Patton Nagar in Punjab is like a badge of honour for the Indian Army. It is named, not after a military hero, but after the US-made Patton tanks destroyed or captured from the Pakistani Army during the India-Pakistan war of 1965.
Here, around 100 tanks lie strewn just as they were when the Indian Army repulsed an attack by Pakistan, not far from the international border. One of the fiercest battles of the 1965 war, it raged for 3 days, with India delivering Asal Uttar, or a ‘fitting reply’.
In 1965, India took on a war machine that was more modern and technically superior when it went head to head with Pakistan. But India emerged stronger, changing and shaping the power equations in South Asia in the middle of the Cold War.
But the war took a heavy toll. Around 3,000 soldiers died on the Indian side, against Pakistan’s 5,800 men.
Pakistan attacked India based on 4 assumptions: the people of Kashmir would revolt; the war would remain confined to Jammu & Kashmir; India would be forced to negotiate Kashmir’s status; India was vulnerable after the 1962 China debacle and Jawaharlal Nehru’s death.
All these assumptions turned out to be wrong as India repulsed Pakistani incursions in Kutch and the Kashmir Valley, even as Pakistan tried to cut off Jammu from the rest of the country. The final goal was to seize the Kashmir Valley.
Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri ordered the Indian Army to cross the international border. Indian troops reached the outskirts of Lahore and the biggest tank battles since World War 2 were fought in the Sialkot sector in Punjab, in Pakistan.
All guns fell silent on 22nd September, after India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-sponsored ceasefire. The war had reached a stalemate after three weeks but India had gained the upper hand – it had seized 1,920 sq km of Pakistani territory and lost 540 sq km to Pakistan.
India and Pakistan signed the Tashkent Agreement on 10th January 1966 and the two armies went back to their pre-war positions. Sadly, a day after the treaty, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had won great respect for the way he handled the war, died in Tashkent.
India launched a massive expansion and modernisation of its armed forces to be prepared for a two-pronged threat from Pakistan and China. This paid off in 1971, when India decisively defeated Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Cover Image: Rediff.com
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