Why Did the Indian and Pakistani Armies fail in 1965?

This is a chapter from Major Amin’s history of the Pakistani army. It is a very long post and there is a lot of repetition (do keep in mind that he wrote it mainly for a Pakistani audience, who may need convincing on some of the points) but I wanted to post it as a historical document and as something  people who are interested in military history may want  to read at leisure. As with any such analysis, there will be no many different opinions.. feel free to add yours in the comments.. Major Amin’s book has some excellent maps and tables that I was unable to transfer successfully. My apologies for that, but the points are pretty clear even without those.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN ANALYSIS – 1965 WAR by Major Agha Humayun Amin

Havelock said that ; “In philosophy, it is not the attainment of the goal that matters, it is the things that are met with by the way”. So it is with war. The most important thing for the student of military history or the art of war is not whether a country lost or won the war but how it was fought, how units performed in action, how decisions were made in face of the stress and strain of battle, the difference between practice and precept in short all matters pertaining to strategy tactics leadership equipment etc. In other words to simply analyze the war to answer the questions like “Whence”? “Whither” ? “Why”? and “How”?

In this analysis of war we have to go beyond probabilities and examine various facets of a particular situation and arrive at conclusions that will assist us in face of a similar crisis situation in future. War is the final audit of an army in which unit efficiency as well as higher and lower leadership is gauged and no book on an army is complete without analyzing in detail the qualitative efficiency of an army in actual War. Unfortunately most books written on both Pakistan and Indian Armies by foreigners and therefore meekly accepted by the subcontinentals who suffer from a subtle inferiority complex; as the final authority; do not discuss the qualitative efficiency of both the Pakistan and Indian Armies in any actual war; both as British Indian Army and as two different armies after 1947!

Instead these books beat round the bush discussing vague and largely irrelevant issues which their authors have decided to highlight, merely because they have decided to write a book and want to write their book without going into the subtleties of actual wars fought by the Indo Pak armies.

In the following paragraphs an attempt has been made to analyze the conduct of 1965 war and to answer certain questions about the qualitative efficiency of the Pakistan Army in a detached manner separating myth from reality and fact from fiction. This analysis is important because a considerable part of Pakistani military history has been deliberately or inadvertently distorted based on nationalistic parochial personal and inter arm prejudices and jealousies.


We have already discussed in detail the impact of the British military tradition on the Indo Pak armies in our earlier chapters dealing with the armies of the English East India Company and the pre 1947 British Indian Army. This was not something confined to Indo- Pak subcontinent alone but an all Asia trend. From the late eighteenth century the “European Way of Warfare” was generally borrowed and follow as the gospel truth by many East European and Afro-Asian armies. The trend of “importing the European way of war” started around 1600 when the Ottoman Turks came into contact with the European powers in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Till 1500 the Europeans who had as a matter of fact military failed in the Crusades against Asia enjoyed no significant military advantage over Asia. Till the invention of gunpowder the cavalry remained the dominant arm in battle and the infantry was relegated to a secondary role. The ascendancy of European methods of warfare starts with the advent of Gustavus Adolphus(1496- 1560) of Sweden who introduced a renaissance in the art of warfare by “harnessing modern technology to a practical military philosophy” . (1)

Gustavus principal contribution was the introduction of a relatively superior conceptual framework of integrating military organization with weapons and tactics. He created an infantry organized in brigades of two to four regiments each of which had eight battalions of four companies etc. He introduced similar reforms in cavalry and artillery integrating artillery with infantry and cavalry in battle and restructured infantry formations in such a way that their firepower was enhanced. One of his most important reforms was employment of cavalry as a “shock weapon”.

Gustavus’s methods were copied by the French and the British. Gustavus ‘s tactics were improved by Turenne of France and Cromwell and Marlborough of England and were further improved by Napoleon who was able to benefit from the analytical studies of great military thinkers like Gribeauval Maurice de Saxe Bourcet Joseph Du Teil and Guibert. Formal military schools were organized in France where the art of war was studied while similar institutions were founded in Prussian and Sweden.

By 1600 Russia was the first country outside mainland Europe to realize that there was something conceptually and organizationally superior in the West European way of warfare which enabled them to defeat numerically superior but more primitively organized armies. lt may be noted that as late as 1592 the Russians were no match to the Muslim Tartars of the Golden Horde who sacked Moscow in 1571 and managed to penetrate into suburbs of Moscow as late as 1592. 1t may seem unbelievable to many but as late as 1660s the Crimean Muslim Tartars were one of Russia’s most feared enemies.(2)

A similar pattern of imitation was followed in the Ottoman Turk Army fromapproximately 1750 to 1914 when the Ottomans discovered that medieval tactics of cavalry assault were of little utility against relatively numerically superior or equal strength European armies with superior organization’.(3)

It was adoption of superior West European military tactics which enabled the Russians to defeat the Ottomans during the period 1699-1878.A similar effort was made in the Egyptian Army of Mohammad Ali during the period I803- 30. (4)

The Chinese started organizing their army on European lines from approximately 1850 onwards following disastrous military performance in the Opium War of 1840-42.The Japanese learnt a similar lesson from the humbling of China by the Europeans in the Opium Wars and invited a French Military Mission in 1867 to organize and train their army in modern military methods. (5)

We have seen that a similar trend was followed in India when the European companies appeared on the Indian scene as major participants in the struggle for political supremacy in the period 1740-1800 in the situation created because of the vacuum which developed because of the decline of the Mughal Empire.

The Indian native states discovered that smaller armies with a European nucleus and larger number of Indians trained in the European way of war could defeat numerically much larger armies of the Indian rulers.

Thus, all Indian states imitated the European companies and imported military advisors from France Italy Germany Ireland etc. to train their armies on European lines.

By 1849 however the English East India Company had defeated all native states employing as we have earlier discussed a largely native army led by British officers and based on a smaller European core element. From 1757 to 1947 for a period of approximately 190 years India saw an army of Indian mercenaries led by British officers which dominated India.

This army was primarily an internal security army which was theoretically supposed to defend India against a possible Russian invasion from the northwest. Later as w-e saw the outbreak of first world war forced the British to employ the Indian Army as a desperate remedy against the German invasion of France. After the first world war the Indian Army was once again relegated to its major role of internal security. This was followed by the Second World War which forced the British to once again re-equip and modernize the Indian Army in order to fight the second world war. This was followed by the partition when the British Indian Army was divided on religious lines and was bifurcated into two blocks of a tree whose sapling was planted by Clive in 1757.

Any discussion or analysis of the performance of Pakistani or Indian Armies based on the assumption that these armies came into existence in August 1947 is meaningless and incomplete. The organisational tactical and social development of both the armies had a 190 year old connection with British rule in India and influenced their conduct in 1948 1965 1971 wars and even today in many aspects. We will therefore first of all analyze the conduct of Pakistan Army in 1965 with particular reference to the influence of the “British military Legacy”. An attempt was made by sycophants in the period 1958-69 to prove that the Pakistan Army was largely the creation of Ayub Khan!

There are two types of men in history; i.e. those who follow the status quo and those who are originators or executors of dynamic ideas which change the course of history ! Both Indian and Pakistan Armies were dominated by men of the former category. In India primacy of civilian leadership did not allow the growth of dynamism in the army while in Pakistan concentration on improving personal fortunes and in perpetuating military dictatorship ,kept the military usurpers attention fixed on non-military things!

In other words no major change or reform was undertaken in both the armies as far as doctrine staff procedures and military organization were concerned .The armies which fought the 1965 war were led by men who were the products of the British Colonial heritage. We will examine the influence of British military colonial legacy on Pakistan Army’s conduct in 1965 war in the following paragraphs.

British Indian Military Tradition: —

Britain’s power was never based on its army but on its naval power and superior diplomacy which enabled it to defeat its various European mainland rivals by coalition warfare.

Thus after Marlborough British Army’s role in land warfare on European mainland decreased and during the Napoleonic wars Britain’s main contribution consisted in naval warfare or in providing finances for sustaining the various coalitions against France than in actual war against France. Thus Napoleon was destroyed in Russia and in the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 in which the British Army had no role.

Even Waterloo was a coalition affair in which the Prussians played as major a role as the British. In short the foundation of British supremacy or British power was not military excellence but other factors like naval power, superior diplomacy and an overall superior political system.

In this sense the British legacy which the Indo Pak armies inherited was certainly not the finest in the world. But the difference did not end here. The British Indian Army which was the father of the post 1947 Indo Pak Armies was an even more outdated organization than the regular British Army.

This was so because the regular British Army was designed to fight Britain’s European enemies and thus got more attention in terms of finances equipment and was more vigorously reformed by a concerned parliament.

The British Indian Army which was primarily an internal security army was far more backward than the regular British Army because it was not designed to face any European foe till 1914 except the Russians whose military potential or effectiveness was regarded as far more inferior than Britain’s West European rivals like Germany and France and which in any case performed very poorly in the Crimean War of 1854-56 and was later defeated by an Asiatic power in the Russo Japanese War.

In terms of equipment the Indian Army as we have already seen was deliberately kept one generation behind the regular British Army whether it was infantry weapons or artillery (which was taboo for Indians except few mountain batteries in which Indians could serve as common soldiers).

The Indian Army was trained as late as 1900 to fight primarily as battalions or brigades against frontier tribesmen. We have already discussed that the First World War forced the British to slightly modernize the Indian Army and the massive Indian contribution to the British war effort forced the British to grant the Indians the privilege of Regular commission in the army.

The Indians selected for officer rank were from the most loyal classes with proven record of loyalty to the British Empire. Even Indianisation (introduction of Indian Army Officers) was resisted by the British Indian Army officers and as late as 1939 twenty years after Indianization had started there were just 333 regular Indian officers in the Indian Army as against 3,031 British officers. (6)

We have already seen that after 1918 it was felt that the Indian Army would not be required to fight in a European war and this led to massive reduction in the size and resource allocation of the Indian Army.

Thus the Indian Army was so outdated in 1938 that General Auchinleck observed in 1938 that “in terms of modernization and equipment it was behind even the Iraqi, Egyptian and Afghan Armies”! (7)

There was another serious misconception in many minds and has been carried forward till today that the Indian Army was the finest army in the world and played a major part in many British victories.

There is no doubt that the Indian Army played a significant role in British Empires wars. However it must be remembered, as we have just discussed, that Britain’s wars right from the time of Marlborough were coalition wars and British Army’s role in these successively became lesser and lesser in this context the Indian Army’s share in the relatively limited contribution made by the British Army in both the world wars was even more limited. In any case the Indian Army was Indian only as far as the rank and file was concerned and its principal strength was its British officer cadre. Even beyond battalion level each Indian Brigade was stiffened by one pure British battalion and the Indian Army always functioned as part of a larger team and mostly in circumstances where the British enjoyed a comfortable numerical material and logistic superiority over their adversaries.

The Indian Army at its best was used only as a defensive force in France in 1914.The British final success in both world wars had a deeper connection with US aid and Russian blood than with the Indian Army. In any case the principal force multiplier of the Indian Army was the British officer and the vast resources of the British Empire rather than the Chakwal Jhelum men who were merely cannon fodder.

In this regard there was absolutely no comparison between the quality of performance of the pre 1947 Indian Army and the post 1947 Indo Pak armies. In Pakistan specially it was mistakenly assumed that the British Indian Army did well because their soldiers i.e. the Punjabi Muslims were more martial than the Hindus!

These naïve commentators failed to see the essential fact i.e. that it was the British officer who was able to organize and lead Indians of all nationalities and religions equally well in battle .The cardinal factor in the whole equation was not the martial race, as has been mistakenly asserted by many Pakistani officers, but the white officer who inspired the espirit de corps and the relatively superior organization skill that created the Indian Army.

Legacy of inter arm compartmentation and rivalry: –

One of the most negative legacies which inhibited the performance of both the armies in 1965 and even in 1971 was a purely British inculcated and British inherited legacy of inter arm and even inter regimental rivalry within the same arm.

While German successes in the WW II had a deep link with emphasis on fighting as a division with intimate cooperation between all arms, many British military failures had a deep link with inter arm rivalry which severely retarded their ability to fight as combined arms teams. Thus at Gazala in 1942 the 2nd Highland Infantry was overrun by German tanks “whilst a superior British tank force looked on”. (8) 

Lack of leadership tradition:–

We have briefly discussed the fact that the West European way of warfare was imported by many Asian and East European countries like Russia.

There was a major difference between the other countries who imported the European way of warfare and the British Indian Army. While the entire officer corps in the Ottoman, Russian, Japanese, Egyptian and Chinese Armies consisted of their own people, there was no leadership tradition in the British Indian Army as far as Indians were concerned.

The English East India Company was very careful in not allowing native Indians from becoming officers in their native Presidency Armies, since Yusuf Khans rebellion in mid-18th century , and did not allow even Anglo-Indians to become officers after 1805 barring few exceptions like Colonel Skinner etc.

The objective of the company was simple i.e. not letting a leadership tradition grow in the natives and also not to let the natives master the European methods of warfare. The US War of Independence convinced the British Government that it was dangerous to let any colonial subjects from mastering the art of warfare by getting the officers commission. This policy played rich dividends when the native soldiers of the Bengal Army failed to handle units larger than platoons and companies and were easily defeated by the British despite their relative numerical superiority at least in the initial stages of the rebellion. The Sepoy Rebellion reinforced the British determination not to allow Indian to become commissioned officers and till 1919 there were no Indian officers in the Indian Army.

This meant that there was no leadership tradition in the Indians who became officers. The Indians selected to become officers from 1917 onwards were from classes with proven loyalty and men meant to be groomed for lower level command ranks only.

After the formation of Indian Military Academy a large proportion of cadets were from the ranks which never attracted the best available young men in India. (9)

Many of these were sons of rankers or VCOs who had spent their whole lives in serving the junior most British officers and had inherited from their family a narrow approach of a life spent in playing sycophant par excellence with the junior most British officer who was senior to the senior most Indian VCO in rank and authority. In future analysis this will be referred to as the Ranker/VCO approach which was found in plenty in the 1965 Indo Pak Armies! Colmar Von der Goltz spoke of the “aristocracy of education” which constituted the corps of German officers In India bulk of the real aristocracy had been eliminated when the British emerged victorious.

The new aristocracy which they created was an aristocracy of toadies The German aristocracy which constituted the bulk of the German officer corps was basically an impoverished aristocracy, but rich in tradition that contributed many generations of officers to the Prussian/German Army.

In Indo Pak armies bulk of the men who reached the officer rank were neither an aristocracy of education nor possessed a long tradition of leadership by virtue of having ancestors in the officer ranks!

The Germans on the contrary did not encourage NCO to become officers and Von Seeckt the founder of the Reichswehr which was the iron frame of the Wehrmacht deliberately increased educational qualifications to discourage ex NCOs from getting officer rank.

Thus in 1928 just 117 out of 4000 officers were ex NCOs In the Indian and Pakistani Armies a much larger proportion of rankers or rankers sons were in the officer rank. Contemporary evidence suggests that the British preferred these over directly commissioned Indian officers with good college or university education since the ex rankers or rankers sons who were educated at the military schools of Ajmer, Jullundur and Sarai Alamgir (schools for rankers sons education) were more pliable and easier to handle material ! (10)

It is not difficult to understand that the small number of Indians who joined the army as commissioned officers were viewed as a necessary evil arising as a result of a civilian governments policy to accept Indians in the commissioned ranks.

These men were not held in much high esteem by their British superiors and viewed the army as just one career where they could improve their personal lot and as an avenue of social advancement. What leadership tradition could be expected from such mercenaries.

The real hero of the British Indian Army was the British officer who was from the first thirty cadets in the Sandhurst entrance examination, and was fighting for his King Emperor!

His Indian counterpart was just a mercenary for whom serving the British was just a job!

Conservative Military Doctrine:–

The British Army being an extremely snobbish and class conscious army was the bastion of conservatism. There was no threat to Britain in the period till 1933 and military reform or radical change was never serious agenda in the British Army. Thus the British Army that fought the WW Two was an out of date machine which performed extremely poorly in France and North Africa till overwhelming material superiority, thanks to US aid finally enabled it to turn the tables at Alamein.

Thus progressive and dynamic military thinkers like Fuller were sidelined from the British Army before the war in an atmosphere where Polo and social contacts were more important than strict professionalism. Thus the British approach towards warfare was extremely conservative and outdated .

If this was the case in the regular British Army which was supposed to defend Britain in a war against European adversaries it is not difficult to imagine the rudimentary and primitive approach that dominated the British Indian Army which was designed to imperial policing jobs in countries like Iraq and Persia after the end of First World War.

Lack of Permanent General Staff:–

The British Army lacked a permanent General Staff unlike the German Army. This was a serious drawback and played a major role in relatively poor performance of the British Army in the two world wars. Organizationally the British Army was not as efficient in carrying out military operations as the German Army. Cardwell the revolutionary British Secretary of State and the father of reform in the British Army was in favor of having a permanent General Staff like the German Army but was frustrated in his attempts to do so by the conservative elements in the British Army led by Duke of Cambridge” . (11)

Just because the British did not have a permanent General Staff, the post 1947 officers of both the Indian and Pakistani Armies saw no need to have one. Thus Staff work and procedures stayed as poor and rudimentary in both the armies as in the pre 1947 Indian Army or the British Army. There was an ocean of qualitative difference in between the British and German Staff institutions of instruction. The British Staff College at Cambrai in words of Montgomery’s biographer Nigel Hamilton was an institution preoccupied with “hunting and socializing”. (12)

The same was the case with US institutions like Fort Leavenworth where in words of General Bradley to rose to great heights in the US Army the system of education was “predictable….unrealistic and did not encourage unconventional tactics” . (13)

In addition while the German General Staff course lasted for three years that at Staff College Quetta lasted for two years and was later reduced to six months from 1940.Most of the senior officers who held important command and staff assignments in the 1965 war were graduates of this six months crash course in which entry was by nomination 1965 as we shall discuss many opportunities were primarily lost because of poor staff work.

