By now we have had so many wars with Pakistan (which thankfully we have all won), and one with China (which we lost), that I have forgotten what happened in which war. But some things remain in memory.
Most of the war news emanated from New Delhi, where it was centralised, collated, censored, then sent out. But the biggest story of the wars broke in Bombay. The briefing was at the naval headquarters, late in the evening. In Indian newspapers, there is no such thing as a defence correspondent; so, since I was on duty, I was sent to cover it. And it was at this briefing that the naval top brass announced how Indian naval ships had crept along the coast, darted across the Arabian Sea, entered and bombarded Karachi harbour. Many enemy ships had been sunk, Karachi was in flames, and the city was being evacuated.
I remember coming back to the office to write the story. Bombay was dark and still in the blackout, not a flicker of light anywhere.
The air force story came from Delhi. Indian planes, in the first hour of the war, had flown across to Pakistan and bombed an air-base there, putting out of commission several Pakistan planes. Very much like what happened to the Iraqi air force last year.
Then, in an earlier war, there was the battle of the tanks, when Pakistanís heavy-armoured Patton tanks were destroyed by the smaller and lighter Indian tanks. I forget the name of the battleground, but it has come to be known as the graveyard of the tanks. I am also not sure about this, but as far as I can recall, the commander of the tank force was bestowed the nationís highest military award, posthumously.
The commander-in-chief of the forces during one of the wars was then general, and now field-marshal, Sam H. F. J. Maneckshaw. A most outspoken general, and dearly loved by his forces, he many years later told me a story in confidences. As is my practice, I broke the confidence in order to share a good story with the readers. I am repeating it now.
It seems, the general, annoyed at political interference with the actual conduct of the war, told Prime Minister Indira Gandhi: ďMadam, you have got a large nose, and I have got a large nose, and I have got a large nose. You keep your nose in your business and I will keep my nose in mine. The decision to launch the war was yours, but now you have taken the decision, how to fight the war is my business.Ē