J. F. R. Jacob

Lieutenant General Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, PVSM (2 May 1921 – 13 January 2016), was an Indian Army officer. He was best known for the role he played in the creation of Bangladesh in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Jacob, then a major general, served as the chief of staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command. During his 36-year long career in the army, Jacob fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He later served as the governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab.

Jack Farj Rafael Jacob

JFR Jacob.jpg
29th Governor of Punjab
In office
27 November 1999 – 8 May 2003
Appointed byPresident of India (then, K. R. Narayanan)
PresidentK. R. Narayanan(1997-2002) A.P.J. Abdul Kalam(2002-2003)
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Chief MinisterParkash Singh Badal
Preceded byB. K. N. Chhibber
Succeeded byO. P. Verma
9th Governor of Goa
In office
19 April 1998 – 26 November 1999
Appointed byPresident of India (then, K. R. Narayanan)
PresidentK. R. Narayanan (1999–2002)
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (2002–2003)
Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
Chief MinisterPratapsingh Rane (1998)
Luizinho Faleiro (1998–1999)
Francisco Sardinha (1999)
Preceded byT. R. Satish Chandran
Succeeded byMohammed Fazal
Personal details
Jack Farj Rafael Jacob

(1921-05-02)2 May 1921[1][note 1]
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
(Now, Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
Died13 January 2016(2016-01-13) (aged 94)
New Delhi, India
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
OccupationIndian Army officer
ProfessionArmy officer
Military career
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service7 June 1942 - 31 July 1978
RankLieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg Lieutenant General
Service numberIC-470[2]
Commands held

12 Infantry Division

Battles/warsWorld War II

Indo-Pakistan War of 1965

Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

Early lifeEdit

Jacob was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Bengal Presidency, British India. His family were deeply religious Baghdadi Jews, originally from Iraq, who settled in Calcutta in the middle of the 18th century.[3] Jacob's father, Elias Emanuel, was an affluent businessman. After his father became sick, Jacob was sent at the age of nine to Victoria School, a boarding school in Kurseong near Darjeeling. From then on, he went home only during school holidays.[4]

Jacob, motivated by reports of the Holocaust of European Jews during World War II, enlisted in the British Indian Army in 1942 as "Jack Frederick Ralph Jacob."[1] His father objected to his enlisting. Jacob said in 2010, "I am proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through."[3]

Military careerEdit

Jacob graduated from the Officer's Training School in Mhow in 1942, and received an emergency commission as a second lieutenant on 7 June.[1] He was initially posted to northern Iraq in anticipation of a possible German attempt to seize the oil fields of Kirkuk, and was promoted war-substantive lieutenant on 7 December.[4][5][1]

In 1943, Jacob was transferred to an artillery brigade that was dispatched to Tunisia to reinforce the British Army against Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps. The brigade arrived after the Axis surrender. From 1943 to the end of the war, Jacob's unit fought in the Burma Campaign against the Empire of Japan.[6] In the wake of Japan's defeat, he was assigned to Sumatra.[7]

On 27 October 1945, Jacob was granted a permanent commission in the rank of lieutenant.[8] After World War II, he attended and graduated from artillery schools in England and the United States, specialising in advanced artillery and missiles.[6] He returned to India following its partition, and joined the Indian Army. On 20 May 1964, he was given command of an artillery brigade, with the acting rank of brigadier.[9] During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he commanded an infantry division, which later became the 12th Infantry Division, in the state of Rajasthan.[7] During this period, Jacob composed an Indian Army manual on desert warfare.[10]

Jacob was promoted to substantive brigadier on 17 January 1966,[11] and received command of an infantry brigade on 30 September.[12] On 2 October 1967, he was promoted to the acting rank of major general and was given command of an infantry division,[13][4] with promotion to the substantive rank on 10 June 1968.[14] On 29 April 1969, he was appointed the chief of staff, Eastern Command, by General Sam Manekshaw (later field marshal).[15][7] Jacob's immediate superior was Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the general officer commanding-in-chief (GOC-in-C) of the Eastern Command.[5] Jacob was soon tasked with dealing with the mounting insurgency in Northeast India.[16]

