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Friday, 4 July 2008

From Today's Papers - 04 Jul















In defence of Kargil – I

Major General (retd) Syed Ali Hamid

“Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan”, a saying popularised by John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion. It has its roots further back in time. Tacitus, remembered as Rome’s greatest historian stated that “It is the singularly unfair peculiarity of war that the credit of success is claimed by all, while a disaster is attributed to one alone”. It has become fashionable to criticise the Kargil conflict. A retired Lieutenant General of the Pakistan Army on a TV channel referred to it as a debacle. I would like to believe that we live in a free society and have a right to express our opinion so I would like to be one of those who swimming against the tide of criticism and present a case in support of Kargil.
At the outset, I would request the reader to disassociate himself from the media images of Indian troops assaulting Tiger Hill, or Indian air strikes on our posts. An extract from an article written by Lt. General Mohinder Puri, who was the GOC of 8 Mtn Div at Batalik, may help you in separating fact from fiction. “Employment of air per se was a morale-raising factor for our troops and conversely it had an adverse effect on the enemy. But its effectiveness was questionable. Like us, the pilots were not acclimatised to fight in this type of terrain and did not have the right ordnance to deliver on the target. When they did use the laser guided bombs, their effectiveness improved marginally, but not enough to have an impact on our ground operations or the enemy.”
Like the Bay of Pigs, Kargil could be classified as a limited conflict. Limited conflicts are defined as a war whose objective is less than the unconditional defeat of the enemy. But Kargil was on a much smaller scale, more in the category of a border conflict. Some analysts consider total wars as a legacy of the past. In the environment of the 21st century, nations will find themselves caught up in limited conflicts like low intensity conflicts, insurgencies and border conflicts. From this perspective, it is important to understand the dynamics of the Kargil conflict that were very different from fighting a war.
For military commanders and staff, fighting a total war is in many ways much easier. Hostilities are formally declared by the government, full mobilisation is ordered, contingency plans are implemented, civil transport is requisitioned, reservists are called up, the armed forces move into their battle locations as per plan, air bases are activated, war stocks start flowing to the battle front, the national war effort goes into full drive, the exterior manoeuvre is launched, etc. The same is happening on the other side and ultimately, both sides engage through manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvres in all three dimension of combat; air, land and sea, till through a combination of superior strategy, will and correlation of forces, one side is the victor, the other the vanquished. Paradoxically, a border conflict like Kargil is much more difficult to plan and execute. The government’s and military’s freedom of manoeuvre and action is constrained by the environment which in turn limits the political aim and objectives.
What was the political aim of Kargil? Wikipedia, the biggest free-content encyclopedia on the Internet has a fairly objective article on Kargil that states: “The aim was to sever the link between Kashmir and Ladakh, and cause Indian forces to withdraw from Siachen Glacier, thus forcing India to negotiate a settlement of the broader Kashmir dispute. Pakistan also believed that any tension in the region would internationalise the Kashmir issue, helping it to secure a speedy resolution. Yet another goal may have been to boost the morale of the decade-long rebellion in the Indian Administered Kashmir by taking a proactive role. Some writers have speculated that the operation’s objective may also have been as retaliation for India’s Operation Meghdoot in 1984 that seized much of Siachen Glacier.”
During the 10 years preceding Kargil, Pakistan’s Schwerpunkt or point of main effort in the Kashmir region was neither Siachen nor the LoC. To launch Kargil as retaliation to an Indian operation in Siachen 15 years earlier was meaningless. From 1990 onwards, the main manoeuvre was the insurgency in the Indian Held Kashmir that ten years down the line was reaching a stage of exhaustion. To re-energise the mujahideen, Pakistan needed to display a direct commitment to the cause. The diplomatic manoeuvres in support of the insurgency had not succeeded and the only other option was a military action as a supporting manoeuvre to the main effort.

