From a Services Career

Non Functional Up Grade – Clever Ploy or Cause of Admin Inefficiency …

Posted on November 18, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Indian Thought |

By Meenakashi Lekhi

Imagine a batch of students appearing for their tenth standard exam and the rule is set that whatever marks the topper gets, the rest of the class would get the same marks, on condition that they wait for two years. Sounds crazy? Well, that is exactly how the Indian bureaucracy rewards itself through something called Non Functional Upgrade (NFU), which has become a bone of contention between the civilian group A officers and officers of the armed forces, who have been denied the same by the civilian bureaucracy.

So what is Non Functional Upgrade?

As per a circular issued by the department of personnel and training, Government of India, ‘Whenever an Indian Administrative Services Officer of the State of Joint Cadre is posted at the Centre to a particular grade carrying a specific grade pay in Pay band 3 or Pay band 4, the officers belonging to batches of Organised Group A Services that are senior by two years or more and have not so far been promoted to that particular grade would be granted the same grade on nonfunctional basis from the date of posting of the Indian Administrative Service Officers in that particular grade at the Centre.

This scheme was introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 and was extended to 49 organised Group A central services for time bound pay promotions of every officer till the higher administrative grade (thus ensuring ‘one rank, one pay’ for most), irrespective of capability, performance or vacancy.

Therefore, in a country where every prime minister, chief minister, MP, MLA or municipal councillor has to face the electorate every five years, where every student has to compete and work hard for each mark he scores in board exams or competitive exams and where every company chief’s performance is evaluated in three months, our bureaucracy is exempted from such scrutiny.

Performance and vacancy be damned, they would get time bound promotions. While barely 1 to 2 per cent of Army officers get to reach the apex scale of lieutenant general and upward, an IAS, IPS or IFS officer is guaranteed to reach the rank of director general of police.

Today, India has a ridiculous situation where every state police force has innumerable director generals and additional director generals, one each for prison, CID, home guard, training and so on, and yet the constabulary and subordinate officers face stagnation in terms of promotion because no one thinks of them.

How has such a top-heavy structure helped India’s administration? Has any feasibility study ever been done on it? Is there any precedence of such Non Functional Upgrade anywhere in the world?

Today, the armed forces and the central armed police forces cannot be blamed for asking for similar benefits because the UPA rocked the apple cart and created major fissures in the civil-military relationship. If NFU is good then it should be given to all, including the armed forces and employees in Group B and C categories. It cannot be exclusively for the babus.

How would an officer, who has won a Param Vir Chakra, feel when he sees an IPS or IAS officer being promoted just because he appeared for an exam and qualified in it? Doesn’t an army or central police officer face a much bigger challenge of dodging the enemies’ bullets?

Wouldn’t it be demotivating for the officers in the armed forces to be stagnating in one position while the civilian officers enjoy promotions?<

In a resource-scarce nation, where the priority of the state should be to spend every penny on the people and cut out wasteful administrative expenditures, NFU should be scrapped.

Merit alone should be the criterion for promotion. The feudal system of exclusive benefits has to end.





Vijay Sitaram</stro

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Maj Gaurav Arya addresses the British Parliament …

Posted on November 9, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

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4th Bn Sikh Regt – SaraGarhi – Sam n More …

Posted on November 7, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

4 SIKH is a very Great Battalion but which, in my opinion, has had singular BAD LUCK. For instance in the 1962 War, two of its coys were airlifted to Walong where it did singularly well but due to a communication failure two coys were air dropped in Along.


Again in the 1965 War, this great unit went into the PAK POW Bag when things did not quite work out as planned.


And here is where it earned eternal Glory.

“DEFENCE OF SARAGARHI POST.”. Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954). Vic.: National Library of Australia. 5 December 1907. p. 6. Retrieved 1 September 2014.


The Tirah campaign of 1897 teemed throughout with thrilling incidents of gallantry and heroism. After a space of years, perhaps none is remembered with more enthusiasm, or takes a more conspicuous place in the annals of the Indian Army, than the heroic defence of Saragarhi Post by a mere
handful of Sikhs against an attacking force of the Orakzais tribe, 6000 strong.

The magnificent defence of the native soldiers for nearly nine hours, until totally annihilated, was unparalleled in the events of the frontier war of ten years ago, and is now historical. September 12 is therefore a day memorable in the history of the Indian frontier regiments.

Up on the sun-baked frontier stations the memory of the brave men who fought until death for the honour of the British service is kept alive by a general holiday on every anniversary of the defence.

Saragarhi post, the scene of this thrilling fight, was nothing more than a small signalling station situated on a barren, wind-blown hill-slope between, Fort Lockhart and Fort Cavagnari on the Santana range of hills. Within its walls on.the night of September 11, 1897, were gathered twenty-three Sepoys and one follower, detached from the gallant 36th Regiment of Sikhs.

All was still and tranquil in this inhospitable outpost. The night was dark and starless. Meanwhile, in the darkness, the Pathans were gathering together at the foot of the ridge, silently and slowly. The whole plain was alive with moving bodies. Inside the little fort on the summit the sentries walked patiently to and fro during the small hours, unconscious of the danger at hand. As yet the presence of the enemy was unknown.

The quiet peacefulness of the fort, however, was soon to be disturbed. Down in the valley the wily leader of the Orakzais gleefully took in hand the placing of his men. The operations were to be a huge joke. What, indeed, could be more humorous? On his right lay Fort-Lockhart; on his left, Fort Cavagnari,, both full of Sahibs and Sepoys. But here, right in the very palm of his hand was a mere handful of Sepoys, entrenched possibly but surely not very terrible,without a British Sahib to encour-
age and command them. He would catch them unawares, take the place by assault, batter down the walls, and then pass on. Dawn was advancing and he would begin at once.

Up in the fort the sentries saw a flash In the darkness. Then came the crack of a rifle and a shot hurried harmlessly over the fort. The attack on Saraghari had commenced.

The sleeping Sepoys were quickly awakened. rifles clicked, bandoliers were filled. with ammunition. What was happening they sleepily wondered. Evidently a sniping party of tribesmen intent on giving trouble were at hand.

