Operation Gibraltar

Operation Gibraltar
Part of Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Date August 1965
Location Jammu and Kashmir
Result Mission failed.[1][2][3]
Start of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
Flag of India.svg
Flag of Pakistan.svg
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Indian Army.svg Gen J.N Chaudhurie
Flag of Indian Army.svg Brig. Z.C.Bakhshi[4]
Flag of the Pakistani Army.svgMaj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik[5][6][4]
100,000 – 200,000 5,000 – 40,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown 4,000[7][8]

Operation Gibraltar was the codename given to the strategy of Pakistan to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India, and start a rebellion against Indian rule. Launched in August 1965, Pakistan Army's 50th Airborne paratroopers and Pakistan Army's guerrillas, disguised as locals, entered Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan with the intention of fomenting an insurgency among Kashmiri Muslims.[citation needed] However, the strategy went awry from the outset as it was not well-coordinated and the infiltrators were soon found. The debacle was followed by an Indian counterattack that resulted in the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War.

The operation was a significant one as it sparked a large scale military engagement between the two neighbours, the first since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Its success, as envisaged by its Pakistani planners, could have given Pakistan control over a unified Kashmir; something that Pakistan desired to achieve at the earliest opportunity. However, the plan misfired and triggered a war (the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965) where Pakistan was put on the defensive and forced by the Indian army to retreat back to normal borders.



Following the First Kashmir War which saw India gaining the majority of the disputed area of Kashmir, Pakistan sought an opportunity to win remaining Kashmir areas. The opening came after the Sino-Indian War in 1962 after India's war with the China and as a result the Indian Military was undergoing massive changes both in personnel and equipment. During this period, despite being numerically smaller than the Indian Military, Pakistan's armed forces had a qualitative edge in air power and armour over India,[9] which Pakistan sought to utilise before India completed its defence build-up. The Rann of Kutch episode in the summer of 1965, where Indian and Pakistani forces clashed, resulted in some positives for Pakistan. Moreover, in December 1963, the disappearance of a holy relic[10] from the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar, created turmoil and intense Islamic feeling among Muslims in the valley, which was viewed by Pakistan as ideal for revolt.[11] These factors bolstered the Pakistani command's thinking: that the use of covert methods followed by the threat of an all out war would force a resolution in Kashmir.[12][13][14] Assuming that a weakened Indian Military would not respond, Pakistan chose to send in "mujahideens" and Pakistan Army regulars into indian occupied of Jammu and Kashmir.

The original plan for the Operation, codenamed Gibraltar, was prepared as early as the 1950s; however it seemed appropriate to push this plan forward given the scenario. Backed by then foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and others, the aim was an "attack by infiltration" by a specially trained irregular force of some 40,000 men, highly motivated and well armed. It was reasoned that the conflict could be confined only to Kashmir. In the words of retired Pakistani General Akhtar Hussain Malik, the aims were "to defreeze the Kashmir problem, weaken Indian resolve, and bring India to the conference table without provoking general war."[15] As a result, groundwork and intelligence gathering for execution of the plan was laid by launching "Operation Nusrat", the purpose of which was to locate gaps in the Cease Fire Line (CFL) that were to serve as entry points for the mujahideen, and to gauge the response of the Indian army and the local population.[16]

Execution of plan

Name of Force Area of operation
Salahudin Srinagar Valley
Ghaznavi Mendhar-Rajauri
Tariq Kargil – Drass
Babur Nowshera-Sundarbani
Qasim Bandipura-Sonarwain
Khalid Qazinag-Naugam
Nusrat Tithwal-Tangdhar
Sikandar Gurais
Khilji Kel-Minimarg

Despite initial reservations by the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan, the operation was set in motion. In the first week of August 1965, (some sources put it at 24 July)[17] Pakistani troops, members of the SSG commandos and irregulars began to cross the Cease Fire Line dividing Indian- and Pakistani-held Kashmir. Several columns were to occupy key heights around the Kashmir valley and encourage a general revolt, which would be followed by direct combat by Pakistani troops. According to Indian sources as many as 30,000[4][18] – 40,000 men had crossed the line, while Pakistani sources put it at 5,000 -7,000 only.[19] These troops known as the "Gibraltar Force"[4] were organized and commanded by Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik, GoC 12 Division [5][6]The troops were divided into 10 forces (each of 6 units of 5 companies each)[4]. The 10 forces were given different code names, mostly after historically significant Muslim rulers.[18] The operation's name, Gibraltar, itself was chosen for the Islamic connotations.[20] The 8th century Umayyad conquest of Hispania was launched from Gibraltar, a situation not unlike that Pakistan envisaged for Indian Kashmir, i.e. conquest of Kashmir from Operation Gibraltar. The areas chosen were mainly on the de facto Cease Fire line as well as in the populous Kashmir Valley.

