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Indian Military items attempt for recognition and legacy, which come within the type of the Military Chief and Military Commander’s citations. Essentially the most coveted are battle and theatre honours, awarded after campaigns. Nevertheless, even rarer is incomes the enemy’s appreciation.
Poona Horse, the regiment led by Lt Gen. Hanut Singh that fought bravely within the 1971 warfare, earned the honorific ‘Fakhr-e-Hind’ (Pleasure of India) from the Pakistan Military. Capt. Vikram Batra was honoured with the title of ‘Sher Shah’. We’re celebrating Swarnim Vijay Varsh or Golden Jubilee of the 1971 operations. Will probably be acceptable to recount the story of an armoured regiment that obtained the title of ‘Ghost Regiment’ from its adversaries. Pakistanis had been so confused that they referred to as it ‘khalai makhlooq’ (aliens or area creatures in Urdu) in sheer desperation and grudging admiration.
East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), surrounded by India, lent itself to multi-pronged offensives. Therefore, operations had been designed on 4 thrust traces and spearheaded by tanks, appropriately termed as Blitzkrieg. From the west, 2 Corps cost was led by 45 Cavalry geared up with amphibious PT-76 gentle tanks weighing simply 12 tonne. As compared, not too long ago fielded Chinese language Kind-15, the so-called gentle tanks, weigh practically thrice, 34 tonne. Pakistan referred to PT-76 tanks disparagingly as ‘pipa’ (Punjabi for container). This prong was strengthened with a squadron of T-55 medium tanks of 63 Cavalry, inducted simply earlier than the operations.
The offensive resulted within the seize of Jessore. Apparently, 2 Corps (Kharga Corps) was raised just for the 1971 offensive and was to be disbanded when the warfare ended. But it surely not solely carried on, it’s also now the principle strike punch towards Pakistan.
Additionally learn: How Indian Navy operated a secret commando group and spooked Pakistan in 1971
Creation of an ad-hoc squadron
Within the north, 33 Corps prong was led by 63 Cavalry with two squadrons with T-55s, having loaned one squadron to the western thrust. The 69 Armoured regiment with PT-76s was additionally on this axis. They overcame very stiff resistance at Hilli and orchestrated capitulation of Bogra. The 63 Cavalry had the uncommon privilege of getting an impartial armoured squadron, 5 IAS, as effectively. Whereas changing from PT-76 to T-55, outdated tanks of the regiment had been handed over to five IAS.
The 5 IAS, in flip, created an ad-hoc, fifth squadron with armoured automobiles, its authentic tools, giving the Indian Military yet one more further prong. It’s sheer ingenuity of the regiment that it discovered crews for all its tools with administrative personnel taking up fight roles. No soldier wished to be overlooked of the battle, referred disparagingly as LOB. This squadron captured Akhuara and, pushed by legendary commander Lt Gen. Sagat Singh, exploited the amphibious functionality to swim throughout the mighty Meghna.
The so-called pipas raced to Dhaka. PT-76 tanks of 5 IAS had been the one ones to succeed in, main the advance of Indian forces. Surpassing all expectations, the ad-hoc squadron additionally assisted within the seize of many aims. Radio and visible reviews of sighting 63 Cavalry on a number of prongs and with three several types of platforms, from completely different instructions, spooked the Pakistanis, who reportedly began referring to the regiment as ‘Ghost Regiment’. This was largely in despair and frustration, but in addition with some extent of reluctant awe and admiration, therefore the Khalai regiment.
Additionally learn: The liberation of Bangladesh — the Indian armed forces’ finest hour
How ‘Ghost Regiment’ operated
Within the aftermath of Operation Vijay in 1999, when warfare clouds had been looming massive, concern concerning the vulnerability of tank columns at night time, with their contour lights on turret, gifting away their location was flagged. These lights are mainly meant for security to stop collisions throughout pitch darkish nights. In stark deserts, they are often seen for miles. They’re additionally identification aids with distinctive colors — inexperienced, pink, amber and blue, consequently, are known as GRAB/RABG. Completely different regiments used completely different radio codes — Jugunu, RAB-Gi, RAG-Bajao — to function them.
The ‘Ghost Regiment’ was directed to undertake night time manoeuvre, which was to be witnessed by the Corps Commander. We had skilled ourselves to function with out lights and change them on solely in excessive emergencies. This was opposite to our Brigade Commander’s warning, who had expressly instructed us to offer security paramount significance and maintain the lights switched on. His favorite phrase was, “No night time transfer with out RAB-Gi.” As Commanding Officer, I used to be assured of the coaching and ability of the crew, therefore I made a decision in any other case and took a little bit of panga.
We crossed our designated vantage factors, the place senior commanders had been sitting on grandstands, completely undetected. Wind route, climate and restricted availability of night time imaginative and prescient gadgets aided us. We reported crossing the mandated report line, code-named ‘Changa-Panga’ (significant prank). This code identify in addition to conveying our audacity, rhymed with ‘Changa Manga’ reserve forest, close to Raiwind, the place Pakistani armour usually hides.
Naturally, the column was chided for shedding its manner. Our counter was easy radio transmission, ‘Jugunu-Dikhao’, to indicate our location. These current on the grandstand simply couldn’t consider it, as a result of we had gone previous them like ghosts. Our Corps Commander christened our advance as ghost manoeuvre. He promptly ordered others to study it. It was a panga effectively taken, maintaining the spooking legacy of the Ghost Regiment.
Lt Gen Kamal Jit Singh PVSM, AVSM & Bar (retd) is Haryana State Info Commissioner and former Western Military Commander. He tweets @kayjay34350. Views are private.
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