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1965 Indo-Pak War and Sino-Pak friendship

Both India and Pakistan will be commemorating 50 years of 1965 Indo-Pak war in September this year. Pakistan observes 6 September as ‘Defence Day’ to commemorate the bravery and valour of its 5,800 soldiers who lost their lives during the war and captured 540 sq km territory from India. The 1965 war is indeed a story of bravery and valour of the Pakistani public and armed forces but it is also a story of unflinching Pak-China friendship.


In 1965, India was recovering from the humiliation of 1962 Indo-China war and was increasing the size and quality of both its army and its air force. Still afraid of China, many of India’s best army units and many air force units were stationed to meet a Chinese threat.In 1964 China acquired the nuclear capability, which further lessened India’s status quo in that region. The emergence of China as an extra state actor opened new options for Pakistan. In January 1963, Pakistan entered into a trade agreement with China, by which China became the biggest buyer of Pakistani cotton. In September 1963, Pakistan entered into an air accord with China, which connected Peking and Dacca by air. Although they were purely commercial arrangements, they raised further apprehensions in the West about the change in Pakistan’s foreign policy from unqualified alignment to qualified alignment. Pakistan was no doubt freeing herself from the apron strings of the United States and trying to pursue a policy of equilibrium between alignment and non-alignment.


The United States, however found it difficult to reconcile with this change in Pakistani attitude. It retaliated by canceling President Ayub’s visit to Washington and by canceling the consortium meeting, which was called to allocate funds for Pakistan’s third five-year plan. The United States aid to Pakistan, which was $250 million in 1961-62 decreased to $200 million in 1963. This aid further dwindled down during successive years.

With the outbreak of all-out hostilities between India and Pakistan in September 1965, the United States imposed an arms embargo on both sides. This was more hurting for Pakistan, for it’s being totally dependent on the US aid and assistance. Moreover, when Pakistan could expect gains in the War against India the US and the Western allies pressurized it to accept a cease-fire. China was, thus the sole supporter of Pakistan. It had given ultimatums to India with the inherentobjective of securing East Pakistan’s occupation by the enemy. It denounced the Indian attack on Pakistan as an “act of naked aggression by which India had enlarged a local conflict into a general war”. On the same day, Premier Chou told the Pakistani ambassador “China would await further developments and would consider further steps as and when necessary”. At that time Chou sought two assurances from Pakistani President: first, Pakistan would not submit to any Kashmiri solution favorable to India, and second, Pakistan would not submit to US, USSR, or UN pressures for such a solutions; President Ayub cabled these assurances. In a letter to Ayub on September 8, Chinese President Liu reaffirmed the promise to support Pakistan. During the course of war, when India was planning to attack East Pakistan, China took another step to back up Pakistan. It gave ultimatums to India in September 1965, alleging acts of aggression in the Sino-Tibetan border areas and demanding, Indian installations be dismantled there within three days. Otherwise the Indian government must bear full responsibility for all the consequences arising therefrom.


In response to this ultimatum Lal Bahader Shastri, Prime Minister of India stated in the Indian Parliament: “We have sent a reply to China. We do hope that China would not take advantage of the present situation and attack India. The might of China will not deter us from defending out territorial integrity”.  On September 19, 1965 China delivered another ultimatum to the Embassy of India in Peking in the following words:

“The Chinese government reiterates that the Indian government must dismantle all its military works of aggression either on the Chinese side of China, Sikkim boundary or on the boundary itself before midnight September 22, 1965, and immediately stop all its intrusion along the Sino-Indian boundary and china Sikkim boundary, return the kidnapped Chinese inhabitants and the seized livestock and pledge to refrain from any more harassing raids across the boundary.”

Obviously, the government of china by this ultimatum was trying to create a difficult situation for India and these ultimatums at this juncture was certainly to Pakistan’s advantage. By this time President Ayub did not keep his words and accepted the cease-fire proposed by the superpowers. After the acceptance of cease-fire both superpowers became active in pressing Pakistan and India to collaborate on joint economic ventures.At that time USSR offered its mediation to release the tensions between India and Pakistan. As a result the ‘Tashkent agreement’ was signed on 10 January 1966. It was perceived that this diplomacy was a conspiracy of the superpowers to put China away from the South Asian affairs. Nevertheless, China’s role had been considerable and consistent, helping Pakistan in defense production as well its extended military equipment and technology and without any political strings or conditional ties.



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