The September War has a peculiar place in the national discourse of Pakistan and has been so ever since the outbreak of the belligerence in 1965. Different reasons could account for the glorification of the War of 1965; one of the reasons is the nation’s collective resolve and contribution in repelling the attack of the intruding Indian army. The national hymns evolved during that seventeen-day war of 1965 have come to define the granite determination of the Pakistani nation and its institutions to evict any invader that lurks with in its territory.

However, our national resolve – particularly in the political realms of the country – today, does not appear during any season of the year, nor is there any indication of the fact that the resolve of this nation was at its peak in the year 1965.

It had only been eight months since the fractured Presidential elections of 1965 took place in January. Political discourse, therefore, was bifurcated on acute divisions. But again when it came to pass in the September of 1965, major political fronts on either side of the political spectrum rallied behind a united national resolve to give a befitting response to the Indian intrusion. What, then elucidated this contrariety?

Despite possessing an inferior military arsenal to India’s Herculean numerical majority, as well as fewer available fighting troops and inferior military equipment, Pakistan was still able to mount a resounding defense of its geographical frontiers in 1965. The most latent yet explicit reason is that the apt resistance mounted by the armed forces in the war of 1965  accrued our fighting troops a “ Raison d'être ” in calibrating a national defense that could, and in fact did, bereft the Indian military machine from an incisive triumph. This in turn forced the Indian forces into a war of attrition and the consequent resultant international intervention restored the status quo ante bellum to a sufficient extent, therefore nullifying any bonanza Indian forces may have gotten their hands on. The war of 1965 was therefore nothing more than a pyrrhic victory for India if the intelligentsia within India and certain sections within the International community have to claim the whole event as a win for the Indian Republic.

Defensive wars always afford a benign edge to the defender in mounting a just resistance to the invading armies and history is testament to such massive resistances. Napoleon’s Grande Armée entered Moscow with a Casus Belli of their own but since the Russians were the ones whose lands were being invaded – not to mention the fact that the destitute Russians were still shackled in the tight net of serfdom weaved by the Russian nobility – they mounted a stern response to the emperor’s forces which kindled a coalition forbearing the emperor’s demise leading to Saint Helena as the climax of the era. Canvassing further parallels, one can draw juxtapositions between military coalitions cobbled together to strangle the French Revolutionary forces and the Nascent French Republic within its crib in 1792 and Operation Barbarossa which ushered in the largest land invasion by Nazi Germany against Soviet Union in June 1941. The manner in which the Russians mounted a defensive resistance to the invading Nazis is a fact to reckon with. In the distant past, one can cite the Ba'athist Iraq’s invasion of the nascent revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran in September 1982. Again, the manner in which the Iranians during the time of crisis internally fostered an indomitable resistance against the invading forces, draws our attention towards the vitality of defensive wars and resistance. Also by taking credence through history it would not be out of place in suggesting that should even a miniscule amount of potential exist in a nation, it has the ability to muster the might to stage a national resistance movement that could convert any haughty military invasion into a zero sum game.

This is precisely what military personnel on the frontlines and the Pakistani nation as a whole achieved during the September War of 1965. India’s breach of the international border and incursion deep within former West Pakistan was fraught with strategic designs to move the Indian frontier westward of the Radcliffe line. The plan foiled owing to the fact that India could not bequeath a quick victory and the element of surprise was therefore lost. It was the national resolve of the state and its institutions which aided in cobbling together a stiff military resistance against the invading hegemonic forces which, in turn, granted us the provision of Jus ad bellum – “right to war” – to defend our frontiers with an exceptional ardour. Thus was the day saved for posterity.