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Analysis of Yojana Magazine : ”Indian Armed Forces”


”GS 3: Security Challenges & their Management in Border Areas, Various Security Forces & Agencies & Their Mandate.”


  • The last seventy years have been both a challenge and an opportunity for the armed forces. This account seeks to suggest that many tough challenges have been met with great resilience by India’s armed forces.
  • A Nation maintains its Armed Forces for strategic deterrence and if compelled; to win wars.
  • The Government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India and every part thereof. The Supreme Command of the Armed Forces vests in the President. The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet.
  • This is discharged through the Ministry of Defence, which provides the policy framework and wherewithal to the Armed Forces to discharge their responsibilities in the context of the defence of the country.

Phase 1: Challenges Faced & Lessons learnt by Indian Armed Forces

  • From Independence of Kashmir (1947-48) to the 1962 India-China war was the first phase of the Indian Armed forces.
  • China’s entry first into Tibet in 1950, and later its creeping presence in Aksai Chin over the following decade also taught the Indian Armed Forces, and the new political masters, to think in terms of precise borders, not just frontiers.
  • The text and context of the 1954 Treaty between India and the Tibet Region of China are fine examples of how passes on the border are interpreted differently by covetous China, leading to contention.
  • Yet another lesson was that an army must be well equipped with the latest weaponry to protect India’s territorial integrity
  • Perhaps even greater was the lesson that the Order of Battle (ORBAT) and chain of command in any army are sacrosanct.
  • Even more egregious a lesson was the realisation of the damage that can be caused to the direction and morale of an army when the military chain of command is trifled with, as was the case in 1962 when Lt Gen B M Kaul, the hastily appointed IV Corps Commander in the North East, had the ear of the political leadership, with even the then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) side-lined; or that a Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon could dull the martial instincts of a splendid army by repeatedly underplaying the China threat despite professional assessments to the contrary.

Phase 2: Challenges Faced & Lessons learnt by Indian Armed Forces

  • This phase lasted until 1988.
  • After the 1962 war, the size of the army increased from about 5,50,000 to approximately 8,25,000 troops, but, over time, it also witnessed structural, training, and doctrinal shifts.
  • Even as these preparations were underway, Pakistan attempted to seize the opportunity created by the 1962 defeat, the political void after the death of Prime Minister Nehru in 1964 and prevailing conditions in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • After a failed attempt to push in raiders by Pakistan, President Ayub Khan unleashed a war in the mistaken notion that the opportunity was ripe to force a defeat upon India.
  • However, despite structural issues and limitations of equipment that still posed a challenge, India responded resolutely under the leadership of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Defence Minister Y B Chavan to blunt the aggression.
  • The war ended in a stalemate, with Pakistan’s initial advantage having been neutralised by the resurgent armed forces of India, backed by an equally determined public sentiment.
  • Peace with Pakistan, however, was short-lived. In 1971, the Pakistani state unleashed one of the worst genocides upon its own Bengali population in East Pakistan. The Pakistani Army was used as an instrument of repression of the most horrendous nature. This led to ten million refugees entering India. India endeavoured to seek a peaceful solution to the humanitarian crisis that arose. However, having failed, and in the face of Pakistan’s declaration of war on 3 December 1971, India’s armed forces undertook a lightning campaign which led to Pakistan’s defeat and ushered in the finest hour in India’s post-independence military history. The campaign was backed by the East Pakistan population and supported by the Mukti Bahini.
  • The surrender of 90,000 soldiers from Pakistan, a record of its kind since WWII, was accompanied by the birth of Bangladesh. The Prisoners of War (POws) were treated well and despatched in due course back to Pakistan with dignity, thanks to the high standards of the Armed Forces of India.
  • Even though India’s armed forces had delivered an unqualified victory, the path that followed was not free of challenges. The world was rapidly changing.
  • Sino-US rapprochement in 1972, the third Arab-Israel war in 1973 and the oil crisis, the end of the long-drawn war in Vietnam in 1975, the failed Chinese invasion of Vietnam in 1979, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the same year, and the Iran-Iraq war in 1980 together created an environment that demanded adjustments in India’s military preparedness.
  • The realities of the evolving military preparations on the Pakistani side and the need to cut the teeth-to-tail ratio, led to an emphasis on mechanisation of the Indian Army and up-gradation of the other two services as well. The eighties saw this process underway, with the armed forces gaining substantially in capability during that period.
  • The modernisation of the armed forces was also accompanied by a willingness to venture beyond India’s borders in support of calls from neighbours for assistance.
  • While the peacekeeping mission in Sri Lanka spearheaded by the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) led to questionable strategic gains despite heavy losses to men and material, Operation Cactus launched in the Maldives against an attempted coup produced appreciable results in 1988. However, both forays by India did bring home important lessons not only for the armed forces but also for policymakers.

