This time in history marks the fierce battle of Barki fought between the Indian infantry and the Pakistani armour during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. Barki, a village near the border with Punjab, India is connected with Lahore by the Bridge of Ichogil canal. The Indian Army had clashed with Pakistani forces that were hidden in pillboxes, dug-outs and slit trenches carved into the banks of the canal. Even though the enemy was supported with a large number of tanks, as well as fighter jets, they were crushed on the battlefield against India, leading her to victory.
On August 17, 1965, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam in an effort to release infiltrators who had been captured after the failure of Operation Gibraltar on August 15 and to cut off the Indian supply lines. As the supply lines came under severe stress due to Operation Grand Slam, India retaliated by launching an incursion towards Lahore to open up a second front in the war and to divert Pakistan’s attention from Kashmir.
After opening the Lahore front, Indian troops advanced towards Lahore along three battle-axes — Amritsar-Lahore, Khalra-Burki-Lahore and Khem Karan-Kasur roads — overpowering the small Pakistani force.
The Indian troops, supported by its single armoured division, quickly pushed back unprepared Pakistani defenders with the aim to encircle and possibly besiege Lahore. Due to the surprise invasion, India was able to capture a large amount of Pakistani territory from Khalra, an Indian border town which lies on a straight road to Lahore through Burki.
In the meantime, the Pakistani Army mobilised its troops in Lahore and launched a three-pronged counter-attack to recapture lost ground. Subsequently, the Battle of Barki was fought on Khalra-Burki-Lahore road.
Pakistan aimed at forcing the Indian troops into retreat before their armoured support and supply lines could catch up. It also planned to recapture much of the territory it had lost in the previous battles. The Indian army’s goal was to capture and hold the town of Burki until reinforcements, including armour and supplies, could arrive.
The battle began with India advancing from Khalra and tank operations in a village called Jahman being the first major Pakistani outpost to fall. Pakistani troops pulled back towards the next major town, which was Burki, leaving small pockets of resistance at each village to slow down the Indian advance.
On September 8, Pakistan began the counter-attack with artillery pounding India. This constant shelling from Sept 8 to 10 slowed down the Indian advance but was unable to stop it completely. The Pakistani armour then launched a counter-attack which led to a clash between the Indian infantry and Pakistani tanks at Burki. The battle resulted in most of the Pakistani armour being beaten by September 10.
The Indian troops were able to hold off the Pakistani armour attack until Indian tanks from the 18th Cavalry Regiment arrived. India subsequently launched the main assault on September 10 with armour support. With most Pakistani tanks already destroyed, the defenders had very little armoured support from the remaining tanks. As many as 84 Pakistani tanks were destroyed, compared to just four Indian tanks, and smaller tank contingent showed great courage under fire.
Pakistan’s Army called in a few fighter jets to provide air cover for its troops and to target Indian positions. However, the use of fighters against ground troops instead of bombers, meant that little was achieved through air support. The limited number of jets and the easy availability of trench and defensive structures for cover led to the failure of the Pakistani air operations.
As a result, after a tough fight, Indian infantry captured Burki on September 11 and held it throughout the rest of the Indo-Pakistan war despite the use of defensive structures like trenches and pillboxes as well as anti-tank weapons by Pakistan during the defence of Burki.
After the capture of Burki, the Indian advance continued towards Dograi, a town in the immediate vicinity of Lahore. They eventually went on to capture Dograi on September 20, thus bringing the city of Lahore within range of Indian tank fire.