INDIA’S FINEST HOUR

In a cold war era characterised by inconclusive wars and regional stalemates, the third India-Pakistan war in December 1971 was a landmark conflict not only in the history of South Asia but also in global military history. It dramatically changed the map of this region and marked a historical revival of Indian military power. In just thirteen action packed days, Indian Army surrounded erstwhile East Pakistan, and three of its corps sized spearheads raced for the capital city of Dacca, located in the most defensible riverine terrain in the world. Indian Army’s Blitzkrieg bounced the wide rivers while Indian paratroopers parachuted from the skies. Operations were speeded up and precision air attacks were launched to stun the enemy command centres. As the Indian army bypassed all major centres of opposition in its race for Dacca, the Indian Navy blockaded East and West Pakistan. Again historically, 93,000 Pakistani armed forces personnel, who had horribly suppressed, raped and massacred the Bengali masses of East Pakistan, were made to lay down their arms and were taken as prisoners of war by Indian Army, liberating the Bengalis and the new nation of Bangladesh was created.

This book by Maj Gen. (Dr) G. D. Bakshi lays bare some startling insights into how India’s most successful war since its inception was fought and won in just thirteen breathtaking days. For the first time it also provides an accurate insight into why Mao Zedong, with the mighty Chinese Peoples Liberation Army, did not dare to intervene— even symbolically. It simply let its “most trusted ally” go down fighting desperately. Despite fervent Pakistani appeals and American prodding, why did China sit out this war? This book clearly answers this seminal question. It also highlights the roles played by the USSR, the cynical and self serving role of US President Richard Nixon, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and of course the roles played by the Indian political and military leaders, the intelligence services and bureaucracies.

The Seventh Fleet was led by the nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, the world’s largest warship, carrying over 70 fighters and bombers. Also included were guided-missile cruiser USS King, guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur, Parsons and Tartar Sam and a large amphibious assault ship, USS Tripoli.

Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet had India’s only aircraft carrier INS Vikrant with barely 20 light fighter-aircraft. When asked if it would take on the Seventh Fleet, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral N. Krishnan, said, “Just give us the orders.”The Indian Air Force, having wiped out the Pakistani Air Force within the first week of the war, was reported to be on alert for any possible intervention by aircraft from the USS Enterprise. Soviet intelligence reported that a British naval group led by the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle had moved closer to India’s territorial waters. This was perhaps one of the most ironic of events in modern history where the Western world’s two leading democracies were threatening the world’s largest democracy in order to protect the perpetrators of the largest genocide since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. However, India did not panic. It quietly sent Moscow a request to activate a secret provision of the Indo- Soviet security treaty, under which Russia was bound to defend India in case of any external aggression.

To counter the two-pronged British-American threat, Russia dispatched a nuclear- armed flotilla from Vladivostok on December 13 under the overall command of Admiral Vladimir Kruglyakov, Commander of the 10th Operative Battle Group (Pacific Fleet). The Russian moves clearly helped prevent a direct clash between India and the US-UK combo.

It was India’s finest hour in which it had literally revived the Kautilyan paradigm of warfighting.

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