Military & Aerospace

Was the Prospect of Nobel Peace Prize behind sell-out of 93,000 Pak Prisoners of War?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Sep , 2021

The left liberals and the anti-nationals greeted the attack on Balakot with howls of disbelief and their usual rants about ‘proof,’ questioning the veracity of the forthright Indian response,in the wake of ghastly Pulwama terror attack. The cataclysmic blast had ripped through a CRPF convoy, instantly dismembering 40 personnel, one which numbed the nation. Paradoxically,these selfsame elements had no hesitation in brazenly advocating the Nobel Peace Prize for Imran Khan Niazi, to honour his ‘benevolent act’ in releasing Squadron Leader Abhinandan. So much for abject trivialization of the highest global honour!

The ace pilot, in an unprecedented feat, had destroyed an F-16 fighter jet with his ageing MiG-21 in the PoK, only to be taken prisoner and allegedly tortured by the ISI,after bailing out when a missile hit his aircraft. In backing the puppet prime minister, these anarchists were forced into eating humble pie about Balakot, unable to discredit the official version, despite their hyper-aggressive postures! At the same time, they would never concede defeat, persisting in their juvenile bluster, emboldened by the apologetic stance of the soft state, despite its occasional feats of bravado.

That reminds one of 1972, a significant year following the country’s most magnificent victory over Pakistan, authored by none other than General Sam Manekshaw—a feat that even outshone the German conquest of France in June 1940, under Rommel’s phenomenal leadership. But the then political dispensation hogged all the limelight, citing it as its biggest masterstroke, even though Indira Gandhi, not familiar with strategic matters,like most of the politicians past and present, would have committed an unparalleled folly by insisting on immediate attack, before the onset of monsoons.However, Sam Bahadur’s blunt advice as the Army Chief that in that case, he could not guarantee victory sobered the prime minister.

In 1972, New Delhi possessed a huge bargaining chip in the shape of 93,000 Prisoners of War (POW), who had surrendered after a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Indian Army—the biggest ever since Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus’ capitulation before the Soviet Union on January 31, 1943. But why did the political dispensation throw it all away, inexplicably, committing a debacle of Himalayan proportions?What exactly happened to negate India’s most extraordinary victory by releasing the POW and foreclosing the option of taking back the PoK.A decision doubly compounded by the fact that no inquiry commissions were appointed to get to the bottom of the monstrous crimes against humanity in 1971, unlike those of the Nazis who had perpetrated horrific mass murders in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

According to a highly credible source, in the know of things, Army Chief Gen Manekshaw firmly advised Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to tell Pakistan PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,that New Delhi would return 93,000 POW only on the condition that Islamabad first vacate PoK,on the eve of her meeting with the latter, during the Shimla talks in July 1972.He further advised Mrs Gandhi to notify Bhutto that in the event of Pakistan’s refusal to cede PoK to India, each one of the prisoners, as and when they die, would be buried in India with full military honours. Visas would be granted to the next of kin of POW to attend the funeral.

When Mrs Gandhi went back with the matter to her advisors in the PMO, they reportedly informed her that looking after 93,000 POW would entail a huge financial burden on the Exchequer. Therefore, it would be best to repatriate them to Pakistan. Accordingly,the Prime Minister conveyed to Gen Manekshaw what her advisors had told her.The Army Chief assured her that he would not seek a penny from the government to take care of them.Rather his troops would gladly agree to spare ten percent of their rations to feed these prisoners. Once again, Mrs Gandhi referred Sam Bahadur’s proposal to her advisors.

The source said that the bureaucrats, in a bid to checkmate the Army Chief’s eminently sensible advice, resorted to a stratagem and allegedly whispered into Mrs Gandhi’s ears that the ruling elite in the West, namely UK, US, France, Germany and others,“wished to see her display magnanimity and compassion in victory,”as “a visionary leader” of global standing, by repatriating the POW. They also added that she is being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. Mrs Gandhi fell for the bait, totally disregarding Sam Bahadur’s advice, or even once reverting back to him—after relying on his counsel during the 1971 war.But exactly at whose behest were the advisors allegedly doing it?

