As India completes 75 years of independence, it also creates a new landmark in 5000-year-old history of India. If we count the period under British imperial rule (1857 to 1947), then India (most of it) has remained one political entity for 175 years. This is an unprecedented event in Indian history. Going back to Ramayana or Mahabharat days, India was always divided into several kingdoms. The only time the whole of Indian subcontinent came under one ruler was during the reign of Asoka. But Indian disunity re-appeared after him.
Indian armed forces continue to give practical shape to these constitutional values and are a role model of equality and unity in diversity.
In 1947 when India became independent, many like Winston Churchill had already written its obituary. Speaking at a meeting in Albert Hall in 1931, he predicted that like in the past, the ‘warlike’ Muslim tribes will invade North India and conquer it and late North will capture the South. Most of the world believed that India was too diverse to remain united. Many placed their bets on Pakistan emerging as the biggest state surviving after the inevitable Indian breakup. Even in the 21st century, one of the foundations of Pakistan’s (and to an extent China) strategy towards India is that India will breakup into several parts. It is another matter that it was Pakistan that broke into two within 25 years of independence.
Our founding fathers who wrote the Indian constitution were acutely aware of the Indian weakness. The very reason for conquest of India by the savage tribes from the North West or by the British from sea route in the 19th century, was lack of political unity in India. The very pluralistic nature of Indian values makes political unity difficult. Although, India always had cultural unity in terms of accepted value system. Lack of political unity meant that the invaders seldom faced the might of the whole nation. Instead, Indians were defeated piecemeal. The British used the policy of divide and rule to the hilt and conquered India using Indians.
Farsighted leaders of Indian freedom movement, who were acutely conscious of the past failings, gave us a constitution with a strong centre and a federation that recognized the diversity. To give stake to all Indians in the future, India opted for ‘universal adult suffrage’ and a state that was ‘neutral’ as far as religion was concerned. It must be noted that even the older democracies in the world, the US and Britain gave equal political rights to Blacks or Irish Catholics only in 1963 and 1968 respectively. India gave equal rights to all way back in 1950.
Indian armed forces continue to give practical shape to these constitutional values and are a role model of equality and unity in diversity. Innovations like ‘sarva dharma’ worship places in various military stations is living example of this. Go to any pass on mountain roads built by Border Roads Organization and you will find a shrine where Hindu Gods, Sikh Gurus, Jesus and Kaaba coexisting under one roof.
Along with the administrative service, IAS, the Indian Armed Forces have acted as the nation’s ‘Praetorian Guard’. A politically united India is virtually unconquerable by any other nation.
More than any external threat, India faced several challenges to its unity in last 75 years due to internal revolts and riots. Indian armed forces by remaining loyal to the constitution and its values, never acted in a partisan manner in discharging its duties. Along with the administrative service, IAS, the Indian Armed Forces have acted as the nation’s ‘Praetorian Guard’. A politically united India is virtually unconquerable by any other nation.
Mention must be made of major contributors in ensuring Indian survival for 75 years and beyond. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his preference for peace and abhorrence of nuclear weapons, nevertheless made sure that with the help of Dr Homi Bhaba, India acquired capability to possess nuclear weapons if needed. Indira Gandhi in 1974 demonstrated it and Atal Bihari Vajpeyi went overtly nuclear in 1998. If India today does not face threats like Ukraine, it is due to the nuclear deterrence, wisely planned by these leaders.
India at 75 is confident, secure nation with a bright future. The Armed forces have a significant role in preserving national unity.