ISLAMABAD, Aug 1: Pakistan Air Force and Navy were not taken into confidence by the top army command as they started a secret operation to launch infiltrators into Kashmir — an operation which finally led to Pakistan-India war in 1965, said former chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Nur Khan, here on Monday.
The 82-year-old retired former Air chief revealed this to Dawn as he shared his memories of leading PAF from the front during the 1965 war, a fact also acknowledged in a recently published article by Air Marshal S. Raghavendran of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Air Marshal Khan said the decision to launch the infiltrators in Kashmir in 1965 was taken by the then President, Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, Gen Muhammad Musa Khan and the divisional commander with some in cabinet and the foreign ministry also being on board.
“It was a very secretive operation. Only the president, the divisional commander, who was directly involved in that operation in sending people, and the commander-in-chief knew about it,” he said.
Asked who gave the orders for launching infiltrators into Kashmir, Air Marshal Khan said, “Gen Musa. Naturally with president’s approval and knowledge of some in cabinet and the foreign office. But, again, a clique within the government rather than the whole government.”
He said the top decision makers at that time were mistakenly self-assured that the theatre of operations would be restricted only to Kashmir.
“The army too was not prepared that there could be a war,” he said.
“They had not taken the Air Force into confidence at all that they needed their help or the PAF should be ready. Navy was not told about it, “ he said.
Air Marshal Khan said, “the earliest when the infiltrators started going into Kashmir was by August 6. When the Indians came to know about it in mid-August they were surprised and thought something big was coming up. Kashmir was under pressure and in trying to defend that area it escalated into a war.”
Asked if the PAF was taken into confidence when the Kargil operation was launched in late 90s, Air Marshal Nur Khan said, “I think there was a little more openness in Kargil and they (Army) thought they would need the air force.”
In reply to a question if all the martial laws in the country were imposed with the consensus of the three armed forces, Air Marshal Nur Khan said, “No. Not at all.”
He said imposition of martial laws had always been on army’s decision. “I don’t think they (army) consider them (PAF and PN) important enough. The air force and navy just go along. The values have eroded. Even during the Ayub’s martial law, Asghar Khan and the naval chief had no active participation.”
Asked if President Gen Musharraf had offered him to become caretaker prime minister, Air Marshal Nur Khan said, “Rubbish. We never talked. I think only once I talked to him, at the beginning, trying to put things in perspective.”
“I have been with all the three martial laws and seen them closely. I opposed the martial law of Gen Yahya”.
Air Marshal Khan dismissed as absurd a theory that there was a tacit understanding between the top commanders of PAF and IAF in 1965 not to attack each other’s air force in the bases as alluded to by Air Marshal Raghavendran in a recent article available on Bharat-Rakshak website in which he says that PAF attacked only targets of “opportunity,” enabling the IAF to be up and fighting the next day.
Giving an account of the Pathankot strike, Air Marshal Raghavendran said, “fortunately for us, the Pakistani attackers committed the same mistake that the Japanese did at Pearl Harbour. They attacked and certainly caused loss of aircraft, but the infrastructure such as refuelling capabilities and armament stores were left intact. So were the runway and the taxi tracks.
So, we were operationally ready immediately afterwards - and were on Combat Air Patrol from the next morning, throughout the day.”