The Doyan Of Indian English Writing – Lt Col Manohar Malgonkar

A little before the Chinese Premier landed in India, one of our politicians namely Mulayam Singh Yadav stirred up an old Ghost. Yadav stressed that India needs to be vigilant as China may attack India soon. Perhaps it was rhetoric but the fact remains that 1962 cannot be easily forgotten.

Hitler was intended on destroying the English empire, though records show that he had a healthy regard for the British. But war is war and he made plans to under mine British power. In this connection he met Netaji Subhas Bose and launched the Indian legion that fought along with the Germans in France and other places. Soldiers of the Indian legion were drafted from Indian POW’s captured by the Germans in North Africa. The war dragged on for 6 years and Great Britain had its resources stretched during the period.

The result of the attack had a demoralizing effect on the Indian leadership and the Join Indian Army. This state of affairs can squarely laid at the doorstep of successive Army Chiefs right from General Cariappa to General Thapar who abandoned their duty in conditioning the Army to face China. No mountain exercise was ever conducted for the troops and the Staff College had only exercises on battles in the plains of Punjab and deserts of Rajasthan as possible scenarios of a conflict. The Indian Air Force at that time had a mix of Gnats, Hunters, Mystere’s, Canberra’s and MIG 21.

He was the first and only Indian prime Minister who projected Indian power outside the shores of India. Look at the puny men who followed him like Dev Gowda, IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh, not forgetting Charan Singh and Rao (he was sentenced to a 2 year jail term for bribing MP’s) and you will realize that Rajiv deserves mention as a great Indian who projected Indian power abroad. It was during his time that the heavy guns like the Bofors came to army and IL 76 was inducted into the IAF. He saw to it that the Army got more teeth.

Inevitably Lt Col Manohar is compared with his contemporaries such as Khushwant Singh, Kamala Markandeya and Mulk Raj Anand. But his writings had a different stamp as he wrote on the conflict between the imperial power and Indians differently. His characterization of the British was always positive.

As usual we had coffee and a long chat. When I told him I had been to the Philippines to cover the Aquino assassination, he told me of the arrogance and offences committed by then-president Ferdinand Marcos against our Agong a few years ago.

In December 1985 Malaysian press attache Tamizi arranged a meeting for me to meet opium king Khun Sa at his stronghold on the Thai-Burmese border.(5-part-story printed in NST Jan 27-Jan 31,1986). The guide and escort was a Chinese Muslim ex-general of the Kuomintang Army, Ma Sian.

After the phasing out of the Canberra the IAF has no long or medium range bomber. The set of aircraft with the IAF are only the fighter bombers that are good for close support and cannot carry out interdiction or strategic bombing. This lacuna needs to be addressed as China has a missile complex and long range bombers. Incidentally the Indian missile program is also capped at 3000 miles, which is again difficult to comprehend. Sometime back the earlier air chief PV Naik commented on this as foolhardy. This is because the Indian leadership lacks the concept of a Global power.

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