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'Those days, you could drive from Amritsar to Lahore in one hour'

January 23, 2007
In the second part of his interview with Claude Arpi, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Lieutenant General S K Sinha (retd) describes how the friendly relationship between officers of a united India turned into bitterness after Partition, and elaborates on the Siachen dispute which continues to plague bilateral ties.

Part I of the interview with General S K Sinha: How we defeated the Pakistanis in 1948

Briefly I would like you to narrate an anecdote mentioned in your book Operation Rescue when you were 'stuck' near Sialkot in Pakistan with General (later Field Marshal K M) Cariappa, the first commander-in-chief of Independent India.

You have to understand that this war was a peculiar war. India and Pakistan were fighting a war in Jammu and Kashmir, while the border elsewhere was absolutely peaceful. So much so that in January 1948, General (David) Russell had left for England and Cariappa had become the army commander.

One day, Pakistani General Iftekar Ahmed invited Cariappa to attend a horse show at Lahore. Cariappa went there, attended the show and returned. In those days, you could drive from Amritsar to Lahore in one hour. There was no restriction, Pakistan was just in existence. No question of passport, of visa, of check posts, you just drove.

I remember that in February 1948, we were stuck in Jammu and we wanted to go to Delhi. The weather was very bad; it was raining and raining. We were keen to be in Delhi soon. At that time the road between Jammu and Pathankot was bad, and there was no bridge on the Ravi and other rivers.

Due to the bad weather, there was no possibility of flying from Jammu to Delhi. So Cariappa asked me, "Please check up with Iftekar if we can drive from Jammu to Sialkot (in Pakistan) and there to Lahore and Delhi." We did not get a flat 'No' (from the Pakistani general), but he made some type of excuse.

Ultimately we had to wait for 3 or 4 days for the weather to improve to go to Delhi.

General K M Cariappa, caught in a contemplative mood in his operations room at the Western Army HQ during the Jammu & Kashmir operations in 1948. Photographs courtesy: Bharat Rakshak

Also see: 'Free Kashmir will spark war, not peace'

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