Thursday, March 30, 2023
HomeOpinionIndian Army had a ‘Ghost Regiment’. It spooked Pakistanis in 1971 and...

Indian Army had a ‘Ghost Regiment’. It spooked Pakistanis in 1971 and earned their praise

It is not often that the enemy praises you on a battlefield. But the Indian Army's Ghost Regiment in the 1971 war got Pakistan's grudging admiration.

Text Size:

Indian Army units strive for recognition and legacy, which come in the form of the Army Chief and Army Commander’s citations. The most coveted are battle and theatre honours, awarded after campaigns. However, even rarer is earning the enemy’s appreciation.

Poona Horse, the regiment led by Lt Gen. Hanut Singh that fought bravely in the 1971 war, earned the honorific ‘Fakhr-e-Hind’ (Pride of India) from the Pakistan Army. Capt. Vikram Batra was honoured with the title of ‘Sher Shah’. We are celebrating Swarnim Vijay Varsh or Golden Jubilee of the 1971 operations. It will be appropriate to recount the story of an armoured regiment that received the title of ‘Ghost Regiment’ from its adversaries. Pakistanis were so confused that they called it ‘khalai makhlooq’ (aliens or space creatures in Urdu) in sheer desperation and grudging admiration.

East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), surrounded by India, lent itself to multi-pronged offensives. Hence, operations were designed on four thrust lines and spearheaded by tanks, appropriately termed as Blitzkrieg. From the west, 2 Corps charge was led by 45 Cavalry equipped with amphibious PT-76 light tanks weighing just 12 tonne. In comparison, recently fielded Chinese Type-15, the so-called light tanks, weigh nearly three times, 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 just before the operations.

The offensive resulted in the capture of Jessore. Interestingly, 2 Corps (Kharga Corps) was raised only for the 1971 offensive and was to be disbanded when the war ended. But it not only carried on, it is also now the main strike punch against Pakistan.

Also read: How Indian Navy operated a secret commando group and spooked Pakistan in 1971

Creation of an ad-hoc squadron

In 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 also on this axis. They overcame very stiff resistance at Hilli and orchestrated capitulation of Bogra. The 63 Cavalry had the rare privilege of having an independent armoured squadron, 5 IAS, as well. While converting from PT-76 to T-55, old tanks of the regiment were handed over to 5 IAS.

The 5 IAS, in turn, created an ad-hoc, fifth squadron with armoured cars, its original equipment, giving the Indian Army yet another additional prong. It is sheer ingenuity of the regiment that it found crews for all its equipment with administrative personnel taking on combat roles. No soldier wanted to be left out of the battle, referred disparagingly as LOB. This squadron captured Akhuara and, pushed by legendary commander Lt Gen. Sagat Singh, exploited the amphibious capability to swim across the mighty Meghna.

The so-called pipas raced to Dhaka. PT-76 tanks of 5 IAS were the only ones to reach, leading the advance of Indian forces. Surpassing all expectations, the ad-hoc squadron also assisted in the capture of many objectives. Radio and visual reports of sighting 63 Cavalry on multiple prongs and with three different types of platforms, from different directions, spooked the Pakistanis, who reportedly started referring to the regiment as ‘Ghost Regiment’. This was largely in despair and frustration, but also with some degree of reluctant awe and admiration, hence the Khalai regiment.

Also read: The liberation of Bangladesh — the Indian armed forces’ finest hour

How ‘Ghost Regiment’ operated

In the aftermath of Operation Vijay in 1999, when war clouds were looming large, concern about the vulnerability of tank columns at night, with their contour lights on turret, giving away their location was flagged. These lights are basically meant for safety to prevent collisions during pitch dark nights. In stark deserts, they can be seen for miles. They are also identification aids with distinctive colours — green, red, amber and blue, consequently, are referred to as GRAB/RABG. Different regiments used different radio codes — Jugunu, RAB-Gi, RAG-Bajao — to operate them.

The ‘Ghost Regiment’ was directed to undertake night manoeuvre, which was to be witnessed by the Corps Commander. We had trained ourselves to operate without lights and switch them on only in extreme emergencies. This was contrary to our Brigade Commander’s caution, who had expressly instructed us to give safety paramount importance and keep the lights switched on. His favourite phrase was, “No night move without RAB-Gi.” As Commanding Officer, I was confident of the training and skill of the crew, hence I decided otherwise and took a bit of panga.

We crossed our designated vantage points, where senior commanders were sitting on grandstands, totally undetected. Wind direction, weather and limited availability of night vision devices aided us. We reported crossing the mandated report line, code-named ‘Changa-Panga’ (meaningful prank). This code name besides conveying our audacity, rhymed with ‘Changa Manga’ reserve forest, near Raiwind, where Pakistani armour normally hides.

Naturally, the column was chided for losing its way. Our counter was simple radio transmission, ‘Jugunu-Dikhao’, to show our location. Those present on the grandstand just couldn’t believe it, because we had gone past them like ghosts. Our Corps Commander christened our advance as ghost manoeuvre. He promptly ordered others to learn it. It was a panga well taken, keeping up the spooking legacy of the Ghost Regiment.

Lt Gen Kamal Jit Singh PVSM, AVSM & Bar (retd) is Haryana State Information Commissioner and former Western Army Commander. He tweets @kayjay34350. Views are personal.  

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. If India after war with Pakistan in 1971 would not have released 93000 of surrendered Pakistan army , captured from East Bengal , these Pak army would have become Ghosts at the hands of Bangladesh’s liberation army .

