1965 War: The role of the Indian Navy
THE 1965 INDO PAKISTAN WAR
The analyses of all wars and all naval operations invariably reveal facets which caused confusion and facets of great achievement. From the records presently available of events in 1965, two general features stand out prominently:-
(a) 1965 was the first time after independence in 1947 that the Cabinet, the Ministry of Defence, the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Services Headquarters came face to face with the procedural realities of war and its international implications. Every single personage and institution had to carefully feel the way forward. There were no precedents to go by. Expectedly, there was considerable confusion. Had the war been longer, many grey areas would have progressively clarified. Instead, its short duration permitted achievements to be exaggerated and shortcomings to be subsumed.
(b) The second feature was the clear determination of both the Indian and Pakistan Governments to localise the war, to desist from attacks on cities and non-military targets and to anticipate reciprocity in not sinking each others merchant ships. This too created confusion. In the doctrines prevalent at that time, the Armed Forces were trained to go all out in war. They were not accustomed to the political niceties of only one or two Services fighting and the third service being confined to defensive action within geographical limits. The media on both sides were sensationalising the achievements of their respective Armed Forces. For all practical purposes India and Pakistan were actually at war with each other. Indeed in his broadcast on 6 September, President Ayub Khan of Pakistan stated that Pakistan was at war. But neither the Government of India nor of Pakistan formally "declared war", thereby increasing the confusion.
With hindsight, it is clear that the interplay of factors was complex. India wanted to treat events as a local dispute over Kashmir and hence an internal affair. Pakistan wanted to internationalise the Kashmir issue. Then there was the dilemma of two members of the same British Commonwealth being at war with one another. In fact Britain, America and Canada declared on embargo on 14 September on all supplies of military equipment and stores to both India and Pakistan. Soon thereafter, France and Sweden imposed a similar embargo. In a wider perspective, declaration of war could have invited Great Power involvement and United Nations intervention.
For the Navy, the events of 1965 yielded invaluable lessons. Many of the shortcomings were remedied before the 1971 war. Many of the inherent contradictions of "being at war without formally declaring war" re-surfaced during naval operations in 1971.
The Dramatis Personae in the 1965 War
General J N Chaudhuri was the Chief of the Army Staff and Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Vice Admiral B S Soman was the Chief of the Naval Staff. Air Marshal Arjan Singh was the Chief of the Air Staff. Rear Admiral BA Samson was the Flag Officer Commanding Indian Fleet (FOCIF).
Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri was the Prime Minister. Mr Y B Chavan was the Defence Minister. Mr Swaran Singh was the Foreign Minister.
In the Ministry of Defence, Mr P V R Rao was the Defence Secretary, Mr HC Sarin was the Secretary Defence Production Mr GL Sheth was the Additional Secretary and Mr DD Sathe was a Joint Secretary. Mr LK Jha was the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. Mr CP Srivastava, the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, published his memoirs "Lal Bahadur Shastri" in 1996. Mr RD Pradhan, the Private Secretary to the Defence Minister, published his memoirs "Debacle to Revival" in 1998.
The picture that emerges from published Pakistani sources and memoirs is of an aggressive plan comprising three major operations named Desert Hawk, Gibraltar and Grand Slam. The first phase, Operation Desert Hawk, to be launched in early 1965, was a probing encounter to claim territory in the Rann of Kutch, where the boundary had not yet been demarcated. This operation was meant to serve several purposes. First to assess India's responses. Next to draw India's military forces southward to Kutch, away from the Punjab. Thirdly to give Pakistani military forces a dress rehearsal for a full scale invasion of India later in the year, initially in Kashmir and thereafter in Punjab. Fourthly to test how far America was serious in enforcing its ban on the use of American supplied Patton tanks and other military equipment for an attack on India.
Concurrently with this first phase, the training was to be started of about 30,000 men in guerrilla and sabotage activities. These men were to be formed in ten 'Gibraltar' forces, each commanded by a Pakistani Army officer and comprising six units of five companies of 110 men per company. Each company comprised regular troops of the Azad Kashmir Army, which was part of the Pakistan Army, along with Mujahid (volunteers for a jehad) and Razakar (defenders of the faith) irregulars.The Gibraltar Forces were placed under the command of a Major General of the Pakistan Army who was also commanding a division of regular troops.
The second phase, Operation Gibraltar was to commence in early August 1965 and envisioned several stages. Infiltrators would penetrate sixty locations throughout Kashmir and at each location initiate terror,arson, murder, destroy bridges, communications and government property. After a few days of large scale damage, it would be announced over a new radio station called 'Voice of Kashmir' that the people of Kashmir had risen in revolt. In due course, after describing the success of the people's uprising, the radio station would announce the formation of a National Government. Concurrently the Pakistan Government would deny the Indian Government's allegations of infiltration and label as aggression the Indian Army's crossing the Cease Fire Line into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to stop further infiltration.
Towards end August, the Pakistan Army would launch the third phase Operation Grand Slam. This would be a large scale attack across the India - Pakistan international boundary into the Chamb area in order to capture Akhnoor and cut India's only road link with Kashmir. Pakistan would allege that this was a response to India's aggression across the cease fire line. After the successful launch of the thrust to Akhnoor, the Pakistan Army would launch a massive attack with Patton tanks on Punjab to capture Amritsar and as much Indian territory as possible for eventual exchange after the cease fire.
Since none of the foregoing was known to India at the time, India's responses to these unfolding events provide insights into the why's and wherefore's of the Indian Navy's actions in 1965.
The Intrusion in KUTCH - Operation Desert Hawk - April 1965
The Rann of Kutch is a marshy area about 300 miles long and 50 miles wide on the western seaboard of India. The incident started in January 1965 with Pakistan claiming the entire Rann of Kutch on the grounds that Sind, one of Pakistan's provinces, used to exercise administrative control over the area during the British period. This was one of the many undemarcated areas pending since partition in 1947. Pakistan was keen to have at least the northern portion of the Rann, which it had earmarked for offshore drilling with the help of an American oil company. India asserted that Kanjarkot, Chadbet and Biarbet, which Pakistan claimed, belonged to India and not to Pakistan.
Operation Desert Hawk started with skirmishes between Indian police patrols and Pakistani border guards about an eighteen mile track, a mile and a half inside Indian territory where Pakistani forces established two posts. By early April, the fighting had spread to within 10 miles of the fort at Kanjarkot. On 9 April, Pakistan forces in brigade strength attacked the Central Reserve Police manned Sardar post near the old ruined fort of Kanjarkot. The CRPF contingent was forced to withdraw. The task of sanitising the area was then taken over by the Army. The Indian Army asked the Pakistan Army to vacate Kanjarkot. The Pakistan Army refused. On 16 April, Pakistan claimed Kanjarkot to be Pakistan territory. On 24 April, Pakistan launched a division size attack, using Patton tanks and field guns. The attack was contained with considerable casualties on both sides. When the incident had started, the British Prime Minister initiated moves to secure a cease-fire. During the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in London, he succeeded in his efforts. A simple cease fire was declared on 29 April. On 15 June fighting erupted again. On 30 June, a formal cease fire was signed in London restoring India's police control over the disputed areas while allowing the Pakistan police the use of the disputed track.
Both the national and the international press commented adversely on the performance of the Indian troops. Though the Army did nor fare as badly as Pakistan claimed, Pakistan did make local gains. Logistics favoured Pakistan. It had an airfield at Badin where it had deployed F 86 Sabre fighter aircraft. And Pakistan had deployed its Army in force - an infantry division and two regiments of tanks, including the Patton tanks recently received from America. India protested to America against the use of these American supplied arms and America protested to Pakistan. Nothing much happened.
On the naval side, no encounter occurred. Early in 1965, the Indian Fleet had visited Bahrein and Kuwait as planned. The aircraft carrier VIKRANT had carried out a routine cooperation exercise with the Army in the Kutch area. When the skirmish occurred, some ships were on routine assignments on both coasts and in the Andamans. Most ships were in Bombay undergoing maintenance in preparation for the annual exercises in the Bay of Bengal for the duration of the southwest monsoon. The aircraft carrier had disembarked her air squadrons and was on her way back to Bombay for docking. When Pakistan intruded in Kutch, she was ordered to sail back and reembark her aircraft. By the time she had done so, the cease fire had been declared. This delay in her docking was to result in the carrier not being available for operations later in the year.
The official history of the Pakistan Navy titled `Story Of The Pakistan Navy 1947 - 1972' states: (Page 214)
"In March 1965 the Indian Navy, having completed a series of exercises off Bombay and Cochin, sent their aircraft carrier and a number of destroyers and frigates on a goodwill visit to the Gulf ports. On their return they joined up with other units from Bombay and carried out extensive exercises off Kutch. These exercises included anti submarine, anti aircraft, strike and photo recce missions by carrier borne aircraft. This appears to have been a prelude to the Kutch operations in which the aircraft carrier played an important role in transporting men and material to the port of Kandla, which was being used as a support base for operations in the area.
"In Karachi, COMPAK arrived suddenly one afternoon and enquired how soon ships could proceed to sea. All available ships were made ready and proceeded to sea a few days later for the Rann of Kutch operations which was a prelude to the September 1965 War.
"A notable feature of the 1965 war was that both its genesis and its outcome have remained largely unstated, but it was caused by frictions generated by the gradual change in India's stance over the Kashmir issue. In Pakistan it was becoming increasingly evident that India wanted to do a volte face on its commitment to a plebiscite in Kashmir. This was clear from the pronouncement of its leaders and by the practical steps initiated for the incorporation of the disputed territory in the Indian Union. The predominant view in Pakistan was that if nothing was done to thwart India's efforts, she would be emboldened to proceed ahead with her plans for the assimilation of the state into its territory. Lack of any response on Pakistan's part, it was feared, would enable the Indians to strengthen their claim over the State as time passed."
In June, a formal cease fire agreement was arrived at, effective from 1 July. It provided for ministerial level talks which, if they did not produce a compromise, would be followed by reference of the Kutch issue to a tribunal to demarcate the boundary. The ministerial meeting never took place - Pakistan did not reply to India's communications -so a tribunal was appointed. The tribunal upheld by 2 to 1 Pakistan's claim to the northern half of the Rann and awarded 10 percent of the disputed territory to Pakistan.
Mr Pradhan's memoirs state:
"After the cease-fire on the Rann of Kutch the Indian army had started moving troops to their battle locations with the object of restraining any Pakistani adventure in the Punjab or in Jammu and Kashmir. However for want of intelligence assessment the movement was considerably slow. During March and April 1965, the Kashmir valley was simmering with anti-India propaganda. In May 1965 the Indian government was forced to rearrest Sheikh Abdullah. There were pretests and agitations and the Pakistani hawks decided that the time was ripe to launch a guerrilla type operation in Jammu and Kashmir named `Operation Gibraltar'."
Pakistan's incursion into Kutch roused strong feelings amongst the people of India. They had vivid memories of the humiliation India had suffered at the hands of the Chinese in 1962. The opposition parties alleged that Prime Minister Shastri had not acted firmly enough. Several considerations appear to have weighed with the Prime Minister in handling the Kutch crisis. Mr C P Srivastava was the Private Secretary to the Prime Minister in 1965. His memoirs "Lal Bahadur Shastri", state:
"At the back of his mind was always the firm advice of the Army Chief that an escalation of fighting in the Rann of Kutch area was, tactically, not in the country's interest and that if there had to be a trial of strength between India and Pakistan, it should be elsewhere." Mr L K Jha, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister in 1965, recalls:
"I was involved with some of the overall considerations which were guiding the war effort and meetings of the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet as`well as the Secretaries where some aspects were viewed largely from the political point of view but equally from an operational point of view.
"Now, first of all, the attempt on our part was to keep the whole thing confined, territorially as well as otherwise, to a local conflict, rather than allow it to assume the character of an Indo -Pak War. This was the prime objective of our policy - it had been in the past also. But at the same time, we had come to realise that fighting on terrain chosen by the enemy would always leave you at a disadvantage. This came out very, very vividly during the Rann of Kutch affair when Pakistan had all the logistic advantage and we had a tremendous problem in getting men, material and supplies moving to the front.
"At that very time, a political decision had been taken that we would not fight with our hands tied behind our backs and therefore a plan for opening a second front in the Punjab by marching into Lahore had been drawn up and perfected. But it was not launched because a cease fire came into existence, and we naturally hoped that some peaceful way of resolving the Rann of Kutch dispute would be evolved and in fact it went to an international body to settle.
"But even when there was the state of uncertainty, a kind of simple cease fire without any formal agreement, the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference was taking place in London. Shastriji went to London and I went with him. And when going, there was concern - supposing things hotted up in our absence, should the operation to march into Lahore be launched or not? The arrangement I made with Shri Y B Chavan, who was then the Defence Minister, was that if such a contingency arose, he would send me a message indicating the date by which the Prime Minister must get back because we were about to move forward. However the contingency did not arise.
"In fact I recall, and it might be useful for the record, a meeting between Prime Minister Shastri and President Ayub during the Commonwealth Conference session. It was a private meeting and I was there. Ayub said somewhat patronisingly " You know, your chaps tried to commit aggression on our territory, our chaps gave them a few knocks and they began to flee". Then Shastriji said "Mr President, you are a General. I have no military knowledge or experience. But do you think if I had to attack Pakistan, I would choose a terrain where we have no logistic support and you have all the advantages? Do you think I would make such a mistake or any of my Generals would allow me to make that mistake?" And one could see from the face of President Ayub that this thought startled him. Because quite obviously he had been led to believe, in my judgment by Bhutto, that the Indians had attacked in the Rann of Kutch. And he was firmly of that view until this question was posed by Shastriji. I could see him visibly pause and not pursue the point any further". (Blueprint to Bluewater page 420)
Mr C P Srivastava's memoirs state: (ibid Page 199)
"Why was air power not deployed in the Rann of Kutch conflict? Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh told me the reason. He said that soon after the commencement of hostilities in the Rann of Kutch region, he received a telephone call from Air Marshal Asghar Khan, his counterpart in Pakistan, suggesting an informal agreement that neither side should employ the Air Force in the conflict. Arjan Singh himself agreed on the wisdom of this proposal but he confirmed the arrangement after receiving political clearance from the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister. Arjan Singh was also of the opinion that the Rann of Kutch was not a suitable area for large-scale operations by India".
