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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

View from the other side - Col (r) Harish Puri


from: The News, Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dear Gen Kayani,

Sir, let me begin by recounting that old army quip that did the rounds in the immediate aftermath of World war II: To guarantee victory, an army should ideally have German generals, British officers, Indian soldiers, American equipment and Italian enemies.

A Pakistani soldier that I met in Iraq in 2004 lamented the fact that the Pakistani soldier in Kargil had been badly let down firstly by Nawaz Sharif and then by the Pakistani officers' cadre. Pakistani soldiers led by Indian officers, , he believed, would be the most fearsome combination possible. Pakistani officers, he went on to say, were more into real estate, defence housing colonies and the like.

As I look at two photographs of surrender that lie before me, I can't help recalling his words. The first is the celebrated event at Dhaka on Dec 16, 1971, which now adorns most Army messes in Delhi and Calcutta. The second, sir, is the video of a teenage girl being flogged by the Taliban in Swat -- not far, I am sure, from one of your Army check posts.

The surrender by any Army is always a sad and humiliating event. Gen Niazi surrendered in Dhaka to a professional army that had outnumbered and outfought him. No Pakistani has been able to get over that humiliation, and 16th December is remembered as a black day by the Pakistani Army and the Pakistani state. But battles are won and lost – armies know this, and having learnt their lessons, they move on.

But much more sadly, the video of the teenager being flogged represents an even more abject surrender by the Pakistani Army. The surrender in 1971, though humiliating, was not disgraceful. This time around, sir, what happened on your watch was something no Army commander should have to live through. The girl could have been your own daughter, or mine.

I have always maintained that the Pakistani Army, like its Indian counterpart, is a thoroughly professional outfit. It has fought valiantly in the three wars against India, and also accredited itself well in its UN missions abroad. It is, therefore, by no means a pushover. The instance of an Infantry unit, led by a lieutenant colonel, meekly laying down arms before 20-odd militants should have been an aberration. But this capitulation in Swat, that too so soon after your own visit to the area, is an assault on the sensibilities of any soldier. What did you tell your soldiers? What great inspirational speech did you make that made your troops back off without a murmur? Sir, I have fought insurgency in Kashmir as well as the North-East, but despite the occasional losses suffered (as is bound to be the case in counter-insurgency operations), such total surrender is unthinkable.

I have been a signaller, and it beats me how my counterparts in your Signal Corps could not locate or even jam a normal FM radio station broadcasting on a fixed frequency at fixed timings. Is there more than meets the eye?

I am told that it is difficult for your troops to "fight their own people." But you never had that problem in East Pakistan in 1971, where the atrocities committed by your own troops are well documented in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report. Or is it that the Bengalis were never considered "your own" people, influenced as they were by the Hindus across the border? Or is that your troops are terrified by the ruthless barbarians of the Taliban?

Sir, it is imperative that we recognise our enemy without any delay. I use the word "our" advisedly – for the Taliban threat is not far from India's borders. And the only force that can stop them from dragging Pakistan back into the Stone Age is the force that you command. In this historic moment, providence has placed a tremendous responsibility in your hands. Indeed, the fate of your nation, the future of humankind in the subcontinent rests with you. It doesn't matter if it is "my war" or "your war" – it is a war that has to be won. A desperate Swati citizen's desperate lament says it all – "Please drop an atom bomb on us and put us out of our misery!" Do not fail him, sir.

But in the gloom and the ignominy, the average Pakistani citizen has shown us that there is hope yet. The lawyers, the media, have all refused to buckle even under direct threats. It took the Taliban no less than 32 bullets to still the voice of a brave journalist. Yes, there is hope – but why don't we hear the same language from you? Look to these brave hearts, sir – and maybe we shall see the tide turn. Our prayers are with you, and the hapless people of Swat.

The New York Times predicts that Pakistan will collapse in six months. Do you want to go down in history as the man who allowed that to happen?

Col. (Retd.) H. B. Puri


The writer is a retired colonel of the Indian army who lives in Pune. Email:

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Blogger janaaaaab said...

Thanks a lot for posting it.

I think Col. Puri is making a mountain out of a molehill here when he talks about the flogging video. Why? because:

1. It is still not proven that the video is of swat. A lot of people, including me, still think that it is a rather old video from Afghanistan.

2.Even if it happened in Swat, it by no means, even remotely, suggest a failure on Pakistan Army's part. If the Army is to be blamed for every incident that happens in the country, then thousands of videos like would suggest a complete collapse of the Indian defense system.