When daylight came the brave men within the walls of Saragarhi Fort saw that they were preposterously outnumbered. Undismayed they returned the enemy’s fire from the loop-holes of the walls. If they could keep back their assailants for a few hours, help would come from Fort-Lockhart.

By helio they informed the garrison of the danger of their position and a cheering message of encouragement flashed back across the hills to them. Fort-Lock-hart was sending all the men that its slender garrison could spare. The day advanced, and the fort was subjected to a constant fire, but the men of the 36th Sikhs fought stubbornly on. ‘The enemy began to close in around them.

Surely help would soon be at hand. Fort-Lockhart would save them. They did not know that the Pathans had already outflanked the relieving force, whose frenzied efforts of rescue were checkmated by the overwhelming forces of the enemy.

The little garrison of Saragarhi fought desperately for their lives. they had now been besieged for six hours. The construction of the fort, alas, was faulty in the extreme. At the corner of the flanking tower there was a dead angle, or, in other words a part of the wall could not be defended from any part of the parapet or loop-holes.

The enemy were now to take advantage of this weak spot in the building. The splendid efforts of the soldiers had so far kept them at bay. Again and again their bullets had driven back the Pathan mountain men. Their leader decided that the garrison must be rushed. All through the fight the Sepoy signalmen up on the parapet kept in constant communication with
Fort-Lockhart by heliograph.

The distracted commanding officer in that fort, with every detail of the fight before him, knew that the gallant little force in Saragarhi was doomed. He could do nothing to check the attack of the enemy or assist the garrison.

The crisis came at last. The Orakzais brought an unceasing hail of bullets to bear on the besieged fort. Intoxicated with fanaticism and the desire to kill, they advanced up the hill with a rush. The signalman
did not desert his post until at last he was driven to defend himself.

The enemy were now beside the dead angle in the flanking tower and battering a hole in the walls. Soon an opening was made and the Pathans crowded into the: fort. The brave men of the 36th Sikhs determined to sell their lives dearly, and retired to an inner enclosure. Here they gallantly fought until reinforcements of the enemy, climbing the walls on all sides, swarmed into the fort, when they were cut up to a man.

A wounded Sepoy lying on a bed shot four of the enemy before he was killed himself. The last surviving man barricaded himself in the guard-room and accounted for twenty of the Pathans.

Up on the frontier the defence of Saragarhi and the brave men who did their duty and died at their posts in the Frontier war of ten years ago will not be forgotten while British rule in India remains.

On September 12, 1897. the 36th Sikhs covered themselves with undying glory — Pall Mall Gazette.


And here is an extract from an Article on Sam Manekshaw on his 100th Birth Anniversary by Hamid Hussein which has lots re 4 Sikh ….

“He ie Sam, followed the routine of spending one year of probationary period with a British regiment; 2nd Battalion of Royal Scots after commission. He then joined the elite 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment (FFR).

This battalion had evolved through its one hundred and fifty year history going through various reorganizations which changed its name. It started as 4th Sikh Local Infantry after First Sikh War in 1846. In 1901, it became 4th Sikh Infantry and in 1903 became 54th Sikhs. The 1922 reorganization changed it into 4th Battalion of 12 Frontier Force Regiment. The 1957 reorganization gave it its present designation of 6 Frontier Force (FF).

The original designation of the force deployed on the frontier of newly acquired territories in 1849 was Punjab Irregular Frontier Force (PIFFER). Till today those who join Frontier Force Regiment are known as PIFFERS.

Young impressionable cadets in the Academy see their instructors as role models and the caliber of an instructor may be a factor when a cadet chooses his battalion.

Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Carter of 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment was a first rate officer and then instructor at Dehra Dun (he later commanded the battalion in 1942 when it was being reorganized into a reconnaissance battalion at Ranchi). He may have been responsible for two cadets of the batch joining the 4/12 FFR; Sam and Atiq-ur-Rahman, nick named Turk.

In the Second World War, Sam then a captain was leading Sikhs of Charlie company of 4/12 FFR in Burma.

A small group of Japanese soldiers surprised the troops and sneaked into the perimeter of the battalion at night. This caused panic and a number of soldiers bolted from the scene. Sam’s Sikhs firmly stayed in their positions. Sam had threatened them that he will personally distribute ‘bangles’ if any of them moved from their position.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx And –

When Major Shabbir Sharif of 6 FF got the highest gallantry award of Nishan-e-Haider fighting from Pakistan side, Sam wrote to his old British Commanding Officer (CO) of 4/12 FFR in England that he was so proud that an officer of ‘his battalion’ got the honor although Sam’s forces were fighting against Pakistan.

In 1973, when he came to Pakistan for post-war negotiations, he requested that dinner be served in the silverware of his parent battalion. 4/12 FFR (6 FF) was then stationed in Okara and cutlery of the battalion was carefully packed and sent to Lahore where Sam was entertained. During his 1973 visit to Pakistan, Sam was given a lunch at Station Artillery Mess in Lahore. Sam went around looking at the impressive array of trophies in the mess. He stopped by a trophy and asked what a trophy of 54th Sikh (4/12 FFR) was doing in the artillery mess. One Pakistani officer confided that the trophy was brought to the mess for the special occasion.

In March 1973, when Sam visited England, he hosted a dinner where all serving and retired officers who had association with 54th Sikhs and 8th Gorkha Rifles were in attendance.

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An Army Wife …

Posted on October 31, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

I am an Army wife and I relish every second of it — the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly. For some reason, I feel incredibly proud of being a military spouse even though I wasn’t the one who had to get through an extremely tough entrance test, go to the Academy and train to be a soldier. But my association with someone who did do all of that — my husband — gives me a lot of pride and pleasure.

Maybe it’s because of what they say — Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That’s a pretty important job. And yes, it’s a full-time job to be an Army wife. We are constantly moving, we belong to every place the Army takes us, we are experts at packing years up in black painted boxes, we stay away from our husbands for years at a stretch, our love for saris is well known, we are rumoured to party like rock-stars and we deal with everything in between.

Our civilian friends have a lot of things to say to us: “You are so strong!” and “How do you do it?” being the most popular ones. I also get “But what about your career? ” a lot from concerned friends and random acquaintances who worry about my having a big degree and not slogging my ass off at a corporate to show for it. The fact that I am a published author, and am still working full-time isn’t satisfactory to them. “But you studied so much!” they sigh. To all this I say eh, can’t please everyone.

