“Not all regiments perform well in a war. But the accounts of the Indian Army on the 1965 war glorify them all.
The army has culled the details from war dispatches and narratives sent by different regiments and some have padded them by cooking up stories. The war accounts do not say where we did badly,” says Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Captain Amarinder Singh ahead of the launch of his new book, The Monsoon War, in New Delhi on September 20.
“History cannot be distorted. We have to tell the truth. My book tries to put the record straight,” the scion of the erstwhile Patiala royal family told Hindustan Times on Friday.
Amarinder, who was in the Sikh Regiment and aide-de-camp (ADC) to the general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C), Western Command, Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, during the 1965 war, says his own regiment’s details are “glorified”. “I have penned down a no-holds-barred book on the war as a lot many stories haven’t emerged, some of those which have emerged are not true to facts,” he said. An avid military historian, Amarinder has previously authored books on the Anglo-Sikh wars, World War 1 and the Kargil war of 1999.
Co-authored by Lt Gen Tajindar Shergill (retd)who, as troop leader with Deccan Horse was taken prisoner of war after a forlorn tank attack, the latest book has taken into account versions from Pakistani sources for giving a more “factually correct” picture.
“For instance, in the Sialkot sector, Pakistan claimed that only 62 tanks were destroyed by India’s 1 Armoured Division, which puts it at 162 tanks. Only two regiments, 10 and 11 Cavalry of Pakistan, accounted for 88 tanks. Likewise, Pakistani sources have admitted to losing over 50 tanks in Khemkaran, however, 97 were counted gathered in Patton Nagar after the war in army accounts. Unlike in India, where secrecy issues prevented regiments from writing on the war, they were free to do so in Pakistan,” Shergill said.
While some regiments were “glorified”, the book says some real victories did not get their due. “Following the defeat of Pakistani 1 Armoured Division at Khemkaran on September 10, it was a strategic blunder not to shift additional armoured forces to the Rachna Doab, where a major victory had been won at Phillora on September 11 by India’s 1 Armoured Division, in the heartland of Pakistani northern Punjab. But this victory was not reinforced,” the book says.
TESTAMENT TO LEADERSHIP OF LT GEN HARBAKHSH SINGH
The book is also a testament to the leadership of Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh. It claims that over the course of the war, Harbakhsh had even implemented an effective solution to the Kashmir territorial dispute. “However, over the course of peace talks between then Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and President Ayub Khan of Pakistan, many of Harbakhsh Singh’s tactical solutions were waylaid - which is perhaps one of the many reasons why the Kashmir dispute still has the potential to sour the relationship between the two great nations,” it adds.
Chronicling the war as two young officers who saw it from the line of fire, Amarinder and Shergill say they have relied on their own notes and personal diaries, seminars and interviews with colleagues in different regiments at that time.
Though most war historians say the 1965 war was indecisive while conceding some strategic gains to India, the book says in terms of war objectives set out by Shastri at a meeting with the three chiefs of defence forces at that time, India certainly won the war.
“A curious war objective of India was to occupy minimum territory that would be returned to Pakistan after hostilities. The other two were to give a fitting reply to make Pakistan realise that Jammu and Kashmir could never be taken by force and destruction of the offensive power of Pakistan. And India did achieve these three,” Shergill says.
All royalties from the sales of this book will go to the war widows and orphans of Deccan Horse and 2 Sikh.
IN THE BOOK:
“Learning on 10 September evening that Pakistan 1 Armoured Division was attacking Khemkaran to cut the GT Road at Beas Bridge, the army chief called army commander Harbakhsh Singh at 0300 hours on 11 September and asked him to withdraw forces to the line of the Beas River. Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh refused, saying that either a written order be given, or that the Army Chief - Gen JN Chaudhuri - come to the field and give an executive order. This was unusual and an example of the General’s firm resolve.”