"Shastri was a man of peace and he was determined to go to the farthest extent possible, consistent with national security and honour, to maintain peace with Pakistan." Another consideration seems to have been Prime Minister Shastri's belief that it would be easier to make up with Pakistan, the people of which were of the same stock as Indians, than to make up with China. He was in favour of peace. And if war was forced upon India then, whilst reacting in whatever manner India thought fit, the conflict should be localised as far as possible.
Yet another consideration seems to have been the international political climate. After Russia's open clash with China, Russia began to be more friendly with her neighbors Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, who were still members of American led military alliances directed against Russia. In trying to woo Pakistan, Russia appears to have been influenced by the prospect of Pakistan getting closer to China. Russia invited President Ayub Khan. He visited Moscow in April 1965 during the Rann of Kutch conflict and India noticed that Russia tended to take a neutral position in the conflict. It was reluctant to say anything in public when it was trying to woo Pakistan. India also came to know that Russia was considering President Ayub Khan's request for arms. Prime Minister Shastri visited Russia soon after President Ayub Khan. Russian leaders reassured him that they were trying to wean Pakistan away from military pacts as well as from China and if they were successful, India would benefit more than Russia.
There was also the lurking threat from China. After the Sino Pakistan border treaty in 1963, China's Prime Minister Chou En Lai had made a state visit to Pakistan in 1964.This was followed by a state visit by President Ayub Khan to China in March 1965. And there was Indonesia, whose relations with India had deteriorated after the Bandung Conference of 1955. The Communist Party of Indonesia had come to power and had close links with Communist China. In the end 1950's, the strength of the Indonesian Navy had increased substantially. Between 1959 and 1965, Russia gave Indonesia one cruiser, fourteen destroyers, fourteen submarines, eight anti submarine patrol vessels, twenty missile boats and several motor torpedo boats and gunboats. Indonesia had arrived at a mutual defence arrangement with Pakistan. Indonesian leaders started voicing claims to Great Nicobar which was closest to Sumatra and wanting the Indian Ocean to be renamed as the Indonesian Ocean. After China's attack on India's northern frontiers in 1962, the Army's hands were more than full and the Indian Navy had been charged with the garrisoning of the Andaman and Nicobar islands. In 1965, the Navy was responsible for the defence of these islands.
Not the least of Prime Minister Shastri's worries was the internal situation - the likelihood of Hindu - Muslim riots, the differences of opinion, between political parties and within the Cabinet, on how to deal with Pakistan's bellicosity and the no - confidence motions in Parliament at a time when there was a pressing need for greater unity.
The `Story of the Pakistan Navy' states:- (Page 215)
"After the Rann of Kutch operations, the Pakistan Navy's ships went to sea frequently and carried out intensive maneuvers. Changes of formation from surface to anti aircraft disposition were carried out while long periods were spent patrolling off Karachi. Exercises continued throughout the monsoons. In August, all leave was stopped in the fleet and preparations were made for possible hostilities".
The `Indian Navy's History 1951 - 1965' states:-
"The Indian Fleet sailed for the Bay of Bengal in end June. No directive had been received from Government to prepare for war. It had been arranged for a British submarine to be available off Madras in July for anti submarine training, after which it was planned that ships of the Fleet visit the Andamans,Calcutta and Visakhapatnam".
The Intrusions in Kashmir - Operation Gibraltar - August 1965
It is clear from Pakistani published sources that in mid May,six weeks before signing the formal cease fire in London, President Ayub Khan was given a military presentation on Operation Gibraltar. During the presentation, at his behest, the assault on Akhnoor was included in Operation Grand Slam. He accorded approval for Operation Gibraltar to be launched. In end July, he addressed the Force Commanders of Operation Gibraltar.
The first infiltration across the Cease Fire Line (CFL) started on 1 August over a 700 kilometer front from Kargil to Chhamb. The Indians as well as the local Kashmiris were taken by surprise.
Operation Gibraltar commenced on 5 August. Sixty companies of Pakistani armed personnel in disguise, armed with modern weapons and explosives, infiltrated across the cease fire line to blow up strategic bridges, raid supply dumps, kill VIP's and cause arson. On 5 August itself, some infiltrators were apprehended.
In his foreword to Air Marshal Asghar Khan's book `The First Round', Mr Altaf Gauhar, then Pakistan's Secretary of Information and Broadcasting states: (Page xii)
"The truth is that the first four volunteers who were captured by the Indians described the whole plan in a broadcast on All India Radio on 8 August 1965, nearly a month before India crossed the international boundary".
On hearing these broadcasts, Pakistan realised that their secret plan was now open knowledge.
Mr C P Srivastava's memoirs state: (Page 208)
"It was only on 8 August 1965 that more detailed information about extensive infiltration by armed men from Pakistan was provided to Prime Minister Shastri. He immediately summoned a meeting of the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet. The Chief of Army Staff attended this meeting. He assured the Prime Minister that the Army and the police were in control of the situation, the raiders were being rounded up but further sabotage could still occur by the raiders not yet captured. The Prime Minister asked the Chief of Army Staff to take whatever action he considered necessary to prevent new infiltrations."
"On 9 August, as per its pre-arranged plan, Pakistan announced a rebellion in Kashmir and the heroic exploits of the freedom fighters who were helping them. It also reported receiving a broadcast, by a secret radio station calling itself as the 'Voice of Kashmir', of the setting up of a Revolutionary Council to take over all authority in Kashmir. Within days however, it became clear to the world that this was a propaganda hoax. Soon even Pakistani newspapers ceased further propaganda. By 11 August, the Pakistan Army realised that Operation Gibraltar had flopped. From 15 August onwards, the Pakistan Army stepped up its violation of the cease fire line on the Srinagar - Leh road".
Mr PVR Rao, the Defence Secretary in 1965, stated in his 1972 USI Lecture:
"The firm decision that the Army should cross the Cease Fire Line to root out the infiltrator's bases and, in case Pakistan regular forces intervened, our forces should be free to retaliate at any suitable place of their choice was taken on the night of the 13th August by the Prime Minister, when the Defence Minister and certain officials, including the Chief of the Army Staff were present. These decisions were taken on the request of the Chief of the Army Staff that to check infiltration, the infiltrators' bases should be destroyed and in any fight between regular forces, the Services should not be restricted. Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was anxious to avoid any extension of the conflict but was determined that measures to liquidate infiltrators should be pursued vigorously. The Prime Minister gave expression publicly to the decision taken at his speech from the Red Fort on the 15th August, when he declared that ``resort to the sword will be met with the sword'. And even as the speech was being made, our troops occupied certain posts across the Cease Fire Line near Kargil and, in the following days, occupied various places across the Cease Fire Line, including Haji Pir and destroyed the infiltrators' hideouts. After giving the broad directive on the 13th August, the Prime Minister did not concern himself with the details of the operations. He left all operational decisions to be supervised by the Defence Minister, but I used to report to the Prime Minister at his residence every evening the progress of the operations".
In Naval Headquarters in Delhi, the situation had become quite vexed. With all the operational ships of the Indian Fleet away in the East, the resources available in Bombay were meagre. The frigate TALWAR, which had been carrying out essential maintenance was hurriedly boxed up and sent for investigating the presence of possible enemy vessels in the Kori Creek, a few miles southwest of the Indo Pakistan border in the Gulf of Kutch.Her first patrol was for 5 days from 12 to 16 August, then again from 24th to 28 August. No encounter occurred.
From the East, the Flag Officer Commanding the Indian Fleet (FOCIF), Rear Admiral B A Samson, reading of the increasing tension in Kashmir, rang up the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Soman, on more than one occasion and suggested that the Fleet return to Bombay. He was told that the Fleet should adhere to its programme of visiting the Andamans and Calcutta.
Operation Grand Slam - September 1965
Mr Pradhan's book states: (Page 251)
"By the first week of August, the infiltrators had not achieved their objective. In order to raise the guerrilla's morale and spark the support of the local population, Pakistan undertook a limited offensive against Chhamb in the Jammu area. As a counter offensive, in the northern sector, Indian troops crossed the CFL and captured Kargil Heights thus securing the safety of the Leh-Srinagar road. Further, in order to hit the infiltrators' bases, India decided to cross the CFL on the western sector and capture two strategic areas in POK the Hajipur Bulge and the Kishanganga Bulge. The operations began on 23 August and four days later, an Indian column led by Major Ranjit Singh Dayal (later Lieutenant General) made a final heroic assault and captured the 18,600 feet high Hajipur pass. The Pakistanis were ill-prepared to defend these strategic areas in POK and the Indian offensive unnerved them. By the end of August, Pakistan had failed to achieve any success and President Ayub was under pressure to do something to check the loss of further territory and avoid military humiliation.
"Pakistan had limited options of regaining the initiative in Jammu and Kashmir except perhaps by crossing the CFL from the west in the Chhamb area. It offered many advantages. It was contiguous to Pakistani territory and was well connected to Pakistan's rail and road network and the nearby cantonments of Sialkot, Kharian and Jhelum. The plains sector of Chhamb-Akhnur, being suited to the use of armour, Pakistan could threaten the Akhnur bridge over the Chenab. All communications between India and its garrisons in Chhamb, Naushera, Rajauri and Poonch passed over this bridge. If Pakistan succeeded in capturing the bridge, it could cut off the logistic requirements of the Indian troops west of the Chenab and the valley itself".
When Pakistan Army Headquarters found that the tide was turning against them, pressure began to build up to retrieve the situation by launching the third phase - Operation Grand Slam - to capture Akhnoor and Amritsar. One major problem, which could only be resolved with the approval of President Ayub Khan, was that this operation would require the Pakistan Army to move across the international frontier between Sialkot and Jammu. President Ayub gave his approval on 29 August. On 1 September, after heavy preparatory artillery fire, a column of seventy tanks and two brigades of troops drove towards Akhnoor bridge to cut off the supply line from Punjab to Kashmir.
The Developments in Delhi
Mr Pradhan's memoirs state: (Page 252 et seq)
"On 30 August, General Chaudhuri went to Srinagar for an on-the-spot assessment. He was due to return to Delhi on 1 September. That very morning at 3.45 am, Pakistan started the bombardment of India's front positions. The blitzkiieg offensive was planned to exploit Pakistani superiority in armour and heavy artillery. `Operation Grand Slam' caught the Indian commanders by surprise - a full scale war had erupted".
"In the morning meeting on Wednesday, 1 September 1965, General Kumarmangalam said 16-days is the least (period) before Pak should retaliate.
"The VCOAS's assessment that sixteen days would be the minimum period before Pakistan launched an attack showed how faulty both military assessment and intelligence were". Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh recalls:
"In the Air Force, we were aware of the seriousness of what was happening. We had thought it out. In my opinion and the Army may not accept it, the attack on Chamb Jaurian took the Army by surprise. It was a very strong attack by the Pakistan Army. As far as I know, we only had a Brigade plus. The main purpose of the Pakistan Army was to capture Akhnoor Bridge, the vital link between Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch. If the Pakistanis had captured or destroyed Akhnoor Bridge, they would have cut the LOC and then there was no way of supplying that area except by air. That was their main aim initially. After that, probably their attempt would have been to cut the Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar road or interrupt the road traffic to the valley.
"It was a big attack and our Army was quite overwhelmed by it. The Pakistanis kept advancing the whole day. General Chaudhuri came to me first and said that he would like the Air Force to participate. I said "We have discussed it. We will participate but I cannot do it unless it is a decision of the Government. Once you use the Air Force, then it widens the scope of war and that means all out war". Then he and I went to Mr Chavan. At that time it was perhaps an hour and a half before sunset. Things were getting bad there and the Army were very concerned that during the night, Pakistan might do much damage and advance further and probably even capture Akhnoor. I must also say that I was very keen and the Air Force was very keen that we should participate, otherwise, we felt, why have an Air Force? And I must say to his credit, Mr Chavan did not take more than five minutes to tell me to go ahead. He did not say what should be done but he said "I leave it to you, you do it the way you like. Attack where you like, the way the Army wants it".
"We had only one air station at Pathankot which was nearest to Chamb-Jaurian, the scene of fighting, and we put up everything we had readily available over there, about 20 aircraft or so. We lost four aircraft, all Vampires. Vampires were a bit out of date. However, though I felt sorry to have lost them, but I thought the air attack was worth it because otherwise the Pakistan Army's attack would not have been halted. It is recognised by the Army also that from the time we attacked, the Pakistan troops did not move forward. We probably did not do extensive damage, but it put the fear of God into them, that they were attacked from the air and probably would be again attacked at night. We were not very good in attacking at night, but PAF may have thought it otherwise. That attack was absolutely essential and very useful in the whole operation because it stopped the Pakistan Army advancing on to Akhnoor and cutting the only LOC to the Northern area.
"It was at about that time that we decided to react at a place of our choice. Pakistan has been always keen to fight a war at places of its choice. That is obviously the right thing to do. Everybody wants to fight a war at his own safest choice. Pakistan's endeavour has always been to get the Army involved in a big way in Kashmir, in the Valley and in the mountains. They have the advantage over there. Our endeavour has been, and it had been clearly and openly stated even before 1965 that any attack by the Pakistan Army on Jammu and Kashmir will be considered as an attack on India. This was repeated by Prime Minister Shastri even during August when attacks were going on in J&K. Somehow the Pakistan Army did not quite take it seriously. They thought that because they had attacked Chamb Jaurian which was a part of Jammu and Kashmir, India's reaction will be only there and not somewhere else. But even for our own sake, thank God we decided that Pakistan should be attacked somewhere else and not in Jammu and Kashmir. You cannot tie the Army in a limited and difficult maintenance area and fight the war against Pakistan at places which are more favourable to them. Chamb Jaurian is near Gujranwala and Gurdaspur and not far from Rawalpindi and Lahore. All the forces kept there could help the Pakistan thrust. In our case all our troops were sitting around Pathankot, Amritsar, Ferozpur and Ambala. They were involved in Kargil area and other high places, and could not be withdrawn easily. So that is how the decision to attack on the Lahore and Sialkot front was taken". In his 1972 USI National Security Lecture 1972, Mr PVR Rao states:
"The attack by Pakistan at Chamb on the morning of the 1st September came as a surprise in its exact location and intensity. From about the 26th August, there were heavy Pak troop movements in this area under our continuous observation, but the Army had concluded that the attack would come further north. Because of this, though there was already a clearance for use of the Air Force, there were no coordinated plans. When the Pak attack came through, Gen Chaudhuri was in Srinagar. He returned to Delhi at about 4.30 p.m. and came straight to the Defence Minister's room, where a meeting was in progress. As he walked in, the General asked for immediate air support, stating that he had just come from Pathankot and the Air Officer there was having the aircraft ready. Air Marshal Arjan Singh agreed without hesitation to go to army support, only pointing out that in attacks launched without adequate preparation, losses must be accepted and that pilots may make mistakes between friend and foe. The Defence Minister agreed that the attack may go in forthwith".