I have explained this to establish that, obviously, Kargil was not conducted in isolation, nor as some analysts have stated a misadventure by the Pakistan army. It was executed as part of a larger canvas and in support of an on-going insurgency that every political government was aware of and supported since 1990. Consequently, it had its linkages in the decision-making circles within the government, its agencies and the military.
When a government decides to engage in a military conflict the instructions to the military take the form of a war directive. The war directive lays down the aim (i.e. what are the end expectations of the government), the manner in which the operation is to be conducted and particularly in the case of a limited conflict, limitations imposed on the military in the shape of scale of operation (time, space and quantum of forces), the area and duration. These “limitations to the aim” are essential to ensure that the conflict is restricted to achieving the specific aims and does not spiral out of control.
The military transforms the war directive into an operational plan that converts the political aim into a military aim, identifies the military objective, the strategy to achieve aim, distribution of forces and a host of other details that need to be addressed. Obviously, no formal war directive was issued but the military planners of Kargil had the professional acumen, experience, and knowledge of the operational environment to understand what were the effects to be sought and the limits to the military operation. In the absence of a formal war directive, the military would most likely have constructed a political aim from which the rest would have flowed.
How do I know that? Was I involved in the planning process? No! But that is exactly how the Pakistan army does all its planning. That is how through an intensive process of training it approaches all strategic and operational problems and why should they have done it any differently for Kargil? Lt. Gen. Tauqir Zia who was the Director General of Military Operations at GHQ at the time of Kargil had been my instructor at the National Defense College and had taught us exactly this, as I (and many before and after) taught the same process at the College. Following a structured thought process is part of our military culture and if everybody was not privy to the planning for Kargil, it is wrong to conclude that it was based on a whim and a song. The general perception that one morning the army commander rolled out of his bed and said, “Hey boys! Let’s go and take Kargil”, is based on a total lack of understanding of the military planning process.

