1965 War: Third-country accounts

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The official US take

The India-Pakistan War of 1965

US Department of State [1]

The 1965 war between India and Pakistan was the second conflict between the two countries over the status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The clash did not resolve this dispute, but it did engage the United States and the Soviet Union in ways that would have important implications for subsequent superpower involvement in the region.


Life Magazine cover depicting India-Pakistan War

The dispute over this region originated in the process of decolonization in South Asia. When the British colony of India gained its independence in 1947, it was partitioned into two separate entities: the secular nation of India and the predominantly Muslim nation of Pakistan. Pakistan was composed of two noncontiguous regions, East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by Indian territory. The state of Jammu and Kashmir, which had a predominantly Muslim population but a Hindu leader, shared borders with both India and West Pakistan. The argument over which nation would incorporate the state led to the first India-Pakistan War in 1947-48 and ended with UN mediation. Jammu and Kashmir, also known as "Indian Kashmir" or just "Kashmir," joined the Republic of India, but the Pakistani Government continued to believe that the majority Muslim state rightfully belonged to Pakistan.

Conflict resumed again in early 1965, when Pakistani and Indian forces clashed over disputed territory along the border between the two nations. Hostilities intensified that August when the Pakistani army attempted to take Kashmir by force. The attempt to seize the state was unsuccessful, and the second India-Pakistan War reached a stalemate. This time, the international politics of the Cold War affected the nature of the conflict. The United States had a history of ambivalent relations with India. During the 1950s, U.S. officials regarded Indian leadership with some caution due to India's involvement in the nonaligned movement, particularly its prominent role at the Bandung Conference of 1955.

The United States hoped to maintain a regional balance of power, which meant not allowing India to influence the political development of other states. However, a 1962 border conflict between India and China ended with a decisive Chinese victory, which motivated the United States and the United Kingdom to provide military supplies to the Indian army. After the clash with China, India also turned to the Soviet Union for assistance, which placed some strains on U.S.-Indian relations. However, the United States also provided India with considerable development assistance throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

U.S.-Pakistani relations had been more consistently positive. The U.S. Government looked to Pakistan as an example of a moderate Muslim state and appreciated Pakistani assistance in holding the line against communist expansion by joining the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in 1954 and the Baghdad Pact (later renamed the Central Treaty Organization, or CENTO) in 1955. Pakistan's interest in these pacts stemmed from its desire to develop its military and defensive capabilities, which were substantially weaker than those of India. Both the United States and the United Kingdom supplied arms to Pakistan in these years.

After Pakistani troops invaded Kashmir, India moved quickly to internationalize the regional dispute. It asked the United Nations to reprise its role in the First India-Pakistan War and end the current conflict. The Security Council passed Resolution 211 on September 20 calling for an end to the fighting and negotiations on the settlement of the Kashmir problem, and the United States and the United Kingdom supported the UN decision by cutting off arms supplies to both belligerents. This ban affected both belligerents, but Pakistan felt the effects more keenly since it had a much weaker military in caparison to India. The UN resolution and the halting of arms sales had an immediate impact. India accepted the ceasefire on September 21 and Pakistan on September 22.

The ceasefire alone did not resolve the status of Kashmir, and both sides accepted the Soviet Union as a third-party mediator. Negotiations in Tashkent concluded in January 1966, with both sides giving up territorial claims, withdrawing their armies from the disputed territory. Nevertheless, although the Tashkent agreement achieved its short-term aims, conflict in South Asia would reignite a few years later.

Pierre Tristam’s take

The Second Kashmir War (1965)

India and Pakistan Fight an Inconclusive, Undeclared War for Three Weeks

From Pierre Tristam, former About.com Guide


"kashmir war"

The Sept. 7, 1965 front page of The New York Times was aflame with reports if the second war over Kashmir.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought their second of three major wars since 1947 over Kashmir. The United States was largely to blame for setting the stage for war.

The United States in the 1960s was an arms supplier to both India and Pakistan--under the condition that neither side would use the weapons to fight each other. The weapons were ostensibly designed to counter communist China's influence in the region. The condition, imposed by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was a naive reflection of American misunderstandings that would plague American policy there for decades.

Had the United States not supplied either sides with tanks and jets, fighting would likely not have resulted, as Pakistan would not have had the air power to take on the Indian military, which was eight times the size of Pakistan's. (India had 867,000 men under arms at the time, Pakistan just 101,000). Pakistan, however, allied itself in 1954 with the United States through the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, leading neutralist India to accuse Pakistan of positioning itself for an American-backed attack. U.S. arms supplies in the 1960s fed the fears.

"We warned our friends that this aid would not be used against China, but against Pakistan," Pakistani President Ayub Khan, who ruled Pakistan from 1958 to 1969, complained in September 1965 of American arms flowing to India, too. Ayub, of course, was being brazenly hypocritical as he had also dispatched American-made fighter jets against Indian forces in Kashmir.

The second war over Kashmir, never declared, broke out on Aug. 15, 1965 and lasted until a UN-brokered cease-fire on Sept. 22. The war was inconclusive, costing the two sides a combined 7,000 casualties but gaining them little.

According to the U.S. Library of Congress' Country Studies on Pakistan,

"Each side held prisoners and some territory belonging to the other. Losses were relatively heavy--on the Pakistani side, twenty aircraft, 200 tanks, and 3,800 troops. Pakistan's army had been able to withstand Indian pressure, but a continuation of the fighting would only have led to further losses and ultimate defeat for Pakistan. Most Pakistanis, schooled in the belief of their own martial prowess, refused to accept the possibility of their country's military defeat by 'Hindu India' and were, instead, quick to blame their failure to attain their military aims on what they considered to be the ineptitude of Ayub Khan and his government."

India and Pakistan agreed to a cease-fire on Sept. 22, though not without Pakistan's Zulikfar Ali Bhutto, the foreign minister at the time, threatening that Pakistan would leave the United Nations if the Kashmir situation wasn't settled. His ultimatum carried no timetable. Bhutto called India "a great monster, a great aggressor."

The cease-fire was not substantial beyond a demand that both sides put down their arms and a pledge to send international observers to Kashmir. Pakistan renewed its call for a referendum by Kashmir's mostly Muslim population of 5 million to decide the region's future, in accordance with a 1949 UN resolution. India continued to resist conducting such a plebiscite.

The 1965 war, in sum, settled nothing and merely put off future conflicts.

See also

1965 War: Indian accounts-1

1965 War: Pakistani accounts-1

1965 War: Pakistani accounts-2

1965 War: The air forces of India and Pakistan

1965 War: The role of the Indian Navy

1965 War: The role of the Pakistan Navy

1965 War: Third-country accounts

1965 War: journalists’ and writers’ accounts-1

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