New Strategic Realities in South Asia

One theme that became part of the strategic narrative being churned out by the American think tanks after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 was that the in the future, if a terrorist attack on India emanated from Pakistani territory, the US will not intervene and would let India do whatever it felt necessary to do. It meant that India could resort to all options like going for surgical strikes against militant training grounds or camps, allegedly deep inside Pakistani territory, animating the much flaunted Cold Start or the Proactive Doctrine or even resort to a nuclear first strike. This was the recurrent message being communicated to Pakistan at official and unofficial level. It sounded very grave and very clear. Pakistan had to do more to rein in Jihadi groups that have their support. The Pakistani response that it wasn’t state policy to sponsor any terrorist group would fall on deaf ears. Scholars of repute discussed the fragility of strategic stability in times of crisis and the various twists and turns in the Kargil conflict, 2001-2002 standoff and Mumbai 2008 and how the US intervened to deescalate and defuse these crises. The US, it was emphasized was no longer interested in getting involved in a firefight, if South Asia plunged once again in another cataclysmic situation leading precipitously up the escalation ladder.  The two countries could give up the notion of outsourcing deescalation to the US. The incessant barrage of this talk was more for Pakistani consumption than the Indian. The Indians were actually being given a green signal to feel free to do what they felt like doing to teach Pakistan a lesson, if it did not behave or did not keep its Jihadi organisations under control.

Officially India subscribes to a nuclear No First Strike Policy (NFS) but it has created loopholes to carry out a nuclear first strike e.g. in a 2003 update, it was stated that it can go for the nuclear First Use (FU) option, in case of an chemical or biological attack. Before the BJP released their 2014 election manifesto, it was made known that the party leadership under Narindera Modi was considering giving up on the NFU option was seriously considered during the BJP election campaign in 2014. More recently the Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar has talked of giving up on the NFS option altogether. These are all indications that the extreme right wing party in power is itching to use the nuclear option in case it felt there was a dire need to do so.

Now let’s see what happened after a string of terrorist incidents that happened over the last one year i.e. Gurdaspur (2015) and Pathankot and Uri (2016). Whereas, the first two incidents got only a muted response, after the attack on a Brigade Headquarters in Uri in which a dozen soldiers were killed, the response was stronger. As usual the Indian media went into a frenzy. The government had to respond. It was an attack too many, second against a heavily guarded military target. The Indian forces seemed unable to stop the infiltration from across the heavily guarded, wired and mined Line of Control (LOC) and unable to stop the militants from penetrating inside military installations under several layers of security. So what happened? The Indian Army claimed that they had launched surgical strikes. This ludicrous claim could not be substantiated by any credible proof.  Skirmishes were reported at various points along the LOC but nothing serious. Soldiers were killed on both sides but than nothing serious happened. No loss of territory was reported. In fact an Indian soldier was reported to have been captured. Artillery shelling created problems for the civilians, who had to pull out to safer places. Fishermen were apprehended for allegedly poaching inside Indian territorial waters.  Very recently an Indian submarine was found lurking in Pakistani waters that the Pakistan Navy says it sent scurrying back to safety. Diplomats were expelled in a tit for tat manner for activities not commensurate of their status. Repeated demarches were issued by the Pakistan foreign office to the Indian high commissioner and his deputy for aggressive behavior on the LOC. The matter was raised in the UN. Ban Ki-Moon, the retiring UN secretary general offered to mediate between Pakistan and India but as usual there was no resonance from the Indian side. The US state department spokesperson cautioned restraint but there were no offers to arbitrate.

For the moment US policies are undergoing a paradigm shift. Trump, the President elect has made it known that he would concentrate on domestic policies. His election promise is to rebuild America and create more jobs. He has expressed his desire to leave NATO. The foreign threat he visualizes is from the Islamic state and here he would like to collaborate with Russia. He hasn’t outlined a clear cut policy about South Asia. Obama’s eight years in office indicates a fatigue from overseas wars. The US watched helplessly as Russia annexed Crimea and it took a secondary role in Syria as compared to the dominant one by Russia.