“Army wives are the silent ranks, standing by their husbands and holding fort while they are away on duty. That’s a pretty important job. ”

But here, I have five crucial aspects of an Army wife’s life that outsiders may not know. Sure, you’ve heard it all. But do you really know how we deal with it? Do you want to know? Well, here you go:

1.Duty calls – and How!!!

This one is obvious. This is the husband’s profession, and the job requirement is such that the duty calls are, and will always be, over and above everything else. For us spouses, the Army is the first wife who demands a lot of attention and gets it each time. Add to it the dangerous job description and the inability to plan a holiday or even a family function, because duty can call literally anytime. Pretty daunting, right? But we wives learn on the go. We learn to respect our husband’s profession, the challenges it comes with and the demands it makes. And though we may sometime crib about not getting enough time with the husband, most of us are pretty damn proud of his profession. I am!

2.Separations will test your mettle

As a result you will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. Seriously, our civilian friends will never understand how tough it is to pack your life in 22 boxes every two years and move to SF (Separate Family) — a term that I assume all Army wives hate as much as they fear the words ambush attack. I’d like to say this to all our civilian friends — separation is never easy. We never get used to it. We miss our husbands incredibly, but life has to go on and we don’t think there is any point in discussing it to no end. We do not need sympathy. Be friendly, don’t give us your pity — we don’t need it.

“[Y]ou will either get tired of living like a single mom every two years or so, or you will realise that distance really does make the heart grow fonder.”

3. Hierarchy of the wives

Ah, the most controversial topic of all time! Yes, it is true that a few wives wear their husband’s rank as if they’ve earned it themselves. And it is also true that there is a lot of stuff happening that most of the wives don’t see fit for the current century (and hence detest the entire Army Wife Club idea). Personally, I wish we had less of the unnecessary drama and more of productive exercises. I wish we had respect for each other in every situation, and not be rude or condescending with each other.

But what people dn’t know is that the wives form a major support group in the Army. I have made amazing friends in the Army wife circle that I would not trade for anything in the world. Our friendships last for ages, survive several postings and phone-number-changes, and grow stronger with every military milestone of our lives. We bond over our unique trials and tribulations and support each other (who else can understand us better?). And oh, we also bond over etiquette classes (it’s an inside joke for my girls. For those who didn’t get it, read my book) and shopping tips for just about every town or city in India.

4. Constant moving – new home

You’ve heard about it a lot, but you will never understand it until you are an Army wife. It’s mighty tough. And I am not even talking about the packing and unpacking, the broken crockery and crystal, or the part where your husband’s stuff goes to a different station and yours to another. I am talking about the leaving the friends part, the having no career part, the kid’s good education and uninterrupted growing up part.

Then there are small but still important issues like finding a new tailor and changing your phone number every two years. But we Army wives have the obvious things covered, and we learn to deal with the separation and the moving. In fact, I quite enjoy the life of a constant traveller. But leaving behind a life that you struggled to set up is always tough. We look forward to the new location, but we always leave a part of ourselves behind.

5.Our kids are the best

Really, they are amazing. Army kids are strong — stronger than us at times. They are resilient. They are well adjusted, confident and gregarious — even the shy ones. The life skill of taking to a new place, new friends and a new life comes easily to them. Or in proper Army lingo, our kids easily acclimatise to changes. That has to be the highlight here, really, because Army kids are a constant source of inspiration and awe to me. Watch them closely, there’s a lot to learn.

This list can be a hundred points longer, I know, so if you have anything else to add to it, feel free.

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1971 War – Sabuna Drain Battle -Another Version …

Posted on October 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan |

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All about an Officer …

Posted on October 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

An Article by Col Abhay Gupta.

I was all of 48 yrs when I was superseded in my present rank. At a social-do, I was asked by this pretty girl, “Just 48, and the end of the road for you! What has Army really given you? You’ve never been paid well in the Army. And see what they have done to you now!”

I appraised her top to bottom. I must confess she was a pretty sight. What I told her was this,

“The Army, my dear, is a way of life. It is not about making a living. As far as supersession is concerned, lady, that is the way of army life. You can’t complain just because your personal interest, as you perceive it, has not been looked after.

‘The Army has a wonderful, time-tested and evolved systems.
You don’t fight personal battles for the heck of it. And it is about unselfishness, dear – Service Before Self is our motto. Remember it is a Service (seva).There are no expectations of rewards in Seva, for Seva is considered its own reward.

‘What has Army given me?, you asked. It has given me a glimpse and understanding of dimensions you, in the civil sector, can only wonder and feel over-awed about. Have you any idea of camaraderie? When you see a soldier brave the shower of artillery shrapnel’s to rush to rescue his bleeding colleague wounded in the shelling – then you KNOW the meaning of the word ‘camaraderie.

‘When you are lying in a hospital on a DI List and there are 20 blood donors of your blood-group spending the cold night in the verandah of the hospital, just so that any emergency call for blood to save your life may be attended to, that is camaraderie.

‘Camaraderie implies selfless help and support to someone who is not necessarily a friend. You have to cross Banihal to understand all this. Do you know the holy significance of the word ‘command’?
It is a sacred word.

‘And who can know the meaning of it other than a person in uniform?
Even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company can’t comprehend the significance of this sacred word. When you are in ‘command’ you are God.

‘Can you comprehend what being God can be like? It is not about the authority, it is about responsibility. The authority comes into play after you have rendered your part of the deal of unflinching loyalty displayed towards your subordinates.

‘Now when you signal him – not ask him or tell him or order him – to dash down-crawl – observe – fire, and in the process subject himself to imminent death, he does so without a second thought. This is when you REALIZE what is so sacred about command.

Even before you can move your hand to the door of the gypsy, the driver jumps from his seat and beats you to the door, your door is what command gets you. Such are the rewards of command.

Do you know the meaning of ‘being a gentleman’? In the last thirty years in uniform one has witnessed a proliferation of designations in the civil environment.

