From Major Amin. A look at some factors that made the EIC so successful militarily. As usual, the Royal Navy gets a lot of credit.
Native troops played a significant role in the East India Company’s conquest of India. Certain aspects however made the military potential and effectiveness of East India Company’s troops stand out from their other opponents in India. The East India Company employed European officers trained in the European way of war to drill train and command native Indian troops.In addition in almost every battle native troops were grouped around a relatively much smaller nucleus of European troops. Another factor which played an important part in the East India Company’s conquest of India was naval power.Naval power gave flexibility to the operations of the East India Company. This meant that troops from Bengal Army could be swiftly transported from Bengal Presidency to the Madras presidency,thereby reinforcing the Madras troops in case of any serious military reverse. This happened many times during the Mysore Wars. Naval power also played an important role in logistically supporting the operations of land based armies. Three widely separated bases of the English East India Company which were interconnected with each other by sea meant that loss of any one of these could not defeat the company,since troops from one presidency could be switched to another quickly via the sea route. No single Indian power had common borders with all the three presidency and this meant that no single Indian power could destroy the English East India Company. The only way that this could be done was by an alliance of native powers and this was made extremely difficult since no two native powers could agree on anything for a long time. Above all the center of gravity of the English East India Company was naval power and no native power possessed naval potential to challenge British naval mastery. For sometime the French were in a position to do so,but the only opportunity to do so was lost during the Second Mysore War at Cuddalore when all the French squadron under Admiral D’ Orves had to do was to remain in position off the coast of Cuddaiore while the English East India Company’s main army under Sir Eyre Coote facing Hyder Ali of Mysore could have been starved into surrender. (1) Due to some inexplicable reason D ‘ Orves simply sailed away and the French lost their last decisive opportunity to defeat the English East India Company.Continue reading “Why Did the EIC Win in India”
This is a longish piece written by Major Amin. As readers of brownpundits are well aware, major Amin is a military historian (and a very good one) who also has strong (and mostly “not academic”) opinions about history in general. These are his thoughts on the Indian Mutiny (aka “War of independence”). Even those who disagree with particular opinions may find some insights worth reading.. in any case, it will generate interesting comments 🙂
The late Major General Tajammal Hussain Malik had an illustrious military careere (and a very controversial retirement career). In 1965 his unit played an important role in the defense of Lahore (a battle that the Indian army could have won if led by someone like Sagat Singh, but luckily for Pakistan, their GOC was Niranjan Prasad and Lahore was saved) and in 1971 his brigade was the only major force that the Indian army could not break in its lightning campaign in East Pakistan. Gen Tajammal was also a true believer who dreamed of the standard “Pak army true believer” stuff (abolish provinces, impose shariah law, unite the ummah), but with the interesting twist that he hated the crook Zia ul Haq and actually planned to assasinate him on 23rd March 1980 (his second coup plan, more serious than his first, which had been little more than a vague thought that arose when he was denied a well-deserved promotion). By the way, when Islamophobes think of Pakistan they tend to imagine that the median army officer is as fanatical as Gen Tajammal (though they obviously assign a more negative valence to that fanaticism than Islamophiles do), but as the following interview makes clear, his level of belief is not exactly common in the senior ranks of the army.
Anyway, here is an interview that Major Amin conducted with Gen Tajammal in 2001 (a couple of years before Gen Tajammal passed away). I am posting it here both as an important historical document and as a window into the mind of someone who was NOT the median Pakistani army officer, but is probably representative of what we may call the “PMA ideal”: an officer who combined professional competence with a Nasim Hijazi level view of history, a PMA-level view of Pakistani politics and a naive but intensely sincere faith in what can only be described as the Chakwal version of Islam. Comments welcome. (I put Major Amin’s words in red, the rest is Gen Tajammal speaking)
Postscript: I have added the full text of an article Abdul Majeed Abid wrote about General Tajammal in the Pakistani newspaper “The Nation” at the end of this interview.. it add more detail to the picture of Gen Tajammal.
Major General Tajammul Hussain Malik
Agha H Amins Note:—
This is the man who was praised by Indians and they established a commission to study his masterpiece Battle of Hilli .He was praised by his Indian battle opponent in his book “Indian Sword penetrates East Pakistan” as a singularly brave man .
He was miles above pygmies like Zia , Ayub and Musharraf. When we joined the army, we were inspired by his battalion 3rd Baloch’s attempted coup of 23 March 1980 to wipe out despicable clown Zia and his dirty clique !
We had to wait till glorious 17th August 1988 when that plane finally crashed right into the Hindu Shamshan Ghat on Basti Lal Kamal !
