I love my India and want it to be the best in the world. It has the talent and capability. The state has constantly deteriorated in last six decades. The downfall is due to low quality, incompetent and corrupt leadership, unaccountable, equally corrupt bureaucracy and ineffective judiciary unable to fulfil people's aspirations resulting in unparalleled corruption and lawlessness. Drastic changes are necessary to make systems vibrant and responsive to make it an India of every Indian's dreams.
A lot has been written about Generals in the recent past. Not
because of in-house introspection or internal check but because
misdeeds were exposed in the Media. Lack of internal audit is a cause
for concern. I wish to draw attention not on morals, but on
I have never been able to understand why no one is concerned
about professionalism of Generals, the most important battle winning
factor. Is it lack of interest or is the importance just not realised?
Due to inaccuracies in the recording of past wars and inadequate
professional analysis, we fail to draw lessons from our conflicts, with
the result Generalship continues to be most mediocre, barring a few
An accurate indicator of the state of generalship in any Army is
the performance of Generals during war. In India, War Performance of
Generals has not been inspiring, with a few exceptions. Of course, we
have won most wars but all on account of leadership at middle and lower
levels, and weaknesses of the adversary. Even in our most successful
campaign to liberate Bangladesh there were many opportunities missed.
Personal accounts of various participants indicate there is more than
what is commonly declared. What is disturbing is the propensity to colour
History for glorification either of individuals or of the Army.
Generalship is not mere planning and issue of orders. Generals
must ensure optimum utilisation of available resources, achieve their
aims at minimum cost, and deal with unforeseen challenges and
adversities, which are inevitable. At Command level skill lies in
conducting Defence with minimum forces and generating maximum force for
offensive operations even when conducting strategic defence. At Corps
and Division levels the generals must utilize all their resources
optimally to accomplish their missions. The plans, both in defence and
attack must show some originality if not brilliance.
Generals must inspire confidence, be prepared to lead by
example, and support their subordinates when needed. In case of
adversity they must take their share of blame instead of finding
Except for a few Generals there are few other names that shine.
Critical study of our own campaigns since 1947 indicates failure to
utilise our resources optimally, in any war, and plenty of
opportunities that were missed. No comments are offered on peacetime
generalship which must be examined separately. A quick analysis of our
past wars will throw light on the proficiency of our Generals in war.
Operations in J&K in 1947 – 48
At the time of Independence there were only six Indian
brigadiers, of which one went to Pakistan. Therefore the rapidly
promoted generals must be excused for drawbacks in operations and
appreciated for what they achieved. Yet for the sake of learning
lessons, a critical analysis is essential.
Our initial reaction to induct troops into J&K was
magnificent, both into the Kashmir Valley and into the Jammu Region.
However after the battle of Shalateng, instead of reinforcing 161
Brigade advancing to Uri, we withdrew a battalion from 161 Brigade to place
it under 50 Para Brigade at Jammu.
At a time when it was critical to induct more troops into the
Valley across Banihal Pass, can we believe the Indian Army deinducted a
Bn from the Valley, just to place it under another formation, within a
fortnight of induction into the Valley?
Not that there was anything great about this battalion. It was
this battalion, 1/2 PUNJAB, that withdrew from Jhangar in December 1947
without putting up a fight against tribals, abandoning even its MAHAR
machine gunners. The Commander was Brig Md Usman.
With a battalion withdrawn, the newly raised 161 Brigade’s
advance to Uri was affected. The dilemma to save Poonch or to advance
to Muzzaffarabad thereafter is part of History. Even after the
successful reinforcement of Poonch, and the Brigade falling back to Uri
in November 47, no effort was made to advance either to
Muzzaffarabad or to Haji Pir till May 48 by when Pakistan regular
army had been deployed in J&K. Even the air base at Srinagar
was withdrawn for the first winter.
Having driven the raiders out of the Kashmir no effort was made
to occupy passes around the Valley such as Tut Mari Gali, Nastachun,
Razdan, Zojila or Burzil. Even after the fall of Dras and Kargil,
in May 48, Zojila Pass was not occupied despite there being a
Corps Commander in J&K and an Indian Army Commander in Western
Command, by then. Somehow the importance of passes was not realised.
During the entire campaign no thought was given to
recapture Gilgit and the Northern areas. The task was not even
mentioned in the directions given by the new Army Commander in January
1948. The besieged garrison at Skardu was last supplied in
February 48 and then left to fight to the last and surrender to the
barbarians in August.
Even though a company had been sent to Leh in February 48, and
another one air lifted in May, after the fall of Kargil and
Dras, CO 2/8 GR was airlifted to Leh only after the fall of Skardu
in August, to coordinate the defence of Leh. Amazing! Why not in June?