Bangladesh WarEdit

A. A. K. Niazi signing the instrument of surrender under the gaze of J. S. Aurora. Standing immediately behind (L-R) Nilkanta Krishnan, Hari Chand Dewan, Sagat Singh, Jacob (with. Krishnamurthy peeping over his shoulder). Newscaster, Surajit Sen of All India Radio, is seen holding a microphone on the right

Jacob gained prominence during his stint as the chief of staff of the Eastern Command; the command helped to defeat the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.[17] Jacob was awarded a commendation of merit for his role.[18]

In March 1971, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight to stem the Bengali nationalist movement in East Pakistan.[19] The action led to over 10 million refugees entering India, fuelling tensions between India and Pakistan.[20] By the monsoon season Jacob—as chief of staff—was tasked with drawing the contingency plans in case of a conflict. After consulting with his superior officers, Jacob developed a plan for engaging Pakistan in a "war of movement" in the difficult and swampy terrain of East Pakistan.[4]

An initial plan, given to the Eastern Command by Manekshaw, involved an incursion into East Pakistan and the capture of the provinces of Chittagong and Khulna.[21] Senior Indian Army officers were reluctant to execute an aggressive invasion for fears of early ceasefire demands by the United Nations and a looming threat posed by China.[10] That, together with the difficulty of navigating the marshy terrain of East Pakistan through three wide rivers, led the commanders to initially believe that the capture of all of East Pakistan was not possible. Jacob disagreed; his "war of movement" plan aimed to take control of all of East Pakistan. Jacob felt that the capital Dhaka was the geopolitical centre of the region, and that any successful campaign had to involve the eventual capture of Dhaka.[10] Realising that the Pakistani Army's commander of its eastern command, A. A. K. Niazi, was going to fortify the towns and "defend them in strength", his plan was to bypass intermediary towns altogether, neutralise Pakistan's command and communication infrastructure, and use secondary routes reach Dhaka.[4] Jacob's plan was eventually approved by the Eastern Command.[10]

The strategy eventually led to the capture of Dhaka. The Pakistani forces were selectively bypassed, their communication centres were captured and secured, and their command and control capabilities were destroyed.[10] His campaign was planned for execution in three weeks, but was executed in under a fortnight.

Jacob understood that a protracted war would not be in India's best interests. On 16 December, during a lull in the battle, Jacob sought permission to visit Niazi to seek his surrender. He flew to Dhaka and obtained an unconditional surrender from Niazi,[10] who later accused Jacob of blackmailing him into the surrender by threatening to order the annihilation of Pakistani troops in the east by bombing.[22] The war was a significant victory for India, with nearly ninety thousand Pakistani soldiers surrendering to the Indian Army. Dhaka fell, despite that, there were more than twenty-six thousand Pakistani soldiers in the city and only three thousand Indian soldiers in the immediate area.[6]

A study of the campaign by Pakistan's National Defence College concluded that "the credit really goes to Jacob's meticulous preparations in the Indian eastern command and to the implementation by his corps commanders."[4][22] According to the website Bharat Rakshak, Jacob had repeatedly asserted that the Bangladesh war was only successful because of his own efforts rather than those of Field Marshal Manekshaw or the GOC-in-C of Eastern Command, Lieutenant General Aurora.[23]

Later military career and retirementEdit

On 17 June 1972, Jacob was promoted to acting lieutenant-general and was appointed a corps commander,[24] with promotion to substantive lieutenant-general on 5 August 1973.[25] His final appointment was as GOC-in-C, Eastern Command, which he held from 1974 until 31 July 1978, when he retired from the Army following 36 years of service and having reached the mandatory retirement age.[26][18]

Post-retirement life and political careerEdit

Jacob lighting Hanukkah candles, together with Rabbi Schneur Kuptz'ik, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Delhi, (December 2012)

