Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Indo – Pak War 1971 – Some Not So Public Facts

Rajindar Sachar

 The recently declassified documents of 1971 war between India and Pakistan have without any doubt established the fact of absolute tilt of USA President Nixon and Kissinger against India.
 This hostile aggressive stand taken by Nixon was sought to be justified by the false premise that Indira Gandhi was right from the beginning determined to attack East Bengal. This however was a lie and Nixon above all the people knew that on the other hand she tried her best to avoid confrontation with Pakistan. As a matter of fact Indira Gandhi tried her best to persuade Nixon to intervene at an early stage to help her do so.
 In July 1971 Kissinger had a stop over in India on his secret visit to China. At that time mass fleeing form East Pakistan and terror by Pakistan army were creating havoc in West Bengal and rest of the country. Mrs. Gandhi, was obviously under a big strain. She therefore invited Kissinger for a private breakfast to be able to discuss the matter urgently.
 However on the evening before, Mrs. Indira Gandhi telephoned General Mannckshow, our Army Chief and told him that she would like him to come and meet her at breakfast next morning. She did not disclose as to who her other guests were. She further told General that when he comes for break fast, he should come in Army uniform. Naturally, General felt surprised and asked whether he had heard rightly that she wanted him to come in the uniform at the break fast because it was naturally a very strange suggestion. Mrs. Gandhi was straight forward and told him “yes, she wanted him to come for break fast but in uniform. So, General Mannckshow went for break fast in full uniform and soon they were joined by Kissinger.
 At that meeting Mrs. Indira Gandhi was persistent in asking Kissinger to plead with Nixon that he should try to restrain Pakistan for what was being done in East Pakistan because the conditions there were becoming intolerable and it was almost becoming impossible for India to remain silent. Kissinger however, went on prevaricating and would not really give a straight answer. Rather he tried to underplay the situation. Mrs. Gandhi, however, still insisted, but to no avail. Kissinger would not gave any assurance that Nixon would do something about it.
 Obviously rattled, Mrs. Gandhi said if that was the position she may have to do something herself which she was reluctant to do. At this Kissinger again expressed his inability on his and Nixon’s behalf to do anything and asked her rather ironically as to what she intended to do. At that time she stood up and pointing towards General (who was in full military uniform) told Kissinger that if USA Government, USA President cannot control the situation then I am going to ask him (meaning the General) to do the same.
 There was stunning silence for a minute and the sharp message was conveyed to Kissinger in a very stark manner. As a matter of fact, General was himself surprised and suddenly understood the purpose as to why he had been asked to come in uniform rather than in civilian clothes at apparently, a harmless function of break fast. Obviously, Nixon and Kissinger had their egos deflated and were not going to forgive Mrs. Gandhi for such an attitude.
 Mrs. Gandhi had no other course but to create world opinion in favor of India. She requested J.P. the socialist and legendary hero of freedom struggle to go on world tour to explain Indias case, which the patriot that he was he willingly undertook. But still the matters were getting worse, but India could not directly intervene. Refugees were continuing to pour in from East Bengal. Sidharat Shankar Ray was in charge of borders. On one of the usual visits by Mrs. Gandhi to border where a public meeting was being held to reassure the public that the matter was being looked after properly. On this visit to West Bengal she told Ray that after public meeting she would go back to Delhi, and Ray should stay for some days in Calcutta and come later.
 At the public meeting while Mrs. Gandhi was addressing, one of her aides handed her a small paper – she read it and put it in her pocket and continued as usual with her speech. After the meeting ended when going to the airport she told Ray that he should come along with her to Delhi. Ray was a little surprised at this sudden change of his programme. But her followers did not ask questions of Indira Gandhi – there was implicit compliance. After about 15 minutes of flight onward to Delhi Mrs. Gandhi leaned back in her seat, a bit relaxed, took out paper given to her at public meeting and told Ray who was sitting next to her, here is the information “Pakistan has attacked”. At first blush it would seem strange that Mrs. Gandhi should seem relaxed on knowing about Pak attack. But there was obvious logic – India was reeling under refugees influx and yet it dared not attack East Bengal, because then the world opinion would call it the aggressor. An excuse was necessary and Pakistan had now conveniently provided it. Of course, let us be objective war on East Bengal front was all weighed in favor of India – As General Arora told me, though to start with some hard knock were taken it was smooth march – the whole population of East Bengal was against Pakistan.
 The movements of Pak army were leaked in detail by Mukti Bahni and their volunteers to Indian army whose task was made smooth (though no doubt India lost quite a few thousand of armed forces). To make matters still easier Indian air force had no opposition and bombard General Niazis official Bangalow. As one of the Air Chiefs told me “you can’t imagine the panic, the utter helpness at being bombard from above by enemy planes, knowing fully well that you can’t even send one plane to stop them. It was inevitable that Niazi surrendered without much time.
 We, both Pakistan and India have to put and fortunately have already put those sad memories behind us and are determined to march together on a common course of mutual confidence and benefit and faith in each other to build a bright future for both our countries. The past should not control the future of our two countries.

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