Leadership and improvisation in Bangladesh
The Bangladesh campaign witnessed great feats of improvisation by Indian troops as well as unorthodox methods of command and control by some outstanding formation commanders. Mandeep Singh Bajwa writes.chandigarh Updated: Dec 15, 2013 10:13 IST
The Bangladesh campaign witnessed great feats of improvisation by Indian troops as well as unorthodox methods of command and control by some outstanding formation commanders. 2nd Rajput (Kali Chindi) a battalion with a great past and part of 83 Brigade under command of 23 Division debouched from the Belonia bulge and led the advance south.
December 7, 1971, saw them at Mudaffarganj tasked to tackle a strong Pakistani garrison at Chandpur on the eastern bank of the vast Meghna River. General Sagat Singh, the forceful corps commander with a penchant for speedily exploiting opportunities, saw during a heliborne reconnaissance that the enemy was withdrawing from the town. He landed in the middle of the 2nd Rajput position and ordered them to get a move on, urging them to commandeer whatever transport they could.
The Rajputs, among whom was a young subaltern, VK Singh, who later became the army chief in 2010, were if anything equal to the task. Everything that moved was put to good use, from civilian trucks to cycle rickshaws. The Commanding Officer's party commandeered a fire-engine! And so the mad rush to Chandpur began. Reaching there the Rajputs found the last of the Pakistani troops withdrawing on a steamer.
Opening fire they sank that. The local population erupted in a great joyous celebration of their liberation. There were many more battles to fight before the final victory but General Sagat's aggressive leadership coupled with the knack for improvisation shown by his troops had won the day. This then was the spirit that won us the 1971 war. It was the Indian armed forces' finest hour.
Golf and the armed forces
The military's golf courses are once again in the news with Parliament's Public Accounts Committee slamming the armed forces on the issue claiming that the sport cannot be considered a military activity. Really? Then what really constitutes military activity in the context of sports one might like to ask.
Sports and physical activity of all sorts make up a vital part of soldiers' activities serving to keep them fit for war, promoting bonding and team spirit and lending that competitive edge to unit cohesion.
These activities encompass the entire range of sports and physical exertion. There's nothing uniquely Indian about it. All the world's militaries practice the same thing.
Pragmatism, ever in short supply among politicians and bureaucrats, needs to be shown while addressing this matter. If the objection is to the undue use of state resources for maintaining golf courses the government must allow a modicum of commercial activity to be carried out.
If availing of golfing facilities at a fraction of what it costs in the West is considered a perk then it must be borne in mind that doing away with one of the few advantages of service life isn't going to do very much towards making up the shortfall in officers' numbers.
Indian soldiers in World War 1
Philippa Geering is here in India nowadays to make a programme for BBC Radio on Indian soldiers in the First World War and the significance of the Indian Army's role during that conflict. She would like to meet and record interviews with descendants of soldiers who fought in the war and who can talk about their ancestors.