There have been Executive Officers and there have been Managers – General Mangers, Assistant Managers, and a whole spectrum. Then there are CEOs and Vice Presidents. In the Army we have only ‘Officers’.
Some are General Officers and some just Officers. At the induction level we have Young Officers.

What it means to be an ‘Officer’ is something you can’t comprehend. Hollywood tried to bring about a differentiation, calling the phenomenon, ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’, little knowing that being a gentleman is inherent when you are an Officer. Being a gentleman is his primary nature, not second-nature.

His behaviour is bhadra – i.e. kalyan-kaarak swabhav, guna, aur karma.
The Army imbibes this peculiar quality in us when we are as young as 17 to 20 years only. I’ll explain with an example. An officer once held the door open for a particular lady. She, trying to be smartly polite said, “You don’t have to hold the door open for me, just because I’m a lady.” He replied, “Ma’am, I’m not holding it for you because you are a lady, but because I’m a gentleman.”

We may appear to be ruthless and egoistic, but we are enlightened ones. In the corporate world have you ever come across the word ‘honour’? In uniform we serve only for honour, and never the ‘package’. Naam, Namak, Nishan – are alien words in the corporate world.

You know what it means to serve for honour? When a subordinate, who already has a bad ankle, is told of a mission which entails 12 hours of walk in the most rugged terrain; and when he expresses reservation on account of his current physical condition, is told that if we can’t do it, it will be a smudge on the Regiment – AND THERE IS NO ONE TO REPLACE HIM. He says he’ll do his bit.

That is for honour. The Army has commanders at every level – langar commander, section commander/ detachment commander, platoon commander/troop commander, and up the chain to Brigade Commanders, and General Officers Commanding in Chief.

What is implied by the term ‘commander’? Maybe something most people will never know. To be a commander implies responsibility – complete responsibility. As a commander you are responsible for every aspect of your command – right from his morning cup of tea, his toilet facilities, his professional training, his mental makeup, his family’ well being and his spiritual requirements.

In the Army we first train young boys, and now even young girls, to be an Officer and then to be a Commander.

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Viet Nam War – What Americans did Wrong …

Posted on September 22, 2017. Filed under: American Thinkers, From a Services Career, Searching for Success |

George C. Herring, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Kentucky, is the author of “America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.”

From the early stages of the Vietnam War, American officials insisted that winning the hearts and Minds (WHAM) of the South Vietnamese people was the key to victory.

But the Americans tasked with carrying out that strategy were ill equipped, linguistically and culturally, to make it work. And in the end, that deficit destroyed whatever good will might have existed on either side and doomed America’s foray into Vietnam to failure.

Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to Washington from 1965 to 1972, once called the two countries “peoples quite apart.” And indeed, American and Vietnamese culture had little contact before 1950. Americans understanding of the country’s language, history, religious traditions, etiquette or politics was abysmal.

The cultural disjunction was exacerbated by a strategic one: While the two nations agreed on the fundamental goal of preserving an independent, non-Communist South Vietnam, the stakes of the war for each were grossly disproportionate. The United States sought merely to uphold its credibility – South Vietnam fought for its existence.

Theirs was a patron-client relationship. The United States, the world’s strongest country and still riding high off its victory in World War II, was confident in its power — and its virtue. It expected to lead and to be followed. In contrast, the South Vietnamese, citizens of a fragile state newly freed from colonial rule and threatened by internal insurgency and external invasion, recognized their desperate need for American help but they were also acutely sensitive to dominance by an outside power. They struggled to uphold their dignity and autonomy.

Between 1950 and 1965, America’s role in the region, while significant in terms of money and matériel, occupied a limited footprint in the lives of everyday Vietnamese. That changed between 1965 and 1967, when the Americanization of the war brought hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians into the country and put an American face on the increasingly widespread destruction wrought by both sides.

Bui Diem noted the absence of communication between the two peoples during the major escalation in 1965, the “un-self-conscious arrogance” of the Americans and the impotence of the South Vietnamese. “The Americans came in like bulldozers and the South Vietnamese followed their lead without a thought of dissent.”

After 1965, the United States took on the burden of defeating the enemy militarily. It declined to establish a combined command structure with the South Vietnamese – as it had in Korea. It relegated the Army of the Republic of Vietnam to pacification, a task many Vietnamese considered demeaning. Americanization of the war also produced among South Vietnamese a “takeover effect,” by letting the Americans fight the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Tragically, American actions encouraged dependency in a nation whose independence it sought to sustain.

As the American presence swelled, tensions between the two peoples grew. Vietnamese resented the way their visitors looked down on them and imposed their ways on a presumably inferior people. They were annoyed by American impatience.

Some envied the opulent lifestyle of the Americans, with their enormous bases equipped with all the conveniences of home, including air conditioning, shopping centers and movie houses. Others protested that the troops acted “despicably” toward them, speeding their trucks and cars through traffic at life-threatening speeds.

Some claimed that America dispensed aid as though it were being “given to a beggar.”

Most of all, many South Vietnamese resented their dependence on their ally and its suffocating presence in their lives. Some labeled the “American occupation” a “demoralizing scourge.”

Vietnamese recognized that the Americans were not “colonialists,” the journalist Robert Shaplen observed, but he perceptively added, “there has evolved here a colonial ambience that can sometimes be worse than colonialism itself.”

In the bonanza atmosphere that followed Americanization, South Vietnam’s economy centered upon serving the needs of the new arrivals. Prostitution became a special problem. As the number of Americans in Saigon surged into the tens of thousands, the number of houses of ill repute expanded proportionally, provoking criticism in the United States and South Vietnam.

Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas fumed that Saigon had become an “American brothel.” South Vietnamese Catholics and President Nguyen Van Thieu were especially concerned about prostitution and pleaded with American officials to do something about the suffocating presence of so many troops.

The result was Operation Moose (Move Out of Saigon Expeditiously), implemented mostly during 1967. Thousands of G.I.s moved to base camps outside the city (where the prostitutes soon followed), some joking that they had been “Moosed.” Saigon was also declared off limits for R & R. The pace was sufficiently slow that the operation was unofficially tagged Goose (Get Out of Saigon Eventually).

