From the Afghan Wars to the Battle of Saragarhi where a small band of Sikh soldiers wreaked havoc during a siege mounted by a numerically superior adversary to the two great wars, Indian Army has set the highest standards in valour.
Various phases of evolution
Phase – I
- Colonial nature of Army: With the advent of independence, India saw the withdrawal of British military officers from the top posts of Indian army. This led to an exposure of relatively young and inexperienced officers who were native to India. Also, from an army fighting the World Wars, Indian army saw a change in its primary targets with the new threat being faced on the frontiers.
- First offensive with Pakistan: The bitterness of partition was further aggravated by Pakistan’s inexplicable act of sending raiders across the boundary with an intention of capturing the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. This was handled proficiently by the Indian army, while the leadership played its cards deftly by making the Raja of Jammu and Kashmir sign the instrument of accession.
- India-China War of 1962: India faced a breach of trust with the Chinese attack on the northern borders of India. This followed a long diplomatic exchange, which slowly turned from an atmosphere of camaraderie to a relatively bitter outcome.
- Failure of diplomacy: The debacle of 1962 war can be attributed majorly to Indian complacency and a belief in goodwill generation at the expense of pragmatic principles of warfare.
- Financial crunches: Indian army was not prepared to fight the war because of the budgetary cuts inflicted upon it in the last decade.
- Lapses in threat perception: At the same time, the leadership failed to convey the threat being faced from China. On the contrary, the contemporary Defence Minister actually downplayed the threat, emphasizing upon the diplomatic exchange being undertaken between the two heads of the nations.
Phase – II
- Pakistani misadventure in 1965: In the mistaken belief that Indian Army is vulnerable due to loss in 1962 war and the leadership gap due to loss of PM Nehru, Pakistan embarked on a misadventure across the deserts of Rajasthan.
- Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971: Pakistan’s genocide in its eastern territory led to an uprising in the area, along with almost 10 million refugees fleeing to India for protection. This led to a war between Pakistan and India, with India being supported by the Mukti Bahini of Bangladeshi people.
- Learning from mistakes: The period after 1962 war saw a major course correction in Indian military with major structural and doctrinal shifts undertaken to strengthen the forces.
- Outsizing: Firstly, the size of army was increased from 5.5 lakh troops to almost 8.25 lakh troops.
- Increased budgetary allocations: At the same time, the budgets were increased to modernize the forces and help them counter threat from modern equipment used by the Chinese.
- Integration of Tri-services: The lessons learnt in 1962 war were applied to the future conflicts as Indian Air Force was pressed early into action to gain tactical and strategic advantages in the battle for supremacy.
Phase – III
- Realization of actual enemy: Indian armed forces embarked on an era of upgradation to combat Chinese challenge in the northern mountainous regions post 1961 war.
- Internal threats: India saw an increase in insurgencies in the interior of the country from terrorist organizations like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) in the North East, as well as separatist forces like Pro-Khalistan fighters.
- Unconventional warfare from Pakistan: After failing to dent Indian defence on the battlefield, Pakistan started micro-warfare by inciting insurgency in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This was stated explicitly by the Pakistani generals as the strategy of ‘bleeding India with thousand cuts’.
- Kargil War, 1999: Being frustrated due to its inability to inflict damage upon Indian integrity in Kashmir, Punjab or other areas, Pakistan treacherously occupied the peaks in the Kargil and other adjoining sectors of Kashmir Valley.
- Mumbai Terror Attacks: The terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 led to restructuring of Indian Defence Architecture to prevent reoccurrence of such events.
- Garnering public goodwill: Indian Army has embarked upon a mission to win the hearts and minds of people in the Valley by following a people-centric approach.
- Sense of sacrifice: This has led to a rise in the number of casualties on the side of Indian Army, but also has created an atmosphere of trust in the minds of the people of the valley.
- Change of security apparatus: 26-11 attack led to the appointment of a full time National Security Adviser, creation of National Technical Research Organization and establishment of Theatre Commands for better integration of the three armed forces.
Phase – IV
- Offensive stance: The Uri attacks saw a surgical strike take place inside the Pakistani territory. Indian Armed Forces have seen a pronounced shift in tactical warfare in the recent times.
- Retaliation with choice: The Pulwama terrorist attacks saw retaliation in the form of Balakot Air Strikes by the Indian Air Force, destroying the Terrorist Launch Pads in the border areas of Pakistan, as well as Air-to-Air Combat between the two Air Forces.
- Bursting the nuclear threat: By launching such daredevil operations, India called out Pakistan’s lies of using the Nuclear Weapons at the first instigation from India.
- Budgetary advancements: Recent times have seen an enhancement in the Budgets of Tri-services, especially Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard, to make them capable of sniffing out any possibility of a Mumbai-style terror attack on the Indian Territory.
- Realization of Indo-Pacific Security: India has been entrusted with more responsibilities viz. clamping down on sea-piracy and smuggling of illegal arms in the Indian Ocean Region.
- Countering Chinese ‘incursions’: The growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean Region, especially at the Ports like Hambantota and Gwadar, has given many sleepless nights to Security experts in India.
- Upholding territorial sovereignty: India has been resolute and firm in the face of Chinese pressures in the Eastern Ladakh, as well as the Chumbi Valley Areas.
- India has seen evolution of its Military Doctrines in response to the changing alignments in its border areas, as well as the global arena.
- However, it is important to understand that it is critical to ensure that its Armed Forces remain in a state of alertness to counter any threat from the neighbouring countries.
- This is especially true as we live in a tough neighbourhood and have a responsibility of being a ‘Net Security Provider’ to the small states of Indian Ocean Region.