In the short term, these crises in South Asia did not climb up the escalation ladder in the traditional manner as neither the Cold Start Doctrine was executed nor was the nuclear option was resorted to. Deterrence held. The full spectrum deterrence policy was validated for now. Although the matter was raised at international forums, deescalation was not outsourced per se. Indians were held back because they could not afford to engage in war with Pakistan. This would have set back their ambitions to become an economic power. The world in general wasn’t interested in the petty squabbling in the South Asian subcontinent and the US in particular was trying to recover from the election results and trying to form new foreign policy options.

The situation may change in the coming years. The China-Russia diad is emerging as the new power pole in the new world order as role of the US as an influential power broker in the South Asian power politics diminishes. This does not mean, however, that new regional powers would be interested in intervening in Pak-India problems. These can only be resolved by the two countries themselves. Understandably, this can only be possible if India shows a willingness to discuss Kashmir and other outstanding issues. For Pakistan it is incumbent to improve its economy and law and order situation to be taken seriously internationally. One hopes that with the materializing of CPEC Pakistan may just be on the road to stability. If somehow India can be convinced that i has economic fruits to share from this regional connectivity, the bait would be taken


Is there an Eastern and Western Strategic Thought?

It is very difficult to categorize eastern and western thought. Firstly it is not possible to confine the matter of strategy to a particular geographical location or a certain time period. It follows, therefore that no specific entity can be classified as quintessentially Eastern or Western e.g. Chankya, a master of subterfuge from the Indian subcontinent and Sun Tzu an oracle of oriental strategy may not exactly match in their thinking. On the contrary the Chankyan thought process exemplified in his Mauryan period book Arthshatara quite corresponds to what was propagated by the Italian master of statecraft Niccolò Machiavelli in his Renaissance period book The Prince. Both Chankya and Machiavelli proposed that the ruler should employ cunning, trickery, deviousness and intrigue to keep the citizens under check and to defeat the enemies of the state. There is of course a millennium separating the two royal advisors, who qualify as eminent grise or grey eminence to their respective kings.

Historically each region of the world has produced its own crop of strategic scholars, who produced their own signature theories on strategy and warfare. Ancient Greeks, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Indians, the Persians, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Central Asians, the Moghuls, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, the Scandinavians, the German, the French and the British have all added their own brand of thoughts on waging war and pursuing diplomacy during various periods of history. The Mongol and his horse was the best fighting machine of time. There were no long logistical trains to retard his movement. The Germans unleashed the power of their panzers and aircraft under the overarching doctrine of blitzkrieg to pulverize the enemy and cause a strategic paralysis. The Americans used shock and awe to similar effects during the Gulf War. All three used speed and mobility to good effect to win wars. Of course the use of firepower grew exponentially with the advance in technology.

This goes to prove that not one single strain of strategic thought was produced in isolation. There were influences particularly from the immediate neighbourhood or the preceding time periods that shaped doctrines and strategies of the dominant powers. Some land mark books on strategy that have now become part of the strategic lore and influenced thought processes of soldiers and statesmen belonging to both the East and the West. Vom Kriege written by the Austrian strategist Clausewitz and the Art of Warfare by the Chinese sage Sun Tzu has influenced many budding strategists. The corpus of literature on strategy keeps growing.

The introduction of the printing press in what the Europeans call the middle ages, led to the wider diffusion of knowledge. More recently the information age and the introduction of the Internet has made it well nigh impossible to produce a pure train of thought that can be termed as eastern or western in content and outlook. During the industrial period the strategic thought became the preserve of the imperial powers and they imposed their thought processes on the countries that found themselves under their tutelage. In recent years the curriculum taught in modern staff colleges and war colleges have tended to propagate separate different kinds of thoughts on warfare and strategy. During the Cold War the Eastern thought process was followed by the Warsaw Pact countries and taught in the Frunze Academy, while the Western thought was followed by NATO countries and countries  that were in the western camp including Pakistan. Here the point to note is that East and West during the Cold War both were European powers. The North Americans can be counted as Europeans because they essentially hail from that stock. Asymmetric warfare in recent warfare in recent times has made a new corpus of thought process that is based on strategy of terror. The age of cyber warfare has produced another strain of strategy that is followed by the dominant digital powers. Cyber strategies of the US, Russia and China have their own distinct favours. Militant organizations like the Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) use the Internet to good effect in recruiting, fundraising and proselytising and have developed their own brand of cyber strategy.    

