Friday, June 10, 2011

1971 War and Lt Gen Jacob

Esteemed Friends,
One has read quite a few news items mentioning Gen Jacob's claims to masterminding and then conducting the Bangladesh Campaign, almost single handed. All the right decisions seemed to have been made by him and him alone!!!

I discussed the matter with a dear friend of mine who was posted in HQ E Command in 1971 and attended Ops room briefings and discussions dealing with the War in the East. He was also sent to area close to Dacca when the Indian troops were approaching the City and then entered the city as well. I have double checked information and views given by him with his boss, head of a branch at HQ E Command at that time, who was also very intimately involved with the planning and conduct of the Bangladesh War.

What I gather from them is as under:
1. Lt Gen Jacob was a good Chief of Staff and did what a good Chief of Staff is supposed to do. He has to oversee making of detailed operational plans as per the decisions given by the Army Commander, ensure their implementation and give his advice. He is to ensure that the logistics, the infrastructure, the coordination between various Arms and Services and the other two Services is carried out to ensure success of the operational plan. He has also to think and plan ahead. Also knowing the mind of the Army Commander and over all aim of the operations, give some decisions.
2. Late Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Arora, the Army Commander was in full command. He was polite but and was the one who gave major decisions on operational and policy matters. He stood up to Sam Manekshaw a few times, it is reliably learnt. Good commanders especially when they have efficient staff, do not get involved in nitty gritty and that is what Gen Arora did.
3. Sam Manekshaw, the Chief had an informal way of working with subordinates and also higher ups, including the Prime Minister!! This is borne out not only by the forceful views expressed by Sam in the famous Cabinet meeting when the PM wanted him to attack E Pakistan post haste but in some other meetings of Mrs. Indira Gandhi held with the Army Brass at Delhi and Calcutta. Also, he would at times even ring up some heads of Branches at the Command HQ to emphasise some critical aspects. Of course he spoke to the Army Commander Gen Arora and also to Gen Jacob the Chief of Staff quite often and on occasions with some Corps Commanders as well.
4. Therefore it would be incorrect to say that Gen Jacob conducted the planning and operations and Gen Arora or Sam Manekshaw were mere spectators!!! It is rather sad that a distinguished general like Gen Jacob has decided to belittle the role and leadership of other personalities, senior to him and take all credit, when they are no more.

Dacca the Objective
Dacca was not the ultimate objective. The over all Policy was not to get involved in street fighting in cities. Taking in to account the terrain in East Pakistan, it was difficult to imagine that the Pak Forces would capitulate in such a short time. As things happened, Dacca did not have to be attacked and mere approach to the City did the trick. It is no big deal if Dacca was not made the ultimate objective initially. The higher commanders were flexible and made full use of the crumbling of Pak Forces in such short time and got them to surrender. No doubt Gen Jacob, prodded by Sam Manekshaw and Gen Arora played a key role in the surrender.
In fact if the Indian troops had got involved in capturing Dacca, this would have delayed the surrender.
Harbhajan Singh
Lt Gen (Retd)

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