Military history of India
|Outline of South Asian history|
The earliest known reference to armies in what today is India are millennia ago in the Vedas and the epics Ramayana and Mahabaratha. From the ancient period to the 19th century, a succession of powerful dynasties came to be and some were challenged by lesser Indian rulers who also struggled for land and power through warring. The British colonised India during the 19th century.
The predecessors to the contemporary Army of India were many: the sepoy regiments, native cavalry, irregular horse and Indian sapper and miner companies raised by the three British presidencies. The Army of India was raised under the British Raj in the 19th century by taking the erstwhile presidency armies, merging them, and bringing them under the Crown. The British Indian Army fought in both World Wars.
The armed forces succeeded the military of British India following India's independence in 1947. After World War II, many of the wartime troops were discharged and units disbanded. The reduced armed forces were partitioned between India and Pakistan. The Indian armed forces fought in all three wars against Pakistan and a war with the People's Republic of China. India also fought in the Kargil War with Pakistan in 1999, the highest altitude mountain warfare in history. The Indian Armed Forces have participated in several United Nations peacekeeping operations and are presently the second largest contributor of troops to the peacekeeping force.
- 1 The Vedic period
- 2 The Magadha dynasties
- 3 The Golden age
- 4 The Classical age
- 5 The Medieval era
- 6 Colonial era
- 7 Republic of India
- 7.1 Major wars
- 7.2 Indo-Sino Conflict of 1967
- 7.3 Other operations
- 7.4 Missile program
- 7.5 Nuclear program
- 8 Overview and recent developments
- 9 See also
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
- 12 Notes
The Vedic period
The Rigvedic tribes of Indo-Aryans were led by their tribal chieftains (raja) and engaged in wars with each other and other tribes. They used bronze weapons and horse-drawn spoke-wheeled chariots described prominently in the Rigveda. The main share from the booty obtained during cattle raids and battles went to the chief of the tribe. The warriors belonged to the Kshatriya varna.
The Vedas and other associated texts dating to the post-Rigvedic (Iron Age) Vedic period (ca. 1100–500 BC) contain the earliest written references to armies in India. The earliest known application of war elephants dates to this period; the animals are mentioned in several Vedic Sanskrit hymns.
The two great epics of India, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, center on conflicts between the emerging Mahajanapadas and refer to military formations, theories of warfare and esoteric weaponry. They discuss standing armies that used in war chariots, war elephants and even flying machines. The Ramayana describes in great detail the fortifications of Ayodhya. The Mahabharata describes various military techniques such as Chakravyuha used in the Kurukshetra War.
The Magadha dynasties
The expansionist King Bimbisara conquered Anga in what is now West Bengal and strengthened the military of Magadh's capital, Rajagriha. Ajatashatru built a new fort at Pataliputra, Magadh's new capital, to launch an attack on Licchavis across the Ganges River. Jain texts tell that he used two new weapons, a catapult and a covered chariot with swinging mace that has been compared[by whom?] to modern tanks.
The Nanda dynasty originated from the region of Magadha in ancient India during the 4th century BC. At its greatest extent, the empire ruled by the Nanda Dynasty extended from Bengal in the east, to Punjab in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range.
In 327 BC Alexander the Great began his foray into Punjab. King Ambhi, ruler of Taxila, surrendered the city to Alexander. Alexander fought an epic battle against the Indian monarch Porus in the Battle of Hydaspes (326). After victory, Alexander made an alliance with Porus and appointed him as satrap of his own kingdom. East of Porus' kingdom, near the Ganges River, was the powerful kingdom of Magadha, under the Nanda Dynasty.
According to Plutarch, at the time of Alexander's Battle of the Hydaspes River, the size of the Nanda's army further east numbered 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants, which was discouraging for Alexander's men and stayed their further progress into India.
According to Megasthenes, who served as an ambassador from the Seleucid Empire, Chandragupta Maurya built an army consisting of 30,000 cavalry, 9,000 war elephants, and 600,000 infantry. Chandragupta conquered all of northern India, establishing an empire from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. He then defeated the Seleucid Empire of Greece under Seleucus I Nicator to conquer the regions to the east of the Indus River. He then turned south, taking over much of what is now Central India. His military was administered by six chairs, one for each of the four arms of the army (infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots), one chair for the navy, and one for logistics and supply.
Infantry at this time was most commonly armed with a longbow made of bamboo and a single- or double-handed broadsword probably similar to the khanda. Other foot soldiers could be armed with a large animal hide tower shield and a spear or javelins. Cavalry carried spears. Elephants were mounted, usually bareback (rarely with a howdah at this time, as it is a Greek invention), by archers or javelin throwers, with a mahout around the animal's neck. Chariots by this time were in definite decline, but remained in the army due to their prestige.
War and conflict characterized the Sunga period. They are known to have warred with the Kalingas, Satavahanas, the Indo-Greeks, and possibly the Panchalas and Mathuras.
Extent of the Sunga Empire's wars with the Indo-Greek Kingdom figure greatly in the history of this period. From around 180 BCE the Indo-Greek ruler Demetrius I of Bactria, conquered the Kabul Valley and is theorized to have advanced into the trans-Indus. The Indo-Greek Menander is credited with either joining or leading a campaign to Pataliputra with other Indian rulers; however, very little is known about the exact nature and success of the campaign. The net result of these wars remains uncertain.
