New Delhi : The Indian defence establishment Tuesday reacted with anger to the allegation that Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw had sold military secrets to Pakistan, even as a high-level meeting here considered ways to counter the charge.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan were among those who attended the meeting.
The Indian Navy chief, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, and the Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Major, also attended the meeting, held in Mukherjee's South Block office. The meeting also considered the potential threat from the Tamil Tigers' newly acquired air wing.
Former Pakistani minister Gohar Ayub Khan made the allegation during an interview to Karan Thapar on CNBC-TV18 but refused to categorically state whether he was referring to Manekshaw, known as the architect of the Indian Army operations that led to the break up of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh in December 1971.
Not surprisingly, the allegation was roundly condemned.
"Gohar Khan's statement should be dismissed with utmost contempt," sad Pranab Mukherjee.
"It is unfortunate," said Minister of State for Defence Production M.M. Pallam Raju.
Former Indian Army chief Gen. V.P. Malik termed the charge "absolute nonsense, farcical, and unethical.
"I cannot find stronger words than this. But he (Gohar) is at it again – he had raised this issue earlier and without any proof whatsoever I will not accept anything he says. His credibility so far as making tall statements is concerned is already known and is questionable," Malik added.
Gen. (retd) Shankar Roy Chowdhary, who also headed the Indian Army, wondered where the evidence was to back Gohar's claim.
"These kind of allegations against people who have achieved the highest degree of respect and regard amongst the people of India must, if they are to be believed, be backed by solid evidence.
"By solid evidence, I do not mean references from somebody's personal diary or extracts from letters, but evidence," Chowdhary contended.
Lt. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob, the second senior-most officer of the Indian Army's Eastern Command that conducted the 1971 operations, termed Gohar's allegation as "malicious".
"This is a malicious attack by Gohar on Sam Manekshaw, and it is thoroughly unwarranted. I don't know on what basis he is making these allegations, there is no proof. It's just to malign somebody.
"Manekshaw is an upright soldier. I don't understand why these allegations have come. They are absolutely stupid, scurrilous and completely false," Jacob maintained.
Manekshaw, 95, is recuperating in a military hospital in south India from age-related complications.
Gohar is the son of former Pakistani military dictator Field Marshal Ayub Khan, whose diaries relating to the period 1966-72 were published May 4.
The Indian Army had made considerable advance into Pakistan during the 1971 war and captured a substantial area of territory. This area was returned after the 1972 Simla Agreement inked by the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and her Pakistani counterpart Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Gohar first made the claim two years ago, saying his father had given him the name of an Indian Army director of military operations of the 1950s who had sold the country's war plans to Pakistan for Rs.20,000.
At that time too, Gohar had failed to substantiate the claim.