The point is that when the Anglo-Saxon bloc itself played such an underhand role in the creation of Pakistan, would it ever countenance the very thought of their puppet’s dismemberment and so would intervene in an internal matter of India, through intermediaries? After all it is an open secret that CIA spooks have their tentacles running deep into the most secure layers and echelons of governments worldwide and quite privy to state secrets, operating at their master’s behest. The amoral Agency is known to have consorted with the most depraved terrorists and anarchists on the ground, when it suited its purpose.

History is replete with instances of their crooked games, pressurizing, blackmailing or bribing officials to do their bidding, toppling unfriendly regimes, assassinating popular leaders, etc. Would some of these movers and shakers in New Delhi be immune to their blandishments? The CIA also cooperated with the ISI to produce an army of mujahideens to oppose Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The act of appalling asininity has saddled the globe with a deadly terror industry comprising the Al Qaida, the Taliban and the ISIS, which is wrecking devastation everywhere, in the name of jihad!Most unfortunately, Washington itself has fallen victim to its own creation, the Taliban, a conglomerate of drug lords, mass murderers, fanatics and misogynists, allowing it to take over Afghanistan without firing a single round, disgracing itself in the eyes of the world! Could there be a more diabolical example of universal betrayal?

The United States and Britain have always stood by Pakistan, in spite of the latter’s extremely sordid record on human rights and butchery of Balochis on its own soil, besides its relentless acts of depredation against India. One only need recall how the Nixon-Kissinger administration even dispatched the Seventh Fleet to threaten and scare New Delhi, in a show of unprecedented muscle flexing—especially after being alarmed by the Indian Army’s sound thrashing of Pakistan on the eastern and western fronts in 1971. But the presence of Soviet submarines trailing the Seventh Fleet is what played spoilsport with the US Navy. Could there have been a more clinching evidence of US perfidy than withholding locations of Pakistani invaders holed up on hilltops during Kargil, amid mounting Indian casualties?

Is it not conceivable that Washington, operating through second parties, would have gone out of its way to nip Manekshaw’s proposal in the bud to protect Pakistan, involving a decision of such magnitude. Has not Washington demonstrated its duplicity and antagonism towards India over the decades? Did not the so called protector of democracy and liberty support tyrants, dictators and murderous psychopaths like the Taliban currently? If the account of scholar-historian David E. Stannard, in his pioneering work, the American Holocaust, is to be believed, the hands of Anglo-Saxons are stained with the blood of a 100 million Native American Indians between 1490 and 1890!  Does Washington have any moralright to sit in judgement on India? 

Pointedly, the rampaging barbarians in khaki had killed three million innocent civilians in the Eastern wing, besides violating a million women, forcing an exodus of 10 million into India as refugees. The extermination of such great numbers was only eclipsed by the Holocaust when Hitler gassed six million Jews to death. Americans love to point fingers at India over alleged human rights violations. They must not forget that their own backyard is littered with acts of shootouts, intolerance, police brutality and racism of the most horrifying kind. Nobody questions their killing of tens of thousands of innocents in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, in retaliatory bombing raids and reprisals.

Had Mrs Gandhi backed Gen Manekshaw’s advice, even against Bhutto’s rejection of their terms and conditions, widespread rioting and arson by the families of POW would have engulfed Pakistan, demanding the immediate return of their near and dear ones, even if that necessitated ceding PoK to India.They would have discarded Kashmir as a rotten apple. The 1971 War had demoralized and shattered the Pakistani Army; loathed by its own people for having lost to India.The country was in a shambles. A doubly devastated Bhutto would have been in no position to ride roughshod over public will; but to bow to popular demand and withdraw from the PoK, resolving the Kashmir problem for good. Yet Bhutto outsmarted Mrs Gandhi in Shimla and walked away with all the honours. For the want of discrimination an entire kingdom was lost!

