“My force is ready, Sweetie,” said Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw on 3 Dec 1971.
Indira Gandhi did not display her annoyance at being called Sweetie because she could not afford the display at that time, much as she loved displays. She wanted to win the war with Pakistan and Manekshaw was the only person who could do it for her.
It took seven months for the military leader of India to give her the assurance that his fighters were ready. Ms Gandhi wanted immediate solutions. Manekshaw said, “I’m a fighter. Honest fighter.”
Seven months ago, his question to Ms Gandhi the Prime Minister was, “Have you read the Bible?”
“What has the Bible got to do with this?” asked Sardar Swaran Singh, Foreign Affairs Minister.
“See the first pages. ‘Let there be light,’ said God. And there was light. Now you say, ‘Let there be war.’ And there will be war. Wars can take place at the whim and fancy of any ruler. But are we prepared? Going to war without necessary preparations is the first step to damnation.”
“But the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura are angry with me. The Pakistanis from East Pakistan are entering their states because of what Butcher of Bengal, bloody General Tikka Khan, is doing in East Pakistan. I am the Prime Minister of the country. I have to safeguard every state.”
Manekshaw flared up. “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.”
Indira Gandhi’s nose twitched. Her face bent down a little for the first time. Manekshaw didn’t like that. He didn’t want his PM’s face bending down in front of anyone, not even before the boss of the armed forces of the country.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked.
“I want you to enter Pakistan,” said Indira Gandhi.
“That means war,” said Manekshaw. “Give me time.” He knew that summer was just the wrong time to start a war in the mountains with all the rains that would come confusing the Indian Army that was not used to rains. Snow in the winter was a good mask for fighters.
Indira Gandhi was angry. “I can dismiss you from your post.”
“Do if you wish so,” Manekshaw’s nose twitched.
“I give you time,” said Indira Gandhi who understood the integrity of the man whose nose twitched more significantly than her own.
And Bangladesh was born in less than a year’s time. After one of the shortest wars in history: just 13 days.
Indira was “Sweetie” to Manekshaw and Manekshaw was a fighter who saw light even in a war.
Inspired by the following link and also by the present PM of India who has an army officer (who challenged the Indian government) as a minister in his cabinet.