1965 – A Western Sunrise -Indias War with Pakistan by Shiv Kunal Verma Reviewed by Major Agha H Amin (Retired)
- This is a very interesting new addition to books on 1965 war. The writer gives very interesting background details to each relevant person or subject , though these did not interest this scribe as a military reviewer. Overall, a good effort but it does contain several errors:
The authors assertion on page-43 that 6 Infantry brigade was an independent brigade is not correct as this brigade was a part of 8 Division.
On page.99 the writers assertion that 19 Baluch (Special Services Group or SSG) was formed with 7/10 Baluch as nucleus is TOTALLY INCORRECT . 7/10 was renumbered 15 Baluch while 17/10 Baluch was later renumbered 19 Baluch or the SSG.
On page.106 and 107 the authors undue praise of then Brigadier Harbaksh Singh’s advance towards Muzaffarabad in the 1948 Kashmir war is highly disputable as per both Pakistani and Indian accounts. eg Pakistani official history published in 1970 stated that on reaching Tithwal, which was defended by a weak infantry company, Brigadier Harbaksh Singh ordered a two day halt and thus lost a golden chance to change history and possibly threaten Muzaffarabad. In these two days Pakistan Army reinforced Tithwal with a brigade. Colonel Achutan Singh of Indian Army in a recent article published in Indian Defence Review analysed in detail Harbaksh Singhs incompetent siting of Indian defences of the Chunj position as a result of which Indian Army lost they key Chunj ridge and was pushed on defensive at Tithwal and driven out of Pir Sahaba Ridge. Incidentally the Pakistani success in the attack on Chunj was thanks to the role played by Major Sloan, a British officer who managed to transport a medium gun over the river using a pulley, and who later died in action and was buried with full military honors in Pakistan.
The authors assertion on page. 123 that Brigadier Masters was spotted by an aircraft and artillery fire ordered is disputable. The Pakistani accounts stated that his O group was spotted by a fighting patrol of 1 Punjab and the 4 Corps Artillery Brigade carried out a massive brigade level artillery concentration. This was no ordinary affairs as Brigadier Masters liquidation by artillery fire was carried out by 60 Pakistani artillery guns commanded by Pakistan Army’s best gunner Brigadier Amjad Ali Chaudhry.
The authors assertions on page.126 about 16/10 Baluch in which later general Bakshi was commissioned are inaccurate and fallacious. This battalion was never allotted to Pakistan and was disbanded in March 1946 .
The authors claims on page.127 about Indian 163 Brigade advancing towards Muzaffarabad are totally misinformed , false and exaggerated. He states that “The brigade was poised to advance towards Muzaffarabad which was a mere 30 km away, when operations were halted by Army HQ following the United Nations resolution.”. First – Tithwal is not 30 km from Muzaffarabad but 30 miles which comes to about 50 km .The road hardly existed in 1948 and was a very difficult jeepable track. Second– On 31sth December 1948 when ceasefire was about to take place the area had snow and advance was very difficult. Third– Indian Army had no plan to advance from Tithwal as is clearly proven by Indian official accounts about December 1948. Fourth – Indian Army lost an excellent opportunity to advance from Tithwal to Muzaffarabad on 23rd May 1948 because of Brigadier Harbaksh Singh’s fatal blunder of ordering two days halt. Fifth– Starting from May 1948 Indian Army and Pakistan Army had nearly equal strength at Tithwal , hence it was practically impossible to advance for both sides. The advice to military historians of both India and Pakistan is not to make such wild assertions.
On Page.152 , the author makes a totally ludicrous and false claim that the main gun range of Indian AMX 13 tank was 500 Yards. One of the most reputed books in the world states the following about AMX 13s armament:–
“The gun adopted for the AMX13 Mle 51 was the Canon de 75 S.A. Mle 50 (usually shortened to Cn 75 Mle 50 or CN 75-50). This French design employing a shortened version of the barrel of the wartime German 75mm KwK 42 L-70 gun with a new chamber and breech. The weapon had a muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s, an effective range of 1100 metres and could penetrate 175mm of armour at 1000m. It could fire armour piercing and high explosive rounds. This weapon was perfected at the Atelier de Bourges under the direction of Ingénieur Général Maurice Carougeau. Over 2600 of the CN 75-50 guns were manufactured by the late 1950s. The coaxial armament was the venerable 7.5mm MAC31 machine gun fed with 150 round drums, a reliable weapon of prewar vintage. The CN 75-50 gun was also designed to fit the M4 Sherman turret with minimum modification. This option was undertaken for Israeli orders in 1954–1955.”
