Beating 1965 Indo-Pak war drums
S Madhusudhana Rao
Half a century after the bitter 1965 Indo-Pak war, the two countries have opened a new front, this time to wage verbal wars. Marking the 50th anniversary of the 17-day conflict, Pak Army chief Raheel Sharif warned India of “unbearable damage” if it tried to impose a war on his country.
The powerful Army General said: “If the enemy ever resorts to any misadventure, regardless of its size and scale — short or long — it will have to pay an unbearable cost.” His warning was a riposte to last week’s statement by Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag who said that Indian Army was prepared for “swift, short nature of future wars.”
The two Army Generals’ sabre-rattling came in the midst of both countries celebrating the ‘victory’ over the other in the 1965 war. Although it ended with the signing of an agreement by both countries in Tashkent following the intervention of the then Soviet Union and the US, Pakistan has always disputed India’s claim that it had won the war and continues to celebrate the ‘victory’ officially. This time, however, the BJP government has declared that India had won the ’65 war, raising a controversy, and celebrated it.
When we look back, the scenario was not much different from what it is today. There were border skirmishes between April and September of 1965 and large-scale attempts by Pakistan to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir for insurgency operations which forced India to launch a major counter-offensive deploying Army, Navy and Air Force. When the ceasefire was declared, India was said to have an upper hand, but Pakistan calls it a lie. That country’s school textbooks even propagate the same myth.
But Pak historian Akbar S Zaidi has exposed it the other day saying, “the history taught in Pakistan is from an ideological point view. Pakistan needs to be seen as a geographical entity.” Though many people inside and outside Pakistan know the truth and acknowledge the fact that India had drubbed Pakistan in 1965, its civilian and military leadership continue to delude themselves and the people with victory talk.
Normally, Pak rhetoric on occasions like anniversaries could be dismissed as assertive reiteration of its stand on relations with India for local audience. But this time, Islamabad has upped the ante by beating war drums more frequently as border tensions have dramatically increased.
It is interesting to note that both Indian and Pakistani Army Generals made their comments at events marking the golden jubilee of the 1965 war. While Dalbir Singh’s observations that the country must be prepared for short wars in the context of Pak border violations and infiltrations and terrorist violence, Raheel Sharif had timed his response on the war anniversary as if to remind his armed forces and the people of the conflict. Not to be overlooked in his comments was a pointed reference to J&K imbroglio which is a clear indication that any future war will not stop at the border but includes Jammu and Kashmir. That means the unabated border provocations and infiltrations are part of a replay of 1965 agenda.
Implicit in Raheel Sharif’s statement is a clear hint. He said, “Armed forces of Pakistan are fully capable to deal (with) all types of internal and external threats, be it conventional or sub-conventional; whether it is cold start or hot start. We are ready. Let me reiterate that our armed forces stand fully capable to defeat all sorts of external aggression.
“Kashmir issue is the unfinished agenda of the Partition in the subcontinent … it can no longer be put on the backburner. It should be clearly understood that enduring peace in the region will not be possible without a just resolution of Kashmir. The time has come that Kashmir issue should be resolved in line with the aspirations of its people in accordance with UN resolutions.”
In other words, he is echoing what Pak Defence Minister Khawaja Asif and National Security Advisor Sartaz Aziz had said earlier. They had even raised the spectre of nuclear war if India goes on a ‘misadventure.’ What do the Pak government and military want to prove? Are they resorting to scare tactics or trying to browbeat India with nuclear threat? Either way, Pakistan is whipping up war hysteria.