Pushyamitra is recorded to have performed two Ashvamedha Yagnas and Sunga imperial inscriptions have extended as far as Jalandhar. Scriptures such as the Divyavadhana note that his rule extended even farther to Sialkot, in the Punjab. Moreover, if it was lost, Mathura was regained by the Sungas around 100 BCE (or by other indigenous rulers: the Arjunayanas (area of Mathura) and Yaudheyas mention military victories on their coins ("Victory of the Arjunayanas", "Victory of the Yaudheyas"), and during the 1st century BCE, the Trigartas, Audumbaras and finally the Kunindas also started to mint their own coins). Accounts of battles between the Greeks and the Sunga in Northwestern India are also found in the Mālavikāgnimitram, a play by Kālidāsa which describes a battle between Greek cavalrymen and Vasumitra, the grandson of Pushyamitra, on the Indus river, in which the Indians defeated the Greeks and Pushyamitra successfully completed the Ashvamedha Yagna.
The Indo-Greeks and the Sungas seem to have reconciled and exchanged diplomatic missions around 110 BCE, as indicated by the Heliodorus pillar, which records the dispatch of a Greek ambassador named Heliodorus, from the court of the Indo-Greek king Antialcidas, to the court of the Sunga emperor Bhagabhadra at the site of Vidisha in central India.
The Golden age
According to some interpretations of the Puranas, the Satavahana family belonged to the Andhra-jati ("tribe") and was the first Deccanese dynasty to build an empire in daksinapatha (southern region). The Satavahanas (also called Andhra and Shalivahan) rose to power in modern Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra around 200 B.C. and remained in power for about 400 years. Almost the whole of present day Telangana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Goa, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh came under Satavahana rule. Their first capital was Koti Lingala, as well as Paithan, then called Pratishthan.
Simuka, the dynasty's founder, conquered Maharashtra, Malwa and part of Madhya Pradesh. His successor and brother Kanha (or Krishna) further extended his kingdom to the west and the south. He was succeeded by Satakarni I, who defeated the Sunga dynasty of North India. His successor, Gautamiputra Satakarni, defeated the invading Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Indo-Greeks. His empire extended up to Banavasi in the south, and included Maharashtra, Konkan, Saurashtra, Malwa, west Rajasthan and Vidharbha. Later, Satavahana rulers lost some of these territories. Satavahana power revived briefly under Yajna Sri Satakarni but declined after his death.
The Mahameghavahana dynasty was an ancient ruling dynasty of Kalinga after the decline of the Mauryan Empire. The third ruler of the dynasty, Khārabēḷa, conquered much of India in a series of campaigns at the beginning of the common era. Kaḷingan military might was reinstated by Khārabēḷa. Under Khārabēḷa's generalship, the Kaḷinga state had a formidable maritime reach with trade routes linking it to the then-Simhala (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), Vietnam, Kamboja (Cambodia), Borneo, Bali, Samudra (Sumatra) and Yawadvipa (Java). Khārabēḷa led many successful campaigns against states of Magadha, Anga, Satavahanas and the South Indian regions of Pandyan Empire (modern Andhra Pradesh) and expanded Kaḷinga as far as the Ganges and the Kaveri.
The Kharavelan state had a formidable maritime empire with trading routes linking it to Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Bali, Sumatra and Java. Colonists from Kalinga settled in Sri Lanka, Burma, as well as the Maldives and Maritime Southeast Asia. Even today Indians are referred to as Keling in Malaysia because of this.
The main source of information about Khārabeḷa is his famous seventeen line rock-cut Hātigumphā inscription in a cave in the Udayagiri hills near Bhubaneswar, Odisha. According to the inscription, he attacked Rajagriha in Magadha, thus defeating the Indo-Greek king Demetrius I of Bactria to retreat to Mathura.
Siva-Dhanur-veda discusses the military of the Gupta Empire. The Guptas relied heavily on armoured war elephants; horses were used little if at all. The use of chariots had declined heavily by the time of the Guptas, as they had not proved very useful against the Greeks, Scythians, and other invaders. Guptas utilised heavy cavalry clad in mail armour and equipped with maces and lances, who would have used shock action to break the enemy line. They also employed on infantry archers. Their longbow was composed of bamboo or metal and fired a long bamboo cane arrow with a metal head; iron shafts were used against armoured elephants. They also sometimes used fire arrows. Archers were frequently protected by infantry equipped with shields, javelins, and longswords. The Guptas also maintained a navy, allowing them to control regional waters.
Samudragupta seized the kingdoms of Shichchhatra and Padmavati early in his reign. Later, he took the Kota kingdom and attacked the tribes in Malvas, the Yaudheyas, the Arjunayanas, the Maduras and the Abhiras. He also subjugated the remants of the Kushan Empire. By his death in 380, he had conquered over twenty kingdoms.
