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Surgical Strike 1965 - Battle of Hajipir

Special Edition Post to commemorate Hajipir Day


Late Lt Gen. Harbakhsh Singh | Book Excerpt - War Despatches

Col Bhaskar Sarkar | Book Excerpt - Outstanding Victories of the Indian Army


Quick Read


28 August marks the Hajipir Day in Indian Army when Indian Soldiers from 1 PARA and 19 Punjab led a daring assault on the 8600 ft. Hajipir Pass in a swift outflanking move. This assault overwhelmed the enemy making it down on its knees before the enemy reinforcements arrived.

After a failed Pakistani plan of igniting chaos and rebellion in Kashmir which was given the code name Operation Gibraltar , India decided to take the fight to the other side of the border and raid the posts and positions used by Pakistan Army to push in infiltrators into the Kashmiri territory. 1 PARA and 19 Punjab were placed under the 19 Infantry Division supported by 4 Rajput , JAK Rifles , 4 Sikh LI as well as Artillery and Mortar Fire who would assault and capture the Hajipir Pass which was code named Operation Bakshi. They would link up with 25 Infantry Division at Poonch under code-name Operation Faulad.


The plan involved a pincer movement with simultaneous movement of troopers from two sides. Before this 7 Bihar was tasked to take down Ziarat and Tilpatra while 6 Dogra was tasked to take down Mehandi Gali. This was done to fool the enemy about India's intentions. 1 Para was tasked to capture Sank and Lediwali Gali while 4 Rajput would then pass through 1 Para and capture Hajipir Pass. 19 Punjab would capture Ring Contour at Pathra and then link up with 1 Para.


The attack commenced on 26 August with 1 Para crossing the border and attacking Sank , taking the enemy by surprise. The enemy fled leaving their weapons behind. 1 Para pressed on capturing Sar and Ledi Wali Gali with some 20 injured on Indian side.

 


While we celebrated one overnight surgical strike that also feautured as story of 2019 Blockbluster movie URI : THE SURGICAL STRIKE staring Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Yami Gautam, We must not forget an unparalleled surgical strike carried out by the Army in the run-up to the 1965 war with Pakistan when Lal Bahadur Shastri was Prime Minister of India. It is also a fitting tribute to the Real Super heroes , who didn't flicker their eyelids for hours, days and nights in a brutal bloodshed battle only to ensure sprightly fluttering of Indian national flag at Hajipir Pass.



The capture of Haji Pir pass in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is a storied battle written about by many military historians, but who better than the all-time military great, the late Lt Gen. Harbakhsh Singh, who led the Western Command in the 1965 war. This operation finds detailed mention in his book War Despatches, written clinically and factually, just like a soldier’s war diary.


There were many operations launched around the Haji Pir bulge, the main route for Pakistani infiltrators, beginning with Operation Faulad, which was to clear approaches to Haji Pir. The final operation, the assault on Haji Pir, which is widely described as India’s capture of its Golan Heights, was called Operation Bakshi.

Photograph of Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, Vir Chakra (1913 - 1999) . He lead the successful capur of Hajipir by Indian Army in 1965 during India Pakistan war of 1965.
Photograph of Lt Gen Harbakhsh Singh, Vir Chakra (1913 - 1999)


Detailed Conduct of ‘OP BAKSHI’


As it is considered unnecessary to go into the various actions (and they were numerous) which culminated in the capture of the HAJIPIR Pass and its subsequent consolidation, a brief description of only the main battles fought is given below:


The SANK Approach


1 PARA commenced their attack on the SANK feature at 2130 hours on Night 26th/27th August. The climb was steep, made worse by incessant heavy rain. The battalion however pressed on relentlessly for it was a race against time: to achieve surprise the troops had to reach the top before first light. Despite the difficulties of terrain and weather the unit reached the peak at 0415 hours. The enemy was taken completely unawares and fled in panic, leaving behind two medium machine guns and three light machine guns.


Exploiting their success, the battalion rushed on to the next feature, SAR which was captured by 0930 hours 27th August. Two hours later the unit added LEDIWALI GALI to their list of successes that day. By 1800 hours all areas up to and inclusive of LEDIWALI GALI was secured. Own casualties in this action was 21 wounded. The enemy losses were 10 other ranks killed, 40 wounded and one taken prisoner.




