Indias Field Marshall Dies.

The Indian general who commanded the military campaign that led to the creation of Bangladesh has died at the age of 94.

Sam Manekshaw, whose career spanned four decades, was one of India's best known and well-respected soldiers.

Under the British, he was decorated for gallantry in World War II for his part fighting the Japanese army in Burma.

After India gained independence, he became chief of the army in 1969 and in 1973 was made field marshal.

'The brave'

Under his command, India went to war with Pakistan in 1971, supporting Bengali nationalists in what was then East Pakistan.

Pakistan surrendered within 14 days and Bangladesh was born.

In 1973, only a fortnight before he retired, he was promoted to the rank of field marshal, one of only two Indian army generals to rise to the post.

Sam Manekshaw (L) is greeted by former Indian President APJ Kalam at a military hospital in Wellington, India, February 24 2007.
"Sam Bahadur" or "Sam the Brave" died in Tamil Nadu

Sam Manekshaw otherwise known as Sam Bahadur - or "Sam the Brave" - was born in the northern Indian town of Amritsar in 1914 and was among the first batch of recruits at the Indian Military Academy set up by the British in 1932.

Serving under the British, he was decorated for his part in a battle with the Japanese army in Burma.

He made the transition to working for independent India with ease and became chief of the Indian army in 1969.

He played a decisive role in some of India's most significant wars, including the war with China in 1962 and the victory over Pakistan in 1971, which made him a national hero.

A documentary film made about him in 2003 captured some of his much admired sense of humour.

In one sequence Field Marshal Manekshaw recalls how, following the 1971 war against Pakistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi confronted him about rumours that he was planning a coup against her.

"Don't you think I would not be a worthy replacement for you Madam prime minister? You have a long nose, so have I. I don't poke my nose in other people's affairs," he joked.

In the film, Field Marshal Manekshaw also said that India lost a golden opportunity to solve the Kashmir issue once and for all at the Shimla summit with Pakistan which was held soon after the 1971 war.

'Thorough gentleman'

The BBC's Charu Shahane says that he will be remembered as being handsome and witty with a handlebar moustache - every inch a victorious soldier.

Our correspondent says that he captured the public imagination and became a hero in the eyes of India's people.

Violence from 1971 Bangladesh war of independence
The Bangladesh war of independence was brief but bloody

In retirement, the field marshal remained reticent and eager to keep a low profile despite being much adored by his countrymen.

He recently refused to comment on the war in Iraq despite a huge gathering of journalists bombarding him with questions.

Tributes have been pouring into the websites of Indian newspapers, calling him "a great soldier and a very thorough gentleman".

Sam Manekshaw, who had been battling a series of illnesses, died at a military hospital in Wellington in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, where he had lived since retiring.

Indian Defence Minister AK Antony said the nation "had lost a great soldier, a true patriot and a noble son".
Sam Manekshaw was commissioned from the Indian Military Academy into the 12th Frontier Force Rifles of the old British Indian Army in the early 1930s - one of the first Indians to receive a 'King's' commission. Sam was badly wounded during a particularly fierce engagement with the Japanese at the Sittang River. General 'Punch' Cowan commander 17th Indian Division witnessing Sam's bravery and thinking Sam was dieing pinned his own MC ribbon onto Manekshaw's chest saying "Dead men can't be awarded the MC."

Sam was the epitome of an officer and professional soldier and an inspiration to all. RIP
The Guardian did an unusually good obit for him a couple of days ago. Though I had never heard of him before, I put the paper down admiring him greatly.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

Sam Manekshaw, who has died at the age of 94, was the first general of the modern Indian army to be made a field marshal; he was awarded this honorary rank in 1973, at the end of his four years as chief of army staff. His career lasted almost four decades, saw five wars, and culminated in his successful masterminding of the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

The partition that accompanied Indian independence in 1947 created a Pakistan of two wings separated by more than 1,000 miles of Indian territory. The political dominance of West Pakistan was challenged after the 1970 election, and, in March 1971, a military response to civil dissent in East Pakistan led to calls for independence for what was to become Bangladesh, supported by Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Manekshaw's first battle was to withstand the political pressure to launch his forces that spring, as around 10 million refugees poured across the border. He held his ground until he had created the conditions for almost certain victory. Inspired by the example of Israel's pre-emptive air strike on its Arab neighbours in the six-day war of 1967, on December 3 1971 Pakistan attacked airfields in north-west India, hoping that if it could make inroads in the west, then it would be able to relieve pressure in the east. But these sorties, carried out with just 50 planes, caused only temporary damage, and India made inroads into West Pakistan and launched a coordinated assault by land, sea and air on West Pakistani forces in East Pakistan.