In words of a British Army officer ; “The British Army lacked an institution which deliberately cultivated and carefully fostered a self-conscious intellectual existence like the German general Staff. For the German Army this institution became the focus for professional debate and a vehicle for operational innovation. The officer corps to which it gave rise received a thorough grounding in military history and an induction into the critical methods of historical study. These formidable intellectual foundations conferred on the minds of staff trained German officers a powerful and sensitive analytic approach to the problems of managing violence”.(14)

General Von Mellenthin who served as a general staff officer in North Africa noted a major different in the quality of thinking of the British about their staff officers and the measure of trust that was placed in British Army in the staff officers; “The officers of the German General Staff were not mere clerks or mouthpieces of their commanders (as was the case with British and their corrupted off shoot i.e. the Sub Continental Indian and Pakistani Armies) ,but were trained to accept responsibility for grave decisions and were respected accordingly. In contrast the British fighting commanders tend look down on the staff, and the British show a curious reluctance to appoint capable staff officers to operational commands. (15)

Orders Oriented British Legacy:–

Another legacy common to both the Indo Pak armies was an orders oriented approach. This was the opposite of the German approach of Auftragtstaktik under which commanders at all levels were trained to function without waiting for orders in case a tactical or operational situation warranted it and valuable tactical or operational opportunities were being lost in case one waited for orders from higher headquarters. The famous British staff officer Dorman Smith observed that ; ” Essentially in a professional army the commander is left to carry out an order without wet nursing. In the British system, on the contrary a subordinate will do nothing until he will have the next above breathing down his neck. The result is that everyone is doing the proper job of the next below instead of his own battle job. This is the main cause of stagnation in the British tactical mind” . (16)

The Indo Pak armies suffered from another subtle drawback in this case. On one hand the British were conservative in attitude towards orders and secondly Indians till the second world war were mostly very junior officers barring few exceptions who commanded companies or battalions or one who commanded a brigade.

The Indian was fighting the White Man’s war and took no interest in exercising his initiative always pursuing a safe course of waiting for orders. The same bunch of people who fought the second world war constituted the Indian and Pakistani armies who fought the 1965 war from Lieutenant Colonel onwards.

These men as subalterns and captains or majors were not trained to take mission oriented decisions, nor were they motivated to risk their career by exercising any initiative since they were fighting the white man’s war !

Many them like Musa Tikka etc. were ex rankers who were even more limited and conservative in their typical “ranker approach”. Thus when these men became brigadiers and major generals they expected the same from their juniors was the case of a habit getting instilled and internalized as an essential part of ones personality. Thus many opportunities were lost since all commanders from squadron/company till divisional level preferred to wait for orders rather than do anything on their own initiative.

Gul Hassan’s memoirs is full of examples of approach of senior Pakistani officers using the weight of their rank and intimidating their juniors by use of court of inquiries and warnings!

Anyone who is keen to know about the “Conspiracy against originality boldness and initiative” should read Gul Hassan’s memoirs which though otherwise not wholly accurate provide an excellent image of the attitudes of senior officers of that time as regards cultivation or rather discouragement of initiative!


It would not be wrong to say that one of the principal reasons for poor performance of both Indian and Pakistan Armies in 1965 was “failure or inability to develop a dynamic doctrine of decisive warfare”. Both the armies were not national armies but essentially mercenary armies created for the aim of internal security.

They were not designed as instruments of decisive warfare but forces which were designed for use in small wars or for limited roles while the resources of the British Army came into action and decisive results were achieved by diplomacy coalition warfare etc. Doctrine may essentially be described as a conceptual frame work combining and integrating the dynamics of combat so that an army can fight decisively.

Doctrine visualizes harmonious combination of essentially five functions i.e. “Maneuver” “Fire support” “Intelligence” “Command and Control by means of a practical and dynamic organization” and lastly “logistic support”. Once all these five are combined in a well conceived and harmonious manner we arrive at a decisive doctrine of wafrare. Once there is a clear cut doctrine uniformly understood at all levels and in all formations in the army, all actions taken at various levels of command including decision making, movement, execution of orders and all battle drills are carried out in the minimum possible time and the result is swift execution of plans.

This is not an exactly simple process. Each country has its own unique circumstances. The British Indian Army was designed to fight against primitive enemies against whom no military talent was required as far as higher military leadership was concerned.

Primitive and backward countries could be defeated by simple frontal advance and a few pitched battles in which none of these countries could stand the bayonet charge of a brigade or division of a couple of native regiments with a hard core of a few British regiments. We have already seen that after the Second Sikh War the role of the Indian Army was reduced to internal security.

The Second and Third Afghan Wars were militarily insignificant affairs in terms of complexity of military operations and number of casualties sustained. Only skills in minor operations were required in most of the operations of the British Indian Army.

There was simply no operational level of war in most battles of British Indian Army till world war two. Wherever it functioned it was as a small part of the larger 8th Army or in Burma where the Japanese were fighting in conditions of overwhelming logistic numerical and material odds. Hence there was no credible doctrine inherited by both armies to fight a war in the Punjabi countryside which was entirely different from the NWFP or North Africa or Burma.

The British way of war depended more on diplomacy maritime strategy and coalition warfare. The Americans developed a comfortable doctrine based on material superiority which did not require them to do anything creative or militarily brilliant therefore the last brilliant commanders that they produced were in the US Civil war!

The Germans developed Blitzkrieg because their peculiar geographical position forced them to develop a doctrine aimed at achieving swift decisions in an extremely short time span. ln Pakistan no such doctrine was framed. The foundation of the army rested on internal security and preserving the status quo. There was simply no doctrine which combined the above named five functions. “Maneuver” was not important because no decisive war was to be fought. “Fire support” was not important because the army was infantry dominated and the gunners were a despicable lot. “Command and Control” was not important and only one corps commander was expected to control and co-ordinate five divisions with more than 200 miles frontage since a war was never to be fought and it was not politically advisable to have too many corps commanders.

The stress and friction of war was not understood because Ayub hardly had any worthwhile military record.

Specialized Staff work was not important because even the British did not have a full time general staff .What the

Pakistani military leaders failed to realize was the fact that Indian Army was never designed to conduct “Decisive Warfare” ! “Intelligence” was a misunderstood term and was thought to be something designed primarily to keep track of political dissidents and internal enemies!

“Logistic Support” was also not appreciated because fighting a war and specially a protracted one was never the intention of the ruling elite. The men at the helm of affairs failed to develop a fresh doctrine of decisive warfare because of three reasons.

Firstly they were intellectually weak and possessed limited vision, being products of a class which was educationally backward and primarily designed not to produce first rate military leaders but politically reliable mercenary company commanders and company second in commands!

Secondly they were not among the best officers of Indian Army as far as war performance was concerned and therefore did not fully grasp the dynamic inter relationship between “Doctrine Organization and Conduct of War” .(Weaker and primitive states find it difficult to conduct decisive warfare).Thirdly the Pakistani military leadership as far as Ayub was concerned was more preoccupied with politics than with the business of war.

Ayub was essentially a paper tiger, outwardly impressive,tall ,manly in appearance but timid at heart, who mistakenly thought that mere acquisition of US equipment was sufficient insurance against war and that he could win all the glory without fighting an actual war-ft was not his intention to fight a war since the Kashmir issue was only a good political slogan which served as cheap opium for the Pakistani masses.

Thus since there was no intention to use the military option for settling the dispute with India no doctrine of decisive war was developed by Ayub and Musa in any case was little more than a figurehead and drill square soldier who did not have the capacity to do anything intellectually worthwhile.

The so called “New Tactical Concept” was not a doctrine but essentially one set of actions covering defense and it was not this concept which envisaged not having “any obstacle in front or flanks of the striking force” (17) but the BRB , 25 Cavalry and above all poor Indian leadership which saved Lahore and Sialkot in 1965!

This was the case of Pakistan Army which had a better opportunity to develop a dynamic military doctrine since at least theoretically there was a man having total power at the top who was a soldier and supposed to understand the dynamics of war better than civilian leadership of India etc. The Indian Army’s story was different. Here was a case of an army which was run down as a “relic of colonial past .” (18)

Gandhian nonsense of Ahimsa and peaceful protest further introduced a more pacific spirit in the Indian national psyche. The army’s salary was reduced and it was reduced to 300,000 all ranks”. (19)

Luckily for the Indians the Himalayan debacle forced their pacifist leadership to rehash their thinking. After 1962 an effort was made to reorganize the Indian Army but the new raisings and headquarters were to Pakistan’s good luck still suffering from teething problems in 1965!


Lack of resolution in Ayub was a serious drawback as far as Pakistan was concerned. Subconsciously Ayub was the last man who wanted war despite all the propaganda of Kashmir dispute.

It is possible that this hesitation had some link with Ayub’s poor or insignificant war record in WW Two. On various occasions Ayub avoided military action. In the 1947-48 period when many officers in Pakistan were volunteering for participating in the Kashmir war Ayub did not show any inclination to participate in the Kashmir war, acting on the old colonial British principle “Never Volunteer” ! In 1950-51 he restrained Liaquat who was thinking of war with India. (20)

It was this unwillingness to fight a war which motivated Ayub to propose joint defense of the subcontinent to Nehru in 1959. (21)

In 1962 Ayub’s attitude exhibited extreme timidity (22) when the Chinese asked Pakistan to take advantage of the India-China War and settle the Kashmir dispute by exercising the military option.

Seven years in power however somewhat emboldened Ayub’s spirits and by 1965 he felt confident enough that the Hindu who Ayub mistakenly thought as more timid than the Pakistani would not dare to start a conventional war even if Pakistan pinched the Hindu damsel at will ,sometimes in the Rann and sometimes in Kashmir!

Even in 1965 Ayub was not interested in a war which he wanted to avoid at all cost. This was a case of the desire to gain the glory of martyrdom in battle without actually getting killed in action! It was Ayub’s misfortune that he was surrounded by more resolute advisors like Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad who did not have any of Ayub’s timidity.

Musa, Ayub’s handpicked Chief was the last one to wish for a war in which he would be forced to exercise his intellect in the actual conduct of modern war involving tanks etc, about whose employment Musa had very rudimentary ideas. War or limited war i.e. a war in which fighting remained confined to Kashmir was seen by Ayub as a political opportunity to enhance his prestige which had suffered because of allegations of rigging in the 1965 elections.

Thus Operation Gibraltar which visualized a Guerrilla War leading to Kashmir was seen by Ayub as a golden means of winning Kashmir without war and getting all the glory reserved for the victor of a war without ever starting an all out war!

He did not have the long term vision to understand that India would retaliate militarily against the infiltrators sent into Kashmir by Pakistan.

He thus set fire to the fuse which triggered a series of actions and counteractions which ultimately led to an all out war.

Ayub was militarily naive enough to think that India would not start an all out war if Pakistan went for what Ayub himself called “India’s jugular vein” i.e. Akhnur. When he realized that an all out war was likely if Pakistan captured Akhnur, he made an attempt to halt the Pakistani advance by ordering change of command of the force moving towards Akhnur. By then it was too late and Ayub’s half measures and half hearted conduct of military operations in Grand Slam harmed the Pakistani military cause in two ways.

Firstly it provoked India to launch an all out war which Ayub did not have the resolution to fight and which Musa did not have the military genius to conduct! Secondly as a result of this indecision Pakistan failed to capture Akhnur whose loss would have led to a serious operational imbalance in the Indian dispositions in Kashmir and would have weakened India’s resolve to attack Lahore and opposite Chawinda without first redressing the serious imbalance opposite Kashmir.

Thus Pakistani military/political leadership failed in both aims; i.e. to sever the jugular and to prevent an all out war ;and primarily because of irresolution on part of their own higher leadership rather than enemy resistance.

Thus Ayub and his team were not propelled by a burning desire to defeat the enemy by decisive conduct of operations but by an essentially defensive attitude. Thus they viewed Pakistani thrusts inside India not as actions taken to strike a decisive blow on the enemy but merely as measures to reduce Indian pressure on Lahore.

The GHQ simply did not have a forward command and control set up designed to vigorously prosecute the war but essentially a distant headquarter modelled on colonial principles from where orders were issued for defense of India. The war on the Pakistani side was thus conducted disinterestedly because the higher leadership was simply irresolute and was not prepared or interested in fighting the war which came as a rude shock to them once the Indians attacked Lahore.

Pakistani military writers like Shaukat Riza’s claim that the Pakistan Army never wanted a war in 1965 but war broke out in 1965 largely because of those accursed Machiavellian schemers i.e. Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad; does not speak very highly about the standard of resolution of Ayub or Musa.

What is the aim of an army if it never wanted to fight a war to settle a just cause or to recover a territory which was at least as official propaganda went some sort of a Pakistani Alsace or Lorraine.it is an open secret that till this day the Pakistan Army claims that it was the Foreign Office who got them involved in 1965.So what did the army’s leadership want ;to rule their own people, in uninterrupted peace, creating large business empires which made sons of VCOs and assistant political agents from Kohat business magnates as they were doing since 1958!

Perhaps the only positive impact of the 1965 war was the realization in the otherwise politically naive and docile Pakistani masses that their leaders were essentially making a fool out of them and Kashmir was just a cheap slogan to galvanize the masses! Kashmir was never regarded as an issue by Ayub but was forced upon him by the hawks like Bhutto and Aziz aided by military advice of Akhtar Malik& is an irony of Pakistani military history that these civilian hawks possessed much greater resolution than the two soldiers leading the country’s government and the army!

Once a man lacks resolution his conduct is vacillating and indecisive and all decisions that he makes are compromises and half measures. This essentially was the tragedy of the Pakistan Army in 1965.

A time when it was still possible to settle the so called Kashmir dispute by exercising the military option& is best to quote Clausewitz who gave guidelines about the philosophy of war at least seventy five to ninety years before Ayub and Musa were born, but whose ideas perhaps were not digested by both of them.

Clausewitz said; “No war is commenced, or at least no war should be commenced, if people acted wisely, without first seeking a reply to the question, What is to be attained by and in the same? The first is the final object; the other is the immediate aim. By this chief consideration the whole course of the war is prescribed, the extent of the means and the measure of energy are determined; its influence manifests itself down to the smallest organ of action” . (23)

The Pakistani leadership and the sycophants who courted them later laid the entire blame for starting the war on one who had nothing to do with soldiering and one who was not in any case the right authority for asking the question whether the Indians would start an all out war even if their jugular was severed! It was an irony that a soldier and not a naive civilian was leading the country at this stage. One who was far more naïve than even Shastri the civilian who knew much less about soldiering but understood grand strategy in a crystal clear manner.

The Indians however dumb their execution of war at least started it with clear a cut and definite rationale and did achieve their aim of putting an end to military adventurism in Kashmir. The Pakistani leadership was confused and as a result conducted the war which most inexplicably came as a surprise to them in a most indecisive and vacillating manner!


Another serious command failing was failure of the Pakistani GHQ to effectively supervise execution of plans. Here it was not Ayub alone who was responsible for this command failure but all including Musa , Sher Bahadur the CGS and Gul Hassan the DMO. The job of an army headquarters is not just to formulate plans and issue general orders but to effectively supervise the execution of plans. No such arrangement existed either in shape of a forward command headquarter which would have enabled the GHQ to have closer liaison with the fighting formations or in shape of intermediate headquarters. We have already discussed in brief that Ayub did not have “operational experience” and was devoid of “tactical flair” and “organizational understanding” . (24)

The Corps Headquarter was viewed by these men not as an intermediate headquarter between the GHQ and the divisions fighting the war aimed at effective command control and co- ordination of two or three divisions fighting one battle in a particular area where the lay of ground terrain and operational situation required intimate co-ordination and effective inter divisional Cooperation but a ceremonial headquarter under command of a loyal , regardless of intellectual or operational ability, man who was to supervise the peacetime function of divisions like a drill square sergeant major. For this role they found a man who lacked imagination operational insight and whose major qualification was reliability . (25)

This man commanded the corps without ever having thought how his corps with five divisions with one river dividing his command and with divergent and different roles fight their battles in war. Kashmir with 400 miles of difficult terrain was left to be commanded by one divisional headquarters though we have seen that as early as 1948 the Indians keeping in view the terrain requirements had subdivided the area into two divisional commands. Raising another divisional headquarter was not that much of an expensive issue so as to require US aid !

Similarly it was taken for granted that one corps headquarter with a not very intellectually gifted commander was enough to control four divisions; two in defense in two different areas with a major river in between and two divisions which were supposed to carry the war into enemy territory, one of which was an armored division!

To say that by 1965 it was already too late ,to raise another divisional headquarter ,after the plan to launch Gibraltar was made ,does not hold any substance. The Indians as late as 1st September 1965 brought in a new divisional headquarter to command and control the operations in Chhamb- Akhnur area. Pakistan had the 8th Division Headquarter which had been stripped of all its brigades and was doing nothing at Kharian.

This headquarter could have been tasked to take care of Grand Slam. It required imagination and common sense and it is not just enough to blame Mr. Shoaib the Finance Minister for not having another divisional headquarter ! (26)

About the offensive Gul the DMO says that “the co-ordination of this whole operation was of critical importance but there was no corps headquarter for the purpose. Therefore GHQ took over the control of this sector (sitting 200 miles in the north!!!!) ,a highly unsatisfactory arrangement (with the benefit of hindsight of 27 years) ,but there was no alternative had hoped (hope is good breakfast but a bad supper ) that very close liaison between Major Generals Hamid and Nasir ,Commanders of 11 Infantry and 1st Armored Division respectively would resolve quite a number of issues of friction” . (27)

Gul as one who was DMO since January 1961 had a large share of responsibility in this rudimentary command arrangement.

