“India should not forget its history,” Bhutto observed on the eve of the India-Pakistan conflict in 1950. Indeed, India has a sad history of centuries of subjugation imposed by the power of the sword. The invaders came, both across the land frontiers and the sea, and each time, however stout the defence, Indian armies were crushed. The successive wars were lost not because our armies lacked numbers and mounts or heavier armaments. The reasons lay elsewhere. In fact, India wielded heavier forces, but so wedded was it to the past and outmoded military concepts that the invaders brought to play the unexpected to outwit its generals, and always won decisively. Superior leadership and stratagem triumphed. India has certainly a lot to learn from its military history.
…a few months of their conclusion while our conflicts in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 with Pakistan and the Himalayan debacle of 1962, now all past history, continue to be secrets from the nation?
History becomes a nation’s mirror. To find flaws so as to remedy them, the nation should have the courage to look into the mirror. There should be courage to accept the reflection, however grotesque. It is only then that the progressive path towards improvement can be sought. But then the mirror must be true, free of distortion and flattering magnification. Likewise, history, if it is to serve as the nation’s mirror, has to be truthful and objective.
Since independence, India has fought four military conflicts, three against Pakistan and one against China; executed two police actions, one in Hyderabad and the second in Goa, and contended with prolonged insurgency operations in Nagaland and Mizoram. A pertinent question which remains unanswered even today is why, despite the assurances of Krishna Menon, then Defence Minister, and Lt Gen B.M. Kaul, that the Indian Army would be able to throw the Chinese off the Thagla ridge, the effort ended in humiliating defeat and loss of India’s credibility as a military power in the region.
Once again, the nation was assured that having learnt the lessons of 1962, our armed forces were better prepared to safeguard India’s integrity. Why then did the Indo-Pakistan conflict of 1965 end in a military stalemate leading to an unprofitable ceasefire?
…the nation has only heard or read of the glorification of little wars and actions from those not initiated in the profession of war, and never of the weaknesses which bedevilles success. Insiders have so far remained silent.
At the end of the conflict of 1971, apart from the decisive success of liberating Bangladesh, how was it that the balance of losses and gains in the western theatre did not tilt as favorably towards India as it should have? Politically, the war did not bring gains commensurate with the effort of the armed forces and nation.
Why don’t the counter-insurgency operations in Nagaland and Mizoram, spanning more than three decades, seem to lead to political normalcy in those territories? Is this because of the inadequacy of the political or military leadership or both, or lack of understanding of how to employ the defence apparatus to the country’s advantage?
So far, the nation has only heard or read of the glorification of little wars and actions from those not initiated in the profession of war, and never of the weaknesses which bedevilles success. Insiders have so far remained silent.
For this, the nation is to be blamed for lack of interest in vital matters of defence. Public interest in defence has waxed and waned with the start and end of a war. It has never endured. As a result, between successive wars defence has been relegated to the background.
The politician, the bureaucrat and the general have never been made answerable for their lapses. The politician and the military brass are more to blame for shrouding defence matters in a fog of secrecy on the pretext of “public interest” to hide their weaknesses from the nation. How is it that numerous books containing critical analyses of the Korean, Israeli-Arab and Vietnam wars came out within a few months of their conclusion while our conflicts in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 with Pakistan and the Himalayan debacle of 1962, now all past history, continue to be secrets from the nation? Such self-interest-induced secrecy only blunts the desire to improve the sharpness of our sword. Future generations are denied the experience gained from our mistakes since independence. No wonder the Indian military formations and units continue to derive vain-glorious pride in “battle honors” won under foreign leadership for colonizing India.