At this stage, Major RANJIT SINGH DAYAL (now Lieut Colonel) the hero of this operation sought permission to strike for the HAJIPIR Pass. The permission was given and the march began. The approach involved a climb of over 4000 feet and it had to be done during the hours of darkness. A continuous heavy rain made the hill-side slushy and slippery. But 1 PARA defying physical exhaustion continued to scramble up doggedly, often on all fours and reached the vicinity of the pass by 0800 hours on 28th August. The much sought after objective was in sight and after a brief pause the battalion stormed the pass. The enemy fled in confusion. By 1030 hours 28 August 1 PARA was in complete control of the objective.


The enemy mounted a furious counter-attack on 29th August in a desperate bid to recapture this prestige area. The attack was repulsed. To consolidate their positions the battalion captured RING CONTOUR NR 0993 on 30 August and point 8766 NR 1191 a day later. Major (now Lieut Colonel) RS DAYAL who had so ably led his troops in a series of brilliant actions culminating in the capture of the Pass, was awarded the MVC.


The BEDORI Approach


While 1 PARA was struggling up the SANK Approach, 19 PUNJAB after securing RING CONTOUR NM 1903 and PATHRA, were pitching themselves against the formidable BEDORI feature. The battalion made a determined assault on the position but the defenders held on tenaciously to their ground and flung the Punjabis back to their firm base. 7 BIHAR were next called in to attack the post but the feature once again defied capture. An attempt by 4 RAJPUT from the NORTH on 27 August was also foiled. Officer Commanding 19 PUNJAB then volunteered to make another try. Incensed by their previous failure the Punjabis stormed the feature from the SOUTH and this time nothing could stop them. BEDORI and KUTHNAR DI GALI NR 1799 both fell on 28th August 1965.


The Battle of BISALI NR 0596


With the capture of BEDORI feature, the EASTERN flank of the HAJIPIR Pass Area was secured. The WESTERN flank, however still remained exposed and vulnerable. It was, therefore decided to capture the BISALI position for ensuring the security of the HAJIPIR Pass from that direction. 4 RAJPUT detailed to capture BISALI attacked the post on Night 4th/5th September and by 0400 hours 5th September were in possession of the objective. The enemy however, launched three vicious counter attacks the last of which proved too strong for Rajputs and the battalion withdrew to SANK. Own casualties were two officers and 63 other ranks killed and four officers and 47 other ranks wounded. After this change of hands, the feature remained with the enemy.

In comparatively minor actions, 6 BIHAR captured MEHNDI GALI on 26th August and JARNI GALI three days later, on 29th August 1965.


Consolidation of Position


To consolidate the brigade defences the following actions were taken:


(a) 1 PARA was given the task of capturing RING CONTOUR NR 1191 on Night 7th/ 8th September. The battalion made four attempts on the feature without any success.


(b) 6 DOGRA capture Point 7720 NR 1591 on 9th September 1965. On the same day, 19 PUNJAB secured Point 9270 NR 1893 at 1000 hours and ZIARAT NR 1888 at 1700 hours.


(c) A composite force of eight platoons from 6 and 7 BIHAR raided HILLAN NR 2994 on Night 13th /14th September. Own troops came under heavy machine gun and rifle fire. The enemy however fled when fire was returned.


(d) 6 DOGRA and one company 19 PUNJAB captured GITIAN NR 1288 at 1000 hours on 21st September. The enemy launched a number of counter attacks, all of which were repulsed. Casualties were:


From Original War Diary of 1965

(e) 19 PUNJAB made several attempts without success to capture Point 8777 NR 0129. Two officers and 11 other ranks were killed during these actions.


The Hajipir Pass was Captured by Indian Army , there on went to become the one of the exemplary battle in history of India ,in doctrines of Art of War and the spine-chilling inspiration for generations to come .








 

FLASH BACK : GLOBAL SCENARIO THAT ESCALATED INDO PAK CONFRONT 1965


INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS


The cease-fire of January I, 1949 ended the First Kashmir War but did nothing to improve the relations between Pakistan and India. Kashmir remained the bone of contention. Nehruji offered a no war pact to Pakistan. Pakistan said that such a pact could only be signed after an honourable solution of the Kashmir issue. Thus while India sought peace and development, Pakistan sought Kashmir and to build a military capability strong enough to defeat India.


In the early fifties, United States, in a bid to contain the Soviet Union and spread of communism, formed a number of regional military groups like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO) and South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO). The concept was that each member would pour in resources (mainly manpower resources) for collective defence of the area against the Soviet threat and spread of communism.


