Ex-Army chiefs support new command to guard IB in J&K
23 October 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
New Delhi: Former Army chiefs today backed the move for formation of a new South-Western Command to guard the International Border in Jammu and Kashmir. On the second day of their first ever conclave here they supported the Army’s move for re-adjustment of troop deployment in the State and felt that a new South Western Command should take away the burden of policing from the hard pressed Northern Command. According to the new plan mooted by the Army, Nagrota-based 16 Corps would be divested of policing of the border with Pakistan. The combined services commanders’ meeting, which begins here on Monday, is expected to give a final shape to the re-adjustment of troops in Jammu and Kashmir. Meanwhile, the Army held a parade at Nicholson Range for its two living legends - Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw and Marshal of the Air Force Arjun Singh. At the parade the horsemen from the Army’s only mounted regiment - the 61st cavalry - and the President’s bodyguards gave an exciting display of musical riding. The mounted parade was followed by a display of parajumping and sky- diving. Meanwhile, calling the special conclave of eight former chiefs with the present COAS successful and covering all aspects of the Army’s functioning, Field Marshal S H F J Manekshaw today averred that the ex-chiefs had not presumed to offer too much advice as they did not want to burden the man in charge. 'We discussed all problems the Army is facing and will have to face. I am aware of the responsibilities he (Gen Vij) faces and I pity him. We did not proffer too much advice as he has the responsibility (of running the Army) and we do not,' he told mediapersons after the end of a special parade of the 61st cavalry — the only horse-mounted unit of the Indian Army —arranged in his honour. The Indian Army’s seniormost soldier, ‘Sam Bahadur’ proved that he still possessed that abundant wit and gift of repartee despite his advanced years. 'Besides, I did not follow anyone’s advice when I was chief and I do not expect anyone to follow mine. Besides, I was lucky in the fact that I had no Field Marshal over me,' he noted. Field Marshal Manekshaw, who had orchestrated the stunning victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, praised the standard of the Army today. 'I did not recognise the Army chief’s house and office despite having lived and worked there. I was pleasantly surprised to see a change in the force and the change is for the better,' he declared. The nonagenarian wryly observed that he was the oldest living Field Marshal in the world today and precisely described his age as '90 years, six months and 13 days.' 'I do not believe that any Field Marshal has lived so long,' he said, and attributed his longitude to being ‘born in a healthy place.’ 'I was born in Amritsar and my father was a doctor. I also wanted to be a doctor but instead joined the Army and am here now,' he said, adding his plaint that he would have been a better doctor. The two day chiefs’ conclave, a brainchild of Gen Vij, brought together eight ex-chiefs ranging from the Field Marshal to Gen Vij’s immediate predecessor, Gen S Padmanabhan and including Generals KV Krishna Rao, O P Malhotra, V N Sharma, S F Rodrigues, Shankar Roychowdhary and V P Malik. During the first day, the COAS briefed them on various welfare schemes for servicemen, especially in the area of accommodation, healthcare, education and career advancement as well as the 'mission olympics'. Tomorrow, they will be hosted by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee at his residence.