Mr C P Srivastava's memoirs state: (Page 224)
"Shastri received information about the Pakistani invasion by about midday over the telephone from General Chaudhuri, who was then in Srinagar and immediately convened a meeting of the Emergency Committee of the Cabinet. While the Cabinet Committee was considering the situation, General Chaudhuri reached New Delhi with the latest information and made an important proposal for the Prime Minister's approval. General Chaudhuri reported that although available Indian forces were putting up resistance, the Pakistan Army, which had Patton tanks, was pushing ahead. Indian units did not have matching armour and were thus not in a position to stop the invasion. He said the situation was hazardous and requested immediate support from the Air Force.
"A similar situation had arisen in 1962 at the time of the Chinese invasion, when the question of the use of the Air Force had been considered in order to halt the forward rush of the Chinese Army. At that time the Government had decided against the use of the Air Force. On this occasion however, Prime Minister Shastri decided that the Air Force should immediately go into action. He was conscious of the danger that the Pakistan Air Force might bomb Indian cities or vital installations but this was a danger that had to be faced. The Cabinet Committee concurred. Defence Minister Y B Chavan conveyed the decision to the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, who replied that the Indian Air Force was ready".
Air Chief Marshal P C Lal was the Vice Chief of the Air Staff in 1965. His memoirs "My Years with the IAF" state:
"The IAF was kept informed of what was happening and was more or less ready for ground support but they could not give it till asked to do so by the Government and by the Army. Vampire aircraft had been moved up from Poona to Pathankot on the Air Force's own initiative on 30 August.On the afternoon of 1 September, the Army Chief, General Chaudhuri, asked the Defence Minister to request the Indian Air Force for ground support. The DM's request came at 4 p m. By 5.19 p m the Vampires at Pathankot were airborne". Intense air battles took place over the next few days between India's Vampire, Mystere and Gnat aircraft and Pakistan's American supplied Sabre and Starfighter aircraft. The Pakistan Army had achieved initial surprise at Chamb. By 2 September they had occupied areas up to a depth of five miles. By 5 September, they were at a village called Jaurian, only 20 miles from Jammu, on their way to the crucial Akhnoor bridge over the River Chenab. The Air Force halted the Pakistani columns at Jaurian.
Regarding the developments on 4 September, Mr Pradhan's book states: (Pages 265 et seq)
"The loss of Akhnur would be a major disaster and Chavan decided to go ahead with an operation that had been planned after the Rann of Kutch incident. On 20 April, Shastri had declared before Parliament "If Pakistan continues to disregard reason and persists in its aggressive activities, our Army will defend the country and decide its own strategy and employment of its manpower and equipment in the manner it deems best." General Chaudhuri with the approval of the Defence Minister had worked out a plan code-named `Operation Riddle' to launch an offensive action to secure the eastern bank of the Ichhogil Canal. It was felt that the mere presence of the Indian troops on the canal opposite Lahore would draw Pakistani forces from Sialkot and other area and thus reduce its offensive capabilities in other sectors. Moreover, if India could establish a bridgehead over the canal, the Pakistan army would be forced to fight there and that would lead to the attrition of her smaller army. By basing the defence line along the canal, India would confine the war to Pakistani territory in addition to acquiring a large chunk of Pakistani territory. Operation `Riddle' was planned to meet an eventuality like the one the Indian's were facing on 4 September".
The Entry in Defence Minister Chavan's diary on Tuesday, 7 September 1965 reads: (Pages 272 et seq)
"Morning Meeting-Army is doing well according to plans. CAS gave further bad news of losses at Kulaikunda and over a base in West Pakistan.
"Bombing by both sides in East Pakistan has created a problem. I told CAS to hold his hand in East Pakistan. We do not want any wasteful escalation there. Politically also, it would be unwise to do anything which might provoke China at this moment. He (CAS) agreed". Mr Pradhan's amplifying note states:
"A difficult situation had arisen when the Pakistan Air Force attacked Kulaikunda in West Bengal. They also dropped some paratroops between Gauhati and Shillong in Assam. All of them were captured.
"Chavan did not want any escalation in the east and had advised CAS not to initiate any action on that side. However due to some misunderstanding, the same day Canberras of the Eastern Air Command attacked Chittagong and Dacca airfields. In retaliation, the Pakistan Air Force attacked Indian bases at Kulaikunda, Bagdogra and Calcutta hitting a number of aircraft on the ground".
Mr L K Jha recalls: (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 460 et seq)
"When the conflict started in the Jammu area of Kashmir and their tanks came into our territory where our tanks could not easily go because the bridges were not strong enough, there was a real dilemna. Air Marshal Arjan Singh and General Chaudhuri were present at a meeting to discuss things where we all turned to Arjan and asked him whether he could take on the Pak tanks from the air. Now there was a great deal of hesitation, again on the basic policy of keeping the conflict as narrow-based as possible and in not involving the Air Force. Whether to bring in the Air Force was a matter where a very crucial decision was involved but there seemed to be no other alternative. Arjan agreed to take the Pak tanks on at very short notice without any prior preparation and even in the late afternoon.
"It was still being thought of as a local battle. But we realised that the terrain where we were fighting was one where we were much more vulnerable and communication depended on a couple of bridges - if they were blown up, we just would be completely cut off. And therefore thought turned to using the plan which had been earlier evolved for marching into Lahore. But even then it was a very firm decision that we would not allow things to escalate into a full scale war - I mean war in the legal sense - between India and Pakistan.
"Admiral Soman had in the meantime - ever since the involvement of the Air Force - been straining at the leash, saying 'look, let me go into action'. But again the same consideration which was acting as a restraint - on using the Air Force or going into Lahore - prevailed. It was felt that if we now opened up another front off Karachi, it would become a major engagement and would no longer be a matter of localised conflict. So the decision was taken that the operation to march into Lahore would be launched but that the Navy would not be involved.
"The Indian Army crossed the international border at Wagah on the morning of 6 December and headed for Lahore. President Ayub went on the air. It was a very, very strong and angry broadcast. Admiral Soman thought that the opening of the Lahore front meant that a no holds barred situation had come and he, I think, issued a signal that we were at war with Pakistan. This signal had to be countermanded, because we did not want to go to that stage so soon. But still we realised that the Navy had the capability and if the events so necessitated, I don't think there would have been too long a hesitation to use it. But the feeling was strong that if we could contain the Pakistani forces and hold them on land, then perhaps it would be wiser not to get the Navy involved. I knew that the Navy was not happy with this decision because they were very anxious to go into action."
Admiral Soman recalls the details of the constraint placed on the Navy and what he did about it: (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 457 et seq)
"One morning, I received a file signed by HC Sarin, ICS, (then Secretary Defence Production) saying "the Navy is not to operate north of the latitude of Porbandar, and is also not to take or initiate offensive action at sea against Pakistan unless forced to do so by offensive action by the Pak forces.' If I remember correctly, both the Defence Secretary, Shri P V R Rao, ICS, and the Defence Minister, Shri Y B Chavan, were out of Delhi at that time. I rang up Sarin and told him that I could not accept that order and was seeing the Defence Minister as soon as he returned, which was the very next day.
"When I saw Chavan he said that he was sorry that even after the Chinese debacle in 1962, the Navy had continued to be overlooked and as such it would perhaps be better if the Navy did not go looking for trouble. I said that while I was most grateful to him for having appreciated that we were at that time the stepchild of the Government, non participation by us in an aggressive manner in this war would not only adversely affect the morale of the service but the Navy's image in the public would go down the drain. He mentioned the fact of the aircraft carrier being in the dock and the responsibilities assigned to the Navy for the defence of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from a possible and probable attack from Indonesia which, in the Government's order of priorities, was more crucial than naval operations against Pakistan.
"I assured him that I was fully aware of these implications of the Navy's operations and responsibilities. MYSORE had already been deployed in that area and all that I was asking for was to leave the Navy to plan and do what it can in an active manner instead of remaining passive. Finally the Defence Minister said that even the Prime Minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, did not want the conflict to escalate at sea and that was that. I requested him for permission to see the Prime Minister so that I could convince him of what I felt strongly about and he readily agreed.
"When I called on the Prime Minister, he brought up the same two points - the Navy had not been strengthened since the Sino Indian conflict and its responsibilities in the Andaman and Nicobar area were more important than in the Arabian Sea. I told him that it was wrong in principle to tie down one arm of the Defence Services to passive action in a war situation. It should have the freedom to act offensively so long as it did not bite off more than it could chew. When he brought up the question of the undesirability of any escalation of the war at sea , I reminded him of what happened to Germany on a few occasions in the two World Wars when they kept their fleets bottled up. I added that I was sure that had they used their Navy fully, from the start of the wars, the history of the world would have been different, however much the rest of the world disliked this possibility. On this he seemed to be annoyed and told me ' You have no choice '. I then asked him whether he had any objection to my seeing the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces meaning the President. He smiled and politely said " No, you do not have to see him". Mr PVR Rao, the Defence Secretary, recalls:-
"I was Secretary at the time and have not signed any such order. The Additional Secretary was not concerned with operational matters. What the Admiral has stated was substantially the Government decision. It was communicated in writing at best in the minutes of the Defence Minister's morning meeting, which were issued by Shri DD Sathe, Joint Secretary, after the minutes were approved by me."
In Mr Pradhan's memoirs reproduce the entry in Defence
"Morning meeting gave some hopeful and encouraging glimpse of the situation on the front.
"Had discussions in the presence of the PM with CNS (Admiral SMS Nanda). Necessary orders were given.
"Had a talk with CNS about his plans. He is rather too keen to do something. I had to restrain him".
(Note: The Defence Minister had inadvertently written the wrong name. The CNS in 1965 was Vice Admiral Soman. Rear Admiral Nanda was Managing Director of Mazagon Docks in 1965.)
NAVAL OPERATIONS IN SEPTEMBER 1965
The Pakistan Navy comprised one cruiser (BABUR), one submarine (GHAZI), seven destroyers/frigates (KHAIBAR, BADR, JAHANGIR, ALAMGIR, TUGHRIL, SHAHJAHAN, TIPPU SULTAN) and one tanker (DACCA). Of these, one destroyer (TUGHRIL) was under refit. The remaining ships comprised the Pakistan Flotilla. The Pakistan Air Force had B 57 Canberra bombers, F 86 Sabre fighters and maritime reconnaissance aircraft operating from Karachi.
The Story of the Pakistan Navy' states: (Pages 216 et seq)
"The role assigned to the Pakistan Navy was the maritime defence of Pakistan. This included the following tasks - the seaward defence of the ports of Pakistan, keeping the sea lines of communication open, escorting merchant ships, protection of coasts against amphibious assaults, interdiction of shipping and assisting the army in the riverine operations in East Pakistan".
"The surface units were deployed as one force to patrol on an arc 100 miles from Karachi to achieve concentration of force, provide seaward defence and attack the enemy as one group".
"The submarine GHAZI was sailed on 2 September to patrol off Bombay and instructed to attack only the heavy units of the Indian Navy i.e. VIKRANT, MYSORE and DELHI. She was in position by the morning of 5 September."
`The Story of the Pakistan Navy' states the following reasoning for the Dwarka operation:- (ibid)
"The Indian Navy, with considerable numerical superiority, was bottled up in harbour due mainly to our submarine's presence in their waters. This situation afforded an opportunity to the Pakistan Navy to carry out an offensive action against Dwarka without any hindrance from the Indian Navy. The Dwarka bombardment was undertaken for the following reasons - to draw the heavy enemy units out of Bombay for the submarine to attack, to destroy the radar installation at Dwarka, to lower Indian morale and to divert Indian air effort away from the north".
"On 6 September, the Pakistan Flotilla received the news that the Indian Army had attacked across the international border in the Lahore area and ships sailed for their pre-assigned war stations. Thereafter, they remained at sea almost continuously till 27 September. Simultaneously the Naval Control of Shipping Organisation was activated which took effective control of Pakistan merchant ships. An embargo was declared on all merchant ships carrying warlike stores for India. The C in C directed the Chairman IWTA to seal off all river routes used by Indian steamers transiting through East Pakistan and to seize all such vessels and their cargo. All these measures, implemented without delay, caused severe losses to the enemy in valuable cargo, ships and river craft".
"On the afternoon of 7 September, Pakistan Naval Headquarters directed a task group, comprising the cruiser ( BABUR), five destroyers ( KHAIBAR, BADR, JAHANGIR, ALAMGIR and SHAHJAHAN) and a frigate(TIPPU SULTAN), to bombard Dwarka the same night and added that one or two enemy frigates may be encountered in the area in addition to enemy air threat. The task group refueled from their tanker and arrived off Dwarka at midnight. Dwarka was blacked out and could only be identified on radar. Bombardment commenced at 0024 at ranges between 5 and 6 miles and finished four minutes later, each ship having fired 50 rounds. Shortly thereafter, Pakistan Air Force aircraft attacked Dwarka after receiving clearance by a green Verey's light. The task group withdrew at full speed. During the withdrawal, BABUR picked up several aircraft contacts on her surface radar. Ships were ordered to engage any aircraft that came within gun range and some ships did open fire. The task group resumed patrol on the 100 mile arc by sunrise".
"After the Dwarka operation, the Pakistan Flotilla continued patrolling the 100 mile arc. Very little happened. On one occasion, on 20 September, five radar contacts were seen near Kori Creek and ships were detached to investigate and take action. Later the five ships retreated southwards."