Shaukat Riza who had better access to war diaries and official records by virtue of having direct support of the GHQ states that “Major General Hamid (1 1 Division) was verbally informed that he should ‘look after’ 1st Armored Division. At the same time GHQ passed orders directly to 1st Armored Division”. (28)

The Indians showed relatively better understanding of military organization by finally creating a corps headquarter to command their main offensive thrust in Sialkot.

But even this measure had little influence on the battle since the corps headquarter was raised only in May 1965 and had not trained in peace as a corps. Its third infantry division the 14 Division was also newly raised.

In practical terms the Indian I Corps also never functioned as a corps. As per Harbaksh Singh “the guiding hand of the corps commander was conspicuously absent-in fact he appeared to have  hardly played a part in the battle” .

Gurcharan Singh states that “there was an apparent weakness of command because the corps commander had no tangible influence on the battle” .(29)

Both sides failed to grasp the importance of intermediate military headquarters although the Indian organizational arrangements however late were relatively better.

The failure on the Pakistani side was more acute because twice golden opportunities were lost because of absence of effective divisional and corps headquarters at Akhnur and in Khem Karan. The Indian failure had more to do with poor execution at brigade and divisional level rather than with poor organizational arrangements.


Lack of aggressiveness and hesitation/avoidance from leading from the front at regiment brigade and divisional level was another serious failing on both sides.

This also had a subtle link with the  British colonial legacy but cannot be classified as a part of the British colonial legacy. In the British system of command brigade and divisional commanders commanded from their headquarters which naturally led to slow decision making because of the time gap and distortion factor in transmission of information from lower to higher  echelons of command, I will  quote  a British writer to describe this essentially British inherited failing; “As a stubborn and tenacious fighter I doubt whether  the English soldier has any equal; yet as an attacker and an exploiter in all probability he has many: because he is not a quick thinker.. …his sense of responsibility is artificial has been drilled into him by misfortune and sergeant majors. He will follow to hell without question, not because he fears to lead….but because he has never been encouraged or taught to do so” . (30)

It is unfair to blame the British for all Indo Pak military failings. Thus I have not included this failing under  the  heading of British legacy. But there is no escaping the fate that both the armies were nothing more than sons of John Company?

It was necessary to radically alter the operational and radical thinking after independence, but unfortunately it was not done in both the armies.

This essentially British inherited failing had a deep connection with the staff system. ln the British system, unlike the German, the staff was not trained to take independent decisions (in line with the initial orders passed by a commander, in a situation where the higher commander was away with some frontline unit or not present in his headquarters, and a situation demanded immediate decision failing which operational or tactical opportunities were being lost or a situation involving tactical or operational imbalance was being created.

This was not so with the British whose staff officers were trained to function more as clerks or mouthpieces of their commanders. Both the Indo Pak armies inherited the same legacy and made no effort to change anything !

Decision making was thus always slow in British Army as compared to the German Army where the teaching was that ; “Personal influence by the commanding officer on his troops is of the greatest importance. He must be located near the fighting troops a divisional commander’s place is with his troops….. During encounters with the enemy seeing for oneself is best” . (31)

Even in case of corps headquarters the German Command instructions of 1936 laid down the following guidelines : “The selection of a location for a corps headquarters is determined above all by the need to keep in close and constant touch with both the divisions and the rear. A corps commander is not to rely on technical means of communication alone”. (32)

Thus decision making was greatly improved by this procedure although general officer casualties were much higher in the German Army in the second world war than any other army in the war. (33)

The problem with both subcontinental armies was that they were not the  armies of British Empire which thanks to immense resources could recover from phenomenal disasters like France-1940 Gazala-1942 etc. radical reorientation was required after  1947,with emphasis on a system in which commanders led from the front making conduct of war more decisive by virtue  of  faster decision making; and at least in Pakistan lip service was paid (I would say in theory only as far as senior officers were concerned) to the fundamental Islamic concept of martyrdom I But this did not happen.

The brown Englishmen were happier sitting in the rear controlling the battle by telephone or wireless. Similarly the brigade commanders and the senior lieutenant colonels used to the mercenary way of warfare saw no reason for unnecessary risk by leading from the front !

We have already said that the leadership tradition was not strong in both the armies having been subjected to colonial rule for 100 to 200 years and there was a need for senior officers to stay forward and spur the junior commanders. This was not done. There were men like Tarapur and Sahibzad Gul, but these were the exception rather than the rule!

This was a common to both the armies and was a subcontinent failing and not just confined to Pakistan Army. Harbaksh complained about it when he said; “A peculiar smugness and inertia appeared to dominate the higher level of command A firm grip of the situation combined with resolute direction at the top at corps level would have tipped the scales in our favor. A determined leadership at lower levels could have done the rest to score a striking success .Both these vital ingredients were unfortunately missing”.(34)

This led to slow decision making as Amjad Choudhry noted, when the Pakistani GHQ seemed stunned from the news of Indian main attack opposite Chawinda and took 48 hours to decide their next move.

Similarly the Indian failure opposite Chawinda had a deeper relationship with inertia and indecision of their 1 Armored Brigade Headquarter and 1 Armored Division Headquarter rather than Pakistani 25 Cavalry’s counteractions, which however commendable could not have stopped the Indians from reaching the MRL Canal on 8th September, had their higher commanders led from the front and had resolutely pushed on.

The same is true for the failure of 5 Armored Brigade whose commander preferred calling 6 Lancers back from VaItolna every night rather than leading from the front. Both the countries were lucky in having equally incompetent higher military commanders on both sides!


The poor employment of armor by both sides was another British legacy which was not remedied after the independence. Employment of armor required quick decision making ability efficient staff work and boldness at all levels which was not inculcated in the pre 1947 Indian Army.

lt was largely a matter of doctrine. The tank was viewed by the Germans who used it in the most decisive manner in WW II as a weapon which would enable them to achieve a breakthrough and enable them to achieve victory in face of numerical inferiority.

The British viewed it as just another weapon that was available to assist infantry. The Indian Army got tanks for the first time in Burma in a scenario where the battle was largely infantry dominated and the Japanese did not have any credible anti tank ability in terms of anti tank guns or tanks. It was here that some Indians (Gul Hassan not being one of them, still being in the infantry and doing service in the safety of a headquarter as aide de camp) commanded tank troop and squadrons.

They could have learnt little since the Japanese had almost nothing worthwhile to oppose the Sherman tanks with which Indian tank regiments were equipped.

When the final British offensive was launched opposite Meiktila-Mandalay area the Japanese had just one tank regiment of obsolete tanks to oppose the most modern 300 Sherman and Grant Tanks of the British Indian Army ! (35)

Even conceptually the Japanese quality of employment of armor was extremely inferior since they used tanks in penny packets to support and not in a concentrated manner.’ (36)

In war lessons are learnt once the enemy also possesses the capability to oppose the other party in terms of similar equipment. This was not the case in Burma and the two tank brigades of 14th Army which fought in Burma operated in essentially a support role.

ln North Africa the British did not trust the Indians with tanks and Indian cavalry was equipped with armored cars which were swept aside or scattered in the first phase of any German attack! Thus in North Africa also the tank corps officers who later served in tank corps of both armies could have learnt little.

In analyzing employment of armor in 1965 many critics have failed to understand that armor alone is not the cure for all operational maladies. The Germans were able to employ their armor successfully because of a large number of circumstances particular to the German Army.

Firstly they had a first state staff system through which they succeeded in eliminating many causes of friction which an armored formation experiences in the preparatory stage of an operation. These include transport control, passage of obstacles, marrying up and liaison with supporting arms etc.

Secondly the Germans were able to employ armor effectively because they adopted a uniform doctrine which was understood in the entire army regardless of arm or service. A doctrine in which the division was the basic formation of maneuver.

The British inhibited by inter arm rivalry were rigidly divided like the Hindu caste system and their battles were fought as a Highlander regiment or the 7th Hussars etc. A similar disease was inherited by the Indian and Pakistani Armies.

The Indian armor’s inexplicable withdrawal from Jassoran and Sodreke which we have already discussed in the previous chapter was one of the worst examples of this inter arm rivalry.

All tank regiments had some idiosyncrasies, some special regimental trait and a distinct class composition.

The pre 1947 Indian Army was an infantry dominated army organized in infantry divisions.

There was no Indian armored division in the second world war , in actual operations , although there was one in Iraq, and Indian armor operated as part of motorized brigade or tank brigades.

Thus the British Indian Army while having a far better perception of how an infantry division operates was never employed as part of an armored division. After partition the Pakistani armored division was seen by the infantry officers who dominated the army in the light of their second world war experience, where the British employment of armor was far more cautious than the Germans.

They viewed armor as an infantry support arm and one which required no special to the sub continent handling doctrine. The armor officers also were equally unimaginative being thinking, for which he was neither ideally prepared in terms of education or training or by force of tradition of long service in the officer rank of an army which was a truly national army !The same was true for both the countries with minor exceptions .

The Indians were relatively better educated but their growth was inhibited because of the mercenary tradition which had become deeply ingrained in the military psyche of both the countries.

What did we have in Pakistan. An army consisting of an officer lot (a large number of whom were rankers) who was amongst the least educated lot in India but were selected by virtue of a quota system because their home province contributed large number of common soldiers to the Indian Army.

Tanks were suddenly acquired by Indian Army thanks to US concern about the Japanese threat to China.

The tank experience in Burma was not worthwhile since the opposite side did not have the ability to offer any serious opposition to Indian Army’s tanks, which as we have discussed were far superior to anything that the Japanese possessed.

Once the country became independent in 1947 no serious thinking was done to develop a doctrine. Officers were posted to armored formations not on basis of ability but on regimental favoritism or personal rapport etc.

The question whether these officers were from armor or infantry was not important. There was no significant difference in the professional intellectual military ability of an armor or infantry officer from Chakwal Jhelum or Peshawar. In this regard Gul’s criticism that  armor as an arm suffered because infantry officers were posted to command armor formations is just not valid. Was an infantry officer commanding the Indian 1st Armored Division which performed as miserably as Pakistani 1st Armored Division as far as divisional level command was concerned?

Was an armor officer commanding the 6 Armored Division whose performance as a formation was far superior to the Indian 1st Armored Division commanded by a thoroughbred armor officer!

Lee, Meade and MacArthur, all from Engineers, successfully commanded essentially infantry dominated armies with distinction. Rommel who had never commanded a tank troop and was a thoroughbred infantry officer suddenly requested Hitler the command of an armored division 1940 and emerged as one of WW II’s finest armor commanders!

A more correct criticism could be was that regardless of arm merit wise undeserving officers whether from armor or infantry were posted to command armor formations. A reason why armor officers were not posted to command the armored division was the mistaken assumption which Ayub and Musa both being intellectually not very competent may have had; i.e. armor required no special handling.

Another reason may have been the desire to have politically more reliable men to command the tank division or simply sheer ignorance. In this regard infantry also suffered since many able officers from infantry also were sidelined or retired, while men like General Bakhtiar Rana and Musa were promoted!

Fazal I Muqueem has stated that a large number of able officers were retired by Ayub simply because they showed “Independence of outlook” while “some left in sheer disgust” (they cannot be blamed for this-seeing men like Musa, Rana etc. being masters of their destiny!!!!).Muqueem stated that between 1955 and November 1971,40 generals were retired out of whom only four had reached their superannuating age and states that similar was the case with other senior ranks. (39)

It was not armor alone, as Gul’s account portrays, but the whole army which suffered in terms of efficiency since all who were perceived as able and therefore politically a potential threat in the kingdom ruled by men who were intellectually drill sergeant majors and incapable of grasping the higher dimensions of soldiering were retired or simply sidelined.

We don’t have to go far to prove that. Both Abrar and Akhtar the two great generals of the Army in terms of actual performance in the field were sidelined.

Abrar was dumped at staff college Quetta and later retired without being promoted to the rank of corps commander, because of two major disqualifications; largely because he had done well in the war and secondly though to a much lesser extent, because he was not from the area north of river Chenab, and did not fit in the quota!

Akhtar Malik was packed off to CENTO in Turkey because he had done well in war, was taller than Yahya Khan and despite having the quota qualification was disqualified because his war achievements were better than Yahya’s . (40)

Akhtar’s less talented brother was however retained in the mainstream since he was too junior and did not pose a potential threat to Yahya !

Tikka being the least capable but one who was perceived as a yes man was promoted. There was no serious Indian threat opposite Sialkot and the real brunt was borne by Abrar, but somehow Tikka’s achievements were projected as much larger than those of Abrar after the war.

Thus outside military circles the name “Abrar” is Greek for the popular mind.

It has been mistakenly asserted that Pakistani armor commanders performed poorly because they had little experience of handling armor in the second world war.

The Germans who used armor with maximum perfection had little command experience of armor in the first world war.

The British who employed armor for the first time in the history of warfare handled armor extremely poorly despite longer command/handling experience in actual war, numerical preponderance and despite possessing technically superior tanks!

Guderian Rommel and Manstein had nothing to do with tanks in the first world war but handled armor much better than the British.

The simple reason for this was superior organization and superior doctrine combined with a superior general staff system and a political leadership which was panting to start an all out war and avenge the trauma of defeat of 1918!

The Israelis who defeated the Arabs despite no numerical or material superiority had little experience of handling armor in the second world war.

The whole premise that Pakistani Armor did not so well simply because they had little command experience in WWII is fallacious.

On the contrary it was not lack of suitable war experience but the influence of a conservative British doctrine and the quality of experience in Burma where the Japanese had nothing worthwhile with which to oppose Indian Armor that instilled essentially unrealistic ideas in the Indo-Pak mind about employment of armoring North Africa as we have already discussed the Indian cavalry only handled armored cars and in case the major armor fighting was done by all British tank regiments.

The major reason for poor performance and under employment of armor lies in the standard of training and intellectual development of the army in the period 1947-65.There were five major areas of this failing.

These included “FIRSTLY” a highly reactionary high command of men” of limited intellect who thought that mere possession of the latest tank in the world was sufficient guarantee for success and that no special training or doctrine was necessary for employment of tanks in the Indo-Pak operational scenario.

They thought that the old British War Office Publications and US Field Manuals coupled with courses at Fort Knox were enough for training of armor.

SECOND” the inability at the higher command level to pierce what has been termed as the “veil of operational art” which included failure to understand war as a whole, shallow and superficial knowledge of military history, and inability to understand the dynamics of operational strategy in application. This included understanding of the fact that battle plans when subjected to the friction and uncertainty of war require modification which has been classified by John Keegan as “transforming paper plans into. battlefield practice, against the tactical pressures of time which the strategist does not know”. The talent to understand operational strategy or the ability to modify plans in actual combat was recognized as the most important quality of a commander in the German Army and great stress was laid on teaching it in the German General Staff College.

THIRDLY” a failure to develop a battle doctrine based on the combined arms Cooperation in which armor infantry artillery and engineers trained together.

The maximum that was done in this connection was the New Concept of tactical Defense but no “New Concept of Offense “because that may have been too complicated for the VCO type officers or that was something that they felt could be learnt simply by doing a course at Fort Knox or by reading the Rommel Papers!

The most glaring example of this failure was the lack of understanding of the corps battle in which the armored division was to closely cooperate with the infantry division.

A Corps Headquarter was created which included the armored division but in reality it was thought that war would be fought by divisions and the corps headquarter remained merely a headquarter with a lieutenant general who wrote the annual confidential reports of the divisional commanders!

After the war when the serious failing of not having a corps headquarter controlling the armor operation was realized the army conveniently blamed the finance ministry without admitting that the most powerful man in the country was a soldier who at least theoretically should have known that a corps headquarter was crucial for close integration of infantry with armor formation.

“FOURTH” was the tendency to disregard the importance of training maneuvers which Gul noted developed in the period following the disbandment of the Training Advisory Staff.

According to Gul “A dangerous trend was creeping in our army. We were attaching more importance to exercise without troops” . (41)

Training maneuvers are the most important method to judge/assess suitability of higher commanders, viability of various military plans and feasibility of a combat doctrine and battle procedures.

The training advisory staff was disliked because Shaukat states that they tested divisions and brigades by conducting test exercises and gave verdict on the success or failure of these exercises, which confirmed or rejected formation commanders in their appointments. This Shaukat states was “Gross Violation of prerogative of command” . (42)

This was the typical Indo Pak approach which viewed elevation to a certain rank as complete immunity from being assessed; whereas even Clausewitz recognized mediocrity in higher ranks ! (43)

Thus when the Training Advisory Staff consisting of British officers was “packed up” to many including Shaukat’s great satisfaction nothing comparable with a similar charter of duties created to assess suitability of higher commanders.

After all a man selected by Ayub or Musa was taken for granted to be a very fine officer! Major General Nasir who was condemned by Shaukat with the benefit of hindsight as “by no means the best choice” (44) managed to command the 1st Armored Division for three long years before the war.

Shaukat does not explain anywhere in any three of his books why ,the immediate superior of Nasir i.e. Commander 1 Corps who also had his headquarters in Kharian where 1st Armored division was located and was according to Shaukat a man with “considerable experience of fighting” (experience helps provided a man has the capacity to absorb that experience and later make use of it!!!) and one “not given to fancy dialectics” (45) failed to discover the command qualities of Major General Nasir or the fighting potential of the 1st Armored Division as a formation!

After all Shaukat himself stated that Headquarter 1 Corps was a “purely training and operational command” and one which was unburdened by what Shaukat called “Petty administrative problems” ! (46)

These are unanswered questions and will remain unanswered because Shaukat was only doing the job of whitewashing task given to him by the GHQ in an age when senility had already taken control of his intellectual abilities, whatever they were.

Laying the major blame for poor performance of the Pakistan Army on a wide range of people including the Foreign Ministry, Finance Ministry,Mr Aziz Ahmad,the civilians in the Ministry of Defence, the British Training Advisory Staff and absolving Ayub and Musa of all blame!

