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Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
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The Fourth Round 1984 - Ravi Rikhye

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I had wanted to read this book for a very long time. Since the time I read about it in a Wikipedia Article (which still mentions that book will be published in 2007), I have been trying to get my hands on this book. Finally I got lucky and had a paperback version in my hands.

The book's style is slightly different from most war fiction. There are no characters to relate to. Instead it feels like one is reading about the war upon its conclusion. It felt different to say the least but the writing is crisp and feels accurate with no wild flights of fantasy that plague most other writers in this genre.

The book begins with India striking at Kahuta and despite the huge cost of the mission, hitting really hard. Pakistan in its turn hits back and to rub it in strikes at the Parliament. Upon which India declares war.

The book highlights the underlying considerations for both sides quite well. India is a bit cocky at start given its overall superiority and tries to steam roll Pakistan but repeatedly chooses public sentiment over sound military strategy. The young officers of its Army prove their mettle time and again but some choice mistakes at the top stop India from getting the thumping win it so desperately needs. Ravi notes how arrogance at the top regarding "irregulars" cost India heavily in terms of men, equipment and time as the attack on Lahore flounders.

Pakistan on the other hand starts off quite well punching way above its weight, taking huge wins in Kashmir as India is not able beat Pakistan's US supplied surveillance systems which let Pakistan blunt India's numerical advantage considerably. Pakistan also makes the most of the advantage provided by its superior Airborne Radar but ultimately buckles under pressure the moment things start going badly for it. India breaks its lines at multiple points and takes huge areas in its control.

Reflecting the reality of the 80s, Pakistan is lavishly supplied by Saudi Arabia, USA and other Arab nations. China makes some noises but then decides its better off sitting out this round. USSR plays it carefully giving just enough support to India to not piss off the Americans.

A misunderstood situation brings USA into the conflict supporting Pakistan openly and Indian leadership decides its time to call it a day.

Where this book stands apart is that it highlights the reasons why India would have missed a chance to inflict a decisive win in the west. While that might not go well with the super charged nationalist brigade its still a valuable discussion point - India in the 80s was strong enough to beat Pakistan but not strong enough to prevail over a hidden coalition that was quietly propping up Pakistan.
 

Jaymax

Well-Known member
Apr 1, 2019
950
938
3rd Rock from the Sun
The Fourth Round 1984 - Ravi Rikhye

View attachment 19012

I had wanted to read this book for a very long time. Since the time I read about it in a Wikipedia Article (which still mentions that book will be published in 2007), I have been trying to get my hands on this book. Finally I got lucky and had a paperback version in my hands.

The book's style is slightly different from most war fiction. There are no characters to relate to. Instead it feels like one is reading about the war upon its conclusion. It felt different to say the least but the writing is crisp and feels accurate with no wild flights of fantasy that plague most other writers in this genre.

The book begins with India striking at Kahuta and despite the huge cost of the mission, hitting really hard. Pakistan in its turn hits back and to rub it in strikes at the Parliament. Upon which India declares war.

The book highlights the underlying considerations for both sides quite well. India is a bit cocky at start given its overall superiority and tries to steam roll Pakistan but repeatedly chooses public sentiment over sound military strategy. The young officers of its Army prove their mettle time and again but some choice mistakes at the top stop India from getting the thumping win it so desperately needs. Ravi notes how arrogance at the top regarding "irregulars" cost India heavily in terms of men, equipment and time as the attack on Lahore flounders.

Pakistan on the other hand starts off quite well punching way above its weight, taking huge wins in Kashmir as India is not able beat Pakistan's US supplied surveillance systems which let Pakistan blunt India's numerical advantage considerably. Pakistan also makes the most of the advantage provided by its superior Airborne Radar but ultimately buckles under pressure the moment things start going badly for it. India breaks its lines at multiple points and takes huge areas in its control.

Reflecting the reality of the 80s, Pakistan is lavishly supplied by Saudi Arabia, USA and other Arab nations. China makes some noises but then decides its better off sitting out this round. USSR plays it carefully giving just enough support to India to not piss off the Americans.

A misunderstood situation brings USA into the conflict supporting Pakistan openly and Indian leadership decides its time to call it a day.

Where this book stands apart is that it highlights the reasons why India would have missed a chance to inflict a decisive win in the west. While that might not go well with the super charged nationalist brigade its still a valuable discussion point - India in the 80s was strong enough to beat Pakistan but not strong enough to prevail over a hidden coalition that was quietly propping up Pakistan.
@_Anonymous_ - the review is up
 
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_Anonymous_

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@_Anonymous_ - the review is up
Frankly, I never realised Rikhye used historical fiction as a format to propagate his strategic views in this book. Nevertheless a fairly accurate reading of the events, were it to unfold, going by your review. Of course, we say this with the benefit of hindsight on the perceived reality then & how it turned out when we look back on it.