Following his retirement from the army, Jacob entered a career in business. In the late 1990s, he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and served as its security adviser.[18] He was appointed as governor of the state of Goa in 1998, and later served as governor of Punjab from 1999 to 2003.[27]

He was appointed as the governor of Goa and later appointed the governor of Punjab. He was a supporter of improved India–Israel relations. When the Bharatiya Janata Party became part of the ruling coalition government of India in 1998, one of their first priorities was to improve relations with Israel, with which India has had formal diplomatic relations since 1992.[18] In the run-up to 2004 election, he postulated the implications of a win for Indian National Congress in terms of Indo–Israel relations as:

A victory by the Congress Party under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi...will not lead to any change in India's policy toward Israel. The good relations will continue, and in certain area even grow deeper. If I had to rank the present-day level of relations between India and Israel, I would give them a 9 out of 10.[28][18]

He supported the purchase and trade of military equipment and technology from Israel by India, particularly the purchase of Israeli Arrow missiles, which he preferred over the U.S-made Patriot missiles on account of the Arrows' ability to intercept enemy missiles at higher altitudes.[18]

He remained cautious about relations between India and Pakistan in light of the Pakistani media's suggesting that military and intelligence co-operation between Israel and India, which they called a "Zionist threat" on Pakistan's borders.[29][30]

India has been attacked several times by Pakistan. We cannot take risks, and be unprepared for a surprise attack. India should be prepared for both Pakistan and China. Therefore, there is a need for anti-missile missiles. Due to the Pakistani danger and the threat of launch of missiles with nuclear warheads.[18]

He was also positive about India's recent economic growth and the capabilities of the young Indian generation. He said:

As a country, we are at the threshold of an economic explosion and, hence, at this moment, empowerment means most to those who hold the key to the future. I talk of the younger generation. Sound economic and strategic planning will bring about this change. Unfortunately, since our prosperity comes in bursts, good governance, in the form of dedicated politicians and bureaucrats, is essential to usher any changes.[31]


On 13 January 2016, at around 8.30 am local time, Jacob died at New Delhi's Army Research and Referral Hospital due to pneumonia.[32][33] He was laid to rest the following day in Delhi's Jewish cemetery on Humayun Road. His funeral was attended by India's defence minister, information minister, and foreign delegations.[27]

In April 2019, Israel honoured Jacob with a commemorative plaque on the Ammunition Hill Wall of Honour.[34]

Major publicationsEdit

Jacob was the author of these books:

  • Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation (ISBN 984-05-1395-8)
  • An Odyssey in War and Peace: An Autobiography Lt Gen. J.F.R. Jacob (ISBN 978-81-7436-840-9)

Dates of rankEdit

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
  Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 7 June 1942 (emergency)
7 December 1943 (substantive)[8]
  Lieutenant British Indian Army 7 December 1942 (war-substantive)[8]
27 October 1945 (substantive; regular commission)[8]
  Captain British Indian Army 2 February 1945 (acting)[8]
2 May 1945 (temporary)
20 July 1946 (war-substantive)[8]
  Major British Indian Army 20 April 1946 (acting)
20 July 1946 (temporary)[8]
  Lieutenant Indian Army 15 August 1947[note 2][35]
  Captain Indian Army 1948[note 2][35]
  Captain Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)[35][36]
  Major Indian Army 7 June 1955[2]
  Lieutenant-Colonel Indian Army 7 June 1958[37]
  Colonel Indian Army 23 December 1964[38]
  Brigadier Indian Army 20 May 1964 (acting)[9]
17 January 1966 (substantive)[11]
  Major General Indian Army 2 October 1967 (acting)[13]
10 June 1968 (substantive)[14]
  Lieutenant-General Indian Army 17 June 1972 (acting)[24]
5 August 1973 (substantive)[25]


  1. ^ As given in the pre-Independence Indian Army List.
  2. ^ a b Upon independence in 1947, India became a Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As a result, the rank insignia of the British Army, incorporating the Tudor Crown and four-pointed Bath Star ("pip"), was retained, as George VI remained Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. After 26 January 1950, when India became a republic, the President of India became Commander-in-Chief, and the Ashoka Lion replaced the crown, with a five-pointed star being substituted for the "pip."


