Tracing India’s military journey

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  1. ajtr

    ajtr Veteran Member Veteran Member

    Oct 2, 2009
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    Tracing India’s military journey

    October 14, 2010 1:37:10 AM

    The Rise of Indian Military Power
    Author: GD Bakshi
    Publisher: Knowledge World
    Price: 780

    The book identifies three ‘revolutions’ in military affairs, and says the country awaits the fourth one, writes Anil Bhat

    Since Independence, coming after 1,000 years of chaos and anarchy, India has seen four conventional wars. And the fifth — an asymmetric one of proxy by export of terrorism — has been on since the 1980s.

    This book, GD Bakshi’s 12th, is a path-breaker, attempting probably a first scientific analysis of the Indian military history in terms of a series of “Revolutions in Military Affairs” (RMA) that had profound implications in the socio-political sphere. The author identifies three critical RMAs that changed the course of Indian history.

    The first RMA was engendered by the Mauryans who used war elephants en masse to generate “shock and awe”. This, for the first time, helped unite almost the entire subcontinent into a highly centralised and prosperous empire.

    The Mughals under Babar introduced the Second RMA in South Asia. The Mughal RMA was based on an intelligent combination of field artillery, flintlock muskets and horse- based archers. The new explosive paradigm of warfare terrified the Indian war-elephants and panicked them to a degree that made them a liability on the battlefield. The Mughals, thus, unified India for the second time into a magnificent empire that at one stage was generating 40 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.

    The British introduced the third RMA by raising well-drilled infantry regiments that could shoot collectively in a rhythm. An infantry battalion could thus generate sustained rates of fire of a thousand shots a minute. This high volume of fire decimated the Mughal-style cavalry. The third RMA helped emerge the “Third Empire of India”. The British unified the subcontinent for the third time.

    The focus of this book, however, is not pre-Independence India, but the post-1947 period of the Indian military history. It tries to answer some pertinent questions: Is there an Indian strategic culture? Is there an Indian way of fighting warfare?

    Western scholars have opined that India lacked a strategic culture. The author disagrees. Kautilya’s Arthashastra, he feels, constitutes the essence of an Indian strategic culture resurfacing unconsciously whenever India was united. This military culture is premised upon huge armed forces and attrition, besides emphasising on covert operations and information dominance. This Kautilyan paradigm of warfare resurfaced unconsciously in the liberation of Bangladesh in the 1971 war, which resulted in a resounding Indian victory over Pakistan. The shock and awe generated by the Indian Air Force’s complete domination of the skies over Bangladesh paved the way for a classic ‘blitzkrieg’ that (for the first time after the Second World War) created a new nation state with the force of arms. In just 14 days, India turned into a major regional power.

    Since the Afghan jihad, the situation in South Asia has taken a turn for worse. Non-state actors are busy as never before. And, to bolster them, there is Pakistan, which has achieved nuclear and conventional military parity with India with the help of China and the US. Islamabad uses this parity to wage a relentless asymmetric war against India by using Islamist terrorists.

    India is set to become a major economic power. It must translate this potential into usable military power to deter its adversaries from any provocative adventurism. India will have to field dominant war-fighting capabilities by ushering in the fourth RMA, based on air and water superiority.

    India’s Defence Ministry has admitted in its annual reports that diplomacy remains the country’s chosen means of dealing with challenges, but that effective diplomacy has to be backed by credible military power. Delhi’s strategic and security interests require a mix of land-based, maritime and air capabilities with minimum credible deterrent to thwart the use of nuclear weapons against it.

    This book must be read by all, particularly those interested in dealing with the issue of national security.

    --The reviewer is editor, WordSword Features & Media

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