Field Marshal Manekshaw’s Run in with B M Kaul: Military Tales


April 21, 2014

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The Indian armed forces are slated to be very busy this year with over 25 exercises, manoeuvres and confidence-building measures scheduled with friendly countries and potential adversaries alike.

Article by Mandeep Singh Bajwa | Hindustan Times

A flotilla from the Eastern Fleet is to join US and Japanese forces in the Malabar wargames, which so irk China, in the Western Pacific in July. The task force will continue further to conduct Exercise Indra with the Russian Navy.

US and Indian ground forces will conduct joint counter-terrorism drills as part of the annual Exercise Yudh Abhyas at Chaubatia near Ranikhet in Uttarakhand during September.

In July, the navy will be sending a warship to participate in the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) conducted by the US Navy. The IAF is scheduled to attend the prestigious Red Flag exercises in Nevada next year.

The multi-role stealth frigate INS Shivalik will participate in the international fleet review being held at Qingdao in north-eastern China to mark that country’s navy’s 66th anniversary on April 23.

In addition, ground troops of both countries will exercise at Barrackpore near Kolkata as part of the bilateral Exercise Hand in Hand in October. The strategically important, energy rich Central Asian region comes in for attention with manoeuvres scheduled for September with Kyrgyzstan and Exercise Nomadic Elephant with the Mongolian Army in August.

By the late 50s, having successfully commanded a brigade and a division and the Infantry School and having been Director of Military Operations, Sam Manekshaw was being talked about as a rising star with a track record for professionalism and thoroughness.

This brought him to the malevolent notice of the highly ambitious Chief of the General Staff, BM Kaul. Kaul reckoned Manekshaw to be a dangerous rival for the Army Chief ’s job. With no combat record to speak of he also sought to impress upon the rest of the army his personal power by ‘fixing’ a well thought of professional.

There was perhaps a personal bitterness too resulting out of a wargame in which both took part.

Trumped up charges to the effect that Manekshaw was too pro-Western and by implication not nationalistic enough were brought up while he was commandant of the staff college.

Kaul ordered an inquiry sending his henchmen to suborn, bribe and threaten instructors at the staff college to bear witness against Manekshaw. With some notable exceptions many succumbed to the pressure.

However, General Daulet Singh who presided over the inquiry was made of sterner stuff, honourably acquitting Sam of all charges instead asking for action against some of his accusers. Manekshaw was approved for promotion but superseded by his junior, General Harbaksh Singh.

He had also fallen under the baleful glare of the acerbic defence minister, Krishna Menon. However fate caught up with both Menon and Kaul in the shape of the humiliation in the 1962 war resulting in both being sacked.

Manekshaw was sent to succeed Kaul as commander of the ill-fated IV Corps where his arrival shored up the formation’s sagging morale. It was a mark of his large-heartedness and vision that he refrained from vindictiveness against those who bore false witness against him.

Most of them did well in later years, one even rising to be an army commander and Lieutenant Governor.