The “FIFTH” and the most glaring and visible was failure of armor officers to develop a special to armor doctrine dealing in detail with “Operations of an armored diyision/brigade”, the “detailed dynamics of development of situation” , “Mission oriented philosophy with stress on speed of decision making” and “detailed operating procedures dealing with traffic control, obstacle crossing. terrain recce, employment of recce elements, replenishment , night leaguer” etc.

Both sides underemployed armor and failed to concentrate armor in a short time and space span at the decisive point to achieve a decisive breakthrough, despite having the resources in number of tanks/available units to do so. We will firstly deal with the Pakistani thrust in Khem Karan. The battle was conducted by the armored division commander on a piecemeal basis. He gave certain orders to 5 Armored Brigade and waited for two days while 5 Armored Brigade absurdly wasted its strength advancing everyday till Valtoha and coming back. During this time two recce regiments (15 Lancers and 12 Cavalry)were doing nothing in terms of recce in force on the flanks to discover crossing sites across Nikasu Nala or towards the Rohi Nullah.

The role of recce regiment was either not understood by the GOC or in the heat of the battle he simply forgot the fact that he had two recce regiments one of which (12 Cavalry) was doing nothing and the other (15 Lancers) was dished out to 5 Armored Brigade who used it in a piecemeal manner.

Two other tank brigades (3 and 4 Armored Brigade) with a total of three tank regiments also did nothing during this time, and the 4th Armored Brigade was brought forward only on 9th and 10th September when the Indians were firmly in position and their higher commanders had regained greater resolution following the morale breakdown on 7th and 8th September. On 8TH and 9th September 6 Lancers had advanced to Valtoha and returned.

The 4th Armored Brigade was available for action by first light 9th September. Ideally it should have been used to reinforce the 6 Lancers attack towards Valtoha where it was known that the terrain was less boggy, since 6 Lancers had successfully advanced till Valtoha on 8th September.

The divisional headquarter showed no urgency in using 4 Armored Brigade which should have got rolling by first light 9th September towards Valtoha. The brigade was ordered to develop the battle from the west while one brigade was developing the situation from the east!

What was more criminal was the manner in which 4TH Armored Brigade was employed on 9th September. Commander 4 Armored Brigade issued his orders which could have been delivered on the night of 8/9 September at 1000 hours in the morning of 9TH September as if 4 Armored Brigade were a tank army and not a tank brigade!

Shaukat instead of explaining why the orders were delivered in such a leisurely manner praised them saying that; “the orders were quite detailed and Brigadier Lumb had taken pains to relate theory (there was no theory) to the reality of battle” . (47)

4 Armored Brigade started the battle in a leisurely manner ,commencing its advance towards Bura Karimpur to outflank the Indians from the west at 1600 hours and returned to leaguer at night without having achieved any success and discovered that the area on its axis of advance was boggy (48)

On 10th September the next day when the Indians had already been alerted by 4 Armored Brigades advance towards their western flank on the preceding day the Brigade was again hurled on its mission to outflank the Indians from the west and ran into a trap that was ready by the evening of 9th September and whose disastrous details have been discussed in the previous chapter.

It may be noted that 1′ Armored Division had a total of seven tank regiments(4 Cavalry, 5 Horse, 6 Lancers, 12 Cavalry, 15 Lancers, 19 Lancers and 24 Cavalry) available for operations. The Indians initially had just one regiment on the first day i.e. 7th September.

On 7th September because of poor staff work and traffic control the division was able to concentrate only one regiment.

On 8th September once two regiments were concentrated across the bridgehead the Indians also brought in one and a quarter regiment. Despite no major numerical superiority 6 Lancers advance proceeded very well but Brigadier Bashir who was from armored corps behaved extremely timidly withdrawing 6 Lancers back to Khem Karan for leaguer!

Thus when the regiment advanced eastwards again the additional Indian armor which had reached the battle area was in defensive positions and firmly poised to meet the Pakistani advance. 6 Lancers again reached Valtoha on 91 September but was again recalled back to Khem Karan by Lord Bashir for leaguer!

By 9TH September the Indian tank strength stood at three regiments while Pakistani strength was raised to four regiments out of which only three were employed in an extremely disjointed manner 5 Horse on the left,24 Cavalry in the center and 6 Lancers on the right while the remaining four regiments (4 Cavalry, I2 Cavalry, 15 Lancers and 19 Lancers ) were told to do nothing!

Thus armor was employed to advance in three different directions without being employed as a concentrated punch at any one point.

Thus 5 Horse which went westwards fought against terrain having commenced its leisurely advance at 1600 hours, met no enemy and returned to leaguer after having eight tanks bogged down.

On 10TH September again only two and quarter tank regiments(4 Cavalry, squadron of 15 Lancers and 24 Cavalry) while the Indians had three tank regiments in the area!

When the operation was finally called off on night of 10TH September only three tank regiments had been employed in operations against an actual enemy and all three in three different/divergent directions while four regiments (5 Horse,12 Cavalry,15 Lancers and 19 Lancers) took no part in the armored division’s operations till 10th September in the final tally two tank regiments (5 Horse and 19 Lancers) were not employed at all and two (12 Cavalry and 15 Lancers) were employed only after the armored division had been withdrawn from the sector in operations from 11th September onwards!

What explanation do we have except to go one hundred and sixty seven years backward—”It seems incredible, and yet it has happened a hundred times, that troops have been divided and separated merely through a mysterious feeling of conventional manner, without any clear perception of the reason” .(49)

The Pakistani GHQ gave seven tank regiments to a man who was not able to use even two tank regiments in concentration while his two armored brigade commanders also did not display much energy in the conduct of operations.

The case of 5 Armored Brigade was pathetic. Even Cloughley a foreigner and a very mild critic could not help expressing his horror at the phenomenally incompetent conduct of Brigadier Bashir and stated that Bashir “should have been replaced when the timid decision to Leaguer at Khem Karan on 8 September was reported to GHQ”. (50)

Cloughley failed to understand the fundamental fact that in Pakistan Army war performance was no criteria for promotion! It was led by a man who became a Field Marshal in peace! Many years later it was to be again led by a man who had absented himself from his field command under the pretext of martial law duty ! The Indians being no different from Pakistanis racially and as far as mediocrity and timidity in higher ranks was concerned proved equally inept.

Their 1st Armored Division Commander on 8th September had four and a quarter tank regiments against one Pakistani tank regiment. Only three out of the total of ten Indian tank squadrons came in contact with the Pakistani tank regiment. Had the Indian commander possessed any resolution nothing could have prevented them from reaching the MRL!

25 Cavalry could have been simply outflanked using the three uncommitted squadrons of 16 Light Cavalry and Poona Horse or the three totally free squadrons of 41 Horse!

The Indian armored brigade commander lost his composure of mind, which suddenly changed the nature of thing in his eyes, and suddenly panicked, thinking that his flanks were not secure, ordered both of his leading regiments to stop advancing and was too mentally numb was to make use of his third regiment in reserve!

25 Cavalry at this crucial stage was totally committed and in contact ) (51) with Indians all three squadrons abreast! But as the Indian armored corps historian rightly stated; ” but that commanding officer (Commanding Officer of 25 Cavalry) displayed a more robust and resilient mind than either the Indian Brigade or Divisional Commander (a quality ignored by the pedantic Pakistani selection boards who did not let Nisar go beyond Brigadier’s rank !!

Hesitation in launching bold outflanking moves and employing tanks in positional warfare was a common failing on both sides. At Chawinda the mind of the Indian brigade and divisional commanders was fixed at the area between Badiana and Degh Nala, an area of less than 10 miles width, while on 8th 9th or 10th September the Indians could have easily outflanked the Pakistani position in Gadgor-Phillora by crossing the Degh Nala in Zafarwal area and recrossing it opposite Pasrur area ;without wasting time manpower and tanks in the highly constricted and well cultivated area west of Degh Nala.

We have seen that the Pakistani High Command equally as slow and inefficient in decision making was stunned after the Indians had attacked opposite Chawinda on 8th September.

The Indian 1 Armored Brigade Commander instead of swiftly modifying his plans and outflanking 25 Cavalry on 8th or 9th September instead sunk into inertia and indecision and did nothing at all on 9th and 10th September.

After 10th September instead of changing their obvious line of advance and going against the thickest place in the hedge the Indians could have regained initiative by taking the battle east of Degh Nala and bypass the Chawinda area. lnstead tanks were used as battering rams in launching senseless attacks on Chawinda during the period 11-18 September 1965.

The Pakistanis also proved equally inept and launching any bold outflanking move and failed to concentrate the maximum available tank strength opposite Valtoha from where a breakthrough deep into the Indian rear was possible. Like Indians their first priority was safety and their thinking was defensive even while launching an offensive.

The only dynamic armor attack was launched by the 10 Division when 23 Cavalry and 22 Brigade crossed the Maqboolpur Syphon and struck a daring blow in Dograi-Bhaini-Bhasin area on 8th and 9th September. Unfortunately the armor available was too limited and the 10 Division was unable to significantly dislocate the Indians.

The “Armored Brigade Headquarters” on both sides had no concept of brigade battle and preferred tasking the armored regiments and the security of their headquarters. In Khem Karan 5 Armored Brigade issued orders to both its regiments and decided to no more waiting for 24 Cavalry or 6 Lancers to do something.

Their concept of command was to issue orders and let the battle develop without making any effort to prod and spur those under command.

The rank of Brigadier for many Indians and Pakistanis many of whom were ex rankers or rankers son was something like that of viceroy who was not required to go forward and do the work of seeing for himself. Frankly the average Indian and Pakistani officer with no leadership tradition or any clear-cut doctrine needed leading from the front.

The brigade commanders on both sides had no inclination to lead from the front and preferred issuing orders which had no tactical bearing like returning to leaguer etc. The Indian 1st Armored Brigade exhibited extreme hesitation from conducting a brigade level maneuver on 8th September when both his regiments were held up and he possessed a third regiment to employ in a brigade level maneuver’s role of a higher commander is not to get blinded by the fog of war but to have what the French call “Coup d Oeil” to see through it !

He has to reduce the “inertia” of his subordinates by spurring them and moving them by force of his will and light the spark in his subordinates by “the light of his spirit ,the spark of purpose”. And as Clausewitz said “In so far only as he is equal to it he stands above the masses and continues to be their master; whenever that influence ceases ,and his own spirit is no longer strong enough to revive the spirit of all others ,the masses drawing him down with them sink into the lower region of animal nature ,which shrinks from danger, but knows not shame.These are the weights which the courage and intelligent faculties of the military commander have to overcome if he is to make his name illustrious” . (52)

There is no better definition of the armored brigade commanders than this given by Clausewitz before 1832 !

They failed to be the masters of the operational situation because they passed the buck to their subordinate regimental commanding officers, dampening their spirits instead of lightening them, standing miles behind them rather than above them or with them, and instead of spurring their subordinates into “incessant advance towards the aim” preferred “standing still and doing nothing ” ! (53)

Compare this with an example from second world war; “He arrived in his armored car, specially equipped with radio gear. “What’s going on ” ? he asked. ” Held up by artillery fire”, we replied. “Show me. Where is the fire coming from?” Standing in his armored car, he studied the opposite bank with his binoculars. He was calm and steady ,giving no sign of uncertainty and nervousness .Within minutes he made his decision. “Stay put,” he told us. “This is a job for the infantry”. Another example—”Keep going,don’t look left or right, only forward.I’ll cover your flanks if necessary The enemy is confused;we must take advantage of it” .So ran Rommel’s unorthodox orders ! (54)

The Indo Pak man joined the army for promotion and not for glory or from leading from the front. This point of view may sound odd but long years of mercenary soldiering and fighting the Britishers wars inculcated a strange attitude in the Indian officers. They had to obey orders and they did that without deviation, but they had little interest in the final outcome since they were fighting the White man’s war!

Doing something out of the ordinary or beyond minimum acceptable effort was viewed by them as unnecessary. Initiative in any case was not a much preferred quality that the British wanted to inculcate in the Indians.

That is why they deliberate kept a fifty percent quota for rankers in Indian Military Academy Dera Dun. These rankers were a virus deliberately planted by the Britishers to destroy initiative , independent thought and an open mind in the newly created Indian officer corps .

They had served as common soldiers in units with mostly British officers and were slavish , more obsequious ,more inclined to indulge in sycophancy and apple polishing , more conservative and orders oriented in their thinking. In addition they had a relatively poor educational background.

In the post 1947 Indian Army they were sidelined and few went beyond major general. In Pakistan Army they were preferred for selection to the army’s highest ranks by Ayub, Musa, Yahya and even Bhutto as late as 1972 and even by Zia as late as 1980 ;primarily because they were more servile pliable and intellectually naïve!

Thus most commanders preferred passing orders rather than making any mission oriented modification in them and their prime concern was security rather than speed. There was nothing like the German regulation which stated; “Division Commanders need to be close to the front so that the situation can be observed and orders quickly issued. The higher commanders need to observe the situation personally” . (55)

And what did we have; “Bashir would not go to Valtoha, so Sahibzad must come back to Khem Karan ” ! The Brigade commanders thought that they had reached a rank where their only role was to pass orders .

The regiment was the principal unit while brigade and division were merely administrative arrangements and this attitude was carried on in the war also.

The Indians had seen the tank brigades in Burma fighting as tank regiments dished out to infantry divisions and leading a leisurely advance against an enemy who did not have the weaponry to destroy Sherman tanks!

In North Africa the Indian cavalry units had no major offensive role and the Indian motorized brigade were expected only to act as screens than to do anything like maneuver or attack role for which they were not equipped. After partition no emphasis was laid on brigade and divisional level exercises and in Pakistan the New Concept was essentially defense with a limited impact counterattack aimed at stabilizing the situation rather than any deep thrust or offensive war of maneuver aimed at destroying the enemy’s offensive capability.

Infantry commanders who dominated the army were not the most imaginative even by infantry standards and preferred concentrating on exercising regiments and battalions rather than brigade or divisions!

Gul Hassan who was the Director Military Operations admitted the fact that armor brigade commanders had not been trained to command divisions in actual maneuvers in peace. Gul thus said; ” It seems (commenting on Khem Koran operations) that the two Headquarters (11 Division and Ist Armored Division) were paralyzed by the very dimension of their undertaking .Had they physically handled their commands on maneuvers in more normal times, they would have been either found out, and should have been sacked, or the enormity of the task that confronted them later in the war would not have benumbed them”. (56)

Operation Grand Slam was a classic case of failure to employ armor correctly and achieve a breakthrough.


On the strategic level both sides formed good plans keeping in view the fact that none of the two opponents enjoyed overwhelming superiority in the final reckoning. The real test of generalship however is not in performing good strategic plans but in their actual on ground execution!

There was plenty of mediocrity on both sides as far as execution of plans beyond battalion level was concerned! It has however been wrongly asserted by some in Pakistan that the “plans on the strategic level were poor”. The “Strategic Plan” decides “When” “Where ” and with what “Forces” the battle is to be delivered . (57)

One of the principal objects of strategy is to “always be strong, first generally then at the decisive point” .(58)

In this regard both sides initially succeeded in implementing plans which led to initial situations where both sides concentrated their armor at the decisive point and achieved local superiority at the decisive point.

Thus the Indian strategic plan provided the 1st Armored Division Commander with five tank regiments against one on 8th and 9th September but the Indian GOC failed to produce the desired results. it was not strategy that failed but “implementation of plans on ground” or simply “Operativ” or “Operational Strategy” as defined in the terminology of the German General Staff. Clausewitz said that “Only great tactical (Operativ lies between Strategic and Tactical as far as literal English translation is concerned) (59) results can produce great strategical ones” (60) and the most superior strategist will come to grief if plans are executed dumbly!

It was a case of a situation where as one Israeli general said; “you can lead a horse to the waterhole but cannot make it drink it”!

Similar was the case with Pakistani strategy which gave Major General Nasir Ahmad seven tank regiments against one but the GOC and his staff failed to successfully even carry out the pre battle exercise of carrying out movement inside own territory as a result of which the attack failed initially due to inability to achieve decisive superiority because of poor traffic control!

Finally once the Pakistanis were able to concentrate superior strength inside enemy territory ,but again failed to apply it correctly in battle, while also wasting two days in pigheadedly following an antiquated leaguer drill.

But Nasir we remember was only the tip of the iceberg. Those who selected him and allowed hint to command the armored division for three long years before the war were bigger culprits because they failed to discover Nasir’s actual worth. Those in the GHQ who vacillated and gave contradictory orders and counter orders to Nasir; to send one or both of his armored brigades to Lahore Sector; just when the armored division was about to attack; were equally culpable!

Nasir’s staff who could not foresee the difficulties in induction of the armored division and problems like route marking, bridging traffic control were equally culpable! Today only Nasir is blamed and many in his staff in the headquarters and brigades responsible for poor staff work later reached the rank of three star general !

The Indian failure had a deeper link with inability of the brigade and divisional commander to be decisive, but was superior to the Pakistani plan in the sense that terrain friction was much less at all stages of the battle.

But this aspect had another dimension too. Some writers have levelled the criticism that the Pakistani armored division was launched in an area unsuitable for armor operations.

This criticism is not justified. “Natural hazards” as Liddell Hart said are “Inherently less dangerous and less uncertain than fighting hazards. All conditions are calculable, all obstacles more insurmountable, than those of human resistance. By reasoned calculation and preparation they can be overcome almost to timetable”. (61)

We have seen that the major reason for failure of Pakistani armor in Khem Karan was not “terrain” which became important only on 10th September but inability to concentrate their optimum tank strength on 7th 8th and 9th September which enabled the Indians to take adequate defensive measures and even make the terrain factor more formidable by flooding/inundation.