The term strategic culture is a legacy of the Cold War and gained currency during the time period. Many western thinkers began to seriously investigate and analyse how the Soviets would behave in a situation where the use of nuclear weapons could become inevitable. A number of factors are considered to determine the strategic culture of a country. These include inter alia aspects such as history, geography, sociology and culture. This method of finding out strategic behaviour of hostile states was picked up by strategic thinkers all over the world. Studying strategic culture of potential enemies has become a favourite pastime of many scholars dabbling in strategy.  In the South Asian subcontinent Indian and Pakistani scholars use various angles to examine of the behaviour of a country e.g. the Indian reaction after the recent attack on the Brigade Headquarter in Uri can be studied in detail of how the Indian leadership behave in a certain situation e.g. they threatened to isolate Pakistan internationally, scrap the Indus Water Treaty and conduct so-called surgical strikes, to name a few measures that they took. They of course did not launch their much vaunted Cold Start or the Proactive strategy after the Uri attack. This episode can provide a very good gauge to determine their strategic behaviour.    

My Uncle the Intrepid Letter Writer

My uncle Muhammad Masood was the gentlest of souls. He was the kind of person who won’t even hurt a fly. They just don’t make any more like him. He belonged to the old school and had the other worldly charm. He expired yesterday at the ripe old age of 92. He will be forever missed. I met him infrequently but each time I did, I was amazed and moved by his humility and gentle kindness. He belonged to that rare breed of men, who are self-effacing and modest to the fault. He would always insist that he had nothing to boast about but whenever you had an occasion to sit and talk with him, he’d narrate stories that would make you feel proud of him.

As a young person he was exposed to the freedom struggle of India. He was studying engineering in the famous Aligarh University and his heart was more in politics than in studies. He developed a penchant of writing letters to all the important politicians in India and this included both Hindus and Muslims. A habit that he continued after Pakistan became independent. As a student he wrote to almost all important leaders of undivided India. Once he famously wrote a letter to the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and asked him his opinion about films. Jinnah Sahib graciously responded to his young admirer in a typewritten letter. He had signed off the letter with his stylish and elegant signatures – M.A. Jinnah. Jinnah Sahib appreciated young Masood’s interest in films and said that in his opinion Muslims should join the film industry. Mr. Jinnah was an open minded man and had once toyed with the idea of playing a role in a Shakespeare play as a young man, while studying in England.

Masood Mamoon was kind enough to give Mr. Jinnah’s letter on films to me. In an age of strife and intolerance, when anything to do with entertainment is frowned upon, I thought it would be a national service to share the letter with a larger audience. I wrote a small story with the letter and it was published in the Express Tribune by a journalist nephew who works for the paper. Masood Mamoon had a treasure trove of letters with him. He regretted having misplaced some, while some had been stolen but he still had many that were his closest possession.

He once narrated how he had met Jinnah Sahib, when he had come to address the students in Aligarh. Masood Mamoon had taken the opportunity to ask a question from the great leader. The next time he was among a body of students that had gone to greet Mr. Jinnah at the railway station. Coming face to face with his hero he awkwardly asked Mr. Jinnah in halting English if he remembered him. The quick witted Jinnah Sahib, replied how could he ever forget the handsome young man like him? That was the best compliment he could ever receive and it really made his day. After partition his father a doctor in the Army Medical Corps opted for Pakistan and left him behind to complete his education. Masood Mamoon remembers Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India visiting Aligarh and telling the students that he knew that they had formed the vanguard of Mr. Jinnah’s movement for Pakistan but henceforth he’d like them to work for an independent India now. Masood Mamoon completed his education and came to Pakistan. His movement to Pakistan is another story. Somebody had fed the secret police some false information and he had to surreptitiously make good his escape.

In Pakistan he worked initially for the Military Engineering Service. He had tales to narrate about Kakul, Kalat and Turbat. He later ran his own business as a pharmacist in Quetta. He shifted from Quetta to Karachi many years ago and mostly led a retired life. He remained an active community member and was a doting patriarch, who took care of his family as his eldest son a merchant mariner was mostly away. He wrote letters in long hand to politicians, friends and relatives. Some took the trouble of replying to him. Others ignored him. None was as courteous as Jinnah Sahib. He read voraciously and made good conversation. He spoke softly in chaste Urdu. Towards the end of his life his hearing became so bad that could hardly hear anything but this was no barrier in maintaining family links. He would regularly call up my mother although he could barely hear her. The best thing about him was that he made you feel special and important. He was a very affectionate person.