In defence of Kargil - II


Major General (retd) Syed Ali Hamid

At this stage, I am tempted to hypothesise and reconstruct a politico-military aim the planners at GHQ would have set for themselves in the absence of a war directive. While ensuring security along the LoC and the international border, and keeping the dimensions of the conflict restricted, launch a limited operation to seize and hold critical terrain across the LoC with a view to engage sizable Indian forces, thus facilitating the operations of the mujahideen in IHK.
The aim has four distinct components: firstly, ensuring security along the LoC and the international border; secondly keeping the dimensions of the conflict restricted; thirdly, seizing and holding critical terrain through a limited operation; and fourthly, engage sizable Indian forces. Facilitating the operations of the mujahideen was an end product that lay in the political dimension.
Let us see how well was the aim was achieved. War is both a science and an art. The science of war is reflected in the doctrine that the military is structured under and the procedures it follows. The art of warfare has no laws but a set of principles that are tenets used by military organisations to focus the thinking of leaders toward successful prosecution of battles and wars. The environment under which the operation is to be conducted will dictate which principles will take precedence over others. In Kargil, the element of surprise (and consequently secrecy) was paramount. The political aim limited the scale of the operation and the only way a small force could achieve the effects required that the build-up was conducted under a tight umbrella of secrecy. It goes to the extreme credit of the commanders and staff at GHQ, 10 Corps and FCNA that not a word leaked out till the first contact with an Indian patrol. No written instructions; just directive control.
The German army fought the whole of the Second World War under directive control. And for us it paid. From the strategic, through to the operational and the tactical level, surprise on the Indian side was absolute. On the Pakistani side, information was on a strict need-to-know basis. Neither the rest of the army, nor the Air Force or the Navy had any advance information. This decision (though much criticised) was based both on historical precedence as well as a very sound analysis.
In 1965, when the raiders were launched into Kashmir as part of Operation Gibraltar, the Indians with a much smaller force in IHK did not immediately respond with an offensive across the international border. In spite of the sensitivity of Kashmir, it was a limited operation that the Indians could and did curtail. It was the thrust towards Akhnur through Chhamb with tanks and a regular infantry division of the Pakistan army that triggered the Indian assault towards Lahore and elsewhere.
In 1999, with two corps and seven divisions stationed in IHK, it was safe to conclude that there would be no knee-jerk reaction by the Indians with an attack across the international boundary. The time it would take for the Indians to assess the situation and decide whether to restrict the conflict to the Dras-Kargil sector or expand the dimensions, was sufficient for the Pakistan armed forces to balance themselves against a counter offensive either in Kashmir or across the International border. The limited mobilisation of the Pakistani Armed Forces was carefully regulated. There was no panic, no mass movement of troops, and no mad rush to the battle locations. Through a sound appreciation of the environment and ensuring that there was no escalation through deployments that would have initiated a spiralling effect running out of control, the military avoided a full scale war and succeeded in keeping the dimensions of the conflict limited.
It is said that the Indians did not launch a full scale counter offensive because they held the moral high ground. This is partially correct. The Indian army lacked the forces to develop an offensive manoeuvre elsewhere in Kashmir. Having failed in their initial efforts to retake even a few of the posts, the Indians had to commit up to four infantry divisions with the bulk of the Indian army 155 Artillery Guns and the best of their air force ground attack capability, in an attempt to dislodge 5-6 lightly equipped battalions holding semi-prepared positions. Even with this force, by the time of ceasefire, they had only retaken some of the features by launching battalion sized attacks on platoon positions.
What then were the chances of success of a counter offensive anywhere else in Kashmir against regular infantry battalions holding defences hardened over 30 years. The Kargil conflict sucked in reserve formations within Kashmir like the 8 division that were deployed on internal security duties. To fill the void, the Indians denuded troops from tank and artillery regiments in the Sialkot sector and pushed them into the valley. For the Indians, the Sialkot sector is the most sensitive part of the entire 1500km front with Pakistan. Weakening its defences further closed the option of launching even a limited counter offensive against Pakistan. For the Indians to even contemplate an offensive across the international border would have subjected their decision makers to tremendous international pressure. Two nuclear powers fighting a limited conflict in a disputed area somewhere in the high reaches of the Himalayas, where either side could only achieve tactical gains, is not so dangerous a scenario.
Of more serious concern to the global community was two nuclear powers fighting a full-scale war in belt 800kms wide and stretching 1500km along the international border with armored and infantry divisions grouped and employed to create strategic effects and a conflict that could degenerate into a nuclear exchange. Our years of efforts in developing a nuclear capability with the necessary delivery means had paid off. Without fighting a total war, as in 1965, we achieved a stalemate on the international border. Even if the Indians had decided to launch an offensive across the international border the scale of operations would have been severely constrained by the need to keep within Pakistan's nuclear threshold.
Actually, the Indians had only a small window of opportunity to launch a full-scale counter offensive. That window was available before the Indians decided to concentrate on retaking the heights overlooking Kargil at all cost. Once that decision was taken and the Indian saturated the narrow valleys in the Dras and Batalik sectors with troops, artillery, ammunition and supplies, they foreclosed the option of expanding the dimensions of the conflict. In a total war scenario, in which operations would be conducted in all three dimensions, including the air, such a heavy concentration in restricted terrain was extremely vulnerable to an air strike.
No air defence is impregnable and ground attacks by Mirage-IIIs armed with cluster bombs would have had devastating effects. The cream of the Indian artillery - one hundred and twenty two 155mm guns - were deployed in the valleys. That is why the Indian planners, in spite of pressure from the field commanders, strongly resisted air attacks against our bases across the LoC. They were themselves extremely vulnerable.
In short, the aim of Kargil was not to "win". It was to deliver a statement to the Indian government and the mujahideen that the Pakistani nation and the army is fully committed to the cause of Kashmir. It goes to the credit of the commanders, planners and the troops on ground that the military dimensions of the aim, as hypothesised for the Kargil conflict, were totally achieved. The LoC and the international border remained secure; the conflict remained restricted to a specific area; critical terrain features were occupied and sizable Indian forces were engaged. To what extent this achieved the political aim of facilitating the operations of the mujahideen in IHK and re-energising them is a subject for a separate debate.
However, what went wrong was the manner in which the conflict terminated with India appearing to be the victor, both on the battlefront as well as in the international arena. Our public and the media wanted a "victory" but neither had the ability to comprehend what that meant and the commanders and planners could not reveal the politico-military objectives of the conflict. So, from a military position of strength we withdrew domestically and internationally to a position of weakness. Unfortunately, the nation did not have a Churchill who could even turn a military debacle like Dunkirk into a symbol of pride for the British nation.


