New Delhi, May 30: Military historians are delving into war records to discover the identity of a brigadier after a former Pakistan foreign minister told a newspaper that his father, General Ayub Khan, had bought India’s 1965 war plan for Rs 20,000.
Gohar Ayub Khan told Pakistani daily The News that his father bought the war plan by bribing the brigadier who wanted the money to fund his wife’s hobby of canning fruit and vegetables.
Gohar Ayub, 68, said he was giving details in his autobiography that is due to be published in December. The brigadier, Gohar Ayub claimed in the interview to the newspaper, is still alive and went on to rise high in the Indian Army before retiring “honorably”.
But sources in army headquarters are dismissive of the claim and reel out accounts of the battles to show that Pakistan lost the initiative after a major thrust because General Ayub Khan changed the command structure of his army during its offensive on Jammu.
Whatever the authenticity of Gohar Ayub’s account, his claim has ensured his book a readership in India’s strategic community even before it is released. The 1965 war has spawned several accounts by its participants on both sides of the border and is one of the most researched conventional wars in South Asia.
The Indian ministry of defence’s official history of the 1965 war does not mention the alleged treachery but, despite presenting the government version of events, it notes that generals of the Indian Army ' mainly the then chief, General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, and the then western army commander, the highly-decorated Lt General Harbaksh Singh ' did not see eye to eye.
More than a dozen brigadiers of the Indian Army were in crucial positions from army headquarters to formations on the western front. Gohar Ayub’s needle of suspicion points at each of them.
He has claimed that his father used Pakistani intelligence agents in New Delhi to penetrate India’s Directorate of Military Operations and bribe the brigadier who delivered the war plans to the Pakistani military attache in London, Brigadier Said Ghaus.
Typically, since the second world war, tactical plans for major military operations were known only to a handful of the politico-military leadership. A brigadier in the Directorate of Military Operations, who would mostly likely have been holding the office of a deputy director or equivalent, would not be expected to have full knowledge of plans but would be privy to tactical moves of certain formations.
But the Indian Army suffered one of its biggest reverses in the 1965 war ' in which it also recorded some of its biggest gains ' when a combined Pakistani artillery-armoured-infantry thrust waded through the Chenab and the Beas and were on the doorsteps of strategically located Akhnoor town in Jammu. The thrust, codenamed “Operation Grand Slam” took the Indian Army by complete surprise.
The then commander of the western army, Lt General Harbaksh Singh, had left the defence of Akhnoor weak with only one brigade (191 independent infantry brigade) led by Brigadier Manmohan Singh deployed at the front. The Pakistani thrust, led by its 12 division, was aimed at cutting off the Indian Army’s line to Rajouri and Poonch and threaten its hold on Kashmir. It made a deep incursion through Chhamb-Jaurian.
But General Ayub Khan failed to grasp the extent of the Pakistani Army’s threat to the Indian Army. The assault had begun on September 1, 1965, planned and coordinated by Major General Akhtar Malik who headed the division. On September 2, for no apparently explicable reason in the middle of the assault, Ayub Khan replaced Malik with Major General Yahya Khan.
This break in the Pakistani command structure gave the Indian Army 24 hours in which to regroup. The 191 brigade that had been asked to fall back to defend Akhnoor was reinforced with deployments and the Pakistani thrust was stalled.