The Indian Navy comprised one aircraft carrier, two cruisers, nineteen destroyers/ frigates and one tanker. Of these 23 ships, 10 were under refit at Bombay - the carrier (VIKRANT), one cruiser (DELHI), three destroyers (RAJPUT, RANA and GANGA), two frigates (TRISHUL and BETWA), three ships (the training frigate KISTNA and survey ships DARSHAK and SUTLEJ). The tanker (SHAKTI) was barely servicable. Training frigate TIR was in the Andamans. Survey ship INVESTIGATOR and landing ship MAGAR were in Visakhapatnam. Two Hunt class destroyers (GODAVARI and GOMATI) were at Cochin. One cruiser (MYSORE), one destroyer (RANJIT), and six frigates ( BRAHMAPUTRA, BEAS, TALWAR, KHUKRI, KUTHAR and KIRPAN) comprised the Indian Fleet. The Seahawk and Alize air squadrons, which had disembarked from the aircraft carrier for the duration of her refit, were distributed between Bombay, Goa and Cochin. Indian Air Force Liberator aircraft were available for maritime reconnaissance.
The Indian Navy's role was the maritime defence of the Western and Eastern coasts and the island territories. The tasks envisaged were first to carry out sweeps off the west coast of Pakistan to disrupt the port of Karachi and inflict vital damage on port installations if ordered, next the destruction of Pakistan naval forces if ordered, third provision of general support for the defence of the major ports on the west coast and fourth, the provision of general cover and protection to our merchant ships in the Arabian Sea, especially those plying to and from the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. After the Government's directive to abstain from offensive action, these tasks boiled down to defending territory in the Andaman, Nicobar, Laccadive and Minicoy groups of islands and defending the major ports of Bombay, Goa and Cochin on the west coast of India.
On 1 September, when the Pakistan Army crossed the international border and advanced towards Akhnoor, the Seahawk aircraft had already moved to the Air Force Station at Jamnagar for an armament work up which had been previously planned. Naval Headquarters immediately recalled the Indian Fleet to Bombay from the Bay of Bengal and moved the Alize aircraft to Bombay for reconnaissance and anti submarine patrols. Some ships were in Calcutta and some were in Visakhapatnam. The ships comprising the fleet had various speeds and were not in good material state having been away from Bombay, their base port, for over two months. MYSORE, with only half of her boilers functioning, had her maximum speed reduced from 31 knots to 18 knots. BRAHMAPUTRA and BEAS could only do 15 knots while their rated speed was 24 knots. All ships headed for Bombay at best speed.
Meanwhile the Navy's Seahawk aircraft, which had moved to Jamnagar on 1 September for armament workup, were placed under the operational control of the Western Air Command on 3 September. They were tasked to prepare for an air strike on the radar installation at the nearest Pakistan Air Force station at Badin. On 5 September, the Seahawks came to immediate state of readiness and the strike on the Badin radar installation was scheduled to be launched at dawn on 7 September.
On 6 September, when the Indian Army crossed the international border and advanced towards Lahore, the Pakistan Air Force attacked Indian airfields. On the evening of 6 September, the Indian Air Force station at Jamnagar was bombed by Pakistani B 57 Canberra bombers. Bombing continued throughout the night. IAF aircraft, the air traffic control tower and the runway were damaged. The Seahawks were lucky - they escaped damage. On 7 September, the strike on Badin was abandoned and all the Seahawks were withdrawn from Jamnagar to Bombay. The air defence of Bombay, which was an Air Force commitment was entrusted to the Navy's Seahawks because the Air Force had become fully committed in the air battles in the North.
After the Indian Army crossed the international border on 6 September, a signal was intercepted from Pakistan Naval Headquarters to all Pakistan naval units to execute Operation Response, which apparently referred to instructions to commence hostilities. The CNS, Admiral Soman, issued a signal to all naval units and formations stating that war had broken out with Pakistan and all measures were to be immediately adopted for neutralising any misadventure on the part of the Pakistan Navy. Within 10 minutes of this signal being issued, the Government directed the CNS to cancel this signal, thereby causing him considerable personal embarrassment. The Government's view was that although hostilities had commenced with Pakistan and the Army and Air Force had been fully committed to the operations, no declaration of war had taken place. In a letter to the Times of India on 29 November 1978, Admiral Soman stated that the Ministry of Defence directed Naval Headquarters in writing that the Navy was not to operate in a threatening or offensive manner north of the latitude of Porbandar and that nowhere on the high seas was the Navy to initiate any offensive action against Pakistan unless forced to do so by their action. FOCIF, in his flagship, the cruiser MYSORE, was the first to arrive in Bombay on 7 September. The same day Pakistan Radio announced "Our Army and Air Force have already acquitted themselves creditably in the defence of Pakistan. The Navy will not lag behind". Action by the Pakistan Navy seemed imminent. Naval Headquarters informed Bombay of the likelihood of a naval raid on Bombay that night. FOCIF sailed the same evening with one cruiser and three escorts. Nothing suspicious was detected. The very same night, the Pakistan Flotilla bombarded Dwarka.
TALWAR, which had been carrying out an independent patrol off Kori Creek from 28 August, had been directed by Naval Headquarters on 2 September to carry out a barrier patrol off the north-west tip of the Saurashtra coast, 30 to 80 miles west of Okha, to provide advance warning of the approach of the Pakistan Flotilla. On 6 September, TALWAR developed leaks in her condensers resulting in a serious problem of boiler feed water contamination and had to put into Okha to effect temporary repairs. Okha, being only a few miles from Dwarka, TALWAR detected the transmissions of the passing Pakistani warships. She also heard the gunfire of the bombardment. Next morning, she was directed to send a team to Dwarka to assess the damage. The team found that most of the shells had fallen on the soft soil between the temple and the railway station and had failed to explode. The air attack had damaged a railway engine and blown off a portion of the Railway Guest House. FOCIF and his ships returned to Bombay on 8 September. By 9 September, all ships had arrived from the Bay of Bengal. TALWAR also arrived from Okha after temporary repairs.
All Fleet ships were now in Bombay, having their urgent operational defects attended to and getting ready to sortie out. The dilemma was for what task? On the one hand were the restrictions imposed by the Government that to localise the conflict, the Navy was not to go beyond Porbandar. On the other hand, Dwarka had just been bombarded and needed to be avenged. Within the Navy, the lower levels were itching for action.The higher levels were grappling with the problem of how to bring the Pakistan Flotilla to action without violating the spirit of Government's directives. And in the Indian Parliament, a member acidly enquired 'What was the Indian Navy doing when the Pakistan Navy bombarded Dwarka?"
Some Tactical Considerations in the North Arabian Sea
For the lay reader, it would be useful to be aware of some of the phenomena which affect naval operations in our waters. It would help to understand better the actions of the Pakistan Flotilla and the actions of the Indian Fleet during these naval operations:
- The atmospheric conditions in the sea areas off the north-west coast of India and between Saurashtra and Karachi are conducive for anomalous propagation called 'anaprop.' Depending on their `frequency' and the `time of day', electro magnetic transmissions either travel very long distances ( warships off Saurashtra can clearly hear warships off Karachi as if they were very near or vice versa ) or travel no distance at all ( on certain frequencies, there is a total fadeout of wireless communications between Saurashtra and Bombay and vice versa ). Similarly on board ships, radar scans display echoes of distant ships as if they are very near and display spurious echoes behaving suspiciously like ships.
- In these waters, analogous phenomena prevail below the sea. Sonar detects echoes and displays them as if they were real submarine contacts. Both in peace and in war, such contacts have been attacked and ' kills ' claimed of submarines sunk, only to find that the contacts could not have been submarines at all, because no evidence of damage floated to the surface.
- Both the Indian Fleet and the Pakistan Flotilla were aware of the hazards of being found within reach of opposing strike aircraft during day time. The damage that determined air attacks could inflict on warships at sea during day time had been abundantly demonstrated during the Second World War. No responsible commander of naval forces at sea would expose his force to such risk. A force would venture within the other side's air strike radius only at night and that too only to such a depth as would enable it to be out of enemy air reach by first light. The depth of penetration at night therefore depended on the speed at which the intruding force could withdraw to safety from air attack.
- The North Arabian Sea is criss crossed by the Pre Determined Routes (PDR's) used by international airliners between Bombay and West Asia. Without height-finding radars, the behaviour of radar echoes of these aircraft are easily mistaken for enemy reconnaissance aircraft. This triggers tactical reflexes that affect subsequent actions - `has my force been detected by the enemy and should I change my plan or is it just a civilian aircraft in a PDR and I can continue with my plan".
The Indian Fleet's Sorties 10 to 23 September
Rear Admiral Samson recalls his Fleet's sorties from 10 to 14 and from 18 to 23 September: (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 443 et seq)
"Earlier my assumption was that I would have adequate air search capability to provide a reasonable chance of locating the enemy, and on this basis I would have deployed the Fleet to a position which would enable me to meet as much as possible the tasks of bringing the enemy to action, to afford protection to our major ports on the West Coast and to provide cover to our merchant ships from the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. But with the very limited availability of reconnaissance aircraft, I had to revise my plan. The problem really was to find the enemy.
"I decided to sail on the night of 10/11 September and probe as far north and north-west as possible, not forgetting the possibility of another Pak raid on one of the ports in Saurashtra. I hoped I would find the enemy and I decided also to remain at sea as long as possible, refueling from the tanker, SHAKTI. This ship, having only one engine operational, was partially disabled and could not replenish me at sea and so I planned for her to sail independently to be anchored at Diu for refueling the Fleet on 13 and 14 September. In the event, her second engine also packed up and she did not sail at all, thus limiting my period of stay at sea. RAJPUT, one of the two destroyers, also packed up and returned to Bombay.
"As regards air cover, I decided to stage two Alizes from Jamnagar and to carry out searches north of latitude 21 degrees 30 minutes from 2000 hours on 11 September onwards and to arrange for six to eight Seahawks to be available at Jamnagar from 0600 hours on 12 September for launching strikes on Pak ships or the submarine up to a range of 150 miles from Jamnagar. The IAF Liberators would carry out searches in areas south of latitude 21 degrees 30 minutes.
"Flying my flag on board the MYSORE and with the BRAHMAPUTRA, BEAS, BETWA, KHUKRI, KIRPAN, KUTHAR and TALWAR in company, I sailed out of Bombay on our first sweep on the night of 10/11 September. On the morning of 11 September, within hours of our departure from Bombay, BEAS reported an unidentified aircraft at a range of 42 miles. The aircraft appeared to have been shadowing our forces and was evaluated as a 'snooper'. Two Seahawk aircraft were scrambled from Bombay but could not intercept the unidentified aircraft as it had disappeared by the time the Seahawks arrived on the scene. Our position was thus likely to have been compromised.
"An Alize search was launched from Jamnagar at 2000 hours on the evening of 11 September and within half an hour picked up a number of contacts confirming the presence of two groups of Pak ships only 50 miles west of Okha and soon made a detailed wireless report on the disposition of the contacts to me and repeated it a few minutes later. Unfortunately, however, due to freak anomalous wireless propagation conditions prevailing in the area on that night, the wireless beam from the aircraft suffered unusually high attenuation by the atmosphere and multiple reflection and refraction at varying levels as a result of which the signal did not reach me or any other ship of the Fleet nor was it picked up by Jamnagar. At midnight, the Alize aircraft landed at Jamnagar and transmitted the report to the Maritime Operations Room at Bombay on land line, but even the rebroadcast of the signal by the Naval Signal Centre, Bombay at 0200 hours did not reach the Fleet owing to the anaprop conditions still prevailing west of Saurashtra on that night.
"At 0300 hours on 12 September, another Alize took off from Jamnagar, established wireless contact with the flagship and, after carrying out a search, reported a few surface contacts about 90 miles north of the Fleet but, not being able to investigate them further because of lack of endurance, returned to base. A third Alize sortie was airborne at 0400 hours on 12 September and searched the area, without success, as by this time the Pak warships had retreated to their own waters.
"There was no doubt about the identity of these ships as when the first Alize was flying over them, they had switched on their lights and fired green Verey's flares for purposes of identification but when the Alize did not respond with light signals, they had quickly realised that the aircraft was not their own and had then quickly switched off their lights and steamed towards the Pakistan coast at full speed to be in safe waters before daybreak. Thus 'anaprop' conditions had deprived the Fleet of a rich haul that was there for the asking. By 0700 hours on 12 September the Pak warships, whose presence within 90 miles of our Fleet had been detected and reported at 2030 hours the previous night, had disappeared.
"The Fleet continued to proceed north until it reached the northern limit of its search after which it turned southwest. Eight Seahawks which had come from Bombay to Jamnagar and two Toofanis (erstwhile Ouragons) of the Indian Air Force also carried out a sweep in the area after refueling but without success.
"On the morning of 12 September, TALWAR had another machinery breakdown and when efforts to rectify the defects failed, she was detached from the Fleet to limp back to Bombay.
"Towards sunset on the same day, the remaining force proceeded northwards once again and continued its sweep till the early hours of 13 September when it intercepted two merchant ships laden with arms bound for Pakistan, SS Steel Vendor and SS Steel Protector. The ships had to be forced to stop under threat of fire but could not be captured in the absence of clearance from higher authorities, as it had been made very clear that the Indian Fleet was not to seek action, though it was`permitted to open fire in self defence. And so the Steel Vendor and the Steel Protector continued to cruise towards Karachi, 'escorted ' by the Indian Fleet at a distance of only two cables, until they reached the northern limit of the Fleet's sweep, when the merchant ships, after bidding adieu, disappeared over the horizon.
"At about 1000 hours on 13 September, KUTHAR picked up an underwater 'sonar' contact of a possible submarine and soon KHUKRI joined in the hunt. The contact was held intermittently until 1100 hours during which time KUTHAR launched deliberate attacks with full salvos from her anti submarine mortars. The contact was, however, lost and the anti submarine action terminated. The contact was assessed to be tracking at seven knots for a fairly long period and subsequent analysis led to the conclusion that it may well have been a submarine.
"Ships were now beginning to run short of fuel and the only tanker, SHAKTI, not being available, the three ships of the 14th Frigate Squadron, KHUKRI, KIRPAN and KUTHAR, and the destroyer RANJIT, were detached on the afternoon of 13 September to carry out an offensive anti submarine sweep off the approaches to Bombay. After an uneventful night, the Fleet returned to Bombay on the morning of 14 September.