Salim Mansur: In praise of Sam Manekshaw
Posted: July 03, 2008, 5:27 PM by Yoni Goldstein

The death of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw of the Indian army on June 27 at an advanced age of 94 closes the chapter on a special class of India’s soldiers, and to them Indians and their friends from around the world owe heartfelt gratitude. Manekshaw and his generation of soldier-officers played a critical role in the safe transition of India into an independent republican democracy. How critical their role was in the making of modern India as the world’s largest functioning democracy can be appreciated by viewing not only what has occurred in neighbouring Pakistan – a ruined shell of a dangerously failed nuclear-armed state – during the same number of years of India’s independence since August, 1947, but also in contrasting India’s development with that of the Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa.
India’s military academy in Dehra Dun was opened in 1932 by Britain for locally recruiting and training an Indian officer corp. Manekshaw was among the first 40 recruits in the academy’s inaugural training program, and four decades later he got named India’s first Field Marshal following the military leadership he provided during the India-Pakistan war of 1971 which resulted in the establishment of Bangladesh.
Manekshaw, in keeping company with his most notable fellow officers, Generals K.S. Thimayya and K.M. Cariappa (appointed India’s second Field Marshal), displayed the qualities of loyalty to civilian leadership in politics and professional devotion to the country that Britain instilled into the ranks of the Indian army. Manekshaw, like Thimayya and Cariappa, was a veteran of the Second World War, and while fighting the Japanese army in Burma was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. At the time of India’s independence, Manekshaw was a Colonel in the Army Headquarters and Director of Military Operations, and from there he oversaw the Kashmir war against Pakistan that followed the partition of British India. He was a senior commander during India’s 1962 war with China, and retired in 1973 after serving as India’s Chief of the Army Staff.
By faithfully adhering to the principle that the military’s place is subordinate to elected civil authority in a democracy, Manekshaw and his generation of army commanders secured the success of Indian democracy. They learned this responsibility well from the British rulers of India, and then passed it on to military commanders of the next generation in post-colonial India. The significance of this fact stands out sharply when one considers the involvement of military officers in politics of the Arab states.
The case of Egypt is instructive since the role of Egyptian military officers in politics became the model for other Arab states, most notably Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia and Algeria. Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, leader of the post-1952 republican Egypt, was a generational contemporary of Manekshaw. He belonged to that generation of his countrymen who entered Egypt’s military academy following the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 that led to an expansion of the Egyptian army and its native officer corp.
Though Egypt was technically independent, it was under indirect supervision of London through treaty arrangements agreed upon by native rulers with Britain. This quasi-independence allowed for Egypt to remain neutral during the Second World War even though one of the most important battles between Britain and Germany – the Battle of El Alamein that pit General (later Field Marshal) Bernard Montgomery’s Eight Army against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps – was fought on Egyptian territory some 240 km west of Cairo.
Nasser and his fellow officers, including Anwar Sadat (later president of Egypt), during that most terrible global conflict last century between freedom and tyranny leaned in the direction of the Axis powers, Hitler’s Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s fascist Italy. In British India, too, there was some display of favourable sentiment for Imperial Japan, most notably by Subhas Chandra Bose, one of Mahatma Gandhi’s opponents in the Indian National Congress from Bengal. Bose attracted to his pro-independence anti-British cause some rank-and-file members of the Indian army. But the important difference between Egypt and India was the leading core of Indian officers and soldiers – Manekshaw’s generation – were not deceived by the appeal of the Axis powers to people under British rule and fought loyally with Britain to defeat Germany, Italy and Japan.
Nasser would lead the military coup of July, 1952, against the monarchy in Egypt and institutionalize an Arab version of Bonapartism in the Middle East. In usurping power, Nasser and his generation of military commanders became the new rulers of Egypt. A politicized military, as the history of Egypt given Nasser’s legacy illustrates, would not on its own hand power over to a properly constituted and democratically elected civilian authority. As a result, democracy got cast aside into the wilderness of Arab tribal politics where the military itself became more or less a tribe in control of the state.
In India, Britain taught Manekshaw and his generation of military officers that successful democracy required a professional army keeping its distance from politics and serving loyally its civilian masters. This is the lesson that Manekshaw and his fellow officers dutifully learned and faithfully discharged. It is the difference that has made India stand apart from other third world countries once ruled by European powers.

