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

MG is an air warrior with a distinguished career and now a corporate advisor, writer, and intrepid traveler and novelist


The Attack on Kashmir

'Operation Grand slam’ is synonymous with Pakistan's 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 general staff failed to appreciate that things had changed and India now had much more muscle power.

If one looks at the picture in totality that 1965 war is really an extension of the 1964 Kutch operation by Pakistan. The Pakistan army had infiltrated into a portion of the Kutch region in Gujarat and the Indian response was slow and almost bordering on timidity. This sent a wrong signal to the Pakistan general staff that a similar response could be expected in Kashmir.

The Pakistan president general Mohammed Ayub Khan ( later self styled Field Marshal) who was from the British Indian army Chamar Regiment conceived of a plan to infiltrate the Kashmir Valley with mujaheddin. It was hoped that the mujaheddin would instigate an internal revolt in Kashmir. The plan was given the code name "Operation Gibraltar." Gibraltar is a British administered island at the end of the Spanish Peninsula and readers may well wonder why this name was chosen. In 711 AD the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad led the invasion of the Iberian ( Spain) Peninsula. When he landed he ordered all the ships to be burnt, so the message was clear-win or die.

Maj.Gen Akhtar removed from command in mid battle

Maj.Gen Akhtar removed from command in mid battle

The plan

This lack of appreciation 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 was given the code name "Operation Gibraltar." 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 drawback 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 plan and its execution

The command of the Pak army was initially given to Major General Akhtar Malik. The attack was to commence on 01 Sept 1965 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 Headquarters was hatching a 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 off 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 elements in General HQ led by the Army Chief general Musa and President General Ayub Khan anticipating an easy victory decided to give the command to General Yahya Khan, a favorite of Ayub and Musa. This was the most illogical decision and violated all the Principles of War.

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Ground situation 1-3 September 1965

Ground situation 1-3 September 1965

Change of Command

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. It was an illogical decision. 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 as the Pakistan army did.

Yahiya Khan ordered another offensive after he took over command but the momentum had been lost and the Indians had stiffened their defenses and brought their own tanks at 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 just frittered away. It was a colossal blunder committed by the Pakistan army and probably cost them victory. This shows that petty jealousies can have far-reaching effects.


Last word

The Indian army did blunt the Pakistani attack but there are many other questions which have not been answered. The most important is the complete absence of any strategic initiative by the Indian political leadership and army. The Indian army had sufficient forces in the east and at that time East Pakistan was defenseless, yet no attempt was made by the military leadership to convince the government to open a front against East Pakistan. It is surprising that the war was confined only to the western border of Punjab and Kashmir and a golden opportunity was lost in 1965 in East Pakistan.

However in 1971, this mistake was not repeated and the state of Bangladesh became reality when the Indian army helped the Mukti Bahini the revolutionary group of the Bengali Muslims to defeat Pakistan and 100,000 soldiers and 200,000 Razakars surrendered.


MG Singh (author) from UAE on January 08, 2021:

Thank you, Tom, Yes, it is a fact that Lt Gen Harbaksh took the stand not to withdraw beyond the Beas river which general Choudhry wanted and by not doing it he saved Punjab. All said and done the Indian approach was not strategic and they could've easily occupied East Pakistan in 1965 when the Pakis had Hardly any force there.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on January 08, 2021:

Thank you, Colonel Choudhury, The fact is my focus was on the Pakistan war in the west and not the 71 war hence I have not made any mention of what all happened in East Pakistan at that time

tom on January 08, 2021:

operation gibraltar brain child of aziz ahmed foreign secretary ,bhutto foreign minister and akthar hussein,who was ahmediyya,akthar died in a car crash in jordan ,allegedly killed by mossad,akthars brother rtd major general,intel faliure on gibraltar,two gujjars gave first intel mohd din and wazir mohd,august 15 brigadier master goc 191 bde killed by pak arty,10th indian divison raised on august 31,september 5 1965 jaurian captured,september 6 lahore attacked,grand slam cancelled,lt gen harbaksh singh saved india,haji pir captured by lt gen dayal ,three week war stalemate, i have read official history of 1965,asal utar indian victory

Lt Col Anwar Choudhry on January 08, 2021:

I am a retired officer of the Bangladesh army and took part in the 1971 war of liberation. You have written a very interesting article and made a passing reference to the 1971 war. The Pakistan army carried out a lot of atrocities on the Bengali population and that was the reason the country broke up. This fact should've been highlighted by you.

MG Singh (author) from UAE on February 09, 2014:

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

tonysarao on February 08, 2014:

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 (author) from UAE on February 03, 2013:

Thznk you Promod for your comment

pramodgokhale from Pune( India) on February 02, 2013:

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

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