4th century CE Sanskrit poet Kalidasa, credits Chandragupta II with having conquered about twenty one kingdoms, both in and outside India. After finishing his campaign in the East and West India, he proceeded northwards, subjugated the Parasikas (Persians), then the Hunas and the Kambojas tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys respectively.The Brihatkathamanjari of the Kashmiri writer Kshmendra states, king Vikramaditya (Chandra Gupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth of the Barbarians like the Sakas (Scythians), Yavanas (Greeks), Parasikas (Persians), Hunas, Kambojas and Tusharas, etc. by annihilating these sinful Mlecchas completely". After defeating the Indo-Scythians he assumed the title 'sakari'. During the reign of Chandragupta II, Gupta empire maintained a large army consisting of 500,000 infantry, 50,000 cavalry, 20,000 charioteers and 10,000 elephants along with a powerful navy with more than 1200 ships. Chandragupta II controlled the whole of the Indian subcontinent; the Gupta empire was the most powerful empire in the world during his reign, at a time when the Roman Empire in the west was in decline.
Skandagupta faced with invading Indo-Hephthalites or White Huns, from the northwest. Skandagupta had warred against the Huns during the reign of his father, and was celebrated throughout the empire as a great warrior. He crushed the Huns invasion in 455, and managed to keep them at bay; however, the expense of the wars drained the empire's resources and contributed to its decline
The Classical age
Emperor Harshavardhana (606–648) ruled northern India for over forty years. His father, a king of Thanesar, had gained prominence by successful wars against the Huns. Harsha had plans to conquer the whole of India, and carried on wars for thirty years with considerable success. By 612 he had built up a vast army with which he conquered nearly all North India up to the Narmada river. In 620 he invaded the Deccan Plateau but was repelled by Pulakesi II.
The Chalukyas and Pallavas
In South India, the Chalukyas and the Pallavas gained prominence. The Chalukya ruler Pulakesi II's expansionism started with minor campaigns against the Alupas, Gangas and others. He defeated the Pallava king Mahendravarman and conquered the Cheras and the Pandyas. His greatest military success, the defeat of Harshavardhana, depleted his treasury, forcing him to end his expansionist campaigns.
The Pallava king Narasimhavarman vowed to avenge Mahendravarman's defeat by Pulakesi II. He invaded Vatapi with an army headed by his general Paranjothi. He defeated the Chalukyas, killing Pulakesi II in 642. Clashes between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas continued for a century, until the Chalukya king Vikramaditya II won a decisive victory against the Pallavas in 740. The Rashtrakutas overthrew the Chalukya empire in 750. During the 970s, Tailapa II overthrew the Rashtrakutas and recovered most of the Chalukya Empire, except for Gujarat. The Chalukyas of this period are known as the Kalyani Chalukyas, as Kalyani was their capital. They clashed intermittently with the Cholas.
The Chola Empire
The Cholas were the first rulers of the Indian subcontinent to maintain a navy and use it to expand their dominion overseas. Vijayalaya Chola defeated the Pallavas and captured Thanjavur. In the early 10th century the Chola king Parantaka I defeated the Pandyan king Maravarman Rajasimha II and invaded Sri Lanka. The Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna III defeated and killed Parantaka I's son Rajaditya in about 949.
Uttama Chola reigned 970-85. Inscriptions tell that at least from his time, Chola warriors wore waist coats of armour. Hence, one regiment was called Niyayam-Uttama-Chola-tterinda-andalakattalar. Paluvettaraiyar Maravan Kandanar served as a general under Uttama and his predecessor, Sundara.
Rajaraja Chola began his military career with the conquest of the Cheras in the Kandalur War. He captured the Pandya ruler Amara Bhujanga, the town of Vilinam, and a part of Sri Lanka. In the 14th year of his reign (998–999) he conquered the Gangas of Mysore, the Nolambas of Bellary and Eastern Mysore, Tadigaipadi, Vengi, Coorg, the Pandyas and the Chalukyas of the Deccan. During the next three years, he subdued Quilon and the northern kingdom of Kalinga with the help of his son Rajendra Chola I. Rajendra later completed the conquest of Sri Lanka, crossed the Ganges, and marched across Kalinga to Bengal. He sent out a great naval expedition that occupied parts of Java, Malaya, and Sumatra. The Cholas were brought down by the Hoysalas from the west and Pandyas from the south.
The Gurjar-Pratiharas, Palas and Rashtrakutas
The Arab scholar Sulaiman described the Emperor of the Rashtrakuta dynasty as one of the 4 great Kings of the World in the 9th century. In middle of 9th century, the Palas under Devapala attacked the Gurjara-Pratiharas. Led by Mihir Bhoja, the Pratiharas and their allies defeated Narayan Pala.
There were many battles between the Gurjar Pratiharas under Bhoj and the Rashtrakutas under Krishna II with mixed results. When the Rashtrakuta king Indra III attacked Kanauj, Mahipala, Mihir Bhoj's successor, fled; he later returned.
Al-Masudi wrote that in 915, during Mahipala's rule, the Pratiharas were at war with the Muslims in the west and the Rashtrakutas in the south, and that the Gurjar Pratiharas had four armies of about 800,000 men each.
