From Gibraltar to Grand Slam

If the massive Pakistani infiltrations into Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 1965 were codenamed Operation Gibraltar, the September 1 armoured attack on the strategic Chamb Jaurian sector ('Strange March to 1965 War', IE, November 26) had a resounding codename, Grand Slam. Two important and intriguing questions about this operation, which the Indian army halted successfully, arise. The first is: How did Pakistan President Ayub Khan, who was initially reluctant to sanction even Gibraltar, later approve a much wider and highly risky military action? The answer, provided by his information secretary, confidant, biographer and alter ego, Altaf Gauhar, is simple.

Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, his trusted foreign secretary, Aziz Ahmed, and other cohorts, persuaded him that if Pakistan were to "wrest" Kashmir from India by force, 1965 was its "last chance". It was now or never. Their arguments did seem convincing. India, they said, was "demoralised and vulnerable" because of the "humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese", Jawaharlal Nehru's death, the "palpable weakness" of his successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, (Khan, after a brief, informal summit with Shastri at Karachi airport in October 1964, had got the same impression), a virulent anti-Hindi agitation in south India and an acute food shortage across the country.

At the same time, the votaries of war with India told Khan that the expansion and modernisation of

the Indian armed forces was in full swing. Once it was completed, the balance of power would shift back in India's favour, and Pakistan's "last opportunity would be lost". The clinching argument of Bhutto and company was that "fear of China would deter India" from extending the war beyond Kashmir. This took care of Khan's prime concern. He had once confided to some advisors: "While winning Kashmir, I don't want to lose Pakistan."

As Gauhar records, it was around this time that a sand-model presentation was made to Khan at Murree where he suddenly put his finger on Akhnoor on the map and asked, "Why don't you go for the jugular?" The point was well taken because Pakistan's occupation of Akhnoor would have cut the Kashmir Valley from the rest of India. Khan then embarked on the standard Pakistani self-delusion: The Hindus could not fight. "Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and right place. Such an opportunity should therefore be sought and exploited".

... contd.

Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writer's alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of The Indian Express Group or its staff. Comments are automatically posted live; however, reserves the right to take it down at any time. We also reserve the right not to publish comments that are abusive, obscene, inflammatory, derogatory or defamatory.