October 2, 2022

Revenge of the Mice (Part II)

For keeping their stranglehold over the nation, the mice (Babus) will continue hitting at the military; diverting attention from how they are nibbling the nation from within.

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

This article should be read in conjunction Part I, which describes the bureaucracy (nerve centre of the country) and their contributions to foreign policy, however inappropriate they may be. Having joined service, the Babus (IAS and IFS) continue to dictate policy cocooned in their comfortable chambers with little accountability.

In news is the just released book ‘India and the Bangladesh Liberation War: The Definitive Story’ authored by Chandrashekhar Dasgupta. In this book as well as in an interview with Karan Thapar, Dasgupta claims the following:

  • Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked Army Chief General Sam Manekshaw’s opinion for attacking East Pakistan, knowing that he would need time to prepare for a major unplanned contingency. Manekshaw, a gifted raconteur, circulated a colourful tale about how he had restrained Mrs. Gandhi from ordering the Indian Army to march into East Pakistan in April 1971.
  • The records conclusively disprove the story popularised by Field Marshal Manekshaw that he had dissuaded Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in April from sending an unprepared Indian Army into East Pakistan.”
  • The principal architect of the invasion plan of 1971 was Chief of Staff of Eastern Command, Major General JFR Jacob, not Sam Manekshaw.
  • The belief that India won the war but lost the peace is because India failed to convert the ceasefire line (as it then was) with West Pakistan into an official border is wrong. Indira Gandhi wanted to convert the old ceasefire line into a new bilaterally agreed Line of Control (LoC) and also reach an agreement that differences with Pakistan would hereafter be resolved bilaterally – she secured both at Shimla.

By calling Sam Manekshaw a gifted raconteur circulating colourful tales, Dasgupta is indirectly accusing the Field Marshal of ‘lying’ blatantly.

Delivering the Field Marshal KM Cariappa Memorial Lecture in New Delhi during October 1995, Sam Manekshaw said:

“There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a Field Marshal. In 1971, when Pakistan cracked down in East Pakistan, hundreds and thousands of refugees started pouring into India, into West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. The Prime Minister held a Cabinet meeting in her office. I was then summoned. A very angry, grim-faced Prime Minister read out telegrams from the Chief Ministers of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. She then turned around to me and said, ‘What are you doing about it?’ And I said, ‘Nothing, it’s got nothing to do with me. You didn’t consult me when you allowed the BSF, the CRPF and RAW to encourage the Pakistanis (East Pakistanis) to revolt. Now that you are in trouble, you come to me. I have a long nose. I know what’s happening.”

She said, ‘I want you to enter Pakistan. And I responded, That means war!’ She said, ‘I do not mind if it is war.’ I said ‘Are you prepared? I am certainly not. This is the end of April. The Himalayan passes are opening and there can be an attack from China.’ I turned around to the Prime Minister and said that the rains were about to start in East Pakistan and when it rains there, it pours and the whole countryside is flooded. The snows are melting, the rivers would become like oceans. All my movement would be confined to roads. ‘Now Prime Minister, give me your orders’.

The grim Prime Minister with her teeth clenched said, ‘The Cabinet will meet again at four o’clock.’ The Cabinet members started walking out. I being the junior most was the last to go and as I was leaving, she said, ‘Chief, will you stay back?’ I turned around and said, ‘Prime Minister, before you open your mouth, may I send you my resignation on grounds of health, mental or physical?’ She said, ‘Everything you told me is true.’ ‘Yes! It is my job to tell you the truth,’ I responded. ‘And it is my job to fight, it is my job to fight to win and I have to tell you the truth.’ She smiled at me and said, ‘All right Sam, you know what I want?’ I said, ‘Yes, I know what you want!'”

Which records is Dasgupta referring to that “conclusively disprove the story popularised by Field Marshal Manekshaw”; the book ‘Intertwined Lives: P N Haksar And Indira Gandhi’ by Jairam Ramesh. The spin doctoring by Ramesh having been Union Minister during Congress rule needs no explanation. As for the bureaucrat PN Haksar, being principal secretary to Indira Gandhi would naturally give total credit to his master.

The fact that Indira Gandhi ordered Sam Manekshaw to enter East Pakistan in April 1971 is scripted in: article by Sandeep Dikshit in The Hindu on June 28, 2008; book ‘Indian Army After Independence’ by KC Praval; book ‘Soldiers, Statesmen, and India’s Security Policy’ by Srinath Raghvan; books by Major General Shubhi Sood, Brigadier Panthaki and Lt Gen Depinder Singh, and: the obituary published in The Economist on July 5, 2008.

By negating any credit to Sam Manekshaw for the invasion plan, Dasgupta shows he has no idea of how military plans are evolved. It is certainly not akin to a joint secretary making a plan and all above including the foreign minister affixing his or her dhobi mark.

When a Command is tasked for offensive, the basic plan may be made by the Chief of Staff, Command. But it is scrutinised by the Army Commander, changes made as required and then presented to the Army Chief in conjunction the Military Operations Directorate at Army Headquarters for Chief’s final directions. Dasgupta is only displaying his ignorance of matters military and disdain for Sam. 

