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Sam Manekshaw had overruled Indira Gandhi's decision to attack East Pakistan in 1971.

There are contradictory accounts of Sam Manekshaw, Chief of Army Staff rejecting PM Indira Gandhi's order to launch an attack on Pakistan in 1971.

There are contradictory accounts of Sam Manekshaw, Chief of Army Staff rejecting PM Indira Gandhi's order to launch an attack on Pakistan in 1971.The partition of India in 1947 created East Pakistan and West Pakistan, which are two separate countries now – Bangladesh and Pakistan, respectively. After the 1970 Pakistani general election, the political clout of West Pakistan was challenged. In March 1971, a military response to civil dissent in East Pakistan supported by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi led to calls for independence for what was to become Bangladesh.

Multiple historical records suggest General Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, the Chief of the Army Staff, was under immense political pressure to launch his forces that spring, as around 10 million refugees poured across the border. It is believed that General Manekshaw held his ground and overruled Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she wanted the Indian Army to attack East Pakistan as all diplomatic avenues had failed to make Pakistan plug the influx of refugees to India. It is reported that Manekshaw told the PM that it was tactically not possible to attack due to the impending monsoons that would make the movement of troops extremely tough. Further, he said that the Army was not immediately ready for a task of such magnitude, and he waited until he had created conditions that would lead to India’s victory.

A full-fledged war was launched between the two countries by December 3, 1971, and India emerged victorious in the battle. The Instrument of Surrender of Pakistan Eastern Command was signed on December 16, 1971.

However, a contradictory account of events can be found in a book titled ‘Intertwined Lives: P.N. Haksar and Indira Gandhi’ written by politician Jairam Ramesh. The book chronicles the life of PN Haksar, who served as principal secretary to the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. An excerpt from the book states that contrary to Manekshaw’s story that Indira Gandhi and her advisors were keen on an early military operation and that he put his foot down, asking for more time, the documentary evidence does not lend any support to the claims made by Manekshaw. At no time did Indira Gandhi or Haksar betray any impatience for war—not in their public statements or actions and in Haksar’s case not in his internal notings either, it says. The author says Manekshaw’s views have been conclusively refuted based on primary, archival material by Indian historian Srinath Raghavan and Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, an eminent diplomat-scholar. Owing to differences in the historical accounts, the claim is unverifiable.

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