The plan was multi-pronged. Infiltrators would mingle with the local populace and incite them to rebellion. Meanwhile guerrilla warfare would commence, destroying bridges, tunnels and highways, harassing enemy communications, logistic installations and headquarters as well as attacking airfields,[21] with a view to create the conditions of an "armed insurrection" in Kashmir — leading to a national uprising against Indian rule. It was assumed that India would neither counter-attack,[22] nor involve itself in another full-scale war, and the liberation of Kashmir would rapidly follow.

Indian retaliation

Indian soldiers hoisting the national flag atop a peak in the Haji Pir pass, which was captured soon after the infiltrators were discovered.

Despite the operational planning, the intruders were detected by Indian forces in Kashmir. With the exception of four districts which did revolt, the local Kashmiris did not cooperate as expected. Instead, they conveyed news of the planned insurgency to the local authorities and turned the infiltrators in. Gibraltar Force was soon facing attacks from the Indian Army who moved in immediately to secure the border. The majority of the infiltrators were captured by the Indian troops, although some managed to escape. India accused the Pakistani government of sending and aiding the seditionists, and although Pakistan denied any complicity,[18][23] it was soon proved that the foreigners were all of Pakistani origin. In fact several of them were found to be officers in the Pakistan Army, with the UNMOGIP Chief, General Nimmo also confirming Pakistan's involvement.[23]

India swiftly launched counter attacks across the cease fire line, attacking the Pakistan divisions in Azad Kashmir that had provided cover for the infiltrators. As a result, many of these posts fell to Indian attacks resulting in territorial gains for India. On August 15, India scored a major victory after a prolonged artillery barrage. Their success in countering Pakistani plans proved to be a morale booster for Indian troops, coming exactly on India's independence day. Fighting continued until the end of the month, as vital pockets like Haji Pir pass — which was the logistical supply route of the infiltrators[24] — and other nearby areas were also brought under Indian control.

The Indian offensive resulted in defeat of Pakistani troops in the covert guerilla operation. Frustrated with the failure of Operation Gibraltar Gen. Ayub Khan[6] urgently launched Operation Grand Slam to contain the situation since there was no contingency planned in case of Gibraltar's failure. This however resulted in more problems for Pakistan, as India countered by crossing the international border further south in Punjab, starting the war of 1965.

Reasons for failure

A declassified US State Department telegram that confirms the existence of hundreds of infiltrators in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

While the covert infiltration was a complete failure that ultimately led to the Second Kashmir War, military analysts have differed on whether the plan itself was flawed. Some have held that the plan was well-conceived but was let down by poor execution, but almost all Pakistani and neutral analysts have maintained that the entire operation was "a clumsy attempt"[25] and doomed to collapse. 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.[26] Pakistani author Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema notes that Muhammad Musa, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff, was reportedly so confident that the plan would succeed and conflict would be localized to Kashmir that he did not inform the Air Force, as he believed the operation would not require any major air action.[17] Many senior Pakistani military officers and political leaders were unaware of the impending crisis, thus surprising not only India, but also Pakistan itself. Furthermore, few people in Kashmir were really interested in revolting against India, a fact largely ignored while planning.[27]

Colonel SG Mehdi, the SSG commander, cited the above reasons as well as a few others (such as logistical problems and a confusion of classic guerrilla operations with commando raids) as to why the operation would fail even before its launch. He also added that many SSG officers were unsure of the means and uncertain of the end.[28] Initially, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Musa opposed Gibraltar on the grounds that if the operation was a non-starter, then Pakistan would not be able to defeat India in the ensuing war. Many senior officials also were against the plan, as a failure could lead to an all-out war with India, which many wanted to avoid.[8] The resulting war of 1965 had a greater negative impact on Pakistan than on India.[29][30][31]

