When Pak President Yahya Khan Paid Sam Manekshaw For A Bike With “Half His Country”

When Pak President Paid Sam Manekshaw For A Bike With 'Half His Country'

As the Army Chief, Sam Manekshaw led the Indian Army to victory in the 1971 war.

Sam Manekshaw and Yahya Khan, two military leaders from India and Pakistan, shared a complex relationship shaped by the turbulent times of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan. While their roles were defined by their respective national interests, the dynamics of their interactions and the impact on their personal lives showcased the intricate nature of friendships even in the face of conflict. Their friendship was also part of the recently-released movie ‘Sam Bahadur‘ starring Vicky Kaushal in the lead role.

Both General Manekshaw and General Khan had served during World War II and had a deep appreciation for the sacrifices and challenges inherent in military leadership.

They served in the British Indian Army before Pakistan’s creation in 1947. One popular story from that time involves a red motorcycle that General Manekshaw owned. General Khan had an eye on it and wanted to own it before he left for Karachi (Maneckshaw was then a Lieutenant Colonel and Yahya Khan, a Major). 

Pakistani columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee wrote in a column in 2008 that General Khan offered to buy the motorcycle for Rs 1,000. General Manekshaw agreed to the sale. Partition happened in August 1947, and Yahya Khan took the red motorcycle to Pakistan, but never paid the amount he owed to Sam Manekshaw.

Just before the 1971 war, Sam Manekshaw, who had become the chief of the Indian Army by then, and Yahya Khan, then the President of Pakistan, found themselves at the forefront of a brewing storm.

When the war broke out, the Indian Army led by General Manekshaw defeated Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh. General Manekshaw was famous for his wit and sense of humour. After winning the war, he said, “I waited for 24 years for Rs 1,000 which never came, but now he has paid with half of his country.”

Mr Cowasjee said when he met General Manekshaw, he told him that Yahya Khan had never forgotten the debt, but never got around to it while offering to pay back the Rs 1,000 with interest.

The aftermath of the war saw a reshaping of the geopolitical landscape, with Bangladesh emerging as an independent nation. The personal toll on both leaders was palpable. General Manekshaw, while victorious, recognised the human cost of war, and Yahya Khan faced political fallout in Pakistan. 

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