If terrain is taken as the yardstick then many great feats of world military history like Wolfe’s attack on Quebec, Napoleons crossing of the Alps, the German attack through Ardennes and MacArthur’s landing at Inchon were childish blunders!

The criticism based on terrain is largely pedantic. MacArthur’s brilliant plan for landing at Inchon which turned the tables in the Korean war was similarly opposed while in the planning stage by naval experts on hydrographic and geographic characteristics of Inchon harbor. MacArthur’s own Chief of Staff Major General Almond described Inchon as “the worst possible place we could bring in an amphibious assault” .(62) The terrain problems at Inchon were formidable. The water channel from where the amphibious force had to approach for the landing could be conveniently mined or simply blocked by a sunken or disabled vessel; Terrain did not a favor a landing but the advantages of strategic surprise were far greater than terrain odds. The terrain factor was taken into account and chances of failure because of terrain friction minimized by meticulous planning and staff work .

It was here that the Pakistani GHQ and the staff of Armored Division failed. They failed to over emphasize or even visualise the fact that two obstacles i.e. Rohi Nala on the west and Nikasu Nala on the east imposed an eight to nine miles bottleneck through which the Pakistani armor had to get through so as to regain the freedom to maneuver where its numerical superiority in tanks could be effectively translated into practice. Nothing in the instruction passed on to 1st Armored Division indicates that the Pakistani GHQ was even aware of basic problems like closeness of two obstacles inside Pakistani territory i.e. Rohi Nala and BRB which could produce traffic jams and roadblocks or the fact that Nikasu Nala and Rohi Nala initially restricted freedom of maneuver of Pakistani armor in the first phase of the battles. Ignorance of these were the two governing factors and were the basic reason for failure of the armored division thrust. lt was not the question of which brigade; Light or Heavy , first as Gul claimed. Lord Bashir General Nasir etc. came much later .

The GHQ failed to highlight the importance of speed and further undermined the efficiency of the 1st Armored division by contradictory orders and counter orders. The staff of the 1st Armored Division Headquarter and the three brigades failed in planning and controlling simple movement of brigades inside Pakistani territory, which resulted in congestion,delays and the ultimate failure of the Armored Division to concentrate maximum tank strength in the bridgehead on 7th and 8th September, which if achieved could have led to a breakthrough on the 7th 8th or even 9th September. It was not Nasir or Bashir but the whole staff system inherited from the British that failed in Khem Karan. Nasir was just one of the many scapegoats!

Another superior aspect of the Pakistani strategic plan was the fact that if successful it would have placed the Indians at a far greater disadvantage than Pakistan, even if the Indian main attack had reached the MRL. It threatened the whole integrity of all major Indian formations deployed north of Sutlej river, offered alternate objects, both political as well as military and if successful could have brought the war to a conclusion far more advantageous for Pakistan than India. It was in the implementation of this plan that the Pakistanis failed at both the strategic and operational level.

At the strategic level, the Pakistani GHQ exhibited extreme irresolution and vacillation which is clearly illustrated by contradictory orders given to the 1st Armored Division to switch the 3rd Armored Brigade to Lahore at 1400 hours 7th September (63) and to 4th Armored Brigade to move to Daska at 1300 hours 7th September ! (64)

Shaukat Riza very cleverly in order to not to portray the Pakistani GHQ in a position of confusion did not state in his book the headquarter who passed such orders merely stating that “Nasir” or 1st Armored Division” (65) ordered these moves. Shaukat expected his readers to be foolish enough to think that Major General Nasir on his own issued such orders based on some divine revelation and later cancelled them after few hours on the same day due to similar counter revelations! There is absolutely no doubt that the source of these confusing orders was the Pakistani GHQ!

They were as unnerved by the Indian attack on Lahore and Sialkot as the commander of Indian 1° Armored Brigade by the battle of Gadgor on 8th September!

Thus the GHQ in implementing its strategic plan exhibited extreme vacillation and indecision. There is no doubt that such contradictory orders and counter orders did not have a positive impact on the efficiency of the 1° Armored Division and any of its two brigade headquarters.


After the war, a myth was propagated that the Indians were defeated or checked by Pakistani forces who were numerically inferior but qualitatively more superior or more martial! Or that there was something special in Muslim soldiers !

Modern wars or even ancient wars were never won on the basis of numerical superiority alone. Superior generalship and tactics were the most important factor while morale was only second in importance ; in a situation; where two armies with equally high morale clashed; regardless of the fact whether they were Muslim Christian Atheist Pagan or Communist ! After the invention of gunpowder and artillery however numerical superiority became even less important. Thus well drilled and organized European armies were able to defeat numerically much larger Asiatic armies.T he reason for this was not that the Europeans were more martial or possessed more valor but because they were better organised, doctrinally superior and more proficient in combining their infantry and artillery to produce a greater net impact on their opponents. In the second world war with the introduction of tanks as the decisive weapon numerical superiority in infantry became even less important and the Germans were able to decisively defeat the Russians with a much larger infantry component by superior use of armor based on a superior war doctrine. Technically the Indian Centurion and Sherman tanks were relatively inferior to the Patton tanks with which the larger part of Pakistani armor was equipped. In 1965 the Indians did not enjoy any superiority as far as the offensive capability of their army by virtue of number/quality of tanks was concerned Another major force multiplier with which most Indian attacks were defeated was the Pakistani artillery equipped with the latest US guns while Indian artillery had mostly WW II vintage guns. Yet another decisive organisational force multiplier for the Pakistanis was the extremely well organized type 4 Corps Artillery Brigade which the ranker type CGS  General Malik Sher Bahadur did his best to disband, and which to Pakistan’s good luck survived Sher’s bias playing the most crucial role in Grand Slam and at Chawinda.

The Indians were superior only as far as their infantry was concerned but infantry was no longer the arm of decision in modern war and superiority in infantry did not give the Indians any dominant offensive edge over the Pakistanis. In addition the Pakistani infantry was mechanized and possessed the M 113 tracked Armored Personnel Carrier, 300 of which were supplied to Pakistan by USA during the period 1955- 65.In addition 10 and 15 Division possessed the highly versatile and firepower wise extremely effective R & S Battalions. These infantry battalions were completely jeep mounted and possesses 48 106 mm US recoilless rifles. It became fashionable in Pakistan after the war to criticize their role, but there is no doubt that these units played a major part at least in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor in plugging many gaps in the exceptionally wide area of responsibility of the 15 Division. Infantry superiority was relatively more significant in the post breakout phase; provided it was motorised and possessed cross country mobility, while the Indian infantry was lorry borne and did not possess any such capability. In any case the Indians failed to achieve a breakthrough at Chawinda, and their superiority in infantry could not be resultantly exploited .

The following are the essential qualitative facts about the respective offensive potential of both the adversaries:-

Since the US Civil War the defensive potential of infantry was increasing and infantry attac as the main means of decisive warfare was becoming more and more costlier in terms of casualties. By the time of Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 this trend was more pronounced and the defensive value of machine gun and offensive value of indirect artillery fire was a decisive factor in battle . (70)

At Mukden Japanese superiority in machine guns i.e. approximately 254 machine guns against 54 Russian machine guns played a crucial role in the final defeat of a numerically stronger Russian Army (approximately 276,000 Russians against 207,000 Japanese) . (71)

The Russian soldier is one of the most formidable infantry man in attack and is known for immense stoicism and disregard for loss of human life. Despite this the Japanese by superior utilization of machine guns successfully repelled a large number of most determined Russian infantry attacks during the 17 day battle fought along 90 miles frontage . (72)

By 1914-18 infantry was no longer decisive as an instrument of decisive warfare and the stalemate was broken only in 1917-18 by employment of tanks which was the major factor in the allied success against the German Army which otherwise could beat any allied infantry attack. By WW II decisive attack without tanks was simply not possible.

In 1965 no such thing like a paralyzing headlong infantry attack against an enemy in defense with reasonable artillery support was possible, unless tanks and that too in considerable number were in direct support regardless of the fact whether the defender was a Muslim or Hindu or Zoroastrian or Deist Agnostic or Atheist!

It is important that the Indians were able to dislodge the 16 Punjab at Dograi only when tanks had left the 16 Punjab defended area due to confusion in orders/poor navigation. (73)./ It is in this context that we must view the Indian superiority in infantry as an insufficient ingredient for success.

There is no doubt that the Pakistani forces being numerically smaller as far as infantry was concerned were more motivated but infantry it must be remembered was no longer the arm of decision in 1965.  To achieve any breakthrough the minimum requirement was superiority in tanks at the decisive point and this was mot achieved at any place by the Indians in 1965 War.

lt was analytically fallacious on part of many Pakistani military writers to draw wrong conclusions from poor Indian performance in 1965 which had a deeper link with poor training, numerical inferiority in quantity and quality of tanks, inferior quality of artillery and lack of operational talent. The Pakistanis were definitely better trained and equipped and fought well, but were equally handicapped by poor leadership beyond battalion level.

Apart from insufficient armor three other factors played a major role in the reduction of Indian numerical superiority in infantry which if properly regulated may have led to a situation seriously upsetting the delicate operational equilibrium in favor of Pakistan by virtue of possession of better and more numerous tanks.

First was ” Kashmir” which absorbed some 38 out of the total of 103 infantry battalions deployed by the Indians for the war while Pakistan deployed only 15 battalions against these out of which only four were regular Pakistan Army while 11 were the Azad Kashmir Battalions well trained but not as good as the regular battalions in 1965. In this regard Operation Gibraltar and the resultant infiltration scare was a success in the sense that it produced such a sense of insecurity in the Indians that they decided to over-garrison Kashmir.

Another reason why Kashmir absorbed about one third of total Indian infantry was the particular lay of the ground with bottlenecks on Pakistani side, which made defense easier, and a wide valley on the Indian side along with the fact that the Indian line of communication to Kashmir was long ,parallel to the border and required more troops for protection. This left the Indians with just 65 more infantry battalions out of which just 29 were deployed in the Ravi-Chenab corridor while 30 were deployed in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor and 6 south of it leaving Indians to utilize just 18 battalions out of 29 in the Ravi-Chenab Corridor to support their main 1 Corps attack. Just imagine if 30 out of 38 battalions doing stationary guard duty in Kashmir were pumped into Pakistani territory with the 1 Corps attack. In this regard Kashmir proved to be a political liability rather than of any military advantage to the Indians. Second was the immense obstacle value of the BRB canal which reduced the actual combat potential of 30 Indian Infantry battalions hurled against it to just one fourth enabling the Pakistanis to economize on their relatively less numerous infantry and using it a little more decisively. In this regard all credit goes to the Pakistani Government in early 1950 which initiated the excavation of this formidable (I would say in sub continental terms) water obstacle which played as crucial a role in saving Pakistan’s political heartland from capture by the Indians; as the English Channel against Napoleon and Hitler!

Thirdly the Indian obsession with security rather than dynamic attack and the resultant inability to concentrate their infantry to support the main attack led to under employment of their infantry. Thus 38 of their battalions deployed in the area north of Chenab river apart from those in 10 Division area hardly saw any fighting. Their utter disregard for properly utilizing their infantry can be gauged from the fact that they concentrated 11 infantry battalions in their 26 Infantry Division sector against just 4 Pakistani battalions and three of these battalions opposite Marala Headworks remained largely inactive during the war.

One major factor which went against Indian numerical superiority was qualitative superiority of Pakistani tanks and artillery over the Indians.

The major part of Pakistani Armor consisted of M-47/M-48 tanks 400 of which were supplied to Pakhistan by the USA during the period 1954-65.(74) This tank was far superior to the best two Indian tanks i.e. the Sherman and the Centurion. The M-47/M-48 Tank had a more powerful gun than both Centurion and Shermans. M-48 had much greater armor protection than any other tank i.e. its frontal armor was 170 mm as against the frontal armor thickness of 152 mm of Centurion and 100 mm of Sherman. The M-48 had far superior mobility than any Indian tank by virtue of having an engine of 820 Horse Power against a total weight of 45 Tons. Whereas the Power to Weight Ratio of Centurion was 650 Horse Power to 51 Tons and that of Sherman,450 Horse Power to 33 Tons. Both M-47 & M-48 were one of NATOs principal Main Battle Tanks in 1965. In addition the Pattons as both M-47 & M-48 were called had a range finder and night vision capability.

As per Indian accounts however the penetration of the Armored Piercing ammunition fired by this tank was not as good as that of of the APDS ammunition which the Indian Centurion tank could fire .However India had just 210 Centurions as compared to 400 M-47/M- 48 supplied to Pakistan by USA. The other major tank on both sides was the Sherman. 180 Sherman Mark-4 were supplied to India by USA in the period 1953 while a large number of the more antiquated Sherman 75 mm version were supplied before 1953.

Pakistan was supplied with at least 200 Mark-4 Shermans by USA in the period 1954-55 74.. AMX-13 with which the Indians defended Chhamb with its thin armor of 40 mm was an apology of a tank and its lack of protection robbed its crews of any offensive or will to maneuver potential. PT-76 was another light tank and of little value. Thus Shermans were of little consolation and did not give the Indians any marked advantage in the battles fought opposite Lahore. The 2nd Independent Armored Brigade opposite the 1st Pakistani Armored Division had just one regiment of Centurions and the other of AMX-13 tanks.

The above mentioned figures are self explanatory .The best Indian antidote against Pattons i.e. Centurions consisted of just 12 squadrons as against 29 Patton Squadrons Only three of the total 12 Centurion Squadrons were in Khem Karan as against fifteen Patton Squadrons in Khem Karan. While at Chawinda the Pakistanis brought 11 Patton Squadrons by 11 September and a further six more by 13th September as against nine Centurion Squadrons.

Thus there is no doubt that Pakistani armor was far superior qualitatively and relatively superior numerically as compared with the Indian armor and definitely acted as a tremendous force multiplier in reducing the negative impact of Pakistani numerical inferiority in infantry and in addition providing the Pakistanis far greater offensive potential than the Indians.

At Chawinda it was superior armor as well superior artillery which provided the “Cordon Sanitaire” apart from Indian foolhardiness in repeatedly launching frontal attacks which ensured that the Indians failed to achieve a breakthrough despite significant superiority in infantry.

The only short cut to this situation was military talent in Indian higher commanders but this sadly although luckily for Pakistan was absent. Gul Hassan the Pakistani DMO and later C in C frankly admitted the fact that Pakistan enjoyed numerical superiority in tanks at Chawinda and that the Indian handling of armor was so poor that a sizeable part of Pakistani armour, which was readily available for action; was never even utilized at Chawinda right till ceasefire! Gul thus admitted the fact that the Pakistani Armored Division was never fully committed at Chawinda. Gul thus wrote; “When it (1st Armored Division) reached Sialkot ,except for some of its units which were employed in panic, it remained uncommitted ” . (76)

19 Lancers (except at Jassoran which was a minor affair keeping in view the casualties of 19 Lancers!) and 5 Horse were hardly utilized and the bulk of the fighting was done by just four armored regiments!

These factors are sufficient to explode the myth that Chawinda was a miracle! On the other hand Gadgor fought on 8th September 1965 was a miracle ;where the Pakistani 25 Cavalry under tremendous odds of nine to one and without the directions of any higher brigade or division headquarter did stop the Indian 1st Armored Division. This had a deeper connection with imperfection of human perception and irresolution at higher level than any superior or inferior level at squadron troop or tank commander level.

The Indians fought with equal valor and the rot that led to their unheroic and disgraceful withdrawal on the fateful 8th September developed from brigade and division downwards! Thank God that no Pakistani brigade or division was controlling 25 Cavalry in this battle (77)


Leadership beyond battalion/regiment level was equally incompetent on both sides. All major failures on both sides had a far greater link with poor higher leadership than any enemy action.

Thus the major reason for the Pakistani failure at Khem Karan was not Indian resistance but failure to concentrate maximum strength of the 1st Armored Division across Rohi Nala because of poor staff work and confused higher leadership.

Similarly the major reason for the Indian failure at Chawinda was the fact that Commander I° Indian Armored Brigade lost his nerve without having employed one fourth of his available armor and meekly stopped both the Indian regiments from advancing on 8th September and staying on the defensive on 9th and 10th September without any tangible reason!

The other Indian failures at Chawinda from 11 to 18 September also had a direct link with a highly unimaginative and mediocre leadership who unnecessarily exhausted their troops in pointless frontal attacks at Chawinda and surrounding villages.

Harbaksh Singh, Abrar and Sarfaraz were some of the leaders who performed relatively better. Harbaksh Singh’s resolution in face of demoralization in 4 Mountain Division on 7th and 8th September and on 10th September when the Indian Chief asked him to readjust his position rearwards were one of the most resolute decisions on the Indian side.

Abrar’s decision to stand at Chawinda despite advice to withdraw by some armor advisers was the finest operational decision on the Pakistani side for which Abrar was richly rewarded later by not being promoted! 10th Division also performed well and its counterattack on 8th  September was one of the most bold feats of the war.


There is a myth in Pakistan that the Indian soldier was less brave because he was a Hindu than the Pakistani who was braver because he was a Muslim! The authors of this ridiculous assertion cited examples of many Indian units who disintegrated in face of fire in 1965 war or instances where the Indians performed poorly despite overwhelming numerical inferiority. The authors of these outwardly clever but essentially pedantic theories were either unaware of or simply disregarded certain essential facts of military history.

Soldiering is a unique calling which asks those who follow it to put at stake the most precious or supposedly most precious fact of a man’s existence i.e. human life itself! Abstract ideas like “Glory” “Heroism” “Nationalism” “Ideology” etc. were employed with considerable success by kings generals leaders of all sorts on the other side aim at conditioning the human mind to regard survival of the individual as less important than collective ideals or vague concepts. The monotheistic religions brought the concept of life in the next world. Nationalism in Europe brought the concept of the state organized on ethnic lines .The French Revolution brought the concept of a secular ideology transcending race and language. Humans fought and died for all sorts of ideas and this process has gone on since time immemorial.

