Haji Pir Pass is located at an altitude of 8652 feet above sea level, at a distance of 8 kilometres from the LOC in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. This pass (Mountain Pass) falls near the area from Uri to Poonch and is strategically significant. Even today, it is considered one of the easiest and comfortable launchpad routes for terrorists to infiltrate India. However, Indian forces through their sheer valour, back in the day had managed to win tactical Haji Pir Pass but due to narrow vision diplomatic prowess, lost it out.
This intriguing story unfolded in 1965. It had been more than two and a half years since India was defeated by China. At the same time, the country was devastated on the economic and diplomatic front. It had been more than a year since Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died. Although Lal Bahadur Shastri took Nehru’s place, he was not trusted by most of the Congress leaders and had a very feeble backing. Meaning, India was in deep waters.
In the meantime, Pakistan, true to its usual self started hatching conspiracies to capture Kashmir. To do so, it stirred controversy around the Hazratbal Mazar in 1963. It is important to note that Pakistan of that time was neither a beggar like today’s Pakistan, nor was it a country that India could slap whenever it wanted. Diplomatically, industrially and economically, Pakistan was a more prosperous and powerful country than India, which was ruled by Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
Pakistan was also superior in diplomatic terms, which proved harmful for India during the Rann of Kutch conflict, which ended in a diplomatic victory for Pakistan – https://t.co/apPgSjuLZc
— Animesh Pandey 🇮🇳 (@LaffajPanditIND) August 15, 2021
Pakistan violated the ceasefire line in Kutch around April 1965, and India responded with a befitting reply. Strategically India got some advantage, but diplomatically Pakistan proved victorious on this front.
Encouraged by this diplomatic victory, Pakistan hatched a ‘new conspiracy’ – Operation Gibraltar. When Islam was established in Central Asia, especially the Middle East, Arab invaders invaded and conquered the Hispania peninsula in the 8th century, which also included present-day Portugal and Spain.
Similarly, Pakistan wanted to inflict a deep wound on India by establishing domination over Kashmir. Therefore this operation was named Operation Gibraltar, under which Kashmiris were incited in the name of ‘Jihad’, and they were inspired to annihilate the Indian forces. That is why officers like Major Malik Munavwar Khan Awan were selected for this work, who had once rendered their services for Netaji’s Azad Hind Fauj.
Do you know why Pakistan chose the codename Operation Gibraltar?
In 8th century, the Islamists had conquered the Iberian peninsula , that comprised the likes of modern Portugal and Spain. As such, Pakistan wanted to repeat the success of the 'holy mission' of Gibraltar.
— Animesh Pandey 🇮🇳 (@LaffajPanditIND) August 15, 2021
But in the entire episode, Pakistanis neither thought of assessing the power of the Indians nor did they try to know who the army chief was. At that time the Indian Army was commanded by General Jayanto Nath Chaudhuri, who, as a Major General, played an important role in setting the Nizam Shahi and his militia in Hyderabad in its place. As a result, General Jayanto also saved India from a third partition.
Apart from this, the Kashmiris did not support Pakistan in their plan, and on the contrary, wherever they went, they openly helped the Indian forces and gave them necessary information about Pakistani forces and Mujahideen. Operation Gibraltar not only failed, but India was once again saved from being the victim of a huge tragedy. But that was only part of the story because the real battle was yet to begin
When the Prime Minister realized the situation, he called an emergency meeting. He categorically said, “India cannot simply remove the infiltrators [Pakistanis] from its land. If the infiltration continues, we will also have to divert our fight to the other side”. The character of Lal Bahadur Shastri in the web series ‘Pradhan Mantri’ jointly produced by Shekhar Kapur and ABP News underscores this very clearly –
Finally, on 15 August 1965, India regained control of some areas under Pakistani control by crossing the border, from where they were obstructing the highway from Srinagar to Leh. But India did not stop there. Under the leadership of Brigadier Zorawar Chand Bakshi, India decided to free Haji Pir Pass from the control of Pakistan.
This mission was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, because, like Kargil, the enemy was equipped with modern weapons at high altitudes. Our soldiers did have slightly better weapons than before, but the .303 rifle was not completely replaced by the 7.62 mm semi-automatic L1A1 rifle. Despite this, our warriors were ready to dig deep and face the enemy gallantly.
The 19th Infantry Division was given the responsibility of liberating Haji Pir Pass, under which troops of 1 Para Regiment, 4 Rajput Regiment, 19 Punjab Regiment, 6 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Regiment, 4 Sikh Light Infantry Regiment, 164 Field Regiment etc. were selected for the mission.
Instead of heading straight towards the enemy, a nuanced strategy of attack was prepared under the Pincer Movement strategy, that is, by encircling the enemy from two sides. The 1st Para Regiment was at the forefront of the entire operation, whose commanding officer Major Ranjit Singh Dayal showed indomitable courage.
Finally, the last the day of battle drew close i.e. 25 August 1965. On the evening of this day, a contingent of 19 Infantry Division, especially 1 Para Regiment attacked the Pakistani camp via Sank. The Indians preferred ammunition over food, so they carried only sugar and dry biscuits as food supplies. The Indians lost several men in the fierce battle that lasted for three days, but finally on August 28, with the victory in Sank, the tricolour was hoisted on Haji Pir Pass. By September 10, the entire Haji Pir Pass was freed from the clutches of Pakistan.
But such has been the misfortune of our country that the war in which India earned a well-deserved victory with strategic skill, tactical nuance and indomitable courage, we lost it soon at the table of diplomacy. Under the Tashkent agreement, whatever areas India and Pakistan had occupied, they were to be left as they were, that is, in the pre-war situation.
That is, India which had recaptured Haji Pir Pass, and reached a position of almost recapturing Sialkot and Lahore, had to retreat from both these fronts. Today, due to this mistake, India has to face the wrath of terrorists in Kashmir. Imagine if we had kept Haji Pir Pass under our control, where would India be today?
Before the 1971 victory, the unprecedented 1999 Kargil conquest and much before the recent surgical strikes and airstrikes, this was a victory about which even half of our country is not aware about. We teach the history of the Mughals with great fervour, but when it comes to teachings the heroics of Major Ranjit Singh Dayal, Havildar Umrao Singh and others, we have nothing to show for.