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The Man Who Redeemed National Honor
|by H.N. Bali|
Unresolved Military-Civil Equation – Part IV
Manekshaw and Redefinition of Civil-Military Equation
Indian history is no stranger to wars, and the destruction such visitations wreak on an unprepared nation. Many a marauder came devastating the land. Hordes of invaders like Mahmud Ghazni and Timur Lang and Ahmed Shah Abdali plundered the country. However, the last full-fledged war we fought in 1971 was different – altogether different. It was waged not to conquer but liberate a country. It was a war we can be legitimately proud of – a war resulting in total victory after which every Indian could say with pride: yes, we can – and will in the future – hit back mercilessly.
It was also a war conducted with utmost planning and precision led by a man who will, for ever, have a legitimate place of honor for not just his professional skills as a soldier but also as a great patriot and a greater gentleman who lived up to the highest professional standards even when treated most shabbily after retirement by the political establishment of the day, and also bequeathed a new and iron-clad civil and military equation that sustains our polity.
A brief resume of what happened after the historic Cabinet meeting referred to in the last installment is necessary because it has a significant bearing to how the civil-military equation was refined for the future.
Redeeming the Honour
The above statement is by Dr S N Prasad in his introduction to the Indian government’s ‘restricted’ Official History of the 1971 War.
On the diplomatic front, the Government went all out to convince the world of the righteousness of India’s stand. Indira Gandhi visited several foreign countries and personally briefed the heads of governments. Except the Soviet Union, none of the major powers supported India’s stand. In fact, some were critical of her actions and the USA as well as China came out openly in support of Pakistan. Indira Gandhi, realising the threat of intervention by China as well as Pakistan, sent D.P. Dhar to Moscow with feelers regarding obtaining support from the Soviet Union. The Russians responded favourably and the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation was signed on 9 August 1971. This was a major diplomatic achievement and effectively neutralised the threat from USA and Pakistan, giving India considerable leeway in deciding her course of action.
As the operations progressed, Pakistani resistance broke down. The Indians bypassed all strongly held positions and the isolated Pakistani troops, taken by surprise, began to withdraw or surrender. American proposals to get the United Nations to effect a ceasefire were frustrated by the Soviets, who vetoed the resolutions. An interesting feature of the war was the three broadcasts made by Indian Army Chief, calling on Pakistani troops to surrender and assuring them of honourable treatment. The first message was broadcast on the radio and dropped in the form of leaflets after the fall of Jessore on 9 December. Addressed to the ‘officers and jawans of the Pakistan Army’, it exhorted them to lay down their arms, before it was too late. It went on to say: “Indian forces have surrounded you. Your Air Force is destroyed. You have no hope of any help from them. Chittagong, Chalna and Mangla ports are blocked. Nobody can reach you from the sea. Your fate is sealed. The Mukti Bahini and the people are all prepared to take revenge for the atrocities and cruelties you have committed.... Why waste lives? Don't you want to go home and be with your children? Do not lose time; there is no disgrace in laying down your arms to a soldier. We will give you the treatment befitting a soldier.”
The decision to surrender was actually taken by Niazi, who addressed a message to Sam Manekshaw on 15 December and requested the United States Consul General in Dacca, Herbert Spivack, to convey it to him. Around midnight, on December 15, Niazi sent a message to all his formation commanders to contact their Indian counterparts and negotiate a ceasefire. The war was over.
The formal surrender ceremony took place at Dacca on 16 December. In front of a large crowd, General Niazi handed over his pistol to Lt General Aurora, the Army Commander, and signed the Instrument of Surrender at 1655 Hours. Along with Niazi, about 93,000 Pakistani soldiers became prisoners of war. On 10 January 1972, Sheikh Mujib returned to Dacca in triumph and took over the reins of the Government of Bangladesh.
After a year, when talks were held in Simla between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan. India could indeed have wrested major concessions from Pakistan and negotiated a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem. Manekshaw was kept out of the summit and had no part to play in the negotiations. Five Kashmiri Pandits – D P Dhar, P N Dhar, P N Haksar, T N Kaul and R N Kaw were Indira Gandhi’s advisers. As a result, all the military gains, achieved at great cost in human lives, were frittered away by politicians and bureaucrats. When Indira returned form Shimla, she told Manekshaw about the meeting. Bhutto had told her that he had recently taken over and was not in a position to take major decisions. He needed more time and promised that in six months everything would be done as she desired. Manekshaw reportedly told the Prime Minister: “Bhutto has made a monkey out of you.” (For once Sam Bahadhur was content with a mere euphemism!)
To be Continued
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05/13/2013 17:39 PM
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