The exodus left around 7,900 American soldiers in the city. Moose did not satisfy President Thieu and it provided no more than a partial solution to the prostitution problem. It also left Saigon more vulnerable to the urban attacks launched by the Viet Cong during the 1968 Tet offensive.

The American way of war also inflicted a huge toll on village life in South Vietnam. To limit its own casualties and cope with unfamiliar and often inhospitable terrain, the United States unleashed extraordinary firepower on the country it was trying to save. Areas of suspected enemy strength were bombed and shelled and burned with napalm, often with little consideration of its impact on civilians. Defoliants were used to deny the enemy food and cover, with horrific short- and long-term consequences for Vietnamese.

American firepower destroyed homes, villages and crops and alienated those whose hearts and minds were to be won. American commanders declared entire areas free-fire zones.

Troops would round up villagers, burn their hooches and relocate them from their ancestral lands into squalid refugee camps. The area would then be bombed and shelled.

During Operation Cedar Falls in 1967, Americans forcibly relocated some 6,000 civilians from the village of Ben Suc. Caught between the Viet Cong and the Americans, villagers who wanted only to be left alone became sullen or outright hostile. By early 1967, over 1.5 million refugees had drifted into urban slums, where they were susceptible to Viet Cong propaganda.

To be sure, many Americans developed close ties with Vietnamese. Many also committed acts of kindness such as providing medical care and food to people in need. Especially in the early years and in remote areas, American advisers formed attachments with Vietnamese soldiers and villagers. Thousands of troops married Vietnamese women.

Still, most Americans arrived in the country without knowledge of the land and the people. “My time in Vietnam is the memory of ignorance,” one soldier later wrote. Not knowing the language or culture, the Americans did not know what the people felt, or even at times how to tell friend from foe. “What we need is some kind of litmus paper than turns red when it’s near a Communist,” one officer half-jokingly told a journalist.

Relations with South Vietnamese soldiers were likewise strained. Unaware of the difficulties their counterparts labored under, American troops disparaged their fighting qualities. The newcomers expected the people they were defending to offer the sort of gratitude they believed their fathers had gained for liberating France in World War II. When instead they encountered indifference or even hostility, they grew resentful.

For many Americans, the South Vietnamese became an object of contempt, even hatred. “The people were treacherous,” one soldier later recalled. “They say ‘G.I. No. 1’ when we’re in the village, but at night the dirty little rats are V.C.” The ability of the villagers to step around mines and booby traps that killed and maimed Americans provoked suspicion of collusion — and anger.

Americans also brought with them deeply entrenched racist attitudes that prompted the use of slurs such as “gook” and “dink,” which they applied to enemy and friend alike.

Contempt could quickly change to a rage that might be turned on Vietnamese civilians. During the summer and fall of 1967, the notorious Tiger Force, an elite commando unit, was assigned to remove civilians from the Song Ve River Valley, suspected to be a source of rice for Viet Cong units. The very name of the mission, Operation Rawhide, suggested a cattle roundup, which had a dehumanizing effect.

When the civilians resisted, the Tigers vented their rage by burning their villages. Unhappy with the assignment and under constant fire from enemy snipers, the Americans declared the area a free-fire zone and shot anything that moved, resulting in the brutal killing of numerous civilians.

Nevertheless, the Tigers were assigned another, similar mission, to remove civilians from Quang Tin province. Early in the operation, they were caught in a deadly ambush and suffered heavy losses. After that, all restraints came off. Commanders abetted their vengeance by setting a body count goal of 327 kills (to match the number of the 327th Infantry Regiment, of which the Tigers were a part).

The Tigers proceeded to kill hundreds of civilians and compounded their crime by mutilating the bodies of victims, including old women and even babies. The carnage stopped only when the operation ended in November.

The actions of the Tiger Force were replicated with even more savage results at My Lai, in Quang Ngai province, in February 1968, where American soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. Such atrocities were not typical of American behavior, and even at My Lai there were soldiers who pushed back against their commanders’ orders to kill.

Nevertheless, the atrocious violence reflected attitudes toward Vietnamese that divided the two peoples and made the Vietnamese subservient to Americans. Given the frustrations and failures and mounting casualties of the American war effort, atrocities were perhaps only a matter of time.

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Gen Rawat speaks ala Timmy n Sam …

Posted on September 6, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

From The Indian Express –

Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat today said the country should be prepared for a two-front war, insisting China has started “flexing its muscles”, while there seems to be no scope for reconciliation with Pakistan whose military and polity saw an adversary in India.

Referring to the 73-day long Doklam standoff, the Army chief warned that the situation could gradually snowball into a larger conflict on the northern border.

He said there is a possibility that these conflicts could be limited in space and time or can expand into an all out war along the entire frontier, with Pakistan taking advantage of the situation.

“We have to be prepared. In our context, therefore, warfare lies within the realm of reality,” he said, adding the Army’s supremacy among the three services must be maintained to successfully combat external security threats.

The comments by Gen. Rawat came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a “forward-looking” approach to Sino-India ties, putting behind the Doklam standoff. The Army Chief said India cannot afford to let its guard down against China.

“As far as northern adversary is concerned, the flexing of muscle has started. The salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold is something we have to be wary about and remain prepared for situations emerging which could gradually emerge into conflict,” he said.

In military parlance ‘salami slicing’ denotes divide and conquer process of threats and alliances used to overcome opposition. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies. The Army chief also talked about China engaging in a psychological warfare by using the media and information technology against India during the Doklam face-off.

The Army chief rejected the notion that credible deterrence could prevent war and pitched for adequate budgetary allocation for the armed forces. Talking about Pakistan, Gen. Rawat said there was no scope for any reconciliation with that country.

“As far as our western adversary is considered, we don’t see any scope of reconciliation, because their military, the polity, and the people in that nation have been made to believe that there is an adversary, India, which is all out to break their nation into pieces,” he said.

Gen. Rawat also wondered how long the country will continue to tolerate the proxy war by Pakistan and when it would conclude that Pakistan has crossed the threshold limit, adding the scope of a possible conflict is difficult to predict.

He said it was for the political masters to take a call on the issue.

Rawat also explained that credible deterrence does not take away the threat of war. “Nuclear weapons are weapons of deterrence. Yes, they are. But to say that they can deter war or they will not allow nations to go to war, in our context that may also not be true,” he said.

