A mistake in British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) coverage helped to defeat the Pakistani military in the 1971 war, said Major General (Retired) Ian Cardozo, an Indian hero of the 1971 war.
During the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, Cardozo was a major in the Gorkha Rifles battalion; it was tasked with capturing Atgram near Sylhet. Comprising about 750 soldiers, it was short of artillery and food supplies, but ultimately managed the surrender of two Pakistan Army brigades, including three brigadiers, a colonel, 107 officers, 219 JCOs, and 7,000 troops, reports Hindustan Times.
"Today I would like to use this platform to pay tributes to the BBC. They were the only reliable broadcasting station at that time, giving news as it happened. The Indian Army had nothing to hide, so the British war correspondents were going along with our troops. They were reporting minute-to-minute the progress of the battle. But they made a mistake. They announced that a 'brigade' of Gurkhas had landed at Sylhet. We heard it, as well as the Pakistanis. So we decided to pretend that we were a brigade," Ian Cardozo said speaking at a book release event on Monday (12 December).
One of the most decorated officers of the Indian Army, Cardozo recalled the vital operation to capture Sylhet during a packed invitation-only event to celebrate the life of Lt Gen FN Bilimoria. Cardozo, a contemporary of Lt Gen Bilimoria, penned the book "Lieutenant General Bilimoria: His Life and Times", which was recently presented to Indian Army chief Gen Dalbir Singh.
Ian Cardozo said that his battalion took advantage of the misinformation and built on small victories which eventually led to creating a situation where the Pakistani troops offered to surrender on 15 December 1971.
They believed a Pakistani brigade was in the area; however, after victory, they were surprised to discover the final number was more than twice the strength of a brigade.
Cardozo lost a leg when he stepped on a landmine in the 1971 war. He cut off his mangled leg with his own khukri and told his Gurkha batman: "Now go and bury it." Determined not to let the disability affect his career as a soldier, he later became the first disabled officer in the Indian Army to command an infantry brigade.
A Bangladeshi present in the audience thanked Cardozo for the "great job you have done for us".