The essential problem of all armies throughout history has been “How to maintain an orderly military tactical formation in face of emotions of fear of death and horrible dismemberment as a result of the weapons of destruction of the post gunpowder discovery era”. “Discipline” was thus invented and this discipline based on abstract ideals including authority of civil institutions was the foundation of supremacy of the “Greek City States” and of the “Roman Republic”. “Military Discipline” enabled the Roman Legions to defeat the otherwise impregnable savage tribes of east and west Europe and West Asia. There never was an empire established for so long a period as the mighty Roman Empire! Once discipline decayed and military virtue was undermined the Romans were defeated first by Barbarians and much later by Arab Muslims when the Byzantines did not even have one tenth of the military prowess of the mighty Roman Empire.

The myth creation found in todays Pakistan was started by the early Arab Muslim historians who cited the defeat of the Romans by Arabs as triumphs of ideology! They ignored the fact that many Barbarian tribes had succeeded against the Romans long before the Arabs did and that even the Arabs could not defeat the Byzantines apart from wresting their eastern provinces from them! Religion is an important factor in terms of morale but it is just one of the many factors among others like superior military leadership military organization ,tactics ,equipment etc.

As the lethality of weapons increased following the introduction of gunpowder as an important factor in armaments discipline in face of fire became a greater problem. Ardant du Picq not a great philosopher of war but a great philosopher of infantry combat summed the soldier’s inner resolve as a feeling “Man does not enter battle to fight, but for victory. He does everything that he can to avoid the first and obtain the second “. (78) Ardant gave certain basic principles like he said; “These contests generally lasted but a short time. With like morale ,the least fatigued always won “. (79) Ardant’s principal achievement was singling out the fact that human nature at the bottom was essentially similar ; whether it was the “Calm English” “The Dashing French” or “The Russian stoicism”.

As modern weapons grew more destructive fighting became more expensive by virtue of much higher casualties and finally in the first world war many armies mutinied once the soldiers found that they were being aimlessly hurled against the enemy. The reason was not that one race or men from one religion were less brave but because military efficiency was undermined by lack of faith in leaders or their tactical ability to led the rank and file to victory or at least in a reasonable manner whatsoever it was.

The role of the officer in the European Armies of 18th and 19th Century became more important as means of destruction grew more powerful. Successfully withstanding enemy fire had a deeper link with good military tactics, sound leadership and intelligent utilization of weapons than with race or religion. The same Hindus whose conduct was found by pedantic military observers like Brigadier GuIzar ‘had fought much better under British officers. lf there were more instances of Indian units disintegrating under fire as was admitted by Indian commanders like Harbaksh Singh it was so because of situational factors and had no link with religion. There were more such cases of units disintegrating and bolting from line of battle because the Indian Army resorted to infantry attack with much larger frequency than the Pakistanis. Units disintegrated mostly once under artillery fire and when in the open or when attacked by tanks and not yet in deliberate defense. That this happened more with Indian units was because the Indians were on the offensive on most fronts in the war and used their infantry with phenomenal inefficiency in attack.

Most of these cases occurred in the 15 Indian Division because they failed to concentrate at Dograi on 6th September because of lack of darkness which is a pre requisite for infantry to dig in ,in order to go into deliberate defence. The best infantry of the world would disintegrate once attacked by artillery fire and when not dug in. Conversely it is literally impossible to dislodge well dug in infantry supported by tanks and artillery. There were cases of demoralization and units disintegrating of similar type in the Pakistan Army too. According to Brigadier Z.A Khan there was a total morale breakdown in 6 Lancers when Colonel Sahibzad died and none of the other officers was willing to lead the unit. In the same area commanding officer of 24 Cavalry also collapsed because of strain of Indian shelling and his unit went out of control. (80)

I interviewed Brigadier Z.A Khan in 2002 March and he stated that in Khem Karan the armored division commander, two brigade commanders and four  out  of five armored regiment commanders collapsed. This happened because our commanders are neither trained nor tested for working under battlefield stress. (Refers-Pakistan Army in the eyes of Pakistani Generals-Major Agha H Amin (2009) Such cases as a matter of fact had a more direct relation with human nature than with Islam or Hinduism! Clausewitz recognized this most natural fear in man once he said ; “But wild as is the nature of War it still wears the chain of human weakness, and the contradiction we see here, viz that man seeks and creates dangers which he fears at the same time will astonish no one “.(81)

Thus troops on both sides fought equally well. Further both sides performed well in defense and poorly in attack. There were various reasons for this out of which the most important was the enormous destructive power of modern weapons .Military history proves that decisive victories or decisive breakthroughs were achieved in two broad sets of conditions .

Firstly in case of overwhelming numerical superiority and superior airpower as was the case in allied battles against the axis powers in WW II, or because of a markedly superior way of warfare like the Blitzkrieg which enabled the Germans to win even in face of no numerical superiority or even parity. Here in the Indo Pak war none of the two conditions were present .

Neither was one side having overwhelming numerical or material superiority and nor was any side having a superior operational philosophy Most attacks were defeated not by actual physical combat between the opposing infantry but by weight of artillery fire or by water obstacles We have the example of the Iran-Iraq war fought in between two third world countries where because of similar reasons two armies fighting for ten years failed to achieve any decisive breakthrough but performed equally well in defense .

The reason for this phenomenon was not that one army was braver or one less brave but the fact that the immense rise in the lethality of modern munitions as well as mobility of forces made offensive operations more difficult and defensive operations easier where both sides did not have a decisive edge over each other either martially/numerically or by virtue of having a conceptually superior military organization/doctrine.

Clausewitz the greatest philosopher of war singled out three factors which were the “Chief Moral Powers” of an army i.e. “Talents of the Commander” “The Military Virtue or Esprit de Corps of the Army” and “Its National Feeling”. As far as “Talents of the Commanders” was concerned both the armies were equally handicapped. It appears that the “Military Virtue” of the Indian Army to some extent was undermined by the negative attitude of the Indian political leadership towards the army during the period 1947-62. Thus in 1962 when the Sino Indian conflict took place the Indian Army was poorly equipped specially as far as its infantry’s basic weapon i.e. the rifle was concerned. After the war the Indian Army was rapidly expanded and many units which fought the 1965 war were newly raised units. It is incorrect to think that newly raised units are bad units. But there is no denying the fact that it is more difficult to train a newly raised unit and produce in it esprit de corps and mutual understanding than in an older unit. Some of the best units of the war on both sides were newly raised units like 25 Cavalry etc. This negative aspect may have slightly undermined the military virtue of the Indian Army as a whole. The Pakistan Army on the other hand had a smaller number of newly raised units than the Indian Army and concentration was on acquiring sophisticated equipment thanks to US aid rather than on new raisings.

The typical Pakistani myth that the Hindus were less brave was false. A truer explanation which explains some Indian failures at unit level as far as military cohesion in face of fire; a case of lack of military virtue ;which was the result of a political leadership’s negative attitude towards the army during the period 1947-62 and was bound to affect any army in a similarly adverse manner regardless of religion. Clausewitz offered some advice about fostering military virtue, he said; “This sprit can only be generated from two sources, and only by these two conjointly; the first is a succession of campaigns and great victories; the other is an activity of the Army carried sometimes to the highest pitch. Only by these the soldiers learns to know his powers. The more a General is in the habit of demanding from his troops, the surer he will be that his demands will be answered. The soldier is as proud of overcoming toil as he is of surmounting danger. Therefore it is only in the soil of incessant activity and exertion that the germ will thrive, but also only in the sunshine of victory. Once it becomes a strong tree, it will stand against the fiercest storms of misfortune and defeat, and even against the indolent activity of peace, at least for a time” . (82)

The fact that the same people qualified as martial races by many Pakistani historians, were ruled by the qualitatively superior Sikhs who were just a ten percent minority minority from 1799- 1849 proves that martial fervor had much lesser relation with both race or religion and a much greater link with peculiar situational circumstances including the net psycho-social historical experiences of a particular community. Thus both sides performed equally well in defense in own territory and equally poorly in offence in enemy territory. Thus Pakistanis did well in defense inside own territory with the safety of BRB acting as a force multiplier or at Chawinda where parity in tanks and superior artillery led to Indian failure in achieving a breakthrough.

The initial reason for success of Grand Slam was local numerical/material superiority particularly in tanks which were both more numerous and more technically superior ,at the decisive point combined with superior artillery made further more lethal by dynamic leadership of Akhtar Malik while the pace of advance slowed down later when the Indians brought in two more brigades.

The Indians performed well in defense at Assal Uttar but poorly when again tasked to resume offensive operations in Khem Karan after withdrawal of Pakistani 1st Armored Division after 12 September. Pakistanis who did well in defense similarly performed equally poorly when in offensive role at Khem Karan during the period 7-10 September.

Offensive operations required more executive competence in officers and this was lacking in both the armies- Defense was simple as an operation and thus easier to execute-Offensive operations to be successful required ,a capacity to act decisively without waiting for orders, something which was beyond the potential of the orders oriented Indian and Pakistan Armies!

This was not something just peculiar to the subcontinent but a tendency found in plenty in many armies all over the world including many European armies. Thus Montgomery after Alamein, despite all the overwhelming numerical and material superiority that he enjoyed, decided in favor of cautious advance rather than quick advance because he thought that the standard of training of the Eighth Army formations was such that he was not prepared to loose them headlong into the enemy-In words of an eminent British military analyst Captain Miller “Montgomery knew that he could not risk handling his divisions with the boldness expected of a German commander” and that “British senior commanders, painfully aware of the executive weakness of their staffs and subordinates, could never confidently run comparable operational risks”.(83)

If this was the condition of the army of a more advanced European country, due allowance has to be given to both the Indo Pak armies fighting a war involving tanks and quick movements with little leadership tradition in the officer rank and poor staff procedures and an unimaginative battle doctrine.

Coming back to the highly erroneous and essentially fallacious view that prevails in Pakistan that the Pakistani troops (Particularly those from north of Chenab river ) were intrinsically more brave than the Hindus! There was no difference racially between the two armies and religion has little connection with individual bravery or even the military virtues of an army as a group. The races that inhabited Pakistan had no connection with Muslim invaders of India except in having a common religion. In any case India was invaded by many invaders before the Muslims who conquered India despite being non Muslim !

So being Muslim was not the governing factor but being from north of Hindu Kush may be classified as a common factor! However hard Shaukat Riza may have tried to prove that the ancestors of Pakistan’s soldiers were Arab Mongol or Turkish (84) the fact remains all the races that constituted the Pakistan Army had no connection with invaders of India. Even the Pathans had little connection with the last predator from the north i.e. Ahmad Shah Abdali since most of Ahmad’s army was recruited from Pathan territories outside Pakistan. This settles the first ridiculous assertion! We have already seen how the Punjabis became a martial race or came to be classified as a martial race! This had less to do with proven fighting qualities as far as the Punjabi Muslims were concerned (The Sikhs by on ground military achievements from 1700-1849 had proved that they were the most martial race of the entire region India- Afghanistan) and more to do with reliability and availability of eligible manpower at a time when the British were challenged by the most formidable armed insurrection in India. The second question i.e. whether the Muslims of the areas inhabiting Pakistan were more brave than the Hindus or any non Muslims in the Indian Army is not difficult to resolve. In the first place individual bravery has nothing to do with race or religion. We are left with collective bravery or group cohesion in face of fire. This has to do with a large number of factors out of which motivation based on some idea may be Nationalism., Ideology both based on religion or based on other secular beliefs like socialism communism etc, Regimental spirit etc,is just one of the many factors. The other factors being common historical experience, quality of leadership, training, doctrine, operational strategy, organization etc.

Man can fight for anything and the important fact here is not whether what he is fighting for is essentially Islam or Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism or Nationalism or Communism but the intensity with which he believes in it and is willing to sacrifice his life for it. Thus there may be the case of a more motivated communist army against Muslims or a more motivated Hindu Army against Muslims or vice versa but nothing else. A simple quantitative way of comparing relative performance of Hindus Muslims Sikhs etc. is their performance in the pre 1947 British Indian Army.

At least 50 % of the fighting arms in that army on the average were Muslims. We will compare combat performance at random by studying the figures of the religious groups awarded the Victoria Cross for which the Indians became eligible from 1911.(85) It is important to keep this year in mind since we have already discussed that by 1911 the Indian Army was a Punjabi dominated army in with fighting arms that had at least 50 % Muslims from Punjab and Frontier in their total strength. The contention before us is whether the non Muslim soldier of the Indian Army was less brave than a Muslim soldier and in particular the Punjabi Muslim who constituted three fourth of the fighting arms of the Pakistan Army as well as the Pathan Muslim who constituted the second largest ethnic group in the fighting arms of the Pakistan Army. We will examine the number of Victoria Crosses awarded to both Muslim as well as non Muslim soldiers in the Indian Army. We will exclude Gurkhas, who although Hindu by religion , were a small part of Indian Army infantry in 1965. In principle at least 50 % or 40 % of the Victoria Crosses awarded to the Indian Army in the period 1911-1945 should have gone to the Muslims in general since they were more than 40 % of fighting arms of Indian Army with at least 45 to 50 % representation in the fighting arms. Further more than three fourth of these Victoria Crosses should have gone to the Punjabi Muslims who were more than three fourth of the total Muslim fighting arm component in the period 1911-45. We are only interested in ascertaining whether these figures prove that the non Muslims were less brave or equally brave. The following table may enable the dispassionate reader in arriving at some conclusions:-

None of these figures prove that the Punjabi Muslims or Pathans were braver than Hindus or Punjabi Sikhs. The Hindu percentage in the fighting arms in the Indian Army in WW One was approximately half of that of Muslims but Hindus got four Victoria Crosses as against two Muslim VCs and two of these were from Garhwal which was not part of Punjab, while the third was again a non Punjabi from Rajputana. The fourth Hindu in WW One was a Punjabi Hindu Dogra. This Clearly illustrates that bravery had no connection with being from Punjab or being a Hindu or a Muslim! Something which may be equated with blasphemy in Pakistan, but all the same true! The same is true for WW Two. It is absolutely ridiculous to equate religion or ethnic origin with valor!
Note- (86) Some of the figures or facts are based on the authors’ approximate personal assessment.

To conclude and wind up this most ridiculous controversy propagated in both the countries by superficial historians and in Pakistan in particular by men like Brigadier Gulzar and Altaf Gauhar ; a closer and more dispassionate examination of the various battles reveals that the differences in unit performance in both sides had a far more closer link with situational factors than with religion or race which although relatively important were not as important as many other factors like the “particular tactical situation”, “personality of the higher commanders”, nature of operation whether “attack or defense”.

Material or numerical factors like number of men ,tanks, guns and quality of equipment played a relatively significant role but again this too depended on the quality of higher leadership and doctrine. Some units like 3 Jat 25 Cavalry 7 Punjab (Pakistani) etc. performed outstandingly well but their successes depended more on the situational factors listed above than on which country they hailed front.

There were some general tactical rules of the thumb which explained all successes and failures like “Infantry Attack against an enemy in deliberate defense whether behind a natural obstacle or artificial obstacle reasonably well supported by artillery and armor was a far more difficult operation as far as likelihood of success was concerned ; than lets say an attack mounted by one side while both sides were in the process of advancing and the enemy attacked was not in deliberate defense as was the case in Khem Karan when both the Indian and Pakistani troops were attacking each other simultaneously on 6th September. The same Pakistani troops found it more difficult to dislodge the same Indian infantry division once it occupied deliberately defended infantry positions at Assal-Uttar. Similarly the same Indian division found it difficult to dislodge the Pakistanis in the same area after l2th September once the Indians attacked Khem Karan later to evict the Pakistanis out of Khem Karan. This explains the 4 Sikh and 2 Mahar fiasco of 12th September. The only major breakthrough of the war achieved during Grand Slam can also be similarly explained. The Pakistanis achieved total surprise, possessed six to one superiority in tanks , were well led and were not impeded by any natural obstacle. Their failure to maintain their initial impetus had a far greater connection with Ayub and Musa’s hesitation out of fear of provoking India into starting a full scale war which resulted in delaying the progress of the operation hidden under the pretext of change of command.

Another rule of the thumb in all unit actions was the fact that no major breakthrough was achieved by either side once surprise was lost. Yet another rule of the thumb was the fact that the enemy was defeated not by direct physical assault but by mental dislocation. Thus 3 Jat’s success at Dograi ; which was well executed by an otherwise excellent unit ; had more to do with a brilliant plan involving attack from the flank , and absence of Pakistani tanks .


 The principal higher leadership failure on both sides was failure in modifying plans realistically as well as dynamically in face of operational situations in which initial plans had failed. Here we again come in contact with the lack of leadership tradition.

The Indians in the British Indian Army had little to do with leadership of anything higher than battalion leadership. Only one Indian Thimaya had commanded an infantry brigade in actual operations.

Ayub Musa Chaudhry etc; in short commanders on both sides did not have the experience of commanding anything beyond a company in actual battle. Men on both sides owed their promotion to “transfer of power” rather than any real military education acquired over a passage of time and did not understand the fact that there was a large gap between theory and practice as far as the art of war was concerned and military leadership was not simply the question of drawing lines on the paper between which units and formations would race without any friction or change/modification in actual execution. Their military careers were not journeys involving years of effort spent in mastering the art of warfare or in meaningful military experiences but promotion in a telescoped period in the aftermath of the partition of India.