"On 17 September KHUKRI, KIRPAN and KUTHAR, with gunfire support provided by RANA and GANGA, launched a thorough search of an area of about 5000 square miles off Bombay as the Pakistan submarine GHAZI was believed to be operating in the southern approaches to Bombay. On 21 and 23 September, 'sonar' contacts were picked up and attacks launched by these ships but the contacts were soon lost. The ships continued on their anti submarine patrol until 24 September, one day after the implementation of the cease fire.
"During its second sortie, the main body of the Fleet comprising the MYSORE, BEAS, BETWA, RAJPUT and RANJIT ( the BRAHMAPUTRA and the TALWAR had by now developed major defects and could not sail ) carried out a sweep in the Arabian Sea from 18 September to 23 September. This was originally planned to be carried out in the general direction of the Gulf of Aden to provide support for a number of ships bringing vital defence cargo from the UK. It was known that Pakistan was aware of the nature of cargo in these ships and their shipping programme and hence there was a distinct possibility of these ships being intercepted and either captured or destroyed. The distance from Bombay to Aden is 1650 miles and thus this sweep would entail operations far away from our shores but it was considered well within the capability of our whittled down Fleet. Reports indicating likely Pakistani seaborne landings on the Saurashtra coast, however, put paid to the sweep and the Fleet was promptly sailed to intercept the Pak Fleet off Saurashtra.
"I sailed in MYSORE with RAJPUT, RANJIT, BEAS and BETWA on the morning of 18 September. My intention was to reach the Saurashtra coast as early as possible to counter the landings and so proceeded at my best speed of 22 knots. I had to leave BEAS behind to follow, as she could do only 19 knots.
"That evening at abut 2015 hours, while I was on my northerly leg, an aircraft was picked up some six miles away. This aircraft was sighted by BEAS and was heard to be reporting to the Karachi transmitting station the position and disposition of our ships most accurately. The aircraft continued to shadow us and finally faded out at 2130 hours. I continued north till after midnight and then turned southwest. No enemy ships were sighted and it was evident that no landing was being attempted by the enemy on our coast. It is probable that the seaborne landing operation was cancelled by the Pak Fleet when our presence near the Saurashtra coast was compromised.
"Nevertheless, I continued to carry out sweeps in the same area on 20, 21 and 22 September. On the evening of the 20th we intercepted wireless transmissions which were obviously from Pak ships and indicated that they had contact of an `enemy' on a south-westerly course at 10 knots. These transmissions were picked up by several of our ships and we were convinced that we were in close proximity of the enemy. However, it was not possible without direction finding equipment to gauge the direction of these transmissions but they appeared to be northerly and so we continued in this direction. Despite the fact , however, that we continued in this direction for several hours at our best speed, we did not make any contact with the enemy. Bearing in mind that the intercepted message indicated that the contact they had was proceeding in a south-westerly direction, it was obvious that this contact could not be the Indian Fleet and in all probability was some merchant ship proceeding out of Karachi or the Gulf of Kutch. I therefore turned towards the Gulf in case the enemy was attempting to intercept one of our merchant ships from this area. I found nothing and it was clear that this was another incident of 'anaprop' electromagnetic conditions and that these intercepted messages were being transmitted by local patrol vessels outside Karachi Harbour. Thereafter, despite repeated high speed sweeps as far north as Mandvi, no contact of any Pak ships was gained.
"However, we continued to intercept Pak wireless transmissions and it was clear that our forces were being continuously shadowed more or less throughout this operation. It was also clear from these transmissions that air strikes were on call for Pak surface ships. Unfortunately our Alizes or Seahawks could not operate from Jamnagar after 12 September as repeated air attacks had rendered the airfield untenable. The Liberator maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the IAF, however, continued to carry out reconnaissance sweeps of the northern part of the Arabian Sea but failed to pick up any Pak surface or air contacts. In fact, on two occasions our forces were reported by them as enemy and on one occasion the position of our force was reported in plain language!
"On the morning of 22 September I had to detach the RAJPUT and RANJIT as they were running short of fuel. Meanwhile I had received a further signal concerning the merchant ships arriving from the Gulf of Aden bringing vital defence cargo and so I altered course with the MYSORE, BEAS and BETWA towards the central Arabian Sea to try and escort them to safety. But within a few hours of our sailing on our new mission, we received a message from Naval Headquarters conveying our Government's acceptance of the United Nations' cease fire proposal from 0330 hours on 23 September. So I decided to return to the Saurashtra coast to forestall any attempt by the Pakistan Navy to create mischief in that area in a last minute bid to gain propaganda value. I returned to Bombay with the regret that I had missed an opportunity to try and engage the Pakistan Navy in battle, despite waiting just outside its lair for nearly two weeks."
Submarine and Anti Submarine Operations in September 1965
The Story of the Pakistan Navy States:
"Just after the Dwarka attack on night 7/8 September, the Pakistan submarine GHAZI had been patrolling off the Saurashtra coast. She tracked 4 to 5 escorts on passage from Bombay proceeding up the coast but did not attack them as her orders were to attack only heavy ships."
While on return passage to Bombay from the East coast, BEAS picked up a submarine contact at 1230 on 9 September about 45 miles south of Bombay. She carried out an urgent attack, followed by a deliberate attack half an hour later.Thereafter contact was lost. GHAZI makes no mention of this attack.
On 11 September, there were intensive anti submarine air patrols off Bombay. One Alize aircraft flew over GHAZI while she was snorkeling but failed to detect her. GHAZI returned to Karachi thereafter to rectify her defective electronic counter measures equipment and resumed patrol on 15 September.
Between 7 and 10 September, the Indian Fleet was in Bombay. When GHAZI was in Karachi from 12 to 14 September to effect repairs, the Indian Fleet was operating off the Saurashtra coast. When GHAZI resumed patrol on 15 September, the Indian Fleet was in Bombay from 14 to 17 September, in between sorties.
On 17 September, FOCIF sent out five escorts for an anti submarine search in the southern approaches to Bombay. They searched an area of 5000 square miles between 17 and 23 September. Several sonar contacts were picked up. On two occasions, 21 and 23 September, contacts were attacked for several hours. GHAZI makes no mention of these two attacks. Presumably she was nowhere near.
GHAZI's `Record of Service', retrieved from the sunken hull in 1972, indicates that "In 1965, while on war patrol off the port of Bombay, GHAZI encountered three frigates. She fired four torpedoes and scored three hits on the British Type 41 frigate INS BRAHMAPUTRA".
The Story of the Pakistan Navy' mentions that:
"Off Bombay, on 22 September, GHAZI gained a firm contact. After tracking the zig-zagging contact all day, GHAZI fired four torpedoes at an ' A A frigate ' in the evening. After one and a half minutes, the first torpedo was heard to hit, followed five seconds later by another hit. GHAZI's sonar reported patterns of explosions being fired . After this attack, GHAZI returned to Karachi on 23 September where the Captain was decorated for having sunk the Indian Navy's anti aircraft frigate INS BRAHMAPUTRA".
After the cease fire, FOCIF invited the foreign naval attaches from New Delhi on board the BRAHMAPUTRA in Bombay to remove any doubts that the ship was afloat and fighting fit. Overall, the above account provides a glimpse of the complexity of submarine and anti submarine warfare and the difficulties of predicting, with any degree of certainty, the outcome of submarine and anti submarine operations in the North Arabian Sea.
Other Minor Incidents
There were two other incidents which to this day remain unexplained:
(a) On 11 September an unidentified aircraft was reported over Visakhapatnam. Fire was opened by the ack ack guns of the Naval Coast Battery. The History of the Pakistan Air Force makes no mention of any attack on Visakhapatnam on 11 September.
(b) On 15 September, unidentified aircraft were reported over Cochin. Fire was opened by the ships patrolling off Cochin and by the Naval Battery located at the harbour entrance. Some shells fell into the populated areas adjoining Ernakulam. Some shells, which fell into the water near the harbour entrance were mistaken for air dropped mines. A minesweeper was rushed from Goa to Cochin to sweep the mines - no mines were found. A Seahawk aircraft got airborne from Cochin airfield to intercept the aircraft - no encounter occurred. The History of the Pakistan Air Force makes no mention of any attack on Cochin on 15 September. A post war analysis suggested that the jet aircraft could have been from a British or American aircraft carrier task force which might have been operating in the area. The reminiscences of some participants at Cochin indicate that there were no echoes of any aircraft on the scans of the warning radars being manned in the ND School.
In considering the reasons why the Navy did not achieve anything significant, several basic questions arise. Was there any flaw in the higher direction of war? After the Rann of Kutch incident, why was the Fleet sent to the Bay of Bengal? When the intrusions started in Kashmir in early August, why wasn't the Fleet immediately recalled to the West Coast? Given the constraints imposed by the Government, could the Navy have done better than it did?
The Higher Direction of War
There were two aspects of the higher direction of war in 1965 which created confusion. The first was the Government's genuine and sincere belief that in modern warfare, it was meaningful to engage in warlike activity without formally declaring war. The second was that once the Government had decided to counter hostile acts by Pakistan, it was reasonable that activity be selectively confined to only one or two of the Armed Forces. As regards the first aspect, the extracts quoted above from Mr PVR Rao, the Defence Secretary in 1965, the memoirs of Mr C P Srivastava, the Private Secretary to Prime Minister Shastri in 1965, the recollections of Mr L K Jha, the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Shastri in 1965 make it clear that the Government was determined not to enlarge the scope of the conflict beyond the minimum required to safeguard its position in Kashmir and to prevent any escalation of the conflict beyond this objective. It will also appear from the extracts given below that the Chief of the Army Staff, who was the de facto Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, excluded the Navy from participation in the contingency plan in case Pakistan attacked Kashmir.
In the 1971 National Security Lecture of the United Services Institution of India, General Chaudhuri stated:
"Now that both Mr Bhutto and Air Marshal Asghar Khan have publicly claimed that they were responsible for planning and instigating Pakistan's attack on India in 1965, I think I could interpolate here a footnote from history. In 1964, when we were revising military plans to defend ourselves in case of an attack from our neighbor, the troops available on the Western Front were roughly equivalent to those of Pakistan. Our rapid expansion had meant some dilution. In the limited advance which must form the fulcrum of any defensive plan, we were faced with three alternatives. The first one was the occupation of some unguarded territory. This seemed unproductive and non -permanent. The second was the occupation of and probably substantial destruction to a big city. For this there were insufficient troops. Anybody who has studied the capture of a big town, will realise how expensive this operation is in manpower. The resistance put up by beleaguered Berlin in 1945, defended only by the remnants of a defeated army, against overwhelming odds, is a good example of what I mean. In dealing with this alternative, there was also the political view that any substantial destruction of a major population and historical centre, would leave a raw wound between two neighbors, delaying unduly the eventual aim of living in amity together. The third alternative was the destruction of equipment, cheaply obtained but if destroyed, expensive in every way to replace. This third alternative seemed the correct choice. I would submit that we were successful in the pattern we adopted and the ensuing heavy economic and political disturbances in Pakistan, certainly contributed to the downfall of the Ayub Government and perhaps to the democratisation now pending.
"Incidentally, Pakistan's own plan for 1965 was based on first getting us to panic and move down heavy reinforcements from the main Punjab theatre to Kutch. Once they had got us there, then the so called raiders would have gone into Kashmir, supported by the Pakistan regular army capturing the key point of Akhnur. Though the first part of the Pakistani plan misfired, the originators were so intrigued with the ingenuity of the second part, that they put it into action anyway. Operations by emotion are always incorrect and the second part also failed. It was on the 5th May 1965 that the larger pattern of Pakistan's intentions to seize Kashmir before we got too strong became apparent, though the actual details of how they would do it were not clear at that time, for the initiative lay, as it always does, with the aggressor.
"Previous to 1965, it had always been said by our political leaders that any attack by Pakistan against Kashmir would be construed as an attack against India. Consequently India would then be at liberty to attack Pakistan in order to improve her own defences. This statement of policy, however, was never incorporated into any military plan. The explanation for this omission was that a decision would only be taken at the time and the military would then be duly informed. Despite the public political statement, the military were always in great doubt as to whether at the appropriate time any such permission would really be given. They were also aware that if a positive decision was made at this late stage, then it would be most difficult, if not impossible, to finalise the operational plans, make the necessary concentration of units - always a long and complicated business - brief the commanders at all levels fully about the tactical picture and then launch a successful operation. The troops were fully convinced that at this last moment, the Government could have a drastic change of mind and militarily the final result might then be a fiasco.
"After the 5th May 1965, when it appeared that an attack on Kashmir or India later that year was a distinct possibility, the first matter that needed clearance was this ability to retaliate. In my discussions with both the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister after the pros and cons had been fully discussed, the necessary sanction was obtained. Consequently, we had plenty of time to work out the appropriate moves. The day Pakistan moved her regular troops,infantry and armour into the Jammu sector, I was in Kashmir. As I was coming back in the plane to Delhi, the Director of Military Operations, who was in the aircraft with me, started writing out the required signals to go to the formations concerned. On landing, he went straight off to send them out and I immediately went to see the Defence Minister who formally confirmed my action. He then informed the Prime Minister and that evening the PM asked me to see him, discussed a few details and further approved the action taken. The PM might then have informed some of his close colleagues, but this was not my concern.
"As a number of other broad policy points connected with the operations had also been cleared in this same manner, I feel it is desirable to mention the mechanics by which these clearances were given. In 1965, somehow in a rather unconventional, unplanned way, a series of informal meetings started up between the PM, the DM, the PS to the PM and myself. A little later on, my very esteemed and valuable colleague, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, joined us, for obviously the Army and the Air Force were closely linked together in any defence role. The Naval Chief did not come, for the Navy's role did not look like being a very big one. At these meetings, there was a free interchange of views and the many implications of the various actions which might be taken in a variety of circumstances were discussed in detail. No formal notes were kept for very often it was only a clearing of minds. When however, a certain policy matter was accepted, it was noted and put up for clearance later in a more formal manner. During these meetings, it was intrinsically understood that I would keep my colleagues, and particularly the Naval Chief, informed of the more important decisions, that Mr L K Jha would similarly keep the appropriate members of the Civil Services informed and, of course, the PM and the DM would keep their political and Ministerial colleagues informed as they thought fit. As Chief of Army Staff, I found these meetings extremely valuable, for not only was I quite sure of the parameters within which I could work but I was also well briefed on the possible political, domestic and economic implications. This saved a lot of time later in more formal discussions and also, when I was discussing plans for the future war with the PSO's and the Army Commanders, I was in a position to give them a good deal of background information which they, in their turn, found useful. These meetings with the PM and the Defence Minister also gave me the opportunity to put my view point directly to the two people who would ultimately play the largest part in making the final overall decisions.
