The 1971 war ended with "the unilateral and unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army". Thus, "Vijay Diwas" is observed on 16 December

by Maj. Sunil Shetty, SM (Retd)

Women and men wearing passion on their sleeve jump into entrepreneurial voyage giving everything they have. Knowing well this one-way ticket means either you succeed or fail. The mantra is simple-If you believe in your passion, make it happen or go down with it.

This week, India marks the 46th anniversary of its military victory over Pakistan that led to the creation of a new nation- Bangladesh.

The 1971 war ended with "the unilateral and unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army". Thus, "Vijay Diwas", meaning Victory day, is observed on 16 December across India by "paying tributes to the martyrs who laid down their lives for the nation."

I grew up hearing Indo-Pak war stories from my father who himself, during the 1971 war, was in the Indian Air Force posted at the Ambala Airbase, in Northern India. As a personal memoir, he collected newspaper clips of war stories that were reported by the press during and after the conflict. I had the privilege of presenting his collection, as part of my study paper on war correspondence, while studying for my journalism degree.

A few decades later, I also had the privilege of wearing the Olive-Green uniform, popularly known as the "OGs", in the Indian Army. And a decade later, after hanging my dress, I was drawn to the world of entrepreneurship- with little knowledge and experience to support my journey. I was not even sure if I would fit in the world of business. But to my surprise; I found there were numerous parallels between the two worlds. Let me share the same with you.

Most entrepreneurs will agree with me that uncertainty is an important factor in any entrepreneurial journey. Thus, as a leader your crisis management skills are tested time and again.

During my stint in the Army and now as an entrepreneur; there have been instances that tested my core. Each time after emerging out successfully, I realised that three essential characteristics mattered the most during a crisis; both in the military and the world of entrepreneurship. They are self-belief, leadership and resource management.

There were numerous acts of bravery and courage, by the Indian tri-services, which made the 1971 military victory possible. I have picked three stories that provide valuable insight to entrepreneurs.

Self-Belief Is Vital During Crisis:

I firmly believe that during crisis, one who has an unlimited supply of self-belief, attains greater heights. The story of Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Sekhon, a fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, is one such chapter in the Indian military history.

During the 1971 war, Sekhon was based at the Srinagar airfield to defend the valley against Pakistani attacks.

On 14 December 1971, six Pakistani fighter jets attacked the airfield. Despite “the mortal danger of attempting to take off during the attack, Sekhon took off and immediately engaged the attacking enemy jets." Even though alone, the Flying Officer "engaged the enemy in an unequal combat." In the fight that followed, he destroyed two enemy aircrafts before, "his aircraft was shot down" by an enemy jet gunfire.

Armed forces across the world are known for such acts of heroism. When in crisis, brave men and women wearing patriotism on their sleeves, plunge into deadly situations. Such self-belief is contagious.


Leadership & Ingenuity During Crisis:

In a crisis, a good leader thinks, plan and executes with nerves of steel. And it is his/her calmness in an emergency situation that installs confidence among his/her troops and that leads to victory.

During the 1971 conflict, one such leadership story was played out in the eastern shores of India by Vice-Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan, commander in chief of the Eastern Naval Command.

Pakistan had deployed PNS Ghazi, a fast-attack submarine in the Bay of Bengal with a two-fold mission. The primary goal was to locate and sink INS Vikrant, an aircraft carrier, and the second was to mine India's eastern seaboard. To accomplish its mission, Ghazi quietly "sailed 3,000 miles around the Indian peninsula from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal."

Vice Admiral (VA) Krishnan was clear that Pakistan would "deploy Ghazi in the Bay of Bengal and a part of its plan was to sink the Indian aircraft carrier." However, he was a facing one more challenge; "INS Vikrant had suffered a crack in the carrier’s boiler," thereby reducing its speed and "making it highly vulnerable to attack."

Taking stock of the situation, VA Krishnan came up with a strategy that not only saved the prestigious warship but also led to the elimination of the Pakistani submarine.

The Eastern Naval Commander executed his plan in two parts; first he ensured that INS Vikrant was docked in safe water of Andaman away from the prying eyes of the enemy even before Ghazi entered the Bay of Bengal. At the same time, concerted action was taken to disseminate misinformation to mislead the enemy into believing that INS Rajput, an ageing warship, was the carrier ship Ghazi was hunting for and that it was stationed at Visakhapatnam.

As expected, Ghazi took the bait and met its end near the Visakhapatnam shores. Though there is a dispute on what lead to the sinking of Ghazi, it was the leadership of VA Krishnan that tricked the enemy submarine. "The ingenuity and deceptive planning that caused the submarine to a follow a pre-set path which ended in a watery grave" still "ranks as one of the great sea-faring victories in Indian naval history.”


Marshalling Resources In Crisis:

Entrepreneurs and soldiers have one thing in common - both have limited resources and are expected to deliver desired results. Thus, during crisis, marshalling of resources becomes the deciding factor between victory or defeat and success or failure.

The Battle of Longewala was one of the "first major engagements "in India's "western sector during the Indo-Pak War of 1971." The battle fought between "assaulting Pakistani Army and Indian forces at the Indian border post of Longewala in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan state in India" is an example of efficient marshalling resources in a time of crisis.

An Infantry company, roughly comprising a little of hundred men and reinforced by a detachment of BSF held out a massive attack by mechanised Pakistani troops.

The company, of the 23rd Battalion, Punjab Regiment, was commanded by Major Kuldip Singh Chandpuri. The advancing enemy had superiority because of its numbers and military resources.

Major Chandpuri left with the choice of either holding out or make a tactical withdrawal. Choosing to fight, the Major ensured that "all his assets were correctly deployed and made the most use of his strong defensive position, and weaknesses created by errors in enemy tactics." Battle of Longewal "stands out as one of the biggest losses in a battle for Pakistan despite overwhelming superiority." Indian casualties in the battle were "two soldiers along with one of their jeep mounted recoil-less rifles knocked out." Pakistani losses were "200 soldiers killed, 34 tanks destroyed or abandoned,” and lost "500 additional vehicles."

As a child, many such war stories were narrated to me by my father or I read them. At that tender age, the war stories were about bravery and courage but as I grew up and especially after my stint in the Indian Army- I saw these stories in a different light. There was more to it than just bravery and courage.

My favourite war story of all time is of Company Quartermaster Havildar Abdul Hamid, a hero of 1965 war who single-handedly destroyed Pakistani tanks with his recoil-less guns. This story had left a deep impression in my mind and heart and eventually led me to join the Indian Army.

Today, after spending 15 years in the world of entrepreneurship; I find it no different. Women and men wearing passion on their sleeve jump into entrepreneurial voyage giving everything they have. Knowing well this one-way ticket means either you succeed or fail and nothing in between. The mantra is simple-If you believe in your passion, make it happen or go down with it.