Khemkaran, India (1965 AD)
The Battle of Asal Uttar was arguably the most important and one of the most decisive battles in the various post-independence wars between India and Pakistan. It was also one of the largest tank battles to be fought in Asia following the Korean conflict. The battle ended a Pakistani invasion of India and roughly settled the border that has existed between the two countries to the present day. Asal Uttar represented a resurgence of conventional warfare in an age where warfare was becoming increasingly assymetrical. The site of the battle was commemorated by Patton Nagar, a memorial named in honor of all the Patton tanks that were captured from Pakistan.
In the aftermath of the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent in the 1940s, much of northern India was in turmoil for decades, largely over the question of the future of the Kashmir region. Some historians believe that these wars were simply the result of centuries of built-up tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and that Kashmir was merely the flash point. Making matters even more complicated was China’s interest in the region, and the Bangladesh successionist movement in the east.
Several full-blown wars broke out, the first immediately after partition in 1947. But the more important conflict, with the more lasting consequences, was the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Begun with a covert operation to incite a rebellion in Kashmir, the conflict quickly blew-up into a full-fledged war. An invasion from Pakistan was countered by an invasion from India, and soon much of the border region was engulfed.
The conflict came to a head in September, when each country’s invasion was driven back by the other country’s defenses. However, the Pakistan army made a final major push across the border on September 8. A large Indian force set up a trap in response. The two armies met at Tarn Taran Sahib.
The battle was a disaster for the Pakistanis. At first taking advantage of what seemed to be an easy route into India, the large invading army met increasing resistance, and was forced into a tighter and tighter formation while the Indian armored forces closed in. Eventually the Pakistani armored formation was completely surrounded. Unable to break out, most of the tanks were destroyed or captured. This ended any further offensives by Pakistan, setting the stage for a cease-fire and ultimately restoration of Indian territory.
After the Battle of Asal Uttar, part of the battlefield was set aside to showcase the nearly one hundred captured Pakistani tanks. This area came to be known as Patton Nagar. The tanks were later distributed throughout India as battle trophies. One is still on display, and there are markers commemorating the battle site.
The Asal Uttar battlefield is located just outside of the small town of Khemkaran, approximately forty miles southwest of Amritsar and 250 miles northwest of New Delhi. The battlefield is an open site, and there is no charge for admission. Web: www.tourism.gov.in (official tourism website of India).