"In this particular case, these informal, 'clear the air' meetings seemed to have worked very satisfactorily and advantageously. There were no personality clashes, while the small numbers concerned seemed to keep discussion down to essentials. Everyone present was fully aware of the security implications and so there were no leaks or fear of leaks. An air of informality and, I might add, good humour allowed a great deal of freedom in speaking and thinking, while a mutual confidence was built up which was most important then and later. I am not saying that this particular method of discussion could have worked equally well or at all, with another group of people in the same position. But it does emphasise what I consider to be the second important point in organisation for defence. This is the need for a free interchange of views between the various sections of the decision making authorities concerned and then enough liberty given to each one to work within his own sphere with a minimum of interference."
In the 1972 National Security Lecture of the United Service Institution of India, Mr PVR Rao, who was the Defence Secretary from 1962 to 1966, stated:-
"After November 1962 the Defence Committee of the Cabinet was revamped into the Emergency Committee. But the major change was in the working of the Defence Ministers Committee. This Committee, less the Finance representative, met daily except when the Defence Minister was out of Delhi and was effective in ensuring better coordination amongst the Services and in speeding the build up of the forces. But the system underwent a change as the crisis mounted in August 1965. There have been various claims about the decisionmaking at that time. One claim is that a small group, with the Prime Minister at its head, took all decisions and the whole process functioned very smoothly. There are, on the other hand, complaints that there was unnecessary political interference, with the result that achievement fell short of what was feasible and desirable".
Mr PVR Rao also recalls:-
"The idea that there was no communication between the Chiefs and the Government is quite incorrect, because communications can be either oral or in writing. After Mr Chavan became the Defence Minister, there used to be a meeting every morning at 9.30 in the Defence Minister's room, attended by the three Chiefs of Staff and the Defence Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary used to come sometimes but he was not a regular visitor. Regular minutes of meetings were kept which were circulated to all concerned.
"As regards written Directives, the Navy, and particularly the Army, are very fond of saying that there were no written directives. I think it is a very ridiculous thing. In my view, decisions were not taken by the Cabinet. The decisions were always taken at the Defence Minister's morning meetings. If the decisions required further written authority, then only would they go to the PM and Defence Committee of the Cabinet. So, for operational purposes and that is what I am concerned with, all three Chiefs were in the picture every day of what was happening in the Government. It is not correct to say that the Service Chiefs were isolated or insulated and they wanted written orders that were transparent.
"Mr Shastri was staying at the relevant time at 4 Motilal Nehru Place and he had his office at the adjacent interconnected building at 10, Janapath. From about the 6th August 1965, I was asked to go to his office and I used to go there after office on my way home to report to him about the events of the day. As the situation in the valley vis a vis the infiltrators continued unabated and to drift, Shastri was clear that the troops should go across the Cease Fire line and wipe out the infiltrator's bases in POK. This became an issue for regular discussion at the morning meetings, one or two of which Shri Shastri also attended. It was Government's policy that if our action across the CFL brought out the Pak regular forces into the open, we would not confine ourselves to operations in Kashmir but be free to respond wherever we thought best on the West Pakistan Front. In this situation, General Chaudhuri demanded that if operations became necessary against West Pakistan, the whole might of the Indian Armed forces (all the three arms) should be thrown in and asked for a written directive from Government in this regard. This developed into a tussle of wills between General Chaudhuri on the one hand and the PM/DM on the other. As things continued to drift, I drafted, on Shri Shastri's instructions, a directive to the Chiefs of Staff accordingly. This was about the 10th or 11th August. There was, even then, never any question of extending the operations to the eastern sector. When I took the draft directive to 10 Janpath, Shastri took it from me and kept it, saying he would read through it. On the 11th, 12th and 13th, every evening, I asked for the paper back but he would just smile. The Indian Army crossed the Cease Fire Line on the 13th, destroyed the infiltrator's bases and in the process, captured Haji Pir by a brilliant operation. The operation was wholly Army; the IAF was not used. On the 14th or 16th August, Shastri returned to me my draft directive, saying that it was no longer necessary. No written directive (apart from the minutes of the morning meetings) were issued to any of the Chiefs of Staff. Incidentally, General Chaudhuri also did not further pursue the matter and he was in full agreement that the Navy had no role at that stage in the operations and that the operations should not be extended to the Eastern sector.
"The absence of a written directive and the see-saw that went on in this respect resulted in a curious incident. The Chief of Air Staff had apparently given standing instructions to his field commanders that if open hostilities broke out, they should spring into action without further orders. As news came out of the Pak attack on the Chamb front, the IAF on the night of 1/2 September, attacked Lalmanirhat and other targets in the East and the Pak Air Force, on its part, attacked Kalaikonda airbase near Kharagpur. Evidently, the Chief of Air Staff had not been able to countermand his earlier instructions to his field officers in the East in time. General Chaudhuri was very upset and protested to CAS/DM. The situation was rectified and the incident smoothed over.
"I have no knowledge of the happenings in the meetings between PM/DM and a Chief of Staff. Chiefs of Staff have direct access to the President, the PM and the DM. However, the P.M. and the D.M. were very punctilious and, if any action was required, the material would usually come down for suitable action. The DM would normally mention the point requiring action in the morning meeting; or, as in one or two cases, where personalities were involved, he mentioned the problem privately. That the Naval Chief remained uninformed at any stage about Government policy is just shibboleth.
"With regard to the 1965 war, it should be realised that the Government of India, that is the civil Government, wanted to keep the operations at as low a key as possible. Kashmir had to be defended and, to the extent that Pakistan was creating trouble there, it had to be faced. But it was the determined policy of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and the Indian Government not to allow the operations to escalate.
"It is correct that the Navy was told not to approach Pakistan or threaten it. There is no question of going to Shastri or anything of the sort. But the Navy is quite correct in saying that they were asked not to escalate the fighting. They are absolutely correct. And India did not want to escalate the war. In point of fact, even in the east we did not take any action. In 1965, we wanted to limit the fighting as much as possible".
In the 1973 National Security Lecture of the United Service Institution of India, Air Chief Marshal Lal, who was the Vice Chief of Air Staff in 1965 ( and subsequently Chief of Air Staff in 1971 ) stated:
"Early in 1965, Pakistan attacked us in Kutch, in Western India. The attack caught the armed forces unawares. The Army took the field without any prior planning or preparation. Its reaction was fast but there was no joint Army-Air Force plan, and all that the Air Force could do was to provide logistic support with light aircraft. The possibility of tactical support was considered after the fighting began. It was then realised that our bases were so far from the battle zone that our aircraft would have to operate at extreme range with reduced weapon loads while Pakistani aircraft could dominate the entire combat area from bases close by. Given time, we could also have improvised an airfield or two in or near Kutch, but the fighting ended before that. The incident was soon defused but, apparently, not before it had encouraged Pakistan in the belief that the time had come to settle the Kashmir dispute by force of arms.
"Then in August and September 1965 came the second Kashmir War. It began with skirmishes in the valley by so-called freedom fighters, in reality agents of Pakistan. These were followed, towards the end of August, by an all-out attack by Pakistani armour in the Chamb area of Jammu province, with the obvious objective of cutting the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Our Army, working under the restrictions of the Cease Fire agreement, was lightly equipped in that sector and though it fought valiantly, its AMX tanks were no match for the more powerful Pakistani Pattons. While there was some hope of the Army holding the Pakistani attack on its own, there was no talk of bringing the Air Force into the conflict. But on 1st September, with the Pakistanis pressing forward from Jaurian, General Chaudhuri, the Army Chief, was compelled to ask for air support.
"There had been no prior joint planning for such an eventuality. Air Marshal Arjan Singh, the Air Chief, had on his own alerted the air bases in the Punjab. When the call came, a force of fighter bombers from Pathankot mounted a strike on the Pakistanis within minutes of being ordered to do so. It was a touch-and-go affair, because the demand for air support came late in the afternoon and the strike had to be mounted in an area with which our pilots were not familiar. With only a few minutes of daylight left, they could have missed the battle zone or attacked the wrong targets. Fortunately they did neither and so helped to bring the Pakistani force to a halt.
"At this point it is interesting to consider in somewhat greater detail why there was no prior planning of Army -Air operations even though, as General Chaudhuri said in his 1971 National Security lecture, he expected the Pakistanis to attack in Kashmir after the Kutch incident. Basically, I think, it was because he and his commanders were wedded to the idea that military operations were principally an Army affair and that the other services could only operate on the fringe, as it were, with an occasional bonus from the Air Force. This was compounded by a big-brother attitude towards the Air Force which led to its being treated with a certain amount of indulgence but prevented it being accepted as a vital and equal partner in war. Matters were further complicated by the belief that if the Indian Air Force took part in the fighting then the Pakistani Air Force would do likewise, thus increasing the likelihood of a general war between the two countries instead of a localised conflict in J & K. There was a good deal of truth in this, of course, but this was a possibility from which there was no escape. Indeed, this was a possibility that could not be ignored for Pakistan had already been warned that any attack on Jammu and Kashmir would be treated as an attack on India. With a political direction as clear as that on the record, it was incumbent on the Chiefs of Staff to have their plans ready for such a contingency. The fact that they did not is indicative of the thinking at the time.
"The events in the Chamb-Jaurian sector leading to the call for air support took matters out of the Army's hands. At that stage the Government had to decide whether to enlarge the area of conflict, and it did so without hesitation. That, indeed, appeared to be the only way to divert Pakistani forces from the vulnerable Jammu-Srinagar highway, the loss of which would have jeopardised the defence of the Valley. With the decision to fight Pakistan outside J & K, the Army had to move up forces from peace time stations, some from the Deccan and further south, and formulate an operational plan at short notice.
"During the five days that elapsed between the Government decision and the date set for implementing it, there was some discussion of how the Army and the Air Force should operate. On the Army side, the notion persisted that it would fight on its own, with the Air Force providing an occasional bonus; and in the Air Force, where I was Vice-Chief, we thought of fighting mainly an air war against the PAF and what we considered to be strategic targets, assigning relatively low priority to support the Army. Separate plans were hastily drawn up by each Service with no joint consultation worth the name. And again, no tasks were envisaged for the Navy.
"Please note that in 1965 the higher defence organisation was functioning and the Chiefs of Staff Committee met regularly under the chairmanship of General Chaudhuri. Officers in positions of authority had read and studied and taught the procedures for inter-service co-operation. It was not realised, however, that even when the general drill is known, each particular task still requires a great deal of preparatory work, that the persons taking part need to be trained for it, that supporting facilities have to be arranged for in advance, and this has to be done for every contingency that can be envisaged. Flexibility in battle is gained only through long and arduous preparation.
"That we discovered when we entered Pakistan. Soon the Army found that it could not fight entirely on its own, for the PAF was constantly harassing it. The Army needed air defence and tactical support but no detailed arrangements had been made for either. The Air Force was willing to help and it did all it could but in the absence of joint plans, large gaps remained in the air cover in the combat zone. Neither did the air operations through which we hoped to immobilize the PAF and reduce Pakistan's ability to make war achieve much, for we had no well thought out target system for the purpose. Having had some responsibility for all this, I must confess that the air war became a somewhat hit-and-miss affair, that depended heavily on finding targets of opportunity for its success. The aircrew performed magnificently, doing all that was expected of them and more; had there been a coherent joint war plan, we would have derived much fuller benefit from their courage and sacrifice.
"Our advance into Pakistan caught the Pakistani forces by surprise. I imagine they had not thought the Indian Government and Armed Forces capable of swift decisions and speedy action. The initial successes of our Army were soon checked by stiff resistance, a notable feature of which was the close co-operation between the Pakistani Army and Air Force. The two of them had obviously done their homework well, for our jawans reported that the PAF were quick to appear whenever the Pakistani ground forces were in difficulties, and gave them most effective support. This was the more remarkable because unlike our set-up, in which all three Service Chiefs and their Headquarters were based at Delhi, the Pakistani Air Chief was located at Peshawar, the Army Chief at Islamabad, near Rawalpindi, and the Naval Chief at Karachi. The fact that their forces managed to work well together speaks well for their mutual understanding, which is more important than physical proximity. Furthermore, since Pakistan had been the one to start the fighting in J & K, it is to be presumed that its Service Chiefs had given some thought to the possibility of a more widespread conflict and prepared for it accordingly.
"Despite its preparations, however, Pakistan failed to make any inroads in J & K and just about held its own elsewhere. We advanced up to the Ichhogil canal, West Pakistan's first line of defence, and towards Sialkot. Pakistani forces came into Indian territory around Gadra Road in Rajasthan. Except for a single PAF attack on an Indian Air Force base near Calcutta, there was no fighting in the east. Our Navy had no operational tasks but suffered a sea-borne attack at Dwarka in the west. The fighting was brought to a halt by 22nd September, the Army having been engaged in combat for nearly a month and a half and the Air Force for 22 days. At the turn of the year came the Tashkent agreement, negotiated by our then Prime Minister, the late Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri.
"In retrospect, it is clear that the 1965 war was successful as a defensive action, for it managed to preserve the status quo in Kashmir, but the operations in the Punjab and Rajasthan were inconclusive. We failed to make a real dent in Pakistan's forces, both on the ground and in the air. The Navy being far removed from Kashmir took no part in the fighting.
"With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see what part the higher defence organisation played in the 1965 war. Frankly, I do not think it made any significant contribution. I say this after careful thought, knowing that one of our distinguished Army Chiefs, General J N Chaudhuri, was then Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. Even at the risk of his displeasure, I must say that he failed to get the organisation working as it should have done. The General himself admits as much, without meaning to, in the published version of the National Security lectures that he delivered in this institution in 1971. He said in those lectures that he saw the Kutch incident as a prelude to an attack by Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, and he therefore began the Army's preparations well in advance. He omits to mention that the Air Force and the Navy were kept in the dark about this. He goes on to say that he often discussed the threat with the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister and that, once in a while, he took the Air Chief along with him. The impression conveyed is that he looked upon the impending conflict as an Army affair, in which the use of the Air Force would be incidental. To my mind, this reflects an attitude long prevalent in the Army, and only recently dissipated, to the effect that its larger size and greater age gave it a commanding superiority over the other services and invested it with the sole right to decide how wars should be fought. I may be reading too much into a single statement, but to me it is axiomatic that effective co-operation between the Services can grow only out of mutual trust and full understanding of each others capabilities and limitations. I think that was lacking in 1965.