See also


  1. ^ Schofield, Victoria. Kashmir in conflict: India, Pakistan and the unending war. I.T. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1860648983. 
  2. ^ Dossani, Rafiq. Prospects for peace in South Asia. Stanford University Press, 2005. ISBN 0804750858. 
  3. ^ Wirsing, Robert. India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir dispute: on regional conflict and its resolution. St. Martins Press, 1998. ISBN 0312175620. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Rao, K. V. Krishna (1991). Prepare or perish: a study of national security. Lancer Publishers. pp. 123. ISBN 9788172120016. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=G7xPaJomYsEC&lpg=PA123&dq=Operation%20Gibraltar%20Casualties&pg=PA123#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  5. ^ a b Ahmad, Mustasad (1997). Living up to heritage: history of the Rajput Regiment 1947-1970. Lancer Publishers,. pp. 245. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=QmbePs-M2TgC&lpg=PA244&dq=Operation%20Gibraltar%20Casualties&pg=PA245#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  6. ^ a b c Singh, Sukhwant. India's Wars Since Independence. pp. 416. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=j1VawuyUS-cC&lpg=PA216&dq=Operation%20Gibraltar%20Casualties&pg=PA416#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  7. ^ "Kashmiris didn’t back Pakistan in 1965: Gohar". The Tribune. 6 June 2005. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050603/main2.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  8. ^ a b "Opinion: The Way it was 4: extracts from Brig (retd) ZA Khan's book". Defence Journal. Dynavis (Pvt) Ltd. May 1998. http://www.defencejournal.com/may98/thewayitwas4.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  9. ^ "India and the United States estranged democracies", 1941–1991, ISBN 1-4289-8189-6, DIANE Publishing, pp 235, 238
  10. ^ It is believed to be the hair of Islamic prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam
  11. ^ Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War By Victoria Schofield Published by I.B.Tauris, pp 108, ISBN 1860648983, 2003
  12. ^ The Jammu and Kashmir conflict Overview by Meredith Weiss 25 June 2002 – Hosted on Yale University
  13. ^ The Fate of Kashmir International Law or Lawlessness? By Vikas Kapur and Vipin Narang Stanford Journal of International Relations, Stanford University
  14. ^ Pak Radio's claim of India starting 1965 war falls flat Malaysia Sun 21 September 2007
  15. ^ Hassan Abbas (2004). Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 0-7656-1497-9. , pp 49
  16. ^ Matinuddin, Kamal. "Operation Gibraltar revisited". Opinion archive. The News International Pakistan. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20070930015348/http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_detail.asp?id=22817. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  17. ^ a b Pervaiz Iqbal (2004). The Armed Forces of Pakistan. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-119-1. 
  18. ^ a b c Karim, Major General Afsir (retd) (19 September 2005). "The 1965 War: Lessons yet to be learnt". The Rediff Special. Rediff.com India Ltd. http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/sep/19war.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  19. ^ Grand Slam — A Battle of Lost Opportunities by Major (Retd.) Agha Humayun Amin, Defence Journal (Pakistan), September 2000
  20. ^ Sehgal, Ikram. "GIBRALTAR-2". Defence Journal (reproduced from The Nation newspaper). Dynavis (Pvt) Ltd. http://www.defencejournal.com/jul99/gibraltor-2.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  21. ^ My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir (7th Edition), pp 409
  22. ^ Faruqui, Ahmad. "Remembering 6th of September 1965". Pakistan Link. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. http://web.archive.org/web/20070930165129/http://www.pakistanlink.com/Opinion/2004/Sept04/17/05.html. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  23. ^ a b A Region in Turmoil: South Asian Conflicts Since 1947 By Rob Johnson, Page 143, Published by Reaktion Books, 2005, ISBN 1861892578
  24. ^ Haji Pir conqueror says handing it back to Pak was a mistake by Josy Joseph December 22, 2002 – Rediff
  25. ^ South Asia in World Politics By Devin T. Hagerty, 2005 Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-7425-2587-2, pp 26
  26. ^ "Nur Khan reminisces ’65 war". Pakistan's Dawn (newspaper). 6 September 2005. http://www.dawn.com/2005/09/06/nat2.htm. Retrieved 2006-07-08. 
  27. ^ Kashmir in the Shadow of War: regional rivalries in a nuclear age By Robert G. Wirsing Pg 158
  28. ^ Mehdi, Col SG. "Operation Gibraltar – Role of SSG Para Commandos". Defence Journal. http://www.defencejournal.com/july98/1965war.htm. Retrieved 2006-07-08. 
  29. ^ "Is a Kashmir solution in the offing?". Centre for Aerospace Power Studies. http://www.caps.org.pk/Papers/April2004.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  30. ^ "Brig (Retd) Saeed Ismat, SJ in a Q&A session ("What do you have to say about 1965 war?")". Defence Journal. November 2001. http://www.defencejournal.com/2001/november/ismat.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-08. 
  31. ^ Refer to the main article Second Kashmir War for a detailed referenced analysis on the post-war fallout.


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