Pakistan Must Accept the Reality: It Lost the 1965 War 

Pakistan would have benefited if there was introspection over the loss of its eastern wing, writes Subir Bhaumik

Updated
India
5 min read
Pakistan army soldiers participate in a ceremony to mark Pakistani Defence Day, in Islamabad (Photo: AP)

(On the 53rd anniversary of the 1965 Indo-Pak war, The Quint is republishing this story from its archives. It was originally published on 11 September 2015.)

The angry reaction by some Pakistanis to a Karachi-based historian who claimed the Pakistan military lost the 1965 war is surprising. Professor S Akbar Zaidi, who rubbished Pakistan army claims that it won the 1965 war, is not the first in that country to have done so. Altaf Gauhar’s ‘Inside the 1965 War’ and ‘Ayub Khan: Pakistan’s First Military Ruler’ had conclusively established that fact.

Gauhar, then Pakistan Minister of Information and Broadcasting, says Ayub was over-ridden with the “prejudice” that “the Hindu has no stomach for a fight” and this “turned to belief, if not a military doctrine, which had the decisive effect on the course of events.”

In his books, Gauhar details how ‘Operation Gibraltar’ was an ill-conceived plan – it was based on assumptions that the Kashmiris will start a massive uprising against India once they found mujahids across the border in their midst. That just did not happen. The Kashmiris resented the orgy of murder and rape that these mujahids unleased on Kashmiris in 1947-48 and in most cases, the mujahids (often Pakistanis regulars in civilian uniform) were turned in to the Indian army.

Snapshot

50 Years Since the 1965 War

  • It is time Pakistan came to terms with the reality that it did not win the 1965 war. Neither did India
  • Pakistan must introspect seriously why it lost its eastern wing that became Bangladesh
  • If it could not satisfy the aspirations of Bengali Muslims, what can it offer Kashmiri Muslims except ‘blood and tears’
  • The army that lost half the country is a discredited force, so it threatens a nuclear strike everytime they see an Indian conventional threat
  • It is time Pakistan tells its soldiers to do the job they are recruited for. Let running the country be left to elected politicians

Unreasonable Expectations

Pakistan Must Accept the Reality: It Lost the 1965 War 

Operation ‘Grand Slam’ was initiated with a bang to cover the dismay and failure over ‘Gibraltar’ – the mood is detailed in ‘Inside the 1965 War’ in which Gauhar blames Bhutto for rushing Ayub into it. Clearly, the entire plan was based on misconceptions and poor intelligence.

In contrast, the Indian military establishment in 1971 firmly resisted political pressures to intervene in East Pakistan in June-July 1971. General Sam Maneckshaw and his team told Indira Gandhi and her aides that the Indian army would not intervene in East Pakistan during the monsoon but rather use it to bleed the Pakistanis before launching the final offensive in the winter, when the snow in the Himalayas would rule out a Chinese intervention and the Indian soldiers could take Dhaka before the Americans intervened in a lightning offensive.

Pakistan as a nation would have benefitted so much if there was an honest introspection over the loss of the eastern wing. That did not happen. The army managed to circulate unending lies through its spin doctors (in or without uniform) to colour perceptions. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was no ‘Indian agent’. He was a proud Bengali leader who could rouse his people by asking them to stand up to the enemy. India got involved when it realised the movement had popular support.

Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif has described Kashmir as the “unfinished agenda of the Partition.” If three wars and 30 years of ‘covert war’ has not succeeded and Pakistan’s military has failed to do a Bangladesh in Kashmir it is because even the Kashmiri ‘freedom fighters’ don’t trust Pakistan. It is because the Kashmiri jihadi leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who Pakistan perhaps trusts, is no patch on Mujib or any of his close comrades like Nazrul Islam or Tajjuddin. It is because the likes of Geelani cannot promise what many Kashmiris want – azadi.

If Bengali Muslims who were easily the largest ethnic group in undivided Pakistan did not get any justice and if Mujib could not become Prime Minister after the Awami League won 168 of the 300 seats in the 1970 national assembly polls, what can the Kashmiri Muslim expect from Pakistan! Knowing they would be a miniscule percentage of Pakistan’s population if the Srinagar valley was merged in Pakistan, why should they opt for Pakistan even if they found India not to their liking?

Antagonistic Contradictions

Pakistan Must Accept the Reality: It Lost the 1965 War 

The easy answer to why independent Bangladesh became a reality and independent Kashmir is not going to be one, regardless of the ISI’s “thousand cuts”, is because the Bengalis in 1971 knew India wanted their independence, not their territory, whereas the Kashmiri knows Pakistan will never give them ‘azadi’, so why jump from frying pan to fire. So any Kashmiri leader who wants independence and does not submit to the ISI’s bullying has his days numbered.

The Pakistan army is a discredited force. It surrendered the country’s East with 93,000 soldiers intact. The day Lt Gen A A K Niazi surrendered with 93,000 soldiers because he realised surrendering to the Indian army was a better option than to fall into the hands of the revenge-seeking Muktijoddhas (freedom fighters). Even now, we see media reports of Pakistani troops surrendering to irregulars like Talibans.

The Indian army has several black sheep, like ‘ketchup colonels’ and those indicted in fake encounters like Machil in Kashmir, but none so far who has surrendered to an irregular formation like Kashmiri or northeastern guerrilla forces. This is a professional army which thrives on honour , not a political one like Pakistan, where officers have more to live for than to die for.

And if an army loses half the country, after an orgy of rape and massacre and pillage and plunder, what honor is it left with? The Pakistan military is no useful ally in the “war against terror” because it feeds the terror tap with one hand and pretends to tackle it with another. It is not easy to sustain such “antagonistic contradictions”, to use a Marxist phrase. Surely not for long.

(Subir Bhaumik, a veteran BBC correspondent, is author of two highly acclaimed books on Northeast India –“Insurgent Crossfire” and “Troubled Periphery”.)

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