his own assessment of the new leadership at New Delhi and State of military preparedness of India. According to his assessment Indian military machine had been badly mauled by the Chinese and it would take India sometime to regain its strength and self-confidence. Like many other Muslim leaders, he too had been nursing the fond notion about superiolity of Muslim soldiers. He had an exaggerated estimate of the strength of Pak army and capability of Patton tanks that he had acquired from USA. He therefore, wanted to take advantage of what he considered to be Pak military superiority for achieving his objective of grabbing Kashmir by other means.

Pakistan's rulers also banked on cooling off of the relations between India and Soviet Union in the wake of Indo-China war, Anglo-US support to India and improvement in relations between Pakistan and USSR. He had visited Moscow and developed personal relation with Soviet leaders. At the same time he had continued to enjoy the confidence of USA and was getting massive military aid from her to modernize the Pak army.

But before taking resort to arms he wanted to probe two things. He wanted to know the American reaction if he used American supplied armament against India. India had been assured by USA that arms supplied to Pakistan will not to be used against her. Secondly, he wanted to have a neasure of the mettle of the new Indian leadership. This was the main motivation of Pak incursion into Kutch region of Gujarat in early 1965.

Rann of Kutch was part of the princely state of Kutch which acceded to India in 1947. It is a marshy and sparsely populated region. Some island like uplands called 'Bets" serve as pasture lands. There were unconfirmed reports about reserves of oil and gas in this region. But no exploration had been done until then. India didn't expect any trouble from Pakistan in this sector. Therefore, it was virtually undefended. There were only a few police posts on some of the "Bets".

Pakistan had no valid claim on this area. Maps of the state of Kutch and India as a whole prepared by the government of undivided India had clearly denoted it as a part of Kutch State.

Armed forces of Pakistan backed by Patton tanks made a surprise attack on Kutch, captured some of the Indian posts and laid claims on the whole of Rann of Kutch. Before India could take a defensive action and make a counter attack, UK and USA began to put pressure on India to accept ceasefire which left a big chunk of Indian territory in Pak occupation. Soon after Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and General Ayub met in London where they had gone for Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference. There an agreement was signed through the mediation of British Prime Minister. The issue was referred to an International tribunal one of whose members was to be nominated by India and the other by Pakistan.

This was a clear victory for Pakistan. She had succeeded in creating a dispute by unprovoked aggression, tested its newly acquired arms, known the American reaction and internationalized the dispute with the assurance that Pakistan would get something in the bargain. It did get a chunk of about 1000 sq. miles of indisputable Indian territory in Kutch through the award of the Tribunal.

The Kutch adventure and its outcome gave new hope and confidence to Pakistan. It was evident from Ayub's address to Pakistani students in London in the course of which he bragged that Pakistan's tanks could have a stroll upto Delhi if he had so wished. The way Lal Bahadur Shastri, new as he was to the ways of international politics and diplomacy, acted during this Pak aggression and the negotiations that followed made Ayub think that he could brow beat him and India with impunity. He therefore, decided to go ahead with the main plank of his program to capture Kashmir.

Pakistan's plan was to launch a sudden attack on Kashmir Valley after sending thousands of armed infiltrations into the state to prepare the ground for proper reception and quick success of the invading army. The infiltration began in May, 1965. The plan was to take the city of Srinagar by surprise on August 9, 1965 when hundreds of thousands of villagers were to come there to celebrate the Martyrs Day call which had been given by pro- Pak leadership of Kashmir Valley. At the same time Pak saboteurs were to become active all along Pathankot- Jammu-Srinagar highway. A major attack was to be made on Chhamb sector to get control of the bridge on the Chenab, at Akhnoor and cut off the north western part of the state from supply bases at Jammu and Pathenkot. The bridge on the Chenab at Ram Ban on the highway to Srinagar from Jammu was also to be captured.

The operation in Jammu region began according to plan. But timely information by a Muslim Gujar of Uri about massive infiltration and timely action by the authorities made the part of the operation in the valley a flop.

As a defensive action, the Indian defense forces made an assault on 9000 feet high Haji Peer Pass the only pass leading into the valley from the North West which was under control of Pakistan, and occupied it. An equally daring action led to the re-capture of Kargil Heights which command Srinagar-Leh road. These Heights had been captured by Indian forces in April at the time of Kutch war but had been returned to Pakistan in June. These two actions sealed off Kashmir valley and ensured the safty of Laddakh.

Finding its plan of capturing Kashmir through armed infiltrators with the help of local people thus thwarted, Pakistan launched a full scale invasion of the state in Chhamb Jammu sector on September 1, 1965. The object as stated above was to capture Akhnoor bridge and cut off Rajouri and Poonch from the rest of the state and clear the way for capturing the Ram Ban bridge on the Chenab to enable Pakistan to isolate troops in the encircled valley.

