August in Kashmir is a really beautiful month. The valley is lush green, sun is bright, the sky crystal clear. Only the slight tinge of cold in the air reminds you of the advance of the winter season at doors. One phenomenon is also common. At nights, the jackals come down to the valley from the heights to escape the cold weather. Their howling makes the air vibrate in melancholy.
( Brig. Hari Singh at the captured post of Barkee, distt. Lahore)
But the jackals which slithered down the hills in the cold nights of August 1963 were not the common ones. These were Pakistan army’s 50th Airborne Paratroopers. Operation Gibraltar was on the go. Gradully, 40,000 trained and motivated irregulars and Army men infiltrated the valley. The aim was, in the words of retired Pakistani General Akhtar Hussain Malik,”to defreeze the Kashmir problem, weaken Indian resolve, and bring India to the conference table without provoking general war.” And this was to be done by mixing with the local populace and incite them for a popular revolt against the Indian regime. It was a full proof plan.
India was in serious trouble. Gibraltar Force gained success and overran many Indian positions, destroyed bridges and carried out Ambushes over Indian Conveys killing number of Indian troops. Ghaznavi Force Commanded by Major Malik Munawar Khan Awan SJ captured Indian garrison of Rajouri. Indian army needed a morale boost up….immediately and desperately.
This was the time when the petite Indian Prime Minister rose to occasion. Lal Bahadur Shastri was not a man of flamboyance which Nehru was. He did not have the panache of a cunning diplomat in him. What he had was a resolve, a tough heart of iron which was moulded by the difficulties faced in the course of life. And this resolve was the very thing India which India needed.
The short old man from Benaras addressed the nation,
“In these circumstances, the duty of Government and people is quite clear and this duty will be discharged fully and effectively… We would prefer to live in poverty for as long as necessary but we shall not allow our freedom to be subverted.”
He got a letter of threat from China to which he responded, “If China attacks India it is our firm resolve to fight for our freedom. The might of China will not deter us from defending our territorial integrity.”
And finally….he urged his nation to stand up, united. He gave the nation “ Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” call.
And it was enough. The lost morale was reinvented and the Indian forces pushed on. The infiltrators were repulsed by the end of August. Pakistan got baffled and launched a massive attack using its real strength and launched Operation Grandslam, reclaiming the lost land. Ayub Khan stated, “Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and place”.
But Ayub once again underestimated the Indian PM. Shashtri did the thing which Pakistan had not thought even in the faintest of her dreams….he opened the western front and Indian forces marched towards Lahore. Now it was Pakistan’s turn to shiver,….if you have Kashmir, we will have Punjab. It was Shashtri who knew the right time and place to hit the blows, not Ayub.
Pakistan hastily had to relocate her forces. Operation Grandslam failed, Kashmir once again was lost. In the push, Indian Army reached within the range of Lahore Airport.
The war saw the legendary Battle Of Asal Uttar (real answer ). 120 Indian tanks hidden in sugarcane field ambushed 180 Patton tanks, which were very much powerful. The Indians waited until “the whites of the eyes of the enemy were visible”…..and then opened the hellfire of their turrets. 100 Patton tanks were destroyed.
India, with a higher than ever morale, now was gaining an upper hand in the war. Meanwhile, USSR and America tried to prevent further escalation of war and an agreement was proposed. Pakistan greedily accepted the offer fearing the battle tilting in India’s favour, and their diminishing stockpile of arms and ammunition. The Gandhian in Shastri gave way to the warrior in Shashtri. Despite strong opposition from the military leadership, India bowed to growing international pressure. Tashkent declaration was signed….and the little old man’s heart perhaps could not bear it…it failed.
India lost another leader. The Ministry of broadcast said, “The war of 1965 was fought and won for our self-respect and our national prestige. For using our Defence Forces with such admirable skill, the nation remains beholden to Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri. He will be remembered for all times to come for his large heartedness and public service.” Indeed.
But why did Pakistan loose the battle when all this was so well planned and well calculated?
The answer is- The Kashmiris did not behave in the way that Pakistan had expected them to. In 1963, the holy hair of the Prophet ( PBUH) went missing from the Hazratbal mosque of Srinagar. Mass protests from the Kashmiri populace erupted. This Pakistan mistook as an anti-India uprising and rushed to cash the opportunity. But this was a wrong assumption. It was only a religious uprising. In fact many of the Kashmiris helped the Indian forces in sorting out the infiltrators. So the Pakistani plan was flawed right from the beginning.
Kashmiris were not ready to stand against the Indian Regime.
But they did….in 1989, stand against it.
And to know the how and the reasons behind it, wait for the next part…
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