Nice crisp concise review. Couldn't have asked for a better one to inform what this book is all about to a novice.
 
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Defc0n

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Sep 8, 2019
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India
Any idea on where I can get this book (paperback/digital) ?
Seems to be unavailable everywhere :(
 

Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
950
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3rd Rock from the Sun
Book Review

The Betrayal of East Pakistan - Lt. Gen. A.A.K Niazi

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I started this book with one clear objective - I will read it without any bias. As I progressed, I realized the task I had set for myself was pretty hard.
The writer understandably has a great grudge against India. Indians destroyed his reputation and subjected him to an over the top surrender ceremony, which would have been hard on any professional soldier. This humiliation had left a festering wound which it is evident he suffered from till his end.

The book begins with his early life. He recounts his initial exploits, how he was nicknamed "Tiger", how well he performed in 65 etc. Then the lasting impact he left on Pak Army defenses in Sialkot and Lahore sector.

The book then moves to the events of 71. The usual whipping boys - Yahya, Bhutto and Mujib take turns on being the bad guy. The Larkana meeting is brought up. I also read a few others books namely A Stranger in my own country - Maj. Gen. Khadim Hussain Raja, Dead Reckoning - Memories of 1971 - Sarmila Bose and Vanquished Generals - Muntasir Mamun. The Larkana meeting and the plot to drop East Pakistan is frequently mentioned there as well so I am inclined to believe that bit. The reader of this review can derive his/her own judgement.

Gen. Niazi notes that the East Garrison was undersupplied, poorly equipped (the Chaffees lacked starters and fan belts) and severely worn out after months of fighting. Yet he says that the Pak Army pushed out Mukti Bahini and restored eastern borders in the early actions of 1971. After that there was limited border action only till Nov. So where did the months of fighting come up.

A few pages forward he claims his plan to take the war to India was shot down by GHQ. Gen. Niazi reasons that in mid 1971, India was ill prepared to fight and most units were not even in the eastern sector. His troops (which he himself calls underequipped and tired a few pages before) could sweep aside BSF, Indian regulars and Mukti Bahini and capture large areas of West Bengal and Northeast. How he planned to do that in hostile territory with enemy air superiority with no supplies coming his way, no air cover, no tanks and very little artillery is a question he did not bother answering.

Gen. Niazi then complains his plans were interfered with by GHQ and he was forced to defend all his borders. He also rejects the Dhaka bowl strategy that later commentators had proposed as a better option. He drew on his past experience and built obstacles, hardened defenses and created fortresses on the likely approach routes. His plan was to bleed Indian forces first and then withdraw to his fortress of Dhaka for the final battle. He believed he would have enough men and materiel to fight the Indians for a few weeks in which India would be made to cease fire by western pressure. He then critiques the Indian performance in the eastern sector and says - India fared poorly in each battle against his troops. He takes the example of Kamalpur and Hilli where Indians rushed headfirst into prepared defenses and took losses while the defenders held out till surrender. He also lists a few attacks that were in progress till Dec 15 where India had not managed to dislodge the defenders when the order for surrender came. He notes that all these places had plenty of ammunition and morale was high among the troops as they had seen India could not defeat them. The same troops that a few pages before were worn out and underequipped and poorly supplied. He also has a wild theory that the Russians advisors were on the battlefield and that they used Russian supplied poison gas against his troops!

The reader can refer to Indian planners writings on the subject and about Op. Windfall in particular to appreciate that India intended to bypass strong points and only engage them if absolutely necessary. Gen. Thapan's head first attack at Hilli was contrary to the plan and it shows in its results.

The writer decries the performance of the Pak army in the western sector where instead of hardened defenses they fought open battles with the Indian army and lost quite a bit of territory blowing away the "Defence of East lies in the West" theory. Niazi felt that in starting the war in December, GHQ had hurt his cause as it allowed India to cut him off totally. One wonders if India would have felt extra generous and not cut him off if he had invaded in Mid 1971 as he had originally planned.

The book is extremely critical of Tikka Khan, Rao Farman Ali (whom the writer has all but accused of treason). As per the writer Tikka Khan bungled up everything he touched and Farman Ali was a GHQ stooge who was in secret talks with Lt. Gen JFR Jacob. Another writer - Siddiq Saliq is dismissed as a paid ISI Hack. Another officer Maj. Gen. Abdul Majid Qazi who was initially praised lavishly for his performance vs India is accused of criminal negligence at the end for not interdicting Indian Airborne troops.

