It was in December 1964 that I joined general officer commanding-in-chief of the Western Command, Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, as his aide-de-camp (ADC). I had the opportunity of seeing the 1965 war from the uppermost level of command throughout the war, right from the time of Operation Gibraltar through which Pakistan had tried to infiltrate into Kashmir.
After the Pakistani troops were checkmated by us and Operation Gibraltar failed, they invaded Punjab and captured the town of Khemkaran.
We were getting reports of troop mobilisation by Pakistan from everywhere. The Pakistani division was believed to be in a three-pronged attack: One column was heading towards south of Amritsar, one towards Jandiala and another towards Beas. It was 3.30am on September 9 when I heard the phone ring. I was told by my general (Harbakhsh Singh) to let him get some sleep as we had returned late from Khemkaran.
I asked who was calling and it was then Chief of Army Staff Gen JN Chaudhury who asked me to wake Lt Gen Singh up. I shook the general from his sleep. Chaudhury asked him to withdraw Indian troops in Punjab to which Lt Gen Singh replied: “You cannot just give orders without seeing the situation on the battlefront and I cannot execute them. I am tired and going to sleep.”
The next day, I accompanied Lt Gen Singh to Ambala army airport for the chief’s visit. Chaudhury was loud and excited but he did not defend his order of the previous night because by then the battle in Asal Uttar had stabilised and the situation was under control.
If we had a weak general at that time, the morale of Indian forces would have been hit, and Punjab lost.