Among the foreign friends whom Bangladesh awarded last week on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of its independence, for their leading role in liberating it in 1971, was a Jew, an Indian top ranking military official, Lt. Gen (ret.) Jack Farj Rafael Jacob, whom Bangladesh considers one of the most important friends of the nation.
Jacob never asked for any award, and told reporters simply, "It is a great honor. I am honored." The progressive and informed part of the country do not believe it would been possible to have achieved independence in nine months of a bloody war against Pakistan's powerful military without his diligence. If Jacob had not there, history would have been different. Jacob is admired wholeheartedly.
During the War of Bangladesh Liberation, Jacob was a major general and Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command. He "became more than famous for his successful military strategy while he ignored the incorrect idea of his superiors, Lt. Gen. (Later Field Marshall) Sam Manekshaw and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Manekshaw ordered him to capture part of what is of now Bangladesh, but not Dhaka, its capital. Jacob, however, concentrated on capturing the provincial city, Dhaka, then Decca. A cease-fire arrangement had nearly been conceded by both militaries, when, on December 16, Jacob forced Pakistani Army commander Lt. General A. A. K. Niazi to surrender in East Pakistan. Under his command, Major General (later Lt. General) Nagra rushed to arrive the enemy base. Jacob has written two books: Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation, and An Odyssey in War and Peace.
Jacob was born in 1923 in Kolkatta, India. His family had moved from Iraq to India in the middle of the 18th century, when there was trend of Jewish families from what are now Iraq, Syria, Jordan to migrate to India, and why the Indian Jew community is known as Baghdadi Jews. Later, a large part of the Baghdadi Jews left for what is now Israel, a legitimate enclave for people who over the centuries had been dispersed from that land by force.
As a Major in Burma, Jacob met the famous General, Orde Wingate, who became morally a Zionist. Jacob served as governor of the province of Goa, and subsequently became the governor of the very sensitive state of Punjab. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel, the outspoken J.F.R. Jacob became strongest thread of the friendship between the two nations. He promotes the idea of dealing in arms, technology and cooperation in various fields such as agriculture and research.
The legendary general's health is failing; he may soon breathe his last, but he will ever remain an important part of the birth of a nation, Bangladesh. The people of Bangladesh consider him worthy of reverence in the days ahead.