I am not saying Pakistan doesn't have its share of problems, but I hope outsiders stop making it worse by false propaganda like this.

T Baweja

14 April, 2009 20:47

Blogger Zahid Lakhani said...

This post has been removed by the author.

15 April, 2009 09:24

Blogger Atif Khan said...

Very valid points by janaaaab. Its true that Mr. Puri should worry more about Assam, Tamil Nadu and suppression of minorities.

15 April, 2009 16:38

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure Mr. Puri should mind his own affairs. Meanwhile, lets savour the floggings, the beheadings, the sweet fruits of Sharia!
It is a bit weird Mr. Puri cares at all about Pakistan. I mean who else does ?
I say to you, Puri, back off. We can manage our ride into the Stone ages quite fine, thank you!

15 April, 2009 22:42

Anonymous A N Lodhi said...

The open letter to Gen. Kiyani does not sound appropriate at all. Is it not very easy to criticize others and praise one-self ? Not only that QABAR KA HAAL MURDA HI JANTA HEY

I believe what you see depends upon where you stand. The letter left a bad taste in my mouth anyway and I regretted reading it.

I wonder if the writer has any clue of the atrocities being committed by Indian army in Kashmir for decades. Khushwant Singh in his book MAUT MERI DEHLIZ PAR has written an article about fall of Dhaka and Gen. Niazi. According to the accounts he has mentioned in the book most atrocities committed by Pakistani soldiers in East Pakistan were actually done by Indian Army guys wearing Pakistani Military Uniform.

Historically Indian Army has never put up a good show professionally. Given the size and accessories at their disposal they have never been able to deliver except in East Pakistan because of collusion of Western interests.

Like Indian films the Indian Army has lot of gloss but no substance.

15 April, 2009 23:30

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@Zahid Lakhani — Removing it is your privilege, of course, but I wish the comment would have stayed and added to this interesting debate.

15 April, 2009 23:34

Anonymous shez said...

lets be pragmatic, the army was being murdered and embarrassed in swat. this was not due to lack of inspirational speeches im sure.

Im no expert in fighting insurgencies, but it sure seems like the iraq and afghanistan templates were a failure, too bad it took the army so long to realize it.

16 April, 2009 15:40

Anonymous Neeraj said...

I seem to sense that the essense of Col Puri's letter is being missed. Please note that he addresses the Taliban as a common enemy which needs to be checked asap. Wheather the video is of earlier vintage, is not the nub but what is being done to stem their ( Taliban) flow over the Pakistani nation and then Eastward on to India is the real threat.
Please view it in that light and avoid looking at it with a jaundiced eye as a something from the "other side" as the title ironically suggests.

21 April, 2009 03:47

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A majority of Indian authors including this Col (R) Harish Puri, are always keen to convey their loaded messages from across the border with laden sarcasm. The sole purpose of this piece of writing is to stimulate the liberal brigade within Pakistan, tarnish the image of the army and overturn Swat peace deal which would never happen Mr. Col…. Not before dismemberence of India at least where dozens of liberation movements and insurgencies are creating havoc. Just try n do something for your own country if u really want to save the region than tittle-tattle about some fantasy of degrading Pak Army or Pakistan.

22 April, 2009 12:38

Anonymous Harish Puri said...

I have great regard for Gen Kayani, he appears a balanced man - so maybe there is hope yet.. Let's pray that the tide turns soon.. A stable, viable and MODERATE Pakistan is definitely in India's best interests.. Shall follow your blog with keen interest..

Warm regards,

23 April, 2009 17:05

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@ harish puri

I see the negative response that your post is drawing :-) Well, I expected that ... but it's also good to see some agreement in some places. That's the way dialogues start … and now is the time for wider dialogues or this menace of misdirected religiosity will be the death of the region.

The tone of many of my acquaintances, during offline discussions about your letter in the news, seems to say that while it is ok for us to criticize ourselves, an outsider - and that, too, 'the enemy' - should not be allowed to do so, reminding me of an incident:

When I was at sea, in command of a merchant ship, the 2nd Engineer, an Indian, once approached me (albeit in a tipsy state - hence the 'warmth', I suspect) and offered me some 'friendly advice' after I had criticized our schooling system and its 'syllabus of hate' during a smoking-room conversation. "Please don't criticize your country in front of me and other Indians", he said, adding, "we dislike you guys anyway and you are only providing us with more ammo." When I told him that there was a growing and equally idiotic approach to distorting history on the Indian side, he rose to his country's defence and said, "Even if you substantiate this with evidence, as an 'ambassador' of my country wherever I am, I shall refute it even if I have to make up facts!!!" :D

Oh how I detest misplaced patriotism (yours or ours)! Samuel Johnson was right: Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.

