ASIAINTL CONFLICTSOPINION

Got a reason to celebrate Defense Day?

By Maimuna Ashraf

As the Defense Day is approaching, many outrageous accounts are appearing, struggling to reveal a novel version that has not been presented before. Since 1965, a lot number of contradictory narratives have been told about the war, which baffles an ordinary individual to decide about the rational or prejudiced version of the war tale. The reason is that all of us have been taught and told the splendid victory and outstanding performance of Pakistan in the war. But on the other hand, many skeptics call it an exaggerated tale and declare that it was actually a pinprick to arouse the slumber. According to various dynamic views, it is pragmatically accepted that both states declaring an absolute victory is beyond the reality. The culmination of that war did not take place after establishing a one-sided victory; rather it was a cease fire.

Recently, the most widespread perspective in many of the writings of our nationwide newspaper is that the 1965 war was not a good idea which initiated with Pakistani operation Gibraltar by sending radicalized civilians into the India-held Kashmir by Pakistan to foment revolution, about which the forces (other than few) were not even informed about. These perspectives are based upon various references from history; one is take from the famous memoirs of Air Marshal Nur Khan which includes his conversation with Gen. Akhtar Hasan Malik, GOC Kashmir, the man in-charge of ‘Operation Gibraltar’. It quotes that in a discussion about the further details of operation, Gen Malik said “don’t worry, because the plan to send in some 800,000 infiltrators inside the occupied territory to throw out the Indian troops with the help of the local population, is so designed that the Indians would not be able retaliate and therefore the airforce need not get into war-time mode.” This according to Nur Khan, was so naïve and irresponsible because the operation was designed for self-gory than in the national interest. Moreover, as we were not expecting the war thus we were not ready for the war and this is how he called it an unnecessary war.

Another, the most recent narration published, quotes the words of Lt. Gen. (retd) Mahmud Ahmed, “It was only after listening to an All India Radio broadcast in the evening of 4 September that the Pakistan C-in-C, Gen Muhammad Musa, reached the conclusion that Indian intentions were hostile. Then too the GHQ sent a rather ambiguous signal message to the formations. Apart from the sheer number of tanks involved, it is well worth asking if the armored battles were really great by any standard? The fact is both sides lacked skill in handling armor at the operation level.”

Notwithstanding, what has been said by many, few comprehension are absolute that Pakistan started it in Kashmir and India tried to end it by attacking in south, with an intention and plan to capture Lahore in a day but failed. Both states, India and Pakistan captured each other’s territories, although India definitely had superior numbers, especially the airforce. However, both sides suffered heavy losses. India’s damage near Sialkot and Pakistan’s near Amritsar is predominant.

So do the above revelations suggest that 1965 is about solemn commemoration and there is nothing significant to celebrate? Is it the complete perspective which merely recalls vital lessons for Pakistan so all the ardor for the day should be abhorred?

If it is so then why the BJP led government of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to celebrate the golden jubilee of 1965 war, an occasion Pakistan celebrates every year on September 6 as Defense Day. This is the first time that India has decided to celebrate September as ‘victory month’ in order to give an impression to the world that 1965 war was actually won by them. Albeit, eyebrows have been raised over these celebrations in India too because even the defense ministry’s official war history describes its end as a stalemate. Paradoxically, recently the highest ranking Indian Air Force officer, Air Marshal (retd) Bharat Kumar stated in his book that India suffered much as compared to Pakistan in the war of 1965. He admitted Indian defeat in the war of 1965 in book, titled “The Duels of the Himalayan Eagle: The First Indo-Pak Air War” and acknowledged that Indian Air Force (IAF) “suffered disproportionately higher losses” than PAF. The book also takes a candid look at the abysmal lack of coordination between IAF and the Army, a controversy that lingers to this day, with the author admitting that “mistakes were made”. The Indian Army too is reportedly coming out with its new account of the 1965 war.

Evidently, mistakes were made on both sides in war, so later what happened at Tashkant, Simla or Washington does not adhere that our soldiers and their sacrifices does not deserve a tribute. Our forces especially Air Force performed much better despite the reality that they were not expecting and not fully ready for war. Above anything, do we need a reason to celebrate day, which has been declared our Defense Day, when your hostile state is celebrating whole month to propagate their victory in war. Thus when many are in a race to display their intellectual superiority by coming up with narratives that dismiss reason to celebrate 6 September, can I celebrate the Defense Day? Not for some reason that we scored triumphs against India but for the supreme sacrifices of our soldiers, to value the enthusiasm our nation showed and to boast the patriotic spirit that holds a nation together.

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Maimuna Ashraf

Maimuna Ashraf works as a Senior Research Associate for an Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute. She works on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and South Asian nuclear equation. She writes for South Asian Voices, international blogs and national dailies.

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