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Maj Navdeep Singh to the Rescue of the Defense Services …

Posted on August 27, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career |

Ajai Shukla –

In an important move towards reforming departmental justice across the board, but especially for the military, the Supreme Court issued the central government a show cause notice on Friday, asking why its recently promulgated rules for the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) should not be struck down.

The apex court was responding to a writ petition, filed by Punjab & Haryana High Court lawyer and founding president of the AFT Bar Association, Navdeep Singh, through Supreme Court lawyer Aishwarya Bhati, seeking reforms of the AFT and a check on “excessive tribunalisation”.

The AFT was set up in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are required to petition the AFT for justice, rather than civil courts. The AFT was intended to reduce military related cases in civil courts. Instead, as the Singh-Bhati petition points out, the backlog in defence-related cases has increased from 9,000 to 16,000 after creation of the AFT.

Legal experts have assailed the government’s creation of more and more departmental tribunals and the concentration of powers in their hands, as a ploy to bypass the independent judicial system. “A departmental tribunal takes a large number of cases out of the courts and places them under a quasi-judicial departmental body. Next, the government takes control of the appointment and functioning of the judicial officers who sit on the tribunal, keeping them under the government’s thumb”, explains a prominent legal expert.

The petition says this is evident from the new AFT rules, which were promulgated by the Finance Ministry on June 1, based on an enabling provision in the Finance Act, which Parliament passed as a money bill in April. The new rules decrease the tenure of AFT judges from four years to three; do away with the need for consultation with the Chief Justice of India before appointing AFT judges; and tweak the rules for the selection procedure, effectively permitting two secretary-rank officers on the Selection Committee to choose the judges they want.

There were already grave questions over the AFT’s independence, since it functions administratively under the Ministry of Defence (MoD), which is the first respondent in most cases filed by soldiers, sailors and airmen before the AFT.

Further, as Business Standard reported (April 2, 2013, “RTI reveals MoD largesse to Armed Forces Tribunal”) Right to Information requests have highlighted the MoD’s patronage of AFT judges. The MoD admitted spending over Rs 67 lakhs for “official foreign visits” by AFT chairperson and members, and providing judges with unauthorized canteen cards to shop at subsidised military retail outlets. Apparently hoping to influence judgments, the ministry admitted to inviting AFT judges to army units to “sensitise” them about cases before them.

In November 2012, the Punjab & Haryana High Court ordered that the AFT be placed under the Ministry of Law & Justice. The MoD has appealed this verdict in the Supreme Court, but bypassed the process by promulgating new rules this year.

The petition heard today notes that the government had itself termed departmental tribunals a “stopgap arrangement”, and sought a road map for reforming tribunals and returning certain jurisdictions back to the regular courts. The petition also questions why the regular judiciary is not being strengthened instead of resorting to excessive tribunalisation.

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1971 War – Pak Wins Sabuna Drain Battle …

Posted on August 17, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Pakistan, Personalities |

As received from Sikander Mirza, who was kind enough to send it to me after reading my version of this Battle. Wonderful that Shahbir Sharif was posthumously awarded Pakistan’s highest Gallantry Award and then later his younger brother became Pak Army Chief following Gen Kayani.

During the 1971 War, India attacked East Pakistan on 21st November 1971. The General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi launched an attack on India on the western front (West Pakistan) on 3rd December 1971. After the Chamb Jaurian thrust Pak still had a 5 Division strong reserve under Gen. Tikka Khan. However at Suliemanke, two companies of 6 Frontier Force were ordered to take the Sabuna Drain.

Bravo Company 6 FF, was under a 1965 War Veteran and a Sitara-e-Jurrat Holder, Major Shabbir Sharif, who was also a Sword of Honor of Pakistan Military Academy Kakul.

The Indian Army had created an artificial Bund, steep on the Pakistani side, with a low incline on the Indian side.. In front of this ridge on the Pakistan side, there was also a Drain. There were only two bridges for vehicular traffic. Inside the Ridge there were camouflaged cemented bunkers.

It was important for Pakistan to neutralize this ridge, for it would pave the way for a Pakistani thrust. The ridge was called Saboona ridge, and the bridge was called Gurmakhera bridge. The other bridge was far away, and is not relevant.

At 4:00 P.M., 3rd Dec 1971, Sharif assembled the soldiers of Bravo Company and said, “Men! The moment for which we were commissioned in the Army has arrived. Today, it is a question of honor of the mothers who have borne us. I will only say one thing. If anyone from amongst you runs away from the battlefield – I will shoot him. And if I run away, then you have to swear by the honor of your mothers and sisters, that you will shoot me. Give me your word that you will die today rather than step back.”

At 5:45 PM, Shabir Sharif launched the attack against Gurmakhera Bridge. Before reaching the bridge, Shabir’s men, around 100 in number, had to pass next to the Indian Village of Beriwala. This village was reasonably well protected by the Indian Army. Bravo company knew that there were landmines in the region and a safe route through was not known.

“If you don’t risk, you don’t win wars. At most there will be a 10 percent casualty rate. Have faith in God and keep moving. I will lead.”
Bravo company passed through this landmine area safely without Shabbir having to lead.

When the company reached the bridge, Farooq Afzal was given the task to take a few men and check out things. Two Indian soldiers could be seen standing in front of the bridge. The Pakistani soldiers took them out and camouflaged Indian bunkers overlooking the bridge – two of which had the entire bridge area covered. The Indian fire halted further progress.

Asking Shabbir Sharif through wireless to provide covering fire, Afzal attacked the bridge from the front by breaking up his men into groups of three with the slogan ‘Allah O Akbar’ to distract the Indians from three different sides. The point being that at least one of the three would crawl up to the bridge and reach the area directly beneath the bunkers, where the Indian guns had no reach. The plan was successful but in the process 6 Pakistani soldiers were killed. Having reached directly beneath the two bunkers which were covering the bridge, the Pakistani soldiers took them down by lobbing hand grenades inside.

Once the two bunkers covering the Gurmakhera bridge were neutralized, Shabbir Sharif and his men joined Afzal. It was time to destroy the rest of the bunkers.