23 April, 2009 17:20

Blogger Abdullah Shahid said...

I read this response letter by a Pakistani somewhere. Don't know if it is actually published in any newspaper. But its really interesting. 'taka k jawab diya hai'. Tit for tat. I suggest you read the Indian letter once again and then read this one. Notice the similarities of words and ideas.

Dear Mr. Puri,

Sir, let me begin by reminding you of the quip that made rounds all over Asia, right after the 1965 Indo-Pak war: To guarantee defeat, an army should ideally have Indian Generals, Indian Officers, Indian Soldiers, Israeli Equipment and Pakistani enemies.

An Indian Air Marshal that I personally met, told me that in the 1965 war, one Pakistani pilot, brought down 6 Indian AirForce Jets, in less than 60 seconds. Israeli Air Force pilots under Indian command, he said, would be the most hilarious combination possible. Indian Officers he argued, were more into Bollywood Actresses, Killing innocent people in Kashmir and getting their asses kicked in Mumbai by a bunch of amateurs.

As I look at the moments of numerous defeats that Indian Forces face every day in Kashmir, against a bunch of Mujahideen, with an ultra-equipped army of 700,000 troops, I can’t resist recalling his words. The second is the moment when the world witnessed in the war of 1965, the graveyard of 100, 200 no 600 Indian tanks not far from your border.

The surrender of any army is no doubt a sad and humiliating event. And to think of the signing of the Tashkent (ceasefire) agreement to end the 1965 war, after which your Prime Minister Shastri died of heart attack, entertains me with rolls of laughter. The fact that India was once again planning to attack Pakistan in 1986 (during the reign of Gen Zia-ul-Haq) under the wise leadership of Rajiv Gandhi; Rajiv Gandhi, the then PM of India, during his conference with the Indian Generals and top brass of India (to finalise the details of the attack) receives a call from Gen. Zia ul Haq where he reminds Rajiv Gandhi that he also has the copy of the file of plans lying on his (Rajiv Gandhi’s) table for discussion, and then Gen Zia flies all the way to Jaipur (and meets the Indian PM during a cricket match) to return that copy, as a courtesy to the Indian PM to remind him that we might’ve been sleeping, but we’re NOT Dead! – sometimes makes a cunning smile cross my face. That some wars are lost even before they’ve started, is not only shamefully mortifying, but a serious blow to the entire establishment; and is simply a lesson that is taught only once.

I always thought that the Indian Army was far superior to the Pakistan Army, in terms of their Artillery, Infantry, Fighter Fleet and weaponry systems (being provided to them exclusively by Israel), however, President Jiang Zheming reminded us recently in 2002, when India was once again planning to attack Pakistan – that he had never known soldiers more pusillanimous (meaning cowardly) than those that represented the Indian Army. He was of course referring to the fleeing incident of the 1962 Indo-China conflict, where Indian soldiers fled the battleground, and in their haste to “run away”, forgot their weapons, which China later returned to India (it is also said that Chinese army cleaned, polished and removed the rust of the arms being used by Indian Army before returning them). Such total surrender, disgrace, and fleeing the battleground, by men who call themselves “soldiers”, is astonishingly humiliating yet funny.

I have been an analyst, and it beats me how my counterparts in India have been unable to understand the Asamese Freedom fighters, the Kashmir Freedom Fighters, The Naxalites etc. etc. (the list may fill up a page), in over 60 years, and keep on blaming Pakistan for all their woes. Moreover, how the Hindu Extremist parties like the RSS have opened up training camps in densely populated urban areas, training Hindu extremists to burn people alive, and to bring down landmarks as significant as the Babri Masjid, without raising any eyebrows in the Government. Is there more than meets the eye?

We are told that it is tough for your army to counter “your own people”, like the extremists of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Pareshad and RSS. Whether it be burning of thousands of Muslims alive in Gujrat, or be it the genocide of Christian minorities in Orissa, your security forces simply stand and watch the mass murder of innocent unarmed people.

