The 1965 September War is a watershed event in Pakistan’s history when the people of the country came together with the armed forces to repel the Indian aggression. It is an occurrence that reminds us of the innumerable sacrifices rendered by personnel of the armed forces as the nation showed a unique spirit of unity, resolve and determination to repulse the attack and safeguard the territorial integrity of the homeland. It was a harsh trial of the people of the newly-created country, who stood on one platform and fought off the numerically superior but not qualitatively well trained foreign forces.
The war started when the Indian forces crossed over Pakistan’s international border on September 6, 1965 and continued for 17 days before the ceasefire on September 22. India launched the attack on West Pakistan on a very wide front on the ground besides launching air strikes on major Pakistani air bases.
Only after six days of the Indian attack, Patrick Seale of the ‘Observer’, London, wrote: “On the ground India has been driven to a stalemate. Seeking to disperse Pakistan’s smaller force she had dispersed her own. She has not made a single thrust in overwhelming strength on any sector of the front.”
The Jakarta Daily Mail described the battle concisely: “Pakistan forces have not only repulsed Indian attack at Wagah sector of Lahore front but have also penetrated into the Indian territory and have captured a number of Indian posts. Foreign correspondents based in India and Pakistan were more or less unanimous in their assessment, as revealed in their dispatches and reports that the Indian offensive has failed to make any appreciable dent into Pakistan’s defense.”
Even the Times of India wrote on September 16, “It is clear from the fury with which the enemy (Pakistan) is fighting on all fronts that it has not been easy for the Indian army to advance into Pakistan territory.” The newspaper quoted two senior Indian Army officers as saying: “Pakistan Army consists not of disorganized rabble but of professional soldiers”.
The same was also true for the Pakistan Air Force and Pakistan Navy which stood their ground and fought off the enemy valiantly. Brave officers and Jawans, airmen and sailors spearheaded a counter assault and prevented the enemy from gaining ground. We witnessed innumerable heroic events unfolding in front of us.
The nation showed coherence and synthesized available resources. The people stood by the armed forces. They enthusiastically contributed to the National Defence Fund, donated blood while prices of essential commodities and overall ratio of crimes went down. Journalists, poets, singers, artistes and others were not behind in contributing to the national cause.
The September war showed how poorly-equipped forces could stand on their ground and tackle an enemy that was vastly superior in numbers but also highly confident of routing the Pakistani forces. As large-scale attacks were thwarted and enemy battalions and brigades decimated, the foreign invasion became fraught with uncertainty. The enemy’s defences were degraded.
The war demonstrated the importance and resolution of lingering issues like Kashmir that could erupt anytime and result in a major conflagration. Unfortunately, the Kashmir issue has not been resolved as yet contributing to the mistrust between the two countries.