Editorial: Who's fighting whom?
Business Standard / New Delhi July 3, 2008, 0:32 IST

An extraordinary thing has happened in Pakistan: the government is fighting to retain control of Peshawar even as the jihadis tighten their ring of control around this town of 3 million people in the sensitive Pashtun belt, overlooking the Khyber pass. Eastward, Peshawar is only 155 km from Islamabad, where last year Islamic radicals had captured the Lal Masjid and had to be literally blasted out in an operation reminiscent of Blue Star. Since then the situation has become worse and as Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of Jamiat-e-ulema-e-Islam and member of the ruling coalition, said the other day in Parliament, "It's just a matter of months before news comes that the entire North West Frontier Province has slipped out of control". President Pervez Musharraf, has been saying for two years now that Talibanisation is Pakistan's greatest enemy.
If one disregards the uncomfortable feeling that the military and the ISI are using the threat of Talibanisation — including the possible loss of Peshawar — as a means of retaining their hitherto unshakeable hold on the Pakistani state, the question of who really is Pakistan's main enemy becomes interesting. India was always the chief bogeyman, and the military establishment and the ISI were able to use real and imaginary threats to their advantage. But things have changed since both countries became nuclear (ruling out any threat to Pakistan's territorial integrity because of an Indian attack). Also, tensions have reduced because of the peace process. The Pakistani people no longer seem to regard India as a major threat. Even their popularly elected government — such as it is, at present — has been amiable, compared to similar governments in the past. There are differences, to be sure, but the old fire and brimstone is missing.
One important element in the mess that appears to be Pakistan — a mess that could be entirely to the liking of the military and ISI — is that the decision-making process in national security matters now has too many order-givers. Thus, even though Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani is the prime minister, where terrorism is concerned the key man is Rehman Malick, the adviser on internal security. He is believed to take orders from Asif Ali Zardari and has, it seems, been issuing contradictory instructions to the army, the para-military forces, the police and even to the provincial government of the NWFP. Mostly, the prime minister is not kept informed.
In all this, there remains the question of the US, which has always been a major player in Pakistan and has traditionally worked to buttress Pakistani security and even its outsize ambitions of the past. In the new situation, Washington must begin to wonder what its options really are, especially if its troops are locked in combat with people on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line. As for the jihadi forces, the enemies are all the other players involved: the US, India, the Karzai regime in Afghanistan, and even the Pakistani army as well as all moderate elements in the country. The net result of the multiple players and their differing objectives and targets is that they can't quite decide whom to fight and whom to ally with. If ever there was fluidity, this is it. The one redeeming feature, from India's point of view, is that it is not the main or even a surrogate target; at least, not yet.

Why not go in for one rank, one pension?
by Lt Gen Raj Kadyan (retd)