Finally the General talks of being forced to surrender by GHQ. He implies that he was asked to surrender overruling his desire to go Last Man Last Round. He maintains that he was in fighting sprit to the end, disputing other writers who claim he had broken down by the end.

Surprisingly Gen. Niazi is generous in his description of his POW experience. Though he does complain that Indians tried to convert his troops into spies where expectedly he claims they failed totally. Then he goes on to make the most absurd claims that Gen. Shahbeg Singh showed him a map of Khalistan. This was a full 6-7 years before Gen. Shahbeg Singh had even joined the Khalistan movement. And then he makes an even more outlandish claim that Gen. Shahbeg Singh warned him that he was going to be blamed for the debacle at Dhaka and claims this was the level of penetration that Indian intelligence had in Pakistan Establishment! One can only assume that Gen. Shahbeg Singh was dead at the time of writing and could not dispute Niazi's claims so made for a convenient target.

The last part of the book describes how the General was treated once he returned. How both Bhutto and Zia mistreated him. Niazi also claims that he met Bhutto once in prison when both were in custody courtesy Zia. He claims that Bhutto repented his mistreatment of Niazi in that meeting and sought his forgiveness. The book ends with a lament that the brave soldier was let down by corrupt leadership and conniving politicians.

The book shows Gen. Niazi as a complex personality. His track record shows he displayed a significant military talent. Wherever he has given references the reader can feel he was a good soldier. But at the same time his attempts to shift the blame towards everyone else and even claims that the enemy who had thrashed his army on the west could not hurt him at all in the East are not believable. Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi was ultimately a victim of challenging circumstances which he had himself volunteered for (whether in innocence or arrogance) coupled with an overpowering enemy who did not offer him any chance of a win.
 
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Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
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Book Review

Witness to Surrender - Brig. Siddiq Salik

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Salik's book was on my list because it is regularly quoted by both Indian and Pakistani sources. I found it to be one of the better accounts of the 71 war from the Pakistani side.

The biases are still there but his honest recording of facts makes them tolerable. The book is divided into 3 parts - Political, Politico-Military and Military.

These three sections try to examine failures at personal and institutional level that led to the secession of the Eastern wing.

The first section talks of the political situation in early 70,71 and also devotes a decent amount of space to build historical context. The usual India bashing exists but is within limits and other factors like Yahya's inability to handle things, Bhutto's refusal to hand over power and Mujib's ambition are examined quite well.

The second section describes the transition of the military command from Tikka Khan to Niazi. Salik seems to have a deep dislike for Niazi that despite his efforts is visible in his writing. Niazi has been painted as a brash, boisterous perv more times than as an officer. The shortcomings for other high ranking officers like Rao Farman Ali were also discussed.

The final section describes how the Pak Army faced its hopeless mission cut off from its western base. Salik gives a good deal of description of how incompetence of some officers, plain luck and sometimes mad bravery hastened the demise of East Pakistan. It also lays hollow all of Niazi's claims about him being forced to surrender despite having the means to hold Dhaka.

When Gen. Nagra sent his message, Niazi was asked by Farman Ali - Kuch Pallay Hai ? (Do you have any reserves). Niazi checked with his people and shook his head. Following which a message was sent to allow Gen. Nagra to come into Dhaka without any resistance. Also a message was sent to the officers kitchen to prepare food for the guests - because appearances you know.

At the end of the book, Salik notes how he asked Niazi why he did not fight to the end. Niazi replied that even after the sacrifice of blood, the end result would have been the same. Salik counters that in that case, PA's honor would have remained intact. Niazi turned away without answering.
 

Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
950
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3rd Rock from the Sun
Book Review

The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 - Volume 1 | Ravi Rikhye

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This book in a coffee table book format is an absolute delight to read. At 74 pages its not very lengthy and its lavishly adorned with visuals to keep the casual reader entertained.

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Its most important virtue is that it crisply lists out facts in an easy to comprehend manner that will hold the attention of the reader. To give an example - Lt. Gen Niazi in his book took about 50 pages to list out his laments against Pindi and the author has answered them all in 2 paras and done an excellent job at that.

There are interesting snippets throughout the book that share information on key people or share interesting anecdotes. These pieces greatly enhance the reading experience for a casual reader.

The maps and other illustrations are extremely well done - which is one pet peeve I have for older books on the topic

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If you are a history buff, this book is a good addition to your collection. If you want to learn more about the 71 war but dont have the time/ inclination to read a full book - this book is your best bet.

