Rude awakening for Pakistan

Despite making major mistakes, the Indian armed forces displayed tactical superiority to hold the balance in the 1965 war

As described in 'From Gibraltar to Grand Slam' (IE, December 10), for Pakistan's first military ruler, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the moment of truth arrived at 4 am on September 6, 1965. He was roused from his bed and informed that the Indian army was on the march towards the prized city of Lahore. This took him completely by surprise. After brief consultations with his top commanders and civilian advisors, the first man he met was understandably the United States ambassador, Walter P. McConaughy. According to Khan's principal confidant and biographer, Altaf Gauhar, the envoy started by telling him: "Mr President, the Indians have got you by the throat." Khan replied: "Any hands on Pakistan's throat would be cut off." He still believed that on the battlefield, Pakistan "would defeat the Hindu".

There is no point going into daily details of the war as it went on because most of these have been discussed threadbare. Attention should focus, therefore, on crucial landmarks and major mistakes both sides made in the heat and dust of war. Pakistan's greatest folly was to go on lying to its own people, telling them that the Indian invaders were being "thrown out". Come the ceasefire, and the rude reality could no longer be hidden.

On the Indian side, it became evident on the very first day that coordination between intelligence, then the monopoly of the monolithic Intelligence Bureau (IB), and the army, was appalling. As our armoured columns advanced, they discovered that Pakistan had dug the Ichchogil Canal as a tank trap of which they had never been informed. Which of the two institutions was to blame became a major dispute then, and, to an extent, remains so even now. The IB maintained that it had conveyed the necessary information to the government and the army headquarters. It wasn't its fault if the army leadership failed to pass it on to the formations in the field. The army denied this vehemently, and never let up on its trenchant criticism of the IB.

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