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Operation Grand Slam: The Story of Pakistan's Failure to Capture Kashmir in 1965.

Updated on February 6, 2013
General Ayub Khan
General Ayub Khan

The Attack on Kashmir

'Operation Grand slam’ is synonymous with the Pakistan plan to invade Kashmir in 1965. At that time the Pakistan army with its newly inducted Patton tanks was confident of victory. The plan was hatched at GHQ in Rawalpindi and the Pak top brass had honed the plan to minute detail. The plan was good on paper , but was based on a number of assumptions. Foremost among them was a feeling in the Pakistan Army and General Staff, that the Hindu soldiers were not a match for the Pakistan army. Part of this belief was fostered due to the debacle of the Indian army against China in 1962. The Pakistan generel staff failed to appreciate that things had changed and India now had much more muscle power.

This lack of appreciaton of the military capability of the Indian army was to have a disastrous effect on the command and control of the Pakistan army during the actual battle. The Pakistan plan basically concerned the following salient points.

a) Cut the Indian lines of communication to Kashmir

b) Capture Chamb

c) Capture Rajauri

A major part of the plan hinged on an uprising by the Kashmir valley by the populace in favor of Pakistan and for this purpose about 1000 Mujahidin had infiltrated into the valley. This again was a disastrous assumption as the Kashmiri people did not rise up against the Indians. On the contrary they actively sided with the Indian troops and led them to places where the Mujahidin were hiding. The Indian army thus shot tens of the infiltrators with the help of the local Kashmir populace.

Another major draw back in the higher command of the Pakistan army was the lack of unity of command, an important Principle of War.Assuming the Pakistan army would have an easy victory, a battle to corner the 'glory' of a win dominated the top echelons of the Pakistan army. This actually sounded the death knell of any Pakistan victory.

The command of the Pak army was initially given to Major General Akhtar Malik. The attack was to commence on 01 sept but was delayed by a day. General Mohammed Musa the Chief of the Pakistan army informed Ayub Khan that a victory was on the cards. General Malik was a capable soldier and commander, but he was unaware that General Headquartrers was hatchinga different plan and that included his removal as the battle commander.

On 02 September 1965 the Pakistan army under cover of heavy artillery barrage and spearheaded by the Patton tanks advanced in the Akhnoor sector to capture and cut of the Indian lines of communication to Kashmir. The battle went as per plan and then something happened which has no explanation. Probably we will have to await the archives of the Pakistan history section of military history to learn the exact truth. As already pointed out elemnts in General HQ led by the Army Chief general Musa and the President General Ayub Khan anticipating a easy victory decided to give command to General Yahiya Khan, favorite of Ayub and Musa. This was a most illogical decision and voilated all the Principles of War.

When the battle was in progress Major General Akhtar Malik was removed from command. This happened at a critical juncture on 5 September when the battle was on. GHQ by a signal ordered Major General Malik to hand over his command to Major General Yahiya Khan. There is no reason for this except that some people felt that Yahiya Khan was close to Ayub and thinking it was going to be an easy victory he was handed the command so that all the glory could dwell on him. this change of command in the middle of a battle when an offensive had been mounted and the Pakistan army was advancing forward is unparalleled in military history. Worse the reasons were not patriotic, but parochial.

But the script went awry after this change of command and confused the Pakistan soldiers. The rank and file of the Pakistan army got bogged down and confused at this change of command in the middle of the battle. The change of command took time. Akhtar Malik took his own time to hand over command and brief Yahiya Khan, who also took precious time to understand the ground situation. All this resulted in delay and the target of Akhnoor slipped from the grasp of the Pakistan army. Rarely in military history has an army allowed the initiative to slip from its grasp, like the Pakistan army did. Once general Yahiya Khan ordered another offensive the momentum had been lost and the Indians had stiffened their defences and brought their own tanks in the forefront. Though not as modern as the Patton tanks the aged Indian Sherman and AMX tanks fought credibly and blunted the Pakistan offensive. General Yahiya Khan's dream of donning the mantle of a conquering general collapsed and he was hard put to explain to his seniors why the Pakistan army could not advance forward.

The Indians not only stiffened their resolve but mounted an offensive in the Lahore sector. The Indian army crossed the International border and reached 7 miles from Lahore. Operation Grand slam than just frittered away. It was a colossal blunder committed by the Pakistan army and probably cost them a sure victory. This shows that petty jealousies can have far reaching effects.


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      Jodi 2 years ago

      Real brain power on dipysal. Thanks for that answer!

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thank you tonysarao for your comment. You have done a lot of research on the subject.

    • profile image

      tonysarao 3 years ago

      Gibraltar and Grand Slam : How -The War Started,Some Myths and Some Truths

      1 How did Gibraltar and Grand Slam start the '65 war? To add to what has been written in the article above , one must appreciate that the '65 war was as a result of Grand Slam and Grand Slam was a continuation of Gibraltar . It is conveniently forgotten that war had in effect already started with the launch of Operation Gibraltar by Pakistan .

      2 Emboldened by the rather timid and weak response of the Indian politico-military leadership during the Kutch crisis , Operation Gibraltar was conceived to get back the Indian part of Kashmir through a covert operation. A plan which almost all Pakistani and neutral analysts have maintained was ‘a clumsy attempt’ to wrest control of ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir’ and was doomed to collapse. It is interesting that the Pak columnist Lt Col (retd) Mukhtar Ahmad Gilani (‘Panoramic Analysis —Senior and Junior Leaders —Aug 1947 to Dec 1971‘ calls the Pak foray into J&K as a ‘counter-offensive’. He states that ‘’After launching the counteroffensive (sic) in Chamb-Jaurian Sector the Pakistan high command (the President, the C-in-C and the CGS) had failed to foresee the strategic counter action of the Indian Army against Sialkot, Lahore and Kasur, in view of the foreign office assurance, that India would confine its retaliation to the territorial limits of Kashmir’’. It is a known fact that the Indian thrust across the IB was in fact a counter offensive in retaliation to ‘Gibraltor / Grand Slam’.

