Lt Col Pritam Singh Jauhal (Signals)(Retd)Founding President Indian Ex-Servicemen Society British Columbia
It was after the removal of a Century-old yoke of British Imperialism, that India gained its Independence on August 15, 1947 and declared itself a Republic when its home-made Constitution was passed by the duly elected Indian Parliament on January 26, 1950. The 2007 Independence Day is just behind us. Indians residing in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island celebrated it by festive and colorful Ceremonies with great pomp and pageantry. Those who missed it must be feeling sorry.
To the dismay of all and sundry Indians, the Indian Armed Forces were small and ill-equipped with weapons. The senior-most rank was that of a brigadier. Most of the Officers were Emergency Commissioned, though they had World War II experience. Indian Officers and men had been denied experience in important systems and classified trades. India lacked Officers for higher command and in technical arms/corps. Not only that India did not inherit any Defence-oriented industries. It simply implies that the British did not prepare the Indians to run their own Country, because they, (British) wanted to rule India for ever.
Political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Pundit Nehru, who were votaries of non-violence were not well-versed in geopolitics and International power play. They, initially thought that in post-war scenario, Independent India, did not need substantial Armed Forces, as it had no enemies. However, Pakistan-sponsored invasion of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in October 1947, only after two months after gaining Independence, made them realize that India could not do without Armed Forces. But an idea as to how many and what type still eluded them.To counter threats from Pakistan and China, India had to expand and modernize its Armed Forces. The growth and modernization of the Indian Army was Pakistan-centric till about the end of 1950s. The War against China in 1962 in which India did not fare well, started a flurry of raising of Mountain Formations, equipped with lighter weapons.
Today, India has the third largest Army, which is quite modern. Indian Army has to operate in varied terrains. Starting from Himalayan Heights up to 20,000 ft (Siachin-the World’s Highest Battle Ground where mere existence is a challenge), to Punjab Plains and the Desert of Rajasthan. Besides, India has number of islands, the defence of which cannot be ignored. There are no specialized troops for mountains or desert. The Indian Army has its own Aviation Wing and even surface-to-surface indigenously developed missiles, which can carry conventional as well as Nuclear payloads.
India has a Territorial Army, and also National Cadet Corps. Canadian and Indian Cadets regularly spend some time with one another as a part of International co-operation programs.
Most of the World’s oil supplies pass through the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean, which surround Indian Peninsula. Large number of ships carrying World’s trade from Persian Gulf, Suez Canal and Straights of Malaca also pass through these Seas. Navies of the Western Nations operate in the Seas surrounding Indian Sub-Continent. Majority of India’s own exports and imports are via sea. India has a vast Exclusive Economic Zone and oil reserves in the Indian Continent. To guard against any invasion from the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean sides, India has a strong blue water Navy.
To ensure that Indian Army and Navy can operate effectively and without hindrance from any foreign power, there is a definite need for matching Air Force. India has a modern Air Force, which is equipped with Mirage Sukhoi and MIG aircrafts. It is likely to go in for some kind of AWACS and in Flight Refueling Aircraft. Indian Air Force has the capability to support the Indian Army, in all kinds of terrain and Navy at Sea as also deliver Nuclear weapons as well.
India has of late announced a Nuclear Doctrine of NO FIRST USE. It stands for complete disarmament, but cannot do unilaterally/selectively. The Nuclear weapons are only a deterrent. As long as India has Nuclear China and Pakistan to contend with, it has no choice but to have minimum Nuclear deterrent.. For this purpose,it has set-up a Nuclear Command . India has been designing its own communication and scientific satellites, which has some surveillance capability too.
Like Canada, Indian Defence Forces have been at the forefront in U.N Peace-Keeping Missions, may it be in Gaza, Congo, Somalia or various other countries in Africa. They have acquitted themselves admirably under most trying conditions. To train personnel from other countries in Peace-Keeping, an Institution has been set up in Delhi.
India is proud to have the largest scientific manpower in the World. Indian Scientists have contributed significantly in U S A, Canada and Europe. Indian software and Computer Engineers are well-known, the World over. India needs to utilize its resources to modernize its industry, economy, health care, education and eradicate poverty. Any reduction in the Defence Expenditure can help. But India can ill-afford to lower its guard.“ No nation must avow war at all costs. Sheep do not inherit Earth. Nor do Wolves. But sheep are guilty of whetting the appetite of Wolves”.“World War Veterans put their life on the line to defend the Commonwealth and protect the Democracy in which different people could live together and enjoy freedom in peace”