It is a scenario straight out of a subcontinental Alistair Maclean thriller-seven years before the 1965 Indo-Pak war, an Indian brigadier sells off the Indian Army's entire military plans to Pakistan. This not only forewarns Pakistan of India's troop deployments and weaknesses but allows it to thwart an Indian offensive and launch its own.
This is not the plot of a new paperback, but one of the revelations in former Pakistan foreign minister Gohar Ayub Khan's autobiography to be released this December. In an interview to a Pakistan daily, Gohar claimed that Pakistani agents in Delhi had purchased India's attack plans from a brigadier in India's Directorate of Military Operations for Rs 20,000 (Rs 2 lakh at present-day rates) in 1958. The same year that Gohar's father Field Marshal Ayub Khan seized power to become Pakistan's first military dictator. The unnamed Indian brigadier, who Gohar claims is still alive, will be named in his autobiography. The brigadier did it to buy machinery to set up his wife's fruit and vegetable canning business.
While speculations about the identity of the alleged traitor are rife, Gohar's allegations in the 40th year of the 1965 war have rolled a stun grenade into South Block. If proved true, they have the potential to make the Coomar Narain case-where a businessman freely peddled documents from the Prime Minister's Office to foreign agents in the mid-1980s-seem as serious as a bicycle accident.
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Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee immediately ordered an enquiry which is likely to be headed by the army's Director-General Military Intelligence, while the Indian Army is trying to verify the veracity of Gohar's claims about the 17-day war. Army brass, both retired and serving, are extremely skeptical. "The fact of the 1965 war is that Pakistan was completely taken by surprise when the Indian Army crossed the international border," says Brigadier Sant Singh, director of military operations until 1963.
"If Pakistan had all our offensive and defensive operational plans, its army would have knocked the hell out of us on all fronts, including Lahore and Kashmir. The fact that nothing of that sort happened flies in the face of his claims," says major-general (retd) Himmat Singh Gill, who served in the Directorate-General of Military Operations during the 1971 war.
Former Pakistan brass too are not convinced about the claim. "As per our records, there is no mention of any such deal. The only information that we got was from a despatch rider from Jammu that the Indian Army would launch its main offensive from Ravi and Chenab region. It was a very small plan," former Pakistan Army chief general Mirza Aslam Beg told Aaj Tak. Beg also questions the amount of money involved in the deal. "For a secret war plan, the amount should have been Rs 20 lakh and not Rs 20,000."
If there was indeed such a leak, Gohar would have a hard time proving it, especially since his father, for reasons never explained, had ordered all formations and units of the Pakistan Army to destroy their war diaries-daily accounts of what each military unit did-after the war ended. Later, the diplomatic records for 1965 were also found to be missing from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry's archives.
"The destruction of the diaries and the disappearance of the war-time records could not be simple coincidences," says Pakistan's former army vice-chief general K.M. Arif in his 2001 autobiography Khaki Shadows. "It is logical to suspect ulterior motives behind these misdeeds. These were premeditated acts of a sinister masterplan prepared by those who wielded authority (meaning Ayub)."
Ayub, who passed away in 1974, was silent about this revelation in his lifetime. "If this was indeed the intelligence coup, why did not Ayub Khan, who was accused of capitulating at Tashkent, mention it in his autobiography? This would have been the perfect opportunity to humiliate the Indian Army." says a senior army official. (Ayub Khan's 1967 autobiography Friends, not Masters skips the 1965 war).
Indian Army officers admit to two leakages of military plans during the war-the first was during the actual war on September 6, when major-general Niranjan Prasad, GOC, Infantry Division, was ambushed when leading the thrust towards Lahore and left the war plans for his division in his jeep captured by Pakistani troops. The second leak supposedly occurred when the wife of a brigadier in an infantry division spoke about the movement of the division from the Northeast to the Punjab. However, Pakistan had agreed to a ceasefire before the division arrived in Punjab, says major-general (retd) Narinder Singh, director of military operations during the 1965 war.
Could the supposed revelation about the traitor in the Indian Army be a son's attempt at a requiem for his father or merely a mealy-mouthed diplomat's attempt at turning into a canny book salesman? Or is "the sidelined lone ranger in Pakistan's current politics", as Gill calls Gohar, anxious for his place in the sun?
While the jury on that is out, tracing the events of the war offers no clinching clues. The fact remains that the 1965 war had ended as a stalemate with both armies calling it a series of missed opportunities. Gohar's blitzkrieg could well meet the same end if he is unable to substantiate his claims.