In 1962, India and China fought a war in a region east of Bhutan where the two countries shared a border. Am I right? And, in that war, the Indian army was totally outclassed by the Chinese, something even the Indian sources admit.

However, there was no attempts from Pakistan --- during the Indo-China in 1962 --- to try to wrest Kashmir (or part of it) from India, although a military dictator, named Ayyub Khan, was all-and-all here in Pakistan. I have even learned that even the Chinese urged Pakistan to try to seize the initiative, but the USA clearly warned Pakistan against indulging in any such adventure.

On the other hand, about three years later, in 1965, that very General Ayub Khan made the Pakistani Army to launch an incursion into Kashmir, which led India to push its army across the Radcliffe Line into the Pakistani Punjab, thus starting a 17-day war in September 1965.

Zulfiqaar Ali Bhutto's name is also mentioned amongst either those who provoked Ayyub to launch an adventure in 1965 or amongst those who were cross with Ayyub for not taking the opportunity offered by the Chinese in 1962.

Now I am wondering why did Gen. Ayyub Khan did in 1965, three years after the India-China 1962 war, what he did not do in 1962?

Why did Ayyub wait three years to allow the Indian army to regroup and recover from the reverses they had suffered at the hands of the Chinese in 1962?

Is it mere a tactical blunder and a political / military miscalculation? Or, was there some sort of self-centered traitorous intent at play that led the Pakistani leadership of the time to commit such follies?

I would appreciate any references (in the form of authentic and well-rated books, articles, documentaries, etc) on the relevant chains of events in this whole episode.


It is a plain fact that the Indian Army is, and has been, much larger than the Pakistani Army; so Pakistan simply could not afford to take on India unless the latter was engaged in something else, as the case in 1962. So it is all the more foolish on the part of the military leadership in Pakistan to even contemplate what they actually did in 1965. Am I right?

  • 3
    By December 1965 U.S. Forces in Vietnam had increased from ~23,000 a year earlier to over 184,000. That puts a damper on the possibility of the U.S. intervening in any meaningful way, especially with the anti-war movement just starting to make headway with the public. Dec 10, 2017 at 7:50
  • @PieterGeerkens please also read the PS in my post. As for your comment, you see, it was in September, rather August, 1965 that Pakistan entered its troops in the Indian-held Kashmir. By September 23, 1965, the India-Pakistan war had been over! But you are talking about December 1965. Moreover, as far as I know, at that time in the Cold War, India was in the Soviet camp, whereas Pakistan was in the US camp. Dec 10, 2017 at 8:10
  • "amiright" is an explicit anti-pattern in help center.
    – MCW
    May 8, 2018 at 12:52
  • India was beaten, yes. But the indo-chinese border is so remote that the India could not use the bulk of its Army due to logistic limitations. The Indian Navy also would not be used in an inland conflict. So, it is not so easier to Pakistan as it looks.
    – Luiz
    May 8, 2018 at 14:27
  • The way I remember is: Ayub Khan realized much later that it was a mistake not taking part in the Sino-Indian War of 1962, when India was defeated and weak. By the time he decided to enter into war, it was already 1965 (hence, the 1965 Indo-Pak War).
    – Samid
    Sep 25, 2023 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


There is no mystery here at all. Pakistan was a US ally. The US backed India in its conflict with China. Had Pakistan tried anything, the US would have severely penalised it.

What changed was Nehru's attitude to Kashmir and the reemergence of Sheikh Abdullah as a political force. It genuinely appeared to many observers that Nehru was preparing for some big concession on the Valley. His death completely changed the political picture in India and the Pakistanis believed they needed to move quickly while the Indians were in disarray. Furthermore, the infamous 'hazratbal incident' had created the impression that the Kashmiris might welcome the Pakistani Army- as a matter of fact, this did not happen.

Another political factor usually quoted is the impact of Fatimah Jinnah's campaign in which she accused Ayub of having sold out to the Hindus over the Indus waters. This wasn't true but it showed that America was being viewed by suspicion despite its genuine help to Pakistan. A complicating factor was that Ayub's attempt to modernise Islam with the help of Prof. Fazlur Rahman Malik had stirred up a hornet's nest of sectarian rivalry. Ayub thought that winning a war would make him a 'Ghazi' and give him authority over the Ulema. There were also some military miscalculations and failures of Intelligence. Still, had there been a popular uprising in the Kashmir Valley and also if certain key operations had not been mismanaged, Ayub could have claimed it as a victory.

