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Reminiscing 1965: A hard earned right to celebrate

By Sadia Kazmi

Going through the tales of 1965 war always brings a sense of pride to the whole nation. This 6th September marks the 50th anniversary of excellent gallantry displayed by Pakistani forces back in 1965.  The unimaginable passion to offer sacrifices for the sake of one’s motherland gave us legendary stories to be told and retold for the generations to come.  Every single soul woke up to realize the true essence of unity and oneness. Despite insufficient logistics and relatively small sized army as compared to enemy’s humungous force, the fierce defence put up by Pakistan made it impossible for India to achieve its political objective.

The war gave us some great national heroes who we honour through celebrations on Defence Day every year.  And like every year, commemoration brings with it a debate about whether the episode of 1965 should be celebrated or be seen as a catastrophic misadventure. It is a fact that this victory did not come easy to us and made us learn some important lessons the hard way. For instance the question whether it was possible to avoid the loss of valuable human lives in the war if there was much competent political and military leadership, is raised time and again. Though civil-military equation greatly influences any decision making and implementation process, one also needs to keep in mind that errors and miscalculations are bound to happen since the strategic and tactical realms could be very different. The best that can be done is to minimize the gap between the two while dispelling the impact of errors on the battleground. Even then the possibility of a slip up cannot be completely ruled out. Therefore if the political and military leadership should be condemned for initiating operation Gibraltor then they should be lauded for operation Grand Slam and the excellent surge they made against India.

Despite some serious military and intelligence oversights, the defence of Pakistan effectively thwarted India’s aggression, for which it should be commended wholeheartedly. Similarly any sensitive literature like the one written by Lt. Gen Mahmood Ahmad should not take away our hard earned sense of victory from us. He might have rightly pointed out the shortcomings but ultimately no one can deny the reality that Pakistani forces fought valiantly. The seventeen day war caused equal amount of casualties on both sides. However there is no harm in reflecting upon the weaknesses and learning from them. Such an approach will only help in avoiding the strategic lapses in the future.

Analyzing various aspects of war also puts a big question mark on Kashmir issue and should serve as an eye opener. Kashmir is undoubtedly the most important problem with strategic significance for Pakistan and which it can never relinquish. But the question is whether the genuine efforts of Pakistan to raise and support the cause of Kashmiris is being appreciated by the Kashmiri leaders as well as the locals there? Why were the “oppressed” Kahsmiris in IHK not ready for the insurgency even when they got the timely support in 1965? Shouldn’t they have considered it to be the God sent help that came for their rescue? An obvious lesson one can take from that particular event which actually became the triggering point of whole 1965 debacle is to see how mutually aligned the political objectives of Pakistan are with the cause of Kashmiris. This point was important to ponder back then and is much more relevant today. Since Kashmir continues to be a sore point between India and Pakistan and has direct implications for the regional peace and stability, it demands greater political commitment from all the stake holders.

Regular meetings with the Kashmiri leaders who enjoy the popular support of local Kashmirirs and share the same cause and understanding with Pakistan will serve the mutual interest of both the nations. It will also help Pakistan in avoiding any misjudgments or unilateral initiatives in the future, which might not later find support from the “oppressed” Kashmiris. Also, diplomatic and political exchanges at the state level are part of a political process and state’s foreign policy, which cannot be dictated by anyone. Hence India has no right to dictate Pakistan or Kashmir on their diplomatic choices.

Another question that comes to mind when one looks at the countrywide enthusiasm and harmony during 1965 war is what happened to the national cohesion now? Today it is unfortunate to see the country almost at the verge of political, social and economic collapse. The social fabric of the state is badly torn apart along the ethnic, sectarian and nationalistic divides. It was a rare sight to see the whole nation united as one back then. The same spirit of oneness is required today to fight off the myriad of challenges including terrorism and militancy.

National unity and harmony will strengthens the state against the outside vulnerabilities while the lack of nationhood will provide a fertile ground to anti state elements not only from within but will also provide an easy opportunity to the external hostile actors who are bent upon destabilizing Pakistan at all fronts. Hence national unity is definitely a major ingredient for strengthening the national security.

Last but not the least we should pay a sincere tribute to the martyrs instead of using up the occasion to criticize the follies. The censure is better left to the enemy who is always eager to spread negative propaganda and malign Pakistan’s image. War of 1965 is the solemn demonstration of resilience of the whole nation and the unflinching resolve to defend the motherland, for which Pakistan surely has earned the right to commemorate the 6th of September with pride and dignity.

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Sadia Kazmi

Sadia Kazmi works as a Senior Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad. She is a PhD candidate at the National Defense University

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