3 September 2015

Return of Haji Pir Pass in 1965 – Myth and the Reality

By Maj Gen Sheru Thapliyal
02 Sep , 2015

In 1965 war, Indian Army had captured the strategic Haji Pir Pass. During the Tashkent talks between Indian and Pakistan, held through the good offices of Soviet Union, India agreed to return Haji Pir Pass, Pt 13620 which dominated Kargil town and many other tactically important areas. To add mystery to the whole process, Prime Minister Shastri died on 10th January, 1966 after signing the Tashkent Declaration with President Ayub Khan of Pakistan. He was denounced by all and sundry for caving in to the Russian pressure and made to return Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan, resulted in two grave disadvantages to us: One- had the pass been held by us, the distance from Jammu to Srinagar through Poonch and Uri would have been reduced by over 200 Kms. Two – later on Pak commenced its infiltration into J & K in 1965, through the Uri – Poonch Bulge which continues even today. They why did we commit this error of judgement?

Haji Pir Operations:

Following failure of Operation Grand Slam, the infiltration attempt in J & K in August, 1965, Pakistan decided to launch its offensive operation in Chhamb in order to capture Akhnoor, thus cutting off lines of communication to Poonch Sector. Subsequently operations were to be progressed to Jammu to cut off the Valley from the rest of the country. Selection of Chhamb – Jauriyan Sector conferred many advantages on Pakistan. The area is bound in the west by the Ceasefir Line, which is the South and Kalidhar Range in the North.

thrust in this area was launched by Pakistan on 1st September, 1965. After crossing Munnawar Tawi which is fordable in winters by tanks, Pakistan forces started moving eastwards and were halted at Fatwal Ridge, only 4 Km. from Akhnoor when Indian offensive in Lahore sector forced Pakistan to thin out Chhamb Sector and thus its momentum was halted.

Chhamb – Jauriyan Battle

When negotiations commenced in January, 1966 between India and Pakistan under the aegis of Soviet Union, India had to view the threat posed by Pak dagger into Indian heart in Chhamb Sector. Since Pakistani forces had already reached Fatwal ridge only four Kms. from Akhnoor, it could always resume operations for capture of Akhnoor. The author understood this implication better in 1987 when he was commanding his unit near Jauriyan, a few kilometers west of Fatwal Ridge. 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. It was too high a risk to take. So Prime Minister Shastri was left with no option. Whether he died due to a feeling of guilt will remain a mystery. But in hindsight, India was remiss in not capturing Haji Pir Pass in 1971 war. It was the only worthwhile objective on the Western Front. Thus ends the myth and reality of return of Haji Pir Pass by India after 1965 war. May Shahstri’s soul rest in peace.
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