One good thing that General Beg did immediately after that glorious crash in 1988 was to restore Tajammuls complete military honours and privileges. Tajammul was serving a sentence of 14 years RI for planning to liquidate all army generals and Zia on 23 March 1980, a brilliant scheme indeed !
Tajammul has thrown light on Zias shallow personality in this interview !
The following is a set of pictures from Major Amin (a well known military history specialist in Pakistan) that give the flavor of the 200 year run of loot, plunder and internecine warfare that characterized the Ghaznavid dynasty (including alliances with Indian rulers and officials who were willing to work with them). These are just headlines, interested readers will have to look up more detail in other articles and books (or in wikipedia, which is always helpful). There is a volume 1 that I will post when i get some more time.
By the way, this topic reminded me of a little episode from our school days. We had a Christian history teacher (a Mr Lawrence) who had written a kind of guidebook that all of the students used to study 8th grade history. In the chapter on Mahmood Ghaznavi, he had listed the reasons for his attacks on India. The list included items like spreading Islam and putting down miscreants and point number X was “loot and plunder”. Our Islamic studies teacher found out and started a campaign against Mr Lawrence for bringing Islamic heroes into disrepute. This led to the inevitable excision of this chapter from the book, but students had copies that had already been printed; they had to have the offending passages either torn out or crossed out. So it goes..
In October 1958, Ayub appointed General Mohammed Musa (who rose from the ranks) as the next C-in-C with Lt-Gen Muhammed Habibullah Khan as his Chief of Staff. In doing so, Ayub overlooked Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan, an officer technically and professionally more qualified than Gen Musa. It was an appointment that clearly sent a wave of resentment throughout the senior ranks in the GHQ.”I vividly remember my father who was a Lt-Col serving in GHQ at that time being acutely distressed at Ayub’s preference of Gen Musa over Ali’s (later Lt-Gen Ali Kuli Khan) father, Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan Khattak to command the Army. Till his death my father, who had a strong belief in merit over nepotism, maintained that was the precise moment from where necessity and nepotism started to matter far more than merit in the primary selections of the Armed Forces. Not to say that from time to time people with merit would not slip through.” (Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal Defence Journal, December 2001, p.7).
In words of late Aslam Khattak, elder brother of late Lt-Gen Habibullah and a respected name and a political heavyweight of Pakistan, Ayub rang up Lt-Gen Habibullah Khan (CoS) and said: “Biboo (General Habibullah’s nickname in the family), I am fed up with Musa (the then C-in-C) and want to get rid of the stupid chap. You please rush to Rawalpindi immediately to take over command. A formal notification will be delivered to you at the GHQ tomorrow morning.” The next day he did receive the letter but only to be told that he stood relieved with immediate effect. (Murtaza Malik The Curtain Rises: Uncovered Conspiracies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Royal Book Company, 2002, p.16).
After a few months, Gen Musa asked Ayub to relieve Habibullah from the army. One of the charges put up by Gen Musa against his CoS, Lt-Gen Habibullah, was that while in London on a trip, he had misbehaved with the maid of his host. Lt-Gen Altaf Qadir had the retirement order for Gen Habibullah with him. The order had to be served at the general’s home. He didn’t have the courage to deliver the letter. Gen Habibullah was capable of shooting the messenger. He asked Maj-Gen (later Lt-Gen) Abrar Hussein, the then military secretary to the GHQ to deliver the news. It would have been embarrassing for a junior officer to deliver the bad news to his senior. In spite of Maj-Gen Abrar’s protestations, he was forced to become the reluctant messenger. When Maj-Gen Abrar Hussein went to the residence of Lt-Gen Habibullah and handed the letter to him, the latter said: “So here it is.” It seemed Gen Habibullah knew what was coming. (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (younger brother of late Lt-Gen Abrar Hussein) on Aug5, 2002, in Rawalpindi). Gen Habibullah was then 46.
In a memo of the US State Department from the US Embassy, quotes its informant in Pakistan, saying that Musa (as C-in-C) neither controlled nor enjoyed any respect in the military (The American Papers 1965-1973 compiled by Roedad Khan OUP p. 120 Dispatch of 18 January, 1966, 12.05am). “Musa’s appointment to the top military job over the head of senior and perhaps better generals was Ayub’s idea of a strong army under a weak command ultimately responsible to him. He (Musa) was often scornfully (though uncharitably) referred to as the ‘mess waiter’.” (Brig A.R. Siddiqi The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality, Vanguard Books Pvt Ltd, 1996, p. 55). “Musa ran the Army. The most important of Musa’s traits was one of loyalty — straight and simple. If Ayub had mentioned 10,000 yards of front, then the front had to be 10,000 yards, and so on. The framework of defence became more and more mathematical. The importance of imponderables of war was not catered for.” (M. Attiqur Rehman Back to the Pavilion, Ardeshir Cowasjee, Karachi, 1990 p. 133-134). Musa, though described as honourable and honest, “is hardly the stuff of which great generalship is made.” (Brian Cloughley A History of Pakistan Army, Wars and Insurrections, OUP, 2002, p.127).
