Historic Transformation of Indian Armed Forces

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.

Indian military's expansion and transformation has happened in phases. There have been distinct time periods in the history of the Indian armed forces when changes have been made. The various stages by which the Indian army changed were:

  • India's military structure during British rule.
  • Changes in the Armed Forces after independence.
  • Restructuring of armed forces after the 1962 China-India War.
  • Reforms after the 1975 K.V. Krishna Rao Report.

Indian Army During The British Rule

The British never trusted Indians. Yet, because of mutinies the British East India Company created "Native" armies. The soldiers were not given any weapons. Therefore, the army so formed was treated separately and differently. When the British Government took over from the 'East India Company', they created a British army and native army, which was commanded by British officers.

The barracks for Indian army were separate and they did not mix with the British. Majority of the officers in the British Indian Army were British. However, British Indian Army had Viceroy Commissioned Officers (VCOs) who were Indians, commissioned as officers by the Viceroy, due to their ability and leadership.

In the 1920s, Indians were permitted to attend Royal Military College, Sandhurst in England and became Kings Commissioned Officers (KCO). A process of "Indianization" started in 1930 with the intention of gradually replacing British officers with Indian officers. Indian soldiers were all volunteers drawn from various races and religions. The main task of the Indian Army during British rule was to police the Indian empire. As the First World War came about, the government sent Indian troops to serve abroad. By the end of Second World War the Indian Army had grown to be the largest volunteer army ever raised. Indian participation in both the World Wars has been explained in detail in the previous lessons.

Armed Forces After Independence

During the British rule, the Indian Army was modeled similar to the British army. Before the British left India, the entire armed forces were divided proportionately into two parts for India and Pakistan. Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck, the British Commanderin-Chief of the Indian Army, recommended in his report, a force structure for the armed forces of independent India. His recommendations included the formation of two lakhs strong army of 10 divisions, devoted primarily to internal security; 20 squadrons of air force and a navy of 69 capital ships. But the conflict between India and Pakistan in 1948 caused a disruption in these structural changes. The Government did not act much on this report but brought about changes in a gradual manner.

Restructuring After 1962 India - China War

The 1962 war against China took place in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh. This war brought about more changes in the organization of the armed forces. Most importantly, the government understood the need of a strong army and increased the expenditure on defence. These changes took place at all levels and impacted the structure of the armed forces.

  • The government gave sanction for increasing the number of soldiers from 5,50,000 to 8,25,000.
  • Increase the size of the Airforce and the Navy to have 69 ships.
  • Create army Divisions capable of fighting in the mountains and also defend our borders in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand.
  • A new weapon in the form of 7.62 mm rifle and Light Machine Gun was introduced for the infantry.

Reforms After The 1975 K.V. Krishna Rao Report

In 1975, the government appointed an expert panel to undertake a long-term perspective plan for modernizing the Armed Forces up to the year 2000. General K.V. Krishna Rao, the 12th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army, headed the committee. As per his report, major changes made were with the introduction of helicopters, BOFORS Guns and track vehicles such as BMP and T72 tanks. The changes in the Armed Forces were to make it a modern war-fighting machine and to win the wars.