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India-The Experience of Wars The National Forces

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India Index

Data as of September 1995

Following independence in 1947, important organizational changes strengthened civilian control over the military. The position of commander in chief was abolished in 1955, and the three service chiefs were placed on an equal footing beneath the civilian Ministry of Defence. These changes significantly reduced the influence of the numerically superior army, to which the other services had been subordinate, and limited the service chiefs to advisory roles in the defense decision-making process. The changes reflected the ambiguous feelings of the civilian leadership toward the military. Nehru and other Indian nationalists saw the military as an institution strongly wedded to the colonial past. The heritage of nonviolence (ahimsa) of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi also was important to the national political leadership (see Mahatma Gandhi, ch. 1).

Independence and the partition from Pakistan imposed significant costs on the Indian defense establishment that took years to redress. The partition of the country had entailed the division of the armed forces personnel and equipment. Predominantly Muslim units went to Pakistan, followed later by individual transfers. Close to two-thirds of all army personnel went to India. As a secular state, India accepted all armed forces personnel without regard to religious affiliation. The division of the navy was based on an estimation of each nation's maritime needs. A combination of religious affiliation and military need was applied to the small air force. As a result of partition, India also received about two-thirds of the matériel and stores. This aspect of the division of assets was complicated by the fact that all sixteen ordnance factories were located in India. India was allowed to retain them with the proviso that it would make a lump sum payment to Pakistan to enable it to develop its own defense production infrastructure.

Independence also resulted in a dramatic reduction of the number of experienced senior personnel available. In 1947 only six Indians had held brigade-level commands, and only one had commanded a division. British officers, out of necessity, were retained for varying periods of time after independence. British chiefs stayed on the longest in the navy and the air force. The navy had a British service chief until 1962 and the air force until 1954. The armed forces also integrated qualified members of the armies of the former princely states that acceded to India (see National Integration, ch. 1). The term sepoy , made popular during the colonial era, was dropped about this time, and the word jawan (Hindi for able-bodied man) has been used ever since when referring to the Indian soldier.

The Experience of Wars

Data as of September 1995

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