Masood Mammon may Allah bless you with the choicest place in heaven.

1965: Time for Remembrance – Time for Introspection

Today we celebrate the 51st defence day of Pakistan. 1965 was the good war. It is worth celebrating. The soldiers fought valiantly and laid down their lives to defend their homeland. No sacrifice was too little to protect each inch of the homeland. The Pakistan Air Force subdued an enemy superior in numbers. The PAF airmen were able to outwit and out shoot the Indians. Ace pilot M.M. Alam shot down five Indian fighter jets in less than a minute. F86 sabres ruled the skies. The Navy sailed out and destroyed the Indian radar station at Dwarka. PNS Ghazi, the only submarine in the theater of war kept the only Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant out of action. The sea lines of communications remained open. The singers sang great war-songs to cheer the soldiers and to keep the morale of the nation at a high pitch. The common man was fully involved and backed the soldier to the hilt. The patriotic fervor was at its highest. The nation was united and everyone wanted the armed forces to perform well. The tales of valor of the soldiers of 1965 have been etched in the national psyche. In a way it is good because there is a need to build a positive national narrative.

There is nonetheless a need for deliberate introspection. It is a sad fact that the 1965 war was the result of a grand strategic miscalculation. Wrong lessons were drawn from the minor skirmish in the Rann of Kutch. False misconception gained roots among the civilian and military planners that the Hindu did not have an appetite for war and there would be no retaliation if a muscular approach was adopted in Kashmir. Infiltrators with little preparation and with little strategic direction were sent into occupied Kashmir in August with the purpose of initiating a guerrilla war of liberation. It was a lost cause from the word go. Grounds had not been prepared for a sustained armed struggle and the common Kashmiri was loath to become part of it. The men sent in to wage a successful insurgency were hunted down to the man. Very few were able to escape and return to tell the story. The Indians then launched a riposte across the international border. This move was entirely unexpected. The Army was in a peace time mode. If the soldiers had not risen to the occasion, the Indian generals might actually had been drinking the chota peg in Lahore gymkhana by the evening. A great tank battle was fought in Chawinda and the Indian juggernaut was brought to a halt. After 17 days the war ended. Both countries were bruised but not battered. Pakistan had miscalculated the Indian reactions. The Indians had not calculated the spirit of the Pakistani soldier. The two countries opted for a ceasefire. While Pakistan rejoiced that they had been able to stop a far superior enemy and defend its soil with grit and determination. The Indians straight away went to the drawing board. Their aim was simple and to the point: Defeat Pakistan at all costs. Their plan was also simple: Tear the country asunder. They had an ideal opportunity to create a rift between East and West Pakistan based on the recent war. The played upon East Pakistan’s fears that they had been left alone to fend for themselves during the War, since it had been fought within the framework of the defence doctrine based on the theory that the defence of the east lay in the west. Hatred was sown into the hearts and minds of the East Pakistanis. They were made to believe that West Pakistanis were insincere. They were using the foreign exchange through the export of jute grown by them to build their new capital in Islamabad. They had very little representation in government jobs and the defence forces. Very few of them were generals or federal secretaries. The venom spread. The result was that only six years later there was a civil war in East Pakistan. The Indians waited nine months till the small Pakistani garrison was spent and fatigued and then in November 1971 their tanks rolled in against little resistance. 16 December the Pakistani soldiers tired and humiliated surrendered to the Indian forces. This was the darkest day in the short history of Pakistan. The Indians are still conniving against Pakistan. While we celebrate 1965, we should not be oblivious of the fact that forces hostile to Pakistan are still at work. The solution lies in not only building a strong Army but also a strong nation.

Pakistan zindabad.

When Time Stood Still

It was purely by chance that I dropped by to attend a lecture being given by Dr Samar Mubarakmand, the nuclear scientist. I had some time on my hand before my next engagement and I thought it would not be a bad idea to sit down and listen to him and in the post lecture session meet up with some friends sitting in the audience.

