On the 51st anniversary of Indian Army’s attack across the international border into Pakistan Punjab in the 1965 war, former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh, who was the ADC to the then GOC-in-C Western Command, Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, said that Lahore was never the military objective due to paucity of reserve forces.
Amarinder had remained at the side of Lt Gen Harbaksh during the 1965 war and had a ring side view of the military operations and higher direction of war. “It was a battle of attrition. We did not have adequate reserve troops and our only reserve division was 23 Infantry Division. Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh told me that had we seized the initiative after initial success and gone on to capture Lahore he would have needed at least three infantry divisions to hold on and administer Lahore itself,” said Amarinder.
Recalling the initial success that the Army faced on the Lahore axis, Amarinder said that on the intervening night of September 5 and 6, the Army Commander spent the whole night travelling through the units and brigades deployed along the Indo-Pak border to boost their morale for the impending attack. “We travelled all through the night meeting troops wishing them luck and patting them on the back. We got back to the tactical headquarters of 11 Corps in Raiyya (On Jalandhar-Amritsar road) at 2:30 am and the attack into Pakistan Punjab by 11 Corps started at 4:30 am,” he said.
He said that the information from the battle field was good till around 11 am. “Then we got a message from Maj Gen Niranjan Prasad, GOC 15 Infantry Division, on the Lahore axis, that his troops had been hit badly by Pakistan Air Force and he wanted permission to pull back. He was asked to stay put. One of our battalions, 3 Jat, had not only reached Ichhogil canal on the outskirts of Lahore but had also put across two companies beyond the canal despite the Pakistanis having blown up the bridge,” said Amarinder.
He recollects that the Army Commander, Corps Commander and he drove down as fast as they could across the international border and found the GOC to be sitting under a tree. “He was sitting on a cot, unshaven with his shirt hanging out and he got an earful from Lt Gen Harbaksh for his disheveled state. Lt Gen JS Dhillon, the Corps Commander was furious and told the Army Commander that with three officers present at the spot they should from a court martial, try the GOC for withdrawing without orders and shoot him on the spot else there would be a 1962 like situation,”.
Lauding Lt Gen Harbaksh’s role in stabilising the situation on all sectors and especially after the reverses in Khemkaran where the Pakistanis broke through Indian defences, Amarinder said the then Army Commander handled an area from Ladakh to Gujarat which is now handled by three commands of the Army. “It was one man show. Though the Corps Commanders were also experienced. It must not be forgotten that we had just finished a war with China and there were 15 Chinese Divisions facing us across the Indo-Tibet border. NATO countries had armed Pakistan while India had nothing in comparison and it was only because he kept his nerve and convinced the Army Headquarters to launch an attack into Pakistan Punjab that the Pakistan Army was put on the backfoot and could not succeed in its designs in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.