THE INDIAN ARMY is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces

October 26, 2010 4:03 am

The Indian Army (IA, Devanāgarī: भारतीय स्थलसेना, Bhāratīya Sthalsēnā) is the land based branch and the largest component of the Indian Armed Forces. With about 1,100,000 soldiers in active service[2] and about 960,000 reserve troops the Indian Army is the world’s second-largest standing army.[1][3] Its primary mission is to ensure the national security and defence of the Republic of India from external aggression and threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It also conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances. The President of India serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), a General, is a four star commander and commands the Army. There is never more than one serving general at any given time in the Army. Two officers have been conferred the rank of Field Marshal, a 5-star rank and the officer serves as the ceremonial chief.

The Indian Army came into being when India gained independence in 1947, and inherited most of the infrastructure of the British Indian Army that were located in post-partition India. It is a voluntary service and although a provision for military conscription exists in the Indian constitution, it has never been imposed. Since independence, the Army has been involved in four wars with neighboring Pakistan and one with the People’s Republic of China. Other major operations undertaken by the Army include Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot and Operation Cactus. Apart from conflicts, the Army has also been an active participant in United Nations peacekeeping missions.Assemblage of Indian Army Soldiers and Uniforms from the Original Paintings by the Late Chater Paul Chater

The Indian Army doctrine defines its as “The Indian Army is the land component of the Indian Armed Forces which exist to uphold the ideals of the Constitution of India.” As a major component of national power, along with the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the roles of the Indian Army are as follows:

* Primary: Preserve national interests and safeguard sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of India against any external threats by deterrence or by waging war.

* Secondary: Assist Government agencies to cope with ‘proxy war’ and other internal threats and provide aid to civil authority when requisitioned for the purpose.

British Indian Army

A Military Department was created in the Supreme Government of the East India Company at Kolkata in the year 1776, having the main function to sift and record orders relating to the Army issued by various Departments of the Govt of East India Co.

With the Charter Act of 1833, the Secretariat of the Government of East India Company was reorganised into four Departments, including a Military Department. The Army in the Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay & Madras functioned as respective Presidency Army till April 1895, when the Presidency Armies were unified into a single Indian Army. For administrative convenience, it was divided into four Commands at that point of time viz. Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal, Madras (including Burma) and Bombay (including Sind, Quetta and Aden).

The British Indian Army was a critical force in the primacy of the British Empire in both India, as well as across the world. Besides maintaining the internal security of the British Raj, the army fought in theaters around the world – Anglo-Burmese Wars, First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, First, Second and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, Opium Wars in China, Abyssinia, Boxer Rebellion in China. It is no coincidence that the decline of the British Empire started with the Independence of India. With the Charter Act of 1833, the Secretariat of the Government of East India Company was reorganised into four Departments, including a Military Department. The Army in the Presidencies of Bengal, Bombay & Madras functioned as respective Presidency Army till April 1895, when the Presidency Armies were unified into a single Indian Army. For administrative convenience, it was divided into four Commands at that point of time viz. Punjab (including the North West Frontier), Bengal, Madras (including Burma) and Bombay (including Sind, Quetta and Aden).

The British Indian Army was a critical force in the primacy of the British Empire in both India, as well as across the world. Besides maintaining the internal security of the British Raj, the army fought in theaters around the world – Anglo-Burmese Wars, First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars, First, Second and Third Anglo-Afghan Wars, Opium Wars in China, Abyssinia, Boxer Rebellion in China. It is no coincidence that the decline of the British Empire started with the Independence of India.

First and Second World Wars In the 20th century, the British Indian Army was a crucial adjunct to the British forces in both the World Wars.

1.3 million Indian soldiers served in World War I (1914–1918) for the Allies after the United Kingdom made vague promises of self-governance to the Indian National Congress for its support. Britain reneged on its promises after the war, following which the Indian Independence movement gained strength. 74,187 Indian troops were killed or missing in action in the war.[6]

The “Indianisation” of the British Indian Army began with the formation of the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College at Dehradun in March 1912 with the purpose of providing education to the scions of aristocratic and well to do Indian families and to prepare selected Indian boys for admission into the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Indian officers given a King’s commission after passing out were posted to one of the eight units selected for Indianisation. Political pressure due to the slow pace of Indianisation, just 69 officers being commissioned between 1918 and 1932, led to the formation of the Indian Military Academy in 1932 and greater numbers of officers of Indian origin being commissioned.