Arab conquest of Sindh
In 712,an Arab general,named Muhammad bin Qasim Al-Thaqafi (Arabic: محمد بن قاسم) (c. 31 December 695–18 July 715),attacked and conquered Sindh kingdom which is mainly situated in Indus valley area(After partition,now in modern day Pakistan),by the time Sindh was ruled by Raja Dahir of Rai Dynasty,this dynasty was at war with Arabs.Though they defeated several Arab invasion before 712 A.D,but this time being deprived of local Buddhist people's support,Sindhu was captured and the first step of Islamic foundation in India was created.Chach Nama (Sindhi: چچ نامو),written by Kàzí Ismáíl briefly discusses the events.However, the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty and the Pratiharas defeated the Arabs at the Battle of Rajasthan(738 CE) when they tried to move eastward.
Indian inscriptions confirm this invasion but record the Arab success only against the smaller states in Gujarat. They also record the defeat of the Arabs at two places. The southern army moving south into Gujarat was defeated at Navsari by the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty who sent his general Pulakesi to defeat the Arabs. The army that went east, reached Avanti whose ruler Gurjara Pratihara  Nagabhata I utterly defeated the invaders who fled to save their lives. Arab forces failed to make any substantial gains in India and in the Battle of Rajasthan (730 CE), their army was severely defeated by the Indian kings. As a result, Arabs' territory got restricted to Sindh in modern Pakistan.
In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the Rajput Hindu Shahi kingdom in the North-west frontier in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his raids into northern India weakened the Pratihara kingdom, which was drastically reduced in size and came under the control of the Chandelas. Mahmud sacked some temples across northern India , including the temple at Somnath in Gujarat, but his permanent conquests were limited to the Punjab. The early 11th century also saw the reign of the polymath king Raja Bhoj, the Paramara ruler of Malwa.
Raja Bhoja then organised his armies to attack Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi who had invaded Somnath. Ghaznavi fearing the powerful army of Bhoja retreated via the desert of Sindh to avoid a clash (reported by Turkic author Gardizi as Indian Padshah Parmar Dev) with the Indian king and lost many of his men. Bhoja repulsed the Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud who led an army into India to conquer the northern India which his uncle, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, had failed to conquer. Then Bhoja realising the threat, organised a confederation of Indian kings including the Kalachuri Lakshmi-Karna, the Chahamana and other Indian kings to fight the Salar Masud. In the Battle of Bahraich the northern India confederacy fought a pitched battle for about a month with the Ghaznavi army and completely defeated them killing Salar Masud in the process. They then went on to conquer Hansi, Thaneshvar, Nagarkot and other cities taken by the Ghaznavids and marched against Lahore and besieged it. Just at the point Lahore was about to fall to them, the Indian kings had a disagreement over who would own the captured territories and their armies disbanded and dispersed in a huff. Bhoja started fighting other Indian kings who were his erstwhile allies in the war against the Ghaznavids.
The Medieval era
The Delhi Sultanate, under the Khilji dynasty, repelled several invasions by the Mongol Empire. Zafar Khan, a general serving Alauddin Khilji, defeated the Mongols near Jalandhar in 1297. In 1299, Zafar Khan fought back a Mongol army of 200,000 soldiers but was killed in the process. Its last sultan, Ibrahim Lodi, died fighting the forces of Babur in the first battle of Panipat in 1526, ending the sultanate and paving the way for the foundation of the Mughal Empire.
After Babur's victory over Ibrahim Lodi, the Mewar ruler Rana Sanga led a combined Rajput army of 20,000 intending to defeat Babur and capture Delhi. The Mughals had superior artillery, which prevailed against the Rajput cavalry. A Tomar general betrayed Rana Sanga, resulting in his defeat by Babur at the Battle of Khanua (16 March 1527). During the reign Rana Sanga's son Rana Udai Singh II, Babur's grandson Akbar conquered Chittor, the capital of Mewar.
In the Battle of Haldighati (21 June 1576) between Akbar and Rana Pratap Singh, the Mughal army of 80,000 was headed by a Rajput, Raja Man Singh, and Akbar's son Salim. The Rajput army's strength was 20,000. Rana Pratap escaped with the help of his estranged brother Sakti Singh. His legendary horse Chetak was killed in the battle. Later, Rana Pratap organized a small army of Bhil tribals funded by a Gurjar businessman called Bhamashah and started a guerrilla war against Akbar. He retook large parts of Mewar but could not retake Chittor.
Sultan Muzaffar Shah I, the Governor of Gujarat, established the Muzaffarid dynasty in 1391. It expanded rapidly and peaked under Sultan Mahmud I, who lost the Battle of Diu to the Portuguese in 1509.
Ruled by the Zamorin, the small Hindu Nair kingdom of Calicut (Malabar) welcomed the Portuguese in 1498 as traders but then fought several naval wars with Portugal in the 1500s. The office of Muslim naval chief in Calicut was known as the Kunhali Marakkar.
The Italian traveler Niccolo de Conti wrote of the Emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire as the most powerful ruler of India in the 15th century. In 1509, the Bahamani Sultan declared war against the Vijayanagara Empire. His large coalition army was defeated by Krishnadevaraya in a battle in which the Sultan was wounded. In 1510, Krishnadevaraya launched a counteroffensive against the Sultan at Kovelaconda; Yusuf Adil Shahi of Bijapur died in the battle. In 1512, Krishnadevaraya captured Raichur and Gulbarga after defeating Barid-i-Mamalik, the titular head of the Bahmani Sultanate, who escaped to Bidar. Later, Bidar also fell to Krishnadevaraya, who restored the Bahmani Sultan to his throne under the terms of their peace treaty.
