Towards a ceasefire, slowly

Why Ayub Khan took 12 days to accept the UN-sponsored ceasefire ending the war with India in 1965

SINCE Pakistan President Ayub Khan knew that with the collapse of his counter-offensive on September 11, 1965, the war with India was over for his country ('Rude awakening for Pakistan', IE, December 24, 2012), why did he take 12 tense days to accept the UN-sponsored ceasefire for which the Security Council and the then UN secretary-general, U. Thant, were working overtime? From all accounts, there were three main reasons for his dithering.

In the first place, he was deeply worried that his people, misled by his government's false propaganda that Pakistan had won the war, might not accept a ceasefire on the terms set by the UNSC. Since Pakistan's entire strategy was to use brief military action within Kashmir to force India to negotiate on this "core issue", he insisted that the ceasefire be accompanied by an agreement to "settle the Kashmir issue through negotiations and, if necessary, arbitration". Indeed, he seemed convinced that he could shame his American allies who had "betrayed" him after the "Indian invasion" into supporting Pakistan over the inclusion of Kashmir in the UN resolution.

He was in for a shock, however, because the United States refused to do so, emphasising that an unconditional ceasefire was imperative. Worse, the US ambassador to the UN, when approached by the Pakistani envoy with the request that India should at least be named "aggressor", was told that the UNSC "wasn't a court of law". The American side had then added that the armed forces of both sides would have to withdraw to the positions they had held on August 5, the day that Pakistan's infiltrations into Kashmir had been detected.

Second, on September 12, when Khan conferred with his military and civilian confidants as well as political leaders, he believed, to quote his biographer Altaf Gauhar, that if Pakistan couldn't continue the war, neither could India. His judgement, therefore, was that "from now only ding-dong battles could take place here and there", and consequently he would "prefer a prolonged struggle to a ceasefire that did not guarantee a settlement of the Kashmir dispute".

... contd.

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