by Asia Defence News International
Asia Defence News International (ADNI) is releasing a number of features, to highlight the brave soldiers and martyrs of the Indian Armed Forces, who gallantly fought and were instrumental in victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war. It is also a tribute to the Eastern Army Command which played a pivotal role in achieving this unprecedented victory in the annals of world military history in which 93000 well armed, able bodied, well garrisoned Pakistani soldiers led by Lieut Gen AAK Niazi, GOC-in-C East Pakistan surrendered to Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora GOC-in-C Eastern Command on 16 December 1971 at Dacca.
It was a victory of gallantry, leadership and morale.
Eastern Command continues to guard 68 per cent of India’s international borders with five eastern countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar and Nepal and its troops are deployed in the 9 eastern States and 7 districts of Bihar.
Apart from their operational role, formations and units of the Eastern Command are providing yeoman service in the development of far-flung difficult and hazardous areas by constructing roads, bridges, schools, playgrounds and providing medical services, relief and succour during floods and landslides through various Sadhbhavna campaigns.
For this Vijay Diwas we have received messages from the Minister of State for Defence and Governors of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. We are also had special interview with the Chief of Army Staff and GOC-in-C Eastern Command. The messages and exclusive interaction are being published on the subsequent pages.
Historic Event In Military History
In an exclusive interaction with Asia Defence News International in connection with the Vijay Divas, Chief of Army Staff, Gen V K Singh, told Editor-in-Chief P N Khera that India’s victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak War was considered a historic event for many reasons. It was one of the shortest and swiftest campaigns in which the largest number of Pakistani soldiers, as many as 93,000, were taken prisoners. He said it was made possible through simple but extensive planning and seamless and effective coordination among the three Services. In his view the Armed Forces should continue selfless and dedicated service to the nation and contribute significantly towards nationbuilding. He said “we need to prepare for the future and NOT for the last war.” We present here some excerpts. P N Khera: In your view why is India’s victory in the Indo-Pak War in December 1971 considered a historic event in the military history of the world? Gen V. K. Singh, Chief of Army Staff : India’s Victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak War is considered a historic event for a number of reasons. The most significant of these being that it was one of the shortest and swift campaigns in modern day warfare, wherein, 93,000 Pak troops were taken prisoners of war in a short span of 14 days. Secondly, the terrain of Bangladesh is an attacker’s nightmare and a defender’s dream, which the Indian Armed Forces were able to tackle effectively by meticulous planning and execution at strategic and tactical levels. Achieving a victory of such resounding magnitude in a short span of 14 days is a historic feat in military history.
PNK: How did the Indian Army succeed in securing the surrender of 93,000 Pak troops led by Gen AAK Niazi with minimum bloodshed?
COAS: The Pakistan troops were isolated through our swift manoeuvres and prevented from escape. The objectives were isolated and captured through multi directional attacks and skilful utilisation of ground, ensuring achievement of an overwhelming success with minimum bloodshed. In the process the largest congregation of prisoners of war, including Gen Niazi himself, were captured. This was of course made possible through simple but extensive planning, seamless and effective coordination amongst the three services and skilful execution of plans. There was also a perfect synergy with the Mukti Bahini, which contributed immensely to our success.
PNK: What kind of Air and Naval support did our Eastern Front Army receive during the Bangladesh Campaign? Would you call it the beginning of the age of tri-synergy ?
COAS: One of the highlights and also a major lesson learnt in 1971 Indo-Pak War was the significance of tri Service cooperation in modern day warfare. The troops on ground were ably supported by the Indian Airforce and Navy at critical junctures of the campaign. The air support in terms of close air support, tactical airlift and interdiction of tactical and strategic targets enhanced the operational effectiveness of the ground troops, leading to victory. The main naval support on the Eastern Front was the sea blockade, which ensured total isolation. Indeed, 1971 Indo-Pak War is a major milestone for the Indian Armed Forces and heralded a new era of jointmanship.
PNK: How were the 1971 Bangladesh Operations different from other wars fought by India?
COAS: 1971 Indo Pak War, was the first war in the history of modern India, wherein, all three services actively participated and conducted synergized operations. Detailed planning for the various operations was done keeping all battlefield, climatic and other environment aspects in mind. Bold execution complemented the meticulous planning to ensure one of the best military campaigns of modern day warfare in the world. This was a manoeuvre war as compared to attritional wars fought earlier and that is the major difference.
PNK: Since you yourself fought in those operations what are your memories of that historic battle ?
COAS: My memories are of thorough preparation, meticulous planning, bold execution of plans, great synergy with Mukti Bahini, seamless integration of three services, great bravery of our men in breaking through the core of defensive network and a surprised, beaten, outclassed Pakistani army.
PNK: What are the lessons of that great victory?
COAS: The victory of 1971 Indo Pak War reiterated the importance of simple but flexible planning. In addition, some of the major lessons learnt were importance of tri Service cooperation, clear and well defined objectives, bold and determined execution of plans and junior leadership.
PREPARE FOR FUTURE
PNK: What will be your message to our Armed Forces on this historic day?
COAS: The Armed Forces should continue selfless and dedicated service to the nation and contribute significantly towards nation building. We must continue to build the tri-services synergy and jointmanship to maximize the potential of the Armed Forces. We must always be operationally very well prepared for all contingencies and display the highest level of integrity and honesty in all our dealings. We need to prepare for the future and NOT train for the last war.
A Mechanism That Won The War
The 1971 confrontation between one of the strongest Prime Ministers of India, Indira Gandhi and one of the strongest Army Chiefs of the country Sam Manekshaw, who later become a Field Marshal, and who led the Indian Army to a glorious victory for India in the Bangladesh War. That legendary confrontation was recalled by ‘Sam Bahadur’ in his K M Cariappa Memorial lecture in New Delhi in 1995.
This is what Sam said : “There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. I was then summoned.
A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.
She then turned around to me and said, ‘What are you doing about it?’ And I said, ‘Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me. You didn’t consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRP and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what’s happening.’
She said, ‘I want you to enter Pakistan.
And I responded, that means war!’
She said, ‘I do not mind if it is war.’
I said ‘Are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China.’
I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and the whole countryside is flooded.
‘The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans’.
‘All my movement would be confined to roads’.
Manekshaw told Gandhi that the Air Force would not be able to provide support because of climatic conditions. ‘Now Prime Minister, give me your orders’. The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, ‘The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock.’
The Cabinet members started walking out. I being the junior most was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said, ‘Chief, will you stay back?’
I turned around and said, ‘Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?’
She said, ‘Everything you told me is true?’
‘Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth,’ I responded. ‘And it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.’
She smiled at me and said, ‘All right Sam, you know what I want?’ I said, ‘Yes, I know what you want!'”
Manekshaw apparently had his way as the Bangladesh war took place seven months later, giving the armed forces ample time for preparations. (ASIA DEFENCE NEWS INTERNATIONAL)