Book: The Monsoon War: Young Officers Reminisce – 1965 India-Pakistan War
Author: Amarinder Singh and Lt General Tajinder Shergill, PVSM
Publisher: Roli Books
Amarinder Singh and Tajinder Shergill’s history-cum-memoirs of the 1965 Indo-Pak war come at the tail end of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the military stalemate between the two South Asian neighbours. The slight delay in the release of The Monsoon War is adequately made up by the slick production of this coffee table book on the war.
Although Amarinder Singh and Shergill both participated in the war — the former as the ADC to the Western Army Commander, Lt General Harbaksh Singh, and Shergill as a troop leader of Deccan Horse — the authors do not restrict the book to their personal experiences. They allow their experiences to provide the context for the events that led to the war, the conduct of the war itself, and the post-war negotiations. Available literature, both published and unpublished, is used to capture the distinct flavour of a war fought between two armies which knew each other rather well. Many of the commanders had studied or trained together, or even served together, and thus knew each other’s personalities well. That they were now fighting onopposing sides made the hostilities unique.
Due to the wide experience of the authors, the book contains interesting tidbits about the participants of the war. One such case is of the Pakistani ruler during the war, Ayub Khan, who had granted himself the rank of Field Marshal. With detailed background research, the authors show that Ayub had performed very poorly as an officer during the Second World War. He was shifted from 1/14th Punjab to 1 Assam battalion as an officiating commanding officer — when he was nearly sacked in Burma — and then to commanding 1 Chamar battalion, which was disbanded immediately after the war. Ayub hadn’t volunteered for Pakistan army’s Kashmir operations in 1948 and was seen as a very hesitant and irresolute commander. This was manifest during the 1965 war.
While providing great details of every single military operation during the 1965 war, the book, however, has no new insights or revelations to offer. The depth of coverage of each operation may enthuse a military buff but is liable to put off a lay reader. Military buffs would have already read the Indian defence ministry’s official history of the 1965 war and Farooq Bajwa’s From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. They would thus be aware of most of the written material in the book.
By faithfully collating existing material, and backing it up with professionally produced maps and unseen black-and-white photographs, the authors have produced a book which can be used as a reference book in military libraries. The Monsoon War is a visual treat, bound to earn a few admiring glances in military messes too.