The date was July 20, 1981. I was a flying officer and was detailed to fly the Northern Army Commander, Lt-General SP Malhotra, to Nangi Tekri, a post south-west of Poonch, and from which one of the latest surgical strike teams went in this time too, according to some press reports.
Nangi Tekri had a company of Gurkha battalion manning the post that juts into the Pakistan-held area. The post gets its name from the fact that it is as bald as bald can be - there is not a blade of grass for some reason (at least it was so in the 1980s).
The Army commander was going to Nangi Tekri to meet the company who had lost a young captain a few days ago to an ambush by the Pakistani posts on the opposite side; what was worse, the Pakistanis did not let our Gurkhas retrieve his body throughout the night by shooting at troops whenever they attempted to do so.
On landing, the Army commander went straight in for a briefing. He had a grim look when he came out, surveyed the ambush spot that was way into our territory, and met the subedar major (SM) outside the briefing tent - the SM is the senior-most junior commissioned officer and is very influential in maintaining morale as he is the link between officers and jawans.
I heard him ask the SM: "Sahab kya jawab dena hai" (what’s the reply that should be given)? The diminutive 4ft-and-a-few-inches-tall SM looked up at the 6ft-plus Army commander and said: "Sahab, aap hum se prashan mat poochna" (sir, don’t ask us questions later).
General Malhotra replied: "Theek hai - izzat ka sawal hai - ek ke badle teen hone chahiye" (ok, it’s a question of prestige. There should be three for one). And a few days later, that's what happened. Nangi Tekri was a quiet sector thereafter!
The calm came about through a flag meeting. Pilot officer Raju Srinivasan flew a few days later to Nangi Tekri with GOC XVI Corps, Lt-Gen Handoo, for the meeting requested by the Pakistanis, since the Gurkhas had really plastered them - as he remembers, 14 Pakistani troops had been accounted for!
In the helicopter was a carton of Charminar cigarettes, with the small placard "with compliments of the Indian Army'', that was presented to the Pakistani delegation. On the return flight, the Corps commander was asked why he had presented Charminar cigarettes (a very strong brand) while much better ones were available? The General remarked: “Pakistani Generals love Charminar - they got used to it when they were POWs in India!”
So much for a light-hearted end to what is a serious life-and-death situation. There was no hue and cry or the press going nuts in 1981 over the Nangi Tekri incident - the way it has been this time after the surgical strikes.