Mr. Puri, it is imperative that without any further delay, we recognize our enemy. I use the word “our” advisedly because the threat of BJP (which is fully backed by the types of Narindra Modi and parties like RSS, VP and BD) coming into power in the upcoming elections – and putting our borders under serious jeopardy, is quite imminent. Additionally, your army consists of several serving officers like Col. Purohit, who exhibit hostility and hatred towards Pakistanis by bombing innocent civilians in trains (Samjhauta Express). What is more, the BJP did not mind mass murdering people in Mumbai during November last year, simply to prove its point that the Congress Govt. was a major failure, and during the upcoming elections, BJP must win. And framing the “Pakistani terrorists” was the easiest part, because a similar hostile viewpoint is maintained by a vast majority of Hindu population in India.

You remind me of one Pakistani journalist being killed by the so called Taliban Pakistan? Well, ever heard of the Journalists who were “MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD” by Israelis, not by shooting them down with bullets, but by running tanks over them. God knows how many such journalists have been run-over, murdered by Indian Extremist parties in the name of nationalistic planned killings. But believe me, there still are some sane voices in India like Arundhati Roy and Amresh Misra, and it is about time you started thinking rationally and instead of suppressing their voices, gave them some room to express their thoughts, so that BJP does not hi-jack India once again.

Ok, anecdotes aside, on a serious note:

What would you say if we asked you what took the “Indian Commandos”, the Indian NSG and the Israeli Commandos, 60 long hours to control only 10 terrorists who had hijacked Mumbai in less than 60 minutes? You were trying to save as many hostages you say eh? To avoid casualties to the max, isn’t it? Why didn’t the Indian Govt. simply drop bombs over the Taj & Oberoi hotels, (and let’s not forget the Nariman house, where your Israeli friends were busy cooking broth for Pakistan). And you shamelessly suggest we wipe off a complete region just because its got a few black sheep? Ok, it seems to us, Mr. Puri, that either you are not and have never been a part of the Indian Army, or they retired you early due to your childish, infact amusing approach towards solving problems. As to why we decided to stop the operation against these Terrorists of Swat is something beyond your comprehension, and it would be highly recommended for you to stop giving advise to people with more than twice as much experience as you might have. Haven’t you heard the phrase “it is better to remain quiet and let people think you’re a fool instead of speaking up and confirming it”.

As far as the flogging of the girl in Swat is concerned, to which you have attributed your whole letter to our General (COAS), its a fake story. Even if it were true, it is mere punishment. What do you call the burning alive of human beings? This is a far worse threat and insult to humanity than any one could imagine in the 21st century!

Not only the NYT, but the Pentagon, Tel Aviv and Delhi have also expressed their opinion of Pakistan’s collapse in next six months. It doesn’t worry us much, because the sooner we learn about our enemies, the better. Nonetheless, it also clearly tells us about the forces at work in Pakistan trying to tear it apart. But we assure you, that even if we DO break (GOD Forbid), we’ll only break into 4. Think of what will happen if BJP takes over India and starts openly suppressing all the minorities in your population of over 1 billion people. India will break into countless pieces, just like the USSR.

A nice stunt you’ve pulled there, and I completely appreciate it. I hope that you shall equally enjoy our response to your “well-versed” letter. Keep the comedy coming, this is good for the future of both Pakistan and Bharat friendship.


Chokore Paratha

25 April, 2009 23:25

Anonymous Anonymous said...

well friends in Pakistan, sometimes your enemy can teach you more than your so-called friends!! Your fate rests in your hands. What you do rests with you as well. Dont say that you guys werent warned.

26 April, 2009 11:33

Anonymous Neel, India said...

@Zakintosh, Well said. Wish more people would understand this .
Harish Puri's letter is bound to offend pakistanis given the language used, and tit for tat letters as the one above are inevitable. However the point is that the most powerful man in such a situation should act for the common good, or the entire region can collapse due to the struggle for power. This is what has happened in many african states.

26 April, 2009 12:07

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I am tempted to compile a list of all those who have posted angry reactions to Col. (Retd.) Puri's letter here and ask them to defend their comments, if God forbid, the Taliban actually do take Islamabad.

However, I do realise the futility of it and certainly would not want something so ghastly to happen now or ever.

The unfortunate reality is that misplaced patriotism exists on both sides and, it appears to me, the majority of the populations of both countries suffer from this malaise.

