Indian Military

Indian Military

Indian Military History | Indian Military Studies

The history of ancient India is largely a history of culture. Tribes forms societies and societies became civilizations with rich Cultural Heritage and a well organised system of governance. Pastoral society of the early vedic age got transformed into settled Agrarian society in the later vedic period.

Our ancient texts say that a nation can progress only when its people are protected. This means that every citizen must feel secure and protected. It is the security forces of a nation that provides this protection. An army is necessary not only to defend a nation against invaders but also to maintain a stable administration and discipline in the society.

Military Studies is also known by various names like defence and strategic studies, military science, war and national security studies, war and strategic studies. The importance of having strong armed forces and the need to protect the people against various threats is a constant feature of our life. Knowledge of military security, how armed forces are organised to fight a war and what is the art of warfare are questions, which get answered by studying military studies.

On the Indian side the leader was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Defence Minister was Babu Jagjivan Ram. The Chief of Army Staff was General S.H.J.F. Manekshaw, the Chief of Air Staff was Air Chief Marshal P.C. Lal and the Chief of Naval Staff was Admiral S.M. Nanda.

The Kargil Conflict was fought in high altitude mountains of Ladakh. This region is sparsely populated and it consists of diverse religious, linguistic and ethnic groups in one of the world’s highest mountains. India and Pakistan fought for Jammu and Kashmir in 1947-1948 and the battle ended with the cease fire line which bisects the Baltistan district.

The 1971 Indo-Pak war was the third war that India fought with Pakistan after independence. However, this time the reasons for the war were different as compared to the previous ones.

Yet another war between India and Pakistan was fought in 1965. It was the second conflict between the two countries over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Other than J&K, this time Pakistan raised a boundary dispute in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

On 20th October 1962, the first group of the Chinese People's Liberation Army launched a well-planned assault across the Thagla Ridge, in India's province of Assam. Arunachal Pradesh was formed much later and therefore this area was considered as part of Assam.

The Sino-Indian War also known as the Sino-Indian Border Conflict was a war between China and India that happened in 1962. There were a number of reasons why China attacked India. In 1959, Indian Prime Minister had met Chinese Prime Minister and said Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai. Yet China decided to betray our trust and made a surprise attack.

Portuguese were the first to come to India as traders followed by the Dutch, the British and the French. Portuguese sailor Vasco da Gama arrived at Calicut, an important sea port located on the South-West India on May 20, 1498 AD. The rise of Portuguese in India took place in 1505 AD, Francisco de Almeida was appointed as first Portuguese Governor in India. His policy to control the Indian Ocean was known as the Blue Water Policy.

British India consisted of Princely States and Provinces. About 60 percentage of the Indian subcontinent's territory were provinces and 40 percentage were Princely States. Provinces were British territories completely under British control while the Princely states were states in British India with local rulers or kings with honorary titles like Maharaja, Raja, Maharana, Rana, Nizam, etc. Among these Hyderabad was one of the princely states ruled by Nizam in South India.

India and Pakistan gained independence amidst population displacement and violence. Kashmir became the major bone of contention during the Partition. War with Pakistan in August 1947 led to the signing of instrument of accession between Maharaja Hari Singh and Government of India on 26th October 1947.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) today is a modern, technology-intensive force. The IAF has become a multi-role capable force. Over the years it has grown from a tactical force to one with transoceanic reach. It means our Air Force can go to any part of the world on a mission. It has been used recently for airlifting Indians from Iraq and Yemen.

Command Structure


The Indian Air Force is divided into five operational and two functional commands. An Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief with the rank of Air Marshal heads each Command. The purpose of an operational command is to conduct military operations using aircraft within its area of responsibility. Aside from the Training Command at Bangalore, the primary flight training is done at the Air Force Academy, Dundigul (located in Hyderabad), followed by operational training at various other schools.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) is the air arm of the Indian armed forces. It protects and secures the Indian airspace and conducts air warfare during a war. It is the youngest arm of the Indian Armed Forces. It was established by the British Empire on 8 October 1932, as an auxiliary of the Royal (British) Air Force. On 01 April 1933 the Air Force commissioned its first squadron, No 1 squadron with four Westland Wapiti biplanes and five Indian Pilots.

The Chief of Naval Staff heads the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy has three commands:

  1. Western Naval Command, Mumbai
  2. Eastern Naval Command, Vishakhapatnam
  3. Southern Naval Command, Kochi

The full range of operations in which a nation's naval forces may be involved is vast, ranging from high intensity war fighting to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This can be broken down into distinct roles.

