When Pakistan president hinted at attacking India
New Delhi: Around 10 days before war broke out between India and Pakistan in 1971, the then president of Pakistan Yahya Khan had given an inkling of his intentions to attack this country after taking a few drinks with an American
Yahya had told the journalist on the day of their meeting that he would be "at the front within 10 days" when the American talked about getting back to the General in ten days time on the issue of meeting the president again, according to recently declassified Ministry of External Affairs documents.
And Yahya's word, perhaps made unwittingly, came true when Pakistan launched air attacks on military targets in India's northwest on the evening of December 3, 1971.
Shortly afterwards, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said the air strikes was a declaration of war on this country. At midnight on the same day, India launched an integrated ground, sea and air strike of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Attacks were also launched against West Pakistan.
The next day, then US Ambassador to India Kenneth Barnard Keating called on Foreign Secretary TN Kaul in New Delhi to discuss the situation, during which he mentioned how Yahya Khan had told Bob Shapley, a correspondent of the New Yorker magazine when they met that Pakistan would be at war with India within the next 10 days, the MEA files showed.
"They (Shapley and Khan) were returning from a party and the president had taken a few drinks when Bob asked him that he would like to see him again.
President Yahya Khan said that he would be happy to see him, to which the correspondent replied that he would ring him up within 10 days. To this president Yahya Khan said that he may be at the front by that time so he had better make it very soon," Keating told Kaul.
Assessing the motive behind Pakistan's attack, Kaul said Pakistan might have thought that by launching an Israeli-type pre-emptive attack, they could "destroy our airfields as they had hoped to see us like sitting ducks".
"They were gravely disappointed," he noted.
"Secondly, they had hoped to internationalise the issue. We are not going to be taken in by either of these motives."
Kaul also pointed out that India had "no hope" that the UN Security Council could solve the issue and that the US and international community should not take sides.
"We will not yield to any side-tracking. We have been shouting from house tops for the last eight months for the international community to put pressure of the West Pakistan (now Pakistan) military regime. Even at this later hour, if president Yahya Khan can see reasons, there can be some hope."
He also made it clear that India will not withdraw even if China interferes.
"There will be no stalemate even if China enters. We hope that they will not do so. We are convinced in our mind that this time it should be decisive," he explained.
Kaul also dismissed Pakistani version that India had actually attacked them first.
"In case we had attacked at 12 noon, they would not have taken six hours to retaliate at 6 pm. Our prime minister, defence minister and finance minister were away at that time.”
In fact, the prime minister was addressing a million strong meeting in Calcutta when the news reached her," said Kaul while handing over a "Situation Report" to the US envoy.
To which Ambassador Keating said: "Our Ambassador in Islamabad has asked president Yahya Khan yesterday evening to furnish him the points which India had invaded, but president Khan did not give any concrete reply."
On December 6, India recognised Bangladesh as an independent state. On December 16, the Pakistani forces in the East surrendered unconditionally to the Indian Army that led Indira Gandhi to announce a unilateral cease-fire on December 17 and cherish the military victory.