In return, United States pledged to assist the member states economically and militarily. This provided Pakistan an opportunity to strengthen its armed forces at minimal cost. Pakistan joined CENTO and SEATO in September 1955. India, under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of the Non Aligned Movement, chose to remain non aligned. Pakistan benefited greatly from joining the mutual defense treaties sponsored by US. In the period between 1954 to 1965, Pakistan received military aid worth $ 1.5 billion. The equipment included Patton tanks, Sabre jets, FI04 Star Fighter aircraft, MI rifles, Universal machine guns, mortars, recoil-less rifles, guns and every other conceivable type of defense equipment.


The Pakistan Army officers received training in United States and Britain and joint military exercises were carried out. Thus, by 1965, Pakistan had completely modernized its armed forces with new equipment received from the United States. It had also been able to upgrade the so-called Azad Kashmir forces or forces in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Pakistan had also concluded a treaty of cooperation in military and economic affairs with China.



PAKISTAN PRICKS INTO RANN OF KUTCH


On April 9, 1965, 51 Infantry Brigade of the Pakistan Army crossed the international border into the Rann of Kutch and captured Sardar Post near Kanjarkot. On April 24 Pakistan attacked again with tanks and artillery and captured four more posts and the entire Kanjarkot area. The Indian Army did not put up any significant fight and withdrew. Possibly it was surprised and not in a position to resist. It was reasoned that the monsoon flooding of the Rann of Kutch would, in any case, drive the Pakistani Army out. It was also not militarily and logistically prepared to drive out the Pakistani forces.


Soon after capturing the Kanjarkot area, Pakistan offered to negotiate. India refused saying that there could be no talks till Pakistan vacated the areas illegally occupied. However, Shastriji met Ayub Khan at the Commonwealth Conference in London. Under the influence of the British Prime Minister, a cease-fire agreement was signed on June 30. Under the agreement Pakistan agreed to withdraw its forces and restore Indian control over the area. India agreed to allow Pakistan to use a road it had constructed in Indian Territory.


In April 1965, along with the invasion in Kutch, Ayub activated the cease-fire line (CFL) in Jammu & Kashmir. There were many cease-fire violations by both sides. Next, in May, Pakistan launched operations at Kargil to cut-off the Srinagar – Leh Highway. Pakistani infiltrators crossed the CFL and occupied three high hill features (possibly Tiger Hill, Tololing and Pt 4875) astride the Highway and established observation posts.


Pakistan attacked again with tanks and artillery and captured four more posts and the entire Kanjarkot area. The Indian Army did not put up any significant fight and withdrew. From these observation posts, they brought down accurate artillery fire on the Highway and disrupted the traffic. India reacted by complaining to the UN observers. Nothing happened. The Indian Army then launched operations to evict the intruders. This was successfully done on May 17, 1965. However, the positions were vacated in June 1965 when UN Observers were posted in the area.


PAKISTAN LAUNCH OP GIBRALTAR IN KASHMIR


While a cease-fire was being negotiated in Kutch, Pakistan was preparing for its next attempt to capture Kashmir. This was to be achieved through clandestine infiltration of a large number of guerrillas in early August 1965. The operation was code named OPERATION GIBRALTAR.


The designated forces were to infiltrate in small groups and concentrate on August 7, mingle with the crowds to celebrate the festival of Pir Dastagir Sahib on August 8. Next day, they were to mingle with crowds assembling to demonstrate against the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah and commence operations. It was a bold and brilliant plan. The Indian intelligence as usual had failed to obtain any specific information about it. But fortunately for India and unfortunately for Pakistan, the plan misfired.


On August 5, two infiltrators in green salwar kameez approached a youngster near Gulmarg and offered him money for some information. The individual immediately reported the matter to Tanamarg Police Station. The same day a few infiltrators approached a local man in Mendhar area for some information. The local reported the matter to the nearby brigade headquarters. The alerted Indian Army captured two officers on August 8 near Narain. Their interrogation revealed the whole plan. Some incidents of firing and subversive activities were reported between August 10 to 12.


However, the security forces throughout the length and breadth of the State were alerted. A counter operation was launched against the infiltrators. Without local support they had nowhere to go. They were stalked, engaged and liquidated piecemeal. They were completely demoralised. Some surrendered. Some exfiltrated across the CFL. Large quantities of arms and ammunition were captured. OPERATION GIBRALTAR had collapsed by August 12.


A silent attack in difficult terrain in most adverse weather conditions caught the enemy defending Sank by surprise.

