http://www.navhindtimes.com/stories.php ... y_ID=09145
1965 Indo-Pak War Was Bhutto’s War!
by Kuldip Nayar
RETIRED Air Marshal Nur Khan’s disclosure about the 1965 war is correct in the sense that Pakistan imposed the war on India. But the person responsible for it was not General Mohammed Ayub Khan, then the Pakistan President, but his Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. My contention is based on the conversation I had with Ayub in 1972, soon after the Bangladesh war. By then he had retired and lived at his bungalow in Islamabad. As irony had it, Bhutto was the President. While going over the discussions at Tashkent, where I met Ayub for the first time, the reference to the 1965 war also cropped up. I was keen to know who had started hostilities. Ayub refused to say anything. My persistence evoked one comment from him: You would be meeting Bhutto, find out from him. It was his war. That very afternoon, I met Bhutto. I repeated what Ayub had said, blaming him for the war. Bhutto did not deny his role. His case was that he thought Pakistan could beat India at that time. The various ordinance factories which Delhi had established, he said, had not yet gone into full production then and once they did, India would be too strong to beat. Bhutto explained his reasoning in a taped interview. It is a long one. I am reproducing a part of it here:
“There was a time when militarily, in terms of the big push, in terms of armour, we were superior to India because of the military assistance we were getting and that was the position up to 1965. Now that the Kashmir dispute was not being resolved and its resolution was also essential for the settlement of our disputes and as it was not being resolved peacefully and we having had this military advantage, we were blamed for it. So it would, as a patriotic prudence, be better to say, all right, let us finish this problem and come to terms and come to a settlement. It has been an unfortunate thing. So that is why up to 1965, I thought that with this edge that we had we could have morally justified it. Also, because India was committed to self-determination and it was not being resolved and we had this situation. But now this position does not exist. I know it does not exist. I know better than anyone else that it does not exist and that it will not exist in the future also...”
Bhutto had also been taken in by certain happenings in India at that time. He had interpreted the DMK demand for autonomy, the Akali movement for Punjabi Suba and the Maharashtra-Mysore border dispute as evidence of India falling apart. Therefore, his thesis was: the sooner Pakistan decided to “settle its scores” with India, the better it was.
Long before the war, Bhutto had prepared a working paper which came to be known as the “Bhutto Plan”. Infiltration in Kashmir in September, according to the plan, was a sequel to the Rann of Kutch operation in January-April, 1965. What started in the Rann of Kutch was a clash between the border police. It soon involved the armed forces of both sides. Pakistan seemed to have prepared for the battle; it had troops ready. It also had not only an airport near the Rann of Kutch but also a network of roads, over which it could bring up armour.
Most Indian cabinet ministers wanted an all out offensive in this area. But Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and General J N Chaudhari, then chief of the Army Staff, were opposed to it. The former did not want his strategy of having good relations with Pakistan rather than with China lost in what he called a swamp. Chaudhari’s assessment was that the Kutch operation was a diversionary attack to pin down as many Indian forces as possible for a later attack somewhere else. Probably it was. However, Rawalpindi’s calculation that there would be an uprising in Kashmir following the infiltration misfired. It was Kashmiris — Mohammed Din from Gulmarg and Wazir Mohammed from Mendhar, Jammu — who were the first to tell the Kashmir police about the infiltration. Pakistan’s plans to distribute arms and ammunition to the local population and to organise a revolt remained on paper.
On September 1, Ayub had broadcast that by supporting the people of Kashmir to exercise their right of self-determination Pakistan was doing no more than what it had always pledged. He asked the Kashmiris to rise like one man. When Ayub heard that there was no response, his comment was that it was Bhutto who made him go wrong in his assessment of the Kashmiris’ attitude. Bhutto told me later that he had no regrets about having persuaded Ayub to send in the infiltrators.
The war, as Pakistan calls it, or the conflict, as Indian official records say, lasted 23 days from September 1 to 23. Both sides claimed victory. For Pakistan it was its “finest hour” and for India it was the redemption of the honour it had lost in 1962 in the fighting against the Chinese. Rawalpindi claimed that Indian efforts to capture Lahore and Sialkot were rebuffed through better organisation, training, planning and dedication. I was told in Pakistan that Indians were dreaming of a banquet in Lahore but the dinner jackets were never worn as the DJ-wallas were all slaughtered by our valiant fighters. Many asked me whether it was a fact that Chandni Chowk and Connaught Place in Delhi and Hall Bazaar in Amritsar had been so heavily bombed that they were beyond recognition.
New Delhi said its aim was to destroy Pakistan’s armour, not to occupy territory; therefore, all those who wanted to measure gain in terms of key towns like Lahore and Sialkot were wrong. Both General Chaudhari and Air Marshal Arjun Singh said that India essentially fought a war of attrition and achieved its aim. But the Indians were generally disappointed that neither Lahore nor Sialkot was captured. Then Egyptian president Nasser told Dr Radhakrishnan, then India’s president, who was returning to New Delhi via Cairo, that if India had captured Lahore its prestige would have gone up.
Chaudhari has explained in his book, Defence of India that “politically the destruction of Lahore was most unwise and militarily this would have meant the use of far more troops than were available. Whatever the explanation, the fact was that neither side registered a decisive victory, though India did have an edge over Pakistan, particularly when it wrested Haji Pir and Tithwal, two important positions in Azad Kashmir. The overall gains were minimal”. In the words of Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, then heading the Western Command, “although we did succeed in whittling down Pakistan’s fighting potential, especially armour and occupied chunks of her territory, most of our offensive actions fizzled into a series of stalemates without achieving any decisive results”.