MUSA’S VERSION: On Dec 30, 1985, when Ziaul Haq lifted martial law, General Musa was appointed Gov Balochistan. Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein (Golf buddy of Musa) visited Quetta during Musa’s governorship. Musa invited Brig Noor for a dinner. It turned out to be a dinner for two. On a full stomach, Brig Hussein asked Musa: “Sir, you were sixth in line. How did you become the C-in-C?”
Musa: “I will tell you the whole story and I have never told it to anyone before. I was a major posted at Quetta in August 1947 when I was transferred as Assistant Adjutant and Quarter Master General, (AA&QMG) Headquarters, 8th Division, Malir, Karachi. The train reached Rohri station at 2 O’ clock. Suddenly, I heard the Station Master shouting on the platform: ‘Maj Musa, telegram for you’. I waved at him from out of the window, and got hold of the telegram. According to the message, my previous Karachi assignment had been cancelled and I was promoted to the rank of Lt-Col and posted as General Staff Officer First Grade (G1) at Lahore 10 Division. I immediately shifted my baggage to the Lahore-bound train. I was to work under an English GOC, Gen Briggs, who said: “I know you lost your appointment at Karachi, but I am sure you will find this one as exciting.” Lo and behold, first day, the first pending file on my table, I open and the title reads: Court of enquiry in respect of temporary Brigadier, Substantive Colonel M. Ayub Khan, Punjab Regiment.
Musa chuckled: “The way I handled that file, the day I became the C-in-C.”
Brig Noor’s words were: “Ayub was accused of accepting cash and jewellery from fleeing Hindus during the days he was in the Boundary Force that lasted for five months in the later half of 1947. The charges were serious enough to warrant a court of enquiry against Ayub.” (Interview with Brig Noor Ahmed Hussein)
Original article by Gen Asad Durrani. Comments in red by Dr Hamid Hussain. Additional comments in blue by Major Amin.
LG Asad Durrani views and my two cents in red.
The Same Page Saga
Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani
The Chief of Army Staff in Pakistan is not just another head of service, nor is he, strictly speaking, a “chief of staff”; the designation that the late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto believed would deny the man on the horseback the clout to take over the Country. His assumption went ruefully wrong when Zia-ul-Haq, his handpicked COAS, not only putsched but also hanged him. In ‘Pakistan Adrift’, an account of my journey through the corridors of power, I have tried to assess the military’s role in the Country’s polity and an army chief’s special status in the power matrix – in which he often played the ultimate arbiter. For people like me therefore the commotion over the present incumbent’s service extension in the last week of November came as no surprise. The following chronicle however is not about any technicalities of the issue at hand, but about the algorithm of this game of thrones. Continue reading “The “Same Page” saga..”
This is an interesting book and what the author wants to say is something I have always believed and said. However it is essential to examine in detail what Mr Aqil Shah has to say and offer some humble analysis . On page- ix , would like to offer some comments on Mr Ahmad Mukhtar :–
Mr Mukhtar has been an industrialist who belongs to a town close to the military garrison town known as Kharian cantonment.He has always maintained good relations with the army like any good business man and ,frankly like most politicians in this world has no substance. Just like most generals worldwide are men without substance !
Firstly I do not agree with Aqil Shahs argument about Mr Jinnah on page-3 , nor with Aqil Shahs view that military coups and adventurism were not inevitable in Pakistan:–
We hold the view that Mr Jinnah the so called founder of Pakistan apart from British Raj , had inflicted the unkindest cut on Indian Muslims of Bengal and Punjab in 1916 and thereby by doing this had destabilized future politics of Indian Muslims for all times to come,Pakistan being the worst affected.
Film review from Major Aghan Humayun Amin. (Spoilers ahead)
Last night I watched a movie named “ Drone” with immense interest.
Drones have been a major part of my research since 2006 when I personally and closely saw some drone strikes while serving as a consultant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. My main client were Canadians and to be specific SNC Lavalin , at that time Canada’s largest consulting company and worlds fifth largest. The movies director is a Canadian citizen which multiplied my interest as Canada sometimes moves opposite United States and has been doing so with varied levels since loyalists fled to Canada after the rebellion of the American Colonies.
