Field Marshal Sam ‘Bahadur’ Manekshaw - the chief architect of India’s victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
Legend goes that just before the war began Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked the Army Chief if he was ready and he had replied saying ‘I am always ready, sweetie’.
But there was a time when he wasn’t and he minced no words conveying that to the PM. This is the story of that time as narrated by him years later.
Also watch: 50 years of 1971 war | Pakistan's atrocities, India's intervention & Bangladesh's liberation - a timeline
In April 1971 when refugees started pouring into India’s bordering states from East Pakistan because of West Pakistan’s offensive, the PM called for a cabinet meeting and also summoned Army Chief Manekshaw for it and asked -
Indira Gandhi: What are you doing about it?
Sam Manekshaw: Nothing, it's got nothing to do with me. 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: I want you to enter Pakistan.
Sam Manekshaw: That means war!
Indira Gandhi: I do not mind if it is war.
Sam Manekshaw: God said let there be light and there was light. Now you say let there be war and there will be war. But are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China.
Sam Manekshaw then went on to tell PM Indira Gandhi that he would need all the road space and the entire railway network to move his men and in peak harvest season that meant that the produce wouldn’t be able to be transported and it would rot. He explained to her how the rains in East Pakistan would adversely affect the troop movement and that Air Force would not be able to provide support because of the weather.
Sam Manekshaw: My armoured division is supposed to have 189 tanks operational but only 11 are fit to fight.
And when the Finance Minister asked him why only 11 tanks were operational, the Army Chief had a quip for him too.
Sam Manekshaw: Because you are the Finance Minister. I have been asking you for money over a year and you say you haven’t got it.
Sam Manekshaw: Now Prime Minister, give me your orders.
The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched replied -
Indira Gandhi: The Cabinet will meet again at four o'clock.
As the ministers started to leave the PM asked the Chief to stay back.
Sam Manekshaw: Resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?
Indira Gandhi: Everything you told me is true.
Sam Manekshaw: Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth. And it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.
Indira Gandhi: All right Sam, you know what I want?
Sam Manekshaw: Yes, I know what you want
7 months later on December 3, India went to war with Pakistan... on 16th December Pakistan Army surrendered, India won and Bangladesh gained its independence.