My condolences to his family. Gen. Jacob's tribute in Pioneer, 3 May 2005.
The man who broke Pakistan
By General (Retd) JFR Jacob
In the run-up to the 1971 Indo-Pak war, one of Lt General JS Aurora's first missions was to organise the Mukti Bahini into a fighting force. The refugee problem from then East Pakistan had grown quite serious, and Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram was sent by Indira Gandhi to persuade the United Front Government to set up camps for a tide of human settlers in West Bengal.
The political leadership at the Centre was well aware that the crisis was going to hit a fever pitch very soon. But the State Government had its limitations; the problem was more in the nature of an external threat. We - that is, Lt General JS Aurora and I, (as the Chief of Staff in the Eastern Command) - were closely involved in administration and planning to deal with this threat.
The preparations went on for months. We worked, in conjunction with the Army Headquarters, towards ironing out the logistical difficulties. An entire infrastructure of roads, communication and bridges had to be built. The East Pakistan theatre presented peculiar problems because the Eastern Command of the Indian Army had been organised for mountain warfare.
With monsoon due to arrive, we trained our men in riverine engagement with the enemy and prepared the Mukti Bahini for guerrilla warfare. There were no Indian troops in Tripura. We had 30,000 tonnes of supplies transported to the State. It was all meticulously carried out.
Early on December 3, 1971, Pakistan launched air strikes on a number of Indian airfields. The Pakistani army also shelled Indian positions in the western sector. The Indian forces made rapid gains and by December 15, Dacca fell. I was ordered by General Sam Manekshaw to get a surrender on the morning of December 16. I arrived alone at Dacca but Niazi wasn't prepared to surrender. He only wanted a ceasefire and withdrawal under UN. Niazi took a great deal of persusaion to agree to a surrender. In fact, in his account, he accused me of blackmail.
The surrender was negotiated and signed in four hours. I drove to the airport with Niazi to pick up Aurora and others. A simple ceremony was arranged on the Race Course with the public of Dacca looking on.
The surrender was signed by both Niazi and Aurora. The people of Dacca were exuberant and wanted to lynch Niazi. We had trouble getting an Army car and driving him to safety. We then returned to Calcutta.
Niazi had 30,000 troops in Dacca. He could have fought for several days more with the UN in session. Incidentally, on December 13, there was an American resolution calling for India's withdrawal under UN, which was vetoed by Russia. On the 15th there was a Polish resolution when it was part of the Soviet block. Bhutto tore that resolution up because it did not condemn India as aggressor. On December 16, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi announced in Parliament that West Pakistan forces in Bangladesh had surrendered unconditionally in Dacca at 4.31 pm.
The credit for that famous victory goes not just to the commanders but equally to the officers and men who fought that war. Nearly 1,200 of our men were killed and 4,000 wounded. The latter are generally forgotten. It was their bravery that that led us to our great and decisive military triumph; not only did we liberate a country but also took 93,000 enemy soldiers as prisoners.
I knew General Aurora since 1951-52, when he was an instructor at Staff College, Dehradun. We were all young majors. He was physically tough and active. He was a good communicator, outgoing, and compassionate. He was also deeply religious. He had been in indifferent health for the last few years and had a pacemaker fitted sometime back.
I will remember him as a colleague, a comrade-in-arms and a thorough gentleman. I had the highest regard for him and his charming wife, Bhanti, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. They were a devoted couple.