The lightning speed of the operations in the east led to the fall of Dhaka and Lieutenant General AAK Niazi's surrender on December 16, with 93,000 soldiers taken prisoner. Under intense US and UN pressure, India agreed to a ceasefire in the west the following day.

Gandhi asked Manekshaw to go to Dhaka, the capital of the new nation, to accept the surrender of the Pakistani forces, but he declined the honour, which he said belonged to the eastern army commander, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora. It was the sort of gesture that marked him out as a great leader, respected by all who served under or came into contact with him, notably the Indian army's Gurkhas, of whom he remarked: "If anyone tells you he is never afraid, he is a liar or he is a Gurkha."

A colourful figure, he was known by the nickname Sam Bahadur - Bahadur being an honorific indicating bravery. He was forthright in his personal dealings: when Gandhi inquired about his state of preparedness for the 1971 war, he is reputed to have replied: "I'm always ready, sweetie," his boldness disarming any possible reproach.

Once that conflict was over, the jaunty military march Sam Bahadur was composed in his honour and his popularity was such that the premier reportedly confronted him with rumours that he was planning a coup against her. He is said to have replied: "Don't you think I would be a worthy replacement for you, madam prime minister? You have a long nose. So have I. But I don't poke my nose into other people's affairs."

Born to Parsi parents and brought up in Amritsar, the capital of Punjab, Manekshaw went to Sherwood College, Nainital, and, in 1932, belonged to the first batch of 40 cadets to be selected for the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, with the intention that Indians should become commissioned officers in the British Indian army. In February 1934 he joined the 12 Frontier Force Rifles as a second lieutenant. The outbreak of the second world war led to Japanese forces invading Burma, and, in February 1942, Manekshaw saw action on the Sittang river. While involved in a counter-offensive, he was hit in the stomach by machine-gun fire. Recognising his courage, Major General David Tennent Cowan took off his own Military Cross ribbon and pinned it on the wounded officer's chest, saying: "A dead person cannot be awarded a Military Cross."

Nonetheless, Manekshaw returned to Burma once recovered, was wounded again, and ended the war in Indo-China, rehabilitating thousands of prisoners of war. Thereafter he rose through the military operations directorate at army headquarters, and was involved in planning for the partition and the consequent Indo-Pakistan war of 1947, with fighting in Jammu and Kashmir. By 1959 he was commandant of the Defence Services Staff College, and came into such conflict with the defence minister, VK Krishna Menon, that there was a risk that he would be sidelined by the disciplinary proceedings started against him.

However, in October 1962, the army was defeated in a battle with Chinese soldiers over a disputed area of the Himalayan border region of Arunachal Pradesh, and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian prime minister, sent Manekshaw to take command, now with the rank of lieutenant general. His absolute instruction that there would be no further withdrawals helped to restore morale pending moves towards a political settlement.

By the end of 1963, he was army commander in the west, and the following year attained the army's top operational role, as commander in the east. During the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, centred on Kashmir, Manekshaw advised against attacking East Pakistan, a factor that played to his advantage six years later.

In Delhi in 1996, he gave the inaugural Field Marshal KM Cariappa memorial lecture, in honour of the first Indian army chief after independence, another central figure in the modernisation of the armed forces. During the course of it, with the politicians of Delhi in mind, he observed: "There is a very thin line between being dismissed and becoming a field marshal." His rakish charm and razor-sharp wit could have landed him in trouble on several occasions, but no one ever doubted that he would uphold the oath that he had taken on being commissioned in the Chetwode Hall in Dehradun.

Manekshaw was married to Silloo Bode, whom he first met at a social gathering in Lahore in 1937. On occasion, she could outdo him for directness. At a much later function, when he was chief of staff, they encountered the defence minister who had aspired to best him - but who had resigned after the humiliation by China. "Darling, you remember Mr Menon?" the general inquired diplomatically. "No, I don't," she responded.

She died in 2001, and he is survived by his daughters Sherry and Maja.

Harold Jackson writes: I have cherished the memory of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw as my favourite military leader ever since reporting on the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. The military hazards in Kashmir and East Pakistan turned out to be child's play compared with my grim battles against Indian bureaucrats in New Delhi and their Bengali brothers in Dhaka: by the time I flew back to Delhi, they had almost reduced me to a gibbering wreck.

I arrived just in time to hear rumours that the Pakistan army had surrendered - unfortunately accompanied by one of Delhi's power cuts. The defence ministry phones were all engaged. In desperation, I rang the chief of staff's direct line.

"Manekshaw here."

"Harold Jackson of the Guardian. Nobody here seems sure if you've won the war or not."

"Oh yes, we've won all right. General Niazi signed the surrender at 4.31 this afternoon. Is that all? Anything else I can help you with? No. Well I'm afraid I'm rather busy just now. All the best." He was one of a kind.

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