Between 1512 and 1514, Krishnadevaraya subjugated the Palaigar of Ummattur, who had rebelled against his brother. During this campaign, the Gajapati of Odisha attacked Vijayanagara and occupied two northeast provinces: Udayagiri and Kondavidu. Krishnadevaraya recaptured these lands between 1513 and 1518.
On 26 January 1565, the neighboring kingdoms of Ahmednagar, Berar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda came together to defeat the Vijayanagar decisively in the Battle of Talikota. The surviving Vijaynagar forces fled with a large treasury to re-establish their headquarters at Vellore Fort in Tamil Nadu and Chandragiri (Andhra Pradesh) near Tirupathi. It would be here that the British would seek a land grant to establish the English East India Company Fort St. George in Madras.
The Mughal Empire began in 1526 with the overthrow of Ibrahim Lodi and encompassed most of South Asia by the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Allied with the Maharaja, it extended from Bengal in the east to Balochistan in the west, Kashmir in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, a territory of over 4 million km2 at its height. Its population at that time has been estimated at between 110 and 130 million. In the year 1540, then Mughal Emperor Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri, and forced to retreat to Kabul. Suris and their adviser, the Hindu Emperor Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, also called Hemu, ruled North India from 1540 to 1556. Hemu established a 'Hindu' Empire briefly from Delhi in 1556.
The "classic period" of the Empire started in 1556 with the accession of Akbar the Great and ended with the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, although the dynasty continued for another 150 years. During this period, the Empire was marked by centralized administration and active culture. Following 1725 the empire declined rapidly, weakened by wars of succession; famine and local revolts fueled by it; the growth of religious intolerance; the rise of the Maratha Empire; and finally British colonialism. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, whose rule was restricted to the city of Delhi, was imprisoned and exiled by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.
In 1674, Shivaji Bhosale carved an independent Maratha zone around Pune, Maharshtra, from the Bijapur Sultanate and, with that began the emergence of the Marathas as the most important power in India that filled the vacuum created by the decline of the Mughal Empire. Shivaji established an effective civil and military administration. After a lifetime of conquest and guerrilla warfare with the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Shivaji died in 1680, leaving behind a kingdom of great but ill-defined extent. This was followed by a period of instability ending with Aurangzeb's death.
Shivaji was the second king in Indian history to maintain an active navy. Kanhoji Angre, the first Maratha naval chief under Shivaji's grandson Shahuji, controlled illegal entries into Maratha territory by Dutch, English and Portuguese commercial ships on the Western coast of India in the early 18th century. He remained undefeated until his death in 1729.
Although the descendants of Shivaji continued to rule, the office of the Peshwa, or the Prime Minister, became the focus of Maratha power and patronage. The Peshwas were the effective rulers of the Maratha state and oversaw the period of greatest Maratha expansion, brought to an end by the Maratha's defeat by an Afghan army at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. The Marathas recovered their position as the dominant power in India by 1772 until the last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. With the defeat of the Marathas, no native power represented a threat for the British any longer. The end of the last Anglo-Maratha War marked the era of British paramountcy over India.
King Marthanda Varma inherited the small feudal state of Venad in 1723 and built it into Travancore, one of the most powerful kingdoms in southern India, with the help of the British East India Company. Marthanda Varma led the Travancore forces during the Travancore-Dutch War of 1739–46, which culminated in the Battle of Colachel. Marthanda Varma went on to conquer most of the petty principalities of the native rulers who had allied with the Dutch against him.
During Dharma Raja's reign, Tipu Sultan invaded Travancore, but commander-in-chief Raja Kesavadas led Travancore to victory despite being outnumbered. This attack led to Travancore joining the British against Tipu in the Third Battle of Carnatic. Pazhsi Raja, Velu Thampi Dalava and Paliath Achan, later leaders of Travancore, fought the British East India Company but lost. Travancore became a British ally in 1805 following a treaty between Colonel Charles Macaulay and Diwan Velu Tampi. It remained so until 1947 when it became part of the newly independent Union of India.
Hyder Ali, the de facto ruler of Mysore, was one of the first Indian rulers to resist the British, allying instead with France. He was one of the first Indian rulers to use rockets, employing them to defeat a top British unit.
