As a consequence of the Pakistani attack in Chhamb on September 1, 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri accepted the advice of army chief General JN Chaudhri to launch a counter offensive towards Lahore and Kasur. A threat to the Pakistani core area and the country's social and cultural capital, it was hoped, would force the enemy to pull out troops then seriously menacing Indian communications in Jammu and Kashmir. Advancing to the BRB Canal would also enable us to use it as a reverse defence, thereby protecting our own territory from the expected Pakistani riposte. The launch of that offensive, 50 years ago today (September 6), allowed us to forever shed our millennium-old culture of passivity. It's significance cannot be underestimated.
15 Division's advance along the GT Road towards Lahore produced mixed results. Its leading battalion, 3 Jat crossed the BRB Canal in a brilliant dash but couldn't be supported and was ordered back. On the last day of the war, the battalion regained lost ground. 7 Division moving on the other approach to Lahore along the Khalra-Burki axis spent three days searching out largely imaginary enemy stay behind parties and closed up to the BRB Canal on the 10th after a stiff fight at Barki. 4 Mountain Division lost all the objectives it gained on the road to Kasur on the opening day and made a tactical withdrawal into our territory. However, it made a spirited comeback on the 9th and 10th, holding the enemy's counter offensive and with 2 Armoured Brigade under command destroying the bulk of enemy armour in the sector.
OROP situation report
Last Sunday's rally in Chandigarh's Sector 17 Plaza organised by Jaspreet Cheema, wife of Colonel Gurpreet Cheema, and Vikramjit Bajwa, a released short service officer, brought out 2,000 veterans, their wives, children and supporters to express their solidarity with ex-servicemen agitating for 'one rank, one pension' (OROP). Nonagenarians like Air Marshal Randhir Singh, VrC, and AVM GS Punia were there along with war widows to voice support for the demand. Many ordinary citizens alerted by social media came to the meeting. Their take: "We're here because the country cannot afford to denigrate its strongest and most viable institution." There's been a measure of success in the demand for OROP. Veterans will need the continued support of such citizens in their future battles.
Asal Uttar Warrior
The strikingly handsome Major Narinder Sandhu exemplified the warriors who stopped the dangerous Pakistani thrust at Asal Uttar and made the battlefield glow with burning Pattons. The Jat squadron of 3rd Cavalry in which he commanded was moved from corps reserve to deal with the enemy. Sandhu gathered his men for a pep talk telling them: "We're now fighting in our own fields. Retreat is not an option. We either emerge victorious or die fighting." His men responded with a mighty war cry and set about their task in deadly earnest. The regiment held the right of the Indian defensive position with its Centurion tanks. Tall sugarcane provided cover for them to pulverise Pakistani armour with their superior gunnery. Despite taking a heavy toll on enemy tanks, Sandhu was only mentioned in despatches. However, the 1971 War saw him being awarded the Maha Vir Chakra for his successful attack while in command of 10 Dogra that cleared the threat to Dera Baba Nanak. He retired as a brigadier.
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