I have always admired the author Gen. Rajendra Nath for his leadership qualities and his regimentation. He is a writer on matters military and has written a number of books. He writes regularly on subjects of defence and national security in newspapers. Besides, his love for writing, the officer has taken keen interest in social work. He is Chairman of Institute for the Blind in Chandigarh since 1982.
I have read his book, ‘Military Leadrship in India: Vedic Period to Indo-Pak Wars’, which remains my Bible reference book on matters military which I do keep quoting from in my articles from time to time. Strategic Ladakh is essentially an observation of Ladakh in the early ‘50s, when the author was a young Captain posted in Ladakh as an Army HQ’s Liaison Officer. There was only one Infantry Battalion of J&K State Forces which was responsible to look after Ladakh frontiers where in now Ladakh has a Corps. The author, after having traced Ladakh’s social evolution from ancient times gives firsthand account of the people of Ladakh tracing their roots, culture and provides an economic survey of Ladakh region of that time. The book is from author’s memory lane, appears to be in the past based on his sharp memory and recorded diary events as recorded by a young Captain which we hardly write now days, we are more on FaceBook, WhatsApp and what have you.
The book describes in detail the 1947/48 Indo-Pak War in Ladakh, J&K. Major Prithi Chand Thakur (Later Colonel, 11 GR) and Lt Colonel Sher Jung Thapa (Later Brig – JAK RIF) with his two companies worth of troops at Skardu in the North did acommendable job during the war in Ladakh. Both Colonel Prithi Chand Thakur, MVC and Brig Sher Jung Thapa, MVC are known as the true ‘Saviours of Ladakh’ the region which today is part of India by the efforts of the near forgotten hero, Gen Zorawar Singh who extended the Indian frontiers into Tibet up to Mansarovar and was killed during the battle there in 1841.
The author has had the honour of serving under Colonel
Prithi Chand as a Lieutenant and has given a lucid account of Colonel Prithi Chand’s excellent performance in defending Ladakh. In 1947, there was only one Infantry Battalion of J&K State Forces which was responsible for defence of Northern Kashmir which was spread from Ladakh in the east to Gilgit Skardu in the West, a distance of over 200 kms. Kargil had about two platoons worth of troops while Ladakh had only one Infantry Platoon to defend the vast area. The Gilgit Scouts reinforced by about 2000 Pak Raiders made a bold plan to capture Gilgit, Skardu and later whole of Ladakh. The Gilgit Scouts Battalion had mostly Muslims who rebelled against Maharaja of Kashmir and captured Gilgit quickly. Later, it attacked Skardu Fort held by Colonel Thapa and eventually captured it after a stiff battle.
In 1947, Major Prithi Chand while serving in 2nd Dogras volunteered along with 15 other ranks to go to Ladakh from Srinagar valley, in order to defend it from the Pakistani Raiders. Major Prithi Chand and Shri Sonam Norbu, a J&K Engineer from Ladakh moved from Srinagar on 16 February 1948 during the winter season. The party carried 50 extra rifles and ammunition for the Ladakhis who were to be trained to fight the Pakistani raiders. It was Shri Sonam Norbu’s and Major Prithi Chand’s contribution to construct an airfield in Ladakh using local labour which enabled the Indian Air Force to land and bring in military personnel to fight the Pakistani Raiders who were advancing towards Kargil and Ladakh. It was militarily a very difficult task for a small party to defend Ladakh by using Guerrilla tactics against Pak forces till Indian troops could be inducted into Ladakh.
In the final analysis, the author’s narrative is successful in making the reader aware of the little known interesting facts of the region, takes the soldier readers into their own memory lane and compares the conditions then of their Ladakh tenures. I travelled along the author’s narration and compared my best field tenure of late 70s of Tangtse. The book’s rich material can be an ideal reference for Research Scholars on Ladakh.