"In any case, the Air Force and Navy, not having been alerted about the possibility of another war over Kashmir, no inter-service contingency plans were drawn up, nor was any course of action agreed upon with the Air Force in the event of its being called out to support the Army. This mental block against consultation and joint planning continued right through the phase of guerrilla activity and was only partly removed when Pakistani armour threatened to cut the Jammu-Srinagar highway. It was at that critical stage, on 1st September 1965, that the Air Force was asked for air support, which it gave at short notice. Complaints from our forward troops about the limited extent of air cover in the war that followed were well-founded, for in the absence of precise plans the Air Force had simply maintained its normal forces at its bases in the Punjab and in Jammu and Kashmir. To do its job properly, some redeployment of squadrons and of logistic and communication facilities should have been effected before the commencement of hostilities. Had the joint planners been able to do their work in advance, I am certain more positive results would have been achieved in 1965. However, apart from preserving the status quo in Kashmir, the 1965 war was valuable for the many practical lessons it taught us in the conduct of operations from the highest level to combat in the field. In the years that followed these lessons were absorbed and applied." The above excerpts indicate that until early August 1965 the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Soman, was unaware of two things - that information was available to the Chief of Army Staff that Pakistan may attempt to seize Kashmir later in the year and that the Chief of Army Staff had obtained the Government's approval in principle for the Army to counter attack Pakistan, if Pakistan attacked Kashmir.
Why was the Indian Fleet Sent to the Bay of Bengal
Vice Admiral Soman recalls:- (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 456 et seq)
"After the Indo Chinese conflict in 1962, the defence of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was left entirely to me. The Army refused to send even a platoon there and we had to raise our own land force with sailors in khaki uniform to man the various stations in these islands. So far as the Navy was concerned, as soon as Pakistan started the trouble in Kutch, I had felt that my first priority would be these islands because while talking to various people during my visit to Indonesia as the Fleet Commander a few years earlier, and having been briefed on the developments since then, I felt a little nervous about these islands. This was because when the Army refused to send any units for their defence, I had taken on the responsibility of doing so with sailors with no experience in landfighting. But I had also placed MYSORE and two major ships in the area till the very last minute. It was only after the war had started and I was permitted to bring the Fleet back to the West Coast that I brought the ships across to the Western theater because I wanted to ensure that no opportunity was given to Indonesia to start anything at the same time. Whether eventually it proved itself I do not know but prior to that, Soekarno was reported to have been keeping an eye on the Bay islands.
"The Fleet, when it reached Bombay, had to be given this thoughtless order from the 'higher authorities' of not operating north of the latitude of Porbandar. Nothing else could be done except to try and see that the Pakistani ships did not move towards the Andaman and Nicobar islands to hold hands with the Indonesians
"I also had some intelligence on the presence of some Indonesian ships at Karachi and knew that any operation undertaken by the combined naval forces of Pakistan and Indonesia would neither be against the Indian Fleet nor the Indian mainland. It was most likely to be for the capture of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. I was quite convinced in my mind that the Indonesian Navy, knowing full well that only a small force of sailors in khaki uniform was present on these islands, could make an attempt to capture the Nicobar Island despite the then pretty poor state of Indonesia's Navy."
Was there any threat from Indonesia? Air Marshal Asghar Khan, who had been the Chief of the Pakistan Air Force during the Rann of Kutch incident, retired in July 1965. Soon after India crossed the Wagah border on 6 September, he was sent to China, Indonesia, Turkey and Iran to seek aid. In his memoirs, 'The First Round", he recounts his discussions with President Soekarno and Admiral Martadinata of Indonesia: (Page 43 et seq)
(a) President Soekarno said that India's attack on Pakistan was like an attack on Indonesia and they were duty bound to give Pakistan all possible assistance. President Soekarno told him to take away whatever would be useful to Pakistan in this emergency. Two Russian supplied submarines and two Russian supplied missile boats were sent to Pakistan post haste. (Note: They reached Karachi only after the cease fire).
(b) Admiral Martadinata asked Air Marshal Asghar Khan "Don't you want us to take over the Andaman Islands? A look at the map will show that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are an extension of Sumatra and are in any case between East Pakistan and Indonesia. What right have the Indians to be there? In any case, the Indonesian Navy will immediately commence patrols of the approaches to these islands and carry out aerial reconnaissance missions to see what the Indians have there".
In hindsight, it would appear that the concern voiced to Admiral Soman by the Prime Minister and by the Defence Minister and Admiral Soman's own concern at that time about the security of the Andaman and Nicobar islands was not entirely unfounded. Indeed, as will be seen in the Chapter on Russian Acquisitions 1965 to 1971, it was this concern in May 1965 at the rise in Indonesian activity that precipitated the decision to acquire Russian ships and submarines. It helps to understand one of the reasons for delaying the recall of the Indian Fleet to Bombay till 1 September, when the Pakistan Army crossed the international border to attack Kashmir.
Another reason for sending the Indian Fleet to the Bay of Bengal seems to have been not to forego the opportunity for exercising with a submarine, particularly since the Pakistan Navy had received the submarine GHAZI from the American Navy in 1964. Vice Admiral Soman recalls: (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 421 et seq)
"After the fizzle-out of the Kutch affair for which the Fleet ships had been hurriedly brought out from their refit and periodic maintenance, we had the Hobson's choice of either committing them back to their refit and maintenance,or of continuing to keep them operational in order to make full use of the (already projected) live anti submarine training with a Royal Navy submarine which was due to arrive in India shortly. It had been our experience in the past that no amount of simulated training on attack teachers in anti submarine training schools ashore can ever make anti submarine teams fully efficient.
"It was decided, therefore, that the live target hunting and tracking opportunity was too valuable to be missed even if, during the period, the ships were not in as good a shape in their material state as they should be, so long as their anti submarine searching, hunting and attacking equipment and personnel were effective and efficient. In making this decision, I had assessed that we perhaps had time till about November 1965 before things might get hot again.
"In the context of this assessment, I must point out that while MYSORE and the anti submarine frigates were sent out to the East Coast for anti submarine exercises with the British submarine Astute, VIKRANT was put into the dry dock for her normal but long overdue periodic maintenance, particularly the repairs to her flight deck machinery, malfunctioning of which would have endangered valuable lives of pilots and caused losses of aircraft. Another consideration in committing VIKRANT to her refit during this period was that the weather and visibility conditions during the monsoons do detract somewhat from the full operational value of such a ship. All ships from the East Coast were due back from the anti submarine exercises in early September 1965 and, after normal maintenance. would have been operational again by November 1965, by which time VIKRANT was also scheduled to get ready.
"As it happened, events forestalled our calculations. MYSORE and the first pair of frigates to complete their exercises with the submarine carried out such normal periodic maintenance as possible with the limited resources available at Visakhapatnam, and were deployed in the Andaman and Nicobar area from where, during the monsoon period, smaller patrol craft are withdrawn. This was in accordance with the normal operational programme of the ships and was necessary, as there had been reports of surface and submarine ( of unknown nationality ) activity in this area. It was virtually in the middle of this deployment and before the second group of ships exercising with the submarine had finished their periodic maintenance, that all these ships had to be deployed to the West Coast to cater for any Pakistan naval activity. Needless to say, therefore, the material state of the ships, so far as their propulsion systems were concerned, was by no means at the optimum, as it perhaps could have been had we foregone the anti submarine exercise. I have no doubt, however, that the anti submarine exercises carried out with the submarine ASTUTE stood our ships in very good stead.
"From intelligence available prior to the end of August, it was known that the Pakistan Fleet was in Karachi carrying out maintenance and various exercises throughout the months of July and August 1965, while ours was on the East Coast. Being away from their homeport, Bombay, our ships had to continue to do with very meagre maintenance and repair facilities and resources, which had yet to be developed on the East Coast.
"A warning on the worsening situation was sent to the FOCIF on 31 August, but it was not till the next day, 1 September 1965, that the Fleet ships were ordered to rush back to the West Coast, and operational directives to the Fleet and Commands were issued two days later."
Why Wasn't the Fleet Recalled to Bombay Earlier
Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh, the Chief of the Air Staff in 1965 recalls:
"Fairly early during August, General Chaudhuri and I went to Kashmir, we heard all the Commanders, we discussed the situation and felt that the Army would be able to handle the situation. One did not really think at that time that it could result into a bigger, full scale war, mainly because the Army was absolutely certain that this situation will not go out of hand. We thought that the Army, assisted by the Air Force purely in logistic operations, could tackle the situation. And I think it was managed very well, because the Army regained control over the situation. There was no danger of it becoming a bigger war."
Vice Admiral N P Datta, then a Commander serving in Naval Headquarters, recalls: (Blueprint to Bluewater Page 424)
"Around the middle of August, I had gone to the Naval Chief, with whom I had earlier served as the Fleet Operations Officer. I gave him my view that if the Fleet was to be recalled, it would take a week or longer for them to get back to the west coast, after which they would require another week or so to effect necessary repairs and maintenance before they could be operational.
"Admiral Soman said that this was the very point that he had made to the Chiefs of Staff Committee but had been overruled by the Army Chief, General Chaudhuri, as the Chairman of the Committee, who had said that if any alterations were made in the disposition of the Indian Fleet, if the ships were hurriedly recalled from Calcutta and sent back to Bombay, it would create a furore in the press and it would forewarn the Pakistani General Staff of the Indian Armed Forces' knowledge of their plans and hence their reaction would be severe."
This remark of Admiral Soman suggests that by mid August, General Chaudhuri had informed him of the Army's intentions to cross the cease fire line and of the need to avoid any action which might forewarn Pakistan.
As regards the ambiguity as to who was the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee in 1965 and the interaction between the Chief of Army Staff and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Shri PVR Rao, the Defence Secretary recalls:-
"The Chiefs of Staff committee is presided over by the longest serving service Chief and not by rank. In my time (1962 to 1966) it was first presided over by Air Marshal Engineer, then by Vice Admiral Soman and then by General Chaudhuri. In 1965 Vice Admiral Soman was its Chairman. The Chief of Army Staff was not the Chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee. In any event, the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee has no authority to over-rule any Chief of Staff. It is of course different if one Chief acceded to the view point of another".
In another interview, Admiral Soman stated that when the war began, he was the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee but as the Navy was not given any offensive role, he left the Chairmanship in favour of the Chief of the Army Staff, General Chaudhuri. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh recalls:-
"I do not remember and I do not think there was discussion amongst the Chiefs of Staff on the Navy's participation. I do not think so. Every time there was a discussion amongst the Chiefs of Staff, records were kept. And if you look at the records, I do not think you will find any record of discussions at all on this. I do know there was never any discussion by Admiral Soman with me whether the Navy should participate or not. The Navy is closer to the Air Force and if any operation has to be planned, it's got to be a joint operation. And there was not a single discussion between Gen Chaudhuri and Admiral Soman and myself on the participation of the Air Force in naval operations.
"Secondly somehow at that time everybody was talking about one thing, everybody at that time thought that the aircraft carrier was the main weapon against Karachi. They said that the Navy could not fight without the aircraft carrier actually participating and that the carrier was not available because it was being refitted. I have a feeling, without any positive proof, that there was not enough pressure from the Navy to participate. I think a lot depends on the Chief. A Chief can convince the Government to do certain things in war. The Government is very receptive during a war where the services are involved. I remember that everything I recommended was agreed to by Prime Minister Shastri, except our plan to attack the PAF around Dacca. That was probably wrong on my part even to suggest it. He was not in favour. He said "why extend the war"?
"So I think there was not enough pressure built up. Perhaps the Government was not convinced that the Navy was fully prepared to participate in the operations. And that impression might have been conveyed by the man concerned. On the Navy side, I really cannot say what happened because there appeared to be no adequate pressure to participate in the 1965 war.
"We used to meet for long periods in the Chiefs of Staff Committee and I remember that the Navy's participation was not discussed over there. Whether it was raised within the inner structure of the Navy or in the MOD is a different matter of which I would not know. I think the general impression was that there was no great keenness on the part of the Navy to go to war. That was the impression I had got, but I do not remember Admiral Soman or anybody else actually discussing with me that he would do this or that".
In an interview the FOCIF Rear Admiral Samson stated:
"A very important limitation in the tasks assigned to the Navy was that any conflict with Pakistan would not mean a total war involving all three services but to be limited only to action on the borders. I and my colleagues were aware of this, that this understanding between the two countries was to limit the extent of the war, to avoid civilian casualties as well as destruction of one anothers industries etc. So far as the Navy was concerned, this limitation was known to all, though never spelt out in writing".
From the foregoing, it emerges that:
(a) by end August, after the cease fire line had been crossed, Admiral Soman had reconciled to the Government's decision not to enlarge the scope of conflict beyond that required to restore the status quo in Kashmir, leaving the Navy with only a defensive role. The non availability of the aircraft carrier VIKRANT may have been supportive of a defensive mindset.
(b) In September, immediately after the Government asked the Chief of the Naval Staff to withdraw his signal to the Navy that India was at war with Pakistan, the Ministry of Defence sent the written directive to Naval Headquarters, not to operate in a threatening or offensive manner north of Porbandar and forbidding offensive action against Pakistan unless forced to so. This formalised the Navy's defensive role.
(c) The Fleet Commander was aware of the Governments reasons for constraining the Navy to defensive action.
Both in the press and within the Navy, there was criticism of the Navy for not going into action and doing something noteworthy, as had been done by the Air Force's successes in the air battles over Kashmir and by the Army's decimation of Pakistan's American supplied Patton tanks in the Punjab. Indeed, in response to a suggestion from Rear Admiral Nanda, then in Mazagon Docks (and later CNS in the 1971 war) that the Navy's non-participation was affecting the morale of officers and men and that the CNS should come and speak to them, Admiral Soman came to Bombay and told them "We all have to do what we are told to do". This did not assuage their frustration. Admiral Soman remained circumspect about the Government's directive that the Navy desist from offensive action.
