Gibraltar, Grand Slam and war

  • This isn’t a week for civilians. Wars old and new will be celebrated and much made of the abilities and wisdom of the Great Protectors. Which is fine, really. What’s a week between friends.

    Especially if there’s not much good to say. 1965 was a bad idea taken to perfection, all three stages of it. First came Gibraltar, that silliness of sending irregulars and radicalised civilians over into India-held Kashmir to foment revolution.

    When revolution didn’t show up, we got into the busi­ness of Grand Slam — sending regular army troops over to wrest a bit of India-held Kashmir and win that most lusted after of victories, a strategic one.

    We don’t have to rely on uninformed opinion, because there is a uniformed one available.

    Then came actual war across the border, for which we were somehow unprepared and scrambled to fight to a stalemate because the Indians were a bunch of reluctant invaders.

    Told you, it’s not a week for civilians. Luckily, we don’t have to rely on uninformed opinion, because there is a uniformed one available.

    An eminent one — dripping with medals, reached the highest offices, tasked to write the official tale of 1965 and took two decades to do it. But then he got the funny idea of publishing his 650-page report, which was promptly banned by the army and never heard of again.

    It’s a good week to remember the forgotten. Coming to you from a dusty shelf, the words of Lt Gen (retd) Mahmud Ahmed from a tome rather unassumingly and modestly titled History of the Indo-Pak War — 1965.

    Tell us, General, what was Operation Gibraltar all about?

    “The military aim of launching the guerrilla operations was threefold. Firstly, disrupt Indian civil and military control of the State. Secondly, to encourage, assist and direct an armed revolt by the people of Kashmir against Indian military occupation, and thirdly, to created conditions for an advance by the Azad Kashmir forces into the heart of occupied Kashmir and eventual liberation of IHK.”

    So, how’d it go?

    “The intelligence directorates were unable to provide any worthwhile intelligence to 12 Division for the guerrilla operations. Each commander of the Gibraltar Forces was given a few names of collaborators whom they were able to contact after infiltration into inside Indian Held Kashmir but their reliability was uncertain. In fact, none came forth to help the guerrilla forces. Therefore, despite undetected infiltration across the Cease Fire Line, all the Gibraltar Forces, with the exception of Ghaznavi, ran into trouble at the very outset of their operations.”

    Then what, General?

    “In the event, the Gibraltar Forces were unable to initiate any large scale uprisings in IHK as was visualised or hoped. Instead, the Indian Army in Kashmir retaliated violently resulting in the loss of some valuable territory. Undismayed by these losses, [Maj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik, commander of 12 Division] was able to convince GHQ that the time for the attack he had envisaged through the Munawwar Gap was indeed opportune since the bulk of the Indian Army in IHK was committed in the retaliatory operations in addition to its involvement in counter-insurgency measures. A reluctant GHQ was thus compelled to act in accordance with Gen Akhtar’s proposal by sheer force of circumstances rather than by sound professional reasoning which demanded logical military contingency preparations from the very moment when the decision to launch Operation Gibraltar was first taken.”

    How’d one screw-up, Gibraltar, lead to an even bigger cock-up, Grand Slam?

    “If anything, the limited guerrilla operation [Gibraltar] served as pinpricks to rouse a slumbering giant as it were, though India initially went into action almost reluctantly with a self-imposed restraint of confining its attacks to the upper parts of Kashmir. Operation Grand Slam was a logical move after the failure of the guerrilla operations.”

    Civilian note: Mahmud doesn’t think Grand Slam was a bad idea. He thinks it was not ambitious enough — the army should have gone for Jammu and created a giant Punjabi pincer to gobble up the Indian armed forces. Total victory could have been ours! Oh, generals.

    So, err, what happened next?

    “The Pakistani high command considered the international boundary with India and the Working Boundary with the State of Jammu and Kashmir inviolable and expected its Indian counterpart also to regard it as such. From the inviolability of the international boundary sprang the policy of ‘no provocation’. Having had all defence works dismantled and the mines removed as part of the Kutch agreement, the GHQ forbade occupation of defences along the Punjab border on the eve of Operation Grand Slam to avoid provoking India into launching an offensive across the international boundary.”

    You’re saying we left ourselves open to invasion, General?

    “It is a matter of great irony that despite its forward assembly the Pakistan Army still managed to allow itself to be surprised by the Indian attack on 6 September 1965! The Indian build-up (as reaction to Operation Grand Slam), of which there were clear indications since 3 or 4 September, was somehow not taken note of. It was only after listening to an All India Radio broadcast in the evening of 4 September that the Pakistan C-in-C, Gen Muhammad Musa, reached the conclusion that Indian intentions were hostile. Then too the GHQ sent a rather ambiguous signal message to the formations.”

    But the fight was heroic, yes?

    “Apart from the sheer number of tanks involved, it is well worth asking if the armoured battles were really great by any standard? The fact is both sides lacked skill in handling armour at the operation level.”

