Interview given by Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw - 1996
Question - Can you tell anything about the 1971 war which strikes you interesting?
Answer- "I can tell you about an incident before the war started, i can't remember the date now - sometime in April or something like that. There was a cabinet meeting to which i was summoned. Smt Gandhi was terribly angry and terribly upset because refugees were pouring into West Bengal, Assam, and Tripura."
"Look at this - so many are coming in - there is a telegram from the chief minister of Assam, a telegram from....... what are doing about it?" She said to me.
I said, “Nothing, what has it got to do with me?"
She said, “Can’t you do something? Why can't you do something?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"I want you to march in"
I Said, “this means war" and she said," I don't mind if it is a war."
So I sat down and said, “have you read the bible?"
"In the first book, the first chapter, the first paragraph of bible, God said, “Let there be light and there was light"- so i feel that "let there be war and there is war. Are you ready? I certainly am not ready."
Then I Said, "I will tell you what is happening. it is now end of April. In a few days time, 15-20 days time, the monsoons will break, and in East Pakistan when it rains the rivers become like oceans. If you stand on one side you can't see the other, i would be confined to the roads. The air force would not be able to support me, and the Pakistanis would thrash me - that's one."
"Secondly my armored division in the Babina area; another division, i can't remember which, is a in Secundrabad area. We are now harvesting. I will require every vehicle, every truck, all the road space, all the railway space to move my soldiers and you will not be able to move your crops," and i turned to shree Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, the agriculture minister and said, "if there is a famine in India they will blame you. i won't be there to take the blame."
Then i turned around and said, "my armored division which is supposed to be my strike force has got 12 tanks which are operational out of the whole lot."
YB Chavan asked,"Sam, why only 12? "
i said, “sir, because you are the finance minister. i have been asking, pleading for the months. you said you have got no money, that’s why."
then i said, “prime minister, if in 1962, your father had asked me as the Army chief and not gen thapar, and now your father had said "throw the Chinese out", i would have turned around and told him "look, these are the problems." now i am telling you what the problems are. If you still want me to go ahead, prime minister, i guarantee you 200 per cent defeat. Now, you give me orders."
Then Jagjeevan ram said, “Sam maan jao na."
I said, "i have given my professional view now the government should take the decision."
The prime minister didn't said anything. she was red in face and said, "Acha cabinet char baje milenge." Everybody walked out and i was the last to leave and i smiled ant her. She said, "Chief, sit down."
So i said, “Prime minister, before you say anything, do you want me to send in my resignation on the grounds of mental health, or Physical?"
She said, "Oh, sit down sam. Everything you told me, is true?"
"Yes. Look, it’s my job to fight. it is my job to fight and win., Are you ready? i certainly am not ready. Have you internally got everything ready? Internationally have you got everything ready? i don't think so. i know what you want but i must do it in my own time and i guarantee you 100 percent success. But, i want to make it clear. There must be one commander. i don't mind. i will work under BSF, CRPF, under anybody you like. But i will not have a soviet telling me what to do and i will have one political master who will give me instructions. i don't want the refugee ministry, home ministry, defense ministry all telling me. Now, make up your mind."
She said, “All right sam, nobody will interfere, you will be commander."
"Thank you, i guarantee you accomplishment."
"So there is very thin line between becoming a Field Marshal and being dismissed! It could have happened! So that was one incident i can tell you about and you can put it in your words."