A kaleidoscopic look at the Indian Armed Forces

Manthan means churning. This Hindi word can be applied to the Indian Armed Forces because they represent soldiers, sailors, and airmen from different parts of India

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Mar 24, 2021
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Manthan means churning. This Hindi word can be applied to the Indian Armed Forces because they represent soldiers, sailors, and airmen from different parts of India. The churning of this mix, for the British, became a bonanza, as proved in World Wars I and II, when the Indian military component of 1.5 and 2.5 million respectively, was a major war-winning factor.

Even 100 years after WW I, the role of Indian Army/Armed Forces personnel was recalled by allied countries with much praise. After independence, it was India’s great misfortune and indeed ironic that its first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru viewed the armed forces with the suspicion that they will take over the country. Much paranoia about this totally unfounded suspicion was generated resulting in a rotten foundation of civil-military relationship, so vital for India with its vast borders and threats, which Nehru was apparently quite clueless about. 

One of the first strokes of the Nehruvian axe after independence was to slash the Indian Army’s numerical strength and salaries. Nehru and his ‘favourite’ Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon even meddled with the army’s leadership and made a mess of handling the 1962 Chinese aggression. Time has proved amply how wrong Nehru was because the Indian Armed Forces, despite deficiencies of equipment, became a very solid nation-guarding and nation-building bastion which ranks as out of the best in the world to date. In 2020, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army was again reminded of the Indian Army’s lethality and its professionalism.

Coming in 2021, the 50th year since the 1971 Indo-Pak war resulting in the liberation of Bangladesh, this book is timely. It has been followed by some books on the 1971 war and more are expected.

The author Maj Gen VK Shrivastava (retd) with his rich experience of army service, including wars and counter-insurgency/counter terrorism operations and a post-retirement senior fellowship at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, has, with his labour of love for India and the Indian Army, written an interesting and informative book Manthan: Multifaceted Reflections on the Indian Armed Forces. It has fourteen chapters. Naming them would surely tempt many to buy the book.

The chapters are titled: Political violence: An interpretive commentary on war; Rich heritage: The noble profession of arms in India;  Baptism by fire: Well blooded Indian Armed Forces; Against all odds: A resume' of operational difficulties faced in prosecuting the post-independence wars; Bash on regardless: Reflections on combating threats within; The Boon: Apolitical Indian Armed Forces; End Game: The curtain-raiser;  End game: An analytical account of the Indian endeavours;  The Debate: India's strategic culture; The Bane: Bureaucracy and the troubled civil-military relations; The Bogey: Of a coup d' etat in India; Dynamic lethargy: A review of defence policy and defence planning in India; Mirror mirror on the wall: Right time for the Armed  Forces to introspect; and the last chapter, The March ahead: Summative parting thoughts.

This concluding chapter has some futuristic assertions and suggestions so that the readiness and the capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces match the aspirations of a rising India as it strives to take its rightful place in the emerging world order.

This book ranges from being a must for all levels of officialdom related to national security, the armed/security forces, intelligence services, and academics to Indians of all ages, who will be much better informed about India’s pre and post-independence history.

(Manthan: Multifaceted Reflections on the Indian Armed Forces by Maj Gen VK Shrivastava (retd); Published by Vij Books India Pvt Ltd; Pages 180 (in hardcover); Price Rs.895)

(The writer is a former spokesperson, Indian Army and Ministry of Defence. He can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com)

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