The Indian Navy is the maritime arm of the Indian armed forces. It protects and secures the Indian maritime borders. It also protects Indian shipping in the Indian Ocean region. It is one of the world's largest Navies in terms of both personnel and naval vessels.

1. Infantry: Infantry battalions are equipped with 9 mm Pistols, Carbine Machine Guns, INSAS rifles, Sniper Rifles, Light and Medium Machine Guns, Mortars, Automatic Grenade Launchers, Rocket launchers, Anti Tank Guided Missiles and Battle Field Surveillance Radars.

The modern battlefield is complex and vast. The terrain and the geographical reach within which the Indian Army is required to operate, calls for a complex system. The army is made up of bodies of troops of varying strength (numbers). These troops are skilled and equipped for many different types of tasks. Some of these troops are from fighting arms, while others are from supporting arms and services. Thus, when a force is assembled, it comprises of troops of various types.

The Indian Army is the third largest army in the world and is regarded as one of the strongest armies in the world. Indian Army has approximately 11 Lakh men and women in its ranks. The Army headquarters is located in New Delhi.

The changes in the army during the period upto the Mughal era were slow. Later, due to technologies and new weapons and ammunition, the method of fighting changed fast and armies started becoming modern, to fight with ammunition and weapons. Invention of aircraft, vehicles with wheels and later tracks made the biggest changes in the way wars were fought. India also learnt from the experience in World Wars and made a lot of changes.

The First World War was fought because countries did not trust each other and wanted to establish their power over others. Something similar happened during the Second World War. Adolf Hitler wanted to establish the German might and power over entire Europe and Russia. Mussolini of Italy joined Hitler and later the Japanese also accepted this idea to form an Axis of power in Asia.

There were 7 forces, created to fight in different parts of Europe and Africa. The Indians managed to either win in attack operations or defend effectively a given area of ground. The war had new weapons, new tactics of fighting from a trench which is also called Trench warfare.

At the time of World War I, it was known as the British Indian Army or British Indian troops. The Indian troops were deployed in war without preparation and without proper clothing in a foreign land, in winters. Yet they played an important role as part of the allied forces and their performance in battle was remarkable and praised by all countries.

India Troops under the British, participated in both the World Wars. The native Indian sepoys were organized into 'Regular Army' after the First war of Independence in 1857, and they trained and practiced the art of fighting under the British troops and officers. It was during the First World War that they got a real feel of the battle and faced the tough conditions of war.

The failure of the East India Company prompted the Queen to take over governance of India and proclaim it under the 'Crown'. After the 1857 war of Independence the Company rule came to an end and the crown took over India. A grand durbar was held at Allahabad on November 1, 1858.

This event occurred in 1857 not as a result of any single event, but as an culmination of many happenings over time. The Company's army recruited large number of Hindu and Muslim sepoys as native soldiers. There were nearly 300,000 sepoys in the army and the British were about 50,000. There was huge difference.

The British faced a number of resistance from Indians throughout their occupation of India. There were mutinies, battles fought, but they were cunning and had superior fire arms which gave them victories.

The native Indians were recruited in the British Army and the establishment of the three Presidencies. The British wanted to make themselves as the sole rulers in India. Moreover, they also had their differences and animosity with the Dutch and French on matters of trade and commerce. A number of wars were fought between these nations.

The western countries believe that Indian army became a professional army because of the British. This is wrong. Indians were past masters raising armies and having effective functional organizations since as early as the vedic times.

What is the meaning of the word Presidency? It means an office where the President sits and controls the area under him or her. Why did the British come up with the idea of Presidencies? The British established factories and started trade in large number of commodities. The control and administration of the factories and the people employed by the British was to be coordinated under one person. They built Fort St George in Chennai and later established the Madras Presidency in 1684.

India has its natural mountain barriers in the North called the Himalayas and in the South flanked by the Arabian Sea in the West and the Bay of Bengal in the East, thus forming a peninsular India. It is a land of a multi cultural and multi ethnic society with a variety of religions and languages.

There are several causes for the decline of the Mughal rule in India.

