Monday, September 7, 2015
Daily Times Editorial Sept 7, 2015
Lessons of 1965 This year's 50th anniversary of the 1965 war has witnessed unprecedented patriotic hype, whose thrust has been the claim that Pakistan won a great victory in that war by defeating an enemy many times its size. Although there is a grain of truth in this assertion, for the generations born after 1965, it is equally important to realise that this is also a moment for sober introspection and reflection in order to correctly imbibe the lessons of the 1965 war. Soon after independence, and while reeling from the mass influx of refugees and the problems of making the infant state functional, Pakistan found itself embroiled in the first war over Kashmir with India in 1947-48. That conflict brought home the gaps and requirements of our defence forces. Between 1954 and 1965, Pakistan's defence forces benefited from our joining the western alliance in terms of receiving modern armaments. The events of 1965 need to be placed in context. The 1962 Sino-Indian war exposed India's military weaknesses. The west responded in its Cold War anti-communist zeal by bolstering India's military capabilities, much to Pakistan's chagrin because it felt betrayed by its western allies in disturbing the military balance in the subcontinent. Pakistan responded by incrementally cementing its ties with China. The immediate curtain raiser to the 1965 war was the clash with India in the disputed Rann of Kuchh area, in which Pakistan fared better than its enemy. Whether that bolstered our confidence so much as to leave us contemplating action in Kashmir is debatable. What is beyond question, however, is our attempt in August 1965 to insert infiltrators into Indian-Held Kashmir on the assumption that the oppressed Kashmiri people would be inspired by this step to rise up in a liberation war against India. The other assumption attending this gambit was the conviction that India would not in response widen the war theatre by attacking across the international border. Both assumptions proved unfounded. Neither did the Kashmiri people rise, nor did India oblige us by confining itself to the Kashmir front. When the attack came on September 6, 1965, the armed forces and people of Pakistan fought off the onslaught with great courage and the heroic defence of the country by field commanders and soldiers, many of whom rendered the ultimate sacrifice and were honoured with the country's highest military awards. The role of the Air Force deserves special mention, since without their heroics, Pakistan's defence may have been far more difficult. Post-war and current claims of victory notwithstanding, an objective appraisal of the outcome of the war would suggest that it was at best a stalemate, a result that could and did give heart to Pakistan for fending off the Indian assault but which also exposed flaws in Pakistan's higher direction of war and its logistical frailty because of dependence on western allies who cut us off as soon as hostilities began on September 6. There was no alternative then to accepting international (Soviet) mediation to bring about a ceasefire after 17 days of all out battle. The war also brought to the fore the precariousness of the defence of East Pakistan, separated from the western wing by 1,000 miles of hostile Indian territory. The implications of this reality may or may not have sunk in in our minds, but it seems India had drawn some far reaching conclusions from this fact, which were to have a profound impact in the crisis and war of 1971. After the breakaway of East Pakistan to emerge as Bangladesh, the remaining Pakistan was subjected to another test when India exploded a nuclear device in 1974. Pakistan was compelled to embark on the path of acquiring a nuclear deterrent, demonstrated beyond question in the nuclear explosions of 1998 in response to India's fresh nuclear tests. Since then, logic dictated that war between the two neighbours was no longer an option, given the risk of mutually assured destruction. However, that thesis has been put to the test in a sub-nuclear threshold fashion in 1999 (Kargil) and 2001-2002 (in the wake of the attack on the Indian Parliament when both militaries mobilised for an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation). The risk now of any even limited conflict between the two sides escalating into full scale war with its attendant horror of a possible nuclear exchange suggests that there is now no other option except resolving the long standing and seemingly intractable disputes between the two neighbours except to exchange the language of weapons with the weapon of language (dialogue).