  2. I read, follow and praise The Print time to time but I think I had enough of this Pakistan Pakistan all the time. I have complete faith in the media of our country and I know they will one day figure out a way to lead the people of the country to greater purpose.

  3. what they actually do is , they build bollywood sort of fake narrative and repeat it in a manner so it will look truth , what happened to them in lahore 1965 they will never forget actually they got spooked , but they (indians) the chicken hearted ones not even have the absorbing capacity to digest defeat from a 3 times little country, and this old guy shekhar gupta swimming in his delusional patriotism comes out of nowhere to crown indian army in every aspect because they consider them hanuman army lolz …journalism build disinformation and fantasies.

  4. Never heard of this ghost regiment in Pakistan leave alone anyone ever using phrases like khalsi makhlooq or whatever!
    You guys are great propoganda masters and deserve all the praise for cooking stories. Your info lab in Europe is a great example.

  5. We Will take revenge ! We already took certain revenge bit still remains a big revenge. Look what happened tô Indira Gandhi after the war. What happened tô Mujeeb after the war and ziaur Rehman . Those were our revenge and nome we Will manager tô get Kashmir from Índia. We Will divide Índia in several parts.

    • I have Seen Cowardly Behavior in f Pakistani Punjabi Officers, They Fear Too Much of Us, Mukti Bahini, We Basically Ass Fucked Both the Officers and Their Wives in Sylhet and Chittagong After Pakis Surrender to Us

  6. Legendry Brig Hariminder Singh whose house the Army public school has been opened in Ambala cantt was a war hero . 63 can got the colours from president Sanjiva Reddy in Ambala cantt when we were in 11th class.

  7. Yes that’s why in 1965, India couldn’t dare to enter into Bangladesh then East Pak. Because Bangladesh of East Pak and people of west Pak were united and had norancors.
    Why they didn’t write the “tilismati kahaniyan” like ghost regiment ,chang’s manga, pangawanga bla bla?

  8. Nothing new, everything Indian is an invisible ghost. The Indian democracy, the Indian state secularism, the Indian human rights and equal rights for minorities, Indian army bravery ( losing 20 soldiers in a fist fight), Indian surgical strikes ( made in Bollywood), Indian Science that says Corona virus cam be with cow pee. Everything Indian is ghostly, i.e invisible i.e is not real.

  9. Nothing new, everything Indian is an invisible ghost. The Indian democracy, the Indian state secularism, the Indian human rights and equal rights for minorities, Indian army bravery ( losing 20 soldiers in a fist fight), Indian surgical strikes ( made in Bollywood), Indian Science that says Corona virus cam be with cow urine. Everything Indian is ghostly, i.e invisible i.e is not real.

  10. Yes this what means the actual news. Nowadays in the news it is only showing about the fake bollywood and other useless stuff. I appreciate this web page to show news regarding our brave soldiers and about our country which requires our attention and care.

  11. Indian media is a laughing stock of the world. You carry on that impression with this article among ninty percent others.

  12. India was forced to enter East Pakistan now Bangladesh because of the mass murder, rape and genocide committed by the Pakistani Army. It is unfortunate that the culprits were not tried for War crimes.

  13. Freed man, the article is about a military operation. It isn’t about a proxy war. It does appear though that Pakistani forces in EPAK were not capable of winning even a proxy war.

  14. Buffalo ego from the freed man. Children too betray their weak parents and family that’s the outright upbringing of such claustophobics. Hahahaha…

  15. If Bangladesh and it’s people had no will in separation from Pakistan, did India dare to attack then east Pakistan?? Did all these ghost regiment bla bla dare to hold an inch their?? Simply no..
    The proof is did India manage to hold an inch or a meter inside the LOC at disputed region of jammu and Kashmir, no.
    It was all a proxy war and the mistakes of hen palistani rulers, which gave India advantage and they dare to start a war with the help of internal forces in then east Pakistan and later it was liberated and now a sovereign nation Bangladesh.
    Proxy wars are like that and offcourse India is best player in playing proxy wars like they did in Bangladesh in 1971 , nineties in srilanka, now in Afghanistan and Balochistan in Pakistan.

    • Wat india did has proved to be a terrible mistake…india shud hv destroyed whole of bangladesh…killed all people there and captured all the land so tht pigs like u wudnt open their mouths ever…

    • Everything including defence was formed in last 6 yrs. Koop manduk…useless fellas without any expertise comment on everything. Pseudo qualified ppl choose fake govt only…maro satyanash is desh ka.

    • I Don’t Think You Are An INDIAN Otherwise You Wouldn’t Have Said This SENSELESS , BASELESS And IDIOTIC Thing.

    • Literally lakhs of Bangladeshi natives migrated to India due to the rising atrocities of west Pakistanis. After Pakistan’s election incident and the arrest of sheikh mujibur rehman and deployment of west Pakistan army in Bangladesh, it was so obvious that the Bangladeshi people wanted to escape the torment of west Pakistani peeps. Around 10 lakh women were raped and lakhs of people killed and you have the audacity to say that Bangladeshi people had no will to be separated from Pakistan. How ignorant and can a person be.

    • oh yeah why porkies so much frustrated…having lost 3 wars to india despite china n USA help ? india screwed pak in 48 again in 65….today india has reclaimed n reoccupied land from china…in ladakh….killed 300 in balakot when pak army was full alert…forget hoors you aint getting constipation relief either here dear freed man

      • The distinction of leaving about one lakh soldiers as POWs is an achievement only the great pakistan can accomplish. If not for India, they would have been butchered by Mukti bahini. Stop bragging about your failed state.

Comments are closed.