The battle of Haldighati was another historic battle fought during the rule of Akbar in June 1576. It was fought between the ruler of Mewar in Rajasthan, Rana Pratap Singh and Raja Man Singh of Amber who was a great military general of Akbar. Soon after the second battle of Panipat, one by one, all the Rajput kings acknowledged Akbar's supremacy except Rana Udai Singh of Mewar who refused to accept Akbar's supremacy and decided to defend Chittor, his main fortress and capital.

The Second Battle of Panipat marked the beginning of Akbar's rule and also his territorial expansion. It was fought in 1556, between the army of Hem Chandra Vikramaditya (Hemu) and the forces of Akbar. This was during the early phase of dominance of Mughals in India where, their rule was restricted to parts of Punjab, Delhi and Afghan.

Mansabdari was a system first introduced by Akbar for military administration with the objective of sustaining his army. It was a system originally borrowed from Central Asia but in the Indian context Akbar included Indian Muslims, Rajputs and Afghans as well. The system served as the basis for maintaining Mughal military and civil administration. In this system every man in the Mughal State who was employed above the position of a common soldier (or messenger) became a mansab.

Chanderi was under the Muslim rule for a long time before being captured by Rana Sanga during one of his wars with Ibrahim Lodi. It was later given to Medini Rai, who had served Sultan Mahmud Khilji as prime minister. Medini Rai was one of Rana Sanga's most distinguished lieutenants. He assisted Rana Sanga in many campaigns against the Sultans of India. He fought along with Rana Sanga in the battle of Khanwa against Babur. After the battle Medini Rai returned to Chanderi. But Babur decided to make Chanderi his next objective.

At the time when the Mughals captured Delhi, the Rajputs were still ruling some parts of North West India. By the beginning of 16th century, their strength reached its height under the rule of Rana Sanga (Rana Sangram Singh), who was the king of Mewar in Southern Rajasthan and who was also able to unite many other neighboring Rajput kings to fight against foreign rulers.

The First Battle of Panipat took place in 1526 between the invading forces of Babur and the last of the Delhi Sultanate Empire under Ibrahim Lodi. It took place at Panipat (Haryana) and marked the beginning of the Mughal Empire.

The Muslim rulers of Delhi who called themselves the 'Sultans' acknowledged the authority of the 'Caliph'. However, when the Mughal rulers came to power, they repudiated the authority of Caliph and called themselves as 'Padshah'.

It was the battles at Tarain that was remarkable as it provided the initial entry of Muslim rule in India. But soon after that they got involved in dealing with regular threats from Mongol invasions, putting down frequent internal rebellions that arose both within the dynasty as well as from the Rajput chiefs. They also tried to expand territory by conquest of neighboring territories.

The Medieval period dates roughly between 6th A.D and 16th A.D. During this period many dynasties ruled India. The period was marked by several battles which some developments of new weapons and new military strategies.

The Gupta empire ruled between A.D 300 to A.D 550. Between the Mauryan dynasty and the Gupta period, the large empire was broken into smaller Kingdoms under Kanishka, Satvahanas and the Kalinga rulers. The basic organization of the army and its employment in battle remained similar over the years.

The period of Mauryas is also known for the birth of Jainism and Budhism as well as for the 'Arthasastra'. The word Arthasastra means the science of acquiring wealth and protection of the earth. 'Artha' also stood for material well being such as wealth, on which the prosperity of humans depended. Kautilya, also known by the name Chanakya, is said to have written the treatise on Arthasastra during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya.

Ashoka is considered as one of the greatest Kings in Indian history who ruled from 269 B.C to 232 B.C. He is praised not so much for his militaristic activities as for his policy of Dhamma.

As societies progressed, they formed larger groups and explored newer areas to prosper in agriculture, mining iron, copper, coal, etc. Janapadas became Mahajanapadas.

Ancient Indians organized their armies from a small unit called the Patti to large armies, which had hundreds of chariots, elephants, cavalry and foot soldiers. Large armies also required a Commissariat to look after their logistic needs of food, clothing, etc; and since ancient Indians had known and held war ships, they even thought about an Admiralty. Such an army was required to be disciplined and loyal to the King at all times. Regular armies trained and practised the art of fighting.

It is not enough to only have a good regular army, which is well trained and well equipped with weapons. All good armies should have good tactics and strategy.

The foremost characteristic of a regular army is the soldiers who form the basic unit. We can define a good army by:

The Regular Army: It comprises of the troops who volunteers to fight for the state. They are recruited from the different state. The modern day Indian army has soldiers from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and all other states.