Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Midnight Coup That Propelled Sam Maneckshaw as COAS( Army Chief)

How Sam Maneckshaw became the Indian Army Chief

The Indian army has a checkered history of over 200 years. Presently it is the second largest army in the world after China with a force level of 1.1 million The India army chief is thus a very important person. We are all aware that Sam Maneckshaw was the Chief of Staff during the war with Pakistan in 1971, which led to the creation of Bangladesh. But not many are aware of the shenanigans involved in his becoming the army chief.
To understand the entire scenario one has to go back to 1962 and the India-China war. At that time Maneckshaw was not in command of any troops on the front. The command was with Lieutenant General Kaul who by a combination of circumstances and the folly of Nehru failed. The entire blame cannot be laid at the door of Kaul, as the policy makers were Nehru and Krishna Menon.

After the war Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh came into prominence and restored the morale of the Eastern Command. Maneckshaw had little to do with all this. The 1965 war and again Maneckshaw had little to do as the main commander was again General Harbaksh as the Go Cin C Western Army Command. He covered himself with glory and reports now indicate that his decision not to withdraw beyond the Beas River was instrumental in saving India, when even the Army Chief General JC Choudhry had panicked and recommended a withdrawal.

At that time the front runner for the post of the army chief on the retirement of general Choudhry was General Harbaksh Singh. Maneckshaw was unfortunately no where in the picture as he had no battle experience of commanding a corps or a command in actual war. It appears Ms Gandhi had indicated that General Harbaksh would be the Army Chief.

 It appears that Mr. JRD Tata the top Industrialist and a Parsi intervened at that time. He supported Maneckshaw as the army chief on the ground that he was a Parsi. Ms Gandhi not averse to playing Empress readily agreed. She over ruled her Defense Minister Swaran Singh and announced Sam Maneckshaw a Parsi as Army Chief. Thus a battle hardened soldier like Harbaksh was sidelined in favor of a man who had not commanded a single division in actual war. Perhaps she thought that it would be a good idea to get the support of JRD in the long run.
All these cloak and  dagger affairs took place at midnight and Harbaksh who was designated army chief in the evening was a nobody in the morning