Lt.Gen. ‘Jake’ Jacob, the general who reduced a Pakistan general to tears and surrender of half of their country

By I.Ramamohan Rao

New Delhi, Jan.14, (ANI) In the passing of Lt.Gen.(Retired) J F R Jacob, India has lost one of the main architects of its victory in the India-Pakistan War of 1971.

While the then Chief of Army Staff, General {later Field Marshal} Sam Manekshaw was able to convince then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi not to intervene in East Pakistan soon after the Pakistan Army had launched an offensive in the region in March 1971, one of the persons who advised him to do so was Major General J.F.R. Jacob, then Chief of Staff of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command.

The reason was that the Eastern Command was mainly deployed and equipped to guard the India-China border and moving troops towards East Pakistan would have left the border with China exposed.

As disclosed in his book ‘An Odessy in War and Peace’ Lt. Gen. Jacob had prepared a draft outline plan in May 1971 if a war were to be fought with Pakistan. The main objective of the war was to capture Dacca (now Dhaka) ‘the geo-strategic heart of East Pakistan’ by bypassing fortified positions in East Pakistan and selecting subsidiary objectives which would force the Pakistan Army to leave Dacca and other key areas lightly defended.

As the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army’s Eastern Command, then Major General Jacob liaised with the Indian Air Force and the Navy, and planned the construction of bridges across the rivers in East Pakistan to bypass the main road routes. He also organised support for the Mukti Bahini which was raised after the arrest of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He was also in touch with the Directorate of Military Operations in Delhi, keeping them abreast of his plans and the support that was needed by the Eastern Command.

Much has been made of the differences in the plans conceived by Chief of Army Staff, General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw and (then) Major General Jacob about the objectives that the Indian Army had to achieve. It has been argued that General Manekshaw did not want the capture of Dacca as one of his objectives and wanted to concentrate on the capture of the ports of East Pakistan. But the fact is that General Manekshaw had faith in his team and lauded their efforts.

When the war broke out on December 3, troops of the Eastern Command were able to bypass towns and cross rivers while heading towards Dacca. The paradropping of troops at Tangail on December 11 and their march towards Dacca demoralised the Pakistan Army which was already under attack from the Mukti Bahini and a hostile population.

Pressure was mounting on India to get the Pakistan Army to surrender, even as resolutions were brought up in the United Nations Security Council, but vetoed by the then Soviet Union. There were also reports of the United States moving its aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise with accompanying assault ships and destroyers.

In that tense situation, General Manekshaw broadcast a message to Pakistani troops to surrender and assured them safety as prisoners of war. India also airdropped surrender documents.

Lt.Gen. Jacob wrote, “I was being blamed for the strategy and plan to bypass the towns and go for Dacca. I was told by (Lt. Gen.) Aurora that ‘my head would be on the chopping block’. I got through to (Lt. Gen.) Niazi on the wireless on the night of 13th December and offered generous terms if he surrendered; that we would ensure protection of ethnic minorities and that the forces who surrenedred would be treated with dignity due to soldiers as required by the Geneva Convention. I also spoke to him on 14, 15 and on the morning of 16th December.”

Gen. Manekshaw asked Major General Jacob to go to Dacca and obtain the surrender of Lt. Gen. A A K Niazi and the Pakistani troops. Major General Jacob landed in Dacca, interacted with Lt. Gen.Niazi and got his agreement to surrender on December 16.

Lt.Gen. Jacob wrote, “Niazi, with tears rolling down his cheeks, said: Who said I am surrendering? You have only come to discuss a ceasefire and withdrawal as proposed by me.”

Lt.Gen.Niazi was initially prepared for a cease-fire, but the it was the battle of wills that secured the surrender of Lt.Gen. Niazi and 93,000 Pakistani troops to the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini at the Race Course in Dacca on December 16.

“Niazi removed his epaulette, took out his revolver and handed it to Aurora (Lt.Gen. Aurora); tears rolled down his cheeks.” Jacob recalled.

After the war, Lt. Gen. Jacob was moved to the western sector to raise the XVI Corps, and in 1974, was posted as the GOC-in-C of Eastern Command.

On retiring from the army, Lt.Gen.Jacob served as the Governor of Goa and Punjab

Lt.Gen. Jacob warmly recalled that in March 2008 the Bangladesh Army invited ten officers and their wives from India. He led the delegation. A red carpet welcome was given to the Indian delegation during their 10-day visit.

In his passing, India has lost a brilliant officer who led a team that won the “war of the century”.

[The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. I. Ramamohan Rao, former Principal Information Officer, Government of India. He can be reached on his] (ANI)

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