Even Indian armoured corps historian admitted that AMX 13 tanks in Chamb could engage Pakistan Army Patton tanks at battle ranges. What the author missed in Chamb was Pakistan Army was dumbly led as far as 12 Division’s armour was concerned . A dumb armour plan was thrust on my regiment 11 Cavalry whose armour was divided in two parts rather than concentrated as a punch! This dumb employment of 11 Cavalry (FF) by headquarters 12 Division led to heavy losses and 11 Cavalry lost 19 including a major. Admittedly Indian armour was massively outnumbered numerically and overwhelmingly inferior technically , but what rescued Indian Army was not Major Bhaksar Roy, as mistakenly thought but Pakistani dumbness , in badly employing armour on the first day of the battle of Chamb! Ironically there was no second day of battle for Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik who was removed from the command of Operation Grand Slam. The harsh fact about Operation Grand Slam is that Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik could have crossed the Tawi River on the first day of battle and imposed a MASSIVE DISLOCATION on Indians ! But he failed because of bad employment of armour.
Even the Pakistani official historian Major General Shaukat Riza noted that “The Indians had only covering troops on the border outposts” . However here petty personal rivalry and jealously overwhelmed Shaukat Riza who was intensely professional jealous of his brother artillery officer Brigadier Amjad Ali Khan Chaudhry! So Shaukat blamed poor artillery fire plan for failure of operation Grand Slam on 1st September 1965 , instead of most incompetent and inept handling of tanks by headquarters 12 Division. Thus Shaukat stated “the distribution of our artillery fire enabled them to delay our crossing of Munawar Tawi on 1st September 1965”.
Also it was politically inconvenient to critique Akhtar Hussain Malik who is regarded as an icon in the Pakistan army. So Shaukat found a convenient scapegoat in Brigadier Amjad Ali Chaudhry.
Later Lieutenant General Mahmood unjustly scapegoated Brigadier Azmat Hayat Malik for failure of Grand Slam on 2nd September 1965 whereas the greatest failure of Operation Grand Slam ,not being able to cross Tawi had already occurred on 1st September 1965.
11 Cavalry (FF) regimental historian , Colonel Sardar Yahya Effendi whose history titled Punjab Cavalry is full of major factual and analytical mistakes , instead of having the intellectual honesty of analysing HQ 12 Divisions failures in handling armour , instead snidely blamed Lieutenant Colonel Aziz for 1st September’s failures, because he was an outsider and had joined 11 Cavalry on posting from 19 Lancers! Effendi’s snide remarks include stating that Mian Raza Shah was sent on his death ride and that Lieutenant Colonel Aziz was a suspicious man. His books caliber can be gauged from the fact that he fallaciously claimed that 11 Cavalry fought WW 2 with only Punjabi Muslim and Sikh squadron whereas a third Hindustani Muslim/Ranghar Squadron was raised in 1942 to replace a Dogra Squadron given to Central India Horse to replace Sikh squadron that had rebelled at Bombay. My father recollected Risaldar Shabbir father of Major Kanwar Javed Shabbir from our village in Lyallpur specially visiting his father at Delhi, where he was an assistant secretary in Ministry of Defence, to pursue the raising of Ranghar/Hindustani squadron about 1941-42. Effendi also inserted a painting of an alleged Punjabi muslim of 1st Punjab Cavalry whereas 1st Punjab Cavalry never had Punjabi Muslims as per all records and army lists etc from its raising in 1849 till merger with 3rd Punjab Cavalry (which had a single Punjabi Muslim troop). Effendi failed to admit that a lieutenant colonel commanding a tank regiment in the slavish Indo Pak armies , in an infantry division was heavily wet nursed by his divisional commander and infantry brigade commanders and had little say in planning.
Headquarters 12 Division officers had no clue about employment of armour and in the shoddy Pakistan Army style , two tank regiments were placed under command of this division who had the vaguest idea of what to do with them in actual war! Thus 11 Cavalry suffered higher fatal casualties in percentage as compared to all infantry units of 12 Division in Operation Grand Slam. The author conveniently ignores massive Pakistani higher level incompetence like commander 102 Brigade Zafar Ali Khan who wasted whole day in attacking Burjeal despite the fact that he was told to bypass it. The author also ignores the fact that field of fire was extremely limited in Chamb and this helped AMX 13 who had six main gun rounds in a two magazines each which could be fired in seconds. Further M 36 B 2 tank destroyer that Bhaksar encountered was a massively inferior tank. All this still does not justify Pakistani higher command interference and command change from Akhtar Malik to Yahya Khan. Brigadier Z.A Khan in his book distributed by Pakistan Army to all officers (in 1998-99) states that General Musa Khan ordered change of commands as he did not find conditions satisfactory when he visited 12 Divisions tactical headquarters on 2nd September 1965. ZA Khan described low caliber of tank regiment commanders on page.160 of his book that both 13 Lancers CO Lieutenant Colonel Sher and Major Saeed Azhar failed to report that they were just 4 kilometres from Akhnur .
The writer also makes some unacceptable chronological mistakes like he incorrectly states that Pakistani 1st Armoured Division offensive started on 9th September on page.304 whereas it started on 8th September morning.
The writer blames the GOC of Pakistan’s 1st Armoured Division for the disaster. However I interviewed the leading tank squadron commander (then major Sami) who presented an entirely different picture as below :—
- As per Sami his commanding officer 24 Cavalry Lieutenant Colonel Ali Imam collapsed before the actual operations started during the orders group . Sami narrated that off and on colonel Imam regained consciousness but was not operationally fit. Later on after the war a story was invented that he was shell shocked during actual operations.
