Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Decisive Battles and Strategic leaders by J P Alexander

Do we still have inspiring leaders to whom the nation can look up to? Can the country point out at least one leader who has a vision for the future? Do we have leaders who walk the talk? Perhaps these questions pricked the conscience of the civilian in J P Alexander. So he has come up with the book, Decisive Battles, Strategic Leaders.

“Amongst the many crises witnessed by the country, the dearth of leadership stands first in the list. Unfortunately, this crisis remains unattended,” says Alexander.

Written like a history text, it might not have the charm of a work of fiction, but it  definitely talks at length about the strategies followed by prominent leaders to win their respective battles. “Hence it would not be wrong to call this book a personality development guide to mould the younger generation of leaders,” says Alexander.

The book primarily contains the details of every significant battle in the world from 1857 to 2014. These include the battles of Arbela, Waterloo, Gettysburg, the fall of Singapore,  the battles in Vijaynagar,Bahmani kingdoms in 1560, the third battle of Panipat, or the first war of Indian independence, in 1861, and the Bangladesh war in 1971.

“All these wars are a treasure trove of strategies worth emulating,” he says.“Every war has its own strategy. When you meticulously analyse every battle in detail, the strategies become clear.”

The book even throws light on the emotions of a leader while preparing for a battle. “It is wrong to assume that leaders are without any fear,” says Alexander. “But how they channelise it, is the pertinent factor.” He quotes Napolean to prove it. “When drawing a plan of action, I magnify every danger, every disadvantage that can be conceived,” said Napolean. “My nervousness is painful though I conceal it from every one.”

For a civil engineer by profession, to have a liking for history and dates seems an unconventional passion. “I have travelled extensively and these destinations still excites me,” says Alexander. In fact, he has visited every battle site mentioned in the book, including the renowned Waterloo.

But it was the battle field of the Third battle of Panipat that has an emotional connect with him. “Firstly, I had lived in Panipat for many years,” he says. “I knew the descendants of many leaders who fought there. Besides, if the Marathas were not defeated by the Afghan King Ahmad Shah Abdali, they would have beaten the English and the history would have been different,” he says.

The Bangladesh war is yet another battle which Alexander is proud of. “93,000 Pakistanis were captured as prisoners, the largest number after the Second World War,” he says.

The book received plaudits from many included the late Madhukar Rao, former professor of Maharaja’s college, Ernakulam. “That meant a lot to me,” says Alexander.

Though a bibliography is there at the end of the book, the author says he cross-checked those books just to confirm the facts.

“The history and the related chronology is intact in my brain and I hardly needed a reference book,” says Alexander. “But you have to confirm every fact before it gets into print.”

Alexander’s sons and one of his students also helped him compile the graphics and maps. “As maps are copyrighted, I found it difficult to get the needed maps. Hence my children and a student of mine helped me with the maps suited for my purpose,” he says.

Alexander points out that the suggestions given by Lt General Thomas Mathew also helped.“I had stopped with 1971, but what about the current scenario?” Lt General asked. “Hence I wrote about the Indian Ocean and its strategic significance and how India should have a prominent role there.”

Alexander worked in the Marketing, Materials and Management Development departments of the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore Limited. He took nearly two years to complete the work. Justice V R Krishna Iyer will release the book on Sunday.