Turning to the Indian side, three factors which no one talks about should be borne in mind

1) appearing to lose calamitously to China was very good for India. It split the indigenous Communists and, unexpectedly, killed off Dravidian separatism. It turned out that Indian Nationalism was a stronger force than had been previously imagined. However, losing to Pakistan would have been an intolerable narcissistic injury. For a start it would have led to ethnic cleaning on a massive scale within India. Secondly, India would have focused on an infantry led assault across the Punjab and Sindh border rendering Lahore uninhabitable. Thus Pakistan would lose more by winning. As it was, the Indians got worried about the 'Siliguri gap' which some loudmouth Pak generals were talking about- thus they welcomed the opportunity to dismember the East Wing- i.e. Bangladesh, though this was a blessing in disguise for Pakistan.

2) The death of Nehru meant that America saw India as potentially coming into the Western Camp on a wholesale basis. Since the regime change in Baghdad and the rise of Nasserism, India had more weight in the Middle East than some General in Pakistan. However, the unexpected death of Lal Bahadur Shastri and divisions withing the Congress 'Syndicate' meant that India could not become a US ally. Post '65, Pakistani diplomats did some pretty nifty footwork- while the Indian diplomats and politicians fell flat on their faces- so that, by the time Nixon was in the White House, America had given up on India and vice versa. Still, America could not commit to Pakistan against India because India simply mattered so much more. Anyway, Indira Gandhi signed a Defence Pact with the Soviets, so there was a limit to what America could do.

3) India, like Ceylon, had intially been distrustful of the Army. However, unlike Bureaucrats, Soldiers have useful skills. Post '62, the new consensus was that the Army should be looked after and insulated from the politicians. This was a sound policy. India developed a professional Army and was less adventurist than its neighbour as a result.

'65 was by no means a disaster for Pakistan or, indeed, for Ayub personally. The people of Punjab saw they were vulnerable and supported the men in khaki. Esprit de corps and fighting spirit (josh) tended to increase not fall. Ultimately Ayub came to be seen as standing in the way of reform within the Army. However, it was mass disaffection- in part due to economic progress made under Ayub- which brought him down. However, his successor was worse so it was only after the Bangladesh war that the Pakistani Army started to assume its modern form.

  • Its a good response, but the jibe aimed at bureaucrats was uncalled for. There needs to be some people who actually implement policies on the ground, and keep track of the impact of the policies. Who is going to handle this, if not bureaucrats?
    – Arani
    Sep 25, 2019 at 8:12
  1. USA and UK blocked that kind of effort1. Because, they considered India as a good bulwark against the spread of communism.

Then Pakistan President Ayub Khan told Kennedy that he wanted “compensation” from India in Kashmir for Pakistan’s neutrality during the war. Kennedy made clear to Ayub that no such compensation would be tolerated, and that Pakistani intervention in the war in the Himalayas would be seen by Washington as a hostile act.

  1. Pakistan and China didn't have any significant relationship. Ayub Khan signed Sino-Pak treaty after of Sino-Indian War of 19622. Before that, neither India nor Pakistan knew that China could be a friend of Pakistan against India. Wikipedia says:

It is the popular perception that the catch phrase of India's diplomacy with China in the 1950s was Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai, which means, in Hindi, "Indians and Chinese are brothers" While VK Krishna Menon was the Defence Minister in 1958, Nehru had privately told G. Parthasarathi the Indian envoy to China to send all communications directly to him bypassing Menon, due to his communist background and sympathy towards China.

Which means, during the 50's and early 60's India never considered China as a threat.

According to this link:

...... It was during the Non Alignment Movement that the friendship started converting into hostility between India and China. America started giving India more importance after the change of government in 1961. …… The defense pacts of USA with India were also perceived as a threat to its security by Pakistan. …… In 1959 the government of Pakistan offered to negotiate on the undefined boundary with China. The relations started improving when China responded after Pakistan voted for its right to be in the United Nations. The Sino-India war in 1962 also played a vital role in the improvement of relation between Pakistan and China as Pakistan’s sympathies were with China. ……

which means, before 1962's Sino-India war, Ayub Khan was either not in good terms with China, or never considered making friends with China.

  1. According to Pakistani sources, Indian Army were the first to cross the border to go into Pakistan3, 4.
  • 2
    Please source and elaborate on the claim that it's because of the Sino-Pakistan Agreement. The Wikipedia quote appears wholly irrelevant.
    – Semaphore
    May 8, 2018 at 12:28
  • @Semaphore, could you kindly clarify why do you think the sources are not adequate?
    – user44219
    Jun 13, 2020 at 11:31
  • 1
    @user366312 Because nothing in the sources appear to support the answer, which was originally that the treaty hadn't been signed. Although that has been edited out, the current version left deosn't seem to answer the question at all.
    – Semaphore
    Jun 13, 2020 at 13:38
  • @Semaphore, ok, I will do the editing. Give me one week.
    – user44219
    Jun 13, 2020 at 13:58
  • Point #3 is incorrect. Sino-Pakistan Agreement was signed in 1963, but the Treaty of Friendship was signed between Pakistan and China, in 1956, well before the wars.
    – Samid
    Sep 25, 2023 at 13:10

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