- Sami described 6 Lancers as demoralized while within Pakistani territory when their Squadron Commander Major Utra was drowned in canal once his tank overturned and fell inside the canal.This was at a time when the offensive had not started.
- Sami described commanding officer of engineer battalion Lt Col Altaf and GSO 2 Intelligence Feroz Alam as adviser of Major General Naseer as main advisors of the GOC , who of course knew nothing about employment of tanks.
- Sami narrated that the whole idea of dividing one tank regiment EACH on two highly divergent axis was unsound and this plan was prepared by Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan.
- Sami also noted that Sahibzada Yaqub did not have the moral courage to insist that he be sent to command 1st Armoured Division where Sahibzada’s own armour attack plan was being executed.
- Sami described Indian infantry having fled on 8th September 1965 but they regained resolution on 9th September as there was only one tank squadron of Sami attacking on first day of the attack on 8th September 1965.
- Brigadier Z.A Khan who I interviewed in 2002 described that 90 % of Pakistan’s 1st Armoured Divisions commanders including GOC , brigade commanders and tank regiment commanders were in state of collapse/nervous breakdown. However our author has not consulted these views although I interviewed ZA Khan in 2002 and his interview was widely available on the web. Sami I interviewed in early 2019 and his interview was also available on the web.
Still, the book is very interesting for the layman reader but so much has already been written about 1965 war that another book , unless based on radical and extensive research and reinterpretation does not add much to the story.
The fact remains that :–
- Both armies were total failure in attack. A difficult form of war. If Pakistani armoured division failed at Assal Uttar, Indian armoured division was total failure at Chawinda.
- Indians and Pakistanis, the entire sub continent could not win a single major battle against the British East India Company barring Chillianwallah which was also a draw.
- The power of defence had massively increased since 1945 and breakthrough in Punjab with limited fields of fire, boggy terrain and above all, mediocre indo pak commanders, was not possible.
- In all four major offensives of the 1965 war, Chamb , Lahore , Khem Karan and Chawinda both Indian and Pakistan Army were total failures in attack .
The writer did not send me a book with maps so I am unable to comment on his maps.
The writer who is not known to me asked me to review the book. I read the book and want to commend him for writing an overall good book. But the million dollar question remains how to rationalize or whitewash, Indo Pak mediocrity?
Thus my conclusion on Indo Pak armies as reached below in August 1999:–CONCLUSION. The Pakistan Army in 1965 had the potential keeping in view its superior equipment, particularly tanks and artillery, vis a vis the state of Indian Armour 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 apart from the BRB in the Ravi-Sutlej Corridor which enabled Pakistan to contain the Indians despite their considerable numerical superiority in infantry. Valour , Morale, Motivation, all played a part,but we must remember that valour 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 is that it failed to achieve even 50% of what it was capable of achieving and only because of Qualitative reasons.
This definite edge in 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!
126 Page-140-Great Traditions in Ethics-An Introduction-Ethel.M.Albert,Thedore.C.Denise and Sheldon.P.Peterfreund-American Book Company-San Francisco-1975.
 Page-42- THE AMX 13 LIGHT TANK RARE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM WARTIME ARCHIVES M P ROBINSON, PETER LAU AND GUY GIBEAU-Pen and Sword Publishers -London -England-2018.
 Page-123-THE PAKISTAN ARMY- WAR -1965– Army Education Press-General Headquarters-Rawalpindi-1984.
 Page-159- THE WAY IT WAS – Brigadier Z.A Khan – Dynavis Publishers -Karachi -1998.
 Pages-230 and 231- Shaukat Riza-Op cit.
 Podcast interview by the author with Lt Col Samiuddin Ahmad leading tank squadron commander of 24 Cavalry in 1965 war– 1st Armoured Division Leading Armoured Regiments Leading Squadron Commander describes Battles of Assal Uttar-Part 1″ by Military history . ⚓ https://anchor.fm/omnibus-dubitandum/episodes/1st-Armoured-Division-Leading-Armoured-Regiments-Leading-Squadron-Commander-describes-Battles-of-Assal-Uttar-Part-1-e3itg4
5 thoughts on “Major Amin’s Review: 1965, A Western Sunrise. by Shiv Kunal Varma”
Can anyone recommend some good books (preferably from a neutral POV rather than the usual Indian one) on this most contentious war?
Major writes “Indians and Pakistanis, the entire sub continent could not win a single major battle against the British East India Company barring Chillianwallah which was also a draw.”
Is this accurate? Did the Marathas or Tipu Sultan not win any major battles against EIC armies??
tipu did not win against the british. his father won twice
Iirc he specifically mentioned a pitched battle as a criteria in this regard as well.
Major battle means a battle involving a corps size force which no indian army ever won except Sikhs at chillianwallah. Pollilore where Hyder won was a minor engagement against a small company force overwhelmingly outnumbered
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