Indian troops in Chhamb had no tanks to support them because the one span Akhnoor bridge could not take the load of heavy tanks. Therefore, the capture of the bridge and advance of the Pak forces on Jammu appeared to be a certainty. Indian air force went into action when Pakistani tanks were hardly 10 miles away from Akhnoor. It destroyed a number of them and slowed down their advance.

Even though Pak advance toward Akhnoor and Jammu was slowed down by air action, it was obvious that it could not be halted unless there was counter attack on Lahore and Salkot sectors by India. Pakistan had planned its strategy on the assumption that as in 1947 India would not extend the theatre of war beyond the boundary of Jammu and Kashmir state and that with the logistic advantage that Pakistan had in Chhamb sector, it would be able to capture Kashmir and that India would acquiesce in the loss of the valley after fretting and fuming for some time. The experience of first Indo-Pak war when Pt. Nehru did not allow Indian army to make a counter attack on Sialkot, which would have forced Pakistan to come to terms on India's conditions lay at the root of this assumption. Ayub had thought that Prime Minister Shastri would not have the courage to order an all out war with Pakistan. He was also confident that in case of such a war his armored divisions equipped with Patton tanks would be able to go right up to Delhi.

I happened to be at Srinagar when Pakistan launched its attack on Chhamb. I had earlier visited Indo-Pak border from Pathankot to Akhnoor and seen with my own eyes the deserted villages, burned vehicles and streams of refugees moving toward Jammu.

D. P. Dhar, then Home Minister of State met me on September 2, and apprised me of the imminent threat to Kashmir Valley. He requested me to rush to Delhi to press upon the Prime Minister Shastri to launch counter attack on Sialkot to relieve pressure on Jammu and Kashmir.

"You know every inch of Kashmir and can understand the situation better than any other Indian leader. Once Jammu-Srinagar Highway is cut, Kashmir cannot be saved" was his pathetic plea.

Fortunately, an Indian Airlines plane was stranded in Srinagar at that time because Jammu airport had been closed. It flew me and some officials and visiting members of Parliament direct to Delhi the same evening.

I was happy to learn on reaching Delhi that on the advice of the Defense Chief Shri Shastri had already taken the right decision. He had learned his lesson from the Kutch fiasco and was prepared to call the Pakistani bluff at all costs.

Counter attack on Lahore and Sialkot had the desired result. Pressure on Chhamb sector was relieved. Pak forces fell back to defend Lahore and Sialkot. When cease fire was ordered on September 21, in response to resolution of U. N. Security Council, Pakistan was nowhere near Kashmir Valley while Lahore and Sialcot were within the range of Indian guns. Lahore had been evacuated and could have fallen into Indian hands if the Indian government had so decided.

Thus the Pak plan to secure by force of arms what it had not been able to get by diplomacy and negotiations failed miserably. Not only Kashmir eluded it once again but it also got a bloody nose. Capture of Haji Pir, Kargil Heights and part of Pak territory up to Sialkot and Lahore retrieved the prestige of Indian armed forces which had suffered badly during the Sino-Indian war of 1962.

But India was once again worsted at the diplomatic table. Attitude of UK and USA during and after the war, as expected, was anything but friendly. Their sympathy for Pakistan was open. But to the great chagrin and dismay of India even USSR maintained a neutral stance. It gave no indication of sympathy and support for India.

After the war Soviet Premier, Kosygin, decided to play the role of a peace maker. He invited both Prime Minister Shastari and President Ayub to meet at Tashkant for peace settlement. Both accepted his invitation. Indian delegation including Foreign Minister Swaran Singh, Defense Minister Y. B. Chawan and Indian Ambassador at Moscow, T. N. Kaul. Pakistan delegation included its Foreign Minister, Z. A. Bhutto. The meeting began on January 4th, with an opening address by Kosygin in the course of which he said "India and Pakistan are our southern neighbors. We always came out not only for the strengthening of friendly relations between Soviet Union and India and Pakistan but also for the reign of peace and friendship between these countries themselves." He did not utter a word which could be considered as sympathetic to India which had been subjected to unprovoked aggression. Deliberations continued till January 10, when Tashkent Declaration was adopted and initiated by Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan on behalf of India and Pakistan.

Tashkent Declaration was a collection of platitudes. Its only concrete and operative part was clause-II which said "The Prime Minister of India and President of Pakistan have agreed that all armed personnel of the two countries shall be withdrawn not later than 15 February, 1966 to the positions they held prior to August 5th and both sides will observe the ceasefire terms on the ceasefire line."

This was a clear rebuff to India. It not only put the aggressor and the aggressed on par but also committed India to withdraw from Haji Pir and Kargil Heights which belonged to India, had been illegally occupied by Pakistan and had been liberated by Indian armed forces at a heavy cost. It virtually gave legal validity to Pak occupation of the territory it had occupied in 1947-48 without prejudice to its claim on the rest of the state which was still with India.

