April 8, 2014

1965. The Intrigue Behind the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

Cold War Brinkmanship
Pakistani soldiers in Azad Kashmir in 1965 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

September 23, 1965
The anonymous men of the military diplomatic and central intelligence services usually get public mention only when there has been a tremendous goof-up of such monumental proportions that their failure or imprudence brings public condemnation and ridicule down on their heads.

When the cloak-and-dagger gentleman produce sound and useful guidance for the government, the credit goes to the public officials concerned. The intelligence establishment can neither ask nor does it usually receive public acclaim.

However, once in a while a situation develops in the news that makes the shadowy hand of the intelligence expert obvious—as happened in the past several weeks of the diplomatic and military confusion created by the vest-pocket war between India and Pakistan.

Although caught in the middle of this bitter conflict between two of America's principal Allies in the Far East, the United States steered a careful course of neutrality. While giving full backing to the United Nations' efforts to bring about the tenuous cease-fire that now prevails, Washington made secret contingency plans for America's diplomatic and military moves should Communist China carry out its threat to send a military force southward across India's Himalayan border. Such plans are always prepared as an emergency precaution in such circumstances. However, the consensus of United States intelligence was that the Peiping Communist leaders were bluffing.

Meanwhile the New Delhi government, understandably, was predicting that Red Chinese troops were massing for a full-scale invasion as part of a nefarious plot with Pakistan to make the Indian army fight on two fronts. Indian diplomats called on the United States and Britain to lift their ban on military aid and provide India the arms to keep the subcontinent from being overrun by a Chinese military horde. However, the American intelligence experts stood firm on their assessment that a Chinese military threat from the north would become real only if India was routed in the field—or if the New Delhi government collapsed from within.

We know now that Peiping's threats at no time were backed by the substantial movement of troops and supplies through the Himalayas which would be needed to support a major Chinese march southward. How this day-to-day information from such a remote mountain area was obtained still remains an official secret—although the Air Force reconnaissance satellites, which daily scan virtually every section of the globe, may have had something to do with it.

The United States intelligence experts reckoned that there were a half-dozen reasons why Mao Tse-tung would be reluctant to commit himself to a march against India. First, it most certainly would eventually bring America and Britain to the aid of the Indian subcontinent—the keystone of free world policy in the Far East. Secondly, any Chinese aggression to the south might invite Russian aggression against China's own ill-defined borders with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Siberia. And finally, Peiping must protect her long coastline as well as her Southeast Asian borders where United States military strength is building to bring about a settlement of the Viet Nam conflict.

So, unless some outrageous violation of the uneasy Asiatic truce knocks the American intelligence estimate into a cocked hat, then the nation owes a collective vote of thanks to the unnamed men who quietly provide the President and his National Security Council with the intelligence that guided United States policy so ably through the Kashmir crisis.

But there is one school of thought here in Washington that says Red China made a major mistake in playing at "brinkmanship" during the bitter fighting over Kashmir. The Peiping bayonet-rattling not only failed to give any decisive support to Pakistan, but when President Ayub agreed to the United Nations' truce proposals, it left Red China in the position of the "paper tiger," filled only with wind.

Quite possibly the most interesting result of the Chinese Communist border belligerence was that it gave Soviet Russia's "co-existence" brand of Communism the appearance of responsibility and respectability—a goal which Moscow has long been trying to establish. The split between Moscow and Peiping would now appear to be complete—and irretrievable.

But surely, if there was anything good to emerge from the carnage and violence of the Indo-Pakistani struggle, it was this: the Kashmir tragedy again demonstrated civilization's need for a world organization through which the earth's peoples can channel their demands that international conflicts be settled without violence.

The brief, undeclared war between Pakistan and India gave the United Nations a chance to demonstrate its value as an agency of world peace by providing both nations an arena to arrive at a truce with honor.

The immediate result has been a badly needed boost in both prestige and stature for the United Nations.

But now the world organization begins a more difficult task—the United Nations most negotiate a lasting formula for peace between the two nations before the Kashmir armistice collapses of its own weight.

The time may be short, and in this, the United Nations cannot afford to fail.

This is Bill Downs substituting for Edward P. Morgan saying good night from Washington.