Hyder Ali's son Tipu Sultan was instructed by French military officers. Tipu fought in the First Anglo-Maratha War of 1775–1779. He defeated the Brathwaite on the banks of the Coleroon in February 1782 in the Second Mysore War. After his father's death in 1782, he sought alliances with the Marathas and the Mughals but was rebuffed. He turned to France instead. In 1789, he ignited the Third Mysore War by invading Travancore, a British protectorate, but was defeated when France failed to come to his aid due to the outbreak of the French Revolution. Later, Horatio Nelson ended Napoleon's ambitions for India at the Battle of the Nile. During the Fourth Mysore War of 1799, three armies—one from Bombay and two British, one of which was commanded by the future Duke of Wellington—marched into Mysore and besieged the capital, Srirangapatnam. On 4 May 1799, the armies broke through the defending walls. Tipu Sultan died of a gunshot wound near the gates of his fortress.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh was a Sikh ruler of the sovereign country of Punjab and the Sikh Empire. His father Maha Singh led Sukerchakia, a misl within the Sikh Confederacy. Born in 1780 in Gujranwala, Ranjit Singh succeeded his father at the age of 12. He united the Sikh factions into the Sikh Empire and took the title "Maharaja" on 13 April 1801, to coincide with Baisakhi. Lahore was his capital from 1799. In 1802 he conquered Amritsar, a holy city of the Sikh religion. In 1822 Ranjit Singh hired European mercenaries for the first time to train a part of his troops. He modernized his army, creating a military force whose power delayed the eventual British colonization of Punjab. The result was a powerful and heavily armed state. The Battle of Jamrud in 1837 was a major setback for Ranjit Singh: his general Hari Singh Nalwa was killed, the Khyber Pass was established as the western limit of the Sikh Empire's influence.
Ranjit Singh died in 1839, and his empire crumbled under internal strife and poor governance by his heirs. On the east of his realm Gulab Singh extended Sikh authority in the Himalayas until stopped by the Qing Empire in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). After the First Anglo-Sikh War (1845–46), Punjab effectively ceased to be an independent state. The British Empire annexed the Sikh Empire following the Second Anglo-Sikh War (1848–49).
The British Indian Army was raised to guard the factories of the British East India Company. Following the fall of French Pondichéry in 1793, this was divided into Presidency armies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay in 1795. The Dutch trained the Nair Brigade, the military of Travancore.
During the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857–58, some units of the Bengal Native Infantry and Cavalry revolted against the British East India Company. The rebels received less support than they had expected from members of the Bombay and Madras Armies. A number of atrocities took place, among them the Siege of Cawnpore. The mutiny ultimately failed because of lack of resources and coordination among the rebels. Reprisals by the victorious British Army, assisted by Sikh and Afghan regulars and irregulars, were ruthless.
The British Raj
Following the Sepoy Mutiny, British rule in India was reorganised under the British Raj, made up of areas directly administered by the United Kingdom and princely states under the paramountcy of the British Crown. Under terms of treaties with the Crown, these princely states were allowed some local autonomy in exchange for protection and representation in international affairs by the United Kingdom. The Raj included present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
After 1857, the Presidency Armies were abolished in favour of a reconstituted British Indian Army under the control of the British Crown and the Viceroy. Many units were disbanded or reorganised, and new units of Sikhs, Gurkhas, and irregular horsemen were introduced. The majority of the Madras Native Infantry and Cavalry had their class compositions changed to North Indian tribes, considered more "martial" than the darker, shorter "thambis" who made up the majority of the Madras Presidency Army. Indian sepoys were banned from serving as officers or in the artillery corps. Recruiting focused more on Sikhs and Gurkhas, whom the British viewed as loyal. New caste-based and religion-based regiments were formed.
The British Indian Army consisted of members of all the major religious groups in India: Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, and Muslims. The number of Sikhs in the army grew steadily with time as British commanders came to believe they were more loyal and martial, an impression reinforced by their conduct during the Sepoy Mutiny. The Sikhs, for their part, aligned with the British to prevent a resurgence of Mughal rule; Sikhs had been persecuted under the Mughal Empire.
The Indian Air Force was established in 1932.
World War I
During World War I, over 800,000 volunteered for the army, and more than 400,000 volunteered for non-combat roles, compared with the pre-war annual recruitment of about 15,000 men. The Army saw action on the Western Front within a month of the start of the war, at the First Battle of Ypres where Khudadad Khan became the first Indian to be awarded a Victoria Cross. After a year of front-line duty, sickness and casualties had reduced the Indian Corps to the point where it had to be withdrawn. Nearly 700,000 Indians fought the Turks in the Mesopotamian campaign. Indian formations were also sent to East Africa, Egypt, and Gallipoli.
Indian Army and Imperial Service Troops fought during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign's defence of the Suez Canal in 1915, at Romani in 1916 and to Jerusalem in 1917. India units occupied the Jordan Valley and after the Spring Offensive they became the major force in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Megiddo and in the Desert Mounted Corps' advance to Damascus and on to Aleppo. Other divisions remained in India guarding the North-West Frontier and fulfilling internal security obligations.
One million Indian troops served abroad during the war. In total, 74,187 died, and another 67,000 were wounded. The roughly 90,000 soldiers who lost their lives fighting in World War I and the Afghan Wars are commemorated by the India Gate.
World War II
In 1939, the British Indian Army's strength was about 189,000, with about 3,000 British officers and 1,115 Indian officers. The army was expanded greatly to fight in World War II: by 1945, the strength of the Army had risen to about 2.5 million, with about 34,500 British officers and 15,740 Indian officers. The Army took part in campaigns in France, East Africa, North Africa, Syria, Tunisia, Malaya, Burma, Greece, Sicily and Italy. Particularly significant contributions came in the campaigns in Abyssinia and North Africa, against the Italians; at El Alamain and in Italy, against the Germans; and in the Burma Campaign against Japan. The army ultimately suffered 179,935 casualties: 24,338 killed, 64,354 wounded, 11,762 missing, and 79,481 taken [Prisoner of war].