In World War II (1939–1945), 2.58 million Indian soldiers fought for the Allies, again after British promises of independence. Indian troops served in Eritrea, Abyssinia, North Africa, East Africa, Italy, Mesopotamia, Iran, Burma and Malaya, with 87,000 Indian soldiers losing their lives in the war. On the opposing side, an Indian National Army was formed under Japanese control, but had little effect on the war.

Inception

Upon independence and the subsequent Partition of India in 1947, four of the ten Gurkha regiments were transferred to the British Army. The rest of the British Indian Army was divided between the newly created nations of Republic of India and Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The Punjab Boundary Force, which had been formed to help police the Punjab during the partition period, was disbanded,and Headquarters Delhi and East Punjab Command was formed to administer the area.

First Kashmir War (1947)

Almost immediately after independence, tensions between India and Pakistan began to boil over, and the first of three full-scale wars between the two nations broke out over the then princely state of Kashmir. Upon the Maharaja of Kashmir’s reluctance to accede to either India or Pakistan, ‘tribal’ invasion of parts of Kashmir.

The men included Pakistan army regulars. Soon after, Pakistan sent in more of its troops to annex the State. The Maharaja, Hari Singh, appealed to India, and to Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the Governor General, for help. He signed the Instrument of Accession and Kashmir acceded to India (a decision ratified by Britain). Immediately after, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar and repelled the invaders. This contingent included General Thimayya who distinguished himself in the operation and in years that followed, became a Chief of the Indian Army. An intense war was waged across the state and former comrades found themselves fighting each other. Both sides made some territorial gains and also suffered significant losses.An uneasy UN sponsored peace returned by the end of 1948 with Indian and Pakistani soldiers facing each other directly on the Line of Control, which has since divided Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Tensions between India and Pakistan, largely over Kashmir, have never since been entirely eliminated. Inclusion of Hyderabad (1948)

After the partition of India, the State of Hyderabad, a princely-state under the rule of a Nizam, chose to remain independent. The Nizam, refused to accede his state to the Union of India. The following stand-off between the Government of India and the Nizam ended on 12 September 1948 when India’s then deputy-Prime Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel ordered Indian troops to secure the state. With 5 days of low-intensity fighting, the Indian Army, backed by a squadron of Hawker Tempest aircraft of the Indian Air Force, routed the Hyderabad State forces. Five infantry battalions and one armored squadron of the Indian Army were engaged in the operation. The following day, the State of Hyderabad was proclaimed as a part of the Union of India. Major General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri, who led the Operation Polo was appointed the Military Governor of Hyderabad (1948–1949) to restore law and order.

Liberation of Goa, Daman and Diu (1961)

Even though the British and French vacated all their colonial possessions in the Indian subcontinent, Portugal refused to relinquish control of its Indian colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu. After repeated attempts by India to negotiate with Portugal for the return of its territory were spurned by Portuguese prime minister and dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, India launched Operation Vijay on 12 December 1961 to evict the Portuguese. A small contingent of its troops entered Goa, Daman and Diu to liberate and secure the territory. After a brief conflict, in which 31 Portuguese soldiers were killed, the Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Afonso de Albuquerque destroyed, and over 3000 Portuguese captured, Portuguese General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva surrendered to the Indian Army, after twenty-six hours and Goa, Daman and Diu joined the Indian Union. Sino-Indian Conflict (1962)

The cause of the war was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely-separated Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions. Aksai Chin, claimed by India to belong to Kashmir and by China to be part of Xinjiang, contains an important road link that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. China’s construction of this road was one of the triggers of the conflict.

Small-scale clashes between the Indian and Chinese forces broke out as India insisted on the disputed McMahon Line being regarded as the international border between the two countries. Despite sustaining losses, Chinese troops claim to have not retaliated to the cross-border firing by Indian troops.

China’s suspicion of India’s involvement in Tibet created more rifts between the two countries.