It needs reiteration that security and safety of a country is the prime prerequisite for its progress. No price is too great to pay to ensure that security. The military plays the most active role in contributing to a nation’s security against external threats and — as is evident in India — internal divisiveness.
It is, therefore, mandatory that the defence forces of a country are kept in a high state of health, both professionally by giving them the latest war ware as well as materially. If we want to attract the right material for the military service, their care has to be ensured right till the grave, figuratively speaking.
The military is unique and bears no similarity with any other government service. It is literally impossible for any civilian to understand their way of functioning and to read the pulse of their morale.
There is, therefore, a strong case to treat them differently in pay commissions so that their structural peculiarities are taken into account while deciding their salaries and emoluments. Putting them in one common basket is bound to create angularities.
In a democracy the armed forces must remain under civilian control. No one has ever disputed this incontrovertible precept. The difference lies in translating this into practicable norms. The armed forces rightly understand this to be the control by elected representatives who in a democracy are the real power holders.
However, de facto it results in control by the bureaucracy. The institutionalised system of exercising civilian control over the armed forces gets translated into exercising of this control through and by the bureaucracy. The bureaucrats, who are the secretarial staff of politicians and cannot be wished away, end up becoming masters.
To substantiate the point I quote an incident from the mid-nineties. The Defence Secretary was visiting Paris as part of the Prime Minister’s large entourage. I, as the Military Attaché, spent enough time with him and got a chance to discuss various issues.
One day I asked him who takes the final decision in case there was a difference of opinion on selection board proceedings between the Army Chief and the MoD.
“I take the final decision and keep the Raksha Mantri informed,” he said, without even pausing to think. I wasn’t sure I had heard him right. “You mean the Raksha Mantri takes the final decision?” I asked. “No,” he shot back snappily, “I take the final decision and keep the RM informed.” The emphasis on ‘I’ was unmistakable.
That is where the rub lies. A decision, taken by the Army Chief with the consent of several other senior Lt Generals who constitute the selection board and on a matter of military profession, gets overruled by a bureaucrat, who is not only his junior in the national pecking order but has never himself worn a uniform.
Of late there has been a discontent deluge among the otherwise quiet and keep-aloof military veterans. This has manifested itself even in public outpouring of their grievances.
It is, perhaps, for the first time in India that the veterans in such large numbers have aired their voice publicly. The highly damaging and skewed report of the Sixth Pay Commission has provided them with the much needed common cause.
One rank, one pension (OROP) has become their clarion call. They want that two military pensioners who retired after equal service and in the same rank should get equal pension irrespective of the time span separating their retirement date.
It literally means “same rank— equal service — equal pension”. This demand has been pending since 1984. Prima facie logic for OROP is irrefutable; at least till date no one has given any cogent or convincing argument against it.
Almost all mainstream political parties have been including this in their election manifesto and then dumping it. OROP was also included in the President’s opening Address to Parliament in 2004, which makes it a stated government policy. The Sixth Pay Commission has tried to bury the issue. Military veterans feel cheated.
For military veterans to take to airing their grievances publicly has been a compulsion rather than a choice. The point was first projected to all the decision-makers of the country through letters and through personal meetings.
Reasons for government reluctance in accepting OROP are not comprehensible. Their possible fear that it might lead to a similar demand from others would be unfounded.
First, because it is only in the military service that an employee is retired early (80 per cent retirees are in their late thirties). Every other government employee serves up to the age of 60 years. Therefore, an ex-serviceman has to see at least four to five pay commissions — when OROP becomes relevant — in his life time as against one or two such commissions by others. His stakes in OROP are thus much higher.
Secondly, the concept of rank is only peculiar to the defence forces. A military person is always referred to by his/her rank even after death. Others only hold posts and have designations but not ranks. Thirdly, whereas other government employees retire by age, the military persons retire by rank; with each promotion to a higher rank getting them two additional years of service.
Therefore, the fear of all others also seeking a provision sanctioned for the defence personnel lacks logic. Otherwise, they should have been agitating for free rations too.
In fact, when the government some time back gave a“one time increment” to the military pensioners, there was not even a whimper from any other service.
Nor could financial outlay be a strong inhibiting factor. The Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 2004 report had computed the annual cost of OROP to be Rs 613.78 crore. Even if inflation is factored in, the amount today cannot be too large for the government to handle.

The writer is the Chairman, Steering Committee, Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement.


Be wary of China: Army chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 3
Indian Army chief, General Deepak Kapoor today warned that China’s “military march” could have long-term impact on India’s security, while separately opining that the biggest challenge faced by the Pakistan government was to moderate the largely radical sections of the society.
Delivering the 'National Security Lecture' at the strategic affairs think-tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis, he said China and its rapidly modernising military needed to be watched. India needs to be wary of likely implications, which will impact the nation's security.

The vast improvement in China's military modernisation, and infrastructure in the Tibet Autonomous region will affect India in the long run, Kapoor said here. In his lecture on changing global security environment with specific reference to our region and its impact on the Indian Army, Kapoor said, The differences between the two countries on the boundary issue, were being resolved by special representatives of both governments.
Pointing out that regular visits at the highest level have further added to constructive engagement and mutual confidence in relationship between the two neighbours, the General said economic engagements and continued efforts to amicably resolve boundary issues had ensured peace along the border.
Later, while talking to mediapersons Kapoor said the Indian Army was not aware of any build up of China's people's liberation army (PLA) in Tibet, as some reports suggested, for an adventure inside Indian territory after the Beijing Olympics.
The other incursions by the PLA in the north-eastern states have been due to differing perceptions of the Line of actual control and at times due to confusion among troops on ground, especially when the units were changed and new units got posted there.