During the war, Indian nationalist expatriates in Southeast Asia and the Japanese Army formed the Indian National Army (INA) to fight for Indian independence from Britain. For manpower, it relied on the approximately 45,000 Indian troops of the Indian Army whom the Japanese captured when Singapore fell in February 1942. Subhas Chandra Bose was parachuted in to lead the INA in 1943, and he greatly expanded the INA to include the mainly Tamil civilian Indian community in Malaya. He also negotiated a combat role for the INA from the reluctant Japanese, who were more inclined to use it intelligence and propaganda work. In 1944, INA units participated in the Japanese Army`s offensives against British positions in the Arakan and the Imphal Plain. Not being a military man Bose - or "Netaji" (respected leader) naively believed that Indian soldiers of the Indian Army who deployed against the INA would flock to its standard. But these Indian troops stood fIrm, and actually defeated the INA. Despite this, Bose insisted that the INA be given an independent sector on the Irrawaddy in February 1945. Despite the desperate efforts of some INA troops, their sector was overrun, and desertions became commonplace. Militarily, the INA was finished. After the war, however, it made a political impact, due to the British decision to publicly court-martial three INA commanders. This was a miscalculation, because Indian nationalist politicians, who had previously come out against the INA, now whipped up popular sentiment for the release of the INA accused. Realizing their error, the British acquiesced. In this way, the INA was another Sign that the Raj's days were numbered.
Republic of India
The Republic of India has fought three wars and one major incursion battle with Pakistan and one border war with China.
First Indo-Pak war, 1947
Independent India, formed on 15 August 1947, has seen three wars with Pakistan (1947–48, 1965, 1971). The first war took place after Pakistani soldiers and armed tribesmen invaded the independent state of Kashmir. With Pakistani forces approaching the capital, Srinagar, Maharaja Hari Singh signed an agreement with India in which all Kashmiri lands were ceded to India. India sent troops in shortly after and took some of the territory they claimed as the new Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistan. However, Pakistan maintained control of one-third of this territory, and the dispute continues.
Operation Polo, 1948
After the war with Pakistan, India turned its attention to the independent Hyderabad State. India perceived the nearby independent Muslim state and potential Pakistani ally as a threat. In a five-day operation, India invaded and annexed Hyderabad.
Invasion of Goa, 1961
In 1961 tension rose between India and Portugal over the Portuguese-occupied territory of Goa, which India claimed for itself. After Portuguese police cracked down violently on a peaceful, unarmed demonstration for union with India, the Indian government decided to invade. A lopsided air, sea, and ground campaign resulted in the speedy surrender of Portuguese forces. Within 36 hours, 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule was ended, and Goa was annexed by India. Portuguese losses were 31 killed, 57 wounded, and 3,306 captured. Indian losses were 34 killed and 51 wounded.
Sino-Indian war, 1962
India fought a month-long border war against China in 1962. Neither nation deployed air or naval resources during a conflict heavy with mountain combat. China ended the war by declaring a unilateral ceasefire after it had taken all the territory it had claimed.
The defeat prompted India to make major changes in its military. The Department of Defence Production was established to create an indigenous defence production base, which would be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Since 1962, 16 new ordnance factories have been built under the program.
Second Indo-Pak war, 1965
The second Indo-Pak war was also fought over Kashmir conflict. It ended in overall stalemate, with each of India and Pakistan capturing some territory from the other. Nonetheless, India was perceived as the victor due to its success in halting the Pakistan-backed insurgency in Kashmir. In its October 1965 issue, TIME quoted a Western official assessing the consequences of the war: "Now it's apparent to everybody that India is going to emerge as an Asian power in its own right."
While the overall performance of the Indian military was praised, military leaders were criticized for their failure to use India's superior numbers to exact a decisive victory over Pakistan. The Pakistani government was accused by foreign analysts of spreading disinformation among its citizens regarding the actual consequences of the war. Most observers[who?] agree that the myth of a mobile, hard hitting Pakistan Army was badly dented in the war, as critical breakthroughs were not made.
Indo-Sino Conflict of 1967
The 1967 Sino-Indian skirmish also known as the Chola incident, was a day-long military conflict between Indian troops and troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in Sikkim, who had infiltrated the area. The end of the battle saw the Chinese Army leave Sikkim.
Third Indo-Pak war, 1971
In the third Indo-Pakistan war, India intervened in what was then East Pakistan. The proximate cause was the mass exodus of refugees to India following West Pakistani military action in East Pakistan, a conflict later called the Bangladesh Liberation War. India succeeded in removing Pakistani soldiers from the area, capturing 97,000 Pakistani POWs in the process. Following the war, East Pakistan became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
Siachen war, 1984
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Pakistan began organising tourist expeditions the Siachen Glacier, disputed territory with India. Irked by this development, in April 1984 India mounted Operation Meghdoot, capturing the top of the Glacier. It still maintains a military base there. Pakistan on the other hand spends just under US$1 million per day, though as % of GDP Pakistan spends 5 times as the Indian Military does to maintain its share of the glacier. Pakistan tried in 1987 and in 1989 to re-take the glacier but was unsuccessful. A stalemate has arisen: India controls the top part of the glacier and Pakistan controls the bottom.