The Indian was supposed to be a good company second in command or at best a battalion commander and was selected as an officer on quota for having a smart military bearing and a loyalist background and groomed to be a junior military leader in any case. Careers of men who commanded brigades divisions and corps and even both the C in Cs were essentially smooth careers having not encountered any real military odds or challenges like lets say the Israelis of the same generation. Ayub and Musa had hardly any  command experience beyond commanding a company in WW II while the best odds that Chaudhry came across was the sheep like army of Hyderabad state which was scattered within few hours by Chaudhry while commanding Operation Polo! Both Ayub and Musa had not participated even in the Kashmir War and were not distinguished for the caliber of their military thought. Ayub was preoccupied with constitution making, dynasty creation, personal business apart from being the army’s supreme commander while Musa was not chosen because of ability but because of dependability since he was too naive and harmless to cause any problem to Ayub. There was thus little hope that any meaningful operational doctrine could be conceived and practiced with men like Ayub and Musa.

We have seen that the British “Training Advisory Staff’ was packed off in 1957 because of a multiplicity of reasons one of which was the fact that they were committing the sin of ‘attempting to test the command ability of Pakistani Brigade Commanders and Divisional Commanders”.

Nothing comparable to Training Advisory Staff was instituted and it was generally believed that with two tall imposing men with good military bearing, one a Field Marshal for having conquered Pakistan, and the other a full general for not being perceived as brilliant and dynamic, leading an army equipped with US tanks and guns were sufficient guarantee for defense of Pakistan against the meek Hindu! The stress was on the “New Tactical Concept” which had after all “enhanced firepower in a division two fold” ! (87)

There is no doubt that even in 1965 the army was suffering from the same labor pains which Gul had mentioned for 1950s. One subtle point has to be noted here. Rapid promotion can be decisive in improving operational efficiency of an army provided it is done in war and based on proven tactical or operational performance; in the case of Pakistan Army this was done in peace during the period 1946-1958 and based on political loyalty docility and parochialism! The best these men, most of whom were rankers sons or ex rankers; understood was the infantry company which they had commanded for many years or served in one as a second in command for many years. Between 1946 and 1958 these men made tremendous advancement in both institutional as well as social terms. Now they had to discuss higher things since they had reached the general rank, something unimaginable for an Indian as late as 1945! On reaching general rank they preferred confining their thinking to the operations of a force comprising an infantry division and a regiment of tanks; the maximum that they could comprehend! They viewed war as essentially the fight of an infantry division with one brigade and an armored regiment mounting a counter attack which they viewed as “Battle of Cannae” (89) or “Panipat”. An armored division was created but the essence of armored warfare was beyond the operational caliber of both Ayub and Musa, and in any case they viewed handling an armored division as a simple affair; one which any drill square sergeant/ex ranker type of general from infantry could handle. Similarly higher military organisations like the corps was not understood by the VCOs sons or ex rankers and the only purpose behind the creation of the corps headquarter was simply to have one, since all modern armies had one.

A glance at the numbers of divisions and the long frontage of the 1 Corps proves that Ayub and Musa never viewed the 1 Corps Headquarter as a serious operational entity. Not as least as one which was suppose to function one as a corps headquarter in war! The first two of its commanders i.e. General Azam or Bakhtiar Rana were not in any case illustrious for any command beyond company level and Azam’s performance in the 1948 was mediocre at best! (90) Those who knew its second corps commander had absolutely no doubt about it! No wonder that 1 Corps Headquarter and seems to have been largely run by Major General Yaqub the Deputy Corps Commander sent specially as a relief to compensate for the lack of military intellect in its corps commander and the fact 1 Corps had little to do with any meaningful operational decision in the war! Things were made worse by the fact that the old British Indian Artillery was not an independent entity in any major British war but as a part of a larger British expeditionary force. The Indian Army did not require much of an operational philosophy to perform its major role i.e. internal security, frontier warfare and fighting third rate armies like the Afghan Iranian and Iraqi Armies! Its failings as a serious force conducting operations beyond brigade level were first seriously exposed in Mesopotamia where it defeated the Turkish Army a second rate army by European standards only after having attained overwhelming numerical superiority in 1917¬18!

Even in Burma the Indian Army defeated the Japanese only once odds were overwhelmingly against the Japanese in a war that was sustained by massive US air supply and overwhelming air and material superiority. Thus both the armies inherited no clear cut, clearly spelt out operational philosophy and did not give much importance to serious study of military leadership beyond battalion level. The fact that plans could be disrupted at operational level necessitating a rapid change in plans never seems to have struck the higher leadership in both armies.

Till 1964 the Indians thought that keeping in view the relative numerical odds Pakistan would not attack India; hence no serious thought was given to any serious thinking about training of higher military leaders or in operational strategy.

Similarly Ayub did not simply have the guts to think about a war with India but slowly during the period 1962-65 because of the US aid, Indo China War and influence of hawkish advisors developed an attitude that he could win eternal glory by somehow solving the Kashmir issue by means of a limited war confined to Kashmir.

Thus the Pakistan Army as well as the Indian Army failed to develop any system of training higher commanders beyond battalion level in making of assessments in face of the fog of war, quick decision making, aided by expert staff officers, modification of initial plans that had failed in face of a crisis situation demanding quick action.

No need as a matter of fact was felt for specialized instruction in training higher


commanders in conduct of battle beyond brigade level In addition no serious thought was given to developing a sound doctrine for conduct of operations involving tanks and it was taken for granted that there is no gap between theory and action and that no special thought was required in this regard as far as brigade divisional and corps level leadership was concerned or as far as armored warfare was concerned.

The fact that there was an intangible factor known as “Military Genius” which was more important than Patton tanks acquired by selling national pride and the mistaken assumption that military action was not subtle enough to merit anything more than Musa type drill square soldiers doomed the army’s higher military leadership! It was thought that by putting any ranker type officer through a course at Royal College of Defense Studies (91) all theories of higher military leadership could be mastered was erroneous. The warning of Clausewitz made in this connection was not digested by Ayub and Musa; i.e.; “Given the nature of the subject we must remind ourselves that it is simply not possible to construct a model for the art of war that can serve as a scaffolding on which the commander can rely for support at anytime (it was this mistaken assumption that led to placing of men like Nasir in the Armored Division!!!).Whenever he has to fall back on his innate talent, he will find himself outside the model and in conflict with it; no matter how versatile the code, the situation will always lead to the consequences we have already alluded to: talent and genius operate outside the rules, and theory conflicts with practice”. (92)

The tragedy of both the armies was that neither “Theory” was developed and nor was the fact recognized that actual war conditions required a military commander who could operate even in circumstances where “rules and theory conflicted with practice”. In the case of Pakistan this situation was more relevant since Ayub being a usurper feared real military talent! Since the concentration after the departure of the TAS was on infantry tactics till a brigade level counterattack which was in line with the maximum military caliber of the Ayub¬Musa duo of subcontinental operational talent confined to the working of and infantry battalion or two with one odd tank regiment; no serious thought was given to developing an operational philosophy based on the fact that centered on conduct of mobile operations on the divisional/corps level ;and the fact that in war initial plans could breakdown necessitating mission oriented changes in the original plan.

The old maxim of Moltke the Elder that “It is a delusion, when one believes that one can plan an entire campaign and carry out its plan end….the first battle will determine a new situation through which much of the original plan will become inapplicable” or that “Everything comes to this : to be able to recognize the changed situation and order the foreseeable course and prepare it energetically “.(93)

These men who had rapidly progressed from the rank of major to general thanks to the particular circumstances following the transfer of power with their background of limited war experience made further worse by their lack of knowledge of military history in depth based over years of hard work; did not ever visualise that the major reason for failure in war is never the enemy factor but weakness in own higher commanders. That it is not superior tanks but superior handling by virtue of superior doctrine, training and better higher leadership that mattered in war. There was nothing profound in this but the men responsible for leading the army had not read much of military history General Sher Ali remembers Ayub as one “not very well versed in higher military studies     When we sometimes got to discussing the art of war , he , I found used to parry off the subject and get back to what I call basic soldiering—simple straightforward barrack and battalion stuff ” . (94)

Their knowledge of staff work consisted of having attended a six month emergency session of the Indian Staff College and few staff assignments in rear headquarters in largely non operational branches. No intellectual work was done on understanding operational strategy or on the intangible forces in the art of warfare like the concept of “Fog of War”, “Friction” “Suspension of Action” etc. Nothing dealing with higher military leadership in the form of a publication was produced and there is no  record that proves that I Corps Headquarter ever tried to assess the operational  talent of the 1st Armored  Division in the three long years command tenure of Major General Nasir.

There were reasons for this One was that with the Patton tank dealing with the Indians was regarded as a minor affair! The generals in charge had read about the infantry company in battle but had not digested the fact that mere superiority in quality of tanks did not prevent the British from defeated in France (1940) ,Crusader (1941) and Gazala (1942) etc. Another reason was that the I Corps Commander or the CGS knew as little about employment of armored division as Lord Nasir who was commanding the armored division just because Musa liked him! All these factors combined and led to a situation; where no need was felt to subject higher military commanders to the friction test of a realistic maneuver at the armored and infantry divisional level within the framework of a corps; where no need was felt to understand that complete plans could breakdown in war and lead to a situation which only operational talent of the commander on the spot could solve!

Another factor which made an important contribution in this sorry state of affairs was the lack of realization that in general staff terms “leadership in the final analysis is the art of uniting all available forces at the point of decision” and that this required not only capable operational commanders but a capable team of staff officers who could function in the stress strain and the friction of war and still succeed in concentration at the decisive point.

Thus both the “staff’ and the “operational commanders” failed!

It became fashionable to blame only the operational commanders while the staff which bore a large responsibility for poor staff work which essentially played a much larger role than any enemy opposition in the failure to concentrate the 1st Armored Division across Rohi Nala on the crucial 8th and 9th September escaped the blame unnoticed!

The triumphs achieved by great armies in history were based on years of hard work and not on the fact that their generals were “tall” “bluff’ with big moustaches or good military bearing or simply because they were Sandhurst commissioned ; or men who promoted themselves to Field Marshals after a nominal participation record in a war that had ended fifteen years ago!

Napoleons triumphs were based over long hours of study of military history, reflection on the art of war and the passions generated as a result of the French revolution. Moltke studied the art of war for four decades before he was able to fashion the German General Staff to function as a dynamic battle organization. The Germans did exceedingly well in the Second World War because they had worked hard under Seeckt analyzing their failures and perfecting their doctrine based on a thorough study of art of warfare. The essential reason for failure of the Pakistan Army was lack of any operational philosophy whatsoever and a mistaken belief that mere acquisition of US aid without mastering the techniques of armored warfare was enough guarantee for success in war!

In the army of 1965 there was a great deal of stress on minor tactics, leading an infantry platoon company and battalion but little beyond. It would be no exaggeration to state that many generals of the Ayubian era, including Ayub and Musa, or even of Yahya’s time were little more than glorified battalion commanders and did not have the ability to think any higher! They viewed war as a conflict between platoons companies and battalions and did not grasp the operational role of military leadership beyond battalion level in war.

John Keegan highlighted the importance of operational talent in the German Army when he noted that “Even higher in the German Army’s scale of values than the nurture of the warrior spirit in its conscripts stood the cultivation of operational talent in their leaders. Operative is an adjective which does not translate exactly into the English .Lying somewhere between “strategic” and “tactical”, it describes the process of transforming paper plans into battlefield practice, against the tactical pressures of time which the strategist does not know, and has been regarded by the German Army as the most difficult of the commander’s art since it was isolated by the great Von Moltke in the 1860s. Taught,in so far as it can be taught, in his famous staff college courses, its traits were eagerly looked for in the performance of general staff candidates and its manifestations in practice. In wartime it was rewarded by swift promotion”.(95)


After the war ammunition shortage was cited as a reason for cease-fire by both sides. Altaf Gauhar in his misguided zeal to criticize the Pakistan Army does state that “few people outside the armed forces realize how close Pakistan came to disaster in the 1965 war”.(96) Altaf has the habit of making sweeping assertions without factual knowledge. He does not know as we earlier discussed; how close the indians came to disaster at Akhnur or in Khem Karan and yet he takes every chance to distort history maligning all ; except his benefactor Ayub including the army, his civil service rivals and Bhutto. Little does Altaf know that when Shastri consulted General Chaudri the Army Chief whether the Indian Army could achieve significant results on ground; he was told that India must accept ceasefire as ammunition stocks were running low! Later when a review of ammunition stocks after the war was carried out it was discovered that only twenty percent of the total ammunition stocks had been used in the war! (97)


A great deal of attention in Pakistan has been focused on Akhnur while the real battle Valtoha-Assal Uttar have been ignored. Akhnur was not as decisive as Valtoha because even if 12 Division/7 Division had captured Akhnur there was no guarantee that they could have held it in face of a counterattack by the Indians with larger forces. Poonch which was well stocked in any case could have held out and mere capture of Akhnur could not have led to far reaching strategic results. This was so because at this stage the main Indian armored reserves were uncommitted and possessed full freedom of maneuver. Valtoha was a far more serious affair.

The Indian armored reserves were already committed beyond extrication at Chawinda and the Pakistanis at Valtoha were really in a position to sever the jugular. Had the Pakistanis achieved a breakthrough here the whole Indian position at the strategic level would have become very critical leading even to a military defeat. In this regard the failure at Akhnur on part of the Pakistani Higher Command however critical was not of as much strategic significance as the failure to achieve a breakthrough at Valtoha-Assal Uttar.


Pedants in Pakistan have criticized the 1965 war as a failure and as a blunder. The fact is that after the Sino Indian War the Indians embarked on an ambitious program to enlarge their army and 1965 was one time when Pakistan still possessed the capability to inflict a decisive military defeat on India and settle the Kashmir dispute. The facts of 1971 war prove that Indian potential six years later was far greater than in 1971. As a matter of fact there is no doubt that had the Indians not attacked East Pakistan and concentrated their forces against West Pakistan in 1971 they could have made far more significant gains and imposed their will on the Pakistani government imposing a peace of their choice in the west as well as ensuring the liberation of Bangladesh. Even after concentrating a large part of their army in the East the Indians were able to invade many parts of West Pakistan something of which they were not capable in 1965.

This proves that 1965 was the last opportunity for Pakistan to settle militarily its disputes with India. However the seeds of a failure were planted even before the start of the war in shape of a leadership which was not resolute enough and did not want the war at all. We have already mentioned Indian C in C Western Commands observation that 1965 was the right time for Pakistan to attack India.(98)

Clausewitz the greatest philosopher of war thus said; ” Offensive war, that is the taking advantage of the present moment, is always commanded when the future holds out a better prospect not to ourselves but to our adversary”. In this case the future had better prospects for India and Pakistan’s only hope was an all out offensive posture. Clausewitz defined the solution in yet more detail in the following words; “Let us suppose a small state is involved in a contest with a very superior power, and foresees that with each year its position will become worse: should it not ;if war is inevitable, make use of the time when its situation is furthest from worst? Then it must attack, not because the attack in itself ensures any advantages-it will rather increase the disparity of forces— but because this state is under the necessity of either bringing the matter completely to an issue before the worst time arrives or of gaining at least in the meantime some advantages which it may hereafter turn to account” . (99)

Sycophants civil servant or army officers do not read Clausewitz but Dale Carnegie’s books on apple polishing and sycophancy and we cannot blame them for not having read Clausewitz!


Obsession with “Frontal Attacks” or the direct approach was yet another colonial legacy with which all commanders beyond battalion level were obsessed! This tendency is not difficult to understand for one who has read the history of the pre 1947 British Indian Army in particular and the British Army in general. The British infantry of Marlborough, Wellington and later periods had a great reputation for solidity of formation in battle. In addition the British infantry’s bayonet charge, coupled with Indian troops supporting it on both flanks during the period 1757-1919 was one thing which few adversaries in West Asia could stand, except perhaps the Turk who by virtue of more intimate exposure to the European way of warfare was better versed in European infantry tactics.

ln India above all the British as we have discussed at many places in this book enjoyed an inherent organizational as well as psychological advantage over all Indian Afghan Iranian Nepali adversaries, which enabled them to place the least reliance on maneuver and in most subcontinental battles the British just marched to the sound of guns and attacked frontally and there were few adversaries in India (not the Afghans) except perhaps the Punjabi Sikhs proved to be an exception to the precedent of surviving a frontal attack by the British in a battle fought in plain terrain at least in a single day at Chillianwala. The tendency became a habit because in India and surrounding countries the opponents which the British encountered were so operationally naïve or weak that no brilliant maneuver was required to defeat them! On the continent the British had been more lucky in not facing a full fledged Napoleonic Army or a German Army except as part of a coalition in battles where numerical odds mostly favored them! In the Crimean War however they payed a heavy price for this frontal attack tradition!

In any case the British tradition was attack and that too straight frontal and headlong. Crimean War was regarded as a temporary episode and the emphasis on the direct approach continued. The British payed a heavy price for this attitude in the Boer War and in the WW One but did not learn anything and repeated it in WW Two. Wavell described this typically British attitude well when he said; ” Possibly because the British character is normally simple and straightforward, more probably because our training is stereotyped and unimaginative, deception of an enemy does not seem to come naturally to us. Hence we are apt to suffer in the field through lack of guile and to fall too easily into the enemy’s traps and to miss opportunities of setting traps of our own” .(100)

In 1965 many opportunities were lost at the strategic operational and tactical level because commanders beyond battalion level remained battalion commanders at best and could not see anything beyond the enemy immediately in front. Thus the Indian armored brigade and divisional commanders failure at Gadgor on 8th September to outflank 25 Cavalry by a bold outflanking maneuver east of Degh hitting Pasrur from the east and doing in a day by maneuver something which the Indians failed to do with so much bravery in frontal attacks from 11th to 18th September ! The Pakistani failure to  outmaneuver the Indians via Valtoha and obsession with the central axis at Khem Karan. The suicidal frontal attacks in Khem Karan after I lth September and in Chhamb  after Grand Slam! These men were trained like that and something in the whole business of handling Indians by  the British had condemned them to not  to think beyond company or battalion level. They were never meant  to command battalions and brigades in as short a time as they did and even the British way of warfare was based on an essentially very direct approach. These men failed to act on Frederick the Greats dictum that “three men behind the enemy were worth more than fifty in front of him, for moral effect”.(101)

Thus the only major counterattacks that succeeded on both sides were based on an indirect approach i.e. the brilliant 23 Cavalry and 22 Brigade attack on 8th September and the brilliant 3 Jat operation as a result of which 16 Punjab was encircled. Apart from these the only operation larger than brigade level to have succeeded was the Grand Slam where the main reason for success was surprise combined with an outflanking maneuver and the overwhelming superiority in armor as well as artillery. This operation however was sabotaged by indecisiveness and timidity of the Ayub-Musa duo! The Indian failure in front of Lahore had a great deal to do with the BRB apart from the bravery of the troops defending the line of BRB! Apart from these all major attacks planned by both sides failed because they were too frontal, too direct and too predictable in line with the British-Indian tradition of obsession with the direct approach.


