IT is ironic that this year the Indian government is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its ‘victory’ in the 1965 war, though various accounts of their own diplomats, scholars and researchers make it clear that it was a deadlock before the UN declared a ceasefire on September 22, 1965.

Jaswant Singh, one of India’s topmost diplomats who has served as the finance and the defence minister in his book, India at Risk — Mistakes, Misconceptions and Misadventures of Security Policy states: “If the war had continued for another week, Pakistan would have been forced to surrender. Unfortunately, General Chaudhury advised the prime minister to accept the UN ceasefire proposal since he felt both sides were running out of ammunition. This was far from true for India...The great failure of leadership was clearly the loss of nerve by Gen. Chaudhury, then the CoAS, in advising a general withdrawal of our forces east of Beas.”

Another former Indian ambassador, Rajiv Dogra has this to say in Where Borders Bleed - An Insider’s Account of Indo-Pak Relations. “But when Shastri asked army chief, General J.N. Chaudhary whether India could win a spectacular victory if the war was prolonged by a few days, the reply given by the general was hedged by ifs and buts.”

Perhaps the best defence of India has been offered by Dilip Hero in his book, The Longest August — The unflinching rivalry between India and Pakistan. It says: “What was the end result of the war? This question is best answered by stating the primary objective of each protagonist. The aim of Pakistan, the instigator, was to change the status quo in Kashmir by force. It failed to do so. India’s objective was merely to frustrate its adversary’s goal. It succeeded. In a way, Delhi won by not losing.”

What Mr Hero fails to mention is that India could not capture any major Pakistani city throughout the 17-day conflict despite launching a three-pronged attack on Sept 6.

Although the political and economic consequences for Pakistan were severe in the wake of this war, its armed forces, successfully kept an enemy much larger in size and resources at bay. This in itself is no mean achievement.

Umar M. Makhdumi


Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2015

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