Kargil war, 1999, Operation VIJAY
India fought a brief border skirmish with Pakistan in Kashmir in 1999. Dubbed the Kargil War, after infiltration of Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary in the Kargil area, India recaptured most of the territory using specialized high-altitude infantry units, heavy artillery, and close air support. Pakistan retreated from all but a few of the remaining bases occupied by them. Following international diplomatic pressure, Pakistan vacated the remaining posts as well.
The Mizo National Front, 1966
In March 1966, Mizo rebels in Assam declared independence and attacked government offices and military posts. The uprising was suppressed weeks later, and eventually Mizoram was made a separate state of India.
The Chola incident, 1967
Operation Blue Star, 1984
In June 1984, then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered an attack on Sikh separatists belonging to the Khalistan movement who had holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The operation resulted in 500-1,500 civilian deaths and heavy damage to the Akal Takht.
Sri Lanka mission, 1987–1990
The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) carried out a mission in northern and eastern Sri Lanka in 1987–1990 to disarm the Tamil Tigers per the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. It was a difficult battle for the Indian Army, which was not trained for an unconventional war. After losing approximately 1,200 in personnel and several T-72 tanks, India ultimately abandoned the mission in consultation with Sri Lankan government. In what was labeled as Operation Pawan, the Indian Air Force flew about 70,000 sorties to and within Sri Lanka.
Operation Cactus, 1988
In November 1988, the Maldives Government appealed India for military help against a mercenary invasion. On the night of 3 November, the Indian Air Force airlifted the Para Special forces from Agra and flew them non-stop over 2,000 km to Maldives. The paracommandos landed at Hulule, secured the airfield, and restored government rule at Malé within hours and without bloodshed.
India has well developed missile capabilities with roots in the Indian Space Program. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was formed in 1983 with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in missile development and production. Presently it comprises six core missile programs:
- Agni ballistic missile
- Prithvi ballistic missile
- Akash surface-to-air missile
- Trishul surface-to-air missile
- Nag anti-tank guided missile
- Nirbhay cruise missile
Currently the DRDO is developing Surya (missile), an advanced series of ICBM that the government reports would have a range of more than 10,000 km. This would put its range on par with advanced missiles in the United States, Russia, and Israel. India is the fourth country in the world to develop a successful missile defence shield, the Indian Ballistic Missile Defense Program.
In 1974, India tested a nuclear weapon with a yield of up to 15 kilotons. The test was codenamed Smiling Buddha. On 11 and 13 May 1998, India conducted a total of five underground nuclear tests and declared itself a nuclear state.
Overview and recent developments
The Indian military ranks third in terms of number of troops after the U.S. and China. The paramilitary unit of the Republic of India is the world's largest paramilitary force at over one million strong. Eager to portray itself as a potential superpower, India began an intense phase of upgrading its armed forces in the late 1990s. India focuses on developing indigenous military equipment rather than relying on other countries for supplies. Most of the Indian naval ships and submarines, military armoured vehicles, missiles, and ammunition are indigenously designed and manufactured.
Military collaborations with other countries
In 1997, India agreed to participate in the development of Russia's "Prospective Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces" program. One of the primary objectives of the program was to develop a 5th generation fighter aircraft; the Su-47 prototype flew its first successful test flight in 1997. The BrahMos, a supersonic cruise missile jointly developed with Russia, was successfully test fired in 2001. India is also collaborating with Israel to develop Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
India has focused recently on purchasing the technology behind military equipment rather than equipment itself. Recent examples include purchases of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI multi-role fighter aircraft and T-90 main battle tanks from Russia and diesel-powered Scorpene submarines from France. In 2004, India purchased US$5.7 billion worth of military equipment from other countries, making it the developing world's leading arms purchaser.
On 28 April 2000, ammunition worth ₹3.93 billion (US$62 million) was destroyed in a fire at the Bharatpur ammunition depot. Another fire at the Pathankot sub-depot resulted in loss of ammo worth ₹280 million (US$4.4 million). On 24 May 2001, another blaze at the Birdhwal sub-depot destroyed ammunition worth ₹3.78 billion (US$60 million).
India's highest awards for military conduct in a time of war are, in descending order, the Param Vir Chakra, Maha Vir Chakra, and Vir Chakra. The peacetime equivalents are respectively the Ashoka Chakra, Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra. The latter two awards were formerly known as Ashoka Chakra, Class II and Ashoka Chakra, Class III respectively. The peacetime awards have occasionally been bestowed on civilians. For meritorious service, the awards are the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, the Athi Vishisht Seva Medal, and the Vishisht Seva Medal.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Military history of India.|
- The Irrelevance of India's Rise as a Military Power- video of lecture by Stephen P. Cohen, Brookings Institution, hosted by the Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security (ACDIS), University of Illinois, 15 October 2009
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Official war histories
Official war histories written by the History Division, Ministry of Defence, Government of India: