Delhi plans carnival on Pakistan war

Focus on 1965 conflict and outcome

By Sujan Dutta
  • Published 2.06.15

New Delhi, June 1: The Centre has ordered the armed forces to organise a "carnival" to mark 50 years of a war with Pakistan in 1965 and is also set to re-ignite a debate on whether India lost on the negotiating table what it won on the battlefield.

From September 1 to September 23 this year, on days coinciding with the duration of the war, the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force have been directed to organise tableaux, exhibitions, processions, public lectures and film shows. The venues would be in the heart of the national capital, on Rajpath, Janpath and around India Gate.

The events are set to trigger public discourse on the legacy of the Congress government of the time headed by Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri with Yashwant Rao Chavan as defence minister.

The government's objectives need not entirely be confined to pumping up national pride. There could be a political goal too.

Shastri has been identified with the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan - sections that are now perceived to be miffed with the Modi government because of the delay over one rank, one pension, farm distress and the land acquisition legislation. The government is unlikely to complain if the war carnival gives it an opportunity to ingratiate itself with farmers and soldiers.

A major portion of the events planned during the "carnival" are discussions on the post-war negotiations in Tashkent. Shastri died during the meetings in Tashkent.

An official account called The India-Pakistan War of 1965, a history (editor S.N. Prasad; general editor U.P. Thapliyal) issued by the ministry of defence's history division - parts of which are not yet public - may be reviewed.

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar is personally supervising preparations for the events to mark the war.

In the Indian Army, there are many who believe that Shastri had surrendered at the talks in Tashkent in January 1966 the strategic Haji Pir pass that the army had captured.

The pass links Uri and Poonch on the Indian side but is today in Pakistan. Sources in the army say the pass is even today used by the Pakistani establishment to "push terrorists into India".

In official records, India captured 1,920sqkm of Pakistani territory while Pakistan captured 550sqkm of Indian territory. Yet, Pakistan celebrates September 7 each year as "Victory Day". That reason lies in water, not on land.

It is of little surprise that the Indian Navy is barely involved in the planned carnival. On September 7, 1965, the Pakistan Navy, in its first assault, had bombed the Indian temple town of Dwarka on the Gujarat coast, about 200km from Karachi. The Indian Navy's fleet was in refit in Bombay and there was practically no response to Pakistan's "Operation Dwarka".

Indian sources record that Pakistan's naval bombing of Dwarka, chiefly targeted at a radar station, was to little effect.

Six years later, in the 1971 war, the Indian Navy's "Operation Trident" - the bombing of Karachi - is described in military academies as a classic manoeuvre.

An official history by the government, parts of which are not yet public, insinuates that Pakistan's President during the 1965 war, General Ayub Khan, perceived India to be weak after its defeat by China in 1962, three years earlier. He wanted to take advantage of that and forcibly acquire Kashmir.