By Raju Mansukhani
Right after the address of the United Nation Secretary-General U Thant at the Security Council on September 17, 1965, it was M C Chagla, India’s Education Minister, who delivered a hard-hitting speech. “It is time to call a spade a spade. The basic question is who is the aggressor,” he said. “The Security Council should first define who was the aggressor in the present conflict between India and Pakistan,” reported National Herald (Lucknow edition, dated September 18, 1965).
His speech made headlines in the Indian media and across the world when he declared “Kashmir is the symptom not the cause” at the global forum.
Before he became the External Affairs Minister, M C Chagla, a distinguished jurist, was India’s Education Minister in Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s Cabinet. He informed the Security Council that reports from the UN observer force in Kashmir clearly indicated that armed infiltrators had crossed the border from Pakistan into India on August 5. Adding, “It is your duty to condemn this aggression. Otherwise, international law has no meaning.”
These were strong words used by the Minister at such an august setting.
“India was peaceful the particular conflict which was going on was a conflict not of our making,” he said. “If we have to resist Pakistani aggression with arms, it is purely for self-defence war is opposed to our philosophy.”
Earlier U Thant proposed that the Security Council issue a binding order for a cease-fire between India and Pakistan and that it request heads of the two Governments to hold peace talks in a third country.
Chagla countered the Thant proposals, asking: ” Why the two countries? This is a constant attempt at bracketing India and Pakistan together putting them on the same footing. The Council should under article 30 declare that Pakistan is an aggressor it should make it impossible for such a thing should happen again, that Pakistan should promise not to repeat aggression.”
Using his brilliant oratorial skills and legal knowledge, Chagla laid bare the Pakistani designs, “in sending armed men into Kashmir, Pakistan thought there would be an uprising and Kashmir would fall like a ripe plum. But all the Kashmiris stood firm and handed over the infiltrators to the security forces and this grand design of Pakistan failed. Having failed in that Pakistan started an invasion in force with her regular army in the Chhamb sector that sector contains our lifeline.”
Chagla accused Pakistan of seeking to provoke a religious war. He said India had 50 million Muslims with all the fundamental rights. “India is a secular state but Pakistan does not like it, because she is a theocratic state.”
China’s Pressure: Back in New Delhi, Prime Minister Shastri declared in the Parliament, packed with members, “If in spite of our peaceful approach China attacked India, we shall fight for our freedom with grim determination.” His words were greeted with thunderous and prolonged cheers, “The might of China will not deter us from defending our territorial integrity.”
China, during the tumultuous months from July through September 1965, was exerting diplomatic and military pressure on India in the eastern border. It staked claims to vast areas of Indian territory in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the border; demanding that India should demolish military structures within three days or face ‘grave consequences’.
Shastri said although the Chinese proposal for joint inspection of the China-Sikkim border was unreasonable, the Government was accepting it “as an earnest of our desire to give no ground to the Chinese for making this a pretext for aggressive action.”
In Lucknow, it was Atal Behari Vajpayee in a mammoth rally urging the people to ‘fight the enemy on all fronts’. “Pakistan is at present under the hand of mad dictators who have landed their country in great peril.” In a short inspiring speech, he asked all political parties to end all dissensions and to rally round the Congress Party which “was the biggest organization fighting for the greatest ideals at the moment.”
Leaders like NG Ranga of the Swatantra group described the PM’s statement as worthy and inspiring. “The PM had presented India’s case to the UN and the world in a worthy manner,” he said.
Both Dr Rammanohar Lohia and Acharya Kripalani congratulated the PM, saluted the armed forces but reminded the Parliament that “this was not a war between one country and another but a kind of civil war, a fight between two brothers, one of whom was ruled by the forces of evil and oppression,” reported National Herald(Lucknow edition, dated 17 September 1965).
Almost two decades after the Partition, leaders like Dr Lohia and Acharya Kripalani were steeped in their Gandhian ethos of brotherhood and were not referring to Pakistan as the ‘enemy’.
Fierce Fighting: On the war front, heavy fighting was being reported in the Sialkot sector during 16th to 18th September 1965. “Our forces have pushed the enemy west of the Sialkot-Chawinda railway line, thereby blocking traffic on the Pasrur-Sialkot loop line. A large quantity of ammunition left behind by the Pakistanis had been captured in the vicinity of Chawinda, 60 miles west of Lahore and roughly midway between Sialkot and Pasrur,” the media reported.
Indian troops put out of action by ground fire a total of 29 tanks in the battle which raged on September 16th. In addition, four tanks were captured intact. Out of the 29 tanks destroyed, fourteen were knocked out in two and a half minutes in a sudden surprise attack by Indian forces. In support of our group troops, Indian Air Force Mysteres carried out air strikes over Pasrur.
All our aircraft returned safely to base as no enemy aircraft was noticed over Pasrur. In the Lahore sector our aircraft carried out a number of sorties…they destroyed a large number of enemy vehicles besides blowing up bridges over the Ichhogil canal, the inner defence line of Lahore City, reported UNI.
In The Monsoon War 1965 India-Pakistan War, authored by Amarinder Singh and Lt. Gen. Tajindar Shergill, PVSM, we are plunged into a battle zone of Operation Riddle, the XI Corps attack in Pakistani Punjab. XI Corps was under the command of Lt. Gen. JS Dhillon. His 3 Divisions were tasked to advance across the international border to the Ichhogil Canal line. The distinguished authors share an episode:
“The 15 Dogra Company, led by Major Pandit, which had been accompanying the Jats, had earlier achieved complete surprise and caught the Pakistani Rangers unawares at the check-post. A quick sweep by the company had then cleared the area between Wagha and Gosal Dial a last-ditch resistance by the Pakistan Rangers at the Wagha customs building. It was in this building that a portly Major was found fast asleep with his two wives.
He awoke to find a menacing-looking Dogra, with his blackened camouflaged face looking down at him grimly, his bayonet inches from his face. The Dogras left the ladies to fend for themselves and marched the Major off to captivity in his pyjamas! Having cleared the customs building, they linked up with Major Pandit’s Company at Dial by 0630 hours.”
Writing for Life magazine, its war correspondent George de Carvalho said in an interview to AIR, “The Indian Army is one of the world’s crack armies. It is characterized by its excellent outfit, dedicated skill and discipline. The jawans are full of courage, the officers are of the highest quality,” he said after a visit to the Chhamb sector. “I was especially impressed with a brigade major whom I met in an infantry brigade which has been in continuous action since September 2 often with shells and mortars and bullets going within feet of him he was as debonair as though he was on parade, completely cool and calm”
Datelined ‘WITH FORWARD TROOPS IN SIALKOT, Sept 16: Napalm bombs, considered inhuman in international conventions in war, have been dropped on civilian vehicles on highways by Pakistani aircraft, it was confirmed here today. The bomb-shells carry the marking ‘Property United States Air Force, United States Government Order No. NY-129, Lot numbers: 28-41’. The markings show the weight of the bomb…the shell itself is light, the highly incendiary material which melts metals and at a range of 100 metres turns human beings into ash.” – National Herald.
The author is a researcher-writer specializing in history and heritage issues, and a former deputy curator of the PradhanmantriSangrahalaya. Views expressed are personal.
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