Among the factual inaccuracies that some of the zealots have posted here, as far as I know:

1. The Pakistani air-force acquitted itself honourably against the Indian air-force during the 1965 war, but the Pakistani army didn't do quite as well. I would like to call particular attention to the battles that the Pakistani army's cavalry (armour) was involved in during that war.

I would suggest that any one who wishes to find out more should try and locate some senior ex-officers of the Pakistani army who fought in that war and ask them about what kind of action took place in the fields of Punjab. It should be interesting to ask them whether the names 'Ichhogil Canal', 'Lt. Gen. Harbaksh Singh' and 'Maj. Gen. Gurbaksh Singh' (I knew him as a close friend of my maternal grandfather. I believe it was his idea to hide Indian tanks behind standing crops of sugarcane and take the Pakistani armour by surprise and to flood some of the fields with water, in order to get the Pakistani tanks stuck in the mud.) mean anything to them.

Some interesting reading material is to be found at .

2. During any instances of communal rioting that have occurred in India, post-independence, and in which the Indian army has been called out, there has been no violence following the army being called into action.

It is a different story, however, that the army has often been called out after the murderers have done their deed, as desired by their political masters.

Fortunately or otherwise, the Indian army does not act unilaterally, without being asked to do so by the civilian administration.

3. To contain the goons of the RSS, Bajrang Dal and other such fundamentalist outfits is not under the jurisdiction of the Indian army, unless violence takes place AND the army is called out to contain it by the civilian administration.

4. No Israeli commandos took part in any of the anti-terrorist-operations during the recent Mumbai attacks.

5. It took 60 hours to complete the operation because Lt. Gen. N. Thamburaj, GOC-in-C, Southern Command of the Indian army, ordered his troops to try and neutralise the terrorists with minimal or no casualty at all among his own men, after the civilian hostages had either been evacuated or were dead.

One of the stated objectives also was to try and take the terrorists alive, if possible, by wearing them out.

BTW, the real enemy, as Col. (Retd.) Puri's letter also states, is the Taliban and it is for the Pakistani armed forces to defeat it.

If the Pakistan's government and its armed forces had acted in time to halt the advance of the Taliban, would any one at all have had the chance to offer advice (welcome or otherwise) on the subject?

In my opinion, it is high-time that India and Pakistan stop being hostile to each other. It has been nearly one and a half generations since independence.

04 May, 2009 05:21

Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...


To find out more about how ably the 'amateurs' who attacked Mumbai were guided by their mentors, who were definitely not amateurs, please see:

04 May, 2009 05:34

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gosh, you Pakistanis must have the best washed brains in the world! I

09 May, 2009 22:13

Anonymous sandhu said...

Which washing powder do Pakistani dictators use for brainwashing the already brainwashed Pakistanis??

He :) HA AHA :)

Many of thenm still probably believe that they won the 71 war.

Some probably believe that the Taliban will fight for them against India.

A huge lot are probably convinced that if they blow themselves as suicide bombers they will achieve jannat !!

I just pity them....

20 February, 2010 13:28

Anonymous vijay kumar said...

I will just bring to light some facts of Pakistan histroy which we should keep in mind, while dealing with a state which has gone rogue and is capable of total lies to fool its citizens. Such facts history, which make my life merry ! !

a) Imagine Gen Yahoo/yahya Khan who is drunk in december 71. You just have to picture the rotund, actor Ajit like general who believes that they have won the war and Gen Niazi is about sign a document of accession of New Delhi with Gen J S Arora !

The scene takes place in the Martial Law Dictator’s house, where a drunk gen is talking to his aides.

Drunk Gen Yahoo Khan : Dilli ki gaddi kab milegi mujhe….”I want to address India from Red Fort….”

Gen Tatka Khan : ” Hum jeet gaye hai… ”

Aide, (who is under instructions from Nixon to let the Gen know the truth,): Sahab bahadur…. Muslims of India and of East Pakistan have sided with India…. we have lost….”

All in the room shiver as Gan Yahoo Khan growls like Gabbar.

Gen Yahoo : Nahi ham jeet gaye hain… ahem… ab saara India hamare neeche hai….”

Foreign secretary(shivering) : 93000 troops have been captured… we have lost….”

Gen Yahoo gulps and shouts: "Nahi.. nahi nahi…. ”

At this point we should imagine a 71 piece Laxmikant Pyarelal opera breaking into dramatic music.

And then visualise a drunk General running amok, breaking glasses and lights.

This is one funny scene from Pakistan history ! !!

20 February, 2010 13:47


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