    In the end, we did get something out of it, right? Right?

    “In the case of Pakistan, if it was solution of Kashmir, then we failed; if it was merely to defreeze the issue, then the means employed and risks taken were grossly disproportionate to the results achieved. In the bargain, we got a war which we perhaps did not want and could have avoided.”

    So there it is. An official history by an official general in a proper book with maps and diagrams. But who needs history when we’ve got a war to celebrate.

  • Listen to the current people in power & their stooges and you don't have to extract material from the archives.

  • Nice to revisit past history on Kashmir issue. The gist of Dawn's writer is we failed on all three occasions (1948, 1965 and 1971). I agree but not in toto. We failed partly and Indians somehow got partial success. Pak Military govt. in 1971 fully knew it was not possible to keep East Pakistan (Bangladesh) but tried to encash it with occupation of IHK as Pak top brass thought India would be fully engaged on Bengal's borders. But Indira Gandhi was the politician of century that fully knew what had been lurking in Pak generals' minds. Her forces on the Western front ripped through Shakargarh region compelling Pak forces to reinforce that front rather than capturing Jammu and Sri Nagar. There was one more attempt which has not been discussed in here. The so called "Afghan Mujahideens" which were left "jobless" after Soviet evacuation from Afghanistan were given a new task to infiltrate in IHK which they did and sure they gave a tough time to Indian Army.

    What is the position now? From strategic point of view, India has an edge due to all important Siachin peak from where they can watch Pak Army movement and deployment and can timely and strategically move their forces like a game of chess. Former President Musharraf's clandestine Kargil operation was not that a bad idea. It was with purpose of cutting down supply line of Siachin with the rest of IHK. Only, Musharraf didn't know there are some international police countries like USA, UK, Russia who will jump into arena to interfere. And that did happen. Pakistan agreed to withdraw its forces from Kargil on the assurance that this retreat would not be attacked by Indian firing power. India game a damn to internationally agreed plan of withdrawal and opened their artillery fire power and air attacks on the withdrawing Pak forces resulting in heavy casualties.

    What is the position now? Now the IHK freedom movement is totally indigenous. Now their slogan is Kashmir is for Kashmiris, it is for neither India nor Pakistan. They want a total sovereign state for themselves. Pakistan has a soft corner in their hearts because Pakistan supports their struggle.

  • @ Shirazi

    Thanks Shirazi Saheb for reproducing a concise history of 1965 war and I must say I fully agree with it.

    Also, there were rumours that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had convinced Ayub Khan of the assurances he had that India would not cross international border – and Ayub Khan believed it - which was strange because of the Indian Prime Minister’s repeated statements that he would open fronts of his choice. Moreover, it is common knowledge that when under pressure, the enemy will strike at the weakest point.

    And when India did charge across the international border, Ayub Khan got into a panic and started looking for the non-existent ‘assurances’. It was then that Nawab Amir Mohammed Khan of Kalabagh was rumoured to have remarked about Ayub Khan “The whole country is on fire and he is sitting in Islamabad, wetting his pants.” I must admit I heard all this through the grapevine and cannot vouch for its accuracy, though I must say it sounds convincing.


  • "I must admit I heard all this through the grapevine and cannot vouch for its accuracy, though I must say it sounds convincing."

    If you cannot vouch for its accuracy, you must not publish it in public domain whether it is published from Karachi or New Delhi!!

  • It's difficult to learn lessons from history. US is repeating same mistake over and over again in ME. They used radical Islam to combat Russia and completely ignored the effects of that and tried to repeat the same in Libya, Iraq, Syria and in the process created a bigger monsters. Our military leadership doesn't think there were strategic flaws in operation gibraltar perhaps there were some tactical blunders that's why it failed. They went to same drawing board again and again in past 5 decades and Kashmir is still integral part of India. The mullahs we sent to trigger insurgency in Kashmir develop ambitions at home and state is not able to do much as they are supposed to be state's strategic allies.

    Lot of blood bath could have been avoided if History was effective tutor.

  • There is no wisdom to take such stupid 'PANGA' where India & Pakistan cannot prolong any war for more than two or three weeks.

    After two weeks, both countries start looking for mediator to manage cease fire.

    Only one or two years long war could be productive.

  • "There is no wisdom to take such stupid 'PANGA'"


  • “If you cannot vouch for its accuracy, you must not publish it in public domain whether it is published from Karachi or New Delhi!! “

    God has given us eyes and ears to see and hear facts first hand – which we can then vouch for accuracy – but there are occasions when things appear not in black and white, but in varying shades of grey, which we are unable to vouch for accuracy. And to deal with such material, God has given us a brain to study and analyse information available to us in various forms, and to draw our conclusions.


  • "God has given us eyes and ears to see and hear facts first hand ..."

    If one has seen and heard facts, then one does not need to vouch accuracy!!

    Chichon ki Maliaan