A great deal of controversy surrounds  this affair. Amjad Chaudhry alleged that change in command was a ploy to cover Ayub’s succumbing to foreign power pressure. Chaudhry also stated in  his book written in 1976 that Yahya told him after the war that “You know I was told not to do so”.(102) Shaukat Riza has broken all records in distortion of history by stating that change in command was planned (103) before the operation. Gul as DMO states that he was surprised at this change. (104) Musa Khan the most effected party in the whole affair similarly denied the assertion that change of command was done on spur of the moment and falsely asserted that it was prearranged.(105)

It appears that change in command was done by Ayub and Musa to deliberately slow down the speed of advance towards Akhnur since they had second thoughts about the operation and feared that outbreak of war could be averted by not capturing Akhnur. By not capturing Akhnur they were trying to avoid the position of pressing the Indians in a tight corner. Or, the reason may have been Ayub’s desire to enable his nominee for Army chiefs post to get all the glory for capture of Akhnur.


The fact that Shaukat Riza has not given any figures of casualties suffered by the Pakistan Army in 1965 is a good indicator or gauge of the efficiency of the Pakistani GHQs staff officers who assisted him! This in itself explains many failings of the Pakistani Staff officer. Another reason for not discussing casualties may have been the fact that the Pakistan Army being mostly on the defensive suffered very low casualties. There were armored regiments which suffered as low casualties as 4 killed in Khem Karan!

There were on the other hand regiments like 11 Cavalry whose casualties were 34 killed. It is ironic that the figures regarding casualties in all wars fought since 1947 on the Indian side are more precise. The following table gives some comparative figures:– (106)

The above figures prove that casualty wise the Sino-Indian War was a far more serious affair than both 1948 and 1965 wars since only 24,000 men were involved in the war whereas 90,000 Indian troops were involved in the 1948 War (107) and more than 138 Infantry battalions meaning around 100,000 men, 14 Tank Regiments with 7,000 to 8,000 men and at least 50,000 more supporting arm troops were involved in the 1965 War .1 Corps where major fighting took place suffered the following casualties:— (108)

 As per the above statistics only the fighting in 1 Corps area, although strategically of far greater consequences, was only one fourth of the total war in terms of casualties suffered. The Indian 15 Corps saw little fighting in other sectors apart from the 10 Division in Chhamb-Jaurian Sector. The above comparison shows that fighting in 1 Corps area was not as  severe as in 15 Corps  area  where Indians had approximately 37 fighting units (30 infantry battalions and 7 tank regiments) as against approximately 35 units (29 infantry battalions) in I Corps area .Statistics show that fighting was more severe in Chhamb where just one infantry division with approximately nine units suffered half as many casualties as 1 Corps consisting of four divisions with thirty five battalions. The following comparison illustrates the intensity of fighting in Chhamb (109)



The above mentioned figures illustrate that Indians suffered far more greater casualties in Chhamb than in 1 Corps area. The only reason for this appears to be the initial surprise achieved by 12 Division once Grand Slam was launched as a result of which the 191 Brigade in the process of a rout like withdrawal suffered serious casualties. Another reason for I Corps apparently smaller casualty ratio appears to be the fact  that major fighting in 1 Corps area was done by the 1st Armored Division and the infantry brigades of 6 Mountain and 14 Division while relatively much less fighting took place in the 26 Division opposite Sialkot. 26 Division had a total of 12 fighting units out of the total 35 fighting units of 1 Corps. 9 out of these units took part in fighting while 3 opposite Marala were inactive. This division did not have sufficient armor to launch a meaningful attack against Sialkot and its role was to fix Pakistani defenses opposite Jammu rather than capturing Sialkot as was later propagated to project Tikka Khan as a war hero!

We will now compare the casualties remaining to gauge the intensity of fighting in 15 Corps area where (110) it appears that the Indians suffered maximum casualties :–

Note:–Missing lave been omitted from the formation wise total because the figures of missing for 1 Corps i.e. 427 men exceed the total missing figure for the Indian Army i.e. 359 men This discrepancy exists because after the war many in missing category were reclassified as killed wounded or prisoners once the final counting was done .The Missing casualties were-1 Corps-427 (an incorrect figure because of including many who may have been killed/wounded/prisoner) 10 Div-240—-15 Division-85.

The above table illustrates the intensity of fighting in the 11 Corps area where Indian infantry was tasked to conduct advance and suffered severe punishment on the far bank of the BRB canal at the hands of Pakistani artillery. Thus the 15 Mountain Division suffered almost as many casualties as the total combined casualties suffered by all four divisions of the Indian 1 Corps ! As a yardstick it may be noted that the Indian casualties mostly suffered by 15 Corps in terms of killed alone were more than the total killed Pakistani casualties in the entire fighting in East Pakistan from March 1971 till cease fire/surrender, or the total casualties on the entire front in West Pakistan ! (111) The major reason for the large Indian casualties in 11 Corps was not that the Pakistani troops were more martial but because the Indian infantry was launched in frontal attacks against Pakistani troops in relatively well prepared defensive positions without adequate tank support. In addition the BRB acted as an anvil while the Pakistani artillery provided the hammer to crush the infantry by brilliantly directed artillery fire. After the war many infantry officers like Brigadier Gulzar attempted to portray the heavy infantry loss as largely caused by Pakistani infantry!

The reasons for heavy Indian casualties were as following:-

  1. In warfare it is the rule of the thumb that the attacker suffers heavier casualties than the defender-unless the defender is routed or defeated or his position is captured. ln 1971 at Bara Pind three Pakistani tank regiments failed to dislodge just one Indian tank regiment in defense! The question was not that the Pakistanis were more martial or that the Punjabi Muslims were more martial but simply that the power of defense was much greater than that of offense. This inherent power became much greater when the attackers were not covered by adequate artillery fire as was the case at Bara Pind! The Indian troops in most sectors were on the offensive but failed to achieve a major breakthrough and thus suffered more casualties’ the Ravi-Chenab Corridor they were stopped by the superior operational skill of the Pakistani 6 Armored Division whereas in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor the major role in holding the Indian advance was played by the BRB canal.
  1. Preference for massed frontal infantry assaults against infantry in deliberate defense. The Indian Higher Command held an essentially fallacious concept that superiority in infantry without commensurate armor and artillery support was enough to guarantee success in battle!


The Pakistani and Indian psyche is remarkably similar in many ways. One common feature advanced by many gentlemen with the reputation of respectable intellectuals of both sides after the war was the assertion that the 1965 war was a result of an American conspiracy to weaken either India or Pakistan! This ridiculous conspiracy theory assigned divine powers to USA as far as potential to trigger war between two sovereign countries was concerned! There are many conspiracy theorists in Pakistan. There is one who sees a Zionist conspiracy in everything that happens in the world and also regards the 1965 as a super power conspiracy involving USA etc. in order to weaken Pakistan ! (112) Another Pakistani armed force officer turned politician finds the Americans as the main culprits for instigating India into attacking Pakistan. He states that ” The United States Government was probably persuaded that by swift action, culminating in the fall of Lahore, Pakistan would be taught a lesson which would have a favorable effect on her conduct in international affairs and her general approach towards India and the United States ” . (113) The same gentleman even asserted in the same book that the 1965 war was planned by Bhutto ,who as per the sagacious gentleman in fact started the 1965 war based on a calculation that Pakistan’s defeat in it would lead to Bhutto’s elevation to power! (114) This is not history but pure and unadulterated personal venom of a man whose security deposit was forfeited in the 1970 elections ;when contesting against an obscure candidate from Bhutto’s party; and who was sidelined by Bhutto as Pakistan’s main opposition leader in 1968-69. (115) This is stretching conspiracy theories a bit too far and that too based on personal likes and dislikes! It is giving Bhutto more imagination than any human being can have; in foreseeing that 1965 war would result in Pakistan’s defeat !

The Sub Continental psyche being essentially similar regardless of difference in religion ,there is no dearth of similar gentlemen on the Indian side too. Thus one Indian general also sees US hand in the war but in an exactly opposite manner as the Pakistani gentleman just quoted.  The Indian wrote in a similar vein that ; “Curiously, in February 1965,the Institute of Defense Analysis in Washington had conducted a ‘crisis game’ based on the Kashmir scenario. The ‘game’ enacted in Washington concluded that, ‘Pakistan’ was likely to gain Kashmir or a large part of it’, in 1965 “. (116)


This aspect has been partially touched upon in various sub headings in the analysis above. lt is important to analyze it separately in order to highlight certain lessons. The factor of possession of superior armaments by one adversary can alter many aspects of a battle like it can reduce the effect of numerical superiority, or it can strengthen the power of defense over attack or vice versa. This aspect is inter connected with other factors like the influence of doctrine, operational philosophy, terrain ,military leadership etc. In the early British battles in India this factor in certain cases played a crucial role in battle. Thus lack of proper Siege Artillery Ordnance led to General Lake’s famous failure to capture the Hindu Jat Mud Fortress of Bhurtpore in 1805 .(117)

It must be remembered however that another reason for Lake’s failure at Bhurtpore was lack of an expert engineer officer adviser on how to conduct the siege . (118) Here we see that armament or equipment alone is not the simple reason for failure or success. In 1826 the British captured the Fortress because they had overwhelming superiority in artillery as well as excellent technical know how about how to conduct the siege in keeping in view Bhurtpore’s peculiarities as a fort. In the Second Sikh War Gough at Chillianwala,one of the reasons for the British failure to defeat the Sikhs was lack of artillery superiority as a result of which the British suffered heavy casualties (2,357 Casualties) (119) as well as failing to dislodge the Sikhs. One month later at Gujrat they defeated the same Sikh Army with very few casualties (Just 96) .(120) and one of the main reasons for their success was overwhelming preponderance in artillery guns as well as heavy caliber (121) against which the same Sikhs who had checked them a month ago at Chillianwala had no antidote ! The overwhelming numerical superiority of the Sikhs, some 60,000 against 20,000 did not save the Sikhs from defeat.

The Indian Government had naively hoped before the war that mere numerical superiority in infantry would enable them to overwhelm the Pakistanis whose superiority in artillery (technically) and in tanks compensated sufficiently for their inferiority in numbers. Yet limited infantry doomed the cause of Pakistani armor in offensive in Khem Karan. In the Battle of Maiwand Sardar Ayub Khan, because of a decisive superiority in artillery (122) was able to inflict a most crushing defeat on a British-Indian Brigade. The same Sardar Ayub Khan was defeated later by another British Indian Force at the Battle of Kandahar by virtue of having sufficient artillery to silence Ayub’s guns!

Superior armaments combined with the excellent layout of the BRB canal did indeed play a major role in the successful Pakistani defense of the Ravi- Sutlej Corridor. Armament and equipment had its limitations also. Poor doctrine, outmoded operational philosophy and incompetent leadership inhibited the success of Pakistan Army in optimum utilization of its superior military hardware against India! Thus the Pakistanis like the British at Gazala in 1942 failed to achieve a decisive victory despite having technical superiority in tanks as well as the advantage of numerical superiority in tanks! Thank God that the Indians being essentially being the same in racial as well as historical and cultural experiences ,were equally incompetent and failed to achieve a breakthrough at Gadgor on 8th September despite having the advantage of overwhelming numerical superiority in number of tanks!


It has been frequently asserted that Pakistani tanks were superior to the Indian tanks. We will examine this assertion in brief from various viewpoints.

Firstly mere technical superiority is no guarantee of success when generalship doctrine and organization is mediocre. The British despite having technical as well as numerical superiority in tanks in France as well as North Africa performed most miserably because of poor generalship, outmoded doctrine and weak staff and organization. The Russians similarly failed to stop the Germans in WW Two despite having both numerical superiority and technically superior tanks!

Tank design and its superiority/inferiority is based on three aspects i.e. “Mobility” “Firepower” and “Protection”. In terms of mobility by virtue of engine power and power to weight ratio the Pakistani Patton Tanks were superior to all Indian tanks including Centurions. In terms of protection and firepower, the Indian Centurion was superior since in words of the Indian Armor historian the Centurions could penetrate the frontal armor of a Pakistani Patton at 1200 meters while a Patton could not penetrate the frontal armor of an Indian Centurion at 800 meters .(123) This was discovered by the Indians in Khem Karan. At the tactical level this advantage was however not effective since engagement ranges both at Khem Karan and at Chawinda were between 600 to 800 meters. Thus Pakistan’s 25 Cavalry knocked out at least “more tanks than the enemy (the 25 Cavalry at Gadgor on 8th September had) had (124) On the other hand the Indians bad just one Centurion regiment at Khem Karan whereas Pakistan had five Patton Regiments at Khem Karan! In terms of “Tank Gunnery” the Centurion was the first tank in the world which had a stabilized gun in both the horizontal and vertical plane and could fire on the move. The first tank to match it in this regard was the Russian T-54/ 55 tank . This advantage was not really important in Khem Karan since the Indians were in defense and fired from static positions. It however affected Pakistani armor’s efficiency since they could not effectively fire on the move-The Centurion also had a provision to enable the tank commander to aim the tanks main gun. On the other side the Pakistani tanks had a computer and no range finding was required. The Indians had to find range visually which is more time consuming and inaccurate. Technically a Patton could engage an enemy faster than a Centurion. In the mechanical plane the Pattons with brand new engines were far superior while Centurions were a pain in the Indian command’s neck in terms of track mileage and wear and tear and a major factor in Indian inability to move more tanks from Ravi-Sutlej Corridor to Chawinda was poor mechanical condition . (125)

In the final analysis technical superiority or inferiority was relative since the major battles at Gadgor and at Valtoha and Dibbipura were not lost or won because of superior or inferior tanks but because of poor generalship. Both the armies failed to function as dynamic entities beyond tank regiment level. Both at Gadgor and at Khem Karan the Indians and Pakistanis failed to achieve a breakthrough despite a 9 to 1 superiority and a 10 to 1 superiority on 8th and 10th September because of poor leadership at brigade and divisional level aided by phenomenally incompetent staff work! Tank superiority or inferiority in itself is just one of the many factors and is no compensation against poor generalship!


The Pakistan Army in 1965 had the potential, keeping in view its equipment, particularly tanks and artillery vis a vis the state of Indian Armor and Artillery, to inflict a decisive defeat on India. Poor Military leadership at the higher level in the final reckoning stands out as the principal cause of failure of the Pakistan Army to inflict a decisive military defeat on India. Ayub Khan was directly responsible for the leadership failure of the Pakistan Army.

Conversely it was superior equipment and in particular tanks and artillery AND the BRB in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor which enabled Pakistan to contain the Indians despite their considerable numerical superiority in infantry.

Valor, Morale, Motivation played a part, but we must remember that valor alone did not save the Poles from being overrun by the Russians and Germans repeatedly during the period from late 18th Century till 1939! Valour did not save the Serbians from being over run by the German-Austrian-Bulgarian force in WW One.

The tragedy of the Pakistan Army was that it failed to achieve even 50 % of what it was capable of achieving and only because of Qualitative reasons. The definite edge over equipment was lost after 1965 and in 1971 Pakistan was saved largely because of the fact that Indian superiority in infantry coupled with superior equipment was divided between the Eastern and Western Fronts.

The year 1965 was crucial and Providence gave an opportunity to Pakistan to achieve something militarily. The Seeds of defeat were sowed long before partition and the seal of mediocrity was laid once the Ayub- Musa duo headed the army during the period 1951-1965!

The Indian Army was handicapped because of an indifferent political leadership. Racially both the armies were largely similar and only fools can think that one was inherently braver than the other!

Long ago Hobbes had rightly said; “Nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of the body and mind; as that though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or quicker of mind than another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man is not so considerable, as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he ” . 126

The Pakistanis failed to do as well as they potentially could in 1965 ,keeping in view the on ground tangible realities, because in terms of intangible qualities ,by virtue of a common historical experience; they were as qualitatively mediocre as the Indians!

My service in Pakistan Army from 1981 to 1994,and an intense study of Sub Continental Military history, has reinforced this conviction that I first developed as a student of Forman Christian College Lahore during the period 1977-1978!The rest is Fiction!


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Omar Ali

I am a physician interested in obesity and insulin resistance, and in particular in the genetics and epigenetics of obesity As a blogger, I am more interested in history, Islam, India, the ideology of Pakistan, and whatever catches my fancy. My opinions can change.

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3 years ago

“The Pakistanis failed to do as well as they potentially could in 1965 ,keeping in view the on ground tangible realities, because in terms of intangible qualities ,by virtue of a common historical experience; they were as qualitatively mediocre as the Indians!”
Nicely worded.

Managed to finish skipping some paras – hope to get back to them again. The points wise summary at times is very useful though

3 years ago

Thank you for providing this chapter which is vital not only for the military history of the subcontinent, but also for the spread of the European model of warfare generally.

Brown Pundits