Phase 3: Challenges Faced & Lessons learnt by Indian Armed Forces

  • A new phase in the journey of the Indian Armed Forces commenced in the mid-1980s.
  • The Chinese challenge in Sumdorong Chu was met by transporting an entire brigade by helicopters. This was also the time when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was acquiring new weapons systems, including US-made Sikorsky helicopters to be used in mountainous areas.
  • For the Indian Armed Forces, the scope and scale of challenges had multiplied further- sub-conventional threats such as insurgencies in the North-East of the country and terrorism in Punjab, the threats to the nation were magnified by the adversities encountered in the deployment in Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka and the spike in Pak-sponsored cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.
  • Pakistani sponsored terrorism emerged as its threats, both traditional and non-traditional. Apart from the primary instrument in the low-intensity hybrid war against India.
  • Pakistan’s frustration at not being able to achieve a major breakthrough eventually led to its misadventure at Kargil in 1999.
    Some early measures undertaken thereafter included the appointment of a full-time National Security Adviser, the creation of a Multi-Agency Centre, the establishment of a tri-services command in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and NTRO.
  • The 2008 dastardly terror attacks in Mumbai occasioned the revamping of the National Security Guard (NSG) and beefing-up of maritime security through the Indian Coast Guard and the Indian Navy acting in tandem with state police. A second front had opened up vis-a-vis Pakistan’s malevolence, all along India’s coastline.

Phase 4: Challenges Faced & Lessons learnt by Indian Armed Forces

  • The Government undertook major course correction in 2014. A proactive approach was adopted to enhance the budget for all three wings of the armed forces.
  • A policy of zero tolerance was adopted in regard to terrorism from across the border. This resulted in Indian counter-insurgency operations in Myanmar(2015) and in Pakistan after Uri and Pulwama.
  • In recent years, the armed forces have also undertaken a tough stance against border violations by China along the LAC. Both in 2017 and 2020. In the aftermath of the Chinese aggression in Galwan in eastern Ladakh in June 2020, the
  • The government left no stone unturned to equip the armed forces with modern weapons, equipment, and logistics needed to mirror the Chinese deployments.
  • Presently, the armed forces are also leading the way in support of Atmanirbhar Bharat- a call for self-reliance given by the Prime Minister.
  • A wide-ranging set of measures have been undertaken to give a fillip to Make in India through a tandem between the public and private sector. Entrepreneurs representing the small and medium sectors have been provided support and opportunities to contribute to this endeavour. They have also been granted access to testing facilities of DRDO to support their attempts at manufacturing in India as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative.
  • The focus on indigenisation is not aimed at creating absolute autarky in defence manufacturing. Current policies leave enough space for foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to participate in joint ventures and Transfer of Technology (ToT)
  • The armed forces have also witnessed a number The last seventy years have been both a challenge of institutional changes. Gender equality is a laudable achievement. Unlike in the past when women were restricted to representation in a few branches of the armed forces.
  • On 15 August 2019, the Prime Minister announced the path-breaking decision of the Government to create the post of Chief of Defence Staff and the Department of Military Affairs. This met a long-standing demand in strategic circles.

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