Former Army Chief General V P Malik on Friday said the constant interference of senior Army leadership was one of the reasons why the conduct of ground level commanders in the Battle of Chhamb in 1971 Indo-Pak war was hampered. General Malik was speaking at Chandigarh Press Club at the launch of a book written on the battle by Maj Gen AJS Sandhu (retd) whose father, Maj Gen (later Lt Gen) Jaswant Singh, was the GOC of 10 Infantry Division during the war.
General Malik said despite the fact that the Pakistan Army’s 23 Infantry Division which attacked Chhamb had much larger force levels and who’s commander was given a free hand in training his troops for the war since September 1971, the Indian Division acquitted itself well. While the then GOC 10 Infantry Division, Maj Gen Jaswant Singh and the Commander 191 Infantry Brigade, Brig RK Jasbir Singh, were blamed for the initial reverses and loss of territory, a dispassionate analysis of the battle later found nothing wrong in their handling of operations and both rose to high positions in the Army subsequently, he said.
Gen Malik praised the leadership of both, the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army, who took part in the Battle of Chhamb. He said that the battle had been fought on a division level on both sides and Maj Gen Iftikhar Khan Janjua who was the GOC of Pakistan Army’s 23 Infantry Division was an outstanding commander. He also praised Major General Naseerullah Khan Babar, who was then the artillery brigade commander in support of Pakistan’s infantry division.
Praising the GOC of 10 Infantry Division on the Indian side, General Malik said Maj Gen Jaswant Singh was hampered in his functioning because of constant interference of senior commanders who could not make up their mind on the kind of role that they wanted the division to play. “The result was that the division was not in a stable shape when the war broke out because its role was being changed from offensive defence to defensive offence,” he said.
Maj Gen Sandhu said that the role of 10 Infantry Division was changed by higher headquarters as many as four times in the run-up to the war with the last change-from offensive to defensive posture- taking place in the evening of December 5. This last change had a profound impact on the manner in which the battle was fought, he said. A large number of retired officers attended the book release including Lt Gen GS Sihota (retd), former GOC-in-C Southern Command and officers who took part in the Battle of Chhamb.