Operation Gibraltar

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MuslimIndo-Pakistani War of 1965Kargil War

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Operation Gibraltar
Part of Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Date August 1965
Location Jammu and Kashmir
Result Mission failure.[1][2][3]
Start of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.



Commanders and leaders

Gen J.N Chaudhurie

Brig. Z.C.Bakhshi[4]

Maj Gen Akhtar Hussain Malik[5][6][4]

Operation Gibraltar was the codename given to the strategy of Pakistan to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir, and start a rebellion against Indian rule. If successful, Pakistan hoped to gain control over Kashmir, but the operation resulted in an “Major Failure”.

In August 1965, Pakistan Army‘s 50th Airborne paratroopers and Pakistan Army’sguerrillas, disguised as locals, entered Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan with the goal of fomenting an insurgency among Kashmiri Muslims. However, the strategy went awry from the outset due to poor coordination, and the infiltrators were soon discovered.

The operation sparked the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the first major engagement between the two neighbours since the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947.


In 1947 at the time of the division of the Sub-continent, Sir Radcliffe was given the charge of the boundary commission formed under the supervision of British viceroy Lord Mountbatten. The commission had decided to incorporate Muslim majority areas into the to-be formed Pakistan territory, while the non-Muslim areas were to be incorporated in India. Many territories like Jammu and Kashmir, Gurdaaspur, Ferozpur, had a Muslim majority but were incorporated into India because they were princely states and the local kings were given opportunity to join either Pakistan or India. This caused a strong revolt in Kashmir, in which there were 86% Muslims. This was the basis of the Indo-Pak wars over Kashmir. Following the First Kashmir War which saw India maintaining its hold over two-third 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 theChina 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,[7] 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[8] 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.[9] 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.[10][11][12] Assuming that a weakened Indian military would not respond, Pakistan chose to send in “mujahideens” and Pakistan Army regulars into 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.”[13] 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.[14]

Execution of plan

Name of Force Area of operation
Salahudin Srinagar Valley
Ghaznavi Mendhar-Rajauri
Tariq KargilDrass
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)[15] Pakistani troops who were members of Azad Kashmir Regimental Force (NowAzad Kashmir Regiment) began to cross the Cease Fire Line dividing Indian- and Pakistani-held Kashmir across the Pir Panjal Range into Gulmarg, Uri andBaramulla. 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][16] – 40,000 men had crossed the line, while Pakistani sources put it at 5,000 -7,000 only.[17] 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 (5 companies each).[4] The 10 forces were given different code names, mostly after historically significant Muslim rulers.[16] The operation’s name, Gibraltar, itself was chosen for the Islamic connotations.[18] 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. Meanwhileguerrilla warfare would commence, destroying bridges, tunnels and highways, harassing enemy communications, logistic installations and headquarters as well as attacking airfields,[19] 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,[20] nor involve itself in another full-scale war, and the liberation of Kashmir would rapidly follow. Out of the 9 Infiltrating Forces, Ghaznavi Force under command Maj Malik Munawar Khan Awan managed to achieve its objective in Mehndar-Rajouri area.

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.
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 success that ultimately led to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, 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”[21] and doomed to collapse. The Pakistani Army’s failures started with the supposition that a generally discontented Kashmiri people, given the opportunity provided by the Pakistani advance, would revolt against their Indian rulers, bringing about a swift and decisive surrender of Kashmir. The Kashmiri people, however, did not revolt. Instead, the Indian Army was provided with enough information to learn of Operation Gibraltar and the fact that the Army was battling not insurgents, as they had initially supposed, but Pakistani Army regulars.[22] 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.[23] 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.[15] Many senior Pakistani military officers and political leaders were unaware of the impending crisis, thus surprising not only India, but also Pakistan itself. [24] 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.[25][26][27][28]

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