Kids Corner

Above: The infantile silliness that goes on at the Indo-Pakistan border at Wagah every day.


Old Soldiers Look Back:
Warriors After War





WARRIORS AFTER WAR, Edited by Richard Bonney, Tridivesh Singh Maini & Tahir Malik. Published by Peter Lang AD, Bern, 2011. ISBN 978-3-0343-0285-2



The India-Pakistan problem cannot be easily explained and certainly cannot be easily resolved. The problem has deep roots and  far reaching ramifications. There is the age-old Hindu-Muslim tussle with a gravitational pull of mutual distrust.

However, we must not discard the facts of the ground reality. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived side by side, if not as loving brothers but at least as neighbours, with a modicum of respect for each other. That was no mean achievement.

Akbar, the greatest of the Mughals, initiated the accommodation.

Since I was born in Lahore and lived there during my early teens till 1947,  I can cite several examples of heroism during the riots and carnage of the Partition. Muslims saved Sikhs and Hindus and Sikhs and Hindus saved Muslims.

Ishtiaq Ahmed's carefully researched book on the Partition of the Punjab (published recently by Rupa, New Delhi, and soon to be brought out by Oxfor University Press, Pakistan) must be read in tandem with this work. Because without being aware of the raison d'etre of the Partition of Punjab and India the statements of opposing Indian and Pakistani generals who fought each other after mid-1947 carry no meaning.

These men, it must be remembered, were brothers-in-arms often serving in the same British Indian regiments till the midnight hour of August 15, 1947.

During the first Kashmir War (late 1947), former brother-officers were pitched against each other in kill or be-killed situations. One of the prized legacies of the British Raj, the Indian Army, had been tragically ripped apart from top to bottom. Military historians have not as yet grasped this fact fully.

However, the great Urdu writer Manto summed it up in his story, The Last Salute when a soldier of the Indian Army is shot in Kashmir by Pakistani snipers. The  commander of the Pakistan company rushes out to see who his men had shot. He recognises the man who only a few months ago had served under him. The dying soldier too recognises his former captain and with a great effort raises his arm and with a trembling hand salutes him. It was his last salute. The Pakistani officer stood to attention and saluted the dying Indian soldier. Most probably this too was his last salute.

Richard Bonney's wide ranging Introduction to this book has certainly provided useful information. However, it must be stressed that there was a fundamental difference between Nehru's attitude towards the military and that of Jinnah. Nehru disliked men in uniform and believed that there was no difference between Indian and Pakistani generals. They were the same men, only wearing different uniforms.

He memorably wrote to Bertrand Russell lamenting the rise of a military mentality in India. The Indian armed forces were firmly controlled and actually neglected during the tenure of Defence Minister Krishna Menon who was one of Nehru's favourites.

Hence the Indian army's humiliation in 1962 at the hands of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army. Incidentally, China still makes claims to districts in Arunachal Pradesh, a state in north east India. The matter is unresolved.

In Pakistan, however, the military had pride of place in the national consciousness. The armed services were, in fact, pampered and spoilt. They became, in effect, a state within a state. After all, the political leaders and the public believed that it was the military that would save them from Indian invasion and domination. That let the genie out of the bottle and hence the era of military dictatorships.

India has been raped by politicians; Pakistan has been raped by both politicians and generals and I believe, as do many Pakistani thinkers today, that the generals were far more foolhardy, ruthless and reckless.

In 1965 Ayub Khan thought he could cut through north India and take Delhi. Though thanks to American military aid he had better equipped forces, the self-promoted Field Marshal failed. His knocked-out Patton tanks littered the fields of Khemkaran.

In 1971 Yahya Khan, intoxicated with power, whisky and women in Islamabad, succeeded in losing East Pakistan. Ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner by the Indian army. It was the worst defeat suffered by a Muslim nation in the entire history of Islam.

Later, the obnoxious Zia-ul-Haq (born in Jalandhar, India) instituted public floggings in an attempt to purify the populace. And then as a coup de grace, he hanged Bhutto.

