It is indeed ironic that over 42 years after India dealing a body blow to Pakistan, liberating its much suppressed Eastern wing after 13 days of the December 1971 Indo-Pak war-the third war waged by Pakistanthe Congress party got drubbed in assembly elections of four states’ including in India’s capital. There is irony over more aspects. The 1971 war stands out as the only exception of a war well planned and fought in almost Kautilyan/Chanakyan mode under the rule of the same political party which is known for managing-or rather mismanaging- India’s many post Independence wars and conflicts utterly defensively, always not wanting to “raise the level of conflict” and thereby, not appropriately utilising the capability of its armed forces for decisive results. As Indian armed forces observe anniversaries of their respective battles/battle-honour days of the 1971 war, it is relevant to take stock of how the longest ruling political party managed various conflicts since Independence, by which time the Indian Army had earned the reputation as being an excellent professional fighting force.
The Indo-Pak wars of 1947-48 and 1965, the 1962 Chinese aggression and the fourth war waged by Pakistan- of “bleeding India by a million cuts” by use of proxy terrorism – which is continuing, all stand out as classic examples of softoptions/approaches, for which India continues to pay the heavy price in blood and expense. In the 1947-48 war neither the Navy, nor the Air Force were used. As for India’s responses to before and during the Chinese aggression of 1962, the less said the better. The then Prime Minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and then Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon, refused to accept that there was a definite threat building up, for which Indian Army was woefully under-armed, ill-equipped and worse still, ill-clad. The fighting element of the Air Force, which could have been a lifesaver and war-stopper, was not used.
For the 1965 war, while Indian Army at long last got a new assault rifle, India’s decision makers continued to be seablind; the Naval Chief was out of the planning loop and visited the battle areas as an observer. Having reached the outskirts of Lahore, the Indian Army was stopped from going further and its vital blood-soaked gain of Haji Pir was handed back to Pakistan on a platter during the Tashkent Talks. That loss is believed to have cost then Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri his life. He returned from Tashkent in a coffin and a shocked nation saw his funeral. ‘Dead Silence on the killers and contract killers of Lal Bahadur Shastri?’, by Premendra Agrawal (October 29, 2011, News Analysis India) is a chilling report, an excerpt of which reads: The Soviet newspaper Tass put the cold
message: “The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Council of Ministers of the USSR is sad to notice that 11 Jan, 1966 in 1 hour and 32 minutes in Tashkent died a distinguished statesman, Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri”.
The USSR government presented a façade of investigation by arresting the Soviet cook Sattarov and also others, on suspicion of poisoning the Indian Premier, but later absolved them of the charges. Are these facts not throwing dim light towards the killers and contract killers? In 2009, Anuj Dhar, author of CIA’s Eye on South Asia and India’s answer to the X-Files, asked the Indian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) under a Right to Information (RTI) plea that Shastri’s cause of death be made public. In July 2009 the PMO refused to oblige, claiming this would lead to harming of foreign relations, cause 0disruption in the country and cause breach of parliamentary privileges. The PMO did reveal that it had in its possession one document related to Shastri’s death. Why it should not be in public domain? The PMO admitted that it had a classified document on Shastri’s death, but refused to declassify it. The PMO argued that declassifying the Shastri document could harm foreign relations, create disruption in the country and cause a breach of parliamentary privilege. It not only acknowledges having something to hide about Shastri’s death, but also indirectly admits that the secret is explosive. The above refusal of Indian Government clearly showed that Lal Bahadur Shastri’s death was not by heart attack.
Mr. Shastri was succeeded by Indira Gandhi, whose first acid test on national security was her response to the Chinese upping the ante in Nathu La, Sikkim in 1967. By sanctioning the use of artillery, which accounted for the killing of about 400 Chinese soldiers anddestruction of many vehicles and bunkers (not unreported in media), she in one fell stroke overturned her own father’s disastrous policy on China. 0
So far, since 1947, it is only Mrs Gandhi, who earned the reputation of being the only man amongst all of India’s political leaders. The 1971 Indo- Pak war remains unprecedented owing to her assertiveness on India’s security at a time when Pakistan was ironically supported by the US on one hand and its adversary China on the other. Unlike all her predecessors and successors, she sought and accepted the advice of the military leadership and for the first time in India’s post Independence history, made use of the Navy, which turned out to be a brilliant move. In a well planned and coordinated operation erstwhile East Pakistan was surrounded within less than two weeks, forcing 93,000 Pakistan armed forces personnel and civilians to tearfully lay down their arms and surrender unconditionally. Pakistani prisoners of war (PsOW) could not believe that they were not ill-treated or tortured as was their normal procedure against Indian personnel. While even the presence of the US 7th Fleet in Indian waters of the Arabian Sea did not make Mrs. Gandhi lose any sleep, where she faltered at last was during the Simla talks, when she fell for Zulfikar Bhutto’s dramatics and lies and by not using the
12,000 sq kms of Pakistan’s territory in the Western sector as major bargaining chip of ‘Land for Peace’. Since the 1993 bombings in Mumbai (just before which the relationship between ISI and Dawood Ibrahim/his Mumbai underworld underlings got cemented), attack on Parliament, 26/11 terrorist attack by ISI, LeT, al Qaeda etc) or the 2013 two attacks across the LoC and the very recent ones across the International Boundary (IB)-all went unretaliated, or at least, not appropriately enough. Pakistan will very well understand the language of without-failretaliation of any military or terrorist attack and also of India being able to strike at terrorist leaders who motivate the masses at Muridke, Karachi, Lahore or anywhere else in Pakistan. Such retaliation requires not only Indian Army’s quick and unrestrained responses on the LoC or the IB, but also of a very effective covert cross-border strike capability. Our response to the Kargil intrusion was only about six months late as Pakistan army raised 12 battalions of Northern Light Infantry which had begun crossing the LoC in late 1998 itself, when Musharraf was still the DG Military Operations. Forget about a leader or a government responding like Indira Gandhi did in 1967 and 1971, today we are caught in a web of vote-bank / twisted secularism politics, in which our key leaders are vying to score selfgoals on national security and refusing to orient their instincts or straightening their spines to maintain this hard won independence after ten centuries of being marauded, converted by the sword and ruled. Meanwhile as we lose more trained soldiers and innocent citizens alike, so far we are fated to hope that we finally elect a government which will at least not compromise on national security.