Sam Manekshaw
Jul 3rd 2008
From The Economist print edition
Sam Manekshaw, soldier, died on June 27th, aged 94

HIS most famous remark was not, strictly speaking, true. On the eve of the war with Pakistan in December 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh, India’s prime minister, Indira Gandhi, asked her army chief, Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw, if he was ready for the fight. He replied with the gallantry, flirtatiousness and sheer cheek for which he was famous: “I am always ready, sweetie.” (He said he could not bring himself to call Mrs Gandhi “Madame”, because it reminded him of a bawdy-house.) Yet General Manekshaw himself recounted a cabinet meeting in Mrs Gandhi’s office in April 1971. To forestall secession, the Pakistani government had already cracked down in what was then East Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees had crossed the border into India. Mrs Gandhi wanted the army to invade Pakistan. General Manekshaw resisted. The monsoon, he pointed out, would soon start in East Pakistan, turning rivers into oceans. His armoured division and two infantry divisions were deployed elsewhere. To shift them would need the entire railway network, so the grain harvest could not be transported and would rot, bringing famine. And of his armoured division’s 189 tanks, only 11 were fit to fight. He was not, in other words, ready. But, as he put it, “There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a field-marshal.” Mrs Gandhi rejected the resignation he offered, and acceded to the delay he wanted. His job, he told her, was to fight to win. In December he did, cutting through the Pakistani army like a knife through butter, and taking Dhaka within two weeks. Quibblers later noted that this was not one of his original war aims. He had the most important attribute of any successful general: good luck.That was not the only time he threatened to quit. Mrs Gandhi once questioned him about rumours that he was plotting a coup. In response, he asked if she wanted his resignation on grounds of mental instability. Yet if she and other politicians were in awe of him as a professional soldier and grateful for his lack of political ambition, his men loved him for his willingness to take on their civilian bosses and stand up for the army’s interests.
He had shown this in the Indian army’s darkest hour, the abject defeat in 1962 by China. Already a general, he had the previous year quarrelled with India’s defence minister, V.K. Krishna Menon, about national security. He was vindicated when the Chinese army swatted aside Indian resistance and briefly occupied what is now the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Mr Menon resigned. General Manekshaw was rushed to the front to rally the demoralised troops. His first order was: “There will be no withdrawal without written orders and these orders shall never be issued.”
General Manekshaw was able to demand courage from his soldiers because his own was not in doubt. Known as Sam “Bahadur”, or Sam the Brave, an honorific given him by the Indian army’s Gurkhas, the first of his five wars was for the British in Burma, where he was seriously wounded. Assuming he would die, an English general pinned his own Military Cross on Captain Manekshaw’s chest, since the medal could not be awarded posthumously. Another story has it that a surgeon was going to give up on his bullet-riddled body, until he asked him what had happened and got the reply, “I was kicked by a donkey.” A joker at such a time, the surgeon reckoned, had a chance.
Stiff but hairy
There was something of British military tradition in his stiff upper lip, the lavish handlebar moustache in which he cloaked it, the dapper little embellishments to his uniform and his partiality for Scotch whisky. Yet he was born into a very particular and tight-knit community: India’ s small and dwindling Parsi minority, which has produced a disproportionate number of leading Indians, such as the members of the Tata and Godrej business dynasties. Sam Manekshaw was another Parsi overachiever. He was the first of only two field-marshals ever created in the army.
Yet his retirement since 1973 was not one long bask in glory. Former deputies felt he had monopolised the credit for various victories. Then last year his name was linked to bizarre allegations, by the son of a former Pakistani president, against an unnamed brigadier who had once sold Indian war plans to Pakistan. All nonsense, said those who knew him. Already in hospital, General Manekshaw was in part shielded from controvers.
After his death, anger at the slur, and at the lack of proper honour for one of India’s true heroes, rumbled on. The prime minister, along with the army, navy, and air-force chiefs, all missed his funeral—which was a modest one held in Tamil Nadu in the south, not a grand one in the capital. His friends grumbled that even foreigners such as Lord Mountbatten were afforded greater respect in death. Bangladesh, however, paid grateful tribute to his part in the nation’s foundation.
He too might well have been disappointed that his obsequies were not grander. His last words were “I’m OK”, though he had rehearsed a better line nearly 37 years earlier. For death at least, the brave soldier had indeed shown himself “always ready”.

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