South of Pir Panjal, four brigades remained in the sector
throughout the year but Poonch was relieved only by November 48, even
though a relief column had got through to the garrison in the summer to
bring out 1 PARA from Poonch. In the sector Brig Md Usman’s achievements
are played up whereas no one hears about Brig Yadunath Singh, Commander
19 Infantry Brigade, who not only relieved Rajauri, Thanamandi in April
but also advanced to Poonch in the summer and later opened the routes
to Poonch in November. Why?
Maybe because Brig Usman was killed by a chance artillery shell
at his command post in Jhangar in July 48. While there is no harm in
appreciating anyone particularly those killed in war, there is need to
record our History accurately and shun professional dishonesty to
Though many veterans criticise the Government for giving back
Hajipir to Pakistan after 1965, no one talks of the Indian Army
giving up Ledi Gali and Pir Kanthi which are west of Haji Pir on the
Pir Panjal Range, in 1948. So how do we learn lessons from past
As stated earlier the amateur handling of forces should be
overlooked on account of lack of experience of the newly promoted
Sino Indian Conflict 1962
The 1962 War is full of lessons. It is the first and last time
that senior leadership was criticised, more to keep the heat off the
other culprits. However it is important to note no one bothered to
visit Aksai Chin after 1947, by land or even by air. Our
management of the border with Tibet and China could not have been
Indo – Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971
The 1965 war was thrust upon us but not 1971 which was conducted
at the time of our choosing. Since it led to a spectacular victory in
the liberation of Bangladesh the shortcomings in senior leadership are
conveniently glossed over, to preserve the sheen of Victory!
For example, the Indian Army could not recapture any
position lost during any War, whether it was at Chhamb, Husainiwala, or
Fazilka, even though there were adequate forces available at each of
At Khemkaran in 1965, it was a controversial decision to try and
recapture lost area by use of 4 SIKH, an excellent Bn that had just
captured Burki. A complete brigade with armour was available but the
Army Commander, from the same Regiment, chose 4 SIKH to attack the
Pakistanis west of Khem Karan, leading to many soldiers killed and
taken prisoner. No action was taken by the Army Commander or anyone
In 1971 Husainiwala, lost on the first day, was not recaptured
despite the adjacent Sehjra Bulge being captured by a brigade and
another infantry brigade being available nearby, uncommitted. We could
have easily recaptured Husainiwala from the North, had someone desired.
At Fazilka, troops were employed but the armour failed to
provide proper support leading to failure of counter attacks and
avoidable casualties. When 3 JAT crossed Ichhogil Canal in 1965 to
threaten Lahore, the battalion was called back since armour could not
link up. The sluggish and limited advance of 1 Corps into the
Shakargarh Bulge is well known, in both wars.
At Chhamb the failure was only at senior levels. There were
adequate troops in Jaurian Sector, across the Chenab, to recapture
Chhamb, but no attempt was made. Why didn’t the Corps Commander, Army
Commander or the Chief order recapture of Chhamb, instead of only
launching counter attacks East of Munawwar Tawi? There was adequate
time after 10 December. The Chief went to Akhnur after the War, and
declared he did not want to talk to the troops; hardly a mature action,
in my humble opinion. Did the troops fail to fight? In the Indian
Army, Generals only take credit for success, never the blame for any
In the East, during 1971, by about 09 Dec, 2 Corps had
captured the Pakistani strong points at Jessore and Jhenida beyond
which there was no Pakistani defence up to Dacca. 2 Corps had 50 Para
Brigade less a battalion as reserve. It was the only Corps to have such
a strong reserve. Yet they made no move towards
Dacca. The Para Brigade less a battalion was later withdrawn
from Eastern Command along with one or two armoured regiments though
there was no major crisis in the West; where we were on the
strategic defensive. The shifting of forces between 11 and 13 December
goes against the principle of concentration of force for achievement of
the Aim of War. These troops were not used even in the west. In NW
sector of Bangladesh Commander 340 (Independent) Infantry Brigade
at Bogra received orders to advance to Dacca and simultaneously
received orders to send back armour supporting his
advance! Reasons for shifting of troops are not recorded.
In J& K, the Generals in 25 Infantry Division and in 15
Corps had adequate resources to launch limited offensive operations,
but failed to utilize the opportunity. 33 Brigade (ex 39 Division)
was available as additional force in 25 Division. In the Kashmir Valley
one infantry brigade was reserve and available. While 9 SIKH did a
fantastic job in advancing across Tut Mari Gali into the Lipa Valley, a
brigade remained unutilized even when there was no threat to the
Valley. The attack towards Hajipir had made no progress, due to poor
leadership. Despite the excellent action of 9 SIKH, the General Officer
Commanding was sacked for inaccurate reporting of the situation across
the Pass, and messing up a counter attack in that sector.