Sidenote - I caught a mistake in this book where Hardev Singh Kler was mistakenly replaced by his nephew Alok Singh Kler. I reached out to the author and the next editions should be corrected hopefully.
 

Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
950
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3rd Rock from the Sun
Review - US Army MRE Menu 11

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I have tried a few MREs before but this is the first veg (allegedly) MRE that I tried

Containing rations to keep a soldier fed nicely in a small form factor package these MREs have been copied worldwide. The menu 11 contains

A main course - a mexican style pasta
Chilli Lime sauce sachet
An energy bar
Apple sauce with high sugar content
Crackers
Peanut Butter
Roasted Peanuts
Chewing gum (2 pieces), toilet paper wad, salt
French Vanilla Cappuccino
Cranberry drink powder
Field ration heater

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This MRE packs lesser items than the ones I have tried before. A small coffee pouch, candy, matches were missing

Taste

The main course cooked in Mexican style is an acquired taste. However the ration heater works flawlessly. My meal was pipping hot.
The crackers were fresh and tasted good. The peanuts too were remarkably fresh. The peanut butter is the chunky one - I prefer it smooth
The energy bar and apple sauce tasted pretty good.

Verdict - for a pack weighing less than a kilo, it can sustain a person in normal climates for a whole day which is pretty impressive. The ration heater is top notch and quality of the items is pretty good. The taste - well if you don't like Mexican, this meal probably isn't for you but if you look at it objectively it more than meets the task its intended for.
 

Jaymax

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Apr 1, 2019
950
938
3rd Rock from the Sun
Wargame Review

The Next War - India Pakistan

I bought this game on a whim and was actually surprised how good it turned out to be. I orginally reviewed it for another forum. Today after a mention of wargames thought to post it here as well

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This game has 5 specific scenarios (Kashmir, Enough, Lahore, Border War and Loose Nukes). The last 2 are advanced scenarios with UN intervention, International posture playing a role as well. Finally there is the option just stack everything its starting point and run a general campaign as you see fit

This game has potential intervention from

Russia
USA
France
Australia
China

Except China all others intervene on the side of India.


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The only pain point is that with all the play aids the map and holders for counters, its too wide to be played on a table.


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The markers and the playaids


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The Game map.


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This game first published in 2015 also allowed India to include 2 units of Rafales. Now that's what I call thinking ahead.




I played the first scenario - Kashmir which is basically a mad rush for Kashmir with Chinese Airborne elements thrown in. Playing as both India and Pakistan (as honestly as I could) I almost caused an upset Pakistan victory save for 1 mistake and a few luck dice rolls.

The game ended with India still holding Srinagar while Uri, Poonch and Baramulla were held by Pakistan. Chinese Airborne units and a Pakistan division were holed up in Anantnag surrounded by 3 Indian Brigades and 2 other divisions. The VP counter awarded the game to India.

I replayed the scenario with another experienced wargame player - who kindly opted to play as Pakistan. This time the game went to Pakistan hands down.

This game is a good buy for any one who likes Wargames and is interested in the South East Asia Military situation

For anyone who is expecting instant gratification it should be a hard pass as there is a learning curve.

@_Anonymous_ @nair
 
Last edited:

jetray

Senior member
Mar 15, 2018
1,820
1,100
India
Review - US Army MRE Menu 11

View attachment 22052

I have tried a few MREs before but this is the first veg (allegedly) MRE that I tried

Containing rations to keep a soldier fed nicely in a small form factor package these MREs have been copied worldwide. The menu 11 contains

A main course - a mexican style pasta
Chilli Lime sauce sachet
An energy bar
Apple sauce with high sugar content
Crackers
Peanut Butter
Roasted Peanuts
Chewing gum (2 pieces), toilet paper wad, salt
French Vanilla Cappuccino
Cranberry drink powder
Field ration heater

View attachment 22053

This MRE packs lesser items than the ones I have tried before. A small coffee pouch, candy, matches were missing

Taste

The main course cooked in Mexican style is an acquired taste. However the ration heater works flawlessly. My meal was pipping hot.
The crackers were fresh and tasted good. The peanuts too were remarkably fresh. The peanut butter is the chunky one - I prefer it smooth
The energy bar and apple sauce tasted pretty good.

Verdict - for a pack weighing less than a kilo, it can sustain a person in normal climates for a whole day which is pretty impressive. The ration heater is top notch and quality of the items is pretty good. The taste - well if you don't like Mexican, this meal probably isn't for you but if you look at it objectively it more than meets the task its intended for.
all we can see is unopened packets...
toilet paper wad & salt, interesting combination.