Pran Nath Thapar
General Pran Nath Thapar.jpg
4th Chief of the Army Staff
In office
8 May 1961 – 19 November 1962
PresidentRajendra Prasad
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
Prime MinisterJawaharlal Nehru
Preceded byGeneral Kodendera Subayya Thimayya
Succeeded byGeneral JN Chaudhuri
Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan
In office
August 1964 – 1 January 1969
Prime MinisterLal Bahadur Shastri
Gulzarilal Nanda
Indira Gandhi
Personal details
Born(1906-05-08)8 May 1906
Lahore, Punjab Province, British India
(now in Pakistan)[1]
Died23 January 1975(1975-01-23) (aged 68)
White Gates, Chhatarpur, New Delhi
Military career
Allegiance British India
Service/branch British Indian Army
 Indian Army
Years of service1926 - 19 Nov 1962
General of the Indian Army.svg
Service numberIA-558[2]
Badge of 1st Punjab Regiment 1945-56.jpg
1st Punjab Regiment
Commands held
Flag COAS.svg
Chief of Army Staff
IA Western Command.svg
Western Army
IA Southern Command.svg
Southern Army
161st Indian Infantry Brigade
Badge of 1st Punjab Regiment 1945-56.jpg
1/1 Punjab
Battles/warsWorld War II
Sino-Indian War
Spouse(s)Bimla Thapar
ChildrenKaran Thapar (son)
RelationsDaya Ram Thapar (brother)
Romesh Thapar (nephew)
Romila Thapar (niece)
Valmik Thapar (great-nephew)

General Pran Nath Thapar PVSM (23 May 1906 – 23 June 1975) was the fourth[3] Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. The Sino-Indian War was fought during his term, in which the Indian Army fared poorly. Thapar resigned during the last stages of the war, handing charge to Lt. Gen. J. N. Chaudhuri.[4]

Personal life

General Pran Nath Thapar was born at Lahore into a prominent Punjabi Khatri family.[5] He was the youngest son of Diwan Bahadur Kunj Behari Thapar of Lahore.[6] The journalist Karan Thapar is his son.[7] The historian Romila Thapar is his niece and the conservationist and tiger expert, Valmik Thapar is his great nephew. His elder brother was Daya Ram Thapar, an officer in the Indian Medical Service and later Director General Armed Forces Medical Services.

Thapar was distantly related to the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru through his wife. In March 1936, Thapar married Bimla Bashiram, the eldest daughter of Rai Bahadur Bashiram Sahgal and granddaughter of Rai Bahadur Ramsaran Das. Bimla Thapar was a sister of Gautam Sahgal, whose wife Nayantara Sahgal was a daughter of Vijayalakshmi Pandit and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru.[8][9] General Thapar and Smt. Bimla Thapar had four children, of whom the youngest is the journalist Karan Thapar.[citation needed]


After graduating from Government College, Lahore, he trained at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, passing out on 4 February 1926 as a second lieutenant. He passed out in the same batch as K.S. Thimayya, who also went on to become Chief of the Army Staff.[10] He spent the next year attached to a British Army battalion stationed in India. On 18 April 1927 he was formally appointed to the Indian Army, ranking as a second lieutenant.[11] He did his regimental duties with the 2nd battalion, 1st Punjab Regiment for ten years and later attended the staff courses at Quetta in India and Minley Manor in England.[12]

He served in Burma during the second World War in 1941 and later in the Middle East and Italy. By October 1942 he was serving on the staff as a brigade major.[13] He was appointed as assistant military secretary in 1945, and commanded the 1st Battalion of the 1st Punjab Regiment in Indonesia in 1946. Subsequently, he went on to serve as the commander of the 161 Indian Infantry Brigade in East Bengal. During the Partition of India, Thapar officiated as the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence.[citation needed]

In November 1947, he was promoted to the acting rank of major general. He served as the Chief of the General Staff for a few months and later as Military Secretary until August 1949. He was appointed Master General of the Ordnance on 8 August 1949.[14]

On 1 January 1950, Thapar was promoted to substantive major-general, and was given command of an infantry division on 10 April.[2] He commanded a division for four years until 1954 and was promoted to the local rank of lieutenant general in 1954 as Commander of a Corps. He was selected to attend the Imperial Defence College, London in 1955. After successful completion of the course, he was appointed General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Command on 21 January 1957, with the acting rank of lieutenant-general,[15] and was promoted to the substantive rank on 1 February.[16] He became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Command in 1959. Thapar took over as Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army on 8 May 1961 and served until 19 November 1962, when he resigned from the army after the defeat by China in the Sino-Indian War of October and November. He was also colonel of the Rajputana Rifles.