In 1962, the Indian Army was ordered to move to the Thag La ridge located near the border between Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh and about three miles (5 km) north of the disputed McMahon Line. Meanwhile, Chinese troops too had made incursions into Indian-held territory and tensions between the two reached a new high when Indian forces discovered a road constructed by China in Aksai Chin. After a series of failed negotiations, the People’s Liberation Army attacked Indian Army positions at the Thag La ridge. This move by China caught India by surprise and by 12 October, Nehru gave orders for the Chinese to be expelled from Aksai Chin. However, poor coordination among various divisions of the Indian Army and the late decision to mobilize the Indian Air Force in vast numbers gave China a crucial tactical and strategic advantage over India. On 20 October, Chinese soldiers attacked India in both the North-West and North-Eastern parts of the border and captured vast portions of Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

As the fighting moved beyond disputed territories, China called on the Indian government to negotiate, however India remained determined to regain lost territory. With no peaceful agreement in sight, China unilaterally withdrew its forces from Arunachal Pradesh. The reasons for the withdrawal are disputed with India claiming various logistical problems for China and diplomatic support to it from the United States, while China stated that it still held territory that it had staked diplomatic claim upon. The dividing line between the Indian and Chinese forces was christened the Line of Actual Control.

The poor decisions made by India’s military commanders, and, indeed, its political leadership, raised several questions. The Henderson-Brooks & Bhagat committee was soon set up by the Government of India to determine the causes of the poor performance of the Indian Army. The report of China even after hostilities began and also criticized the decision to not allow the Indian Air Force to target Chinese transport lines out of fear of Chinese aerial counter-attack on Indian civilian areas. Much of the blame was also targeted at the incompetence of then Defence Minister, Krishna Menon who resigned from his post soon after the war ended. Despite frequent calls for its release, the Henderson-Brooks report still remains classified.[12]Neville Maxwell has written an account of the war.

Indo-Pakistani War of 1965

A second confrontation with Pakistan took place in 1965, largely over Kashmir. Pakistani President Ayub Khan launched Operation Gibraltar in August 1965 during which several Pakistani paramilitary troops infiltrated into Indian-administered Kashmir and attempt to ignite an anti-India agitation in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistani leaders believed that India, which was still recovering from the disastrous Sino-Indian War, would be unable to deal with a military thrust and a Kashmiri rebellion. However, the operation was a major failure since the Kashmiri people showed little support for such a rebellion and India quickly moved forces to drive the infiltrators out. Within a fortnight of the launch of the Indian counter-attack, most of the infiltrators had retreated back to Pakistan. Battered by the failure of Operation Gibraltar and expecting a major invasion by Indian forces across the border, Pakistan launched Operation Grand Slam on 1 September, invading India’s Chamb-Jaurian sector. In retaliation, the India’s Army launched major offensive throughout its border with Pakistan, with Lahore as its prime target. Though the Indian Army’s break through of the final phases of Pakistani defence was considerably delayed due to logistical issues, the conflict was largely seen as a debacle for the Pakistani Army.

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Initially, the Indian Army met with considerable success in the northern sector. After launching prolonged artillery barrages against Pakistan, India was able to capture three important mountain positions in Kashmir. By 9 September, the Indian Army had made considerable in-roads into Pakistan. India had its largest haul of Pakistani tanks when the offensive of Pakistan’s 1 Armoured Division was blunted at the Battle of Asal Uttar which took place on 10 September near Khemkaran. Six Pakistani Armoured Regiments took part in the battle against three Indian Armoured Regiments with inferior tanks. By the time the battle had ended, the 4th Indian Division had captured about 97 Pakistani tanks in either destroyed, or damaged, or in intact condition. This included 72 Patton tanks and 25 Chafees and Shermans. 32 of the 97 tanks, including 28 Pattons, were in running condition In comparison, the Indians lost only 32 tanks at Khemkaran-Bhikkiwind. About fifteen of them were captured by the Pakistan Army, mostly Sherman tanks. Pakistan’s overwhelming defeat at the decisive battle of Assal Uttar hastened the end of the conflict.At the time of ceasefire declaration, India reported casualties of about 3,000 were killed. On the other hand, it was estimated that about 3,800 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the battle, 9,000 were wounded and about 2,000 were taken as prisoners of war.

About 300 Pakistani tanks were either destroyed or captured by India and an additional 150 were permanently put out of service. India lost a total of 190 tanks during the conflict and about 100 more had to undergo repair.In all, India lost about half as many tanks as Pakistan lost during the war.[20] Given India’s advantageous position at the end of the war, the decision to return back to pre-war positions, following the Tashkent Declaration, caused an outcry among the polity in New Delhi. It was widely believed that India’s decision to accept the ceasefire was due to political factors, and not military, since it was facing considerable pressure from the United States and the UN to stop hostilities.

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