Lal Bahadur had assured the people and armed forces before his departure for Tashkent that he would not accept any suggestion for the return to Pakistan of Haji Pir pass and Kargil Heights. He stood firm on his word to the nation till the last day. But his aides, Swaran Singh, Y. B. Chawan and T. N. Kaul, pressurred him to accept the Pak demand for withdrawal of troops from there for fear of alienation of USSR. It implied that it was the presure of the Soviet Union which forced India to accept a patently unjust settlement. Had India not put all her eggs in Soviet basket and had it maintained dialogue with USA also before and after going to Tashkent, it might have been saved from the predicament in which Shastri had to sign the Tashkent Declaration against his better judgement.

Prime Minister Shastri was found dead in his room at Tashkent on the morning of January 11, 1966. It was given out that he died of heart failure. But suspicion that he was poisoned to death lingers on. No detailed inquiry into his death was made. Indian physician Dr. Chugh, who had accompanied him to Tashkent was mysteriously liquidated sometime later.

Death of Shri Shastri Shastri was the greater loss suffered by India at Tashkent. Had he returned to India alive, he might have given new orientation to India's foreign policy and ended her total dependence on Soviet Union which had proved not only undependable but also dubious.

Soviet leaders were more concerned with global interests and global strategy of Soviet Union than with national interests of India. Independence of character and commitment to national interest above everything else that Lal Bahadur Shastri had displayed during his short tenure was not to the liking of Soviet Union and its supporters in India. They wanted a more pliable person committed to Nehruvian foreign policy to toeing the Soviet line even at the cost of vital national interest of India. That explained the interest Kosygin, who overstayed in Delhi for 4 days after the funeral of Lal Bahadur Shastri, showed in the election of Mrs. Gandhi as Leader of Congress Parliamentary Party to fill the place of Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Pakistan was not sincere about Tashkent Declaration. This became clear from the statement made by Altaf Gauhar, Press Secretary of President Ayub, soon after the signing of this Declaration. He was reported to have said that nothing but withdrawal of troops to August 5, position which suited Pakistan had been agreed upon and that Pakistan reserved the right to continue its efforts to secure Kashmir by force. President Ayub confirmed this in his statement made at Hamburg in November, 1966. He said, "It (Tashkent Declaration) settled nothing. All it did was to enable the two countries to disengage their armies from each other."

From the Indian point of view, the futile Pak attempt to grab Kashmir by force had some positive results. In the first place even those parties in India like the Swatantra Party which had been advocating settlement with Pakistan about Kashmir in terms of UN resolutions conceded that Pakistan had forfeited its claim on Kashmir by taking resort to arms.

Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the new Prirne Minister, also declared at New York on March 31, 1966, "It is now too late to talk of plebiscite. The second invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan last autumn has destroyed whatever marginal or academic value the old UN resolutions might have had. Kashmir is now also vital to defense of Laddakh against China. Any plebiscite today would by definition amount to questioning the integrity of India. It will rouse the demand for accessation against which is fought a civil war. We cannot and will not tolerate a second partition of India on religious ground. It will destroy the very basis of the Indian states." l.

Secondly, it had a salutary effect on the minds of those Kashmiris who had been wistfully looking to Pakistan.

Had the government of India taken advantage of this situation to fully integrate Kashmir with the rest of India and had it extended Indian Constitution to that State and enabled Indians from other parts of the country to settle there, the Pak design on Kashmir might have been effectively scotched for ever.

But that was not to be. Mrs. Gandhi had the same weakness for Sh. Abdullah and his concept of Kashmiri nationalism which had prevented her father to adopt a realistic and nationalistic approach to Kashmir issue. Her policies soon destroyed the wholesome effect of 1965 war on Kashmiri mind.

The net result of Second Indo-Pak war on Kashmir went in favor of Pakistan, as in the case of First War of 1947- 48. Pakistan had gained 30,000 sq. miles of Indian territory by the war of 1947-4B. It regained some of this territory which had been taken back by Indian army in the war of 1965. It also established its right on the territory illegally occupied by it since the ceasefire of 1949. It was also able to push out lakhs of Hindus from both wings of Pakistan as refugees into India. Furthermore, it confiscated Indian properties and assets in Pakistan worth hundred of crores of rupees. Thus, in spite of its failure to grab Kashmir by force it was able to strengthen its position against India both internally and externally.

FOOTNOTE

1. Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 2, l966.

Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World

KASHMIR: THE STORM CENTER OF THE WORLD
Index
About the Author
Foreword
Abode of Kashyap
The Making of J&K
Hundred Years of Dogra Rule
Quit Kashmir Movement
Hari Singh's Dilemma
Accession to India
First Indo-Pak War
Bungling at U.N.
Kashmir Divided
The Dixon Proposals
Shadow of Cold War
The Chinese Factor
Indo-Pak War of 1965
Indo-Pak War of 1971
The Great Betrayal
Back to Square One
War by Proxy
The Way Out
Appendix