The first issue with this movie which could be very hard hitting and a block buster is that it misses the small details , which is a case of lack of common sense and sweeping judgements which were entirely avoidable.
The first image failure occurred when while claiming to depict Pakistans wild west Waziristan region the area filmed and shown was Pakistans biggest city Karachi. To deliver the most unkindest cut of all as Shakespeare would have described it , the first shot titled Waziristan shows sky scraper buildings in Karachi rather than mud houses and totally opposite images for which Waziristan is famous and known. Continue reading “Film Review: Drone”
Review from Major Agha Humayun Amin. I am sure some of Major Amin’s observations will invite comment 🙂
I was very keen to watch this movie and watching it was a big disappointment.
While the movie is low budget , budget by no means could have reduced it from reaching the stature of greatness if the man who made the movie was more intellectually dishonest !
The entire historic context of this movie is drastically flawed and fallacious. The movie conveys a German military in Afghanistan that committed serious war crimes , whereas my personal observations having constructed five clinics in Kunduz in 2004-5 and having been involved in CASA 1000 survey passing through Kunduz province where German military was deployed , leads me to the irrevocable and unflinching conclusion that the German military in Kunduz was the most humane military outfit in entire NATO or non NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan.
Now this was entirely avoidable had the author carefully studied the history of German military record in Afghanistan.
As one who lived in Kabul and travelled extensively I found that Afghans loved no foreign country more dearly than Germany who they lovingly referred to as ”ALMAAN” and Turkey.
The reason was simple ! Both these states simply refused to enter areas where the public was hostile to NATO presence. While it is another issue that the German governments reasons for not doing so were based on pure and simple lack of moral courage or strategic resolution , in not annoying the large Muslim population of Germany , the result was positive, at least in terms of human rights. Continue reading “Film Review: Berlin Falling”
I had earlier posted a short version of this review, to which many people objected that it was not really a review, just a short rant. Major Amin has now sent a longer version. I hope this will satisfy some of the critics…
The Anarchy- William Dalrymple
By Major Agha H Amin
Dalrymple is not a serious historian but a highly skilled jester who plays to the gallery. He makes many factual errors in his book and frequently gets carried away by emotions. promiscuously mixing facts with fiction.
On page 12 there is a small typing error placing third mysore war victory of Cornwallis in 1782 rather than 1792:
In describing Aurangzeb on page 13 Dalrymple misses the most essential fact that it was the Hindu Maratha Insurgency that laid the foundation of the decline and fall of the Mughal Empire. In this regard, other groups such as the Rajputs etc were mickey mouse players; the real hero of Hindu resurgence was Sivaji.
Dalrymple describes Mohammad Shah in very derogatory terms, but fails to note that under his shaky tenure the Mughals still defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali at Sirhind in 1748.
The battle of Buxar took place in 1764 and not in 1765 as Mr Dalrymple states on page-16.
On page 60 Dalrymple fallaciously states that Bhonsle was incharge of Orrissa whereas the Bhonsla citadel was many hundred miles from Orrissa to the west in Nagpur.
Dalrymple is addicted to fantasies (playing to the gallery), thus he projects the Mughals as the height of civilization while these so called civilized Mughals in 1719 publicly tortured Banda Bahadur’s five year old son, gouging out his heart while the child was alive and shoving it in his fathers mouth !
Nadir Shah did not invade Afghanistan in 1739 but in 1738 via Helmand, a long way from Delhi, but our brilliant and careless writer states he did so in 1739.
Dalyrmple totally misses one of the great betrayals in Indian history at Karnal, where Nadir Shah of Persia on the prompting of Nawab of Avadh Saadat Khan decided to pillage and plunder Delhi after an initial agreement to return to Persia after being paid a relatively small fine.
Dalrymple spents great energy on vilifying the company for the famine of Bengal of 1770, but fails to reconcile the fact that a far greater famine broke out in Bengal under the British crown. In general, jis treatment of events reeks of extreme polemics and subjectivism.
Even worse is his treatment of military events, for example in describing the First Anglo Mysore war he glorifies Hyder Ali but fails to note that he lost in several pitched battles against Colonel Smith and won the war only because of lack of cavalry by the company as well as the extreme corruption of various company officials.
Dalrymples treatment of military history in general is atrocious. For example, in discussing the Second Anglo Mysore War he only discusses one battle (Pollilore) but totally ignores the fact that Hyder Ali was repeatedly defeated at Porto Novo , Sholingur etc by Sir Eyre Coote.
