Written by Md Tamim Chowdhury
The success Pakistan got in operation Desert Hawk in April 1965 made them enthusiastic. President Ayub Khan approved an operation to strengthen Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir code named Operation Gibraltar. In August 1965, under the cover of Kashmiri Mujahidin and civilian, twenty six thousand Pakistani soldiers intruded Kashmir to initiate an armed uprising. Their objective was to capture Kashmir but many of them were arrested... ...
Tension between India and Pakistan became extreme. A delegation of United Nations Military Observer Group led by General Robert Harold Nimmo reached Kashmir to review the situations there. The Indian army chief General JN Choudhuri presented all the evidences of Pakistani activities before them. Weapons recovered from the intruders was clearly indicating Pakistan’s involvement behind those activities inside India.
At first the Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri wanted to avoid any war with Pakistan but soon he realized that Pakistan is breaching its extent. Being hurt due to military activities by Pakistan, he announced that now the war would be taken to the Pakistan’s premises. The war was not declared yet but fighting was started in the borders.
In August 18th 1965, General Choudhuri ordered his troops to be prepared for an attack in Haji Pir Pass. In the midnight of August 26th 1965, the Indian troops launched operation Bakshi, a massive attack in Pakistan controlled Kashmir. Their objective was to capture Haji Pir Pass in Pir Panjal Ranges by August 27th, the main entrance to Kashmir and strategically and politically significant for India.
Pakistani troops were barricaded that place. Brigadier ZA Bakshi’s 68th Infantry Brigade was given the responsibilities to capture Haji Pir. 1 Para of Parachute Regiment played significant roles in this operation. 1 Para was given the task to capture Sank adjacent to Haji Pir. Major Ranjit Singh Dayal was commanding the team. Being a senior officer initially he was not a part of this team but he volunteered to command the team. Major Dayal made a plan to initiate a covert attack on Pakistani troops. His soldiers climbed hills in the bitter cold after nightfall. They had full Artillery support for this operation. Next evening by 6 O’clock 1 Para captured Pakistani outpost in Sank. Their mission became successful but Major Dayal wanted to continue. He was confident that he could capture Haji Pir from Pakistani troops. When he asked for permission to go ahead, Brigade Headquarter granted him with permission to continue. In their first try they had to face heavy firing so, Maj Dayal decided to advance in an alternative way. This way they had to climb 4,000 feet of steep slope and under cover of darkness they had to reach the peak before sunrise without proper climbing equipment. Major Dayal and his soldiers initiated a sudden attack on Pakistani troops there and by August 28th 10 O’clock in the morning they captured Haji Pir. Pakistani troops launched a counter attack next day but again 1 Para successfully forced them to step back. In their presence Haji Pir remained under Indian capture. For his bravery and accomplishment of mission beyond his duty in Sank and Haji Pir Major Ranjit Singh Dayal awarded Maha Vir Chakra, the second highest military award in India.
In one hand India was suffering from troubles in its borders, on the other hand its economic condition was getting worse. Shastri was facing resistance inside his country. In August 1965, vote of no-confidence was raised against his government. After a three day debate in the parliament the vote of no-confidence was dropped. Dropping of the vote of no-confidence in the parliament and success of the Indian troops in the battle of Haji Pir made Shastri’s enthusiasm stronger. In August 31st 1965, the Indian defense minister of that period Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan informed the parliament about the success of their troops. Operation Gibralter could not even stand before the bravery of the Indian troops.
A war was inevitable. Losing the battle of Haji Pir made Pakistan nervous. Soon Ayub Khan, Lieutenant General Akhter Hussain Malik and General Musa was planning for a new conspiracy against India. Pakistan was now preparing for Operation Grand Slam. According to their plan they had to capture border town Akhnoor and then Amritsar. Capturing Akhnoor would give Pakistan two privileges. First, the Indian 25th Division located in Poonch would cut off. Second, Pakistan could easily threaten Jammu from that convenient position. Due to a change in the command of Operation Grand Slam Pakistan could not succeed to capture Akhnoor. At the last moment, Pakistan replaced Lieutenant General Malik with Major General Yahya Khan. So, they had to delay the attack for one day and by then the Indian troops got prepared to face it.
At that time both the countries had same number of tanks but Pakistan had American made modern M-48 Patton tanks. Those tanks were superior than Britain made Centurion tanks on which India was dependent for ground attacks. For air attack Pakistan had F-86 Sabre Jets. Some of them were armed with air to air missiles. To fight the superior fighters of Pakistan, India had to depend on their Gnats, Vampires and above all on their pilots’ expertise.
In September 1st 1965, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam. They advanced through Chamb. With the help of artillery they launched a massive attack to the Indian positions there. Immediately Shastri called for emergency committee meeting. General Choudhury and the Indian air force chief Air Marshal Arjun Singh attended the meeting. In that meeting Shastri approved the proposal to provide air support to the ground troops. The great challenge to the Indian troops were to futile Pakistani attack. India fortified Akhnoor before Pakistani attack. Here in counter attack Indian Air Force played significant roles. After approval by the Prime Minister, the Indian air force began bombarding Pakistani troops in Chamb. They deployed their Vampire aircrafts to force back Pakistani ground troops. They destroyed 10 Pakistani Pattons in their first day.
In September 2nd 1965, Shastri called for emergency committee meeting again. There in that meeting majority supported Shastri’s proposal to attack inside Pakistan, the proposal was approved in consensus next day. The Indian troops were approved to launch an attack inside Pakistan in September 3rd 1965. The same day, Shastri called the nation through radio to stay prepared for a long term war.