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Who Paved The Way For Victory Over Pakistan?

Any war involves a combination of weapons, morale, strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy on various fronts. The army, political leadership, strategists, spies, and the people of the country all play equal roles.

Edited By : Anurradha Prasad | Updated: Dec 16, 2023 22:12 IST
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Bharat ek soch: 52 years ago, after a week-long war with Pakistan, what might have been going on in the mind of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi? What concerns would be haunting the then Army Chief General Sam Manekshaw the most? How were the Navy and Air Force Chiefs engaged in breaking the enemy’s backbone? What would be in the hearts and minds of the soldiers fighting fiercely on the eastern and western fronts?

The war that was expected to last a month eventually ended in just 13 days. After the events of April 1971, under the leadership of Sam Manekshaw, the Indian Army completed its preparations. He entrusted critical responsibilities to capable officers like Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Arora, Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, Major General JFR Jacob, Major General Indrajit Singh Gill, and Major General GS Nagra. Similarly, Air Chief Marshal PC Lal and Navy Chief Admiral SM Nanda assigned crucial roles to their selected officers. Multiple plans were underway simultaneously to handle every situation.

In East Pakistan, the Mukti Bahini fighters were ready to assist India in every possible way. Both eastern and western fronts were strategically planned to counter the enemy, yet, despite full preparation, the Indian Army did not advance even an inch beyond the border. Pakistan made a foolish assumption, thinking that if they targeted the western part of India, the eastern part would retreat. They had no idea about India’s preparations. On December 3, 1971, Pakistan initiated simultaneous bombings on several crucial Indian airbases, marking the beginning of the war.

From the western to the eastern front, the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force started giving a strong response to Pakistan. Something the Pakistani Army generals could not have imagined. Indian soldiers broke through the encirclement of the Pakistani Army in the eastern part, advancing beyond the border. Despite the numerical advantage, the Pakistani Army started surrendering in the face of the intense assault by the Indian Army.

In the initial strikes, the connection of the troops in East Pakistan with Western Pakistan was severed. Media played a significant role in this war, as soldiers on the frontlines relied on radio for news. Both Indian and Pakistani soldiers eagerly awaited updates from BBC’s news bulletins.

On the other hand, the Indian Navy sank the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, which they had acquired from the United States, in the early stages. Meanwhile, the Indian Navy’s relentless attacks made Karachi tremble. The people of Karachi did not see the sun for three days. Slowly, the morale of Pakistani soldiers began to break.

The fighter jets of the Indian Air Force created a death trap for the enemy from the east to the west. On the eastern front, Pakistani Commander Lieutenant General Niazi claimed to fight until the last bullet. He hoped that the United States would come to Pakistan’s aid. However, the United States did not intervene, even deploying its strongest 7th Fleet towards India. When this news reached India, questions arose about what would happen next.

If the American military also intervened to aid Pakistan, what would happen? Sam Manekshaw was confident that they would defeat the United States in ground warfare. However, the 7th Fleet was not in his control. At that time, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was fully confident that the powerful 7th Fleet of the American Navy would not be able to do anything, as she had established a strong alliance with Russia. Seeing Pakistan being thoroughly defeated, the question arose of how the United States would react and how its plans would be thwarted in the United Nations. Indira Gandhi had made complete preparations for this.

Any war involves a combination of weapons, morale, strategy, intelligence, and diplomacy on various fronts. The army, political leadership, strategists, spies, and the people of the country all play equal roles. It is necessary to mention a special page in the story of the victory of the 1971 war – the incredible bravery of the Indian Air Force. Perhaps, it was their attack that thoroughly demoralized the commanders of East Pakistan on that date, December 14th.

Critical decision to bomb the Governor House

News of a crucial meeting at Dhaka’s Governor House involving Pakistani representatives and top military officers reached India. Perhaps, there could be no better opportunity to break the morale of Pakistani representatives and senior military officers in Dhaka. In this context, the Indian Air Force made a significant decision to drop bombs on the control room of Eastern Pakistan, i.e., the Dhaka Governor House. General Manekshaw had already understood that the Pakistani military in Eastern Pakistan could surrender at any time. Therefore, preparations began on the script for how the surrender would take place—where, when, and how.

The news of surrender in Dhaka was conveyed to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by General Sam Manekshaw. Ms. Gandhi made the announcement amidst chaos and celebrations in the Lok Sabha, declaring Dhaka as the capital of an independent country. 93,000 Pakistani officers and soldiers surrendered—this was the largest surrender in world history. During the surrender, the number of Pakistani soldiers in Dhaka’s Racecourse Ground was more than nine times that of Indian soldiers. However, their morale had been completely shattered.

The stories of the Indian Army’s conduct towards enemy combatants from other countries are countless, and they are still recounted in the homes of Pakistani soldiers and officers who surrendered. The disciplined nature of the Indian Army is also evident in the 1971 war. The brave soldiers of the Indian Army won the war, and then the decision-making was left to the political leadership of that time.

This is how Indian democracy functions—where credit for victory in war is given to the people and the soldiers by the political leadership. It is a way of working in parliamentary politics for opposition parties—where after a victory, leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee compare themselves to the powerful goddess Durga of that time. Any war is not fought only on the strength of weapons but requires preparations on many fronts. In this way, the victory of 1971 shows the working style of Indian democracy, where the credit for victory is given to the people and the soldiers. The opposition parties have their own way of working in parliamentary politics—where after a victory, leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee compare themselves to the powerful goddess Durga, meaning that any war is not fought solely on the strength of weapons but requires preparations on many fronts. That’s how a victory like 1971 is achieved, and the world doesn’t need to be told—the entire world feels it.

First published on: Dec 16, 2023 09:48 PM IST

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