While the mopping up operations were going on, Shastriji made an unambiguous statement. He said that if necessary India may attack raiders’ bases and the tussle may last long. He also said, “India cannot go on pushing the Pakistanis off its territory. If infiltration continues, we will have to carry the fight to the other side.” The Indian Army had also concluded that the only way to stop infiltration was to retaliate by crossing the CFL boldly and plugging the routes used by the raiders and the areas used by their supporters. This’ plan was put into operation on August 15 in the Kargil Sector.

The Indian troops crossed the CFL and recaptured the three Pakistani positions, which had been captured by them and vacated in May. Some heights in Tithwal and Uri Sectors were also captured. India also decided to capture the Hajipir Bulge, which was an important hub of Pakistani infiltration operations against India.

The task of capturing Hajipir Pass and the Bulge was given to 19 Infantry Division and the corps reserve of 68 Infantry Brigade was placed under the command of 19 Infantry Division for the operation which was code named OP BAKSHI. 25 Infantry Division was given the task of linking up with the force from Poonch under code name OP FAULAD.




INDIAN ATTACK PLAN


It was appreciated that a frontal assault on the pass astride the Uri – Poonch track would be very costly in terms of casualties and unlikely to succeed. The eviction of the enemy by an indirect and difficult approach was considered to have better chances. The plan of action envisaged a pincer movement from the west and east converging on Hajipir.

…reason for the victory was the ability of the Battalion to exploit success. A defeated enemy requires time to regroup, reorganize and put up a fight. 1 PARA gave the enemy no time to reorganize and put up a fight after the loss of Sank.

To keep the enemy guessing about Indian intentions and to tie down his reserves, the following diversionary attacks were planned:


  • 7 BIHAR (161 Infantry Brigade) was to capture Tilpatra and Ziarat by first light D-day and Burji on Night D-day plus 1.

  • 6 DOGRA (41 Mountain Brigade) was to capture Mehandi Gali and Lunda on the night of D-day plus 1.


The plan for capture of Hajipir on the Sank or western approach was as under:


  • 1 PARA was to capture Sank and Lediwali Gali by 0500 hours on D-day plus 1.

  • 4 RAJPUT was to pass through 1 PARA and capture Hajipir Pass by 1800 hours D-day plus 1.


The plan of attack on the Bedori or eastern approach was that 19 PUNJAB would capture Ring Contour, Pathra and Point 12330 (Bedori feature) by 0900 hours D-day plus 1. Thereafter, 19 PUNJAB was to exploit up to Point 11107 and establish contact with 1 PARA by 1800 hours on D-day plus 1.

JAK RIFLES and 4 SIKH LIGHT INFANTRY were held in reserve. The D-day was initially fixed as August 25, 1965. Due to heavy rain it was postponed to August



 

ANALYSIS


The capture of Hajipir Pass by 1 PARA was a remarkable achievement. The Battalion not only captured the objectives allotted to it in the Phase 1 of the Brigade attack but also the task allotted to 4 RAJPUT in Phase 2 of the Brigade attack. It is perhaps relevant to examine how this was possible.


The first apparent reason was achievement of surprise. A silent attack in difficult terrain in most adverse weather conditions caught the enemy defending Sank by surprise. They did not expect a major attack and were literally caught sleeping. Even the enemy troops defending the Pass were surprised by the speed of movement of the Indian troops and assault from an unexpected direction and fled without offering a determined fight.


The second important reason for the victory was the ability of the Battalion to exploit success. A defeated enemy requires time to regroup, reorganise and put up a fight. 1 PARA gave the enemy no time to reorganise and put up a fight after the loss of Sank. Their relentless offensive action without the classical reorganisation after a battle, kept the enemy off balance. The enemy could not mount a coordinated counter attack till September 29. By then the Indian troops had been able to consolidate their position and were able to beat back the counter attack.


The third important reason for the success was leadership. The leadership of Brigadier Bakshi and Major Dayal was outstanding. Their gallantry and personal example inspired their men to perform great feats of bravery and endurance and achieve what was considered impossible.



Capture of Hajipir Pass launched by ADGPI Indian Army

 

Why did India returned Haji Pir pass to Pakistan?


The Indian policy makers at that time did not visualize infiltration threat through Uni-Poonch bulge and hence it was decided to return Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan and ask them to withdraw from Chhamb Sector since it would not have been advisable to let Pakistan point a dagger at Akhnoor and thereafter at Jammu.


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