Dalrymple totally ignores the fact that while the company lost one battle in 1780, the war continued till 1784 and was inconclusive in spite of Hyder Ali’s superior cavalry and the company’s corruption.
Dalyrmples use of historical facts is generally one sided and extremely biased. This is not a one-off, but a pattern. He cherry picks and higlights what fits his narrative, ignoring or downplaying what does not.
Ahmad Shah Abdali never went to Delhi in 1762 so Dalrymples claim that he ousted Imad ul Mulk in 1762 is incorrect (page-259 ).
By and large the book is a repetition of well known facts of British Indian history, framed tendentiously to fit his narrative. Basically Dalrymple has wasted a book in vain as it brings out nothing new. His whole conclusion about the company and the title of the book “Anarchy” is extremely questionable and debatable. Firstly the English East India Company did not cause anarchy in India as Dalrymple repeatedly tries to prove. India was already in a state of complete anarchy when the British company became a serious player. They took advantage of this anarchy, they did not cause it.
Delhi was sacked more than 40 times between 1737 and 1800 by non British forces, but Dalrymple is blind to this as it does not fit the narrative he wants to project. All the bad things he sees are only to be found in English East India Company. This will no doubt delight his nationalistic (or guilt-ridden English) readers, but it is a very questionable framing of 18the century Indian history.
His military knowledge is myopic and he constantly distorts military history and uses bits and pieces to prove or disprove as he wills at whim.
As a matter of fact the company restored order in India .The first three universities in Indian history were founded at Calcutta ,Madras and Bombay in 1856-57 by the Company. Outmoded customs such as widow burning , infanticide etc were abolished by the company. A hereditary class of feudal lords was created by Lord Cornwallis in 1792 as a result of which political stability was introduced and strengthened in India. The company had many reformers, philanthropists and utilitarians but Dalrymple in his irrational hatred is blind to all these people.To Dalrymple all that British East India Company did was bad and he has an extremely jaundiced and twisted vision, not an objective view of history.
Dalrymple gives no weightage to the fact that British parliament and system prosecuted Clive and Warren Hastings and tried to regulate company rule in India. They were not angels, but they were not the uniquely villainous source of all evils in India. Above all Dalrymple forgets that without the driving spirit of corporate enterprise of the company the British would never have conquered India. While personal interest has constantly dominated human conduct in history , whether it was a company or a state , Dalrymple wears coloured glasses and his perception is cloudy as well as confused.
Finally, my most serious issue with Dalrymple is his overly simplistic sweeping judgements. The Mughals for example were as big opportunists and greedy rulers as the company.They were a small group of adventurers, kicked out of central Asia, who captured India or north India just like the British company because of superior military tactics. If you look at Mughal contributions you find a few grand monuments such as the Taj Mahal or Shalimar Bagh in Lahore! Whereas the British company gave India , irrigation , universities, a sound military system , a system of governance and a class of hereditary feudals who made the system more stable, relative to the times.
Another point that Dalrymple totally misses is that the company saved the Indian Muslim elite from total political extinction . The Muslims were practically nobodies by 1800. Delhi was ruled by the Marathas, Badshahi mosque of Lahore was a horse stable and a powder magazine! The Marathas and Sikhs totally dominated north India! But a knight in shining armour comes and saves the Indian Muslim elite. It was Lake who saved the Muslims of Delhi from extinction! Hugh Gough saved the Muslims of Lahore and Peshawar! But Dalrymple misses out all these things.
Dalrymples most serious failure is that greed and avarice is not a British company failing but a human failing and all Indian rulers were guilty of this just as much as the EIC. Dalrymple fails to appreciate that Indians gladly fought against Indians under the company because the company paid salaries in time !
Dalyrmple fails to note that British company]s triumphs were triumphs of organization, such as when Lieutenant Flint repeatedly defeated Tipu Sultan with a 100 % Indian force at Wandewash.Dalrymple fails to appreciate that India was conquered by an organizationally superior company using 80 % Indian manpower! Why Indians followed them if they were as plainly evil as Dalrymple believes or wants us to believe !
And finally, Dalrymple fails to relate this past to what happened after the British left. Pakistan, where I live, is one of the most corrupt states in the world .Pakistans tax officials of the so called FBR are 1 billion times more corrupt than the English East India Company could be in their wildest dreams. Parochialism is such that in todays Pakistan the entire ruling establishment consists of few districts and few castes of North Punjab and small parts of Sindh!
Characters like Dalrymple thrive on emotional manipulation which is why Dalrymple needs to be questioned and refuted!