Later life

After resigning from the army, he was appointed as Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan from August 1964 to January 1969. He died on his farm, White Gates, in Chhattarpur, New Delhi, on 23 June 1975 at the age of 69.[citation needed]

Awards and decorations

Param Vishisht Seva Medal General Service Medal 1947 Videsh Seva Medal Indian Independence Medal
1939–1945 Star Burma Star War Medal 1939–1945 India Service Medal

Dates of rank

Insignia Rank Component Date of rank
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1a.svg
Second Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 February 1926[10]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-1b.svg
Lieutenant British Indian Army 4 May 1928.[17]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-2.svg
Captain British Indian Army 4 February 1935[18]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-3.svg
Major British Indian Army 1940 (acting)[19]
1 January 1941 (temporary)[19]
4 February 1943 (substantive)[20]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-4.svg
Lieutenant-Colonel British Indian Army 20 August 1944 (acting)[19]
20 November 1944 (temporary)[19]
10 August 1946 (war-substantive)[19]
British Army (1928-1953) OF-6.svg
Brigadier British Indian Army 2 November 1945 (acting)[19]
10 August 1946 (temporary)[19]
British Army (1928-1953) OF-6.svg
Brigadier Indian Army 15 August 1947[note 1][21]
British Army (1920-1953) OF-7.svg
Major-General Indian Army November 1947 (acting)
1 January 1950 (substantive)[2][note 1]
Major General of the Indian Army.svg
Major-General Indian Army 26 January 1950 (recommissioning and change in insignia)[21][22]
Lieutenant General of the Indian Army.svg
Lieutenant-General Indian Army 1 September 1953 (local)[23]
21 January 1957 (acting)[15]
1 February 1957 (substantive)[16]
General of the Indian Army.svg
Indian Army 8 May 1961[24]


  1. ^ 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. ^ "New Director of Military Intelligence: Brigadier Thapar Appointed" (PDF). Press Information Bureau of India - Archive. 16 July 1947. Retrieved 18 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 24 June 1950. p. 70.
  3. ^ B-R Archived 2009-03-02 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Hoffmann, India and the China Crisis (1990), p. 165.
  5. ^ Puri, Baij Nath (1988). The Khatris, a Socio-cultural Study. M.N. Publishers and Distributors.
  6. ^ Nandita Singh (24 July 2018). "Why is Karan Thapar complaining? His dynasty holds a key to Lutyens' Delhi". ThePrint. Retrieved 1 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Why is Karan Thapar complaining? His dynasty holds a key to Lutyens' Delhi". 24 July 2018.
  8. ^ Jha, Prashant (10 June 2013). "When the Devil's Advocate has the Last Word". The Hindu. Retrieved 14 January 2014.
  9. ^ Singh, Nandita (2 January 2019). "Why is Karan Thapar complaining? His dynasty holds a key to Lutyens' Delhi". The Print. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  10. ^ a b "No. 33130". The London Gazette. 5 February 1926. p. 888.
  11. ^ "No. 33296". The London Gazette. 22 July 1927. p. 4721.
  12. ^ Indian-Army Archived 2014-02-01 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Indian Army List October 1942
  14. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 3 September 1949. p. 1230.
  15. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 9 March 1957. p. 58.
  16. ^ a b "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 9 March 1957. p. 59.
  17. ^ "No. 33396". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 June 1928. p. 4268.
  18. ^ "No. 34142". The London Gazette. 15 March 1935. p. 1810.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Indian Army List Special Edition for August 1947. Government of India Press. 1947. pp. 146–147.
  20. ^ "No. 36042". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1943. p. 2579.
  21. ^ a b "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.
  22. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)". The Gazette of India. 11 February 1950. p. 227.
  23. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 5 December 1953. p. 262.
  24. ^ "Part I-Section 4: Ministry of Defence (Army Branch)" (PDF). The Gazette of India. 27 May 1961. p. 134.


Military offices Preceded byKodandera Subayya Thimayya Chief of Army Staff 1961–1962 Succeeded byJoyanto Nath Chaudhuri Preceded byKalwant Singh General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command 1959–1961 Succeeded byDaulet Singh Preceded byKodandera Subayya Thimayya General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command 1957–1959 Succeeded byJoyanto Nath Chaudhuri Diplomatic posts Preceded by Not sure Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan 1964–1969 Succeeded by Not sure