New Delhi, July 15 : Former colleagues and senior Army officers who served under Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw today demanded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour, to be bestowed on the man who secured the biggest surrender post World War II.
In fact, till this date, no soldier has been given the nation's highest award though they have won four wars for India. Forty people have received the Bharat Ratna since it was first awarded in 1954.
Lieutenant General (retired) Deepinder Singh (retired), who served as Manekshaw's military assistant from 1969-73, and was the General Officer Commanding in Chief of the Army's Southern Command at the time of his retirement, said that after Emperor Chandragupta's victory over the Greek Governor Seleucus Nicator in 305 B.C., the 1971 victory against Pakistan under the leadership of Manekshaw was the most decisive one.
He urged Defence Minister A.K.Antony to use his good offices to honour Manekshaw with the Bharat Ratna.
"Unfortunately, there aren't many military leaders like him anymore. He would say leaders are made and not born," Lt. General Deepinder Singh said while speaking at the memorial ceremony organised in Manekshaw's honour at New Delhi today.
Antony was non-committal on conferring the Bharat Ratna on Manekshaw, said: " We know the sentiments around the Field Marshal and how everybody respects his achievements. We are proud of his achievements. Independent India honoured him with the rank of Field Marshal, which was bestowed on a General for the first time," he added.
The Defence Minister was responding to a query as to whether the Government would confer the country's highest civilian award on the Field Marshal, who passed away on June 27 at the age of 94.
The Defence Minister paid respectful homage to the Field Marshal, and described Manekshaw as India's greatest soldier of all time.
Antony said that a Field Marshal never retires and after 35 years, this government granted him full pay from the time he was given the rank and sent the then Defence Secretary with a cheque of Rs. 1.16 crores as pay and past arrears.
Antony said that Manekshaw is a legendary hero and became Chief of the Army Staff at a very crucial juncture. India was then receiving thousands of refugees from East Pakistan, and in the war with Pakistan that followed, the new nation of Bangladesh emerged.
Paying respect to Manekshaw's fearlessness, the Defence Minister said that the Field Marshal never bowed to the threat from the mightiest power of that time.
Antony further said that Manekshaw formulated a super strategy that is why India was able to defeat Pakistan in 1971 war.
Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor said that a leader of Manekshaw's calibre is rare to come about and India couldn't have hoped to have a better leader during the 1971 war.
"All soldiers live and die and their memories fade away, but this great son of the country will always live in the people's memory," General Kapoor added.
Manekshaw was the only living Field Marshal listed on the active list of army officers as number one and hence drew a full salary. He participated in action in the Second World War in 1947, the war with Pakistan in 1948, the war with China in 1962, and the Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971. Manekshaw received the Military Cross, the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan during his lifetime. By Praful Kumar Singh