  1. ^ a b c d Indian Army List for October 1945 (Part I). Government of India Press. 1945. p. 631.
  2. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 17 September 1955. p. 177.
  3. ^ a b Ginsburg, Aimee (2 June 2012). "The Sum of His Many Parts". Openthemagazine.com. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Who was Lt Gen JFR Jacob? Here's all you need to know about the 1971 Indo-Pak war hero". India Today. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Lt Gen JFR Jacob, last of 1971 war trinity, dies at 92". Times of India. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Lt Gen Jacob, 1971 war hero, dies at 92". The Tribune. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b c "Never surrender: Remembering JFR Jacob". Dhaka Tribune. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Indian Army List (Special Edition) 1947. Government of India Press. 1947. pp. 269E.
  9. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 8 August 1964. p. 312.
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Lt Gen JFR Jacob: The man who masterminded Pakistan's surrender in 1971". Rediff. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  11. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 17 September 1966. p. 557.
  12. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 31 December 1966. p. 777.
  13. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 18 November 1967. p. 874.
  14. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 29 March 1969. p. 286.
  15. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 28 June 1969. p. 597.
  16. ^ "India can hold but not deter China: Lt Gen (retd) JFR Jacob in conversation with Gen (retd) Ved Prakash Malik". India Today. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  17. ^ "Do not forget Operation Searchlight of Gen Yahya Khan". Zee News. 28 March 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Barzilai, Amnon (6 September 2004). "The Jewish General Who Beat Pakistan". Haaretz. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  19. ^ Ganguly, Sumit (2002). Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947. Columbia University Press. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-231-12369-3.
  20. ^ "A leaf from history: After Operation Searchlight". Dawn. 3 March 2012. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  21. ^ "We did not take Khulna, and we did not capture Chittagong, yet we won the war". The Daily Star. 22 March 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  22. ^ a b "A victory, and little else". Hindustan Times. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  23. ^ Walia, Sumit. "1971 War: Dhaka or Bust?". Archived from the original on 4 January 2012.
  24. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 27 January 1973. p. 95.
  25. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 16 March 1974. p. 314.
  26. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 7 October 1978. p. 975.
  27. ^ a b "Lt Gen JFR Jacob, 1971 Indo-Pak war hero, laid to rest in New Delhi". DNA India. 14 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  28. ^ Sharma, Diwakar (2005). Modern Journalism Reporting and Writing. DEEP AND DEEP PUBLICATIONS. p. 200.
  29. ^ "Pakistan". Axt.org.uk. 3 January 1997. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  30. ^ "Pakistan's Israel dilemma". Indiadaily.com. Archived from the original on 28 June 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  31. ^ "The Big Idea". The Indian Express. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  32. ^ "1971 Indo-Pak War Hero, Lieutenant General JFR Jacob Dies". NDTV. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  33. ^ "RIP: Lt Gen JFR Jacob, hero of the 1971 war, passes away at 93". Firstpost. Firstpost. 13 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  34. ^ "Israel honours 1971 war hero Lt Gen JFR Jacob with a plaque on Ammunition Hill Wall of Honour". The Economic Times. PTI. 30 April 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  35. ^ a b c "New Designs of Crests and Badges in the Services" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 August 2017.
  36. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 11 February 1950. p. 227.
  37. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 27 August 1960. p. 217.
  38. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 13 November 1965. p. 583.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
N C Rawlley
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command
1974 - 1978
Succeeded by
E A Vas
Political offices
Preceded by
B. K. N. Chibber
Governor of Punjab
Succeeded by
O. P. Verma
Preceded by
T. R. Satish Chandran
Governor of Goa
Succeeded by
Mohammed Fazal