When Pervez Musharraf headed the Pakistan army he planned and executed the 1999 Kargil fiasco; with or without the sanction of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is a matter of some debate. However, the project was an utter failure. But as a reward, the general became President.

It would have been most interesting if Musharraf had contributed to this book. But perhaps he's too busy in London planning some other project.

Even today, when Pakistan is supposed to be governed by a civilian government, the army chief (Ashfaq Kayani) takes it upon himself to warn the U.S.A. against drone attacks  on north Waziristan. That, surely, was the job of Prime Minister Gilani or his Foreign Minister.  

The twenty-six retired military officers from India and Pakistan who've been interviewed have, on the whole, been frank, forthright and honest. In the old British tradition, officers and gentlemen are expected to look you in the eye and deliver utterances in civilized and courteous language. Let us consider the statements of two of them.

Vijay Oberoi (former Lieutenant-General and Vice Chief of the Indian army) was born in Jhelum, Punjab, now in Pakistan. He lost a leg in the 1965 war with Pakistan but went on to command a battalion. As director-general of Military Operations, he interacted with the Delhi-born Pervez Musharraf who was then his opposite number in Pakistan. This is what Oberoi says:

'There are two possible ways of mitigating the Pakistan army's influence within the political system. The first prerequisite for this is a strong and vibrant civil society ... Secondly, the Pakistani educational curriculum which perpetuates hatred against Indians and non-Muslims needs to be revamped ... Nothing much will change if this indoctrination is not done away with.'    

And now Syed Wajahat Husain (former Major-General of the Pakistan army) who was born and educated in Aligarh, India. He says:

'Condemning religious bigotry and obscurantism, Jinnah continuously emphasized a liberal, tolerant and outward-looking Pakistan … advising us to guard against religious fanaticism which was the negation of Islamic values ... he consistently cautioned against these “malignant Muslim diseases” during all his Aligarh speeches … Today these very afflictions with growing impunity are threatening to tear further apart our mutilated country.' 

The majority of these men who were prepared to lay down their lives have now come to realize that war is no longer an option for either India or Pakistan. Since both countries have nuclear weapons, the next war will certainly be the last. The question is: Will the ruling establishments and corrupt governments of India and Pakistan take any notice of what these old soldiers have to say?


Reginal Massey is the author of India: Definitions and Clarifications (Hansib, London, U.K.

[Courtesy: South Asia Strategic Forum. Edited for]

November 29, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: H.S. Vachoa (U.S.A.), November 29, 2011, 1:30 PM.

In my opinion, the problem with western educated authors is that they have no idea about the ground realities of religious exploitation in Hindu India and are ignorant about Hinduism so much so that they all tend to overlook its caste-ridden fundamentalism while comparing Hindu India to Islamic fundamentalism. It's true that Pakistan is a Islamic State ridden with fundamentalism and dictatorships but what these people overlook is that India itself is a Hindu theocracy with state-sponsored religion that preaches Hindu cultural dominance as a policy over non-Hindus and its derived hatred against the Muslims and other non-Hindus. The historical analysis of genocide of Sikhs in India is completely left out of the political reality that could help explain and give us a better the understanding of the parameters of Hindu India. How is there going to be peace without addressing the problems of caste-plagued Hindu India?

2: N. Singh (Canada), November 30, 2011, 2:34 AM.

No mention of Sikh generals here! So who do you think made this happen: "Ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers were taken prisoner by the Indian army. It was the worst defeat suffered by a Muslim nation in the entire history of Islam..." Does the name Lt. General Jagjit Singh Aurora ring a bell?

3: N. Singh (Canada), November 30, 2011, 6:09 PM.

Also Major General Shabeg Singh ji (Shaheed) was instrumental in the Bangladesh Liberation War mentioned above and received numerous awards for his bravery and strategic thinking. I thought these losers on both sides of the border would have made a mention of him.

4: H. Singh (United States), December 01, 2011, 11:17 PM.

N. Singh ji: I'm sure the book itself mentions the contributions of the Sikh generals. The review is just a general overview which only hits on one or two points from the entire work.

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Warriors After War"

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