After the 1965 operations, Admiral Soman , addressing the senior officers of the Navy, said: (Blueprint to Bluewater Pages 463 et seq)
"Notwithstanding our initial disadvantage of the location of the Fleet on the East Coast at the time of the commencement of the undeclared war, and the material limitations of the ships after three months of exercises away from base, the Fleet, with the help of the valiant efforts of the Dockyard, took the initiative to seek the enemy and bring him to battle. Although this was not achieved, I am sure it had placed itself in a position to contain the enemy in his waters if he had ventured out, which I know was all that was expected of the Fleet.
"It is indeed a great pity that the role assigned to the Navy was mainly a defensive one. History has proved over and over again that at sea, more than perhaps on land and in the air, offense is the best form of defence. In the days of old, when there was no wireless communication, Nelsons could put their telescopes to their blind eyes and get away with it as heroes on top of their respective columns. It indeed took courage to put the telescope to the blind eye and win laurels. But it takes equal, if not greater, courage (perhaps of a different kind) to play the tethered role and curb the offensive spirit of a fighting force in the greater national interest as claimed by the authorities.
"The implications of a war at sea did not seem to have been fully understood in the Government agencies at many levels, but when some of these agencies talked glibly of blockade, contraband control, seizing enemy merchant ships and attacking enemy warships at sea and their ports without a proper formal declaration of war, one wondered whether they realised that any such action on the high seas without the declaration of war was liable to be branded as piracy, especially if any neutral ships became involved.
"The need for a `rethink' on the question of the operation and control of maritime reconnaissance has also become apparent. Intelligence is vital for the Navy in planning its operations and executing them. While the Air Force, with their meagre resources and preoccupations with other commitments, valiantly tried to give the limited cover agreed upon, it was disconcerting to comprehend the fact that of the 13.5 lakh square miles of coverage required for the operations undertaken by the Fleet, a bare one lakh square miles could actually be covered. This too was achieved in 24 sorties of 188 hours by the IAF with its Liberators and Super Constellations, augmented by 60 sorties of 160 flying hours of the Alizes. This meant that the Fleet ships' endurance, limited as it was due to the lack of a replenishment tanker, had to be devoted to searching for enemy ships, hoping for a chance contact, which was a terrible waste, quite apart from its ineffectiveness, particularly with our meagre resources."
As can be seen from the foregoing reconstruction of events, the Navy went beyond the constraints imposed by the Government. Although instructions had been received not to seek action at sea outside our territorial waters, all ships were directed to hunt and destroy submarines whenever and wherever they were detected. The Seahawk aircraft of the Navy, which coincidentally arrived in Jamnagar on 1 September for its annual armament work up, were specifically tasked to put out of action, the high-power radar installation at Badin in Pakistan, which is only 135 nautical miles away from Jamnagar. Events precluded this operation but the offensive spirit was there. The Indian Fleet, despite the restriction of not operating north of Porbandar, had no hesitation in planning the first sweep with Alizes searching well north of Porbandar in the hope that contact would be made with the Pakistan Flotilla. When this did not happen, FOCIF had no hesitation on subsequent nights of proceeding northwards whenever he thought he might catch the enemy.
Given the Government's determination to limit the scope of the conflict as much as possible (and the resultant restrictions of `no offensive operations' and `do not proceed north of Porbandar'), given the Chief of Army Staff's desire of not giving Pakistan any inkling of the Army's plans (not agreeing to the Fleet being brought back to Bombay earlier) and given the ambiguities that arise when there is no formal declaration of war (trade warfare and contraband control when neutral ships get involved), it is difficult to see what more the Navy could have done.
That the Government was aware of the Navy's frustration at having been restricted to defensive operations can be discerned from the letter written to the Navy by Shri Y.B. Chavan, the then Defence Minister:-
"I greatly appreciated the silent but efficient role which the Navy played in the defence of the country. The Navy protected islands which were vital to our security, guarded our ports and the long Indian coast-line. All merchant ships destined for our ports reached safely and our international trade was not permitted to be interfered with by the Pakistan Navy. I take this opportunity to emphasise again that the Navy has done and achieved all that the Government desired of it, within the bounds and compass allotted to it".
Within the Navy, there were two distinct reactions. One was to decry the Pakistan Navy's raid on Dwarka. The other was a determination not to be humiliated again.
In the prologue to his book, 'We Dared", Admiral SN Kohli states:
"During the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, the main task force of the Pakistan Navy, including the cruiser BABUR, sneaked out of Karachi harbour in the dead of night and made its way to holy Dwarka which it proceeded to bombard. The bombardment lasted half an hour or so. PNS BABUR fired several six-inch shells and then the Pakistani ships withdrew to the safety of their heavily defended harbour of Karachi well before the Indian Navy could intercept or even contact them. It is obvious that a sneak raid of this type can be undertaken by any force anywhere, to convey an impression to their Government and their countrymen that they are supreme and unchallenged on the seas and that the enemy territory is at their mercy. The Pakistani naval raid on Dwarka left the officers and men of the Indian Navy infuriated and somewhat humiliated. This was particularly true of the senior echelons of our Navy on whom devolved the responsibility for the maritime defence of India. I was then the Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (now Vice Chief of Naval Staff) and I vowed to myself that if ever there was another round involving naval forces and I was in any kind of position of responsibility, I would go to the farthest extremes to teach the enemy a lesson and to avenge this dastardly act. This opportunity was to come in 1971 when I was Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Western Naval Command in Bombay.
"In 1965, the Indian Navy had gone to war with their hands tied behind their backs and all but immobilised. A Government instruction under the signature of a Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defence, laid down that the Indian Navy was not to proceed more than 200 miles beyond Bombay nor north of the parallel of Porbandar. This meant a fettering of the Navy's mobility.
The Joint Secretary's communication was given to the then CNS, Admiral BS Soman. When he told me about it, I was naturally most upset and told my Chief that if I were in his position, I would protest vehemently; for the Government decision and its import and implementation would have a most demoralising effect on the Navy as a whole.
"Admiral Soman, on being asked by me recently, gave his version of what transpired then, in his characteristic forthright manner. Here it is in his own words:
"As far as I remember, it was the morning after the start of the war that I got a file from the Ministry signed by the Joint Secretary, saying that the Navy is not to operate above the latitude of Porbandar except in pursuit of any Pak Navy offensive action. I immediately contacted the Minister, Mr YB Chavan, and asked to see him; at our meeting I strongly protested against this order and said in any case I cannot accept it from a Joint Secretary in the Ministry. If I remember correctly, Mr Chavan initialed the directive and asked me if that would do. I replied that in that case I would like to see the Prime Minister.
"Arrangements were made for me to see the Prime Minister, Shastriji, the next morning, and I had about twenty minutes with him. On his assurance that it was a Cabinet decision - I am not sure whether he too initialed the file - I accepted it on the understanding that should I consider it necessary, I may be allowed to see the President of India, as the Commander-in-Chief".
"It was often derisively asked by civilians and officers of the other two services why our Navy could not do anything in retaliation against the raid on Dwarka. The question was asked even by those who knew that our coast is such that a sneak raid on a remote part of it is possible. But it is not surprising that our reputation plummeted; more so because our aircraft carrier VIKRANT was in dry dock undergoing routine maintenance: it was openly called a 'white elephant'. Many rude remarks were made about our smart uniforms, foreign jaunts, and the proverbial girl in every port, all amounting to a 'big cipher when it came to fighting'. Few knew that all this obloquy was brought on the Navy by a dictat of our own Government.
"It was difficult for the Navy to understand the reason for such an order. Maybe it was to limit the scope of the 1965 operation against Pakistan, maybe the Government thought that our old ships might not be able to make a good showing. The Pakistan Fleet then consisted of ships of much the same vintage as ours - or perhaps just a little newer.The reason will no doubt come out when the official history of the 1965 and 1971 wars is published". In his memoirs of the 1971 war, 'No Way But Surrender', Vice Admiral Krishnan states:
"I thought of the previous round of aggression by Pakistan, the 1965 war, in which, much to everyone's disgust and consternation, the Navy played little or no part. I remember the hurt and humiliation one felt over the fact that even a Pakistani frontal attack on one of our ports had not brought forth any retribution. (Reference is to the successful but futile attack by units of the Pakistan fleet on Dwarka on the Saurashtra coast.)"
The discerning reader will have sensed that there remain some points which are serious enough to require a final effort at clarification. The above account was forwarded to Mr PVR Rao who was the Defence Secretary in 1965. His clarifications are given below:
(a) Was there a written directive from the Government/ Ministry of Defence to the CNS not to take offensive action?
Mr Rao states:
"There is no dispute that the Government directed, as a matter of policy, the Navy not to play any role in the 1965 conflict. Whether there was a written directive from the De-fence Ministry, as claimed by the CNS, can only be checked from the NHQ records. The least one can do is to publish an extract from the NHQ records from the alleged written order of the Defence Ministry".
In the records presently available, no such written directive has yet been located.
(b) Was the Government right in deciding to localise the conflict?
Mr Rao states:
"This was the Government of India's limited objective and it was achieved. Whether the Government should have embarked on a wider operation can be debated, but it was not the Prime Minister's idea".
(c) After the Kutch incident, did the Chief of the Army Staff inform the Ministry of Defence of his assessment that Pakistan would attempt to seize Kashmir later in the year?
Mr Rao states:
"After the Kutch cease fire, none in the Government expected trouble until it erupted on 4th August".
(d) Had the Chief of Army Staff received the Government's approval in principle for the Army to counterattack in a place of its choice if Pakistan attacked in Kashmir?
Mr Rao states:
"Rather the Government pressed the Army to attack. The Chief of the Army Staff wanted all the three services to participate. In my opinion, he was never serious about this but was trying this gambit to support his inaction".
In this connection, Mr Pradhan's memoirs state: (Pages 265 et seq)
"(On 4 September) The situation was getting desperate. The loss of Akhnur would be a major disaster and Chavan decided to go ahead with an operation that had been planned after the Rann of Kutch incident. On 20 April Shastri had declared before Parliament "If Pakistan continues to disregard reason and persists in its aggressive activities, our Army will defend the country and decide its own strategy and employment of its manpower and equipment in the manner it deems best." General Chaudhuri, with the approval of the Defence Minister, had worked out a plan code-named, `Riddle' to launch an offensive action to secure the eastern bank of the Ichhogil Canal. It was felt that the mere presence of the Indian troops on the canal opposite Lahore would draw Pakistani forces from Sialkot and other areas and thus reduce its offensive capabilities in other sectors. Moreover, if India could establish a bridgehead over the canal, the Pakistan army would be forced to fight there and that would lead to the attrition of her smaller army. By basing the defence line along the canal, India would confine the war to Pakistani territory in addition to acquiring a large chunk of Pakistani territory. Operation `Riddle' was planned to meet an eventuality like the one the Indian's were facing on 4 September".
Finally Shri Rao states:
"Notwithstanding Government's directive in the Defence Minister's morning meetings to the CNS about his role thereafter, he seems to have embarked on certain actions on his own. The account speaks for itself. The Fleet was in a poor state. This was not the Navy's fault. It had got only measly funds. Whatever resources Government could spare for defence was given in 1962 - 1965 to the Army and the Air Force. Going by the account of the 1965 war as written above, I would consider the decision of the Government to restrict the Navy to a low key was fully justified!"
In hindsight, three points of the 1965 war bear noting:
The first was the determination of the Governments of both India and Pakistan not to escalate the conflict.
(a) Mr PVR Rao, the Defence Secretary in 1965 has stated that it was the determined policy of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and the Indian Government not to allow operations to escalate. There were no Army or Navy operations against East Pakistan.
The IAF attack on Lalmanirhat was the result of a communication gap of Air HQ not informing the Air Station in time. The IAF did not retaliate against the PAF's subsequent attacks on Kalaikonda on 7 September on Bagdogra on 10 September and on Barrackpore and Agartala on 14 September.
In the Arabian Sea, GHAZI did not attack merchant shipping nor did the Indian Navy seize Pakistani merchant shipping on the high seas.
(b) In his book, "The First Round" Air Marshal Asghar Khan has stated:
- "President Ayub Khan said that since East Pakistan had not been attacked, it would be better not to launch strikes against enemy airfields in that area. He felt that considering our difficulties there, it was not in our interest to start hostilities on the Eastern front.
- "Our Navy was keen to intercept on the high seas the merchant ships taking supplies to India but was stopped from doing so by our Foreign Office for fear of international opinion. However within East Pakistan Admiral Ahsan, then Chairman of the Inland Water Transport Authority in East Pakistan, in a lightning action captured the entire fleet of more than one hundred Indian coastal shipping vessels along with their valuable cargo."
The second point is the maritime recce capability of the Pakistan Navy. In view of Pakistan's reluctance to escalate naval conflict, the approaches to Karachi seem to have been well covered. The Pakistan Air Force's No 4 Squadron comprised American supplied SA 16 Albatross aircraft. The History of the Pakistan Air Force states:
"The SA 16's of No 4 Squadron were given the maritime role of detecting and reporting the movement of ships, particularly the enemy aircraft carrier VIKRANT. Within the first 14 days, SA 16's flew 72 hours with only two qualified operational pilots. The total operational flying during the month was 98:35 hours, the maximum flying during any single month. Hundred percent serviceability of both the SA 16 and helicopters was maintained throughout the month."
The third point is that the raid on Dwarka seems more to have been a reaction to India's crossing the Indo Pakistan border on 6 September, than a preplanned action to provoke the Indian Fleet to join battle. The post war rhetoric in Pakistani (and Indian) literature that the Indian Fleet was bottled up for fear of the GHAZI is the result of widespread ignorance of the decisions of both Governments to minimize the scope of conflict.
Several lessons were learnt from the 1965 operations. Foremost was the need for a fleet tanker which would increase the sea-keeping endurance of Fleet ships and the urgent need for more ships to have one Fleet each in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. If the Pakistan Navy had deployed one or two of their destroyers to operate from Chittagong in East Pakistan and raided our ports and sea lanes in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Fleet would not have had enough ships to cope with this contingency. These and many other important requirements were taken in hand from 1966 onwards like augmenting the naval maintenance and repair facilities and depots at selected bases and reorganising the command and administrative structure in the light of the 1965 war. These were to stand the Navy in good stead in the 1971 war.
1965 War: The role of the Indian Navy