Approaching the task methodically, he cleared the decks first and then set about fixing the matters which required his immediate attention. He personally trained his domestic staff because his 'Army House' was going to be the meeting-point for VIPs, functions and social gatherings. Already into is last phase, on this great day when Cariappa took charge as Commander-in-Chief, he placed a wreath on Mahatma Gandhi's 'Samadhi' at 8 a.m. Then he started replying to a heap of congratulatory letters. One of the letters had come from Field Marshal Birdwood. Cariappa assured him that the traditional links which had been developed over a long period of history would be maintained by the Indian Army.
Then he proceeded to lay the foundations for its modernisation. Among the issues he tackled first and foremost, included the following:
In addition, Cariappa streamlined the administrative procedures, formulated new rules and took steps to remove some irritating anomalies in the rank and pay structure of the officers. But, between his work and hectic touring schedule, Cariappa found enough time to attend to the problems of the ex-servicemen whose welfare was very close to his heart. A man like his stature, Cariappa during his last phase in his eventful army career was amiable enough to bring himself down to any measure and assist the common man. This very quality of gentleness and absence of vanity, made Cariappa hold up the supreme rank in Indian Army division and stand out to fulfil his dream. So, by all means, he had projected an unusually strenuous task for himself. However, with his super-human stamina for hard work, he was able to achieve a remarkable degree of success during his tenure of four years. An Indian Field Marshal perhaps could not have asked for more, with both parties moving towards a smooth administration.
Like any other human being, Cariappa also had enough ups and downs in life in order to reach that position into his last phase. In 1950, he was invited to visit Nepal where the king made him an honorary General of the Royal Nepalese Army. Soon thereafter, the President of USA, Harry Truman conferred upon him the 'Order of the Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit'. But at the same time, this period gave him enough tense moments as a blizzard had started building up in the Himalayas. The entry of the Communist China into Tibet made him very apprehensive.
In January, 1951, approximately 11 years before the large-scale Chinese aggression on India, Cariappa's worst fears came true when on an urgent request from the Assam Government, he had to rush a platoon of para-troopers to a place near Rima-Tatu. This timely action stopped the Chinese in their tracks and thus the threat was well contained. Cariappa placed further proposals for taking defensive measure before Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, but the latter was too preoccupied with Kashmir and spurned the proposal.
On completion of his long and fruitful innings, General Cariappa was glad to hand over his C-in-C's (Commander-in-Chief) charge to Lieutenant General Rajindra Singh, in mid-January 1953. K.M. Cariappa's last phase in Indian Army was governed by magnanimous affairs, with loads of nostalgia and recollections to be recounted. The shining path which he had laid out, gave him the honour to be remembered as the 'Father of the Indian Army'. His farewell was marked by unusually touching scenes and a stampede near the New Delhi railway station.
He had hardly settled down in Madikeri when Cariappa was summoned to become India's High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand. He sailed out in July 1953 and the Governor General who welcomed him was none other than his old friend Field Marshal William Slim. Cariappa's tenure kept him there till April 1956.
By 1971, Cariappa was thoroughly disillusioned with the government's failure to follow up the hard gains of the Indian Army's victory in the Indo-Pak War. Losing this good opportunity to recover its territory in Kashmir made him contest the general elections as an independent candidate from N.E. Bombay. But he had no chance against the corruption prevalent in politics. However, his deep interest in serving the country and the welfare of the ex-servicemen never flagged. Though into a last phase in his terrific career, in which he had seen it all, Cariappa was never lacking in zeal when his country was concerned. Everything would then take a back-seat.
On 14th January, 1986, the then President Zail Singh conferred on Cariappa the rank of Field Marshal for life. He was eighty-seven on that day. After successfully wrapping up every task he was ordained to, Cariappa could make himself proud to have been blessed with such parents who brought him up to live to witness such a day. The Almighty had also showered Cariappa with all his blessings. In fact, just to end Cariappa's last phase in army life with such mere words seems an understatement, for the man had perhaps achieved everything. The entire nation and the media rejoiced at the news. Besides, Cariappa's well-wishers from across the world sent their emotional messages and greetings. But his failing health gave Cariappa just enough time to live up the age of 94 years and a few months. This great Indian soldier passed into history quite peacefully on 15th May 1993.
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