Lt-Gen K. P. Candeth

Indian army officer who liberated Goa from Portuguese rule

Kunhiraman Palat Candeth, army officer: born 23 October 1916; military governor of Goa 1961-63; died New Delhi 19 May 2003.

K. P. Candeth not only led the assault to liberate the Portuguese colony of Goa on India's west coast in the early 1960s, but also played a crucial role in three wars with Pakistan after independence in 1947.

Commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1936, the no-nonsense, bachelor Anglo-Indian officer also saw action in West Asia during the Second World War. And, shortly before India's independence from colonial rule, he was deployed in the North-West Frontier Province, bordering Afghanistan, to quell local quarrelsome tribes. This experience in mountain guerrilla warfare later helped Candeth in the early 1960s deal with Naga tribals fighting for an independent Christian homeland in India's longest running insurgency, in the north-east bordering Burma (now Myanmar).

But Kunhiraman Candeth earned instant fame for liberating Goa - today one of the world's most popular beach resorts - along with the nearby colonial coastal enclaves of Daman and Diu in 1961, after which he was appointed the region's military governor for two years. Goa remained a Portuguese colony after the British left India and, despite complex diplomatic negotiations lasting 14 years, the colonisers refused to vacate the territory they had occupied since the mid-16th century and return home.

Instead, the Portuguese became more intransigent, wrongly assuming that India would pursue Mahatma Gandhi's policy of "ahimsa" or non-violence that eventually forced the British colonial administration to leave after nearly two centuries of occupation. On 18 December 1961 the Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's patience ran out and he sanctioned military action.

As 17 Infantry Division commander, Candeth took the colony within a day and was immediately appointed Goa's first Indian administrator, a post he held till 1963. Because of Goa, diplomatic relations between Portugal and India remained frosty for decades.

Candeth was born into a middle-class Anglo-Indian family in southern India in 1916, the son of a senior civil servant. In 1928 he joined the Prince of Wales's Royal Indian Military College - renamed the Rashtriya or National Indian Military College after independence - in the north Indian town of Dehra Dun in the Himalayan foothills, where he was highly rated in the classroom and on the playing field. On passing out in 1934, he joined the army and two years later was commissioned into the Royal Artillery. After a series of postings in West Asia and the turbulent North West Frontier Province (then in India), he attended the Military Services Staff College at Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province (and now in Pakistan) in 1945.

At independence two years later, Candeth was commanding an artillery regiment that was almost immediately deployed to the northern, disputed Kashmir state after Pakistan-backed tribesmen attacked and captured a third of the principality before being beaten back by the Indian army. Thereafter, Candeth held a series of senior appointments, including that of Director General of Artillery at Army Headquarters in Delhi, before moving on to command the 17th Infantry Division that participated in the Goa operations.

After relinquishing charge as Goa's military governor in 1963, Candeth took command of the newly raised, agile 8 Mountain Division in the North-east, where he battled, albeit with little success, the highly organised Naga insurgents. During India's third war with Pakistan in 1971, that led to East Pakistan breaking away to become Bangladesh, Candeth, now a lieutenant-general, was the Western Army commander responsible for planning and overseeing operations in the strategically crucial contiguous regions of Kashmir, Punjab and Rajasthan where the fiercest fighting took place. On retiring a year later Candeth was awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of India's highest civilian awards.

Kuldip Singh

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