An intense battle developed as the Pakistani soldiers neutralizing the bunkers. In some cases where the Indian soldiers finished their ammunition, they threw out their wireless sets on the Pakistanis. Hand to hand combat was also seen while in a few cases the Indians ran away. The most common scene, however, was one in which grenades were lobbed out, and if the Pakistanis survived they would in turn lob back.

Sharif cleared two bunkers himself. While at the first one, he stood next to the bunker and called out the personnel inside to come out. The usual happened and a grenade was tossed out. Sharif threw it back inside, stunning his own men. This action was to become the topic of discussion in the entire company for the next two days.

The second bunker was cleared without daredevilry.

The entire operation of clearing the bunkers and taking control of the Saboona Ridge took 30 minutes. Shabir took out the signal gun and fired a success signal straight up in the air. The other companies were now aware that Sharif and his men had taken control of the Gurmakhera Bridge and the Saboona Ridge. The other companies were to proceed with their attacks, one of which involved capturing the Beriwala village that Sharif had bypassed earlier.

It was pitch dark, Sharif and a few men started collecting the bodies of the Pakistani soldiers who had died in the assault. Digging of new bunkers, this time on the opposite side of the ridge than the one facing Pakistan also began simultaneously.

It was at that time that an old man’s voice was heard from a distance.
“We need to go back to Gurmakhera Village. The Muslims have attacked Beriwala” Shabbir went closer to the old man. The man could not recognize the Pakistani army uniform due to the darkness and believed he was talking to an Indian soldier.

“I brought my son’s barat (wedding procession) to Beriwala in the afternoon. The muslims have captured the village. We had to run during the rukhsati (last ritual of the wedding).” “Don’t you know that there is a war going on?” Shabbir asked in Punjabi, “This is a silly time to have a wedding, that too when you are so close to the border”

“Please protect us. I have a whole procession with me here. Even the girl’s family is here. We need to get back to our village. The muslims are coming in this direction.” Sharif decided not to waste time, or unnecessarily panic the old fellow. “We will take care of the Muslims. You hurry up and get all your people across. And listen to the radio more frequently for any important announcements”

He then alerted all of his men manning the positions at the bridge that a wedding procession was going to be passing through and there should be no fire on it. While the procession was crossing over the ridge, a soldier asked Sharif: “Sir. These people are legitimate POWs. Why are we letting them cross?” Shabbir smiled. “Have a heart soldier. This is the happiest day of their lives. Let’s not make them spend it inside a cell.”

When the news of the Pakistani attack reached the opposing brigade commander, Brig. Surjeet Singh, he immediately ordered Delta company of 4 Jat and a squadron of T-54 tanks to recapture the the Saboona Ridge and the Gurmakhera bridge.

At 11:00 PM, one of Shabbir’s men informed him that he could hear tanks approaching the Gurmakhera Bridge. After Shabbir himself confirmed it, he positioned his rocket launchers near the bridge. There were three rocket launchers at his disposal, and two men were required to man each one. There was also some ammunition that had been taken from the defeated Indian forces on the ridge. Two of the rocket launchers were placed in such a manner that the tanks would have to go past them before they could come near the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona ridge. The third was positioned near Shabbir, to be used as a back up in case the first two failed.

When the tanks eventually came in pitch darkness, Shabbir was stunned to see that they passed by the first two positions without any fire from the Pakistani soldiers. Shabbir immediately called the men through wireless, and asked them why they didn’t shoot? “Sir, these are Pakistani tanks”, a soldier replied from the other side.

“No they are not”, Shabbir screamed, “Why would our tanks come from the side of the other bridge. That is not in Pakistani control. Shoot!”

Despite the clarification, there was so much confusion amongst the ranks that no one fired. Shabbir knew that if these had been Pakistani tanks they would have crossed over the ridge 3 km to the West and come as a reinforcement on the Indian side. He got hold of the rocket launcher which was near him, and fired at one of the tanks. When the tank caught flames and illuminated the scene, Sikhs were seen coming out of it. It was at that time that the entire Pakistani force started firing on the Indians.

The Indian foot soldiers were closer to the tanks and they could be easily spotted due to the flames and also due to the aerial advantage that the Pakistani forces had. From the initial 14 tanks that were ordered to attack, only 8 had managed to reach the bridge, and 4 of them had been destroyed in the first 5 minutes of the battle. The others too were safe only because they were out of range of the rocket launchers and Energa grenades (mounted on G3 rifles. The Indian retreat was inevitable. During this skirmish, 10 Pakistanis were killed and 13 injured, while on the Indian side there were 43 killed, numerous injured and 10 were made POWs, including an officer.

Despite the victory, Sharif knew that this was only the beginning and the Indians would definitely try again. He contacted the battalion headquarters and asked for ammunition and landmines. Another mystery was why the Indians had not blown away Gurmakhera bridge, which is usual in such conditions. Around 4:00 AM, an ammunition jeep arrived. In between, there had been a small attack on Sharif and his positions, but had been easily repulsed as the Indians were much less in number and there were no tanks.

When day broke, a search was carried out to find out any Indian soldiers hiding in the captured area. 55 men were rounded up, 3 being officers. Add to these the 10 POWs captured the last night, and Shabbir now had 65 POWs in all. “We should organize a party that escorts them back to our headquarters”, an officer suggested. “It is a long walk. Plus I need every one of my men here”, Shabbir replied.

“But they have to be sent back, we cannot keep an eye on them over here forever.” After a quite moment, Shabbir ordered the officer: “Ask them to take of their shoes” … “What?” exclaimed the officer. “What are we going to do with their shoes”

“Have you ever tried to walk in this area without your shoes?” Shabbir asked, “I have, and I tell you it is next to impossible to go far without them. Firstly you cannot run very fast, and chances of getting injuries on the feet are high.”

The officer assembled all the Indian POWs, “Listen, you see that tree. You will make a line, put your hands above your heads and run to that tree. Our headquarter is over there. Tell them that you will have been sent by Shabbir Sharif. Now, if anyone tries to run away, or break away from the line, I will shoot him and also the man in front and behind him. From this height I will be able to see all that is happening. If everyone starts running at the same time, I will ask my men here to take part in some duck shooting and we will shoot. So do not push me”

The POWs reached the headquarters without any escort. None tried to escape.

