From IDF’s War Dairy, ‘Warring Nuclear Navies-India and Pakistan’ in down history lane series on this site for lessons to be learnt from wars and principles of war, applicable in other quarters of politics and in business too.

Bangla Desh went to war on 22nd December, 1971 when Mrs Indira Gandhi opened the front in the East and told the Chiefs that they should be ready for war, and possibly India could not wait beyond 4th December, if Pakistan did not agree to withdraw from what became a crying call for Bangla Desh from suffering Bengalis, and that Pak Army must stop atrocities in East Pakistan.


Like in 1971, Pakistan is rattling its swords with threats and not stopping terror attacks after the India-Pakistan dialogue ‘that never was’. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) is now Pakistan Occupied Indian Kashmir (POIK) after 15TH August. On that day PM made a call from Red Fort to Pakistan to release POIK and made an offer to support Baluchis to regain freedom from Pakistan that Pakistan usurped after Independence. The map has changed.


It needs recalling the burden of the Kargil war in 1999 fell squarely on the shoulders of the Army and its Chief Gen VP Malik who was also the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee. Malik was away in Poland in May, when it became evident that Gen Pervez Musharraf who was Pakistan’s Army Chief (later President), had hatched a diabolical plan to cut India’s link and winter life line from Kashmir to Ladakh and occupied the heights that Indian Army had vacated. This was soon after PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s, ‘aman ke asha’ bus trip to Lahore’s Minaret where he met PM Nawaz Shariff with offers of peace and dialogue.

Pakistan Army’s General Staff, assessed wrong as in all wars, that they could take the Kargil heights and this time fight under the nuclear umbrella and threat of its nuclear weapon preparedness of ‘First Use’ doctrine with the nuclear trigger in military hands, amounting to blackmail. The bus trip had lulled many in India.


Gen V P Malik on the Kargil war in his book, aptly titled ‘Surprise to Victory’, ‘to put the record straight’, recounts the valiant fight the Indian Army put up ‘with what we had’ and brings out the lacunae in Intelligence and higher defence management.

In Gen Malik’ absence Air Chief ACM AY Tipnis of the 15th NDA course told the Army Vice Chief Lt Gen Chandra Shekar also of the 15th NDA course, the Air Force was loathe to agree to Army’s request to provide helicopter or air strikes to push the intruders away from Indian soil, fearing war. CNS Sushil Kumar as Officiating Chairman COS, of the 16th NDA course left it to the two to resolve the matter as Navy was not involved. Later Adm Sushil Kumar was considered for CDS.

It is interesting to relate that strategy doyen K Subramanyam with Ambassador Satish Chandra in the Kargil report scripted the lessons learnt, and stated there was an urgent need for a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Seventeen years have passed and a mini Mortar cum may be a Pinaka type war is going on the Indo-Pak border with no CDS.
Field Marshal Manekshaw had also suggested the need for a CDS after 1971 and he was almost made one in 1973, but there was a change of mind by PM Mrs Indira Gandhi.

According to Michel Eyquem Montaigne, “The only good histories are those that have been written by the persons themselves who commanded in the affairs where of they write; rest is hearsay”.


Malik did inform the world about the Kargil War, but on 1971 war Field Marshal Manekshaw did not. Air Chief Marshal Pritam C Lal wrote about the 1971 war much later from memory and notes as an autobiography but passed on leaving it to his wife and friends to complete his memoirs. He mentions IAF was not in favour of a CDS and in the book. On the 1971 war shades of grey by advisors appear in his book and even the 4th Dec morning IAF Hunter attack on Karachi by OCU hunters from Jamnagar led by W/cdr Don ConQuest to be described in detail 1300 words on 3rd December is neglected with words, I Was Told Hunters attacked Karachi. Canberra operators who did a creditable job, wanted the credit.

Admiral SM Nanda wrote, ‘The Man who Bombed Karachi’ and does not directly claim a hit on Karachi oil tanks but bombed ships off Karachi on 4th and tanks too on 8th.

Napoleon believed in lucky Generals and he attributed decisive victories to ‘luck, boldness and timing’. So did CNS Admiral SM Nanda the ‘Bomber of Karachi’, citing ‘boldness, risk and secrecy’ as important attributes in the ‘Indian Principles of War’ of Chankaya too.

In a comparison, PM Modi seems adept on the principles of war as he kept de-monetisation a secret, has taken a bold risk and if he rules the 60/40 rule to let the hoarders of money keep 40% Black Money and give 60% for the poor, India may win the black money war. PM Modi is India’s CDS too with an NSA to strategize.

Few know that to keep secrecy Nanda did not dictate the key Operational Orders for the daring attack on Karachi to his NHQ staff but to a young lady relation sworn to secrecy around this time in 1971. These were sent to Western Naval Command as charge documents (CDs). He took Vice Admiral S N Kohli, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command into confidence, to exercise the Osa boats for the intended operations.

Nanda writes he informed PM Mrs Indira Gandhi of his plans to attack Karachi. In a closed door Chiefs of Staff meeting chaired by Gen Sam Manekshaw, he asked Air Chief Marshal PC Lal for an air strike on Karachi at dawn the first day of the war as Navy’s need. A discussion followed.

When Manekshaw found Lal considered this suicidal as Lal suggested that Badin radar had to be knocked out first Mig-21s, and said Hunters from Jamnagar with rockets did not have the range for ‘time on task’. Pakistan had made dummy Badin radar posts to confuse attackers.


Sam said in Punjabi, “Chotta brah ek strike mang raha hai. De de”, (Small brother is asking for just one strike, give it) and added “ “Marange to marenge, asi ladayi karan ja rahi hai, mohabaat nahi”, ( Die if we must, we are going to war not to make love).

Thus did flamboyant Manekshaw confront operational issues head on. He spoke to Mrs Indira Gandhi in a tenor of confidence and acted like Chief of Defence Staff which irked Air Chief Lal. When Manekshaw was promoted to Field Marshal as Army Chief after the war and was being considered for CDS, ACM Lal objected. Nanda, on tour in Bombay was sounded by Defence Secretary Govind Narian, said to Secretary Narian on telephone for all to hear, “You can promote any one with as many stars as you like – as long as you do not take away any of mine”. The IAF since then till 2012 had objected to a CDS, a seminal loss to the nation, clearly brought out in the Kargil war.

Nanda employing the RN Staff College tri-appreciation technique, asked for three independent operational war plans from his DNO Commodore O S Dawson, NA Capt V P Duggal and Vice Admiral Nilkanth Krishnan (appointed as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command).

The high point of the 1971 ‘war at sea’ was the Navy’s landmark missile attack on Karachi by the Osa class missile boats on the night of 4th December in Op Trident after IAF Hunters morning 4th attack and 8th December in Op Python.

It changed the Indian Navy’s fortunes. Navy goes in to celebrate Navy week and Navy Day on 4th Dec 2016 the Day Navy’s OSA Class Killers attacked ships off Karachi on 4th Dec and ships and Kemari oil tanks also on 8th Dec !

Pakistan has a new army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and needs to hark lessons of history, as Army Chiefs run policy in Pakistan . Shan No Varuna.

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