Intro: India and Pakistan have escalated their border conflict into
what could become total warfare. VOA Correspondent Don Weaver reports
from New Delhi.
Text: Prime Minister Gandhi early Saturday morning put India on a war
footing with Pakistan. She declared a state of emergency a few hours
after All India Radio reported Pakistan had suddenly attacked a number
of airfields in Northwestern India with jet warplanes.
India said bombs were dropping and that Pakistani ground forces were
engaged in probing actions in the northwest. New Delhi said two Pakistani
jets were shot down.
Pakistan and Communist China said India had attacked on the western
border, a charge that India called "totally false."
In a nationwide broadcast, Prime Minister Gandhi said, in her words,
"this wanton and unprovoked aggression of Pakistan would be decisively
and finally repelled."
She accused Pakistan of launching a full-scale war against India with
air strikes at Amritsar, Pathankot, Srinagar, Avantipur, Uttarlai, Jodhpur,
Ambala and Agra. Agra is less than two hundred kilometers from New Delhi.
Missus Gandhi said Pakistani ground forces were also shelling Indian
"Today," said Missus Gandhi, "the war on Bangladesh has
become a war on India." She said it is a moment of great peril
for India and its people, and the nation must be prepared for a long
series of hardship and sacrifice.
Indians, the prime minister said, are peace-loving people. But she said
"peace cannot last if we do not guard our freedom, our democracy
and our way of life."
"We fight not merely for territorial integrity," Missus Gandhi
added, "but for the basic ideas which have given strength"
to India. She said aggression must be met. And she said "the people
of India will meet it with fortitude and determination."
Prime Minister Gandhi, speaking to the nation from New Delhi after a
cabinet meeting, said India had borne heavy burdens. New Delhi had asked
the world to help bring about a peaceful solution in East Pakistan to
prevent annihilation of an entire people whose only crime was to vote
democratically. The world, she said, ignored the basic problems in a
situation that was bound to deteriorate.
Now, she said, every necessary step has been taken and India is prepared
for all eventualities.
In New Delhi, Indian Defense Minister Jagjivan Ram said Indian forces
would give a fitting reply to what he described as Pakistani aggression.
It was announced that both houses of Parliament would meet Saturday
in special session to hear a statement by the prime minister and to
pass the Defense of India bill.
Most airports closed at least temporarily in India and several commercial
flights were cancelled. An all-night blackout was ordered in New Delhi.
But in Calcutta, not far from the East Pakistan border, lights were
burning through the night.
The prime minister had made a sober speech Friday to a massive rally
in Calcutta in which she warned that India faced the possibility of
a major conflict. She apparently received the report of action on the
western border while still in Calcutta.