Eventually India intervened and defeated the Pakistan forces. The result was the creation of the new state of Bangladesh. But what is less well know is the role played by one of India’s most celebrated military brass.
Lt Gen (Retd) JFR Jacob had taken part in the Independence War of Bangladesh in 1971. Belatedly the Sheikh Hasina government has decided to honour Jacob by requesting him to witness the Independence and National Day programmes to be held at National Parade Square on March 26 in Dhaka, staying here from March 24 to 27.
Lt Gen Jacob was the Chief of Staff, Eastern Command, during the 1971 war and took many operational decisions at his own risk, despite differences with seniors. He was the mastermind of implementing the surrender programme by Pakistani military to the joint forces of Bangladesh’s Liberation War at Race Course Maidan now at Suhrawardi Udyan in Dhaka. “I feel honoured to learn that Bangladesh is recognising the contribution of those involved in its liberation,” he told The Indian Express in response to his invite. Lt. General Jacob is the author of the book Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation.
Now Lt Gen (Retd) JFR Jacob (pictured) has rendered yeoman service to his homeland. Born in Kolkotta in 1923, he graduated as an officer in 1942 and saw active service with the British in North Africa during the Second World War, and was later sent to Burma and Sumatra. He became a brigadier in independent India’s army in 1963. Following his distinguished military career Jacob joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, as the party’s security adviser and was eventually appointed the governorship of Goa and later the state of Punjab.
But few know that this staunchly patriotic Indian and liberator of Bangladesh is in fact Jewish. His family were Iraqi Jews who had settled in India in the eighteenth century. Jacob’s own father was against his enlisting into the then British Indian Army. However, Jacob was motivated by reports of Jews being exterminated in Europe.
It is perhaps fitting that a man of this calibre was instrumental in halting the genocide of Bengalis by the Pakistan Army in 1971 and liberating that oppressed nation from yet another form of uncompromising evil. No surprise then that Jacob has been active in supporting close and friendly ties between Israel and India, especially military cooperation. When asked about his country’s future he says:
“As a country, we are at the threshold of an economic explosion and, hence, at this moment, empowerment means most to those who hold the key to the future. I talk of the younger generation. Sound economic and strategic planning will bring about this change. Unfortunately, since our prosperity comes in bursts, good governance, in the form of dedicated politicians and bureaucrats, is essential to usher any changes.”
It is an example which a new generation of Indians can certainly learn by.