1965 war: India attacked Pakistan, now neither side wants war: Gohar Ayub Khan (IANS Interview)

New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) Pakistan’s former president and military ruler Ayub Khan had “no intention” of going to war with India in 1965, and was taken aback when India “launched an attack”, said his son Gohar Ayub Khan, a retired Pakistani military officer and a veteran politician.

An aide-de-camp to his father Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military ruler (1958-69), Gohar Ayub Khan said the Pakistan Army was taken by surprise by the “Indian Army’s attack on the international border” on September 6, 1965.

“The president, who was also the supreme commander of the military, had no intention of going to war with India in 1965. But we certainly won the war,” Gohra Ayub Khan told IANS in an interview over the phone from Islamabad.

A Sandhurst-trained military officer, who retired from the army in 1962 to be a part of politics and rejoined the army in 1971, Gohar Ayub Khan squarely blamed India for the events leading up to the 1965 war.

India’s position is it was forced to go to war after Pakistan attacked it. And that India clearly won the war which started on September 6 and ended on September 23, with both sides signing a ceasefire agreement.

However, Gohar Ayub Khan said neither side wanted any more wars.

Though exchange of fire between India and Pakistan across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir has become a regular feature, he said, both sides should work on an agreement to maintain peace on the border.

“I think we should have peace. We have had enough wars,” he said.

He said that due to tensions in Jammu and Kashmir and the operation against militants, “the situation escalated” in 1965 which culminated in “India mounting an attack” on Pakistan.

“The forward positions of the Pakistan Army were held by the paramilitary forces which the Indian Army was able to push back. But nowhere else, not in Lahore or Sialkot, could the Indian Army penetrate or cross the main defence of the Pakistan Army,” said Gohar Ayub Khan, 78.

He said the morale of the Pakistan Army “during the 1965 war and even before that was so high that if you asked the ambition of anybody in the Pakistan Army, they would say it was to hoist the Pakistan flag at the Red Fort in Delhi”.

He dismissed claims that India won the war.

“On the Indian side, 2,763 soldiers lost their lives and 8,444 were wounded. A total of 200 tanks and 36 aircraft were destroyed, and 1,607 personnel went missing. On the Pakistani side, 1,200 soldiers were killed and around 2,000 wounded, 132 tanks and 19 aircraft were destroyed,” he said. “I am amazed how India can say they won the war.”

Gohar Ayub Khan, who has been Pakistan’s foreign minister and speaker of the National Assembly, dismissed key Indian wins during the war, namely the Battle of Asal Utar. “Did the Indian Army take an offensive in that area? No, they didn’t.”

He said international pressure on both the countries was responsible for signing of the Tashkent agreement by then Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Ayub Khan.

But Gohar Ayub Khan maintained: “Had India not attacked on September 6, there would have been no war.”

(Priyanka can be contacted at priyanka.p@ians.in)

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