Since there were no plans to use 33 Infantry Brigade in 25
Division it could have been sent south to help in the battle of Chhamb
or back to 39 Division for the battle in Shakargarh. But the
Brigade was just wasted near Poonch, due to a cautious
general, but one who put such pressure on his subordinates that
one brigade commander committed suicide after the War. Such matters are
not recorded in histories.
The scuttling of a Division offensive due to the unforeseen
action at Laungewala shows poor generalship in the Jaisalmer Sector.
Our misadventures in Srilanka were totally due to bungling
by the top Generals. I have not heard any officer talk good of any
General during OP PAWAN. Yet no introspection has taken place, nor is
it likely in future.
OP VIJAY 1999
Let us have a look at the Kargil Operations in 1999. I wonder if
there is anyone who feels the Army Commander deserved a Sarvottam Yudh
Seva Medal for the Kargil War. In fact the performance of senior
generals needs critical study?
The Chief was primarily covering his rear when he announced “we
will fight with what we have”. Wonder if he ever heard of the saying
“when the bugle makes an uncertain call, imagine the outcome of battle”
and why didn’t we have what the Army required? Are the formations
expected to procure weapons and equipment directly, themselves? In 1959
Gen Thimayya had resigned since he could not ensure security of the
borders due to the negative attitude of the Defence Minister. In May
1999 instead of doing something about our deficiencies our Chief went
If the Chief didn’t know of the intrusions, as he claims, the
question is why didn’t he know? Did he sack the people who failed to
inform him? By 14 May even the PM knew, that too through the
Defence Minister, who had been to Kargil. When did our Chief first
visit Kargil? It is well known our casualties were high due to
delayed action by the Air Force and Artillery failing to interfere with
the enemy build up, in May. Even though the intrusions were first
detected on 03 May 99, the first aircraft to attack the enemy flew on
26 May. While volumes may be written explaining why, the fact is
it was failure of higher command.
Why was 6 Mountain Division not used? If General Officer
Commanding was not found fit, why was he not removed and another
one appointed as was done in 13 JAKRIF? Why was the General assessed
incapable only when given an operational task? He must have been a high
flyer during peacetime. Has the system been rectified since? When
troops were moved from the Kashmir Valley to Dras, why were the Corps
reserves not the first to move and counter attack? Why 56 Brigade which
was employed for Counter Terrorist operations? Was it not the
task of the Corps Commander to ensure surveillance of the Line of
Control throughout his Corps Zone and to keep reserves ready to counter
intrusions? When 8 Mountain Division was moved out, the complete
Intelligence Grid in the Valley was disrupted which Pakistan utilized
well to raise the level of terrorism over the next few years. Many precious
lives were lost in the Valley from 2000 to 2004, due to the directions
of the Corps Commander.
In Kargil, since all offensives were launched in Dras and
Batalik Sectors only, what was the great hurry to remove the
brigade commander from Kargil? Was he removed for professional reasons
or since he was hell bent on exposing the seniors? Even the Commander
who conducted operations in Batalik Sector so well, was sacked by the
Corps Commander for reasons that remain ‘confidential’.
I am not supporting the actions of the Commander Kargil Brigade
in any way and he was very much to blame for what happened, but so
were many others who not only escaped punishment but were felicitated
after the War; because they were seniors, or professionally dishonest,
or both? One exception who stood out was the division commander at
Dras, who behaved like a General, throughout. There are many grey
areas, still. The inquisitive media which was highly appreciated
in the early stages of the War was later shunned when they commenced
asking uncomfortable questions.
Counter Insurgency Operations
Counter Insurgency Operations have exposed our senior leadership
over many decades. Yet we refuse to learn and continue to re-invent the
wheel as Generals change at Corps and Command HQ.
What is astonishing is that many mediocre generals, who believed
in body and weapon counts, have prospered; each coming out with his own
theory on how to conduct Counter Insurgency Operations. No
wonder, except for Mizoram all other disturbed areas remain disturbed
over decades and new ones are added every now and then.
Our Generals blame the Government and bureaucrats for all
shortcomings in the Army. Without disputing that, we need to first
eradicate our own weaknesses. The seniors must develop courage of
conviction to stand for what is right, and learn to place Service
before Self. In fact they know what to do. All they have to do is
to simply practise what they peach.
I do not favour resignations. I recommend firm conviction
and determination to fight for what is our right without bothering
about post retirement employment. Even if the Government does not
employ the Chiefs, they would earn much more respect from the million
plus Army, than they do now. Having attended all the ‘career courses’
considered essential for higher command, it is clear to me the
present system of education, selection, training for higher ranks
throws up mediocre generals and the standard is declining rapidly. The
complete system needs overhaul urgently in the interest of our great