In the midst of shimmering tensions with Islamabad, India has launched three-week celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the 1965 war with Pakistan. India’s President Pranab Mukherjee kicked off the celebrations on August 28 by laying a wreath at the martyr’s memorial at India Gate in New Delhi. Both India and Pakistan have claimed victory in the 1965 war, with Pakistan celebrating September 6 every year as “Defence of Pakistan Day”. The war was fought for over three weeks between 60,000 Pakistan soldiers and 1,00,000 Indian soldiers.
Indian leaders across the political spectrum paid homage to the martyrs who made the victory possible. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, saying: “As we mark the 50th anniversary of 1965 war, I bow to all brave soldiers who fought for our Motherland in the war.” He also lauded the dynamic leadership of the then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and paid tributes to the courage and bravery of India’s armed forces. “Under the leadership of the then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and defence minister Y.B. Chavan, the Indian forces displayed exemplary courage and wrote yet another chapter in the history of India,” Congress leader Sonia Gandhi said in a statement. “The nation will forever remain indebted to the soldiers who fought valiantly and upheld the tradition of country’s armed forces,” she added.
The victory celebrations, however, are not bereft of controversies. Some of the former veterans who were protesting against the government’s delay in implementing the ‘One Rank One Pension (OROP)’ scheme, boycotted the anniversary celebrations after talks broke down between the veterans and the government. The OROP scheme will give equal pension to servicemen retiring with the same rank, regardless of when they retire. The Modi government’s popularity with the armed forces seems to have taken a hit due to lack of visible progress in the OROP talks.
The 50th anniversary celebrations will last until September 22, the day India and Pakistan agreed to a UN-sponsored ceasefire in 1965.
Fifty years hence, due to both countries possessing nuclear weapons, an all-out war seems unlikely, but the relations between the two neighbours remain prickly and tense. The recent cancellation of talks between national security advisers of India and Pakistan ended in a bitter slanging match, darkening the prospects of any substantial improvement in bilateral ties in the near future.
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