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Yahya hinted 1971 attack on India 10 days before

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Gen Yahya Khan

ABOUT 10 days before the 1971 war broke out between India and Pakistan, the then Pakistan president Yahya Khan had indicated to an American journalist his intentions of attacking India, say declassified Indian External Affairs Ministry documents.

After taking a few drinks with Bob Sharpley, a correspondent of New Yorker magazine, Yahya told him that he would be “at the front within 10 days”, according to the documents declassified recently.

Yahya’s word, apparently made unwittingly, came true when Pakistan launched air attacks on military targets in northwest India in the evening of December 3, 1971.

Shortly afterwards, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said the air strikes were declaration of war on the country. At midnight 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 then American Ambassador to India Kenneth Barnard Keating called on Indian Foreign Secretary TN Kaul in New Delhi the next day to discuss the situation. During the meeting he mentioned how Yahya Khan had told Bob Shapley that Pakistan would be at war with India within the next 10 days, the documents 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.

On December 6, 1971 India recognised Bangladesh as an independent state.

Ten days later, on December 16, the Pakistani forces in the East surrendered unconditionally to the Indian army that led Indira Gandhi to announce a unilateral ceasefire on December 17 and cherish the military victory.


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