Operation Grand Slam was aimed at India’s “jugular” vein—Akhnur. The target was personally selected by Ayub Khan, as his confidant and biographer, Altaf Gauhar, records (Ayub Khan; Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore, 1993). If it was seized, Indian troops in the valley would have been choked. A secret Kashmir cell, miscalled the Kashmir Publicity Committee, comprising senior officials and headed by Aziz Ahmad, was set up in 1964. In the second week of February 1965, the plan was explained to the Intelligence Committee of the Cabinet. Ayub Khan asked angrily, “Who authorised the Foreign Office and the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] to draw up such a plan? It is not their job” (page 321). At Murree, on May 13, 1965, before the ceasefire in Kutch became effective, Ayub Khan examined the plan that had been prepared by General Akhtar Malik, General Officer Commanding of 12 Division, to launch the guerilla operations. The details were explained on a sand table.
Only the day before, on May 12, 1965, Foreign Minister Bhutto had addressed to President Ayub Khan a revealing letter, which bears quotation in extenso: “India is at present in no position to risk a general war of unlimited duration for the annihilation of Pakistan…. Moreover, from what I have been able to gather from authoritative sources,there is for the present at least, the relative superiority of the military forces of Pakistan in terms of quality and equipment…. This does not mean that there cannot be a general war of limited duration … the morale of our nameless soldier on the front line is high. He has proved to be an effective exponent of our foreign policy. The powder out of his gun has succeeded in drawing attention and bringing forth appeals from all over the world. It has been demonstrated that a bold and courageous stand on our part does not only succeed in stemming the tide but it also helps to open up greater possibility for a negotiated settlement. The justice of our cause is not in doubt. The valour and morale of our people is equally well-established.… However, facts being what they are, the situation is becoming more and more difficult for us and the time must come when India will be in a position to successfully wage a short and swift action against Pakistan.… In issues of war and peace, the question of initiative assumes very great importance.… It is the nature and extent to which Pakistan reacts to the retaliatory action by India which will determine the future course of events. The initiative would move to India only in case Pakistan should decide to rationalise India’s retaliatory measure as a fair retribution for Biar Bet [in Kutch] and to leave it at that. India would then use Pakistan’s acquiescence as a springboard for precipitating a war.… In the ultimate analysis, two alternatives face us: (i) to react now boldly and courageously in self-defence, in the event of Indian retaliation, or (ii) to allow the initiative to move irrevocably to India, who would then proceed to launch her final attack for the liquidation of Pakistan subsequently at a place and time of her own choosing.
Farooq Bajwa’s book on the 1965 war is a mature study based on original research into hitherto unpublished material. A few factual errors and unreal hypothesis notwithstanding, he eschews partisanship and strives to be fair. The reader is taken all the way through the dense thicket, by each chapter on Operation Gibraltar, Operation Grand Slam and Operation Riddle—whose plans were finalised by the brilliant Lt.-Gen. Harbaksh Singh, GOC, Western Command. It envisaged a three-pronged attack on Lahore —Pakistan’s immediate riposte, Operation Mailed Fist at Khem Karan; Operation Nepal—India’s march into Sialkot; and Pakistan’s Operation Wind-Up of September 20 designed to carry out an assault on numerous Indian positions.
The author fairly records the grim realities which faced the man. “Ayub had been left in no doubt after the visit to London and Washington in December 1965 that the West had washed its collective hands of Kashmir and the only option available to Ayub was to refuse the invitation to Tashkent or to walk away from there without an agreement, which would have resulted in diplomatic isolation, no military support from the U.S. and tacit U.S. encouragement of Soviet support for India.…