Military & Aerospace

The pitfalls in evolution of Indian Army-III
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Book_India_wars_sinceAlthough the reports were scrutinized at Army Headquarters no effort was made to carry out a critical analysis, highlight weakness and seek remedies. If such an analysis was made it was never disseminated lower down, where action was necessary. Instead, a list of lessons learnt came out in the form of a training note which covered minor and rather naive points like digging, camouflage and lifting mines, the type of lessons generally brought out at the end of a unit exercise. Not a word was said about higher planning and conduct of the war, the efficacy of our concepts, handling of formations, and the efficiency of our selection system.


  1. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 40, “India Opens Two New Fronts in Sind and Sialkot Regions,” p. 6691.
  2. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “Indian Gains during War–Service Chief’s News Conference.” p. 6707.
  3. Ibid., p. 6707.
  4. Asian Recorder, Vol XI, No 41, “The Fighting,” pp. 670 06-6707.
  5. Asian Recorder, Vol XIII, No 5, “Tashkent Declaration by India and Pakistan–Withdrawal of Troops,” p. 6896.

It appeared that Chaudhuri had deliberately tried to conceal weaknesses under a fog of ignorance and the lack of desire on the part of the politicians and the nation to seek the truth. The nation’s indignation after the Chinese aggression in 1962 resulted in the Henderson-Brooks report, which however never saw the light of day. But there was no report in 1965 as the nation, and particularly the Indian Army, was not prepared to face the mirror squarely. Chaudhuri is to blame for this as he concealed the truth for the sake of his personal vanity.

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Chaudhuri bowed out in April 1966. At the time of handing over to his successor, Gen PP Kumaramangalam,1 commonly known as Kay to his colleagues, Chaudhuri left one of the largest standing armies in the world. The Army had four corps headquarters on its Orbat, one armoured division, eight mountain and 12 infantry divisions, one independent armoured brigade, and two independent artillery brigades. The Army had been recently blooded, and the fact that its equipment and weaponry had been recently procured added to its war potential. It fell to Kumaramangalam to revamp the Army by drawing upon the experience gained in the Indo-Pakistani war, but this was far greater than his capacity. He was lethargic, slow on the uptake, and far too deliberate in his ways to keep pace with the march of time. And he had difficult subordinates in his army commanders, whom he could not bring together. His advisers among principal staff officers were mediocre and incapable of giving him a hand in carrying out reforms, requiring vision and pragmatism.

In the first week of August, the presence of infiltrators in depth areas began to be felt through attacks on bridges, administrative installations and ammunition dumps all along the ceasefire line, particularly in Kashmir Valley.

Luckily, Kumaramangalam’s tenure was short, and despite his shortcomings circumstances changed for the better. The new friendship forged by the Tashkent Agreement opened the doors of the Soviet arsenal to India. Using this new source of supply, Kumaramangalam acquired tanks and guns to replace the aging equipment of the existing formations and units and to raise new ones.2 In his time two independent armoured brigades, six armoured regiments and one guided missile regiment came into being. But his activities were so circumscribed by the manpower ceiling of 850,000 that he had to convert the existing artillery and engineer units into armoured regiments, thus upsetting the overall balance of the Army.

The Regiment of Artillery, to which Kumaramangalam belonged, accused him of anti-gunner policies, while the Armoured Corps, which benefited most, acclaimed him, saying: “He has done more for the Armoured Corps than the cavalrymen who ruled the Army for over a decade.” The fact remains that he robbed Peter to pay Paul, resulting in unbalanced growth, with a bias towards the Armoured Corps. Both the old and newly created armoured formations lacked motorized infantry and self-propelled artillery support, thus nullifying their added mobility.

Despite the inherent weaknesses in the re-equipment and reorganisation plan the creation of six armoured regiments to provide greater punch to the strike element was a progressive step. Otherwise there was no visible change in Kumaramangalam’s time either in operational plans or in the concepts for their implementation.

A definitely retrograde step was introduced in the selection system for higher commanders, and this was to tell in the Army’s performance in war later. Kumaramangalam accepted that there were two classes of brigadier in the Army: one the general cadre who could aspire to higher command, and the other purely regimental or corps who could fit vacancies only in their own organisations. This denied the higher command the use of some brain power and cost some competent professionals their careers. Mediocrity was allowed to flourish and prevail, and for this the blame his squarely on him. The poor man could hardly see beyond his nose. Otherwise, his tenure passed uneventfully. An upright gentleman steeped in British traditions, he acted as a mere bird of passage.

A ghost radio broadcasting from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir hailed this sabotage as a “mass uprising” and appealed to the Kashmiris to rise against the “Indian occupation.”

The artillery suffered most in this regard. Because of constraints on the availability of equipment the growth of this arm had never kept pace with that of the infantry and armour. As a result some of the infantry formations were without adequate supporting artillery. Although some of these formations could perform their peacetime counterinsurgency tasks without their full complement of artillery, in times of war such formations could not be used without last-minute ad hoc arrangements. Shortage of artillery had plagued the Indian Army order of battle throughout. In addition, there was the question of procuring suitable guns, firstly to replace the existing inventory, which was of World War II stock and fast wasting out, and secondly for issue to new raisings.

When the Soviet Union became a source of arms supplier to India, some of these units switched to 100-mm guns which were primarily designed for anti-tank operations and had more than amply proved their worth against the German Panzers in World War II. But its performance as a field gun had still to be proved. Its weight restricted its cross-country performance and its high velocity, combined with low trajectory, created crest clearance problems. Because of these constraints the gun had to be sited close to roads and away from cover cresting its trajectory. Despite these inherent shortcomings, the Indian Army accepted this gun as field equipment for formations operating in the plains. But since its availability was restricted, about three-fourths of the field force artillery units continued to use the 25-pounder.

Prior to the Chinese invasion in 1962 there were only two mountain artillery regiments which could operate with animal packs in the Himalayan border regions, which had poor communications. These regiments were equipped with the Indian 3.7-inch howitzer of the 1920s, originally designed to support punitive operations against the Pathans in the North-West Frontier Province of British India. This gun had limited range and was heavy for its range and shell weight. In the post-1962 period of Army expansion and modernisation the need was felt for immediate replacement of the outmoded screw gun. An assortment of lighter pack guns was received as part of the military aid and they included the 75-mm pack howitzer (USA) used by parachute and air mobile formations, the 76-mm howitzer (Yugoslavia), and the 105-mm Italian pack howitzer which came through Britain.

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With the raising or conversion of eight mountain divisions a large number of new regiments were raised, but the trickle of new equipment coming as aid could equip only a few of them. The majority of these regiments perforce continued to be equipped with the 3.7-inch howitzer. A project to produce an indigenous mountain gun had been engaging the decisionmakers’ attention even in Menon’s time. Drawings of a Canadian pack gun had even been procured for Indian R&D to work on.

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