Untold Stories of the 1971 India – Pakistan War
Interviewer: Sushil Sharma
Interviewee: Field Marshal S. H. F. J. Manekshaw
Video Source: Bharatdefencekavach.com
Translation: Firangi on India
Sharma: Field Marshal Manekshaw, Sir, the war in 1971 was a big deal at that point in time because we won the war in 13-14 days. And this was a very big win when 100,000 soldiers of the enemy surrendered. In this war you were the one leading India. So what was your plan? What was your strategy that we had this big win so quickly? Tell us something about it.
Manekshaw: Look, When Yaya Khan..in East Pakistan committed unjust/cruel acts, the refugees started coming. So I remember on the 27th of April, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi called a cabinet meeting, she was very upset. She said to me, “We’ll have to do something.” So what should we do? So she asked me to take the army to east Pakistan. And I said, well, I’m not ready yet. You just told me to go there. And I replied, “How could I go there?” I don’t know where all my formations are, armored divisions in the Jhansi area, or the next division in Andhra Pradesh. We’ll have to concentrate, train, and plan and I’m not ready at all right now. So, she was very angry with me but in the end she acquiesced to me. And then I said, whenever I’m ready, I’ll let you know.
I prepared and trained the Jawaans, developed a plan, did everything that was required. And then I had no doubt that I’m going to win this war and I’m going to win it fast. You know how the politicians are, kept asking me, how many days will you take. And I said, East Pakistan is as big as France. If you start walking from one side of it and go toward the other end, it takes 30-45 days. [laughter] And then I finished it in 13 days and Ms Gandhi asked me, “Sam you said you would do it in one and a half months why in 13 days?” I replied, “If I would have said 13 days and it took 14, then you would have come after me. [laughter]
The 7th fleet is coming and all our politicians were afraid, they called me and asked me, Look, the 7th fleet has nuclear weapons. If they use nuclear weapons, what will I be able to do? But they can never do it. They would have never used a nuclear weapon, their country [Pakistan] would have never tolerated [the use of nuclear weapons]. Secondly, the politicians asked me about Pakistan’s army. I replied, I am not afraid at all. And then I said to myself, I am the biggest general who defeated Pakistan and the Americans. I had the surrender document readied. I created the surrender document and showed it to the PM’s secretary, Mr KB Lal the defense secretary, and when in the end everything was done, I dictated this document to the Eastern Army’s chief of staff over the telephone. I asked him to make four copies. Give one copy to [General] Niazi [of Pakistan], one copy to Jagjeet Singh, and send the other two to me. One I’ll give to the government and the other would stay in my office. And then I also told Jagjeet Singh, I talked to him in English, that this is a very big day for you. You’re going to go and take surrender, take your wife with you, and then everyone said, yes take your wife, it’s big day in his life.
I brought 53,000 Pakistani soldiers and their wives with me, it was my duty to take care of them. So I put them in a camp. I’ll tell you a story. So when I put them in a camp, 5000 here, 4000 there, 6000 there; I used to go to meet them. When I went to this one camp, the Subedar Major was a Sikh. I shook hands with him, I shook hands with the Subedar Major of Pakistan and I asked him, Sir can I see it [referring to the camp]? And he said of course. So I asked the same questions, I would have asked my jawaans, “Sir, Do you have bed-bugs?” They said, No Sir. “Do you have mosquito nets?” They said yes. I then asked, “Can I go to the langar [the mess tent]?” Then I went to the langar and a jawaan was making rotis. I asked him if I could taste the food. Then I went to the toilets, there was a Pakistani there, I extended my hand, he refused because he was too proud to shake hands with me. So I said to him, “you won’t even shake hands with me?” and then he did. When we came back, the Subedar Major said, “Sir, would you pardon me [in Urdu].” Your the Subedar Major, of course I will, say whatever you want. Now I realize why you won the war. You came, you asked us about the food, the bed bugs, the mosquitoes, the mosquito nets. Our officers don’t ask these questions from us. They’re too proud.
In 1962, when we fought with China, at that time, Krishna Menon was the defense minister. The first time in India, in the middle of the Army, in the middle of the Navy, in the middle of the Air Force, he [Menon] politically interfered and made political generals such as General Umrao Singh and General [Mohan] Kaul. They were on one side and on the other was General [Kodendera Subayya] Thimayya, General Shiv Verma, General Bhogi [Kartar] Singh, and myself. And we said, we are not political soldiers. We keep to ourselves. At that time, the Army chief was General Thappa. He didn’t have moral courage to stand up. When Pundit ji [Nehru] said, When China came, throw them out. At that point in time, he [Thappa] didn’t say it with courage, “No my army’s not ready yet, we don’t have the material etc.” He just accepted the order that was given to him. The army wasn’t ready. The commanders were worthless [nalayak]. That’s why, otherwise the army would have never lost.