Once the POWs had been sent back, Shabbir’s men searched the bunkers thoroughly. A wireless set was found and although it had fixed frequency, the Indians had forgotten to change it during the attack. This gave a tremendous advantage to Shabbir, as he could now listen to the plans that were being made on the Indian side to recapture Gurmakhera bridge.

The other interesting item that was found was a bundle of Indian currency. This was perhaps the salary that was to be distributed amongst the Indian soldiers but had not been done so due to the Pakistan attack. Shabbir ordered the currency to be sent back to the headquarters so that they could give it back after the war – although due to lack of firewood, a small amount of the currency was burnt to make tea.

At 8:30 PM on 4th Dec. 1971, the Indians (4 Jat Regiment) attacked again with a squadron of T-54 tanks. Shabbir knew that they were coming, courtesy the wireless set that had been captured. He was also in a much better position ammunition wise, now having 102 millimeter anti tank guns, and landmines. The battle lasted only 30 minutes, with the Indians retreating with 14 dead, 21 injured and 8 MIAs (missing in action). The Pakistani side suffered minor injuries but no casualty.

Having suffered three defeats in their effort to retake the Gurmakhera bridge or the Saboona Ridge, the Indians finally launched a major attack on Shabbir’s men on the night of 5th Dec 1971. This attack had the support of 4 Jat and 3 Assam and T-54 tanks amidst heavy artillery shelling.

A company commander from the 4 Jat Regiment, Major Narayan Singh, had sworn that he would either retake the bridge or would never return. Narayan Singh was also interested in defeating Shabbir Sharif, as for the last two days he had been hearing from his own men that the Pakistani side had a very tough commander.

While the battle was going on, Narayan Singh with a few men, came close to Shabbir’s position. “Where is Shabbir Sharif?” he called out, “If he has the courage, he should come out and face me like a man”

Shabbir Sharif, being as hot headed as Singh, left his position and jumped in front. Perhaps Narayan Singh could not make out that it was Shabbir Sharif, as it was very dark, and he lobbed a grenade in his direction (it does not make sense for him to call Sharif out and throw a grenade at him). The grenade exploded a few feet away from Shabbir and his shirt caught fire.

A few Pakistani soldiers also came out and tried to put out the fire, as Shabbir himself was only obsessed with Narayan Singh. Seeing the Pakistani soldiers coming out, some of the Indians accompanying Singh were about to open fire when Singh stopped them.

“No firing” he said, “This is a man to man fight” Shabbir too, for his part, told his men to step back. The fire on his shirt had been extinguished. Both the Indian and Pakistani soldiers stepped back, but at the same time never took their guns off each other, or their fingers off the triggers.

A hand to hand combat followed between Sharif and Singh. The soldiers in the direct vicinity were standing close by as armed spectators. The rest of the soldiers (on the ridge) were at the same time involved in the fierce battle that was taking place due to the Indian attack.

Singh had his sten gun in his hand, and Shabbir held his wrist to prevent him from firing. After a short struggle, Shabbir managed to throw Singh on the ground and put his knee on his chest. Taking the sten gun from his hand, he emptied it in Singhs chest. While the Pakistani soldiers came to Sharif to check whether he was alright, those accompanying Singh disappeared in the darkness.

The attack petered yet again in an Indian retreat, although this was done after testing Shabbir’s men to their fullest capabilities. During this attack, there were 3 killed and 11 injured on the Pakistan side, while there were 19 killed, 45 injured, and 34 taken as POWs on the Indian side. 9 Indian tanks were also destroyed in this attack by the Pakistan artillery shelling and anti tank guns (2 or 3 of these tanks were rendered useless for they got stuck in the land before they were taken out).

Later, it was revealed that Major Narayan Singh was given Vir Chakra by India, a medal that is equivalent to the Pakistani Sitara-e-Jurrat, for his performance on the battlefield in 1971.

Shabbir’s right shoulder was badly burnt due to the fire that he had caught while fighting with Singh. When asked by one of his subordinates to go back and get some treatment, he said:, “I didn’t leave men fighting on the battlefield when I was not responsible for them. This time around I am their commander. Do you think I am going to go back leaving these men who I am supposed to command?”

He was referring to the 1965 war, when he as an ordinary Lieutenant, had been injured severely in the arm. Having gone back to the hospital for treatment, his arm was put in plaster and he was told that he cannot take part in the war anymore. He however, escaped from the hospital and went to the front, where he fought the rest of the war with one arm in plaster!

The 5th Dec attack created despondency amongst the Indians. Terming it a crisis, both GOC Major Gen. Ram Singh, and his Artillery Advisor Brig G.S. Reen took effective charge from Brigadier Surjeet Singh.

The Indians attacked yet again at 11:00 AM on 6th Dec. 1971. Shabbir was manning a 102 millimeter gun when a tank fired in his direction. He fired back at the tank and took it out. With a second tank lurking nearby, Shabbir could have abandoned the gun and saved his own life. He instead decided to keep firing at the tank in an attempt to render it useless before it caused any further damage. However, the tank’s shell landed only inches away from Shabbir and exploded throwing Shabbir and two other Pakistani soldiers 5 feet up in the air. Shabbir died seconds after he fell on the ground.

His last words were: “Don’t lose the bridge”

Having seen Shabbir dead, the Pakistani soldiers fought with even more vigor, more out of revenge than for anything else. The Indian attack was beaten back but at grave cost.

After the War, one of the Indian commanders, Col. Shashi Pal, came to the headquarters in the Pakistan area for talks. He was given the currency that Shabbir had sent back from the bunkers with due apologies for the currency that had been burnt for making tea. Shashi Pal shook his head slightly and said, “Politics apart, he was a fine soldier”.

Later it was also found out that the Indians did have the explosives in place to blow up Gurmakhera bridge. But the remote detonation had not worked for one reason or another.

Shabbir’s men had been saved by God, and nothing else.

This seems a colorful version but broadly more detailed than my version which is not first hand but as gleaned from some who took part and a recce of the ground before and after the battle. Shows how different sides see things.

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