So I took my seat and listened in. Dr Mubarakmand was trying to make a point about the courage of one’s conviction and how all elements of nature conspire to help you succeed, if you’re are determined to make it happen. He was illustrating his argument with an example. It was the fateful day of May 27, 1998, a day before Pakistan exploded the nuclear device in response to the Indian nuclear explosions about a fortnight earlier (11 and 13 May). Preparation was in full swing and the tunnel in the Ras Koh Hills was being rigged for the explosions. Dr Mubarakmand had just come out from the subterranean shaft into the mud hut for a breather. The temperature was a searing 52 degree celcius, when the driver of his Toyota Hiace told him that the vehicle needed some urgent repairs. The nearest workshop was at a distance of four hour’s drive at the border town of Dalbandin. The place had to be evacuated the next morning for the explosions, so the driver was told to rush and get the repairs done before the scientists and technicians closed shop and moved out of the ground zero. Dr Mubarakmand then went back into the tunnel to supervise the preparations. He says he walked up and down the 1.3 km length of the tunnel to make sure that everything was in order and after about two and half hours he came up again for a break and a cup of tea at 2pm and found the hiace standing outside. Fearing that his driver hadn’t left and that he would be late for the evacuation, he called him out. The driver ambled out from his rest station and told him that the repairs had been done. Not possible, thought the scientist. A roundtrip counting for the time spent on repairs should have taken at least nine hours. The time that had elapsed after his last conversation with driver was only two and a half hours. How could it be possible? To convince him the driver showed him the receipt of the repairs from the roadside workshop. The mechanic wasn’t at the shop and the driver had to go to his home to get him to do the repairs. This meant some additional time to the entire job. How did it happen in two hours? In Dr Mubarakmand opinion this and other incidents that happened in Pakistan’s quest for nuclear convinced him that time actually stood still to help all those involved in making sure that the nation remained safe.

The next day after having evacuated the test site, Dr Mubarkmand and a small team of men waited for explosions from an observation post at safe distance away from the GZ. If I heard him correctly he said they were 20 kms away. The button had been pressed. The time was 15:15 hours Pakistan Standard Time. The date was 28 May 1998. Ordinarily it would take 35 seconds for the computer to translate the orders and send the command for the detonation. The stipulated time had passed and everything stood still. Would it happen or would it not? The men waited with bated breath. Five long seconds later the earth shook. The team members of Chaghi I were thrown off balance, as seismographs from Sydney to New York registered the signature shocks of five simultaneous nuclear explosions. The strategic balance in the subcontinent had been restored. The tension and apprehensions off the past days evaporated. The team of tired and hungry men uncorked the bottles of tepid water and shared a packet of peak freens zeera biscuits to celebrate the moment. They had succeeded against all odds as time and tide had waited for them to make it happen. Providence was on the side of the steadfast. Their perseverance and faith had paid off.

Wollaton Park – the Manor of the Dark Knight

Nottingham is known for Robin Hood and his band of merry men, who lived in the Sherwood Forest and robbed the rich to pay the poor. No one knows if he was a real person or a fictional character but Nottingham proudly uses him as a brand name. Legend has it that he was a heroic outlaw in English folklore, who was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. Traditionally depicted as being dressed in Lincoln green, Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the late-medieval period, and continues to be widely represented in literature, films and television.  References to Robin Hood are found in the ballads of the fourteenth century.

Another character made Nottingham his abode in the twenty first century. In 2011, key scenes from the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises were filmed in Wollaton Park. Wollaton Hall was featured as the latest Wayne Manor. Movie was released in 2012. The location was well chosen by Christopher Nolan for the final instalment of his Batman film trilogy, and the sequel to Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008). The film grossed over $1 billion worldwide at the box office, making it the second film in the Batman film series to earn $1 billion. It is currently the 16th highest grossing film of all time, the third-highest-grossing film of 2012, and the fourth-highest-grossing superhero film of all time.

Wollaton Park is actually a deer park and home of Wollaton Hall, Nottingham Natural History Museum and Nottingham Industrial Museum in the heart of Nottingham. The Park is enclosed by a red brick wall at the start of the nineteenth century. Originally spread 790 acres (3.2 km2), land sales have reduced the park to 500 acres (2.0 km2). The park is home to a herd of red deer and fallow deer. At most times you can see them sitting in front of the Hall. You can go quite near without offending them. Other wildlife of note at the park includes a large corvid roost made up of rook, jackdaw, and carrion crow. Other notable species present at the site are populations of jay, nuthatch and sparrow hawk. Migrating wildfowl grace the lake in the winter and species of note include gadwall, northern shoveller, Eurasian wigeon and tufted duck. There is a good diversity of fungi present, especially in the winter months, mainly found near the wooded areas and the lake. A walk around the lake is most enjoyable.