Covering the fiasco of the 1972 Shimla Agreement by juggling terms like “ceasefire line (as it then was) and old ceasefire line” is typical diplomatic skullduggery to obfuscate the truth. The least required was to include that original State of J&K had formally acceded to India and Pakistan is the aggressor. Dasgupta is also mum why return of 54 Indian POWs languishing in Pakistani jails was not demanded while we agreed to release 93,000 Pakistani POWs.

Having joined the IFS in 1962, Dasgupta would know Nehru’s blunder in 1962, the first defence scam (Jeep Scandal) engineered by VK Krishna Menon, the loss of Aksai Chin and POK and how the map of India has shrunk on this account and beyond; courtesy diplomatic pusillanimity as mentioned in Part I.  

Dasgupta fails to explain is why no official histories of wars fought by India have not been scripted and made public when in the 17 general elections since Independence, Congress has won outright majority on seven occasions, led the ruling coalition a further three times and headed the Union Government for more than 54 years? 1962 no doubt would be mighty embarrassing for Congress but why not even 1971? Can Dasgupta and Ramesh answer that?

How come not a single newspapers, even Congress-owned, never said all these decades that what Sam said was untrue? Penning fiction after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw passed away is truly pathetic.

It is no secret that the rapport between Indira Gandhi and Sam Manekshaw was disliked by the Babus. After the Liberation of Bangladesh, Sam Manekshaw went on record to say, “I got everything I wanted. I got the money. I went to the Soviet Union and got Soviet tanks; went elsewhere, got the equipment I wanted much against the wishes of the bureaucracy; they don’t like such things coming into the hands of the Service Chief, especially a Service Chief who took no notice of them. It was all done against their opposition but I had the Prime Minister’s support. She knew what the aim was and she understood that this man would carry it out”.

It is no secret that the rapport between Indira Gandhi and Sam Manekshaw was disliked by the Babus. After the Liberation of Bangladesh, Sam Manekshaw went on record to say, “I got everything I wanted. I got the money. I went to the Soviet Union and got Soviet tanks; went elsewhere, got the equipment I wanted much against the wishes of the bureaucracy; they don’t like such things coming into the hands of the Service Chief, especially a Service Chief who took no notice of them. It was all done against their opposition but I had the Prime Minister’s support. She knew what the aim was and she understood that this man would carry it out”.

The Babus always want Service Chiefs to be ‘yes men’ but Sam would brook no such nonsense, as can be seen from his statement above. Moreover, he had a clear cut message for posterity that said:

The Babus hated Sam for all this and eventually succeeded in getting him sidelined after he was promoted to Field Marshal. A Field Marshal never retires but the Babu Gang managed to block his pay on one flimsy pretext or another. Many years later, when Sam was in hospital a cheque of Rs 1 crore was sent to him. When someone asked him what it was, Sam replied that a Babu brought this. Is Dasgupta spearheading the revenge?

The Babus hated Sam for all this and eventually succeeded in getting him sidelined after he was promoted to Field Marshal. A Field Marshal never retires but the Babu Gang managed to block his pay on one flimsy pretext or another. Many years later, when Sam was in hospital a cheque of Rs 1 crore was sent to him. When someone asked him what it was, Sam replied that a Babu brought this. Is Dasgupta spearheading the revenge?

The one man who probably admired Sam the most was another legend – President APJ Abdul Kalam. Kalam had met Sam on many occasions. Once when Kalam arrived in Coimbatore as President and learned that Sam was hospitalised, he drove straight to the hospital to meet him – an unscheduled visit for the President of India:

Above is a picture that drew captions like “Meeting of Two Legends”. Why Congress did not allow Kalam a second term as President is another story.

By spin doctoring and coinciding the release of his book with the Golden Anniversary celebrations of the Liberation of Bangladesh, Dasgupta tried to heap additional praise on Indira Gandhi. But Indira Gandhi would not have appreciated the gibberish. As it is, she truly deserves credit for the 1971 War – India’s greatest victory that saw the decimation of East Pakistan and the largest number of POWs after World War II. 

This may be Dasgupta’s way of thanking the Congress for the Padma Bhushan he received during Manmohan Singh’s tenure as Prime Minister. But by playing dirty with Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, he has reduced himself to the stature of a mouse. Dasgupta’s brethren, the Babus, will no doubt be happy. But he has actually done a disservice to the Congress, for which military man or veteran would like to associate with the mouse who attempts to deliberated run down the most outstanding Army Chief India has ever had – Field Marshal Sam Maneskshaw?

After Sam, the bureaucracy has continued to rule the roost over Service Chiefs. The practice that Modi started in 2014 of meeting Service Chiefs every month, ceased quickly. Presently, the Chief of Defence Staff is not even advisor to the Prime Minister.

Finally, for keeping their stranglehold over the nation, the mice (Babus) will continue hitting at the military; diverting attention from how they are nibbling the nation from within.

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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