      3 According to then Chief of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Marshal Nur Khan, there was little coordination amongst the military services on the impending operation. In any case the plan went completely awry in execution . The infiltrating troops and a large number of irregular and ‘volunteers’ known as the ‘Gibraltar Force’ were organized and commanded by GOC 12 Infantry Division , Major General Akhtar Malik, subsequently awarded the Hilal-i-Jurat for his role in the planning and execution of Gibraltar. In one of the biggest mysteries and blunders related to the inept Pak handling and lack of higher direction of war (not that the Indians did any better, in this war at least), he was in-explicably replaced by Maj Gen Yahya Khan (later Chief) just when Akhnur was within the grasp of the Pak Army !

      4 Ahmad Faruqui, the well known defense analyst and economist (‘Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan’) says that when he asked Sajjad Haider, a retired Air Commodore (author of the book,’ Flight of the Falcon – Demolishing myths of Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971‘, to name the aggressor, ’ Nosy’ Haider, a PAF fighter pilot (‘jaunty-angled cap, silk scarves, special boots, and even the way they stand’), known for his rather controversial but no holds barred comments, not mincing any words said very unequivocally, ‘Ayub perpetrated the war.’

      5 Any how, be that as it may , Gibraltar was launched and India after an initial phase of set backs , in a series of retaliatory operations, managed to eliminate the saboteurs and capture some tactically advantageous Pak posts across the Cease Fire Line. The loss of Hajipir Pass in August ’65 along with Indian successes in the Neelam Valley and opposite Uri unnerved the Pakistani GHQ which assumed that Muzaffarabad was about to be addressed next . It was under these circumstances that the Pak GHQ ordered launch of Operation Grand Slam on 01 September 1965 to cut off the Indian supply lines to J& K. So was Grand Slam initiated as a result of Indian aggression or was it a continuum of the already initiated but now precariously poised Pakistani plan to whip up the local Kashmiri population to a frenzy, so that the larger plan to integrate the state of J & K to Pakistan could be fructified??

      6 Brig (retd) Shaukat Qadir, an impartial and independent analyst clearly mentions that Pakistan’s Operation Grand Slam was ‘one of a number of contingency plans that had been prepared to support Gibraltar’. Operation Grand Slam basically intended to sever the road link between India and Indian held Kashmir once the valley was up in flames. Operation Grand Slam was four phased says Shaukat Qadir ( ‘The 1965 War-A Comedy of Errors)’: the capture of Chamb, the crossing of river Tawi and consolidation, followed by the capture of Akhnur, and finally severing the Indian lines of communication and capturing Rajauri. As mentioned earlier , the failure of Gibraltar resulted in the loss of some key Pak posts in Kashmir, and it was then that Operation Grand Slam was undertaken to relieve pressure on the Pak troops in Kashmir.

      7 Maj (Retd) Agha Humayun Amin (‘Grand Slam-A Battle of Lost Opportunities’) mentions that on being briefed by Major General Akhtar Malik (GOC 12 Infantry Division) on the Gibraltar plan, Ayub suggested that 12 Infantry Division should also capture Akhnur. This attack was codenamed ‘Operation Grand Slam’ and was planned as a sequel to ‘Gibraltar’. Similarly Shaukat Riza, the official historian (Pak) of the 1965 War has admitted that by 31 August once the Indians had ruptured 12 Infantry Division’s defences across the cease fire line, the Pak GHQ decided to launch Grand Slam to ease pressure on the Division by capturing Chamb and threatening Akhnur. In an extremely aggressive, well planned and confident move, Pak infantry units backed by armour overran the Indian outpost in Chamb in the initial phase itself, crossed the Tawi river and were headed towards Akhnur in order to cut off India’s line of communication with Srinagar.

      8 The Indians were now under tremendous pressure and the military situation was getting precarious in the Kashmir sector. Ahmad Faruqui puts it on record ‘’ that the Indian response on Sept 06 across the international border at Lahore was a natural counter-response, not an act of aggression.’’ To relieve forces almost cut off in their part of Kashmir, the Indian Government took the momentous decision, as advised by Gen J N Chaudhuri, to open another front across the IB. The aim was to relieve the pressure in J&K where the situation was getting uncomfortable for the Indian Army.

      The Western Front –The Indian Riposte

      9 Following this, the Indian Army then counterattacked by crossing the international border thus opening the Western front in Pakistan Punjab to force the Pakistan Army to relocate troops and distract the Pak Army’s attention and resources away from Operation Grand Slam. And thus started the second Indo – Pak war of 1965. Yes, there were no declarations of war made by the adversaries, either when the Pak troops crossed over in J&K nor later when the Indian troops crossed over in the Punjab. Circumstances and perceptions may differ on warring sides, but historical facts cannot be changed or misrepresented for partisan reasons. In this article, to be fair, events as they unfolded have been recorded as viewed from both sides.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thznk you Promod for your comment

    • pramodgokhale profile image

      pramodgokhale 4 years ago from Pune( India)

      1965 war , Pakistan started with much fanfare and expected lunch in Delhi afternoon on the day 5 Th September 1965, but they underestimated Indian forces and evening Indian air force repulsed attack and bombed Pakistani tank regiment, they had no air cover of and entire operation was halted after Indian forces moved on Lahore.

      which was unexpected.

      pramod gokhale