In this park, during World War II American troops of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division, were billeted here, waiting to be parachuted into Europe, which they did in June 1944. A small plaque commemorates this event.  Subsequently German prisoners of war were billeted here for employment in the locality between 1945 and 1947.

Wollaton Park is often used for events such as cross country races and music festivals. The park is often visited by physical fitness buffs and I saw a military style boot camp in progress, while I was there.

In search of Regimental History

This summer I utilized my brief stay in London to search for regimental history. I was looking for information on two people – one a celebrated Victoria Cross winner and the other an unknown second lieutenant. Subedar Mir Dast won a VC on the battlefield in Ypres, Belgium in April 1915 and Second Lieutenant Mehboob Ahmed left the battalion in Malaya to join the Indian National Army (INA) sometime during the Second World War. While little is known about the later, the former is well documented as a war hero. His name is inscribed on a memorial for VC winners in Hyde Park.

I had seen the photographs of both of them. The portrait of the VC holder is proudly hanging in the regimental officers’ mess. A group photograph less prominently displayed at the time I joined the battalion in October 1976 was that of the officers of the 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles circa 1939. The sepia colored shot shows only one Indian officer among the British officers. He bears the name Second Lieutenant Mehboob Ahmed. There is no record of what happened to Mahboob Ahmed because the unit went into captivity in Malaya. Mahboob joined the Subhash Chandra Bose (SCB) led Indian National Army (INA) at some undetermined date. Thereafter the track goes cold. The unit was re-raised in 1945 in Rawalpindi but quite obviously Mahboob wasn’t part of it. He had forsaken his loyalty to the King Emperor. By joining the INA he had thrown in his lot with the nationalists. I remember asking the old mess waiter Abdul Rahman aka Mana, who was with the battalion during captivity in Malaya about the Indian officer in the photograph. He remained behind in India and became an ambassador was what I could remember the old man telling me. Last summer someone gave me a photocopied autobiography of Colonel Mehboob Ahmed, who had served as the secretary of Netaji. The biography written in Urdu informed me that Colonel, a native of Patna had died a brokenhearted man because his dream of an independent India was not fulfilled. It did not give any details of his military background in the Indian Army, nor was there any mention of his diplomatic career. A little research did reveal that although INA were not reinstated in the Indian Army nor in the Pakistan Army after partition but some of them were given civilian positions. One Mehboob Ahmed or Mehboob Hasan served as the ambassador of India to Canada. There is also information about Colonel Mehboob Ahmed, a former military secretary of SCB, as a senior official of the ministry of external affairs deposing before the parliament in 1972 about Netaji.

The purpose of my visiting the National Archives near Kew Gardens was to find out about both of them. The National Archives is housed in an impressive building in a beautiful suburb of London. It is at the end of the underground line to Richmond and a brief walk brings you to the National Archives. The entry is free. You get a membership card which has an extended period of validity. A short instructional tour on the computer tells you how to access the records. Further inquiries can be made with the assistants sitting in the Archives to help a visitor. I was able to access the citation of Mir Dast. On one side of the facsimile of the citation was a handwritten note stating that it had been transferred to the India Office Library. When I asked about the transfer from an assistant, I was told that all records of the Indian Army had been shifted to the India Office Section of the British Library. If I was lucky I could find Second Lieutenant Ahmed’s record there as well.

So I caught the next train to the British Library in the heart of London. I found the edifice of this world known library again very imposing. I was quickly issued a membership card and given detailed instructions of how to handle historic documents. I placed my request for the citation of Mir Dast VC and service record of Second Lieutenant Mehboob Ahmed. I was told to wait for 45 minutes before the staff searched for the records. After the mandatory wait I was given torn folio containing the London gazette notification of VC holders of First World War. The name of Jemadar Mir Dast VC of 55th Coke’e Rifles (FF) bore the entry bore the number 820328. Where is the citation asked? We don’t have it and if you want to know further about Second Lieutenant Ahmed contact the AG’s Branch of the Indian Army in the South Block of the Indian Army Headquarters in New Delhi.

So where do I go from here. It won’t be bad idea to write to South Block for Mehboob Ahmed but what about Mir Dast’s original citation? Where do I find it?   Any ideas?