The end of the little war brought up another phenomenon character assassination.
As for operational preparedness, he leaned on three or four British advisers. Russell Pasha, an outstanding divisional commander of World War II, was the chief adviser and bore a grudge that he could offer advice only when asked, which was seldom. Wilkinson, an Armoured Corps officer, was director of Military Training. He was a pliable staff officer with hardly any war experience in command. Lentaigne, a forward-looking officer, was Commandant of the Staff College but was content with mass-scale production of quill drivers in minor staff duties. Macdonald, in charge of the Infantry School, was according to unanimous student opinion, “clueless”.
Between the four of them, they strove to train and prepare the Indian Army for the future, as if for another world war. It was not exactly their fault. The fault lay in not having been able to discern and enunciate the future tasks of the Indian Army. The politician as well as the soldier walked in a fog without set national goals, and as a result the Indian Army remained wedded to the past. Emphasis shifted from matters military to infructuous spit and polish and, as some other rank aptly remarked, to “badges, buttons and bands”.
It was a joke prevalent among officers those days that even if you were a donkey asleep underneath a blanket, when your turn came your ears would be pulled and you would be given an extra pip.
Muchu Chaudhuri was considered one of the most polished and educated general officers of his time and was later to have a great influence in shaping the military concepts of the Army. He was Director of Military Operations for a brief while and had a hand in planning the police action in Hyderabad State, code-named ‘Operation Polo’. He was later called upon to command the Armoured Division and execute the plan. He remarked sometime after: “If the plan had failed I had no one to blame as I made the plan my- self.” Erstwhile Hyderabad State, domain of the legendary Nizam, covered a huge area in the Deccan Plateau of South India. It was landlocked with four main routes of ingress from the surrounding Indian territory. The Nizam had a military force of about one infantry brigade group and one horse cavalry regiment under the command of Gen El-Edroos, an Arab who had risen from the ranks of the ruler’s bodyguard.
He had spent his years in his master’s court looking handsome in colourful regalia and knew little about the business of war. A hurried effort was made to arm the force with modern weapons flown in by gun-runner Sydney Cotton from Pakistan, but only a trickle could reach the fighting units. A militant political organisation, led by a fiery rabble rouser, Qasim Rizvi, tried to raise a “people’s army” of Razakars to resist Indian “aggression” but was no match for our troops.
Chaudhuri had his armoured division and an additional force of about two or three brigade groups raised on an ad hoc basis from the Communication Zone Area troops. Most of the Indian Army was occupied in Jammu and Kashmir at the time. His plan was simple. He distributed his force almost mathematically along the routes of ingress, keeping the main axis of the Sholapur-Naldrug-Hyderabad road for his armour, and ordered a simultaneous advance towards Hyderabad, the seat of the Nizam Government. Despite the inflammatory speeches from the state radio urging the people to resist the Indian “invaders”, resistance collapsed after cursory border skirmishes and within three days the triumphant Chaudhuri marched along the streets of Hyderabad as a victor and was appointed Military Governor soon thereafter. Elements loyal to the Nizam felt badly let down by El-Edroos and dubbed him an Indian stooge who had sold out before the battle started.
Chaudhuri emerged as a national figure almost overnight. Personal power and the overwhelming adulation of the old Nizam’s court turned his head and he started imagining himself the Guderian of the East. For the rest of his service career be assumed and maintained the role of an expert on armour and a military strategist. He set his goals high and worked his way up through a series of key appointments, where he had the opportunity to influence Indian military thinking a great deal. He was no doubt a gifted man, but was very conceited, dabbled freely in influence peddling and ensured that his opinion prevailed. His pet ideas in operational planning of simultaneous multipronged thrusts along several routes of ingress into enemy territory was subsequently applied in annexing Goa and in the war with Pakistan in 1965.
When questioned about the disparity of pay between KCIOs and ICOs, Cariappa replied: “After all, KCIOs are only a handful. Why do you grudge their privileges?”
In Jammu and Kashmir, when the military commanders thought they had the upper hand and could bring operations to a fruitful conclusion, Nehru went to the UN to seek a ceasefire, which was effected at midnight 31 December 1948. India’s national policy was clear: at home it wished to devote all its energies to develop the country economically so as to lift its people from a dismally low subsistence level to prosperity, and for this Nehru, following the Russian pattern, emphasised rapid industrialisation. Abroad, he projected India as an honest broker between the two hostile camps and became an ardent protagonist of non-alignment. He wished to live with neighbours in ideological friendship on the basis of the Panch Sheel and the Bandung spirit.
In this strategy to attain national objectives, military power did not fit in as an equal partner of political, economic and psychological means. But for the irritant of Pakistan’s geopolitics, he felt he could dispense with the expensive military establishment altogether. In this regard, he was content with maintaining a marginal edge over Pakistan in numerical military strength, and that too very grudgingly. He firmly believed in seeking political solutions without direct or indirect application of military power.
This attitude was evidenced by successive nondescript changes in the Ministry of Defence and the meagre allocation of resources for defence in the national budget. It is a poor commentary on the type of military advice available at the time that military power was not given its rightful place in national strategy. The pliable defence chiefs, who toed the line, were equally to blame for the criminal neglect of defence needs in the subsequent decade.