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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Sudip Talukdar

is an author and strategic affairs columnist.

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6 thoughts on “Was the Prospect of Nobel Peace Prize behind sell-out of 93,000 Pak Prisoners of War?

  1. This is an immensely insightful piece full of history and examples from wars around the world. Indeed, the brave Indian army would have had real mix feelings at the end of 1971 war. Right on the heals of victory that ensured birth of Bangladesh India indeed had an opportunity to hang on to 93,000 Pakistan soldiers and regain POK and settle the issue for ever.
    The analysis by Shudip Talukdar in this piece is impeccable and can’t be faulted on his knowledge of literally the world history of wars.

    • There is enough evidence on the ground that Abhinandan destroyed an F-16, an issue discussed threadbare in public domain and the social media. Why the Lutyens media and left liberals also questioned Balakot on very feeble grounds. Where’s the proof, they ranted. This is also part of a narrative to suppress something outrageous bold accomplished by the brave air warrior. Manekshaw cannot be blamed if Indira Gandhi committed a colossal blunder with eyes wide open, despite her record of political chicanery and political wheeling and dealing. Her sellout of 93,000 PoWs was a colossal folly as Nehru’s daughter. If Indira Gandhi were so sharp and perceptive as a politician as her apologists would have the people believe, why did she insist on attacking Pakistan just before monsoons, without a very basic understanding of strategy. The column was written to expose the shameless perfidy of the then political dispensation and abject betrayal of the nation. Shimla Pact is being touted as a big deal, when Pakistan is already in possession of half Jammu and Kashmir, with 5,000 square kms ceded to China. India continues to follow the policies of Nehru and Indira Gandhi, to the detriment of its survival

    • Bringing in the CIA is very much part of the narrative, as it was bound to influence the advisors and bureaucrats surrounding Mrs Gandhi, one way or another. The point is when the Anglo-Saxons lobby vivisected the country, do you think that they would be a party to parting with the PoK and ceding it to India???? They would resorted to every trick in their vile book to checkmate Manekshaw and India. Mrs Gandhi surrendered the greatest victory for less than a penny. She cannot live down the infamy!!!!

  2. “The ace pilot, in an unprecedented feat, had destroyed an F-16 fighter jet with his ageing MiG-21 … bailing out when a missile hit his aircraft.”-

    How couldn’t he outmanoeuvre the incoming missile being an “ace pilot”? Besides, I am sure MiG-21 is equipped with excellent ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) being of Russian origin, not to mention the onboard missile warning receiver MAWS, why was ECM not activated to defeat the missile?

    Furthermore “had destroyed an F-16 fighter jet”, the claim is unsubstantiated. Anybody exposed to modern Air Defense Systems (ADS) would realize that IAF is in the doldrums in their operation of ADS. How come that IAF shot down its own military helicopter flying out of Srinagar in the event?

    “Army Chief Gen Manekshaw firmly advised Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to tell Pakistan PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, that New Delhi would return 93,000 POW only on the condition that Islamabad first vacate PoK”-

    I am willing to accept that Manekshaw was a great military general, but expertise in international political affairs and statecraft was beyond his, or any other army general’s reach. Pak would have never vacated PoK, and it would have given Bhutto the golden opportunity to refer their whole fiasco to the United Nations. And the brilliant victory would have been lost to India had the UN intervened. There was virulent opposition by the US and China. And there could not happen the emergence of Bangladesh for sure.

    Indira Gandhi has superbly played India’s card in the international stage with great vision and for the most that could be achieved for Delhi. She forced Bhutto to sign the Simla pact which excludes any third-party involvement in the Kashmir affairs. This has effectively neutralized the UNSC resolution of 1949 calling for a plebiscite.

    There is no point to go line by line with this column. I wonder for whom it has been written.

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