(With Pressmen in Bangalore on 16-12-1971, the day Pak forces surrendered in Bangladesh)
Q : How do you view the present situation in the country?
A : The people are one and united against the enemy. It shows that intrinsically we are one. But it is the political adventurers who divide us into more than one. However, we have proved that we can pull together as one nation in times of crisis.
Q : What do you expect of the new State of Bangladesh?
A : If it followed a secular, but not irreligious, pattern it would be good. They have already assured that there will be no religious discrimination. Let us hope that they will live up to their assurances.
Q : In 1947, our sub-continent was divided into two, and now into three parts. How do you view this development?
A : Even the division into two was artificial. It should not have been allowed to happen. Now the further division into three was inevitable. The two parts of Pakistan could not have pulled on for long. For the last 10 to 12 years especially, deep fissures had developed within it. It is a miracle that they could pull together even for this length of 24 years.
Q : Do you envisage further break-up?
A : No doubt, such forces are there. But how far they will be able to succeed is not easy to say. Here, in the case of East Bengal, it was separated from the western part by more than 1000 miles. The western part is all contiguous. But if the powerful Baluchi and Pathan elements in the Pakistan army start demanding independence, further division into four parts would become inevitable. The cry for an independent Pakhtunistan is quite old. In Sindh also there is a movement for independence.
Muslims claim that Islam removes inequality and levels all men into equality. But they (of Pakistan) could not remain equal even among themselves. In fact, the present trouble started when West Punjabi Muslims and Muslim migrants from Western U.P. to Pakistan started posing themselves as overlords. Their claim that Islam could form the basis of a separate nation has also been shattered.
Q : Yahya Khan has declared that this would be the last war with India!
A : It will be, if Pakistan is totally liquidated.
Q : Will the liquidation of Pakistan not create an adverse image of India in the world? Will the world stomach it?
A : The world is a very peculiar animal! If we face it with a fait accompli the world will accept it without any question.
Q : Should we not take this chance to liberate the occupied Kashmir?
A : Yes. That has to be done.
Q : Bhutto has bragged that he would wage a thousand-year war against India!
A : Yes! Retrospectively he is right!
Q : Do you envisage any serious problem regarding the return and rehabilitation of refugees?
A : Within the last few months the properties of East Bengali Hindus have been seized and distributed among local Muslims. So the local Muslims have a vested interest in the refugees not returning. It would be a huge task to dislodge them and return the properties to the owners. They may go against their own elected leaders, and the popular government will have to face that risk. However, strong measures by the Indian Government in cooperation with the local Government will ensure a speedy solution of the problem.
Q : Some Hindus may not like to go back. Should there be option or compulsion for their return?
A : Certain memories may induce them not to back. Some unpleasant incidents have taken place. However, the call of the land is after all strong and they may return.
I have the idea that at present option should be given to East Bengal to join our family of States in Bharat or remain an independent neighbor.
Q : Will not the world mistake us if we join it to our country? Which would be better, to allow it to remain independent or join it to our country?
A : I said, we should give them the option. It is for them to decide.
Q : How do you envisage the future course of the War?
A : I think Pakistan will come down to the negotiating table, as a large portion of our army in East Bengal has now been released to be shifted to the western front.
Q : What do you think of the deployment of the US 7th Fleet in the Bay of Bengal?
A : If the USA really interferes, it will be the last of their world supremacy. Their image is already damaged in Vietnam and Korea. For all their superior arms they have been beaten and repulsed in Vietnam. Somehow all their international policies have been self-defeating. They have always been backing the wrong horse. This time they have backed a very wrong horse - Yahya Khan. Nixon may be imagining that his present policies would brighten his chances in the coming Presidential elections. On the contrary he is digging his own political grave. For, quite a large section of the American public are unhappy about his policies. And its act of sending arms under the guise of aid to refugees is very dishonest, an act of hostility! It is proving that it is still a raw nation.
Q : Ceylon has now changed its tune in favor of India.
A : Nothing succeeds like success!
Q : What do you think of the likely move of China in this context?
A : I don't think China will physically interfere.
Q : Now the romance between China and USA has started.
A : Yes! A queer type of romance indeed! The world is always in a flux. Relations between countries are always changing. During the Second World War, in the beginning, Germany and Russia were together. Later, Russia and England shook hands.
Q : Don't you think that we are leaning more towards Russia?
A : In such times we do require some friends. And Russia came forward. In fact the Chairman of the Institute of Defence Studies wrote in an article that Russia needed Bharat more than Bharat needed Russia. So it is up to us to stand up and make the best out of the treaty with Russia.
Q : Is not the balance of power now completely changed in this region?
A : It will take some more time to tell. It depends upon us. If we take judicious steps, we can gain a lot.
Q : Do you think that India should go nuclear?
A : Better to be forewarned and go in for nuclear weapons in view of the bitter experience we had at the hands of big powers in the current war. Now it seems the leaders are seriously thinking about it. The nuclear weapon may have its bad side for the world. But it will be a wise thing to go in for that at least as a deterrent.
Q : This time our defence machinery seems to be well oiled.
A : Yes. For so many centuries we were fighting for others. It is only during the last 24 years that we have been given a chance to freely plan and execute our campaign. In 1965, lack of coordination between the three wings of our defence forces had cost us terribly. This time the lesson has been learnt. The land, sea and air forces are now in close coordination. It would be better if the forces have one single unitary command.
Q : Will the breaking away of East Bengal with a Muslim majority have any effect on our Indian Muslims?
A : If the suspense had continued, the effect would have been very bad. Now, the effect ought to be good. It ought to make their ideas towards our country clearer.
Q : What should we do with the surrendered Pakistanis?
A : They should not be allowed to go back at present. They should be kept as hostages to forestall any Pakistani mischief in the western sector.
Q : How do you feel about the PM's handling of the situation?
A : It is good, all right. But the delay was too painful. And we have paid the price for the procrastination, in terms of tremendous human misery.
Q : What are the lessons of the war?
A : To remain united, not merely during the war time, but even after the war.
We must be intensely devoted to hard work, and increase production, and see that our country does not depend upon others for our vital needs.
To this end all parties, whatever their differences, should find the largest area of unity.
(With friends in Madras, early 1972)
Q : Is not the emergence of separate Bangladesh contrary to our national ideals and interests?
A : No, no. We should not take too narrow a view of things. The remarkable thing that has been achieved in Bangladesh is the orientation of majority opinion there into a secular outlook. What has triumphed in this case is basic layer of Hindu Nationalism which had been covered over with an Islamic veil. The religious issue was not the motivating force in the struggle for Bangladesh but nationalism. And we would have been untrue to the conviction if we had not come to the help of that struggling National Consciousness. We have in fact demonstrated the liberal and tolerant nature of Hindu Nationalism there. It has at the same time exposed the untenability of the 'Two Nation Theory' which has been doing a lot of damage to both the Hindus and Muslims. When we speak of Hindu Rashtra we are really speaking about the people and not of the geographical area. Is it not a great achievement to hail 70 million of our countrymen as our breathren, and for them to look up to us as their breathren? Bangladesh has practically liquidated the concept of Pakistan. An evil has been partly undone. With time, I do not see why it should not be completely removed.