by Shishir Arya, TNN 23 November 2009, 06:02am IST
NAGPUR: If it comes to claiming victories in wars, Pakistan certainly pips India, as the latter has opted to keep mum. A search on the Internet shows no ‘official’ Indian record on any of the wars, except the Kashmir conflict of 1947-48. Pakistan, on the other hand, minces no words in relating how it made India taste defeat, for which our country has no official answer in the public domain.
War history remains not for public view at home. Until now, there has not been even a brief account of the post-1948 conflicts, including on the official website of the Indian Army (www.indianarmy.nic.in). The history section in the website has a note saying “post-1948 operations are classified, and hence not mentioned”.
The website otherwise has stories on the Mahabharata, medial history, World War II and the Hyderabad Police action. When TOI contacted the defence ministry regarding this, it faxed a single line reply after a week, “The matter of publication of war history is under active consideration of the government.”
The Pakistani Army, on the other hand, has elaborate commentaries of how it humiliated the much bigger Indian Army on many fronts. Apart from the website, a video documentary – Dastaan-e-Shujaat – on the 1965 war, produced by the Pakistan Army’s public relation wing – the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) has been recently put up on YouTube.
A similar documentary by the Chinese, on the 1962 war, called the ‘Crushing Moment’, is also available on YouTube. However, in India, the Sino-India war history is also classified, even though there is an indirect mention in the 1948 story that it proved to be a failure.
The Pakistan army website, http://www.pakistanarmy.gov.pk, is silent on the Kargil story, and so is India. However, there are ISPR documentaries on war heroes of that confrontation like one Havaldar Lalak Jan.
On the 1948 war, the Pakistani website says that by early 1949 “Pakistan had completed its formative stage, halting the Indian offensive, preventing it from totally overrunning Jammu and Kashmir and closing up to Pakistan’s vital borders.” The Indian version says the Pakistanis were driven away from many places and had it not been for the ceasefire, they would have been entirely repulsed. But it’s only here that India has a reply to the Pakistani claim.
The Pakistani story on the 1965 history says it cost India dear. On the much talked about attack on Lahore by the Indians, the Pakistanis say, “To relieve pressure on the Lahore front, Pakistani armoured and mechanised formations overran Khemkarn, 6 to 8 miles inside Indian territory. Vital Indian positions at Sulemanki and across Rajasthan were captured in bold, swift attacks.”
Pakistan claims to have captured 1,617 square miles of Indian Territory as compared to only 446 square miles of ‘undefended’ area going into Indian hands. Its picture gallery has a photo of Indian POWs – mostly Sikhs soldiers playing a three-legged game in a Pakistani jail – and some others showing captured Indian areas. India called for a ceasefire, just before Pakistan planned a counter offensive, the Pak Army website says.
Though Pakistan accepts 1971 as the most tragic period in its history, and flays the leadership for the debacle, it also speaks of beating back the Indians on the western front. On the surrender, it says the first ceasefire resolution moved by the US was vetoed by erstwhile USSR. After this six resolutions for ceasefire and withdrawal of Indian forces were moved, including one by China. Some of these were accepted by Pakistan, however, behind the scene machinations by India and her allies stalled a ceasefire implementation till the fall of Dhaka. The ceasefire had been perfidiously converted into a surrender, claims Pakistan.
On Siachen, Pakstan claims its offensive brought India to the negotiation table in 1989, accepting all their conditions. The area was vacated and declared a de-militarised zone, it says.
There have been demands for declassifying Indian war documents, and defence analysts too say it is time to do so, or at least make a brief mention without going into much detail. Former director general (artillery) Lt General Vinay Shanker says there is no reason why India should keep it an official secret for so long. If put in the public domain, there can be critical studies so that the past can be learnt from, he said. “If the facts are kept under wraps, we shall never learn,” Shanker added.
Some experts say that the 1965 war is especially the stalemate, which has led to the silence. However, a former Indian Army officer of the rank of Major General clarified that Pakistan had taken some parts of the Khemkarn sector, but not the town as such.
Captain Bharat Verma of the Indian Defence Review had a similar opinion. He said that in 1965 India was on a winning spree but stopped in between. It also did not take advantage of its position after the 1971 conflict. The government must have a policy to declassify the documents after a period of 20 years or so, he suggested.
A senior government official said on condition of anonymity that during the rehearsals the army had always practised crossing the Ichogil Canal near Lahore. However, when it actually needed to do so, the Pakistanis were able to keep the Indians at bay. Pakistani history too boasts of having prevented the Indians from crossing the canal.